Monday, June 29, 2009

Using blogs instead of Blackboard

I came across this post on the Chronicle of Higher Ed a few weeks back about a revolt of sorts that is happening in some pockets of academia. Many people seem sick of Blackboard (and in my opinion its anti-competitive tactics) and seem to want to move to different instructional technology media.

I don't blame them. Blackboard has become the Frankenmonster of the LMS world. If a new feature comes out that vaguely competes with its model it either buys it (like it has with other LMS makers) or it tries to replicate it. I have the misfortune of having used the BlackBoard "Blog" which is very unbloglike! Why use it? It looks like an anemic discussion board!

I am all for using freely available tools such as wordpress and blogger for student blogs. There are only two issues that come up: FURPA and Academic Honesty. As much as we hate Blackboard (and other LMS?) when something is due, it's due. All discussions are date stamped and time stamped and you can't go back and edit something without affecting change. In the real world (unless you have a multiuser wordpress blog I think), people can go back and add blog post, edit and delete them. Instructors will need to figure out ways to harvest blog posts and comments (if they are graded) and have a way to prove academic dishonesty.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why card based records are not good enough

I came across this article a while back on Open Source Exile about the deficiencies of the MARC format. For those of you not in the library world, MARC is essentially a digital version of the information you found in the card catalog.

The article echoes a lot of my thoughts on the subject from when I was reading about information organization and cataloging a few years back when I first started working for a library.

It's nice to see that I am not the only one who's thought of the issue lol :-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Where does our information come from?

I was reading this article on Scienceblogs with an associated graphic on
where info comes from (click to enlarge):

further on in the article there is a more parody-like version of the same chart (click to enlarge):

For what it's worth, the original article is short and easy to read - so you should read it.

Here's my favorite quote from it:

So look at that graph. The X axis is years, which is OK, even if the inconsistency of the intervals is extremely annoying. But what are the units of the Y axis? What's being measured? I have no idea. I presume it's a stacked percentage of something, but that's unclear. Information produced? Absorbed? Thrown at a wall and forgotten? What kind of information? It's all lumped together and unspecified. Could we have some units, please? And can you really categorize a single unit of information that applies appropriately to what comes from a newspaper and what comes from a social networking site?

The other data we're missing is a source and methodology. If it's saying that someone in 2009 is getting 10% of their "information", nebulous as that means in this context, from blogs, how was that determined, and where are the raw data that was used to compile this chart?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blogs in Education

I came across this presentation about blogs in Education a while back (see end of post). I actually think that blogs are a quite useful tool in an educational environment. For the student, if the blog is student-based, it provides an opportunity to start building a portfolio of academic work. The research papers that the student writes can be posted in blog format.

Obviously if the paper is 30, 40, 50, 100 pages long there can be sections and subsections submitted to the blog for peer review and review by the professor - or you may opt to no use the blog format for this. There are many mini assignments - like chapter reviews, that can be done in blog format and this gives students the opportunity to properly cite information as well!

For adjunct faculty is is a good opportunity to build a portfolio of their work. If they always teach TOPIC101, they can have a class blog, with the students being contributors. While each semester the information may be repeated in some sense, it gives the professor a way of showing the evolution of their teaching style and the evolution of their teaching topic...and this is just scratching the surface of what is possible.

by the way - LMS blogs (like the blackboard blog functionality) don't count. The BB blog is horrendous!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grad students and hygene

Here's a little weekend humor by PhD :-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

A little light reading on Folksonomies

I came across this article on First Monday on Folksonomies a while back but I never really got around to reading it until now.

It is an interesting article and if you have some time go and read it. It gives the uninitiated a brief look at organization of information in the past, and how folksonomies differ from what has come before them.

It seems to me that the criticism of folksonomies are a little snooty given by this example:

Yet not everyone was convinced that folksonomies would deliver on this promise. The absence of rules in assigning tags has been feared to lead to quality problems, including imprecision, overlap, duplication, ambiguity, and erroneous identification (Dotsika, 2007; Guy and Tonkin, 2006). Others expressed doubt that user–generated tags would ever “organically arrive at preferred terms for concepts, or even evolve synonymous clusters” (Rosenfeld, 2005). With no guidelines for tag production, what was there to prevent all that potentially useful information out there from being tagged with broadly non–useful identifiers such as “mydog,” “readlater,” or “vacationpics”?

I don't disagree with what is said, I just think that people are failing to take into account that tagging is, after all, a way to organize YOUR personal collection of items. Who cares if I tag a photo of my dog as "Rex", "MyDog", "MyNinthDog" or something else? If it has meaning to me, then who cares? I do realize the need for a controlled vocabulary, and people who do this type of tagging for institutions can wrap their heads around it, but for personal use (like there is no need to be snooty :-)

All things considered - good article. Go read it (or at least bookmark it for future reference)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More collaboration, please.

There was an article that I saw a few weeks ago called Expert Predicts 6 Future Trends in Training. Being a sucker for predictions I went right ahead and I read it. I have to say that the six predictions were quite good - because we are already there, and we have been there for a while now.

We covered all of these issues when I took courses in my MBA program about three years ago in topics such as Knowledge Management. I have also experienced all of these points personally by being part of communities of practice such as,, and many, many other communities. The big thing here is the how. How does one effectively bring these into the corporation and into academia? How does one attain buy-in to get people to use the systems? There are many more hows here than I care to point a stick at. The main point is that these predictions are not predictions at all, but rather statements of where we're going (given proper leadership of course).

The main thing here is collaboration. What we need to do is collaborate. We need cross-functional units and teams with members that have knowledge of more than one subject area. All this stuff is not news to me (forgive me if I sound like a snob, it is not my intent), and it's not new to me because of my cross-disciplinary studies plus all the wonderful Subject Matter Experts that I've met and interacted with over the years. Right now we're all siloed so we can't effectively use what we know to get to where we need to be, and predictions of cool futures are made instead of working together to make a cool future and attainable present. We've got the tech, knowledge and the people now - no need to wait.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thoughts on Esperanto

Here's a post to get me back to the linguistics aspects of things :-)

I was over at Steve Kaufman's blog the other day (yes a little late - google reader items are a little backed up) where he had a video post about Esperanto and French Immersion (two topics). I don't know much about immersion programs (yet) - much less French Immersion as is practiced in Canada, but I do have some thoughts on Esperanto.

I agree with Steve that Esperanto has nothing to entice me as a learner to go out an learn it. I know it's been designed as an auxiliary language, so that people can meet and converse without depending on one national language thus being fair to everyone. However Esperanto is not fair to everyone. It's mostly a European language, no Asian, American or African influences in it, so the argument that it's easy to learn only probably holds true for people whose primary language is based on a European language.

The second thing that I agree with Steve on (we're on a roll here!) is that Esperanto has no culture. As an auxiliary language and an artificial language, since there is no nation that uses it as the lingua franca of that nation, there is no history, media, culture, or art associated with it. One of the reasons I want to learn a language is for the quirky differences that exist between my language (L1) culture (C1) and the target language and culture (L2 and C2).

If I am going to learn a made up language, I might as well learn Klingon because the L2 is more complex than Esperanto - so you've got the mental gymnastics challenge, and there is a whole universe of Trekkies out there that have got the C2 down!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Students as Lemmings

OK, file this under "You needed a study for that?!"

I was reading an inside higher ed. article recently with the same title as this blog post. A study was conducted and surprise! surprise! (NOT!) Students have a greater effect on what fellow students choose to major in rather than aptitude in a particular subject!

You really didn't need to do a study because this falls under the "D'uh" category. Of course peers influence peers (Now if you wanted to know how much that influence is, that is another story". Of course as the article rightly points out, if you study things that you don't score well on you might have work mismatch, being in a career that does not fulfill you and one that you can't be as productive in as something else. (I italicized score because exams aren't always best indicators of one's success - something that the article does not point out).

The one thing I wanted to point out here is this: It's not just your peers, it's also your family and society at large. It's a running joke that us Mediterraneans put doctors, lawyers, and engineers on a pedestal and we want (or sometimes force) our kids to go into these fields for our own pride and edification. We can't lay the blame just on peers, but we have to look internally to see if we are also pushing our kids to fields that they aren't complete matches for in the name of status.

Oh yeah, the image has nothing to do with this article - I just like the game :-)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Twitter in Education

I came across this presentation on the use of twitter in education

Personally I would use twitter for informational purposes like: "in the office" - "not in the office", "class moved to room xxxx", and "assignment X due in my mailbox by xx/xx/xxxx"

IM is better for collaboration, chatting and discussions. Twitter doesn't really fit into this in my opinion.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Seth Godin - on Tribes

I came across this video near the end of last semester, but I did not have time to watch it. I've written about Tribes, the book by Seth Godin, that relates to communities of practice, management, marketing, communities (and so many other things).

Here's the man himself talking about tribes. The video is only 17 minutes long - it's well worth the viewing time!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Greek Language of the Café

I think that this is probably all Greek to you, but I recently found an article on a Greek linguistics blog (reprint from a Greek newspaper)

Τα τελευταία χρόνια η πραγματικότητα του γλωσσικού θανάτου και της εξαφάνισης πλήθους γλωσσών αποκτά ολοένα και ευρύτερη δημοσιότητα. Η συζήτηση συνήθως αφορά τον θάνατο γλωσσών που ομιλούνται (ή ομιλούνταν) από αγροτικές ή νομαδικές κοινωνίες σε απομακρυσμένες γωνιές του πλανήτη.

Δε απαιτείται όμως ιδιαίτερη οξυδέρκεια για να διαπιστώσει κανείς ότι γλώσσες πεθαίνουνε παντού, ακόμα και στην ίδια την Ελλάδα. Για μένα η υπενθύμιση ήρθε σε ένα φανάρι πεζών της Λεωφόρου Αλεξάνδρας. Στεκόμουν δίπλα σε δύο ηλικιωμένες κυρίες οι οποίες συζητούσαν έντονα αλλά ακατάληπτα. Λόγω επαγγελματικής διαστροφής αναρωτήθηκα τι γλώσσα να μίλαγαν. Στήνοντας αυτί κατάλαβα ότι ήταν βλάχικα (τα οποία οι ομιλητές τους ονομάζουν αρωμουνικά – ναι, όπως λέμε Αρμάνι). Σχεδόν αντανακλαστικά γύρισα και τις κοίταξα, τα βλέμματά μας διασταυρώθηκαν, είδα μια ακαθόριστη στιγμιαία έκφραση στα πρόσωπά τους και αμέσως αφοσιώθηκαν στο απέναντι φανάρι, σιωπηλές.

Γλώσσες πεθαίνουν κι εξαφανίζονται συνεχώς, απλώς ο ρυθμός εξαφάνισης έχει αυξηθεί σημαντικά την τελευταία πεντηκονταετία. Δε φταίνε τα αγγλικά και η παγκοσμιοποίηση, παρά – κυρίως – η συγκρότηση και εδραίωση συγκεντρωτικών εθνικών κρατών. Και φυσικά, γλώσσες πεθαίνουν και στην Ελλάδα: τα αρβανίτικα, τα τσακώνικα (και οι δύο διαβρώνονται προϊόντως από τα ελληνικά), τα βλάχικα, τα ποντιακά, τα λαντίνο κ.α. Βεβαίως, ο αφανισμός των μειονοτικών γλωσσών της Ελλάδας αποτελεί εθνική επιταγή, ιστορική αναγκαιότητα και προϋπόθεση εναρμόνισης με την νέα ελληνική ιστορική συνέχεια – ή τουλάχιστον αυτό κηρύσσει το εθνικό μας κράτος και οι οργανικοί διανοούμενοί του εδώ και πολλές δεκαετίες. Υπάρχει ωστόσο μια διάσταση του φαινομένου του γλωσσικού θανάτου στην Ελλάδα που δεν έχει τύχει πολλής προσοχής: αυτή της άλωσης των ντόπιων διαλέκτων.

Click here to read the rest

If I have time I may end up translating this :-)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Objections to Social Learning

I was reading a blog recently (click here for source) where the blogger had a presentation from the Mzinga crew about objections to social learning.

I went through the presentation, and it was actually quite interesting, but I had heard it all before :-) The objections to social learning (as much as I cringe when I say social learning) are the same objections that I examined when I was learning about Knowledge Management and Knowledge Management Systems.

I do love both proprietary knowledge management systems, and more open networks like twitter (although for work I would prefer Yammer), facebook and so on. The problem that I have is that people experience an all or nothing type of situation. You are either all against it, or all for it. And if you are all for it (institutionally I mean), you don't make appropriate use of your limited resources.

This is an interesting presentation, and if you don't know much about knowledge management...or social learning, have a look. The audio component is about an hour.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The value of being clear

Recently I was reading an article on Inside Higher Ed titled the dreaded grade appeal. Before I read it I thought to myself "here we go again! more faculty complaining about students appealing their grades!" I was pleasantly surprised to see that the article isn't really about grade appeals, but rather (if you read it clearly), about being clear in your expectation of the students taking your class.

I think that this is a great post to read (despite the comments who seem to have missed the point of clarity) because it gives examples of things to do to be clear (and empathetic) and thus prevent conflicts with your students.

In all of my years in Higher Education (around 200 or so credits at the time of this writing), I have only tried to appeal a grade once (which the university administration deflected, but anyway, one B isn't bad). Thinking back to that experience the instructor (an adjunct) did almost everything wrong - the opposite of what this article recommends.

She used attendance as a stick, rather than a carrot - I only had one absence, but she had me down as three, and no way to prove that I was there because it was near the beginning of the semester and apparently I missed the circulating sign up sheet. (as a side note - this is funny because she was out for two weeks for conferences and had one of her buddies evaluate our presentations!) Her grading criteria were not clear for assignments and presentations, and even though my in class contributions (and presentations) were superior to some of the people that got an A, I still got a B.

Years later, now that I am in two education programs (this particular instructor had a Juris Doctor and was a full time lawyer), the importance of rubrics, clear syllabi and expectations do make a difference. Even though it's been years since this incident and I am over it, I think that this is a great example of what not to do - a case analysis for new instructors ;-)

What do you think?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Not so clever PowerPoint tips...

I was reading this post on Dangeously Irrelevent.

Most of their posts I like, however this one left me with a "WTF?!" grimace. The topic is 5 clever powerpoint tips. Some tips are actually good, like creating a custom slide show and hyperliking to a new presentation.

There are two tips that are just not well thought out.

The first is to "start creating your presentations in widescreen format"

I hadn’t really thought about the fact that most laptops ARE now shipping with wide screens to accommodate widescreen video and movie formats. So why not start creating any new PowerPoint slide decks that you make in widescreen format?

Well, yes laptops are in widescreen, but your presentation medium is not! Most projects in classrooms today (including portable ones) are still optimized for a 4:3 aspect ratio. Presentation screens are also 4:3, so why give up on that prime real estate? This makes no sense! Yes in the future these two bottlenecks will be widescreen as well, but will you *really* be using the same powerpoint slides 5-7 years from now? If you are, there *is* something wrong with your content.

The second silly thing tip was "Mix portrait and landscape slides in the same presentation"

This is silly for the same reason as the widescreen - real estate! Mixing slide orientations can be quite good in skilled hands to bring forth a point, however you are sacrificing real estate *and* you risk having viewer fatigue if you do it too often (as most n00bs do with animations)

The other three tips are good - no complaints there :-)