Sunday, March 14, 2010

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Posting to a Blog from Flock

I'm using a new cross-platform (Windows, Mac and Linux) Web 2.0-friendly browser called Flock to post this message.  You can download the browser from  It has a nice blog editor that integrates with many blogging services but it also does a great job of handling online image repositories and integrating them into your workflow (currently supports Flickr and PhotoBucket) including drag and drop images from your online account into any web form supporting HTML for an automatic image tag to that image...  It's got other great features as well.  Technically it's still in beta but I've had very few problems with it.  It's built on the Firefox engine. Give it a try!

Blogged with Flock

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Christian Sandvig Teaching With Blogs at UIUC

Using blogs in course work helps improve students' writing:

"Several years ago when Christian Sandvig, then a new professor of speech
communication, was developing a course called Communication Technology and
Society in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, he wanted to make the
course writing intensive, but was concerned about managing the workload of
grading the work produced by up to 100 students. After reading scholarly studies
on using diaries to enhance writing skills, Sandvig decided to try a high-tech
twist on that tried-and-true tool: blogs."

Nice article by Sharia Forrest of the UIUC News Bureau on "Using Blogs in Course Work Helps Improve Students' Writing."

Christian Sandvig also did a very good brown bag presentation for CITES EdTech last fall where he went into more detail on the value of blogs for teaching; we've posted his presentation online as both text summary and video.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

this is an audio post - click to play

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What induces participation?

1. What, if any, experience do you have with blogs and wikis as a consumer?

Urbana Post 71 Jr. Legion Baseball

2. What, if any, experience do you have with blogs and wikis as a teacher or technical support staff?

iLab for FSL outreach project

My experiences with these tools is exemplified by this very site. Although ~40 people signed up to participate in this focus group, very few actually participate. It is not possible to gauge how many folks have looked without comment, or to assess how often the primary contributors check for new input, so there may well be more activity than there appears to be. Clearly, students may be encouraged to participate by awarding points, but my question is this: What does it take to stimulate an active debate or conversation among interested parties who have nothing immediately real to gain by participating?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Direct Democracy and Blogging

Robert - I'm responding to your initial questions in not quite the linear style as you posed them. When the book Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, one of the best younger economists in the nation, and Stephen Dubner, a writer for the NY Times, came out last spring there was a huge flurry on the blog devoted to the book where the authors would make a post and then a lot of commentary would follow from ordinary citizens who had an interest. In the middle of that discussion Levitt took to task a book that was very hot a year or two earlier year called MoneyBall, and esepcially on the issue of whether the A's general manager Bill Beane really did apply statistical analysis to determine the (comparatively) inexpensive ballplayers who batted in the A's lineup. This generated a huge amount of discussion on the blog. And then later in the summer the A's started to do well....

The idea that the general public can communicate directly with important people who have strong opinions and blogs are the right forum for that is an intoxicating one. But I also think there are a lot of high powered folks who want to have such dialog but when they try it online the people dynamic just doesn't work and it doesn't play out well. So I'd like to see the Freakonomics case repeated a few more times before considering it the rule rather than the exception.

Our Teaching With Wikis Wiki

I've built us a wiki where we can play with the technology. 1st assignment: add to my exploration of Some Things We Humans Collaboratively Create. The idea here is to see if we can counteract some of the strangeness we feel when we hear that wikis are collaboratively edited by reminding ourselves of other things humans create in a highly collaborative manner. All you need to do is go to the wiki, click edit page, and join the conversation.



Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wikis, Podcasting, etc

My answers to Robert's questions...

What, if any, experience do you have with blogs, wikis, or podcasting as a consumer that suggests these technologies are successful and "here to stay"?

I don't think it's all "here to stay" -- it's the current state of things in the ever-changing evolution of technology and the internet. Blogging and Wikis are specialized forms of content managment, and I expect that new forms of content management will emerge that are ready for instructors to use with little time investment required.

What, if any, experience do you have with blogs, wikis, or podcasting as a teacher or technical support staff that suggests these tools might successfully be incorporated into teaching, learning, or research activities.

The main obstacles include lack of campus IT support for various technologies. Relying on commercial offerings limits your ability to adapt the system to meet YOUR needs, and might not measure up with respect to privacy or copyright considerations. If some podcasting or wiki or blog outfit wants to make money by running ads next to your blog/wiki/podcast, is it right for those companies to profit from your student's work? I'd like to see more on-campus support for these tools.

I used this semester, and I was a little annoyed at their attempts to get us to "upgrade" our flickr accounts to pay accounts.

Commercial offerings might not be stable enough (in terms of features, appearance, etc) for your course. Suppose you created a course with instructions on how to accomplish some task (like set up a blog in blogger), and just as the semester starts, Blogger decides to roll out their "new look" with new functionality. The more integrated (and thus meaningful) these technologies are in your course, the more disruptions like this will mess you up.

I've used wikis in a number of circumstances, mostly in collaborating with colleagues rather than with students. I've used other services like in my teaching. All things being equal, I prefer to run my own software rather than rely on a commercial "free" service.

Which begs the question: why do "blogs, wikis, and podcasting" form some sort of unit or topic with respect to instructional technology? There must be a million services/software apps like,, that are also obviously applicable...

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