Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Next Text Book - Google Notebook

I have seen my next text book and it's Google Notebook. If you are educator using any online resources you need to check this out (run, don't walk to the nearest computer). Google Notebook allows you to create and share "notebooks" - and with the available Firefox extension, it's simple to add content from any Web page (and yes, remind your learners about copyright, intellectual property, attribution, and the Creative Commons licensing types). All content in a notebook can be edited and updated as well. Web 2.0 at its best.

I see using a Google Notebook like this:
  1. Create a notebook, either on a general course title or a specific topic
  2. "Seed" the notebook with whatever required information you see as important for your course
  3. Make the notebook available to your learners, making them responsible for its maintenance
  4. Use the notebook to augment/replace text resources
  5. At the end of the course you have a collaboratively created resources that is much more relevant to your learners than any text book could ever be
There you go - a current, topical, no cost alternative to expensive, heavy, out-of-date text books. I can't wait to try it out...

Is E-Mail Dead?

I recently asked my learners if they could only have one of either e-mail or instant messaging (IM), which one would it be? The answer across a total of more than 120 learners was almost unanimously in favour of IM.

When I asked them why they made their choice, I got several answers:
  • "E-Mail is too slow..."
  • "IM is more like a real conversation..."
  • "I always get an answer with IM. Some people ignore e-mail.."
  • "IM is easier to use..."
  • "It's easier to share files with IM..."
  • "IM is on every computer. My E-Mail client isn't..."
Interestingly enough, I have always seen e-mail as an asynchronous tool, and IM as a synchronous one. Many of my learners actually use IM in an asynchronous manner, leaving it open all the time and getting back to a conversation when they can. This use of IM was reinforced by a friend of mine who has told me that her children so the same thing.

The lack of immediacy and not knowing if anyone was there at the other end of the "conversation" seem to be the two biggest reasons why e-mail is falling out of favour. Now that there are secure, business quality IM systems on the market , it will be interesting to see if e-mail is truly a technology that will go the way of the dodo, to be replaced by the more immediate and intimate IM tools. Hmmm...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tag! You're It...

As I continue to look at all of the new tools and technologies that are cropping up all over the Web, I 'm trying to figure out what exactly makes a Web 2.0 application a Web 2.0 application. Is it user customization, social networking, sharing and modifying information, or something else?

The one common thing that I have seen in most of the Web 2.0 applications that I have looked as is tags - the ability to categorize or group what you are doing so as to make the information produced easier to share and find.

So, is it valid then to say that in order to be a Web 2.0 application, tags must be used? While not all inclusive, I think it's a valid "litmus test", and a way to identify something as being Web 2.0. Here are just a few Web applications that use tags. You can decide if they are Web 2.0 or not:
And I know that there are many, many more... Which ones are your favourites?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Pilgrim's Web 2.0 Progress

It's been some time now since I began exploring the use of Web 2.0 tools and technologies. Here are the tools I've used so far and what I think of them
  • NetVibes - a RSS aggregator and so much more, NetVibes literally has thousands of feeds, module, podcasts, events, and tabs that you can add to your own to create an amazing "learning Portfolio" of customized information. You can also share your feeds etc. with others through NetVibes ecosystems. My favourite Web 2.0 tool by far, I will be using NetVibes in my learning environments in the future.
  • Blogger - If Blogger isn't your favourite blogging tool, try Wordpress, several of my friends use it. Blogging has to be the most powerful Web 2.0 tool, and is probably the most used one. I will be using blogs with my learners in the future.
  • Wikispaces - one of many sites that allow you to create your own wikis, I am using wikispaces now with learners to create custom learning spaces online. Wikis are a great educational tool and they add to the collaborative nature of any learning environment, particularly if you have the learners maintain the wiki.
  • Flickr - I'm into digital photography, and Flickr is a great way to organize and share my pictures. It also has potential as a learning tool through the creation and display of slide shows and picture collections (and I am sure all sorts of other ways that I haven't thought of yet). My Flickr collection is here.
  • Second Life - not strictly a Web 2.0 tool, Second Life has incredible educational value through experiential learning, service learning, and simulation (among others). I think that the use of Second Life is limited only by the imagination of the users.
  • Yahoo Pipes - I've just started looking at Yahoo Pipes, but I love what I've seen so far. As Yahoo says you can use Pipes to "rewire the Web" creating custom mashups, allowing you to create your own custom view of the Internet. I think that this tool has great educational potential and I will be exploring it further.
  • Remember The Milk - allows you create and see online tasks and to-do list that you can keep private or share. Would be a useful online tool for keeping track of course deliverables due dates.
  • Eventful - tracking and creation of events in your neighbourhood and around the world, eventful has some educational use for tracking and reminding learners of events, conferences and important academic dates
  • Boxxet - another tool that allows you to create customized "box sets" of feed and information. It has loads of pre-built boxxets or you can create your own.
These are the main tools that I've been exploring, but I have also taken a look at several others that could prove useful to you. These tools are:
  • Suprglu - an aggregator like NetVibes, it allows you to create your own custom view of the Internet
  • Your Minis - like NetVibes you can create custom tabs of feeds and widgets
  • Vyew - collaborative conferencing similar to Elluminate. We currently use Elluminate, and Vyew has much the same look, feel, and capabilities
  • Photobucket - a photo storing, organizing, and displaying service like Flickr
  • Vidavee Graffiti - a tool that allows you to markup and customize the appearance of videos
I've looked at many tools as my meandering Web 2.0 journey continues, but these are the ones that have left an impression with me. One thing that I have concluded so far is that with Web 2.0 tools you need to select the ones that work for you and use those, not try to use them all just because they are there. The journey continues...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

If a Blog Falls...

Todays cartoon at bLaugh raises a good point. If no one reads your blog, does it matter? Is it even a blog or just unheard and unseen ramblings? Hmmm...

If a Blog Falls

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sit Still While I Instill

This question was posed to me last night - "How do education administrators help faculty and students break the habits of stereotypical F2F classrooms (”you sit still while I instill")?"

So how do we? is it the place of administrators to do it? If it is how do they do it? Hmmm...

I'm going to start from the premise that the days of the "sage on the stage" have been replaced in adult education by the "guide on the side". We facilitate learning. I certainly know that is true in my practice. More and more my job as an adult educator is to help learners learn to learn as much as it is to "teach" any particular piece of content.

Breaking the habits of the F2F classroom is difficult for both faculty and students - it is all that many of them have ever known, and it is safe and predictable. As a learner I simply have to sit there as an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge - no fuss, no muss, and not a whole lot of effort on my part.

Well sorry to tell you learners, but those days are over - you are responsible for your own learning and it takes work. We will help you learn, but ultimately it is your choice whether you do or not.

To help you learn we need to be creative, get out of our own "silos" and get support from our administrators that allow us as faculty to become innovative and interesting, creating learning environments that work. For this to happen administrators and faculty need to work together to explore and use educational resources and technologies that allow for learning to happen wherever it needs to - education without boundaries.

So we get you out from your comfortable rows of desks and into groups, the community (service learning has so much power), using technologies and tools that you master and learn with, and develop your life-long learning skills that will allow you to become discriminating learners ready to seize any learning opportunity that presents itself.

That's how we will break the habits of the F2F classroom - by breaking down the walls and expanding the horizons of ourselves and our learners, by really believing in and supporting education without boundaries...

Virtual vs Reality

Increasingly I find myself using virtual environments and virtualization tools in my education practice. We are using tools like VMware and Microsoft's Virtual Server and Virtual PC to create customized software environments that allow for the learning of specific IT skills without worrying about impacting on the college network. We are using tools like Elluminate to meet and deliver learning across distance and I'm increasingly using Web 2.0 tools to expand my learning environments beyond the college walls.

I am also spending time in Second Life where I have met people from allover the world and developed friendships that I value no less than those I have in the real world. I may never meet my Second Life friends face to face, yet I value their friendship, knowledge, and advice no less than my "real" friends. I have met people, seen and done things, and learned so much in this virtual environment that I would have never done in the real world due to time, space, and logistical restrictions.

For me the boundaries between the virtual and the real have faded - together they make up my world, my reality. I firmly believe that this combination of virtual and real spaces is the learning environment of the future. So if I see you in the hallway and ask you if that's flexi-hair that you're wearing, please forgive me...

CASE - Copy And Share Everything

I have been having a lot of discussions lately with friends and colleagues about the sharing of information and the issues of information ownership and privacy. As an adult educator (I help adults learn and occasionally have been accused of being an adult myself), I spend most of my time finding information and sharing it with friends, colleagues, and learners. I also create lots of things that I either freely share on paper, post to the Web, or make available electronically. The question that seems to be rearing its ugly head though is this - do I share or do I worry about my privacy and IP rights? Hmmm...

Well my answer is, and I have come to this conclusion with the help and wisdom of my best friend who is much smarter and wiser than me, and by talking with many other great friends and colleagues - I use the CASE method - Copy and Share Everything. If I create something that I make publicly available I KNOW that it will be shared and re-distributed. So, I just know that all of my "stuff" will be shared. That's what I love about Web 2.0 - the community of sharing thoughts, ideas, and materials - what better tool can we as educators have? I have mo expectations of privacy or ownership - if I share something it belongs to the community of learners who use it.

Am I concerned about ownership and my IP rights? Well, for those few things where I might be there is the Creative Commons licensing options, and so far I have found them to be very cool.

So, if you see something of mine, and it's useful, please feel free to use it. It would be cool if you would drop me a line to let me know what you did with it and if you improved upon it, to share it back with me. Now that would be a community of learners...