Experimenting with Zemanta - Getting Help with Resources as You Write

Well, thanks to Britt Watwood, I'm hopefully looking a little smarter today. Britt introduced me to Zemanta, a tool which may be added to the browser to assist in the development of a blog post with links to other resources. This slick little tool makes suggestions and provides resources based on the words in your composition. Britt uses this on his own blog called Learning in a Flat World (manually linked).

Although my experiments, have been partly successful, such as when I entered the term digital storytelling, I have found that it is not as powerful as I hoped it would be. It has not found links to Chickering and Gamson, The Seven Principles, Learning in a Flat World, Britt Watwood, VCU Center for Teaching Excellence. When I wrote, Sarah Palin the list of related articles was weak. Perhaps I need to be more specific, such as looking for articles on Sarah Palin's contributions to Alaska or her position on drilling for oil. In addition, Cogdog has created a very well traffiiced site called 50 Ways to Tell a Story and I am surprised that nothing related to that specific site or subject is appearing in the list of resources.

In another attemt to find information on a topic of interest, I wrote, The Personal Brain is a concept mapping tool which dynamically restructures and presents a concept map as one clicks on any one component of the map. It is a way to provide what appears to be a simple map, but dynamically presents sub-maps. Zemanta found a Wikipedia link to concept mapping, but nothing on the Personal Brain.

Again, expeciting to see links, I wrote, Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson authored a paper on the Seven Principles... but only a link to Chickering was presented.

Volkswagen Passenger CarsLet's see what happens when I look for an image of a Volkswagen.

On the technical side, I received messages in Blogger: "Could not contact Blogger.com. Saving andpublishing may fail. Retrying..., however I could open another session in a new tab and saving generally seemed to occur.

I am intrigued by Zemanta. I do not intend to put it down, but just report on my initial experiments. Quite possibly the concerns I have are related (at least in part) to my own lack of experience with the tool. At any rate, this experiment leads me to believe that Zemanta and many other tools will continue to remove some of the tedium from our work and empower us to write, provide citations and format articles with greater ease in the future.

The testing goes on.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Social Networking: We ARE the Help Desk

In a world where attempting to get help either means listening to a recorded message telling me how important my call is and providing me with a list of numerical choices, or a web page URL, where “Help” usually leads to an FAQ and an endless loop of pages which seem to never quite address my problem, I often long for the old fashioned “warm body”, who can provide direct assistance. There’s nothing quite like knowing someone upon whom you can call with a quick question, i.e. a personal contact or personal network. Or, perhaps there is: consider the power of an online social network.

Last night, I was working in Wikispaces (using Firefox browser) to develop content for an upcoming discussion about embedding resources and how embedded content might serve learner needs in a higher education environment. Since many sources of videos, sounds and other dynamic content now provide the embed code, it is easy to copy and paste it into your WYSWIG editor or use a ‘widget” as you are building your content pages. Wikispaces provides such a widget and it works well. However, I failed to use the tool provided and copied embed code for a video directly into the page editor. When I tried to preview the page, it presented a series of lines across my page and a faint box which must have been where the video should have appeared. When I tried to go back to the editor and remove the code, I could never gain access. Thinking that my page was most likely destroyed, I thought that sharing my mistake with others via Twitter might be a good thing to do. I hoped that by sharing this information, I might prevent someone else from loosing valuable time and work. Having posted my Tweet, I tried accessing the page with the Safari browser and I was able to resolve the problem, and I Tweeted about that solution as well. The big surprise was that in that very brief time span of about ten minutes, I received a Tweet offering help. Not just from anyone, but from the “mother country” of Wikispaces. WUWT? Now I cannot speak about the service which Wikispaces provides via their help link, but this welcome contact broke the mold of my “help” experience and it gave me new insight as to the power of a network and in sharing both problems and solutions in an open environment. The fact is that anyone who read my Tweet could have responded. In this case, help was just one post away. I’m converted. I’ve once again discovered that through the power of social networking, WE ARE THE HELP DESK. I may never click on a “help” link again. :=)

PS: Kudos to Wikispaces and to all of you who provide your help and links to valuable resources. Viva la network.

Photo credit: justindc under creative commons attribution

Embedding test

I am embedding a VoiceThread and then will make comments on the original VoiceThread site in order to see if these changes will be pushed forward to this embeded version in my blog.

Question: if this works, how does this differ from "subscribing"? I guess the answer is that it will not push new information forward to alert me of a new "posting", however changes to this website may be viewed when the page is refreshed.

We will see!

Follow-up -

Partial SUCCESS: the embedding test worked. I not only could see changes made to the VoiceThread site, I could actually make changes via the embedded version within my blog. Unfortunately, in this case, I tried to add an audio comment and this requires the purchase of an account for an annual fee in order to perform this function. However, I can see my image and a sound icon, even though the audio file is not being shared. Problem: in my particular blog, the sidebar hides some of the images and links to comments. Perhaps some fine tuning of my layout can solve this. This is an issue which may make this less useful.

Bottom line; this might work for certain educational purposes. Deciding to use it on a regular basis requires the purchase of an account. For limited student created work (3 VoiceThreads) this could be used for collaborative sharing and commenting. It would also be a way to make students aware of this type of technology should they desire to use it in the future.

VoiceThread Credit: Thanks to Alec Couros for allowing Thoughts on the Potential and Power of the Network to be shared and embedded.

Embedding Audio from the Iternet Archives

Embedding Historical Video from the Internet Archives

Once again, I am about...

Once again, I am about to demonstrate the various activities that can be accomplished through Jott. One of which is posting to a blog as I am doing right now. It looks like in this morning's presentation, we have a small group but an interesting cross section of our fatly(?) community and I hope they will be inspired... listen

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Troubleshooting Windows Voice Recorder

Troubleshooting computer issues is always a joy. As you mignt know from my previous post, I've been setting up equipment in a new faculty computer lab and I've run into several issues. Yesterday, I was preparing to use our new Dell PC to help my colleague, Britt Watwood conduct a class on Wimba Live Classroom. In doing this, I started with my usual sound check by recording in the Windows Sound Recorder.

I know the MS Sound Recorder is a very limited tool, which most of us bypass for serious recording, but it has become my basic way to confirm that the system can record and play sound. I also use this in classroom and lab settings which employ house sound systems to assure that sound settings for recording and playback are working as desired. Well, I've learned that this test may lead to false assumptions.

I recorded about 5 seconds of sound and when I tried to play the recording, I got a message stating "Not enough memory available to complete this operation". Since this PC just came out of the box about two weeks ago and it already needed to have the mother board replaced, I was furious and ready to demand that the entire machine be replaced. My colleague, Gaurav Gupta dismissed this as a software issue with the Sound Recorder and wanted to move on to another recording tool, but I had a mindset which demanded trouble-shooting and resolving this problem or getting the equipment replaced. Because of the previous issues, I suspected it was the tip of the iceberg for future problems and I wanted to resolve this early in the game.

This morning, I tried to re-create the problem on my emulated PC (VMware on a MacBook Pro). I booted the laptop to run the VMware and the Windows environment only. I fired up the Windows Recorder and made a recording. All seemed to go well, until I hit "play" and I got the dreded message. Since I could see graphically that my voice was being recorded, I saved the file to my desktop and it worked fine. So, this led me to believe that Gaurav was correct in his assessment of the problem as being a software issue. With a little research, I stumbled on a Microsoft Help link which confirmed his diagnosis. The problem only occurs when your machine has more than 2 GB of memory.

I hope this will save you some time and frustration.

Reflection: My mindset in regard to previously repaired equipment prevented me from acceping this as a software issue. When I troubleshoot software problems, I have a hard time just moving to another another solution. I tend to see one problem as symptomatic of larger issues. Sometimes, as Gaurav advised, it is better to move on.
Image courtesty of Sean Dreilinger - via Flickr and Creative Commons License

Learning in Our New Lab - Sharing Tips

As Garison Keillor would say, "It's been an exciting day in Lake Wobegon."

I'm in the process of setting up computers in our new multimedia lab, so faculty will have a place to experiment with various technologies and develop some resources. In the process of trying to install Final Cut Express, one thing has led to another. The first tip I can share is that in trying to enter the serial number for Final Cut Express, you do not enter it as printed on the software package. Instead, use all lower case characters and wallah, the installation proceeds.

I was very surprised to learn that the brand new Mac Pro required 15 programs to be updated.

Second tip is on activating the external sound source on the back of the machine. This does not work by default (at least on two machines here). Solution: select System Preferences > Sound > Output > Line Out > then, check and un-check Mute. Close any applications which were open and playing sound. Reopen your desired application and sound should now play out of your external speakers.

Discussion about my problem solving experience as I tried to use the IceCam2 USB Video Web Camera - This is my first recording (using Photo Booth) which I hope will save you a lot of time and frustration.

How to save your Photo Booth movie (note terminology of "movie" and not "video")

Controlling Sound When Recording with the IceCam2 and Photo Booth Software

Adding Value: Communicating Clearly

Is it just me? Or, has there been a cold wind blowing in the blogosphere and twitterverse of late. I've been absent, or at least marginal in my participation, but my brain keeps projecting thoughts to share.

It seems that some who have been active in these arenas are now becoming concerned about their value and a few have actually tuned out and turned off. The conversation is around the nature, frequency and value of posts. Questions arise about the very nature of the "social" aspect of the "social" network. How much information do we need to know in regard to someone's commute, dinner, vacation, etc. and, most importantly, what value is being added?

Britt Watwood, Jeff Nugent and I have discussed this thread a few times and we seem to agree that getting an occasional glimpse of someone's personal life does add value. Quantifying that value becomes difficult, if not impossible, but, I think it projects their humanity. It seems to put a face on people and establish a relationship with others who share common interests; it may make us more comfortable in sharing information of greater educational value to our own lives.

What is missing in the 140 character twits is an immediate sense of importance or value in the message. It occurs to me that we could spare 2 or 3 precious characters to identify messages with a code that would indicate how we feel our message might add value, joy to, or inform someone else's life. So, I'm proposing a code system and welcome the ideas of others in creating, standardizing and implementing this. In my future twits, I will experiment with a code to give a sense of what I'm trying to convey and give readers the quick option to ignore and not be bothered with content they my not be interested in reading.

Here's my start:

Value Code for Twitter Messages:

AV= Added Value - this will be for sharing information and urls which I find of value and think will be of interest to others.

NBP= New Blog Post

ART - images, movies, digital stories, visual and audio treats I want to share

PF= Fun - things I enjoy

H= Humor

I welcome your comments and suggestions for practical codes. In pursuing this idea, I think we should keep it as simple as possible.

I hope this post AV.


Image courtesy of Colby Stuart http://www.flickr.com/photos/colby/347685523/

The Value of "Talking Heads" or What Monster Has CogDogRoo Created?

Thanks to CogDog for information on digital storytelling and for valuable links to resources.

Photo courtesy of Hamed Saber via flickr

Sharing a 1 minute web 2.0 technology

Michelle Martin, has asked that we share some idea for the use of a web 2.0 technology that can be achieved in one minute. I would like to share the idea of using Jott for various reasons, you can leave a message to yourself, you can forward that message to a blog such as this one, you can create lists, you can do many things. listen

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PS: the message above was submitted via my cell phone. To get more info and a Jott account, go to http://www.jot.com

Television as a Learning Environment (Writing from the heart: beside the waterfall)

This morning, I write from the heart. This is a post that is actually doing an end run around my writing on the definition of contemporary learning environments, which is a work in progress and still requires more thinking and research.

This writing is connected in that it represents thoughts about one of those environments and one which is often criticized and dismissed as a waste of time: television. I am the first to admit that television is a medium which has been abused by both producer and consumer. It is at its worst, a commercial fire hose of garbage and tasteless “entertainment”. But I refuse to join the ranks of those who claim that they never watch television, and say that with an air of pride to establish intellectual superiority. Quite the contrary, I watch television. I watch my share of garbage, which often serves as background chatter to something else I’m doing. Partly this has been a developed skill, since my wife loves the “noise” of television, 24 - 7. It relaxes her, much like radio has served for some of us in the past. But, for some time, I’ve claimed that television is at its best (along with public radio) on Sunday. It seems to me that on Sunday the medium has (in some cases) been transformed to a platform for conversation and thoughtful programming. Perhaps, it has actually reverted to its roots in programs like the broadcasts by Edward R. Morrow. (Perhaps it is related to the once held notion that Sunday is a day of rest and time for conversation.) My writing is prompted by the untimely death of Tim Russert.

I cannot say that I regularly watched Tim on Meet the Press, or in any other way regularly took advantage of his thoughtful questioning in order to better understand and inform about important issues. That is one of my shortcomings. But, when I did watch, I saw participation in a respectful conversation which often challenged those who were being interviewed to clearly state their position. This was not done in the manner of many television programs which claim to seek information and opinions, but are really shouting matches to promote the view of the interviewer, it was done in the spirit of learning.

So, I reflect on my use of television (when I use it properly) to watch well done documentaries, such as the recent series on John Adams, or programs which open my view of the world and other cultures, such as National Geographic, Discovery and one which simply presents an hour of watching the sun rise from various places around the world and of course (while reflecting on Tim), Meet the Press. All of these have informed me and many have challenged my thinking

Times are changing. The term “Television” must now, more than ever be relegated to a means of delivery. The content being delivered is in the form of video. Developments over the past decade have reduced the cost of video production and transmission via the internet to enable anyone with a video recording device and an internet connection to be able to create and deliver content; hence the rise of “citizen journalism” and I would hope (with respect to the profession), a sincere conversation on what it means to truly be a “journalist”. Like its predecessor, this new form of delivery (through channels such as Youtube) is full of useless trash, extremist rantings, pornography and things which I cannot fathom. But, it also affords (and has provided) the same opportunities to present ideas, inform, educate, as well as invite replies and engage conversation.

As stated earlier, I intend to write more in the near future about my thoughts on contemporary learning environments. While I continue to form my thoughts on that, I can only hope that the competition created by the opportunities afforded us through present and evolving technologies will make each medium stand stronger on its own and that each will be used well, to entertain, inform and afford opportunities for conversation and true learning.

Viva la (quality) television!

PS: Thanks, Tim. Blessings on you and yours.

"Now, if I can only find the time ...."

I received a Tweet (Twitter message) this morning from a participant in our Teaching With Technology Institute. For the record, I actually received the Tweet first as a text message on my cell phone!

This note of thanks regarding our introduction to various technologies which might be used to enhance teaching and learning included another message which is one I hear (and say myself) all too often: "Now, if I can only find the time ...."
I have a few thoughts about this.

1. Just pick one little thing which you feel has promise for your practice and take 30 minutes to begin exploration. Follow that up a couple times each week and you will be surprised how much you will learn and begin to make this part of your practice.

2. All of our buckets are full.

It’s not about adding more technology or work to our already busy lives; we need to see what we can take out of the “bucket” (do differently) and replace it with something to make our work more efficient and provide content, communication, and other learning experiences which we could have not have done before.

3. (This one actually comes from Michele Martin) "Start a blog." That is, start documenting your thoughts and personal learning in a blog. Also, quoting Jeff Nugent, "don’t call it a blog, call it a personal learning space." And, while you are doing that, begin taking advantage of developing a network of thinkers who share your interests.

4. Remember your educational goals and look for technologies to accomplish them. Before you get too bogged down, I suggest you read IMPLEMENTING THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES: Technology as Lever by Arthur W. Chickering and Stephen C. Ehrmann and consider this a guide.

Oh, one last thought as my colleague Britt Watwood would suggest, use the power of RSS to bring information to you. Now there is a powerful example of how to eliminate one time-consuming task and use the power of technology to quickly find what you want. And yes, I can hear you (and myself) saying, "Now, if I can only find the time" to read what I find!

This is a example of...

This is a example of the use of jott as I'm calling from my cellphone to post a text message which will be then forwarded to my blog as a post. If I were thinking about something following a class and I wanted to share information with my students I could post a brief thought here. I believe I have about a minute or a minute and a half to actually post. So this is my example. listen

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Learning Technology by Playing With It

David Warlick wrote Easy to Teach Isn’t Easy to Learn about different styles in attempting to learn new technologies and he prompted me to reflect on my own learning and teaching. He compares taking notes and working with step-by-step instructions vs. playing with technologies to see what they will do. The text below is basically a copy of my reply to his blog post, but food for thought which I'd like to share here.

I experiment and I take notes. I do experiment and poke around to find what I need. I guess this reflects the title of my own blog "ExploratoryLearner". After years of this approach, I’ve learned to build on anticipated actions based on other software experiences. However, this occasionally gets me into trouble, as the "norm" or expected action is sometimes not the chosen method in particular software.

Upon reflection, I realize a transition in my teaching style over the past couple years. I have always provided notes with step-by-step instructions for use both during and after the class. For some time now, I've been providing the notes, but my classes are becoming a conversation about teaching and/or the application of technologies to meet (usually educational) objectives. As David Warlick points out, "There is always more than one way to solve the problem and even more aspects of the problem that need to be factored in." Allowing people to work experimentally helps them discover multiple options and through regular use, they will discover good reasons for choosing a different path to achieve what appears to be the same end.

Another opportunity that is often overlooked is the use of technologies to achieve something for which they were not designed. The name of the game is to keep an open mind and see what the technologies can do for you. Be creative!

Test Embed - Prep. for Faculty Teaching with Technology Inst.

CTE Teaching and Learning Inst. 2008

From: 1LifelongLearner, 18 hours ago

Misc. images from CTE Teaching and Learning Institute 2008

SlideShare Link

31 Day Challenge - Perpetual Blogging and Conflict with First Life

Britt Watwood suggested that I should post my response to his And On the Seventh Day post in my own blog; so here goes.

My response here constitutes a bit of a F2F conversation with Britt over coffee, but for the sake of the blogger community, I’ll reply. This also counts toward my meager participation in the 31 day challenge. :=)

As I walked to Starbucks with Britt, I started talking about thoughts I was having about the first 7 days of the 31 day challenge. I said that I felt like posting that the 31 day challenge is just that; 31 days of 24/7, non-stop commitment to blogging. The idea promotes the concept that you have to always be monitoring, reading and writing. I also said that since the challenge started just before last weekend and I chose to address a number of other personal time demands in my 1st life (yard, house, church, piping, etc.), that knocked two days out. My days have been busy with work issues and evenings this week have also had other time demands; suddenly I’m feeling stressed and most of 7 days behind. Britt then stopped me and said, “read my recent post”. The point is that Britt has already posted about several of the ideas I’ve been contemplating. I could accuse him of taking my ideas, but that’s not the case. Ideas are in the air. I think that’s why there are so many similar posts. When the time is right, forces present ideas and the first to snag them gets credit. This concept is not a new one. It is a thought that was shared with me by Jewett Campbell (a graduate school instructor), who’s father was an inventor. His father told him that “ideas are in the air”. Essentially, if you make contact with one, act on it quickly.

I’m getting the sense from this networked community that we are all struggling with balance in our lives. And, periodically, we recognize some of the issues raised by Britt in an earlier post as well as thoughts shared by Jeff Nugent about his fishing trip. The metaphor discussed there was the stream and ideas, blogs, twitter, etc. represented information constantly flowing down the stream. Jeff learned during is vacation that it’s OK to dip into the stream and then walk away for a while.

I’ll continue to look for threads of these ideas in other posts as we all begin to figure out our individual rhythm of participation and how to make this experience meaningful without creating unnecessary stress.


Play: the First Learning Experience

I know you don't have time to attend a class or workshop on some new technology or learning practice, but - for your own good, take a break to play.

Abbie in the Sandbox - Photo adapted from Flickr
Uploaded on August 28, 2007 by COmfH
licensed under
Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0.

Where have I been?

It's been a while since I've posted to this blog. I've been busy: playing. Well, more appropriately, I've been learning about many things, and this "creative play" has re-invigorated my contemplation about learning and helping others learn. Some time ago, Jeff Nugent suggested that learning begins in play and I thank him for his prompt, his shared interest in learning and his support which allows me the opportunities I have each day. Listen to some of my play.

Transferring knowledge gained during play:

The podcast link above is a bit of silliness created on a Macbook Pro, in an audio program called Garageband. The point here is that learning to use a new technology for an ultimately serious business such as education, can be fun. The acquisition of knowledge can be achieved by playing with tools and then transferring the knowledge gained to more meaningful ends. My ultimate goal is to be able to assist faculty in the use of such tools to create audio files and podcasts to meet their educational objectives. I also plan to work with my colleagues, Jeff Nugent and Britt Watwood to create informative podcasts and provide additional resources for our faculty.

Consider the following strategies for overcoming barriers to learning new technologies:

  • Find and take time to explore something new to you: commit to no more than 15 minutes each day (you just might get inspired to keep working)
  • Play - Have fun
  • Laugh
  • Learn in short, but regular segments (scaffolding)
  • Eliminate risk – Don’t set out to create a masterpiece - experiment in a "sandbox" environment
  • Ask questions: what will happen if I …?
  • Take advantage of many free resources and people who are willing to help via the web
  • Don’t be afraid to “break” anything
  • Experiment with the intent to learn from failure as well as success
  • Share your successes and failures with others
  • Seek advice from others who have experimented with the technology or application you are learning
  • Transfer learning from your personal fun experiments and projects to your professional work

I plan to study and share more of what I learn about the notion of learning through play, but right now, I want you to just go have some fun!

When Work and Learning Becomes Even More Fun

Today has actually been spent "working" and beginning to familiarize myself with the MacBook Pro. As part of my experimentation, I worked with basic recording in Garage Band. I've been learning about recording, saving and exporting in different formats, podcasting, etc. In addition, I'm flat out celebrating the experience by sharing a tune called Stool of Repentance. Enjoy!

This tune was composed by William Dixon, circa 1734. I first heard this tune played by Jim McGillvray, during a summer workshop with Donald Lindsay. I feel a very strong identity with this tune and I feel like I'm at fireside with William Dixon each time I play it.

On this recording, I am playing my new Scottish Smallpipe, made by John Walsh. This smallpipe comes with both A and D chanters and has adjustable drones. For information on this pipe, see http://www.hotpipes.com/walsh.html .

This recording was made on April 12, 2008 as I experimented with iTunes on my new MacBook Pro.

For more information about tune, scroll to Stool of Repentance at (more info.).

Invitation to Collaboratively Tell Our W2.0 Story

I was pleasantly surprised by Britt Watwood’s observations and posting about my current work and the creative process. I am inspired; and something is trying to come out.

The collaborative exploration of the web 2.0 environment in which I regularly participate with Britt, Jeff Nugent and other online colleagues, introduces me to new tools, access to resources, thoughts shared in blogs, tweets and conversations which continue to unfold across time and in various media formats; who would not be inspired (and periodically overwhelmed) by the creative opportunities within our grasp? My goal is to share this vision with our faculty and inspire them to invest time in similar explorations for their own teaching and learning practice.

Several months ago, Jeff Nugent nudged me in the direction of digital storytelling and provided a link to Allan Levine’s Fifty Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story. At the time, I was focused on a short-term goal and specifically wrestling with production issues in Camtasia; Fify Ways became option paralysis. Recently, Jeff has prompted me to consider attending a workshop on digital storytelling at the Center for Digital Storytelling. I’ve done some initial investigation and I am reviewing their handbook and other related resources and the creative juices are beginning to flow. This interest in digital storytelling seems to tie into my upcoming role as an observer in the CTE Teaching and Learning Institute. I have been asked to document highlights, faculty interaction, themes, etc., and identify opportunities for follow-up presentations and possible podcasts by participants. This request has inspired me to create a digital story. More correctly, it has inspired me to create opportunities for faculty participants to tell their own stories, both individually and collectively through tools like VoiceThreads, Google Docs and a Wiki.

As an experiment, I’ve created a VoiceThread with images which begin to speak to me about my typical work day. While editing this, it occurred to me that it is a story which is shared by many of us. So, in the open and collaborative spirit of Web 2.0, I invite you to go to that site and add your own comments, thoughts, questions, etc. Let’s see what story unfolds.

Use the embedded (small) view below or access larger VoiceThread directly

Note: I cannot take credit for all the images used in this story. Although most of the images were taken by me, several incorporate views of various web pages. I also want to acknowledge and thank those who have shared their vision and images through Flickr.

Time by Eirk: http://www.flickr.com/photos/erikvanhannen/537167308/

We Had the Best Sunset by Fort Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fortphoto/875593611/

Less is More - Inviting the Next Conversation

When time is of the essence and information abounds, we all struggle with the desire to share exciting ideas and opportunities.
  • Get attention
  • Share idea
  • Generate interest
  • Explore next level

It might be worth a few minutes of your time to look at How to Get on TV - Be Zen! - Video Interview at NBC 11

Transparency Leads to a New View of Blended Learning

I recently had a few interesting and reflective Twitter exchanges with Wes Fryer, while he was attending a presentation. His Tweets were basically stating that the media being used to share ideas became a distraction in and of itself. The experience of overhead projector slides with 10 point type left him with the feeling that he was back in one of his 1980’s high-school classes. He reported (tongue-in-cheek) that he was somewhat relieved when the presentation was enhanced by PowerPoint and the use of a videotape. He also observed that he was the only person in the room who was taking notes (and Twittering) on a laptop, while all others were taking notes with paper and pen.

For the sake of fun and a bit of a reality check, I challenged Wes to flash-forward 20 years: 2028, and envision comments he might hear, such as: “Remember when Mr. Fryer actually carried a computer to the class?” This prompted a story by Wes, about his 8 year old son’s reaction to their viewing of some YouTube clips which promoted the Commodore 64 computer. His son could not believe that was ever “cutting edge technology”.

I’ve observed over the years that new technologies and contemporary design are always challenging and sleek in their own time. However, like Wes’s son, in a few years, I can hardly believe the thing I’m reviewing was ever “sleek,” “sexy,” or “cutting edge.”

New technologies usually capture our attention and cause us to focus on the tools. However, there seems to be a natural progression of our focus from tool to function (or promise) to transparency and back to tool again as its ability to meet our ever-growing demands begins to fade. I have long held that for technologies to be used effectively, they must become “transparent.” For a long time, I considered the telephone as an example. For most of us, the telephone became a part of our everyday experience and a means to communicate. As we integrated this into our life, it became transparent. This “transparency" represents the second step in the evolution of the use of a technology. It serves to accomplish a task or solve a problem, and in that capacity, it ceases to be an object of attention, but an extension of our lifestyle. When our needs for tools can no longer be served by our current technologies, we begin to notice them in light of their weaknesses. We seek new or improved tools to meet our new demands. It’s after we finally replace a technology that we look back and see it as clunky and wonder how we ever functioned with these early tools.

This notion of “transparency” is important as we incorporate technologies into teaching and learning; particularly in the online arena. For some time, I’ve heard the term “blended” being used to represent classes which incorporate some online resources. However, I argue that the focus of these “blended classes” is generally on a tool, such as Blackboard or a specific task. I now think that a real “blended” class arrives at that distinction when the mixture of delivery methods and tools becomes “transparent.” At this point, the focus is on learning and communication of ideas.

I suggest that embracing this transparency becomes a Personal Learning Style (PLS) and that learning can and does occur at any time and in any place. It is aided by a multitude of media and tools which can become so blended into our lifestyle that we accept them as part of our life. This notion is reflected by one of Britt Watwood’s students in his blog posting,
Thick and Chunky Instruction, when she equated the “internet” and “oxygen” as co-equals - both necessary for life. What an exciting contrast to the experience in which the media that was being used to share ideas became a distraction.

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Happy April Fool's Day!

And, Paused to Reflect

Photo courtesy of Louise Docker, http://www.flickr.com/photos/aussiegall/364313299/

We have surfed and read
We have bookmarked
And tagged
We’ve emailed, attached and forwarded
We’ve written
And blogged
We’ve Tweeted and Twittered
We’ve subscribed
And podcasted
We’ve Skyped
We’ve networked
And shared
We’ve developed
Personal learning paths
And allowed weeds to grow
Then beat a new path
On which
We’ve marveled
At the strength
Of the network
And of ourselves
As we’ve exposed
Our weaknesses
In order
To grow

Celebration - Camtasia on a Mac -YES!!!!!

This is a continuation of my investigation of the MacBook Pro as a replacement for my dying PC. I am happy to share the results of a very quick test of the capability of the Mac Boot Camp tool to emulate a PC and allow me to successfully record and edit in Camtasia.

In case you are interested in seeing the results, go to http://blackboard.vcu.edu/bbcswebdav/users/wdeihl/Public/mac-test/macbook_pro_camtasia_tst_2b.html

I'm one happy camper!

Can we quickly share our learning journey with others?

Photo courtesy of uBookworm at http://www.flickr.com/people/ubookworm/

How can the past 18 month learning experience which has been shared with my colleagues be “bottled and served” to others in a short period of time?

That is a desirable thing to do. I but in retrospect, I believe all we can do is attempt to inspire others by celebrating our own small successes. These successful learning experiences have not come without some pain, investment in time, failed attempts, continuous revisions in thinking and seeking and looking to the future for yet better ways to learn, share, interact, create, etc. Perhaps when viewing our experience after 18 months, we metaphorically stand in a garden and look at stone a path surrounded by flowers and vegetation. Ironically, we forget that each stone had to be selected, carried, positioned and sometimes repositioned to arrive at the current state of completion. It just might be that the best we can do is share the image of our gardens and provide others with some stones in the form of tools, technologies, learning theory, pedagogy, etc., in order that they can begin to map and create their own path.

Leading questions to my reflection:

What has changed in me in regard to my own learning over the past 18 months?

What has changed in the way my colleagues and I have collectively learned over the same time period?

What has influenced the changes in my thinking during this period?

How can I guide others to such a rewarding experience in a shorter period of time? Is it possible to provide this opportunity for faculty during a one week workshop? Is it realistic to even believe that I could inspire someone to take such a personal learning journey without overwhelming them?

Stepping stones in my garden:

• Exposure to tools and suggested practices and exploratory discovery of possibilities for their use.

• Exposure to learning theory.

• Participation and completion of an online Masters program which provided meaningful interaction and exchanges of ideas in a virtual environment with people whom I’ve never physically met and who through that process have become respected peers and colleagues. This experience has made me realize how “flat” the world has become and how easy it is to work on a global scale.

• Morning coffee meetings in which personally meaningful thoughts, ideas, and experiences were shared, discussed, challenged and refined.

• A transition from physical meetings to contemplation, writing and sharing ideas with online means (which has ironically led back to the former)

• The discovery and adoption of concept mapping which was so personally relevant to clarifying my ideas that I was compelled to write about my experience lead a discussion about concept mapping, create a class in order to give faculty first-hand experience to concept mapping and exposure to some tools which I found relevant.

• Exploring the idea of screencasting and forcing myself to condense information and ideas to very short overviews. Collaboratively developing screencasts through peer review and critique. Creation of an introductory class in the use of Camtasia to create screencasts for class related use.

• Trust – trust has been developed through the experience of sharing ideas and work with peers who have given valuable feedback which has resulted in allowing me to present ideas more clearly.

• Collaboration – prior to the last year, I worked collaboratively with others, but the level of collaboration and the willingness to take risks and accept change in work which I often take personally is much higher now; the combination of new tools and working environments, such as Wikis, Google Documents, Gliffy, etc., have been central to my current level of openness and almost a sense of adventure in seeing what the wisdom of the group can develop. This has given me insight into the power of group work in the class or learning group environment. It speaks to the opportunities afforded by the current W20, read-write web as a learning space.

• Information overload has hit me in various waves, but the discovery of RSS feeds as a means to subscribe to the writings and ideas of others through blogs and podcasts has helped focus my attention to specific people and groups. These have provided links to other resources, including other writings, recordings, people with whom I might want to share information or ask further questions – i.e., network. This is an area which demands more study on my part to reap yet more benefits and further focus on information which is relevant to my learning and work.

• Delicious initially provided a solution to my ever-changing methods for filing and finding resources – it compliments my own multiple tagging system. However, I have made the transition from a personal filing system to a means of benefiting by the research of others, connecting with people who are interested in similar topics and sharing links with specific people.

• I became aware of social bookmarking and the discovery of others through delicious, but I have since discovered many tools which provide a social connection by which I can become aware of people with whom I can share and discuss information on topics of mutual interest.

• Slideshare and Slidecasting were discovered and originally seen as a means for faculty to repurpose PPT presentations for student use after class. But, on further exploration, these have become a means of soliciting comments of others and provide an opportunity for students to create content which is relevant to other learners. These and many other online tools are now seen through the lens of their read-write capabilities and potential benefits.

• YouTube was discovered as a means to share screencasts. It has opened up a world of resources for various learning and teaching opportunities.

• Jott was discovered through Michele Martin’s blog posting in her Bamboo Project. It was one of those discoveries which immediately sparked ideas for quickly sharing information after a class and has led to experiments with updating blogs, sending e-mail, etc. It has enabled me to capture fleeting thoughts and change the way I think and work.

CoveritLive - re-framing my thoughts about back-channel communication

Given my recent post about back-channel communication during presentations, this may seem an odd post. But, since I’m merely weighing the pros and cons of such communication, I’ll focus on a specific tool and an idea I have for its potential use.

Yesterday I participated in the Medical Library Association webcast on Web 2.0 Principles and Best Practices. During that meeting, Britt Watwood used CoveritLive to record his notes. Beyond a mere text entry tool, CoveritLive allowed him to provide text notes with minute by minute updates which were forwarded to his blog. Essentially, he was able to microblog and anyone who was logged into his blog could both read his notes and send their thoughts and/or questions to him.

As part of this test, logged into his blog and sent several comments, but this unfortunately did not work as advertised. Since this was our first experiment with the product, we need to test this further to identify the problem.

If we can get ConveritLive to function as intended, I see the potential for student use during a class. One student could act as a moderator who takes notes which would be forwarded to their blog. The URL of moderator’s blog would be shared with other students in advance of class (posted in their Blackboard class or any other online location which would be listed in the course syllabus), so they could monitor the notes and send their own comments or questions. The moderator could then inform the instructor of any questions or need for clarification. This ability to collaboratively document the class and present questions in real-time could prompt relevant in-class discussion and provide later accessibility to notes for review by the students and the instructor.

I would be interested in seeing someone experiment with this and see if it may increase student engagement during and after class. Discussion could continue in a discussion board or other venues.

All in all, I find this an interesting tool which is re-framing my thoughts about back-channel communication.

Do We Need a New Netiquette?

I participated in the ELI Web Seminar on March 3, 2008, Many Students Loosely Joined: Social Software and Distance Education Learners, presented by Terry Anderson. Terry’s presentation was very good and supported many of the notions which Britt Watwood, Jeff Nugent and I discuss as we find our own ways in learning about, living in and introducing others to the Wild West of W2.0 teaching and learning opportunities. I appreciated many of the visuals and particularly liked the Venn diagram which placed learning at the overlapping center of content, tools and agents. His mention of the elgg.org site perked my interest as it is relates to a concept I’ve been developing for some time around the need for a non-proprietary central organizing agent to keep track of the threads of conversations which are occurring across various services and means of communication. His prediction of a transition from an LMS to a PLE seems to parallel my own thinking and seems to be in the early stages of unfolding.

My posting here is not to critique Terry’s talk, but the activity which surrounded it and its relationship to the activities, such as the Twitter exchanges during Bob Young’s presentation at the closing session of the ELI conference (see Gardner Campbell’s blog). Granted, we were invited to text message during Terry’s session and nothing like the Twitter (activity which was also invited) event mentioned above happened, but the text interchanges triggered some thoughts about contemporary attendance and participation in presentations. Something is shifting. The presenter is no longer the central focus “in the room”. As presenters are framing and delivering an idea, they are triggering not only a response, but a parallel “meeting” in which participants listen to the presenter for key ideas about which they text, chat, twitter, blog, and use every means of communication to share their comments, ask questions of other participants, complain about the presenter, and who knows what else. The action is in the “chat room”, so to speak!

As I listened to Terry and developed my own questions, my focus became divided. Questions and answers were flying in the text box below the presentation window and Terry was dissolving in the background. Were we rude? Do our contemporary actions equate to pockets of students huddling together and chatting in the traditional lecture hall. Have we arrived at a new definition of netiquette? Are we distracting to the presenter? Are we engaged with the presenter? Are we enhancing the learning opportunity? Are we changing the conversation?

I see good things here, but I feel bad at the same time. I’m seizing the opportunity to interact and learn from others, but at the same time, I feel rude to the presenter. Do we need to develop a new netiquette or set of tools to help us get the best from everyone? Should online seminars or F2F presentations be followed with opportunities for a multi-modal “chat”?

What are your thoughts?

Rick(?), Thanks for...

Thanks for you question regarding the ADA requirements for transcript, you have challenged me to raise the level of awareness on this issue. Had this been an actual alert or a class, I would have provided a text transcript. I should have moved my lips to amount(?) the(?) words for visual recognition as well. So this is an important issue that we should all consider. One thing I'm doing here is testing the option for using jott as a means of providing a transcript. listen

Powered by Jott

Moving to the Dark Side or Toward the Light?

My Dell is dying. At approximately 7:15 PM, Friday, February 22, 2008, my faithful friend flashed his main monitor and could no longer compute. Emergency calls were placed and technicians determined that although they could save him for now, his life expectancy is limited. Limping now with a borrowed video card and impaired capabilities, he has sent my files to a shared drive. Knowing his impending doom, he faithfully strives to keep me working as I use his very operating system to explore the virtues and capabilities of the "other side", the Mac.

I am writing this post from a Mac in our computer lab. I'm testing my comfort level in a different environment and I am salivating over the aesthetics and seductive qualities of everything Mac. So far, I'm feeling like a native, with only one problem, as I tried to connect to the Lotus Mail Anywhere system.

Somehow shifting to the Mac, with dual boot capability seems a lot more enticing than moving to Vista. Perhaps it's the adventure of it all which is consistent with my current learning mode. We'll just have to wait and see the outcome. In the meantime, thanks my old friend, for over 6 years of faithful service. Surely you will be rewarded in heaven.

Embedding Slidecast into Your Blog - Too Slick!!!!

As I am learning about all the cool features of Slideshare and Slidecasting, I noticed that there are icons below the slidecast which enable me to embed the slidecast into my blog. I even have the option to place it in my sidebar. All done by clicking on the desired icon, entering your username and password for your blog and clicking submit. Wallah!! It's Magic.

Slidecasting 101

From: jboutelle, 6 months ago

This is an instructional slidecast showing how to make a slidecast. Very meta, no? Anyway, it's a good example of the possibilities that slidecasting has. It's a new medium, somewhere in between pictures and video. We can't wait to see what kind of slidecasts YOU come up with!

SlideShare Link

Hi, this is Bret William...

Hi, this is Bret William again, I am continuing my experiment with Jott. I have some interesting discussions with Michelle and with my colleague [...] and I am very excited about the possibilities that this might offered. So, I am going to hangup now and see what actually appears in my blogspot. I hope this works. Bye. listen

Powered by Jott

Jott Inspires a Reconsideration of Blackboard or Any LMS System In Higher Education

Man on Fire!!!

Today is the first time in many years of using, administering, and teaching in a Blackboard environment that I seriously ask myself: why use Blackboard? This is not an indictment against Blackboard or any other learning management system (LMS), but a revelation about the availability and capabilities of existing and emerging technologies that can at least enhance the LMS experience and make a serious attempt to meet learners in their own learning and communication spaces.

What has me fired up is the result of many recent discussions and collaborative efforts with my colleagues, Britt Watwood and Jeff Nugent as we explore and question working and learning in a web 2.0 environment, and Michele Martin’s posting which introduced me to Jott. I truly believe that Jott will change my life, my approach to sharing information and my consultation with faculty about their own course design, content delivery and interaction with students. Jott is still too new to me to understand the full impact, but it already has blown me away with its ability to translate my voice and send that as an e-mail to either myself, specific individuals or groups. Now I’ve yet to explore this, but Jott can also feed a message directly into a blog (see Jott Links). Yes, a blog. So what are the ramifications of that? Well, here is the actual text as transcribed by Jott while I walked from the parking deck to my office and contemplated some of the possibilities (and the message was there waiting for me when I arrived).

Screen capture of Jott message and actual text below:

"As a result of yesterday's experiments with Jott and discussing various things regarding RSS feets(?) with Breath. I am thinking about way to incorporate these technologies in conjunction with a blackboard class. I see some area of where I could be on the phone as I am now recording a message that would be forwarded to a blog. Then the blog will be then connected to my class with an RSSE and automatically update information into my class. It would be nice if this could be done in a blackboard announcement, but it may not be possible. So, trick could be to change to default announcement page to page inside the blackboard."

NOTE: There are a few things that did not get translated correctly, such as “feets?” and Britt’s name, which came out as “Breath”. Perhaps with a little more effort to articulate words more clearly and spell unusual words, its accuracy may improve. However, I must note that my earlier experiments resulted in perfect translation, including Britt’s name. Even with flaws, I could send these messages to myself and then proofread and fine tune them for postings.

The bottom line is that I am now pondering:

  1. Why to I want to use Blackboard or other LMS? (Class administrative assistance; roster, gradebook, central location or portal, other?) See my concept map.
  2. How can I harness the power of other technologies, tools and resources to provide rich and engaging learning opportunities and meet my educational goals? (The resources I am exploring are mostly free, with the exception of a cell phone and IP which most people will have)?

    A few examples:
    • Jott
    • Blog
    • Wiki
    • Delicious
    • Google Documents
    • Google Reader
    • Google Calendar
    • Voicethreads
    • Slideshare
    • Slidecast
    • Flicker
    • Screencasting
  1. Why does my LMS administration insist that students use the university’s e-mail? If we want to meet students in their own learning (and communication) space, we should be providing ways to forward communication to the student’s desired location.
  2. How can students provide or input information to feed class content and communication to their various accounts outside of my LMS?

Here is an outline of a scenario related to teaching:

  • The instructor walks out of class and is contemplating the previous hour, questions which did not get answered, awareness of ideas which some students did not understand or simply has a few related ideas to share before the next class.
  • The instructor calls Jott via their cell phone
  • Dictates the content
  • Having set up Jott correctly before class, the content is fed to a blog which has been created for the class
  • The Blackboard (or other LMS) class has an embedded RSS feed from the blog to the announcements page or other location in the class (there may be some technical / coding issues to be ironed out)
    • I’m wondering if there might be opportunities for students to use Jott to feed information into the class as well

PS: I’m beginning to re-think my cell phone as a tool and a command center with which I can share information in many ways, formats, media, and remotely control actions and leverage time-shifting to accomplish my goals.

I’m also re-considering writing and different types of communication in light of their media format and best use. Perhaps an imperfect translation from a voice translation system is not a critical problem within the right context. It may be as my friend Jeff Nugent often says, “JGE”; just good enough. This is not to imply that I would accept text messaging and misspellings in a final document, but as a means to convey quick thoughts after class (much like handwritten notes), it may be JGE.

Stay tuned, I’m a man on fire.

Early morning thoughts in a rapidly changing world

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Social capital
Personal learning environment

What will be expected of each of us in the next 5 years, 10 years, 20 years and later? If we do not make time to learn and adapt to our changing environment, will we be relevant?

Social Computing Enhances Communication with Inhouse Colleagues

I can’t recall the source, but I recently read somewhere that the power of social networked computing may not be so much the connection of people at a distance as the first step to getting connected in the physical world. It claimed that in people in small towns tend to know most everyone or be indirectly connected with people of similar interests. However, the use of social networking in large metropolitan areas makes it easier to find people who might have similar interests. The claim is that the online connection can lead to more actual physical engagement. One example is eHarmony.

Somewhat related to this idea is an experience I’m having in my office. I believe the more engaged my colleagues and I become in reading blogs, creating our own posts, and jointly learning in and about the w20 environment, the more we tend to gather around the coffee pot or drop into each other’s offices for a quick chat (or maybe not so quick). We are becoming more excited about discussing what we read and the ideas which these readings inspire.

Learning Can be Painful

Learning can be a painful process. Being prompted by my peers and blogs like The Bamboo Project to believe that life is not worth living in a web 2.0 environment without the Mozilla Firefox browser, I finally bit the bullet. I decided that I would commit the next 30 days to working in the Firefox environment, to learn what this “religious experience” is all about. I opened the Firefox browser and started to focus on the tools. All was well and interesting in Mudville. However, at some point, I was prompted to update Firefox to the latest version and this seemed like a good starting point, so I did. I chose to do a typical installation, however I got strong recommendations regarding a few tools I should add to enhance my experience. So, I added a download manager, PDF download, Cooliris (which really did seem cool) and one of my top 10 tools; delicious. This is when the learning got interesting. With the few tweaks I made to my new browser, I realized what a different and unpredictable experience we may have from others with whom we connect and share content. The waters became even murkier when delicious made reference to bookmarks (I already thought that bookmarks were “old school”) and its ability to save the bookmarks on my local machine to my delicious account. When I went to a website to “tag” the site, the Google homepage appeared and a sidebar was presented on the left side of my screen which contained bookmarks and tags. Perplexed, I discussed what was happening on my system with my colleague, Britt Watwood, and reiterated the notion of different user experiences and how this impacts our work with faculty. This consultation confirmed the differences our individual experience with Firefox and delicious. It led to the reinstallation of Firefox, which did not solve the problem, and the restoration of my system to reflect its state 48 hours earlier. My computer recognized that today is Wednesday, but I’m sure it’s fuzzy logic must feel like it is Monday. Again, I removed and re-installed Firefox and this time I was careful to avoid the option for a “new feature” to save my “bookmarks” in delicious. After a morning of restoring my computer, removing and replacing my virus protection software and re-installing delicious, I’m ready to start. I’m engaged and I’m definitely learning.

Notes re: Educause ELI conference presentation by Sarah Smith Robbins, PhD. Candidate, Ball State U. – Virtual Worlds as Web 2.0 Learning Spaces

Wow! I got more out of attending this session via the Sonicfoundry online videocast than most conference sessions I have attended in person. In addition to valuable content, the method of online delivery was perfect.

Sarah Smith Robins grounded her presentation with an emphasis on pedagogy first and then looked at the use of technology as a means to accomplish learning, student engagement, interaction, communication and finally, the development of good writing skills. She referenced Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles as guiding elements. Her definition of web 2.0 distilled the concept to 4 key elements: consumer/producer web content, remote applications, social interaction, and the use of APIs (application program interface) to create “mashups”.

She discussed universities and their impact on the learning of 18-24 year old students and provided a statistical overview of the use of communication and learning technologies to demonstrate the cultural shift of current the current generation. This illuminated the frequent disconnect with methods of communication and their chosen learning environments. She further addressed those who are currently in middle-school and proposed that they approach new technologies without “medial hauntings”. That is, they accept tools for what they are and are comfortable with simultaneously exploring many streams of information.

I must admit that as much as I work with a dozen or so computer programs at the same time, I still have difficulty with the “CNN” look of my television with information streaming from all corners. However, I recognize that the learners of today and those of the future must have this skill and work in such environments with comfort and ease.

I’ve questioned the value of students using fake names and representation of personal identity; however this presentation has shed new and positive light on the subject. I liked Sarah’s recognition that student IDs are complex and that by allowing her students to represent themselves with avatars, she can begin to know who they really are and can then address their needs. She opened my eyes to the use of avatars as a means to try on roles and likened that to putting on a lab coat in a traditional lab class and playing scientist for an hour. By sharing a story about her students who experienced a virtual situation which made them feel different and unacceptable to others in that space, she demonstrated the power of the “experience” of prejudice over merely reading about the experiences of others. I liked how she then used this experience as a springboard for writing about the experience. She further coupled this with a writing assignment which provided an opportunity for students to address a particular audience, get peer review and write better papers than they would have in a traditional class.

Sarah Smith Robins is articulate and has the ability to convey the potential of web 2.0 learning tools and spaces (particularly virtual environments) in a way that helps me personally see the need and value to move forward in this direction.

2nd Life as a Blogger

My limited experience in posting to a blog was during my graduate work at CSU for reflection on weekly activities. My current interest in blogging is an attempt to explore ideas and learn with others. I have been inspired by my VCU colleagues, Britt Watwood and Jeffery Nugent as we jointly consider and explore learning in a wired and flat world. I also want to thank Konrad Glogowski for his inspiring presentation: Initiating and Sustaining Conversations: Assessment and Evaluation in the Age of Networked Learning.