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.

best

Robert

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 flickr.com 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 flickr.com 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 flickr.com, del.icio.us, my.yahoo.com that are also obviously applicable...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Using Gizmo Project for audioblogging

this is an audio post - click to play


Unike Skype, audioblogger recognizes the touch tones generated by Gizmo Project. I had some fun here with the sound effects built into Gizmo Project.

Gizmo Project, also unlike Skype, uses the open-source SIP protocol for VoIP and has a built-in feature for the recording of phone calls (either computer to computer or computer to phone) and so can be easily used to record interviews for podcasts. Here is an interview I recorded with my mother using Gizmo Project computer-to-phone as part of my Wikilanguages project (in Ogg Vorbis format) in which audio examples of all the world's languages and dialects will be provided (being completed in my spare time!).

Gizmo Project software is actually a "soft phone" connected to the SIPphone network and peer networks, including the phone systems used at UCSD, Indiana University and a number of other universities. So using Gizmo Project, one can call any of these SIPphone networks for free. I wonder when UIUC will get with it and dump its ancient POTS system for its telephone communication. :)

--Gary

answers to your four 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"?

None. I used to teach students about PGP encryption and USENET and I don't anymore. I don't think this matters as long as the technologies are useful at the time. I never use slide projectors in my classes but they were an important educational technology once.

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.

Classes where I use blogs:
In each of these, blogging is required. The class web site is also a blog. The large lecture class with TAs also has an instructor wiki (not linked here) to exchange information between TAs and I.

Imagine that you are going to pilot the use of a blog, wiki, or podcast in a spring 2006 semseter course on this campus (either your own or for another teacher) what might you try? Describe the pilot and some discipline and/or course specific tasks or objectives that the pilot would hope to facilitate?

This isn't really relevant to me as I already use these technologies.

I would be interesting in joining one or both of your new working groups (see notes below) (a) Teaching and Learning With Blogs n Wikis (b) Teaching and Learning With Podcasting and Desktop Audio (c) both

Sorry -- I am going to pass because I feel too busy but I will keep an eye on them in case I get more time.

What would be more useful: Campus-wide support for these technologies adapted to classroom needs (e.g., centralized installation of Movable Type) the way that LAS ATLAS has provided centralized support for segue.
Also, improved integration between campus authentication systems (reduction in the many usernames and passwords) -- this is a major barrier to adopting new educational technologies and a constant headache in class. Finally, reinstate the functionality of campus gradebook and dump WebCT. Okay, I'll stop now.

Collaborative wikis; Combining podcasts with wikis

this is an audio post - click to play


As I mentioned in the audio, I was unable to use Skype for my audio blog entry as thea audioblogger attendant did not hear the touch tones I produced with Skype to login and provide my PIN. I will have to try with Gizmo Project to see if that works. These serivces cost only about 2 cents/minute for long distance computer-to-phone calls to much of the world (computer to computer is free).

This is also an easy way to create an MP3 file that could be used for other purposes as well (limit is 5 minutes), either linking to the file on the blog or downloading the entire and putting it somewhere else. One could even to a quick 5-minute or less interview on the phone with someone as a conference call including the audioblogger number. Gizmo Project provides a free conference call feature (even going out to regular POTS numbers) that could be used for this. But I have to see first if audioblogger will recogize the tones that Gizmo Project produces.

All this new tech developments open up all kinds of completely new possibilties for education and communication--I find it actually dizzying at times!

--Gary

Hello--Welcome to our Blogs and Wikis at UIUC Work Group

Dear Interested Campus Blogger and Wikiite!

You are one of a large number of campus faculty and technology supporters (42 total) that attended one of the CITES EdTech Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasting brownbags and indicated interest in joining a working group on the topic. This email list will support our discussion concerning use of blogs and wikis. We have also set up a blog and wiki for posting tips and examples and general experimentation.

You will need to respond to a 2nd email (sent shortly) which will invite you to become a contributing member of our new blog:

Teaching With Blogs and Wikis at UIUC
http://guava.cites.uiuc.edu/r-baird/blogsnwikis/

We also have a wiki at:

http://www.seedwiki.com/wiki/teaching_with_wikis_at_uiuc

Anyone can post at our wiki, and I've already added our first assignment (which is hopefully fun and enlightening): Add to our 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 contribute to our collective response.

About this "working group," CITES EdTech wants to bring together campus faculty, technical staff, and pedagogy and media specialists through a few informal working groups that will share ideas and questions in an online forum (blog, wiki, listserv,), meet occassionally for sharing and show n tell sessions, and serve as a support network for those instructors actively engaged in using these technologies in their courses and research.

A subsequent email will explain how you can join our blog (a standard Blogger blog that should be easy to join).

Once you join the blog, please post a single entry that responds briefly to these questions:

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

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

3. Imagine you are going to pilot the use of a blog or wiki in a spring 2006 semseter course on this campus (either your own or for another teacher) what might you try? Offer some discipline and/or course specific tasks or objectives that you might hope to facilitate?

You can copy and paste the 3 questions above into your first blog post when you respond to the questions. We assume that some of you already use Blogger, but also want to introduce this easy and free tool to those that haven't used it before. Additionally, we believe that teachers and students can easily use Blogger for course work, collaboration, and for course assignments. So, we are kind of testing the feasibility of Blogger as an informal campus teaching and learning tool.

best

Robert Baird
Doug Mills
CITES EdTech

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