Reading Beyond Blogs to Ground the Writing about Blogs

Because Will mentioned that I gave him some reading suggestions, I thought I’d share some of my must-reads here as well. Although I naturally try to read widely and deeply within the blogosphere, I also think it essential to leave the blogs in my reading, too, every day, to stay aware of the long-view perspective, to feel the pages of books, to put pressure on the blogging I do. It’s easy, after all, to get seduced by the quick pleasure of seeing my words winging their way onto the Web (to wherever it is they go). And I do so love the tension in this medium, valuing the spontaneous rip of blogging, knowing that my thoughts are not in any way “final” here because I can come back tomorrow and write a new post that veers off in a new direction, while remembering not to waste readers’ time if possible and so waiting to blog until I think I have something I really want to put out there. I also especially love the conversations that occur via comments and trackbacks (like so many who are blogging about Will’s connective writing and the value of the evolving thought being pushed out there in the world). How helpful to my ideas that I can write a post and have Oliver Luker post a response sure to get me thinking, or have my students respond, students whom I haven’t taught in a couple of years, who invariably delight me with their willingness to take their learning way outside the classroom and discuss my blogging. But how helpful, too, and how important it is to take the time to read the more-carefully-thought-out-over-time thinking of researchers, philosophers, theorists, educators, and artists.

And so here, in hopes that people will add to my list, letting me in on works I do not know, are some of the books and writers that have informed my thinking on blogging and multimedia narrative in general, and on how they serve teaching and learning, in particular. The books are in no particular order–I have not linked them to websites, and I haven’t even annotated them. (Can you tell that I am in the madness of the final two weeks of semester?)

And readers should understand that I am a classroom teacher and not a cyber-scholar and so do not presume to present a comprehensive list of readings in the field!

Anthologies:

A handful of wonderful anthologies that provide excellent overviews of everyone from Borges to Benjamin, Vannevar Bush to Paul Virilio, Marshall McLuhan to George Landow, Michael Joyce to Pierre Levy, etc:

Reading Digital Culture, edited by David Trend
Cyberreader Edited by Victor J. Vitanza
Multimedia Edited by Randall Packer & Kenn Jordan
The New Media Reader edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort
BlogTalks 1.0 and BlogTalks 2.0, both edited by Thomas N. Burg
The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media edited by Peter Lunenfeld
Uncanny Networks edited by Gert Lovink

Full-Length Works:

Janet Murray Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace
Peter Lunenfeld Snap to Grid
Lev Manovich The Language of New Media
Stephen Berlin Johnson Emergence
Lawrence Lessig The Future of Ideas
Michael Joyce Othermindedness: The Emergence of Networked Culture
Pierre Levy Collective Intelligence
Robert Burnett & P. David Marshall Web Theory: An introduction
Howard Rheingold SmartMobs and Virtual Communities
William J. Mitchell Me ++
Ken S McAllister Game Work: Language, Power, and Computer Game Culture
Jay David Bolter Writing Spaces
George Landow Hypertext 2.0
Roy Acsott Telematic Embrace
Mark Hansen A New Philosophy for New Media
Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
Albert-László Barabási Linked: The New Science of Networks
John Berger On Seeing
Susan Sontag On Photography
Maxine Greene Releasing the Imagination
Jean Baudrillard The Ecstasy of Communication
Roland Barthes S/Z
Michael Heim The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality

And what I really have to read but haven’t yet– William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and my colleague, Héctor Vila, urges me to return to Martin Heidegger.

And even though I wasn’t going to add any websites, here’s a pretty wonderful syllabus from Columbia University Teacher’s College, taught by Robbie McClintock and Frank Moretti:
(found via Sarah Lohnes)

I’m sure I’m missing some crucial books…but this is, at least, a start.

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The Guardian, the Gospels, and Sharing Knowledge between Teachers

I’m lucky enough to have my office in Middlebury’s new library (yes, it’s quite a wonderful mix of books and computers–my kind of place), and this afternoon, as I walked through the stacks, I noticed the crush of students staring at computer screens–cellphones, notebooks and textbooks strewn about the desks and tables–hammering out those last papers before racing out of here for Thanksgiving in front of tomorrow’s forecasted snowstorm. My own daughter, a senior in high school, was one of those students, sitting at a carrel piled high with dictionaries, concordances, and a Bible, wrangling with the differences between Luke and Mark for a paper for her college course, Introduction to Biblical Literature taught by one of Middlebury’s most esteemed professors. As she and some four dozen other students scattered about the library tried to figure out what the subtle shifts in language and focus reveal about these authors, who centuries ago were telling the same old story according to their own agendas, I went back to my office nearby, where in between appointments, I read a recent article in The Guardian (via Dave Weinberger) about why ownership of ideas is all wrong. And then a few minutes later I was paid a visit by a young woman just hired, mid-semester, to teach English at our local high school, seeking my advice about a creative writing course she suddenly found herself teaching two weeks into the new quarter. She was working hard to come up with an effective syllabus and needed help.

The correspondances and the ironies between these moments and these worlds fairly ricocheted off the walls: the many versions of the old stories (as my daughter says, “If there had been such a thing as intellectual property rights back then, Mark would have been one rich guy…”), the many scientists working through similar experiments to test their theories, and teachers trying out the same syllabi, teaching the same writers and ideas–moving through the old ideas, trying them on for size before exerting their own thinking on the world just to have those ideas considered and either built on or rejected by the next thinker to come along. Is this kind of sharing doomed?

I sure hope not. I just gave my students an assignment to find a magnificent paragraph written by any writer published or not, to read it aloud, to copy it onto paper, then to write their own paragraph repeating the patterns of the grammar. (Aaron’s example). We’ll talk about these paragraphs tomorrow, about what they have learned by “copying” the greats. This is how writing has long been taught–we stand on the shoulders of those who came befoe us–knowingly, and we converse with them in our work. This is what, I believe, T.S. Eliot was talking about when he said something along the lines of, “Everything good I wrote, I borrowed; everything great, I stole.” ( which brings to mind the great writer-editor relationships of Pound and Eliot, and Carver and Lish–would we have Eliot without Pound, Carver without Lish?)

I want my students to try on the writing of those who have come before them; I want my daughter to feel the differences between Mark and Luke; I want this young teacher to feel free to use my teaching ideas in her class. This is how we learn; this is how we find our own way–through looking and sharing freely, dreaming big, putting our ideas out there to see what comes back.

Maybe I’m writing this post because I’ve just finished teaching a research unit in my writing course, and I’ve talked long and hard about giving credit where credit’s due, how to cite properly, scaring the students as they try to draw lines between what they have absorbed through the generalized world and what they have gleaned from a particular thinker’s work– I am exhausted by all this attention to intellectual property in class, in the news, and on the blogs. I am shocked when teachers will not share their syllabi (all of mine are linked right here off my blog). Aren’t we working here to educate our young? Aren’t we trying to embrace ideas and chew on them and build on them in ways that shed light on the past or move us into the future?

That to me has been the beauty of the Web, (what I have been blogging about lately), and of Thanksgiving when we’re at least supposed to be thinking of sharing, of embracing the contributions of the group to the common good. I love the free spinning out of ideas, the way they ripple out from blog to blog and come back again in new form. When have we ever been able to gather the expertise, the imagination, the potential from so many minds and experiences together with our own flawed, individual musings? Blogging lets us float ideas–sometimes half-baked–however we want. Take a look at Worldbridges recent three-day online conference on EFL teaching and learning practices across the planet— this is free, open sharing of ideas, all to improve the teaching of second languages for as many students as possible. There’s no personal gain here. No one is going to get rich.

So, I have issues with intellectual property, I really do. I’m all for the Creative Commons, and now the Academic Commons. Tell the world where your ideas originated, who else is playing around with them, and then play around with the thoughts. I ask my students to take responsibility for their ideas–the flip side of intellectual property–privacy. We don’t use pseudonyms on our course blogs. If they write something, then, well, the students need to stand by that writing.

And so I’m urging high school and college teachers to post their syllabi, let other teachers, old and new alike learn from one another, mentor one another here on the Web and in the schools. Young teachers shouldn’t be left to their own devices but given all the syllabi, all the wisdom of their colleagues to consider as they make their own way into teaching. Schools employ us to teach, not to own our teaching ideas. We want our students to grow up bold and passionate and community-spirited, yes? Then we need to practice what we preach here on the blogs, in the classrooms, and with our colleagues.

Ewan McIntosh and David Warlick have me thinking…

Just when I think that I’ve blogged myself, presented myself, taught myself out for the month–yes, it’s that insane time of the semester–something pulls me back onto this space. Today it’s a couple of things: Ewan McIntosh’s question following my recent podcasting post and David Warlick’s posts yesterday and today, and Will’s follow-up on Connective Writing .

Ewan’s question: “I wish examination boards would accept electronic essays so that students can make their work more media rich. But does this take away from the skills involved in conveying emotion and sentiment in writing?”

This is one of the questions I am frequently asked in my own college as well as during presentations. And it’s a good question reflecting the widespread concern that if we encourage students to move between various media in their heretofore strictly text-based essays, then, well, we also–perhaps inadvertently–allow them to avoid the necessary apprenticeship involved in using written language to convey “emotion and sentiment.” Parents, school boards, government officials, boards of trustees, students themselves, fellow faculty might wonder if these multimedia modes of expression take time away from lessons in writing and perhaps even damage the writing by making it more about the shiny surfaces offered by image and sound than about clear and convincing written expression. And we should ask that question.

My sense is, after years and years of teaching writing and some four plus years of having students write with text, sound and image, that sure, absolutely–if we do not teach the grammar of image, sound and word, and their relationships to one another, then we will not guide our students towards a sense of how to use each separately and in combination with any power or substance. But if we have our poets use cameras and iPODS, say–and then examine the repercussions of a photo inserted within or in stead of a poem; or our filmmakers use poems and dance; or our composers use stories and video–and we do so with intention as well as a willingness to let them run free with their experiments, following up with close reflection throughout the process–well, then. then we will grow more powerful writers, musicians, choreographers, painters, and filmmakers–not because they will necessarily take to the variety of media, but because they will then understand more about their own ways of communicating and the world beyond their own individual expression. In my classrooms, my students have become more aware of language precisely when I take it away from them and make it strange. It’s what happens when you read one of John Berger’s image-laden essays–the words become charged beyond their ordinary meaning.

After all, I am a teacher of writing, and so all of the podcasting, stories-without-words and multimedia work I have my writers do is to get them to understand what happens when we push words up against one another. We can then talk about words being the writer’s paint or clay –and that collaborations between word, image and sound should, if done well, intensify the experience of each medium for the creator and the viewer. The new, interactive virtual means of expression–with links, pop-ups, discussions, mixed media–can lead to deep learning and effective writing off-screen as well as developing skill with Web-writing.

But I am also a realist. People worry about watering down the curriculum, about getting lost in the flash of the new. People also worry about a world in which everything and everyone is “clickable.” As both teacher of college students and mother of a nineteen-year-old and a sixteen-year-old, I was sucked right into David’s post, Insights from a Techie, in which he explores the implications of Vinod Khosla’s contention that for our children, “Everything is clickable.”

David posits that if indeed, teachers are clickable:

The task of the teacher then becomes a layered affair (as if there aren’t enough layers already). First of all, the teacher has to create and persuasively describe the place that the students will want to go, a student-centered outcome that is compelling to young learners. Then the teacher must construct a context within which the students will work with relevant/authentic limitations, and appropriate tools to accomplish the goal. Finally, the teacher becomes a consultant, or strategy guide. Students need information and/or skills to accomplish the goal. The teacher provides them on demand and within the authentic context, or becomes a compass, helping students to discover on their own the information that they need, or the skills they must gain. It isn’t a pretty classroom, but students are learning by working the curriculum, not simply absorbing it.

I agree with him that we are moving in the direction of instruction-on-demand, which James Duderstadt has been getting at, the kind of free-range learners we’re finding in our midst who want hybrid courses they design on their own (I see it in the way students show up at my office fully expecting me to be prepared to deliver whatever it is they need–I am indeed clickable in their minds). But I have to say that yesterday when I read the post, I was worried about the implications of the teacher-as-clickable if we do not include the learning community in our discussions of the changing face of education, if we for one moment get carried away with the tool and not the connection. The promise of the Internet, of Web-based teaching is on the potential to work beyond ourselves as individuals, as Howard Rheingold contends in SmartMobs: “The most profoundly transformative potential of connecting human social proclivities to the efficiency of information technologies ia the chance to do new things together, the potential for cooperating on scales and in ways never before possible.” And so of course, David gets at this in“target=”_blank”>his post today about education as CONVERSATION.

Indeed, what helps my students in their learning more than anything else is the sense that they are in this with others, others who care about their well-being, their ideas, and their contributions. This is efficacy in action. A teacher who can establish an open, trusting learning collaborative, encouraging students to develop a social imagination (a la Maxine Greene) will necessarily replace the hierarchical model of education with the Socratic and emergent model, with the teacher as question asker, model and guide, and the student-seeker as fellow explorer within a community. And so in my teaching, I am constantly throwing my students into groups online and off, into considering the impact of audience and connection and reciprocity, which David gets to at the end of his post yesterday:

What is the power of the audience? What is the power of the class? How might we turn the class audience into an engine for learning? What does it look like? Is this where we need to be thinking, in order to drive a bottom-up revolution in education?

If we nurture the group as well as the individual through learning collaboratives, connecting the learning with human relationships and with the world beyond our own tiny sphere, then we’ll help our charges move into adulthood and its attendant responsibilities. That’s what education has always been about. As educators, we must consider carefully how we engage with technology in our classrooms and how we help our students become critical and creative thinkers about their world. Social software and the Web can enhance and facilitate the growth of our students into educated citizens of the world and skilled communicators or they can nurture the selfish competitive instincts of the self-absorbed individual. It takes a mindful teacher to put the collaborative up front, to get students to think about learning as a social activity, and then to let students explore emerging technologies as expressive tools and examine the resulting relationships and outcomes. This is why I’m enthusiastic about the potential of such tools as using Suprglu and 43Places, and Skypecasting–these are opportunities to connect to and to learn from the world–but I won’t actually pull them into my teaching until I have thought carefully about how and why. It is a balancing act.

Our focus as teachers has always been effective communication and thinking. Now that we have the Web and social software and multimedia tools, our students can be a part of the larger conversation right now, even as novices. In such an open, “clickable” classroom with a teacher who is eager to learn and is self-reflective alongside the students, the students will learn the pleasures of commitment and collaboration, and the learning will be profound and dynamic, and the writing–well–the writing will surprise you.

Technology and Communities in an Ever Shifting Landscape–Or Learning to Think Like a Teenager

63212029_6f9c76ccd5_m.jpg 63209819_ab43a6b7d9_m.jpg shellglow.jpg
Although I’m not exactly sold on WebEx technology in combination with a face-to-face meeting, I very much enjoyed my time at The Orton Family Foundation on Friday. They asked me great questions and pushed me to think outside my educational arena, which in turn has given me much to consider. It’s heartening to see so many organizations, educational or not, coming to social software–not because they’ve heard it’s the latest greatest thing and they’ve gotta have it, but because the goals of their work lead them to technologies that enhance community building and knowledge sharing. The old goals-before-tools rule. There’s a new openness to the potential of the Web and its emerging technologies to help with essential, critical work inside and between communities of all sorts. I’m delighted for I see all kinds of benefits to education in having the nonprofit world move into the blogosphere in a bigger way than they have–they’ll help push the slow beast, the liberal arts college, towards a new active educational model, one that does not involve students sitting in chairs, ingesting knowledge passively.

What really struck me at Orton was how we are all trying to use the connectivity as well as the visual and audio capabilities of Web technologies, to assist whatever community we serve, and it’s valuable to hang out with people not working directly in education, hearing their thoughts about the Web, about communities, and about collaboration. Bill Shutkin writes in his second blog entry about ” how from community visits to learning networks to creative convenings, we have the learning tools. We need to start using them more.” Indeed–all of these have a place in our schools as well as in his land-use planning world. And John Fox could well be referring to our educational system in his comment:

Planning so often occurs behind closed or barely open doors, through the cumulative tyranny of small, anonymous bureaucratic decisions. We need to put a public face on planning, dump buckets of ice water on the best of them when they succeed and send them for mid-season training when they’re struggling. That might help to create a culture of support, recognition and appreciation around planners – one that’s sorely missing right now.

Stepping outside the college doors has me wanting to see more inter-field collaborative blogging going on a la Crooked Timber and more Blogtalk or Northern Voice kinds of small, fluid discussion-based conferences that pull in people from a variety of fields, or something along the lines of Full Circle. As Bill Shutkin contends,

“It should be standard practice for local officials and citizens’ groups to travel from place to place to meet with others whose planning experiences offer fresh insight and information that can be brought back home.”

Yes, we need to get people together and give them time, and we also need to give them social software tools and training to continue and deepen the discussion, to grow the networks and collaborative knowledge building once they’ve gone home.

But how do people and organizations new to this connected Web work possibly get their heads around not just the tools, but around the daily changes, the new offerings bursting out from every corner? If talented techies like Steve Dembo and Ewan McIntosh are finding it tough to stay abreast of the changes, how does a new blogger know where to turn? Tagging is helpful. Sure. Portals and blogging collectives are good. But in the end we’re all just making it up as we go, learning from each other and our mistakes and experiments. This is what it must feel like to be skiing in a group through a white-out in a place no one else has ever been. This takes a particular willingness not to get it right all the time. Which brings me to teenagers.

Two moments during this weekend really drove it home to me how absolutely second-nature using the Web increasingly is for kids. My nephew, sitting in a traffic jam on a Colorado highway, pulled out his cellphone and called his mother in Massachusetts, asked her to go online to see what was going on further up the road–she did, found out that snow had closed the pass, and relayed the info to her son, who turned around and headed back to Boulder. And then my daughter, lost in the impossible knot of Boston streets, called a friend in Vermont to do a Mapquest search to help her find her way to her destination. Now being kids, neither one thought of doing the research ahead of time, but being kids of today, they knew they could find an answer through their cellphones and friends with computers.

It would never have occurred to me to call someone in either of those situations. But if I could start thinking a little more the way my daughter does, imagine how much more fluid and natural my work with social software tools might be.

And look, too, at how insightful and observant my student bloggers are becoming–Takethe conversation unfolding on Zoey’s latest post with two other Blogging the World Bloggers, for example. She is tackling the issues surrounding her by using her blog while thinking about what use a blog can serve:

“I have decided to make use of this blog as a research tool, a log of observations, a panel for discussion, and feedback. The past months of entries have been scattered and irregular, however the form of expression, which this blog has supported is now helping me gather my thoughts and gear them toward a more specific goal.”

Amaury, too feels the tensions between blogging and living the experience. But he’s back to blogging–there’s something that keeps drawing him in even in spite of himself. Or there’s Megan’s recent post and the outpouring of comments following it, from other students trying to sort out this year. I think these students are closer than I am to living what Roy Ascott outlines In his essay Turning on Technology:

Nowadays, we are more likely to describe this as the telemadic navigation of hypermedia and the net, but the point remains: we are engaged in a new social process. This in turn flows from the new thinking that circulates in, around, and as a consequence of the convergence of computers, communications, and biotechnologies, which is leading to the reinvention of the self, the transformation of the body, and the noetic extension of the mind.

And so as I continue to teach with and think through and converse about emerging technologies with fellow educators and other travelers through the blogosphere, I’ll be sure to keep one eye on my students and my children to remember how much fun and instructive it can be not to know exactly where it is we are going all the time. Being playful, accepting and mindful all at once. Viewing community as those we’re with and those we’re talking to via mobile phones or computers. And questioning, always questioning.

Preparing for Tomorrow’s Talk at Orton

Tomorrow I venture down to Manchester, Vermont to talk with the Orton Family Foundation about social software, multimedia applications and podcasting. It will be my first WEBEX presentation, and the first time that my audience will be non-techie types outside the education world. As I prepare for this talk, I become more and more convinced that these applications can play a significant role in the business and non-profit worlds, and just as is true in the educational world, you have to root the technology work in the goals of the organization. In other words, effective use of social software depends on careful planning, vision, and creativity. The tools themselves do nothing–it’s all about how you use them.

A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF SOME OF THE TOOLS AND THEIR USES

A. SOCIAL SOFTWARE

BLOGS

Description: An easily edited, frequently updated website arranged chronologically (usually in reverse order). Dave Winer gives an in-depth description of the features and Alex Halavais discusses blog uses.

Examples:
Bud Gibson’s The Community Engine
Lawrence Lessig
Steven Berlin Johnson
Richard Sambrook

Why Use Blogs?

1. The absolute ease of publishing makes it simple to get your message out.

2. The layers of connectivity and interactivity link you internally to your previous postings, and to the world through links, tags and trackbacks. You know who has been writing about you; you can find out who is writing about what.
Discoverability through Tags and Feeds
(Technorati,
Pubsub,
del.cio.us,
Flickr.)
An example: BBC

You can gather statistics (Statcounter);

Dialogue and Conversation is enhanced within an Organization, or a Group of Thinkers
The blogger joins the fluidity of knowledge spaces and collective intelligence a la Pierre Levy,
connectivism a la
George Siemens
,
Etienne Wenger’s Communities of Practice, James Martin’s Institute
Collaborative Blogs:
(Many2Many,
Cognitive Architects
The Guardian Editors’ Blog,
Berkman Center,
Urban Cartography)

Invite the world in through comments and “Blogging Invitationals”
(Arts Journal)

Create cross-site, richly linked conversations via Trackback (Denham Grey)

Build a history of the conversation, of your thinking through Archives and Categories. It becomes a tool for reflection and evaluation.

3. Through Syndication, your message goes public, and you keep up with the field through site aggregation
RSS: For a definition, see Elise.com
<a href=”Bloglines,
Feedster,
NewsGator)

4. Through Creative Commons, you decide how much copyright control you wish to exert over your posts.

5. Blogs humanize an organization
–They invite the world (or your own staff) to see who you are outside your formal
pronouncements. A CEO or staff member with a strong voice and personality, can draw people
to the organization, its programs and its goals through a lively blog.

Other Useful Blogs and Posts
Green Media Toolshed
Nancy Schwartz

Important Considerations for the Blogger

1. Post regularly to create and maintain the energy;

2. Develop your posting voice–the absolute formal academic voice comes off as stiff on a
blog. If the blogging is not authentic, then it will fail;
(Robert Scoble at MicrosoftThe Corporate Blog Manifesto);

3. Weave a rich tapestry of linking to connect with the larger conversation. Blogging is all
about participatory culture, the give-and-take of the extended, asynchronous dispersed discussion:
think letter-writing between writers;
(Ross Mayfield’s Blog)

4. Consider carefully why it is you want to blog and what use it will be to your target audience:
Are you essentially link-blogging, capturing the interesting bits of conversation from the rest of the
blogosphere? Pushing out information? Synthesizing the ideas swirling about out there and
articulating your own vision? Stimulating thought and inviting further discussion?
(Planetizen,
Roland Tanglao)

5. If you want people to leave comments, you have to go out there and leave comments on the blogs you
read.

WIKIS

Brief Description: Designed for collaboration, this software allows users to create and edit webpages freely, easily and continuously. Jotspot gives a good definition and a helpful introductory tour.

Why Wikis?

1. As software intended to build individual or group projects, it enhances collaboration and efficient
knowledge building;

2. Tracking an idea from conception to implementation provides insight into the process;

3. Examining the way a dispersed group works together leads to improved communication;

4. Tapping into the evolving ideas of the group fosters group synergy and trust, yet because it
is asynchronous, it allows for the careful development of projects as well as the immediate dynamism
enabled by allowing multiple editors to edit from their own screens during conference calls or online
meetings;

5. Its privacy features allow control of each page–what is viewable to the group cqn be changed page
by page;

From Lee Bryant’s Headshift.com, some
wisdom about wikis in their post, Gettin’ wiki with it:

In the planning meetings – which can last hours – we can very quickly record our technical discussions and create agreed minutes in the meeting itself, as we go along. The only tools needed are a web browser and, ideally, a projector, and the attendees can see the meeting notes (and the plan itself) developing in real time.

This also helps keep the meeting focussed : you have an identifiable goal ( “ok, by the end of this meeting we want to have sections X, Y and Z done…” ) and everyone can see the progress towards that goal as it happens. Even non-attendees can see the progress of the meeting while it’s taking place, either by viewing the in-progress Confluence page or via RSS.

Also, as the deliverable outcome of this process is a step-by-step plan, the same idea is going to prove equally valuable while the plan is being carried out – i.e. in the actual deployment.

For each step, we’ve made rough estimates of timescale, and at each step of the way, we compare progress to the schedule, record it on the Confluence page, and revise estimates of the total downtime accordingly. If after, say, a third of the tasks have been performed, we’re running behind schedule, then we’re aware of that as we go along – and if we hit really serious snags, at any stage we have the information we need to make a decision as to whether we continue, or we abort and reschedule for once the snags have been addressed.

The important thing here is commnuication. Confluence makes it very easy to log progress as we go along, and record any relevant details. Just little interface niceties like the shortcut (y) producing a thumbs-up image – – make the updates an absolute breeze. The wiki ethos means that anyone can quickly add any notes or details as and when required, and all parties can be kept informed of progress just by viewing the web page or picking up updates via the RSS feeds – crucially, this happens without having to distract the techies to ask for an update.

Three key staff were involved in the preparation of the plan, and as with anything this complex, in the time between documenting the plan and putting it into action, each one of us has cogitated some more and thought of some small-but-significant little detail that we missed in the meeting. With this collaborative wiki approach, all we have to do is just record it in the appropriate place on the Confluence page, and all relevant parties get automatically notified.

And that’s it – so much easier than the bad old days… so anyone out there who’s still struggling with the Internet v1.0(tm) way of collaborative document development –
# E-mailing Word documents round every individual person, generating a huge list of replies, comments and revisions, which then have to be applied to the document and emailed round again, so no-one’s ever quite sure if they have the latest version, and some people say they never got the e-mail, or their question wasn’t answered because it got lost in the e-mail trail…. discussions and suggestions can take place through the blog-like comments system, and the latest version is always the visible one.

# Mysteriously disappearing detail that some people swear was there yesterday, and others don’t remember at all – each update is logged and versioned off, and notified via RSS.

Considerations for Wiki Adopters

1. Develop the organizational framework, the ground rules for the structure–wikis can develop
hapharzardly due to their inherently organic structure

2. Keep it simple and make it usable for the entire group.

Examples:
Davis Community Wiki
University of Minnesota LIbrary WIki
Confluence

PODCASTING

Brief Description:

Why Podcasting?

1. Creating internal podcasts gives staff access to information and meetings even when they are out of
town and away from computers;

2. Another voice for the organization is presented to the target audience;

3. Podcasts allow the listener the choice to listen to the broadcast repeatedly, streamed from the
computer or downloaded to an iPOD or MP3 player;

4. Podcasting o-ffers opportunities to combine real-time webcasts/skypecasts, chat rooms and
archived podcasts;

Example:(Inside Digital Media)

5. Regular podcasts facilitate pointed, publicized conversations and debates

Examples: Edtechtalk.com
Berkeley Science Groks
ITConversations
podblaze)

Skypecasting – a Revelation

Okay, the secret’s out–I’m not a techie.

I’m a teacher who has integrated social software, digital storytelling, video and audio into my teaching for pedagogical reasons–because computer technology has offered me ways both to do what I already did well–but better–and to prepare my students for an increasingly multimedia online world . Before I ventured onto my first blogs some five years ago, I barely knew how to organize my email folders. And even now that I am fully immersed in this social software world, I am still stretching just to keep up with RSS and wikis and podcasting and the rest of the emerging technologies. I’m just now considering the possibiities of gaming.

Indeed. This weekend, before I could participate in the Edtechtalk.com Webcast, I needed help to figure out Skype and to prevent the headset from turning Dave’s and Jeff’s locations into echo chambers. I couldn’t tap away at the keyboard in the Chat room while I was talking on the Webcast–and as I peeked in at the Chat Room, I marveled at how Dave was tapping away as he talked. I’ve got a long way to go before I am really comfortable with a wide array of tools used all at once. (It reminded me of Blogtalk2 a couple of summers ago, where kind souls like Suw Charman, and Lee Bryant, and Roland Tanglao and Cyprien Lomas showed me how to backchannel –repeatedly–and last May’s Social Software in the Academy Workshop in Los Angeles where Justin Hall was able to Google-jockey, ask questions, back-channel and move between some twenty-odd windows on his screen–all at once, gracefully (thanks, MEB, for the photo). It was dizzying. It wasn’t my world.

I have shied away from IM and multiple simultaneous experiences on the computer. I’ve always been a one-at-a-time kind of thinker even if I am restless and curious and bold. I love blogs and wikis and podcasts–all asynchronous, all open to revision, to quiet reflection and to the return. They make such sense for the teacher of critical and creative thinking and writing.

But Sunday’s experience has me rethinking real-time applications. It was a blast sitting there at my computer talking with people from all over the world about social software in the classroom, watching them tap away in the Chat Room. Dave and Jeff are onto something pretty fabulous. Talking with Will and his students in real time but knowing our conversation would also be podcast, instead of writing to and about them at some later time, added something valuable–yes, an obvious immediate, present in-the-moment experience. It’s what the classroom gives my students–that time together. Interesting to feel it with a headset and a computer screen and noone else in the room.

I could see the real value of inviting the world in to comment and ask questions and listen in right then as well as later via the podcast. And I’m wishing I could get my abroad bloggers set up to do some webcasts right now. I see all kinds of applications within the classroom and the college as a whole–what a great way to bring alumni into conversations, or for Admissions to conduct information sessions. In addition to experts joining written discussions on the blog, I could see bringing them into the classroom so simply via webcasts. What a great way to connect students from several institutions–or students doing internships, or–

Okay okay, so I’m slow, but I get it, I get it.

Podcasting as Part of the Learning Process

Preparing for my Talk on Tuesday at CET to the NITLE IT Leaders of the Mid-Atlantic Region

Here Are the Talk Notes

Yesterday over dinner with a friend and our daughters, she told us about a project an old friend of hers had embarked on–to bring radios and via them, children’s and educational programming to Africa. It sounds like a fabulous idea, I said, and one to be teamed up with the MIT Media Lab’s $100 computer initiative also aimed at children in developing countries. It’s terrific for children to have access to educational programming–but let them create that programming? Podcasting? Through Pierre Levy’s collective intelligence or George Siemens’constructivism, we can see the shifts to creating knowledge spaces through connecting to and collaborating with others, which requires a two-way means of communication.

Take the untapped potential of podcasting in the classroom, for example. Looking around the blogosphere, conference proceeedings, and the mainstream media lately, it’s clear that podcasting is all the rage, and for good reason–what a great way to save and archive talks, create radio shows, disseminate and recycle lectures. And with the new video iPODS increasing incentive to capture visuals, then we’ll have more snippets like the one of Nancy White on blogs or D’Arcy Norman on NMC 2005. What I don’t see much of –yet–is classroom use of podcasts beyond capturing lectures or presentations. Students are primarily listening to podcasts in language classes and lecture courses, or they are producers of full-fledged presentations or talk shows. I’m sure there are people using them in ways Peter Meng outlined last year (summarized by Robin Good), but they must be keeping these good works to themselves, behind firewalls. I’d like to see what other people are doing.

Just as I’ve been playing around with integrating digital storytelling and multimedia narrative into academic essays (see some of the ones my students made a couple of years ago in my first-year seminar, Contemporary Ireland through Fiction and Film : A project on language in the North, and one on Street Art in the North) and as a way for students to examine the writing process and the elements of an essay, especially the relationship of the parts to the whole (voice, image, pacing, structure, etc), I’ve been exploring ways of using iPODS as active tools in the hands of the writer, the presenter, THE LEARNER . I am interested in my students making podcasts in a variety of learning situations in addition to (or largely in lieu of) downloading podcasts others have made. Of course listening has its place, too, and I am all for that kind of podcast or webcast–but it is only a first step, one possibility among many and if not used carefully within a course, can smack of passive learning –students ingesting information and doing very little meaningful with it.

Last spring I experimented with creative writing students using my iPOD to record themselves reading their writing aloud and then someone else in the class reading it as well as a way to study their work, to examine the gaps between their understanding of their own poetry and someone else’s interpretation through voice and inflection, pauses and stresses. I also had my Writing Workshop II read short excerpts from the novels we were studying and respond to them, then have classmates listen to the podcasts and respond to them in writing. We talked in class about the differences between spoken and written language, between the kinds of ideas that are stirred up when we speak rather than write them. It’s one thing to discuss these concepts in class; it’s quite another thing altogether to hear and see the differences in one’s own work. I encouraged them to use iPODs, if they had them, to use when they felt stuck on an idea in a paper. I encouraged them to listen back to their papers read aloud. I encouraged them to play around with the iPOD as a learning device. Last April I blogged the experience.

Some examples from last spring’s experiments:
From the Writing Workshop: Victoria reads and responds to a passage from Terry Tempest Williams; her reading prompted a flurry of comments.
From the Creative Writing class: A discussion on the pleasures of reading aloud
Bradley reading his poem
Two students reading the same poem

This semester I’ve been lucky enough to have every student in my Writing Workshop class have use of an iPOD for the entire course. From the first week I had them use them in a variety of ways–to download whatever they wanted for their own listening pleasure (and this ties into my post on time yesterday in which I wrote about how social software helps me move fluidly, naturally between work and home, between class and writing, between all the calls upon my time. I figured that if the students used the iPODS for pleasure as well as for work, perhaps they would see the significance of being alert to learning in all the places of their lives–connecting, connecting); to read aloud excerpts from the assigned reading and then talk about why they chose those passages:

to record one-minute summaries of their research:

or to give brief summaries of the paper-in-progress as a way for them to test how well they can articulate their thinking on the topic:

to use them to record interviews for their research papers:
yinainterview.jpg
(Yina interviewing a local apple farmer–note the iPOD with iTALK in her hand);
to record reflections on the strengths and weaknesses of their essays–

to record talking ideas over with the teacher:

. At this, mid-point of the semester, they have done a good deal of recording and embedding onto the blogs and are now comfortable using the iPOD as a tool of expression, of idea capturing, of processing and reflecting. During the next half of the semester, they will start commenting on one another’s podcasts, noting the characteristics of each other’s speech versus writing and working on formal oral presentations. I’ve also encouraged them to use podcasting in their other classes, as ways to organize and study material, to practice speaking for their foreign language classes (then listening to themselves and making corrections). Embedding “drafts” of their oral presentations offers opportunities for peer feedback, for self-review. How do we know how we sound if we can never hear ourselves? It’s a meta-reflective practice as well as a way to generate ideas, enter into conversation and become more polished presenters of our ideas orally and in writing.

I see these intensive, small uses of podcasting as immensely useful as clips within their essays as well as through their writing and reflection process. They can embed excerpts of their interviews–or oral readings of a poem being analyzed–right into the Web-based documents, letting the reader hear the voices of the people interviewed or the sound of lines from a play, just as my student Suzie did years ago with video clips of an interview serving as hotlinked footnotes within her Web-based profile of a local artist (she has since taken the piece off the Web), just as my student Amanda did in her comparative analysis of poems by Irish poets, a multi-media essay that won her runner-up prize in Middlebury’s contest for first-year students. If we have the know-how to embed speech and video right into our papers, why hand onto the written quotation from our interviews? Why not get creative if the outcome is effective learning and enthusiastic students?

I guess this means I should, from time to time, when it makes sense to get out of my clack-clacking on the keyboard and into my speaking voice, try out a few podcasts on this here blog. And I plan to keep sniffing about the blogosphere for effective, innovative ways to use podcasting, webcasting in the classroom. Already I’d like to try skypecasting with my Abroad Bloggers from time to time, to talk about the experience in real time, with a chat room on the side, the way Dave and Jeff are doing with their edtechtalks.

The only trouble with all of this is trying to wrestle the iPODS away from my students in another month…