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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Web 2.0 and the Implications on Education


I'm trying to catch up on my 23 Things to-do list. It's supposed to be summer where I can relax and have fun, but I'm surprisingly finding myself busier than I am during the fall and spring. Teaching online is tough, especially in these shortened summer sessions. It's tough for me, but it's even harder for my newbie students who don't have a clue about what an online class entails. So for my #15 Thing, I'm going to blog about Web 2.0 and the implications on education. I'll work my way back down to the 12th, 13th and 14th Things later. (Photo by Peter Forret)
Thing #15 asks you to blog about one or two key issues about 2.0-ness and education. What's bugging you? You can use any of the tools we've introduced so far to find blogs on Web 2.0 or learning 2.0...
Web 2.0 is made up of some great ideas that are changing the way we interact on the web using key 2.0 tools. Rick Voithofer in "Web 2.0: What is it and how can it apply to teaching and teacher preparation?" says it best,"This architecture of participation marked by folksonomy, blogging, and Wikis, among others, is making the web a place that resembles an interactive learning environment that makes learning more personal, social and flexible (O'Hear, 2005)." We've been exploring these tools as part of our 23 Things adventure this summer.
  • blogs
  • tagging and social bookmarking (folksonomy)
  • collective collections and sharing
  • RSS and syndication
  • podcasting
  • wikis
But what are the implications of such tools on higher education? Well, Paul Anderson does a much better job than I possibly could in answering this question in his report: "What is Web 2.0? Ideas, Technologies and Implications for Education." But I'll share a few of my own personal views anyway since I agree with Voithofer's view that learning is becoming more interactive and social.

The biggest impact I see for students in composition courses comes with the use of blogs and wikis. Writing was always so static "in the old days" (I love saying that). Writing was always just an exchange between student and instructor. Many students have a hard time imagining that someone other than their instructor would read their work. But now not only are their classmates reading, but they are reflecting and commenting on each other's writing. This interaction helps students develop better writing skills because learning is more active. Check out some wiki examples from years past:
Blogs also give students a public voice and forum to express their thoughts and opinion. That is what writing is all about, isn't it. I try to teach my students to think critically and then express their views with strong arguments that are supported by sound reasoning and solid evidence. It's a tough road, but blogs, if used in this manner, give us lots of opportunity for practice. Here is an interesting student discussion of an article titled "The Dea(r)th of Student Responsibility" on my Freshman Composition LiveJournal Blog. Students are no longer permitted to sit in silence during a class discussion. They must blog!

If you're interested in reading more about blogs, wikis and student writing, here's a quick list. Go to Jstor in the GCC library to get the journal article.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blackberry: A True Love Affair


blackberry.JPG
Originally uploaded by dr.coop
Okay, I've blogged about my Blackberry before, so most people know it's an important tool for me. It's really part of my life, sad but true. It is the one thing I interact with everyday, besides my family of course. But what makes the Blackberry so important? Yeah, it does email, but that 's not all it does.

Because the Blackberry Pearl uses a qwerty keyboard structure, it makes it easier to type on it. On my device pictured, yes, that's my actual Blackberry, I have the qwerty keyboard that uses 1 key for 2 letters. It uses the SureType® keyboard technology that surprisingly predicts the words you type so that you only have to push a key once to select a letter. I can type messages quickly with little trouble. And the best part for me is I can type commas and apostrophes so that my sentences are grammatically and structurally correct. Hey, I'm an English teacher.

The keyboard is the key here because not only is the Blackberry an email device, it also has a digital camera, multimedia player, web browser, address book and calendar, IM client, and maps. So here’s how I use two of my favorite features.

Text Messaging using Google Voice Local Search & Mobile SMS
Google Voice Local Search is Google’s experimental service to make local-business search accessible over the phone. To try this service, just dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any phone.”
Calling information (411) is nothing revolutionary, but what is unique is that it’s free. Yep, and when you call to get the directions you don’t have to write them down. I can just say “text message” and Google sends me the number or address via text message. I love that.

With Google Mobile SMS, I can text message my search query to 466453. That spells 'GOOGLE' on most devices, but not mine, so I added the number to my address book. I send my text and Google sends a text message back with results. If I’m feeling like a little sushi, I just text “sushi 85381” to 466453, and wait for the results. 85381 is the zip code. Almost instantly I got three listing for sushi restaurants in my area. It’s great. I’m so addicted to this tool.

Blackberry Digital Camera and Flickr
Email your photos directly to your Flickr photostream using a special upload by email address. Most people aren’t aware of this feature in Flickr. You can send photos directly into your Flickr account from your cameraphone or your email program. So I’m constantly snapping pics with my Blackberry, and I just send them straight to Flickr. I hardly ever use my digital camera any more. It’s just one more thing to carry. The Blackberry Pearl has a 1.3 megapixel camera with a built in flash. It takes pretty good pictures.

Now you know I could go on and on about my Blackberry, but I’ll spare you for now. It’s time to plug her in for nightly charge. We’ve got a busy day planned for tomorrow.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Theory of Collective Intelligence

Collective Intelligence is an intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals, an intelligence that seemingly has a mind of its own (Wikipedia).
This is part of the theory behind web 2.0. If you do any amount of research on web 2.0, you'll discover that one of the main principles of web 2.0 is that it attempts to harness collective intelligence.
"The principle behind collective intelligence is that a conclusion reached in collaboration with and from competition among multiple individuals will be more intelligent than any conclusion reached by an individual, no matter how smart" (by msaleem on December 10, 2006).
An idea that encompasses this principle is: We Are Smarter Than Me. This is a group of authors who will write the book on how the emergence of community and social networks will change the future rules of business. This community of over 4000 members proposes to write a compelling book better than individual writers. It will be interesting to see if it can be done.

So with those two definitions in mind, it's easy to see why "collective collection" sites are so popular. There are very few things that I've purchased in the last 3 years that I haven't researched on Amazon first. I love the collective intelligence of the reviews. They come from ordinary people just like me who buy things and want to get their money's worth out of their purchase. I've joined the group and often add my own reviews, adding to the collective intelligence of the site.

This seems to be the case everywhere you go online these days. When I went to visit the LibraryThing website, I was really surprised that it looked identical to Listal. Well, the old Listal. They got a rounded web 2.0 make over and added some new features. For instance, you can keep a collection of books, music, movies, DVDs, television shows and games. Good idea if you have a good number of all that stuff. I can't imagine trying to catalog my music collection anywhere else besides in iTunes, but plenty of people do. So Listal is a bit more comprehensive than LibraryThings, but both provide an interesting way to collect books and give lots of interesting information about the books collected on the site. Below is a look at a Listal Popular Books page.

I'm not much into Harry Potter, but obviously others are. When I was on sabbatical two years ago, along with finishing my dissertation, I made time for some leisure reading. I ended up reading over 100 romance novels that year, and I housed my growing collection on Listal. We're (I recruited some friends) close to 200 books now, although I get criticized for not being able to keep up with the reading list (Hey, I'm busy here!). Listal let's us keep track of who has what book and who has read what. And for me, I love the tagging and ability to write reviews because after a few months have gone by, I can't remember if I've read the book (Yeah, I'm over 40). I'll be half way through one before I realize I've already read it. Oops! Forgot to check Listal.

One other book collection site is Shelfari, still listed as being in beta. They have a nice web 2.0ey flavor and they allow you to add cool widgets like the one below to your blog (Flash widgets don't appear in feedreaders. You must visit the site to see it). What's interesting about Listal and Shelfari is that they both allow you to purchase books, but the purchases go through, guess who... Amazon. Interesting. LibraryThing is a bit more diplomatic, giving you links to several booksellers. I think you'll be happy with any of these collection sites, so if you have a growing collection of books, or any media for that matter, give one of these a try.

Do Your Students Call You?


"Are you crazy!" "I don't want students calling me at home!" Yep, I hear that all the time. My co-workers think I'm crazy, but I can't figure out how I'm suppose to help online students, or face-to-face for that matter, without giving them access to me in the evenings. That is when they do their homework, after work, after life settles down. Well, the phone calls and the email can be overwhelming at times, and there are some good web 2.0 tools to help manage it all. I'll share some tips on how to manage phone calls and email in two posts.

Let's start with the phone. I love email, but I hate talking on the phone. And when I do talk on the phone, it's not for socializing. I like to get right to the point and get off. I'm a woman of few spoken words. So I am quick to let a call go to voicemail so I can listen to what the caller wants before I have to talk to him/her. But what a pain to have to wait until the call is over and then you have to dial into voicemail to listen. With GrandCentral you don't have to do that. When someone calls on your phone, you can choose option 3 to send the call to voice mail and listen in on the call. At any point in the call you can hit the star key to take the call. I love it.

GrandCentral is a web 2.0 company that touts "one phone number for life."
It's a really interesting concept. I give my students my GrandCentral number, and then I can determine which of my phones I want to ring when someone calls that number. So if a student calls my GC number and I'm in my office, my office phone will ring. If I'm out and about, my cell phone will ring, or if I'm at home, my home phone will ring. But the best part is if I don't want to be interrupted I can set my GC number to go directly to voicemail. Here is a list of features that GC offers:
  • Check your messages by phone, email, or online
  • Keep all your messages online for eternity
  • Record and store your phone calls (just like voicemail)
  • Quickly (and secretly) block an annoying caller
  • Click-to-dial from your address book
  • Surprise your callers with a custom voicemail greeting
  • Turn your Mp3s into the ring tones your callers hear
  • Forward, download, and add notes to your messages
I use GC like a course management system in that I keep track of all phone correspondence. Sometimes there is a need to have a record of these things, but I can say I rarely record conversations. I do like to have phone numbers handy in case I need to call a student. And I like that GC keeps a record of my calls made. I can also add notes to the messages to help me keep track of the conversation. I make notes like, "Third call to student, and still no response."

I spend a lot of time online (who would have guessed?), and sometimes it's easier to just call from the computer. I can just choose the number and click dial. GC rings my phone, which ever one I choose (home, office, cell) and when I pick it up, it dials the number I want to call automatically. The person you call only sees your GC number and not the number of the phone you use. I also like listening to my voicemail online. When I get a message, I get an email with the mp3 voicemail embedded. I can just click and listen.

I can also set up personalized messages to groups or individuals, so that when they call and get voicemail they will have a personalized message. For instance, I can set up a message for students that lets them know that I am unavailable for the day and to check the Help Boards for answers to their questions. But when a friend calls, they get a different message that says come join me at the bar. :-)

If a student or anyone gets your number and you don't want to receive calls from them any more, you can block that number from calling you in the future. Sweeeet! So I now give my GC number out freely. Go ahead, call me: 602-325-3259.

Check it out. It's free. If you like these features, but are happy with your current number, check out YouMail. I use that too.

Time's a Wasting







Okay, I call foul on Christine and Karen. How can I get any work done when you bring up Last.fm and iLike? It's music. I love music. I already need a bigger iPod (20gb presently) because I have so much music and podcasts crammed on it. Time for 60 or 80gb or maybe an iPhone. Nah, that's only 4gb. I listen to music everyday. What else can I do on my hour long commute every morning and afternoon? I refuse to act like an adult and listen to talk radio. Podcasts don't count as talk radio do they?

So, I've used Last.fm for a while now although I always forget to turn on my scrobbler. What's a scrobbler you ask. It's a little program that you download from the Last.fm site that works with your music player on your computer. It then tracks what you listen to and uploads the data to your Last.fm profile page. From there you are given recommendations of music based on your listening history. If you have friends on Last.fm, they can leave recommendations as well. And you also have neighbors, people who listen to music similar to what you listen to.

I like exploring and listening to music I find on the site. It's interesting to see what people like. I'm sure people think my tastes are strange. I can go from listening to country to listening to rap and then back to alternative. I like it all except for heavy metal. The one thing that is amazing about music is there is always something new and you will never know every artist out there.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I Love Mosaics

Mosaics are awesome if you understand the concept behind them. I can say I didn't really understand how they worked until recently. While under orders from Christine to play around and have fun "in the spirit of the 7 1/2th Habit," I lost myself in web 2.0 for about 2 hours. I made badges, buttons, favicons, warning signs, email icons, book covers and finally mosaics.
Images used in the creation of image mosaics are collected from Flickr and copyright of their respective owners.
So here's my face made up from a collection of smaller photos gathered from Flickr. The mosaic was created using The Image Mosaic Generator. If you click on the image and blow it up to 100%, you will see that the part of the red in my lips is made from a red stop sign and my nose has a Shell sign on it. My face is made up of a conglomeration of things including a cat, many body parts, and hundreds of faces. It's so cool that it still looks like me. I guess that's the whole idea of a mosaic.

Here are some cool mosaic links to explore:

I have a large blank white wall in my new office at SMC that I need to decorate. I left it blank for a whole semester because I wasn't sure I was staying. I think I might just create a huge mosaic with The Rasterbator to fill that wall. The mailable mosaic is a great idea too. It would be fun to send C's mother in NJ a collection of postcards that she can piece together in a mosaic once she gets them all. So many ideas, so little time. I hope you have as much fun playing as I did.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Blogger Adds New Feature

videoOkay, I wanted to be one of the first to try out Google's new Blogger feature: Video Uploads. Yes, you can upload your videos and play them in your blog posts. That's kind of cool! From the Blogger in Draft blog:
Today we're announcing an exciting new feature, video upload, and an exciting new place to use it: Blogger in draft. We’re excited.
I didn't have anything interesting to upload, so I used my step son's NYS football video I created last season. If you're into video, you might want to try out Blogger in Draft. Once you sign in using your regular blogger account at the Blogger in Draft site, everything looks exactly the same as the regular Blogger, except for the button on the menu bar for uploading video. It was easy.

A Feeding Frenzy Indeed

Our 9th of 23 Things is to find feeds to subscribe to. The suggestion was to find blogs about our hobbies or personal interests, and then maybe some blogs about professional or academic interests. I soon discovered that the two are one in the same for me. Hmmm... What does that say about me. Maybe I need to get away from this computer and find some new hobbies. Well, maybe not new; how about renewed.

I've got Google Reader and My Yahoo! (I have to use both. I just can't decide) loaded up with lots of educational technology feeds from some great blogs. I'm going to share a few of my favorites in case you'd like to check them out as well. But before I do that, I want to share a unique feature that Google Reader has that allows me to share interesting articles that I save with my reader. Google automatically creates a public page that you can either share the URL: http://www.google.com/reader/shared/12936976419137416547 or you can create a widget to share on your blog or webpage. You can see my widget in my sidebar to the right. It's light blue. I really like this feature because if I read something really good, I love to share with others.

So, what does Dr. Coop read everyday? Here's a sneak peek at my top 10 from Google Reader Trends.

My favorite blogs, as you can see, are Lifehacker, TechCrunch, Crave, CrunchGear and MacOSXHints. Oh, and now 23 Things! There are so many more, but let me tell you about my fave.
Computers make us more productive. Yeah, right. Lifehacker recommends the software downloads and web sites that actually save time. Don't live to geek; geek to live.
Lifehacker is my favorite. I find something on LH everyday that I can use, from tips to applications. For instance, this morning they posted an article about ZOHO Creator.
Forget learning Microsoft Access and Visual Basic: the newly-revamped Zoho Creator is an easy-to-use online database creation tool.
If you are not familiar with Zoho's suite of applications, you need to hurry over and check it out. It's awesome. You may want to throw your $200 MS Office out with the trash.

Okay, I got a little excited there. My other daily reads are:
Here are few EdTech blogs I read:

Exploring Feed Readers

I went back recently and played around with an old feed reader I started out with a few years ago. The 23 Things blog suggested we set up an account and start playing around with collecting/subscribing to feeds for our 8th Thing. Bloglines is a good reader, but it's so "web 1.0" compared to some of the newer feed reader. Today with so many different things to do on the web, trying to keep track of all of it is a full time job. Some of the better options for feed readers end up being sites that combine more than one activity together. I think Yahoo! wins hands down in that, but other companies with start pages idea have caught on.

When I log on everyday, I start at the same place everyday, and I want my email, news, feeds, personal photos, address book and bookmarks all there together. With the My Yahoo! page, I can have it all. I fell out of favor with Bloglines because I didn't want another page to have to go to, so I started using Yahoo! even though it wasn't as good. Since then Yahoo has integrated a feed reader right into their web mail. So when I check my email, I can check and read my feeds too. This is really nice. Gmail can do this too now with a the Better Gmail Firefox extension.

I've started using Google Reader as of late, and I'm wavering about making a move from Yahoo! to Google. It's a tough decision that I just can't make. Just when I'm about to move, Yahoo! makes a significant upgrade to match up with Google. The latest, chat inside webmail. Now this is significant because I have so many more friends on Yahoo! than Gmail. Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. Back to feed readers.

So
Which Feed Reader is Best? - ProBlogger Readers Have their Say. A popular blog site polled its readers and Google Reader won hands down, with Bloglines second. Another blog, TechCrunch, published an article, The State of Online Feed Readers. This is a very good article that details 9 of the most popular feed readers. There's a handy features chart the compares them all. Both FeedLounge and Google Reader received 4 out of 5 stars on this chart.

I guess it doesn't really matter which feed reader you use as long as it works for you, and everybody will agree that using one is a must if you read a lot of blogs.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Podcasting Presentation @ GWCC


Podcasting Presentation
Originally uploaded by dr.coop
I spent the last two days giving a podcasting workshop at GateWay Community College. The participants were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn how to podcast. This presentation lasted 4 hours for two days; however, we really didn't need that much time. We covered so much material in roughly 6 total hours. We concluded the presentation with everyone creating a podcast that was posted to their newly created Blogger blogs. I was so proud.

Information about the podcasting presentation can be found at http://drcoop.pbwiki.com/Podcasting

I've been so jazzed lately about the enthusiasm I've witnessed from both the participants in GCC's 23 Things and the many podcasting workshops I conducted at other colleges in the district this past year. It's great.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Flickr Photo a Day


tulips.JPG
Originally uploaded by dr.coop
One of my New Year's resolutions was to take a photo a day. I think I made it to about January 7th before I forgot all about that goal. But despite my inability to stick with my NY's resolutions, I still have 3269 photos in my Flickr account. I think it's amazing how cheaply I can store so many photos online, and Flickr makes it so easy to do.

The photo in this post is from my trip to Chicago for the HLC conference this past April. They had these tulips blooming all over downtown. It was so pretty. I used my Nikon Coolpix L3. How can I remember that? Flickr keeps track of the EXIF data from each photo.

What is EXIF data?
Almost all new digital cameras save JPEG (jpg) files with EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) data. Camera settings and scene information are recorded by the camera into the image file. Examples of stored information are shutter speed, date and time, focal length, exposure compensation, metering pattern and if a flash was used.
Source: Digicamhelp.

Now if that is not enough data, you can also click on the camera make you used to take a photo to see how many other people are using the same camera. You can also see what cool photos they are taking. There are some really cool photos taken with that cheap little camera of mine. In fact, there were:
  • 4,254 photos uploaded yesterday
  • 198 users yesterday
  • Ranked 9 of 71 Nikon Cameras
All with the Nikon Coolpix L3.

The most difficult thing about Flickr for me is the licensing. It took me a long while before I took the time to sit down and read about it, and to be honest I'm still not so sure I understand it. The creative commons has some helpful information on their site to help you along with your licensing choices. http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/meet-the-licenses
I think I'm going to go with the Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd).

I don't use Flickr much in education, except to post photos of my students for them to use on their blogs. I usually take their pictures in the first week of class, so I can learn their names. I post them on Flickr, so they can use the URLs to link their photos to their profiles. Most seem to like this idea. I'm sure there's got to be something illegal about doing that.

This was my post for the 5th of 23 Things. Next we will have:

#6: Flickr Fun - and then some!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Ten Minutes with Google Reader


If I had to choose right now one technology that I could not live without, it would be my Blackberry. No, no! I'm only kidding. It would be RSS and feed readers. Many people have written about what RSS is and what it does, so I don't want to simply repeat what has been done before when you can just read what they've written. Try Wikipedia and my Coop's Word wiki for good definitions. What I want to do is show you how I use my favorite feed reader: Google Reader.

First off, 23 Things @ GCC has created a long list of educators blogging about their 23 Things, and as I blogged about earlier, this is some great reading material. I wanted to read all the blogs from this diverse group of people, but I didn't want to spend all day doing it. Using website, xFruits, I aggregated all of the feeds from the 23 Things blog list and created one feed. Then I subscribed to the feed in Google Reader. Whaaaaaaat? I know, MJ already called me on that one. You'll just have to watch the screencast to understand what I'm talking about. It's ten minutes.

Have a look: http://www.freshmancomp.com/screencasts/23Things1/23Things1.html

Links I talked about in the screencast: