Wiki’s

September 16, 2009

imagesI confess I am a bit slow embracing this particular technology (although I do love Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Dramatica).  Until now, I’ve only dabbled with wiki’s for professional reasons — I go back to what is comfortable for me which is blogging.  Mainly, because I’m just more familiar with blogging  — it took me less than 5-minutes to figure out how to blog through WordPress.com or to find a blog of interest through GoogleReader.  It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to even join an existing wiki through Wikispaces, and once I got the hang of it, the site went down and continued to have issues as I searched and tried to create my personalized wiki.  But I hung in and have come back over the last few days where I’ve been able to add a number of sites. I’m still not quite sure how I will use my own wiki that I created, but I am trying.

The main difference that I see between a blog and a wiki is that a blog allows entries to be made in journal style and displayed in reverse chronological order on a website; a wiki is a website that allows visitors/members to add, remove, edit, change content, and link to other sites.

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I went to a few other wiki sites.  The best one that I found was Wiki.com; it defined a wiki for me and then walked me through the process of acquiring a wiki by asking:

  1. How tech savvy are the people who will add to the pages of your wiki?
  2. Do you want to download wiki engine software to place on your own hardware, or do you want to subscribe online to a service hosted for you?
  3. Do you want to retain past versions of your pages so you can view changes or revert back?

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I came across this page while researching wiki’s; it is a list of notable wikis:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wikis.  You can look through the list and see if there is something of interest then subscribe to it through your wiki application.

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MUD, MUSH, MOO

September 16, 2009

campusclipMUD, MUSH, MOO:  How can these spaces be used for teaching and learning?
These spaces can be utilized in education in many different ways:

— Teachers, students, administrators, etc. can connect simultaneously to a server where they interact and collaborate within rooms exchanging pertinent information about objects, other students/teachers/administration.
—  Asynchronous communication allows for independence of time and place requirements, ease of peer communication, promotion of thoughtful discussion, facilitation of student collaborative projects, online submission of assignments and file sharing, and the potential to actively involve students in the production of learning tools that might include internal e-mail, newsgroups, newspapers, tutorial rooms.

A good example would be the Teacher Professional Development Institute, or TAPPED IN.  It is a shared teacher professional development workplace patterned after a real-world conference center. Teachers with diverse interests, backgrounds, and skills can share experiences, engage in mentoring and collaborative work, or simply meet their colleagues. Through the creation of rooms, organizations can maintain their own agendas (e.g.,institutes and workshops), while enabling their teachers to benefit from a range of expertise, ideas, and resources that no one organization could provide by itself.

Basic toolbox

September 10, 2009

imagesMy basic, bare minimum, distance education toolbox would consist of:
 (Dr. Lowell has said that a computer with Internet access is a given…) We could stretch this “bare minimum” thought a bit further — although a bit frustrating due to the size of the screen — my iPhone can actually do most of the work that my computer does right now. Just last week I downloaded and application to my phone that sends me Blackboard updates. The drawback would be in word processing; trying to type a paper would prove futile at this juncture.
 Secure email – would be utilized to provide interaction between teacher and students; allow for transferring of documents/files (homework assignments, lecture notes, syllabi, etc.).

  The basic distance education toolbox would also contain a web-based groupware programs or curriculum development and management application — I think they’re fantastic. They make life as a student and instructor more manageable because everything is in one location and organized by intuitive categories.  Through these programs you can email, have a discussion board, transfer files, create test & grade them, post materials — such as PDF’s or PowerPoint Presentations — create calendars and post pertinent announcements to those participating in the class or an entire school.  Some of the programs have the ability to create web conferences to conduct live meetings, trainings and presentations or attend them from another source (such as another school district or a national educational association).    The advantage of these types of programs allow instructors to personalize education for each class or for an entire school or school district and through these programs students create a sense of community by interacting more and utilizing technology that is in their every day life.

Breathe: MOOing and MUDing

September 10, 2009

I have spent some considerable time on the Lost Library of MOO web site over the past few days – it was overwhelming at first – reading all the different acronyms and trying to determine what they meant.  My favorite definition was for MOO; “MOO stands for MUD.” If I had not read Chapter 3 in Kearsley (pg 32-33) about MOOs/MUDs, I would have been even more overwhelmed.  Evidently, I have been using MUDs/MOOs for years and just didn’t realize that is what they were called.  I vaguely recall, in my early internet years playing a “dungeon and dragon” style game like the book described, so that would mean that I have actually been using MUDs/MOOs for about 18 years. geodome

Internet as a tool…

September 10, 2009

Leonard Kleinrock

Leonard Kleinrock

Did you know that the internet was 40 years old on September 2nd?  I had no idea until I read “Happy Birthday, Dear Internet, Happy Birthday To You” by Victoria Davis.

Back in 1991 while an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to land a job working for a brilliant professor on a National Science Foundation research grant — testing an organic alternative to the pool chemical chlorine.  Not extremely groundbreaking research, but the perks of the job were that I had free internet (it was 56K dial-up which I thought was amazing; it just makes me laugh and laugh now that I thought 56K was so fast).  This access to the internet was the most significant tool in my battle for good grades because I had access to information searches and emailing.  It linked me to other universities and institutions of knowledge.  But most importantly it saved me vast amounts of time in the library.  In the past, when doing research, you went to the library, searched through the card catalogue, found what you thought you were looking for, pulled the microform and sat in front of the microfiche machine searching for your information.  The majority of the time it was such a cumbersome process that I ended up giving up and walking away.

How has the internet changed since then?  Jumping to present day –besides the obvious technological leap (I have a T3 connection at work and DSL wireless in my home) the internet is a mandatory tool in my life.  I use it for: online banking, shopping, keeping calendars, invitations, e-cards, social networking, weather reports, news, research, answering health questions, and on and on….  I’m even earning a graduate degree in Ed Tech through on-line courses exclusively.  What is most interesting is that the internet has now become a tool with its own set of tools.  What do I mean by this?  For example, all of the universities I have attended utilize Blackboard — whether the class is online or in a physical classroom — Blackboard enables students access to pertinent course information, discussion boards, collaboration, etc.  In order for me to be a student or an instructor I must have access to Blackboard.  How do I access Blackboard?  Through the internet!

Therefore, I am extremely grateful to those scientist in Kleinrock’s lab — who first transfered data through cable in 1969 at the University of California — for giving birth to the internet.  In a way they’re responsible for my continued access to education.

If you want to read more about the history of the internet, please go to http://www.cs.ucla.edu/~lk/personal_history.html

Sean Corcoran from Forrester Research was on Science Friday today discussing social networking sites. It’s only about 20-minutes long and was discussing the rise and fall of SNS’s — in particular a good portion of the conversation was about Facebook.

http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/200909041

PajamasWhen I started grad school I took my first distance ed class because frankly my thought process went something like this:  “I can sleep until noon and go to grad school in my pajama’s.”  This sounded extremely rational because I had spent the last few years of my life working under a tyrannical boss at about 80 hours a week.  However, after a few moments spent reading the syllabus of Statistical Analysis 601, I realized just how wrong my rationale was… I might be able to sit in my pj’s while doing the work, but it didn’t make the class material any easier or less in scope or more relaxed.   Eventually, after I stopped running around my apartment screaming and flailing my hands, questioning my decision to return to school and contemplating what it might take to get my job back, I sat back down to my computer and got to work.  Eventually, this course would become one of my fonder memories of grad school and prove to be serendipitous.  Why?  Because while I had a good work ethic, I had forgotten what it was like to be a good student.  My in-person classroom courses were all Socratic method  requiring little work outside of the lecture.  Whereas, this distance ed course immediately made me become:  more responsible; stay on schedule; deliver a greater amount of intelligent, thoughtful work; participate and interact more with my professor and my classmates; and be fearless about technology.  No one was holding my hand anymore telling me when this chapter had to be read or that paper turned in.  That’s what I liked most then (and now) about distance ed, it intrinsically motivated me to be a learner; to build my own personal database of intellectual property and tools.  I’m certainly not saying that all distance ed courses do this; and I’m certainly not saying that in-person classroom courses don’t do this; I’m just saying that’s what I like best about a good distance ed course…you want to learn and do and use.

I went on to survive grad school and now into my professional career, I find myself having been on both sides of distance ed — as student and as instructor.  As the student, the main disadvantage to distance ed for me was the cost; our university had a technology surcharge, and I had to pay for Internet access at home, making the actual cost of the class more expensive — and when you’re living on a $900/mth fellowship every penny counts.  Now, as an instructor I find that technological prowess is the biggest obstacle for my students; it’s not that they don’t have the ability to navigate the territory but that they become overwhelmed and afraid to ask questions because they don’t want appear ignorant.  One of my first test I ever gave was through Blackboard; this is a great way to give a test because you can enter the test questions or test bank, set the parameters for the test (i.e. time, date, choose questions, etc.), and have it self-grade, then post to the grades page.  Ninety-percent of the class had no issues but that other 10% ended up begging me for a paper exam — which I obliged because if you’re scared to death and worried about the technology you can’t focus on knowledge you’re supposed to be learning. Eventually, by the end of the course, almost everyone was up to speed with the technology (and surprisingly it wasn’t my older students with the issues, it was my text messaging, IM’ing, email using 18 year olds — can you figure out why?).

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One other way distance ed application is utilized to an advantage is for continuing education (CE).  As part of my Kentucky licensure requirements I have to attend ten hours of continuing education each year — usually this consists of: taking two 8-10 hour classes; time away from work; sitting in a hotel banquet room drinking bad coffee while taking notes for an entire day; and keeping up with the certificate credentials.  Further, topics are limited to what CE travels through my city. (For example my area of practice is bi-polar disorder.  A few years ago, there were no bi-polar disorder CE’s that came through my city — thus if I’m not getting the latest and greatest information about this topic, what good will I be as a therapist?)   Now, there are several companies that specialize in on-line CE’s specific to therapist.  The advantages are not just that I can take a CE when I have time — all I need is an Internet connection — but that I can re-watch that CE, choose from a wider selection of topics, communicate directly with the speaker, and the company keeps track of my certificate so that when I go to re-up my license I don’t have to dig through my office trying to find what class I took when, and where the certificate might be.