Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy end of the year!

Well, it's been one crazy year! I've managed to complete my final two masters degrees, meet some great colleagues from sister campuses and forged new friendships with classmates in both linguistics and instructional design.

My last academic blogpost for the year I've posted over at the UMass Online blog; the topic is Making Services Accessible. Go have a look and post you thoughts on the matter of making services available to students more easy to find.

That's all for this year. Once I tackle my instapaper reading list I think will have more higher education, EdTech and instructional design stuff to write about. Until then, keep your mind sharp and don't stop learning!

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another crazy semester | done

Well, another crazy semester is now done!
This semester was actually quite busy, despite the fact that I started preparing for it over the summer!  I had done most of the readings for my Psycholinguistics course, as well as starting to think about what I wanted to do with my Field Experience Practicum.  Despite all this planning, I ended up taking another route in my practicum, and preparations for my comprehensive exams (which were on my birthday this year) took up all of my available time.

The practicum was an interesting experience. I got to teach the last two classes in a Classical Greek course on campus, in addition to observing the teaching methodology (as well as student reactions to this methodology) throughout the semester.  I did my final research project on putting forth a proposal to teach Classical Greek (and other classical languages for that matter) using communicative approaches that most modern classrooms use.  I also advocated different use of technology - but all of these recommendations would actually necessitate curriculum-wide change.  I tried to present this paper at the on-campus CIT conference this year, but with all the crazyness I ended up missing the deadline - oh well!  I think that I will try to clean up the paper, remove some practicum specific sections, and add sections that expand upon what I wrote, and try to get that published.

Psycholinguistics was also quite fun, except for the last few weeks of the semester that happened to hit everyone like a ton of bricks.  I have to say that I have gained a finer appreciation for interactionists, social-interactionists and connectivists. This course has made me more eager to go out there and read on my own about some of these topics, and newer developments in the field. 

The comps...well...the comps made me realize that my filing system for previous coursework and paperwork (articles, books, handouts) was good as an archive, but not quite as useful as study materials for the comps!  This past semester I realized that I should have, all along, been taking notes about the most important points of each article and book chapter, that way I would have had an easier time going through my notes for the comps - instead of having to skim over most articles to get the main points.  Oh well!  Live and learn!  If I do go for a PhD where comprehensive exams are required, I will be using what I learned here and apply it there.

Now that this program is over (I assume I passed my comps), I want to go back and read some Freire, Foucault and Giroux. Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Teachers as Intellectuals seem like a must read books.  Any other recommendations out there?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Journal article now (officially) available!

I was looking at the website of the journal (Human Architecture) in which I published an article last summer and I saw that it's out!  The journal hasn't hit SocIndex or EBSCO yet, but I guess it's official :-)

Check it out either at (link above), or the copy I've placed on my Scribd account

Monday, November 29, 2010

Less than a month to go!

This is it, the final countdown! (well, OK, may not the final final countdown)

I posted something on the UMass Online blog recently, on how great and useful libraries are - check it out here (can't wait to  finish my comprehensive exams!)

Friday, November 19, 2010

In the thick of it all...

I know, blogs have been neglected...
My instapaper list of things to read is getting big...
There are quite a few things that I have read and want to comment on...
There just isn't that much time!

Hmmm...this sort of started out as a poem, it didn't work out that way though ;-)

In any case, I'm in the thick of it all, however one way or another December 17th is it! I am taking my comprehensive exams for Applied Linguistics then, and that's it! I can then get back to instapaper, educational technology and technology punditry.  Until then I will be refreshing my memory of theorists, theories, examples and positions. Critical pedagogy, cultural capital, teaching culture, teaching grammar, teaching lexicon, how the mind works, about LADs and neuronal connections.  Fun stuff, but I think my brain might be reaching storage capacity ;-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

On the importance of orientations

My first blog post for the UMass Online blog is now live, check it out here

I think I may have approached the subject here before, I don't really remember, but orientations are, I think, pretty important when you are entering an academic program.  It really sets the tone for the program, both in term of curriculum and all the administrative minutiae that we as students have to deal with (and if done right, it creates connections to classmates, alumni, and outside organizations!)

What do you think? Have you been to an orientation that rocked?  Have you been to one that's been sub-par?  What's worked for you as a student and what would you like to see?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Course correction! Ay-Capt'n!

Over the summer I started working on my field experience, one of the last requirement for my MA in Applied Linguistics.  Honestly, last summer I would have preferred to have gotten the practicum waived and taken phonetics and phonemics instead, but now I am glad that I have to take it.  I am getting a lot out of observing a seasoned (and pretty awesome) instructor do what they do best. 

Over the summer, to get out of the "teaching" requirement (which seems to have been absent in previous semesters... but anyway...) I was thinking of creating an eLearning module, perhaps using something like captivate, where I would be able to use communicative approaches to teach content and language.  My initial thought was to teach a little bit about the Apple of Discord and Paris' choice.  This would have coincided with conditionals, so students could learn a little more about what supposedly happened that lead to the Trojan War and the events in the Iliad, and they would have had an opportunity to learn and mess around with conditionals in Attic Greek. After the students took this eLearning module they would be assessed for knowledge (obviously) and they would take a survey to see how they liked the method of delivery.

Based on my observations however, it seems like the class is based a lot on Grammar Translation (not much of a surprise there) so dipping toes into a communicative competence model near the end of the semester may not be a great idea - the " you don't switch horses in mid-stream" cliche comes to mind (not to mention that a proper eLearning course, with my workload will take a lot of mental power and time to complete, and I probably need to focus more on preparing for the comprehensive exams in December)

So at this point there is a need for course correction!  While doing research over the summer, I tried to find any research that pointed to Classicists using methodologies other than Grammar Translation (GT) to teach classical Greek and Latin, but unfortunately I could not find much.  Google Scholar found an intro chapter to teaching classics using Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) methodologies (yay!) but it was only an intro chapter and it was just a description of what GT is, how classics have been taught, what CLT is and so on (all info I already knew).  It seems to me that there is lack of information in this area so I've decided to do something along the lines of a traditional research paper (I've read most things anyway by this point so I don't have to do a lot of new reading) where I will write more about using CLT methodologies in a classical learning environment and how technology can be used to facilitate classical language learning.

Any thoughts? I'd be interested in hearing from classicists out there :-)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Beating the education out of you!

I've been following an interesting discussion in one of the LinkedIn groups that I am a member of called "How important is a formal certificate/degree in Instructional Design to become a successful Instructional Designer?" I guess the discussion is not new (well it may be new to this group, but it's been going on in the ID circle for a while).

There are pros and cons to each position, for example non-formal trained IDs (Instructional Designers) are seen are more creative and adaptive and in their mind formally trained IDs are a bit more rigid. At the other end of the spectrum, formally trained IDs see a formal education as "I know why this is happening and I can harness its power instead of relying on chance" and the degree of course can get them in the door whereas non-degreed IDs might have a problem with that. There are some comments which just derail the discussion like a commenter that said that she wants to see people rename IDs learning designers - facepalm! I guess this is a topic for another post.

In any case, a recent response piqued my interest, here's an excerpt:

The problem with the formal qualification is that we find that we have to "train out" much of what has been learned on Instructional design courses. Most elearning companies have their own style and methodology and we are no different to this.

This is interesting because I heard this with other degrees I've been involved with. Students learn X and want to apply X in all situations, but they don't know how to adapt X in order to fit in company A or division B their employer. In essence companies want graduates to adapt to a certain process in their company or a way of doing things so they try to beat out the training students have had. I see this a bit of a two way street. Sure the company has developed a process that works for now, but shouldn't they consider what employee X brings to the table? By the same token, it's silly for employee X to believe that things in each company work just like they learned them in school. They need to adapt to the working environment as well as bring their own skills to the table to improve to company, otherwise what's the point of hiring an external hire? Why not hire from within?

The commenter further comments:

The problem, as an employer and recruiter of Instructional designers, is that it often takes longer to change someone's Instructional design philosophy then educate someone without solidly created opinions.

As I said above, if this is what you are looking for, why not train someone from within to take over? Are you looking for an instructional designer or an automaton? What's the point of posting a job description to the outside world if you are looking for more of the same?

Further more:

Also the technologies we adopt as part of an overall learning solution are often leading edge, so any academic institute will struggle to teach overall educational principals [SIC] that are pertinent to these disruptive technologies which allow us to re-think what is and isn't possible.

I don't see principles, theories and practice in direct conflict with disruptive technologies. After all the point of academia is to experiment and become disruptive! It's not to maintain the status quo! Academia is all about rethinking what is possible :-) If you don't come out of school knowing what's come before you and with the ability to rethink what's possible, something is wrong!

OK, enough about what I think, what do YOU think about this?

Friday, September 17, 2010

The importance of Portfolios while searching for a job

I posted this as a discussion topic in one of my LinkedIn groups, but no takers!  Everyone seems to be paying lipservice to Portfolios, but no one (that I've seen in groups) has talked about their effectiveness.   Your thoughts?

//Start of copied info from LinkedIn//
This thought came to me while reading the discussion on the importance of a degree/certificate in ID. So here's a question for all of you: How important is a Portfolio when searching for your new ID job?

Many people place a spotlight on the importance of portfolios of ePortfolios (in addition to experience, recommendations and perhaps a degree of some sort in education) but I've seen three points AGAINST portfolios that are coming to my attention

1) Recruiters or employers don't necessarily have the time to review your portfolio. You may have done excellent work but when they are looking through a tall pile of applicants (made event taller by portfolios to go through), do hiring managers really have the luxury of going through each and every one to determine if it's good work? If they don't what's the use of a portfolio?

2) Some of us don't come for a graphics design background, so while our work may be effective (if your company has allowed you to do post-training evals to gauge effectiveness of training) it might not look professional or as presentable as ID work produced by people with graphics design experience (whose training may not have been as successful as ours but looks prettier). In this case you've got a case of "judging a book by its cover"

3) Proprietary information! Lots of companies have their trade secrets, including company procedures under lock and key - this means that any learning that you create cannot be placed in any portfolio, even in altered/anonymized form, because it still a security issue. I've seen many people say that people can build a portfolio by doing pro-bono or contract work with the stipulation that they can use it as part of a portfolio, but this is extra work, on top of what you are already doing, for a portfolio that someone may not even have the time to go over (see point 1).

So, what's the point of a portfolio?

On there other side of the fence, if you are NOT looking for a job, you could have a portfolio, along with a LinkedIn profile and a VisualCV profile, show off your expertise, link to your portfolio (blog, twitter, whatever), and you may get offers when you aren't even looking. Then again when you need to put food on the table, waiting for the serendipitous call saying that people love your work and they want you.

So what do you all think of portfolios? Nice to have? Useless? or Real necessities?

Friday, September 10, 2010

McCranky Friday ;-)

Welcome back to school!!!!
I think today I may be channeling the Annoyed Librarian ;-)

In any case, here is a response to a blog post on about Netflix and library collections. Now I have to say that I enjoy reading Josh's posts despite the fact that most of them induce a facepalm gesture. I guess the first thing that gets me about these blog posts is that no one bothers to read them before publication - either that, or people really don't know the difference between a SHOW and a SHOE. In any case this is a minor evil. The major facepalm moment comes from not really understanding the "making available" aspect of library collections. The question posed is this:

Should [institutions of higher education] be in the business of purchasing videos for our collections? The Netflix value proposition was pretty compelling with over 100,000 titles, but has the iPhone and Touch app put Netflix over the edge?

I can't really blame people for wanting to go to a more "efficient" industry model (flawed as this assumption of efficiency may be) but people aren't thinking of the larger picture. If you've ever used Hulu or Netflix you KNOW that streaming shows aren't always available. They come and go! Sure you might get a few days notice but is that enough lead time to get you the DVD in time for your class? What if you are showing clips from 10 films, streaming works, but DVD rentals do not!

Unlike journal subscriptions, where articles appear and disappear all the time based on agreements made between publishers and providers, you can't download a film from a streaming service (because it's streaming), conversely I have tons of articles that I saved their PDF version when the journal service had access, and I still have access to those articles even the journal service does not!

Another thing that ACADEMIC users of Netflix will notice is that Netflix does not have that many academic titles on hand. The purpose of Netflix is entertainment, not academics. Therefore some of those $300 DVDs that are available at your library are probably not available on Netflix!

There is the issue of wear-and-tear. Netflix DVDs are probably abused. They go through thousands of players each year, this tends to diminish their shelf life. In an academic library the use of a particular DVD is not going to be that high because it's not available to the billion subscribers that Netflix has.

Finally there is a question of possibly putting a netflix subscription as part of a technology fee. As a student I must revolt and say "NO MORE FEES!" I already have a netflix subscription, I don't need to pay yet another $9 per month, thank you very much :-)

One thing that I am wondering (spelling errors aside), is whether Josh's blog posts are questions to get the techies, faculty and librarians talking to one another (sort of like a devil's advocate position), or whether he really believes that we should be relying on the Apples and Amazons and Netflixs of the world for our content in Academia. Perhaps I am reading it wrong ;-)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jay Walker on the World's English Mania

Here's an interesting TED video on the World's English Mania.

You know, I am not sure I completely agree. I think that there is a need for a worldwide lingua franca, but I don't necessarily agree with Jay that English or other "major" languages for that matter, are not eroding regional and other national languages. I guess this is a topic for a much wider discussion. What do you think?

Monday, August 30, 2010

T-minus 1 week!

In one week the new semester starts! The FINAL semester of graduate studies - woohoo!

On the roster this (final) time around we've got the following:

Psycholinguistics which deals with:
Contemporary issues in the fields of first and second language development and bilingualism will be addressed within the framework of the psychological development of the individual, from early childhood through adolescence. Theories of learning will also be addressed, particularly as they have been used to explain language development, including behaviorism, cognitive psychology, Piagetian constructivist theory, Vygotsky’s Social Interactionism and Freirean critical consciousness and praxis.

Having done most of the reading for this course over the summer, I think it will be rather interesting. It's all about how the mind (a child's and an adult's mind) picks up language and how we learn to learn a new language on top of our native language.

And the Practicum (aka Field Experience).
Basically for this one I will be observing an experienced language teacher - in my case I've picked an instructor that I've had before and she teaches Classical Greek - see how they teach, how they approach materials and methods, analyze their teaching and teach a module yourself. In my case I've decided that I will most likely be doing an eLearning module. The topic is not determined yet (the primary instructor has not gotten back to me yet), but I have been preparing by going over the course text, looking at what's presented, what's covered and what topics the instructor teaches using her PPT slides. I've also gone through and converted her slides from Teknia (yuck!) to a Unicode font :-)

I think my final hand in for this course will be an analysis of how classical (aka "Dead") languages are taught and how technology can be used to improve teaching and learning these languages.

Finally, I have to prepare for a comprehensive exam which covers everything in the applied linguistics MA curriculum that I've taken. In general I hate sit-down exams, especially exams that are four hours long and require your to remember everything from day one of the curriculum - but there is a silver lining here. I am hoping to apply to a PhD program at some point in the future, all of which require both oral and written comprehensive exams before you're allowed to dissertate, so this is a bit of a dry run.

It will be a busy semester, but I am happy that it's finally starting :-)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Translation - random thoughts

A number of years ago I was approached by a firm to do a translation. A one page bureaucratic document that that to do with excise taxes. I was quite excited to be approached for this, although I borked the translation. I spent way too much time sweating the somewhat difficult stuff (like all the crazy acronyms found in the document) that I mistranslated big time units to small time units. Oh well. Live and learn!

Now I've been working on a longer literature translation on my spare time for a friend, and I've learned my lessons, however another thought has come to mind: How close to the original does a translator make his work? The intent of the translation is to not necessarily translate everything verbatim, but convey the meaning of the original into the target language. What I am wondering is how much leeway does a translator have with tenses, active versus passive voice and participial expressions.

For example, you are translating something from a language where the original is in a past tense, but it's a narrative that has a dialogue between two actors. If you translate this into English, you can try to lift as much of the grammar structure as possible, or you could opt to go with the historical present. How does one decide how much leeway they have in translating, especially if they are translating a dead language?


Monday, August 23, 2010

Wave goodbye to Google Wave, say hello to...

OK, this isn't really news, but the news is our all over the interwebs - Google will no longer be developing Wave as a stand-alone product, and will keep the service up and running until the end of the year - it will also provide a way for people to get their data off Google Wave.

I have to say that I really enjoyed messing around with Google Wave. I got an early beta invite, I invited some friends, but the mistake was that I invited people that are gadget geeks like me, but we don't normally collaborate! This Wave was really a bit useless for me because the people that I invited were people whose interactions with me would not push me to use the service!

Google because open for everyone's use this past spring, but by that time I hadn't really thought of uses for Wave. In a recent comment in InsideHigherEd, I saw that people were using Wave as a replacement for the Bulletin Board System within the LMS (learning management system). What a brilliant idea!

I think that Wave was a bit of a fail because it didn't really incorporate well with other Google services (most notably GMail and Buzz), it was all sandboxed in its own environment. This meant that you needed to come out of what you were doing in order to participate in a wave. This is cool, it was a beta service after all, but once it became public there was no additional buzz or functionality added (so why go back - unless all your colleagues joined that is)

Now with Google making inroads into the college environment with GMail, Google Calendar, Contacts and so on being used at the campus level, how far away are we from a Google LMS? Google could take existing properties and tie them into a nice, comprehensive, LMS. You've got Google Groups and Google Wave to provide you with the architecture for discussions, you've got KNOL, the wikipedia competitor that you can use to create course-based wikis, you've got Blogger, which you can use to integrate into a course based blog, Buzz for instant communication, GMail, GCal, Contacts and iGoogle to bring it all together.

OK, this isn't an easy undertaking, but the parts and the technologies are there. Google *could* create a free (or cheap) competitor to Blackboard and create a product that is truly innovative (compared to Blackboard's frankenLMS).

What do you think? Are you onboard with a Social LMS?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Translation procrastination...

A long while back I had translated a government memo from modern Greek to English. It was only one page and I wanted to have it be perfect! I looked up all acronyms (some of which I had no idea existed since I left Greece before being involved too much with governmental BS), but I missed the small things! I had translated "minutes" as "seconds" - bah! What an newbie mistake! I still beat myself up over it! I became blinded by perfection that I missed the obvious!

In any case, I am now back in the translation game, this time translating, for a friend, the life and times of St. Margaret from New Testament Greek to English. It's about 40 pages of New Testament Greek (medieval Greek?) goodness! Luckily all those years as an altar-boy in Greece, and my two semesters of Ancient Greek had prepared me a bit for this under taking. I procrastinated most of the summer but recently I got back in the groove. The biggest problem, again, was perfection. I was expecting to read a sentence and BAM, create a perfect translation into English with one pass - something that is impossible!

This past weekend I came to terms with the fact that it won't be perfect on the first, or second, or third time around, but just like any writing, it requires a rough draft, and tons and tons of polishing. So sure, my first draft might look like something that came our of Google Translate or Babelfish (example off the top of my head: the of the holy apostles ascension into the heaven father's (look up this word). amen" but with subsequent work you can get it into something that both make sense in English and flows like something a native would have said!

The main issue with translating ancient or medieval Greek for me is that I get the gist of what is said. I don't get every single word and construction because the language has evolved, some forms have been dropped, grammar simplified, and new words added, but I get what is said. Of course, what I understand can be boiled down to two letter-sized pieces of paper (1/20th the size of the original), so the time consuming part is the looking up of words and re-familiarizing myself with older grammatical forms that are somewhere in my memory, but not immediately accessible.

Any other translators or interpreters out there? What are your experiences?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Informal Learning in the Workplace

One of the topics that we covered in our Knowledge Management class back in the days of the MBA was this whole concept of informal learning (or water-cooler learning) that happens day-to-day in any given workplace. In those 1 minute interactions at the watering hole you may learn something that impacts your job performance (for better or for worse) and one of the goals of KM was/is to capture such leaky knowledge for the benefit of everyone in the company.

I came across this presentation on informal learning a little while back and I thought it interesting. I think that this is something that learning professionals should be exposed to if they are in a degree or certificate program :-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Road to the PhD - some thoughts

Last week I spoke to a friend of mine who is already pursuing a PhD - said friend is at the dissertation stage if I am not mistaken.  I let her know that I am considering a PhD - having overcome my fear of writing long research-based passages, and having grown accustomed to the Master's level difficulty, I've decided to up my game since I like learning new things.  I also aspire to one day be a professor, so a PhD is generally a must in these cases.

After many professors, in many different fields, have encouraged me to go for it, I've started compiling a spreadsheet of which schools have what I am interested in, what the requirements for entry and exit are, who the movers and shakers are (i.e. potential advisors), and what other important things are nearby (i.e. centers of research that those schools collaborate with).  Another major consideration is cost: where are the stipends and assistantships? You don't go into a PhD program, or the professoriate for that matter, to make crazy amounts of money - so it makes little sense (as far as I am concerned) to take out a large loan to pay for your PhD education.

There is much more to say on the topic of tenure-trackdom given recent discussion on IHE and the Chronicle (see here, here, and here) - but what do you think of PhDs, professional life after the Masters and continuing education?

Monday, August 9, 2010

How important is encoding?

Here's some non-random stream of consciousness for you as far as language goes. How important is encoding to you? Does encoding really matter? What do I mean by encoding? The alphabet you use, whether you represent words as syllables, as characters, as letters, and how you put all that together.

The impetus for this though process comes from a (pretty silly in my opinion) facebook group that I was invited to a while back. The group is called "save the Greek language," kinda funny if you ask me because I don't think that the Greek language is in any danger of being lost. The details of the group say the following (for the original look at the end of the blog post).

Greek is one of the most beautiful languages. English has a far reach and is...a requirement. Greeklish [emphasis added] on the other hand is nothing. Mixed up, messed up [words] that are convenient. We will forget the Greek we know. Prefer to write in Greek [script]. You will be expressing yourself in a better manner with the most beautiful words, and you will be learning new [words] and not forgetting the ones you already know. Support the Greek language, there is no reason renounce it. At the end of the day it's our own [language]. Select Greek as your facebook language -hey even for a change select English, Italian or French, but [for heaven's sake] pick a pure language.

OK, so this is one large, jumbled mess of a mission statement. In the beginning this group seems to be anti-hegemony of English. Let's pick our language to communicate in as opposed to the lingua franca of trade which has become a behemoth of a language around the globe. OK, no problem, I agree with you. Then the issue seems to shift from language to encoding - how that language is represented, in this case Greeklish - which is using Latin based characters to represent Greek letters, or Greek sounds.

For example Greeklish came out of an era of computing, network computing, when manufacturers did not have an agreed upon standard as to how to represent Greek text on a screen. As a result Apples, IBMs, Windows, and other PC and mainframe manufacturers produced text which was not mutually intelligible. I'm sure you've seen this on the internet every now and again. You type Εμπρός! and the received of the message sees ƒe®,,.!

In those days Greeklish came up as a solution, people were able to communicate again by using a different encoding - instead of Greek characters which were problematic, you used latin ANSI based characters which were not. There is considerable variation in Greeklish. For instance: η, ι, υ, ει and οι are all pronounced as "ee" -, therefore users have the option of typing h, i, u, ei, or oi as visual representations of letters or they can just type i as a phonetic representation. There are many more examples where that came from :-) When I first started reading Greeklish I had a problem, just like anyone learning a new alphabet's rules, but eventually I got the hand of it.

Having read a number of wall posts on this group (sorry, I won't be joining), it seems to be that these are a bunch of zealots that fall in the same camp of people who claim that texting/SMS is ruining our ability to spell or construct coherent thoughts. Give me a break! It's quite obvious where I stand on the issue. What do YOU think? Does it matter if I type:

The Quick Brown Fox

or if I type any one of these variations:

Δε κουικ μπραουν φοξ

де куик браун фох


ðe kuik braun ƒox

Does the encoding of a language matter if people are able to read (i.e. decode what's on paper) despite the encoding?

Original text
Τα ελληνικά είναι από τις ωραιότερες γλώσσες. Τα αγγλικά είναι πολύ διαδεδομένα και ... απαραίτητα. Τα greeκlish όμως δεν είναι τίποτα. Ανακατέματα, μπερδέματα που μας βολεύουν. Θα ξεχάσουμε κι αυτά που ξέρουμε. Προτιμήστε να γράφετε στα ελληνικά. Εκφράζεστε καλύτερα, με τις πιο ωραίες λέξεις και επιπλέον μαθαίνετε νέες και δεν ξεχνάτε όσες ξέρετε. Στηρίξτε την ελληνική γλώσσα, δεν υπάρχει λόγος να την αποποιούμαστε. Δική μας είναι στο κάτω-κάτω. Διαλέξτε τα ελληνικά για το facebook. Άντε και για εναλλαγή τα αγγλικά ή ιταλικά ή ισπανικά. Πάντως... μια γλώσσα γνήσια.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prezi, revisited

I came across this Prezi course introduction to an "Intro to Learning on The Cloud" course. I have to say that from a teaching and learning perspective the course looks pretty compelling! This introduction was interesting as well, however there is a big caveat. I don't know if this was a self-paced presentation, or if it was used in an in-class presentation. As an in-class presentation I can see this Prezi working, however as a voiceless self-paced presentation it's a major fail. About 40 seconds in, having clicked next-next-next the animations in this prezi made me nauseated - the the point that I needed to stop viewing it!

I wonder if this was a case of flashy-prezi use, or just a good presentation for the wrong medium

Monday, August 2, 2010

Does language influence culture?

Here's an interesting article on the Wall Street Journal about the relationship of language and culture.  If you haven't studies psychology or applied linguistics, it's an interesting thought provoking article to get you primed for further exploration into the topic of language and culture - and if you are not interested in these topics enough to study them further, then it's a nice conversation (or ice breaker) topic for any meetups or cocktail parties that you go to :-) 

The author, a university professor, writes that Chomsky's Universals have not withstood scrutiny.  I am only starting to to immerse myself in psycholinguistics so I don't really know much about the subject (other than the primers on Chomsky's Universal Grammar), but as far as I know, Chomsky keeps refining his hypothesis, so if one version of the hypothesis has some issues, as more knowledge on the subject is gained and as more studies are conducted, we see newer interpretations of this hypothesis.

The interesting thing in this article is that studies show that by using different languages different things rose to importance in what people remembered.  I think that this is interesting, and a reason for immigrant parents to really teach their kids both their native language and the lingua franca of the host country (in the case of the USA - English).  It's also important to point out that we need to resist linguistic imperialism (be it the imperialism of Chinese, English, Russian or any other language) and keep our ties to our ancestral languages so that these modes of though are retained.  With greater diversity we have more opportunities for exploration and knowledge creation (How goes the Vulcan saying? Infinite Diversity Infinite Combinations?)

In any case, back to culture.  I personally don't think that language is the sole influencer of culture.  Language after all is a human construct.  I think that culture influences language and vice versa. It's a circle whereby happenings in our cultures (history, religion, power, human-to-human relations, scientific discovery, etc.) influence what we use in our language and how we use it, and language itself goes back to influence our culture - think of Homer Simpson and the by now infamous "D'oh!" - I am certain that people use D'oh! and have never watched the Simpsons!

This topic is way too big to cover in one blog post, but it's definitely worth a discussion!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

What's happening in the ivory tower?

I came across a blog post on InsideHigherEd recently about PhD programs and the disappearing tenure-track job market and how PhD programs should help their students to do something more than research and specialization in an area that has a focus on tenure-track professorial jobs (because as we all know adjunct instructor pay stinks).

The main point of the author here is that PhD programs should include:
  • Teacher education because simply knowing your subject matter does not make you a great teacher of said subject matter
  • Higher Ed. Management - so you know the inner workings of your environment
  • Leadership Development
  • Media Training

Now off the bat, I don't get the media training piece - perhaps someone could explain this to me.  Leadership development - well, shouldn't you have had this when you were working on a Master's degree?  As part of my MBA, MSIT and MEd I've worked in teams for projects, even as an upper level undergrad taking grad level science courses I did some teamwork based projects.  A PhD program is not where you do this - perhaps it's a professional development thing.

Teacher Education I kind of get.  I think that all PhDs that DO plan on teaching should be required to put in at least 12 credits worth of teaching undergraduates and graduates (12 credits = teaching 4 courses) before they can be vetted as a PhD recipient. As part of this 4 course teaching tour they should be required to go to non-credit seminars on teaching, instructional design and education technology.

As far as Higher Education Management goes - there are MA, MEd and EdD degrees on the subject matter! If you are going to get your PhD in Education or Chemistry for example, why spend extra semesters taking Higher Ed. Admin courses?  Will you use them right away? No you won't!  And you if do need it right away...I hate to tell you, but you are in the wrong PhD program :-)

I also came across this post where the author wrote the following:

Research in your field is king. You get a PhD in your subject area, be it biology, literature, nursing or music. Because we are not rewarded for improving our teaching, we don't do it. Our time is spent on administrative duties, our research and, yes, teaching.  But we have been told, you need to do research to get tenure. So we make research our priority. Our PD [Professional Development]? Going to conferences in our field, to learn about the latest research and findings. We are expected to stay on top of what's going on in the field we teach.  Ed tech? What's that? Will it help me get tenure? No? No, thanks!

This is what I've been saying for quite some time - perhaps not on the blog, but at least I've been saying it in person :-)  Tenure-track faculty and tenured faculty get evaluated on the quantity and quality of the scholarly work that they produce (i.e. articles and books they write AND get published).  Sure they get a tick-mark for teaching a course and not sucking at it, but for every tick they get for teaching a course decently they probably get three, or four or five ticks for the research they do.  If your carrot is research and publishing and not teaching, why would you do that?

Then again, if PhD programs are meant to prepare you for the wonderful world of tenure-track-dom, where research and publishing is values ûber alles, why would you spend time in non-research and publishing activities?  I was also under the impression that the Master's Degree was the professional-go-get-a-job-out-of-academia degree, so why would you retool a PhD to do that?

I feel strongly about the need for teacher education in a PhD program, but I am flexible on the other aspects mentioned - feel free to convince me either way :-)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Does spelling matter any more?

A week or so ago I saw this posted on eLearning Brothers and I had a facepalm moment. I have to say that I am one of those people, the people that are turned off from misspelled words and misused words.

Yes, I know we've all, by now, seen this:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

The fact of the matter is that it's not really about our brain's ability to decode the mess that we see above.  The brain can do it, provided that we know (or think we know) the words that are there.  If we don't know the words, and we need to look them up to figure out what the sentence says, we are SOL (sh*t-outta-luck).

When I see things such as "truely" or "twelth" I tend to discount the writer as sloppy!  If it's on a blog - I may pay less attention to it - given that a blog sometimes tends to be a stream-of-consciouness thing and language is more fluid. We may have started to say "true" but in mid thought our brain switched paths and went with "truly" thus "truely" makes sense from a stream-of-consciousness perspective.

However, if  these typos are on a proposal of some sort, or a final product, or  someone trying to make a cogent argument for or against something (be it a blog or not), then to me this signals that the author (or authors) don't care enough to really proof read their work - if they don't care about the proposal, what does this imply about the quality of the rest of their work?

Now don't get me wrong, I am not a language nazi - but from a functional perspective written, codified, language has one purpose - to communicate your idea when you are not there to articulate it yourself. It needs consistency and uniform rules to be applied.  Misspelling breaks those rules and places hurdles on the primary objective of written text: the decoding and comprehension of someone else's thought process.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Evolving Paradigms in Knowledge Management

I came across this brief video on the Harvard Business Review the other day on how knowledge management is moving away from the repository as goal.

Here's the transcript of the video:
One of the interesting ways of capturing the problems with traditional knowledge management is it came at knowledge from a stocks viewpoint, a stocks of knowledge. The problem is, we have knowledge, it's distributed and dispersed throughout the organization. How do we capture it and make it available to others?

Certainly a big challenge, I don't want to diminish that as a value, but I think what people found as they tried to implement the various systems and methodologies to do that is there wasn't really a lot of motivation for people to invest the time and effort to develop and define those stocks and make them available as part of a broader repository.

This kind of approach really shifts the attention from stocks of knowledge, what we know today, to defining and developing new knowledge, addressing critical performance objectives that the company, the firm, has in front of it, so that you're driving and not by learning in the abstract, but because there is a real performance challenge in front of us; how do we identify the right people, bring them together, create the environments, and by the way; because of the digital platforms that we have now, as we create these environments, we are capturing, as a byproduct, the knowledge that's created as part of that environment. So, it becomes available to others but it is not the primary focus. It's a byproduct.

Back in the day when I was an MBA student studying knowledge management, one of the goals was a repository of knowledge. The major question was how does one capture what people in the organization know and make it available to others in the organization so all can benefit. So if I came across some fix for a persistent bug on company desktops, how can I share what I know so that Peter, Paul and Mary can benefit from my stroke of genius?

There are of course hurdles here - why would I (or any employee for that matter) spend their extra time in a KM system to document their knowledge - documentation is a drag (let's be honest) and if you're not accustomed to doing it then it seems like something that takes you out of your workflow.

I agree to some extent with this new paradigm of capturing knowledge as we collaborate with others on projects - this certain takes care of new knowledge created, as well as older undocumented knowledge that surfaces to help with this collaboration - however I still think that there is a valid reason of having a knowledge repository. Look at wikipedia - it IS a knowledge repository - we aren't necessarily developing new knowledge, we're just putting the pieces of the puzzle together. People still flock to it to GET information and there are people who go to it to GIVE information.  What motivates these people to GIVE?  This is what we need to look at in our organizations and foster such a giving environment.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Technology Illiterate Students

I keep reading (and hearing) about the wonder about this supposed Net Generation, or millennial students or...well other terms that mean the same thing: absolutely nothing ;-) 

In the past couple of years I've heard and read so much about how these students process things differently and that we need to adapt our ways of teaching to suit their unique learning preferences and technology savvyness.  Now, I am a member of this generation - granted I am from the early stages of this generation having been born in the early 80s, but I am a member of this generation nonetheless. Being a member of this generation I call all this BS. I've actually been thinking about doing research and writing about it (and hopefully getting published).

My main line of though is this: just because a certain group of individuals has grown up around technology, it doesn't mean that they know how to use it effectively.  The main comparison that I can make is cars.  I grew up with cars in my life, as a matter of fact I own a car.  I can drive both automatic and a standard.  That doesn't mean I know what's going on in the engine.  Luckily my dad is an auto-mechanic (and a damned good one), so I can pick his brain about things and learn all this stuff (if I want to).

Computers are the same.  Students seem to know how to do a lot of separate tasks. They know how to check on facebook, they know how to view something on YouTube, they know how to open up a word process, press a couple of keys on the keyboard and make text appear.  This doesn't mean that they know how to deal with the information they are getting from the device. They don't know how to look up help and use a new function (that they don't know before hand) in excel, they don't know how to evaluate information they find on Google and they don't know how to use google, and other sources, to pick up information that is most relevant to them!

Students are, in essence, technologically illiterate - there is a digital divide - we just seem to want to no acknowledge it because of the flashiness of current computer technology and the fact that non-millennials seem to think that just because Johnny knows how to update his facebook status, he can create an MLA or APA style bibliography in Microsoft Word.

We need to move away from the false notion that people born after a certain decade, in a certain part of the world, know what they are doing on the computer and we should not assume that they would benefit from a radical chance in Educational Technology integration and pedagogy chance.  We should do a proper learner analysis in our own classroom, and THEN determine what teaching approach is the best for this group of learners.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Good Ideas don't Die!

I was recently reading these two articles on ProfHacker, one was on RSS & SMS integration in the (library) catalog, and the most recent one about mobile applications for libraries.

This brought me back to my days as an MSIT student.  Back in those days I took many opportunities to work on homework/class projects that dealt directly with library systems - some examples are IT/Library mergers and integration, patron privacy and Project Wormhole - which is what these ProfHacker posts reminded me of!

Project Wormhole* (yeah, I used imaginative names), was a project I worked on for an Object Oriented Programming course.  The main idea was that each patron would have a customized library homepage that they would log-onto and they would have a widgetized HUD of all of their information needs.  The patrons already have a library barcode and a student/staff ID number, so there isn't really a need to create yet another log-on! They just need to log on with information that they already have and customize their interface. 

The main elements of my design were:

1. One search to rule them all! 
Back then we had our own catalog, worldcat, ILL (through ILLiad) and the Massachusetts Virtual Catalog - and this was just for books! So in order to keep things simple, this one search would be sort of google-esque.  You would put in your search terms and then this magical algorithm would search through all books, ebooks, journal articles, patents, theses, newspapers, and the web, and would provide you with a consolidated view of all items that pertain to your search.

Of course that would be a TON of results, so the patron would have the ability to sort and filter by content type - whether it's a book or an article for example, whether it's something available in the building (i.e. your library), locally or if you have to send away for it, and there could be a social aspect of this where journal articles and books could be annotated, reviewed and "starred" (I guess similar to libraryThing and GoodReads).

1.1 Easy Access to content
Now once you've done your search and you've discovered that your local library does not have this item you are looking for, next to the search result there could be a "get this item through ILL" - one click ordering like amazon!  All the bibliographic information would be sucked into the ILL system and the thing would be ordered for you! Just one click!

2. RSS everywhere!
OK, databases have had RSS for a while, but you need to go into each database and specify your interests. M'eh.  Too much work!  Let the system work for you!  In your library profile you could have (1) your major (2) the courses you are taking this semester and (3) interests other that these aforementioned two categories.
As the library acquires more books, as the journal providers acquire the rights to more content and make it available, and as campus events happen - if there is ANYTHING that hits upon your major, minor, course topic types you're taking or your other interests you will get real-time updates on your RSS feeds, on your homepage.  From there you can simply click on the new Journal, Article, Book, whatever item it happens to be and you can have access to it!

You can also incorporate feeds from Amazon's "new items" for example so as new books become available you can put them on a "wish list" indicating to the library that this is something you want to read and that they might want to purchase!

3. Notifications Galore!
Another box on the homescreen would be notifications - when books are due, if books are available for pick-up, if you have fines and so on.  If you have fines, you'd be able to pay them right then and there! If there is a book that you need to return soon, you can do 1-click renewal (if allowed)!  This of course would tie into an SMS system where the user would have an option to receive SMS notification of new books, new articles, upcoming due dates for books, fines and so on! Through another system the patron could also renew items via SMS.

Going with the "RSS everywhere" theme, this could also tie into your blackboard courses so your coursework notifications and email, as well as your campus based email, can be previewed and accessed through this portal.

4. A real academic social network
OK, granted this would only be via your institution, but think about it! You are researching X in department X and Joe Schmoe is researching X in department Y.  You are both researching the same related area and could collaborate but your don't about it because you are in different departments!  By having a social profile on this library portal you can not only discover information, but people as well! You COULD collaborate on projects with people you never knew existed!

In addition, if you are researching X in department X and Joe Schmoe is looking for a guest speaker for X in his Y class, it's now much easier to find experts in X to come to talk about it in his class!  It's a win-win!

Anyway, those were my ideas for MSIS 615 - I had worked together a prototype UI with some mock action back in the day - but I never had a chance to see this implemented. Reading the ProfHacker posts leaves me with an optimistic feeling that I am not the only one who's thought about this (or at least is making the case for this) and that some day (soon I hope!) we see this become a reality :-)

* I do believe that I called it Wormhole because of Stargate - a portal that brings you to new information (yeah, I know, geeky)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why Johnny can't Code

A month or so ago I came across this this post on Salon via OSNews. I read both the OSNews post and the Salon post and I've wanted to write about it since, but something wasn't sitting right - I just couldn't put my finger on it. Well, yesterday - reading about child development, specifically language development, it hit me!
Here's an excerpt:

Only there's a rub. Most of these later innovations were brought to us by programmers who first honed their abilities with line-programming languages like BASIC. Yes, they mostly use higher level languages now, stacking and organizing object-oriented services, or using other hifalutin processes that come prepackaged and ready to use, the way an artist uses pre-packaged paints. (Very few painters still grind their own pigments. Should they?)

And yet the thought processes that today's best programmers learned at the line-coding level still serve these designers well. Renowned tech artist and digital-rendering wizard Sheldon Brown, leader of the Center for Computing in the Arts, says: "In my Electronics for the Arts course, each student built their own single board computer, whose CPU contained a BASIC ROM [a chip permanently encoded with BASIC software]. We first did this with 8052's and then with a chip called the BASIC Stamp. The PC was just the terminal interface to these computers, whose programs would be burned into flash memory. These lucky art students were grinding their own computer architectures along with their code pigments -- along their way to controlling robotic sculptures and installation environments."

But today, very few young people are learning those deeper patterns. Indeed, they seem to be forbidden any access to that world at all.

What this reminds me of is the difference between language and linguistics. When I was a computer science student as an undergrad, I learned the linguistics of computation, not the language -- in contrast to high school where I was learning the language of programming to do something with that language - i.e. make a game.

I think that coders knowing and appreciating the underlying structure of a computing architecture is a good think to know and to have, however, do we expect our five-year-old learning language for the first time to be able to parse sentences and bust-a-rhyme like no one's business? No, not really! (unless you've got some pretty gifted children out there!)

Believe it or not, what can be accomplished with a procedural language can be accomplished by an object oriented language - you just have to break down your mental framework and think outside the box.

The author goes on to say:
Those textbook exercises were easy, effective, universal, pedagogically interesting -- and nothing even remotely like them can be done with any language other than BASIC. Typing in a simple algorithm yourself, seeing exactly how the computer calculates and iterates in a manner you could duplicate with pencil and paper -- say, running an experiment in coin flipping, or making a dot change its position on a screen, propelled by math and logic, and only by math and logic: All of this is priceless. As it was priceless 20 years ago. Only 20 years ago, it was physically possible for millions of kids to do it. Today it is not.

This line or argument has a parallel in language learning: Kids should learn latin first because latin has more cases than english and you can parse sentences out with much greater precision. Is this a prepositional phrase or a coordinated conjunction phrase? or both? or neither? With english it's more ambiguous because the lack of declined endings on nouns but latin is clearer! Now any parent (and school teacher) will tell you that this is complete and utter bullshit. Children pick up language - they problem solve and form new frames of reference to be able to communicate.

The same thing is true for learning about computers - it's not the language you use, or how far away you are from the hardware, it's about problem solving. If you want to get closer to the hardware, forget BASIC - go with assembler language :) Personally I think that the author has a major case of nostalgia and is looking for a way to let it out.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think there is a certain magic when it comes to classic hardware and software. If I ever had a kid I would like to program using AppleSoft BASIC on an Apple IIgs (it would bring back memories of school for me), or get an old atari with LOGO on it. The point however is not that there is something inherently better about one language over another. The point is that learning A language is good, no matter what that language is. If you really want your kid to know how a computer works, teach them binary mathematics ;-) (or assembly language)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Definition of a PLE

This came across my twitter stream today, pretty interesting what you can do with a Prezi (haven't spent much time on Prezi - I suppose I should once I finish Applied Linguistics and I have some more free time on my hands :-) )

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blackboard buys WIMBA & Elluminate, the crowd goes wild!

Well, last night Blackboard went on the Borg trail again - resistance is futile, you will be acquired!

This time around it's WIMBA and Elluminate that are up on the acquisition block.  Some people have rejoiced at news of the acquistion while others have dissenting opinions (same link as the rejoice, just scroll down).  From a business point of view I think that Blackboard did the right thing, they obviously had a deficiency in their product, open source alternatives like Sakai and Moodle were doing what Blackboard is doing with their current LMS product, so they needed a differentiator.  Even if you do use Moodle or Sakai, you still need synchronous capabilities, don't you? So you can be happy with your Open Source LMS and still buy a blackboard product.  Also by buying two products in the same category you're eliminating competition!

Of course, there is the side that makes business sense - in the fiscal, competitive sense - and the business side that makes sense in the marketing, listening to customers, and having-customers-flock-to-you-because-you-have-a-great-product-not-because-they-have-to sense.  Blackboard fails miserably at this. Their reputation is bad among academic circles (you know, the teachers, not the admins), and with this Borg culture of theirs, (Prometheus, WebCT and Angel acquisitions for the LMS and now WIMBA and Elluminate) they are seen more as the bad guy rather than an innovator.  I think that Blackboard is consistently viewed as the Microsoft of the LMS.  I think the company needs to wake up and smell the beans - otherwise this alienation from their customers will cause them to lose some serious dollars in the future from a fleeing customer base (or from an antitrust hearing).

Monday, June 28, 2010

Real Learning - what is it?

I came across Charles Jennings's piece the other day titled "Real learning – let’s not confuse it with completing templated exercises." It's quite a fascinating read and I encourage all of you to read through it and think about it. This piece reminded me of my Knowledge Management days as an MBA student, and as an Instructional Design student in thinking about corporate learning. A few nights ago however this piece had relevance in the academia context as well in the form of a discussion about plagiarism/academic honesty (pick whichever term you see fit - glass half-empty/glass half-full - same thing)

Charles writes:
Firstly, let’s clear something up. We shouldn’t confuse what L&D/Training departments spend a lot of their time on with real learning.

Learning professionals spend a significant amount of their time (maybe even the majority) designing and delivering content and then evaluating completions and short-term memory outputs from structured mandatory and compliance training modules and courses.

Although this activity is a necessary and sometimes important one (even if only to keep the CEO and Chairman out of the courts and prison) it has little to do with real learning.

Compliance training is primarily about recording activity and gathering data that can be provided to regulatory or professional bodies or kept for a rainy day.

In the Academic Honesty context, there is a parallel to this. Students, both graduate and undergraduate students, may have to take some sort of 1-credit or no-credit seminar that goes over research and academic honesty. Getting that one credit (or check mark on their transcript if it's not for credit) is the same as getting certified that you've gone through the mandatory training.

Does this mean that learning has not occurred? Charles writes that it all has to do with short term memory, taking a test, and then forgetting about what you learned. While I don't disagree, I don't agree either. My take on this is holding people accountable - how does this training integrate with my day-to-day work? How does one test to make sure I am complying with what I learned in that mandatory training?

If we go back to the plagiarism prevention context, let's assume that the university does its due diligence and makes sure that all students take and pass some sort of academic honesty curriculum. What happens from there? Who makes sure that students stay on the path to academic honesty? Well the answer is quite easy: the faculty who teach courses of course! They are the people who should be diligently keeping an eye out for proper citations, lists of works cited, and keeping an eye out for blatant plagiarism (copy and paste from other sources without credit). Then it's up to a university entity (a writing center perhaps?) and the professor to see if this student was:
(1) not aware of the rules (pretty hard to prove if they passed the seminar)
(2) simply forgot to cite
(3) just didn't care and tried to get away with it.

Once one of these options is determined to be the cause action needs to be taken (remedial training in academic honesty, more help at the writing center, academic probation, whatever).

The fact of the matter is that I've never noticed a consistent application of such academic honesty rules among the faculty. As human beings we are instinctively looking for ways to cut corners (in a good way of course) - to try to get the job done faster, easier, with fewer steps. Plagiarism is certainly faster (even if it's not our own work) and if students think they can get away with it, they aren't stupid! They will try to get away with it. The system needs a way of tracking whether real learning took place, and that's visible in practice. If it's not tracked in practice, the training is useless.

Which brings me back to the original article. Charles writes:

learning is a continuous personal process that isn’t measured by any form of pre- and post-assessment, no matter how sophisticated.

It seems to me that learning CAN be measured, but not ALL learning can be measured. It seems to me that he is talking about life-long learning, something that you don't necessarily do in a class. Something that you do to improve yourself because you want to, not because someone else is telling you that you have to. Learning in a classroom for certification's sake isn't learning - BUT if you tie that learning into tangible work-area benefits and have a system of checks to make sure that the learning is integrated into the work-area, then that classroom learning CAN be real learning.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How will you grade this?

Last weekend I finished reading the book Second Language Teaching and Learning in the Net Generation. It was an interesting book, recommended for both Instructional Designers and Language Teachers alike. Some chapters as admittedly better than others, but as a whole the book was quite good (related note: follow me on GoodReads).

Hot on the heels of this I came across a post on ProfHacker called "How are you going to grade this? Evaluating classroom blogs". Instructors in our Instructional Design program drilled into us the, by now, infamous WIIFM (What's In It For Me) - learners are going to ask this before they take any course (or learning event) that you design. Well, the question that I (and my fellow students) were asking once we were in the course was "How is this assignment going to be graded?" Learning is all nice and dandy but in the end we need to achieve a certain grade and knowing the grading rubric helps us focus our work.

In any case, this post on ProfHacker was something that I did not encounter in the book I read, and I thought it was important to link these two items together. So how do you grade a blog (and it's associated blog posts)? The article is pretty good, so I won't summarize it for you (just go an read it, it's free and it doesn't take that long :-) ) but I will point out something that really stood out to me.

In this blog post (and in others about technology), it appears to me that people are constrained by existing paradigms of how things work. An example of this constraint is using the standard research paper format on a blog - just text and nothing else. When you are using some new medium (and associated tech that accompanies that medium), it is important to break out of the conventions of the older medium and have the new medium embrace and extend those older methodologies.

For instance, in traditional papers (the dead tree kind), the convention for citations is a giant Works Cited list at the bottom of the paper. In blogs, while I still think there should be references and Works Cited lists, why not hyperlink them? Instead of listing a book, why not link to the WorldCat page for that book or an Amazon listing for that book? If you got an academic article from a database, why not hyperlink to that article's persistent URL? The same principles applies of hyperlinking apply to footnotes and endnotes - you can link to other places for more information.

In addition to linking to textual sources, students can embed charts and illustrations, video and audio - some of these media types not always an option in the dead-tree-edition of a research paper :-) Using comments for constructive feedback is also another great use of a blog. Why post it online if you aren't going to allow for peer feedback?

I think that the advice on ProfHacker is really on the ball: instructors must "ensur[e] that blogging has a purpose besides just reducing the use of paper."

So how will you grade your class' blog posts? That's up to you, but if I were teaching I would ensure that in my grading rubric has a section for the utilization of hypertext's potential - in addition to other things of course.

Friday, June 18, 2010

DDC and it's utility in Public Libraries

So here is a library related post :-)

A while back (a long while back according the date!) I came across this article on LIS news - a short essay on the utility of the Dewey Decimal System in public libraries.

For as long as I can remember there has been debate in the public library sphere as to whether to continue to use the Dewey Decimal System (henceforth: DDC) or if they should switch to something called BISAC. If you've ever walked into a bookstore in the US (and probably in Canada as well) the shelves are organized by the BISAC system. The argument for BISAC is that it's easy for people to find books, whereas in DDC (or in LC numberings) it's not as easy. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think that Dewey is infallible, it is after all a man-made system and as such it has flaws, however I could not really put my finger on why I would not like my public library to switch to BISAC. And then I read this:

“Customers often comment that when they visit bookstores, they can find things easily and would like that ease of use in libraries.” This statement is unsurprising. Bookstores, along with the public relations and marketing firms that guide their corporate philosophies, have invested heavily in selling an experience to customers. That experience includes the notion that the customer has found exactly what was wanted or needed: a manufactured need. Whether or not the item the customer takes home is what the customer wanted or needed in the first place – if, in fact, the customer wanted or needed anything in the first place – is irrelevant, because bookstores are designed to make the customer take something home

This is what I could not place my finger on! A bookstore is designed to sell books, it doesn't matter what they sell you, they just want to sell something to you! I often don't go to bookstores if I am looking for a specific book because I have a hard time finding what I want! I have an easier time on Amazon. If I just want to browse, then I go to the bookstore (which isn't very often, I must admit!)

It all comes down to goals: Libraries (for the most part) are repositories on knowledge, information and entertainment. When you go to the library you are looking for a specific title (book, CD or DVD), you don't necessarily go to browse - If it's hard to find a book, the solution isn't a whole new system - it's using text to replace numbers! In DDC for example the 400 range is "Language" - Why write 400? Why not put "LANGUAGE" at the end of the stacks and then further label the dictionaries, the research, the French, Italian, English and German sections? In essence you are accomplishing the same thing as converting to BISAC without the expense of converting.

Furthermore, there can be (and there are!) temporary holding locations for new stuff and stuff that you want to move around - just like a store. You can have your back catalog in the main stacks, but items you want to showcase can be up front, near the entry of the library (I know my public library does this).

So in the end, what have we learned? All this talk about converting to BISAC and handwringing on whether DDC has reached the end of its useful life is just a bunch of worrying (from where I sit). It's not the system! It's the marketing and user experience that's the problem :-)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Facebook or Tattoo?

A while back this posting came out from the Chief Security guru at the UMass Boston campus regarding the information you post on Facebook and how, by using it, you may potentially self-sabbotage future opportunities at jobs (or ever higher education). While there is some good advice given in the article, namely:

Make sure that you allow only people that you know for sure as friends and give them the access you want them to have. You never know when some stranger is looking at your personal information.

the blog post, in my opinion, fails to demonstrate that this is not just a shortcoming of facebook, but rather something that every web user has to know. Before facebook (and a lot of other Web 2.0 types of applications) only a few knowledgeable people were able to put stuff on the web. They knew that what they posted was public, and eventually what they found out was that someone was archiving it! If you know a URL and want to see what a website looked like in the past, go to the WayBackMachine at and have a look for yourself. Just because you pulled something off a server, it doesn't mea it's completely gone.

I think that we ought to teach our kids and our learners what the cautious way is to putting out information about ourselves, instead of fearmongering over one platform's security choices - after all, we may leave facebook, but there are other places out there that we post our info that can be problematic down the road.

As a side note, when I was a kid I thought a bobble bubble tattoo or a super mario tattoo would be cool ;-)

Friday, June 4, 2010

ID Research vs. Application

One of the articles lingering in my Google Reader for a while has been this blog post. The topic piqued my interest since I've written (or talked a lot about) the role of research in practice in the ID field over the past few years while I was a student in ID (graduation today - yay!).

One of my criticisms has been that professionals in the field (based on my observations) don't pay much attention to research being done and how that research can benefit your organization. Of course research itself does have caveats and certain conditions that were true in the research study that may not be true in your organization, thus it is unwise to actually take research on face value and implement it wholesale without doing some critical analysis of what the research environment was like, how that environment compares to your environment and without doing your own experiments before you implement something throughout the organization.

I do agree with the author that the gap between research and practice needs to not be so wide, but it's all about how your roll it out rather than the methodology itself. We need to get away from our method fetish - we should realize that there is no cookie cutter approach that works in every situation and that quite often methods need to be mixed and matched to fit your specific environment and your learners.

Which brings me to ADDIE...
Here's a quote:
For example, if someone researches and writes about the ADDIE theory and I have to implement it in my organization, it is most common that I will not able to implement it as it is defined in books.

Now first off, ADDIE is not a theory. ADDIE is a framework, a methodology, a systems approach to design. Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate (and start all over if necessary). This is an example of the methods fetish. There are many wars (or skirmishes) on the use of ADDIE (or Dick & Carey, or ASSURE or...or...or...). People are missing the point. These are models, not theories. They guide the design process, they tell you nothing of the learners and your environment. You also don't need to implement something as it is in a book.

Sure a Subject Matter Expert wrote the book (we hope so anyway), but that doesn't mean that that SME knows your specific environment! We shouldn't be mindless automatons using a cookie cutter ID model, or implementing some new fad because one or two research papers dealt with it - these things need to be critically analyzed through the lens of your environment. If they are deemed good, then you need to plan to see how all the pieces fit together.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Brief History of Instructional Design

Happy Friday to all!

I came across this presentation a while back and it presents a brief history of instructional design. Pretty interesting! I came across some familiar names (Skinner and Mager for instance), and I was introduced to a few historical factoids that I didn't get as part of my ID training. It's interesting that there isn't much mention of ID models (a la Dick & Carey and ADDIE). I would be interested to see if someone has created some sort of genealogy of ID models out there in the interwebs...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Some unexpected figures...

It's the week after finals and before graduation. Campus was pretty much dead today. I took the opportunity to look at scribd to see if there are any good EdTech related documents and per chance I looked at my account. I gotta says that I am pretty surprised by some of the numbers I see.

First off, my Instructional Design Capstone, Greek for Travelers, has been viewed over 300 times in the month that I've put it up. Now this is somewhat surprising, but not that unexpected since it's the only capstone in the online (volunteer) instructional design repository and I've spoken about it to many current students in the program.

What I find fascinating are three linguistics documents that I have put up that were assignments for various classes in the applied linguistics program. In a month, my paper on the use of subjunctive in contemporary American English has been viewed over 120 times, a Thematic Unit Module that I created on Greek Kiosks was viewed over 100 times and a paper I wrote on Data Driven Learning was downloaded over 220 times (I didn't know that Data Driven Learning was so popular).

The interesting thing is that papers I wrote while an MBA student that I've posted on the same service tend to get way fewer views. I wonder why :-) There must be more educators on Scribd than management people :-)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Exams | Done

Well, exams are now done, I just finished my Sociolinguistics final last night and I am relieved to be done with all my academic obligations of the semester - now I can chill out for a few weeks and ruin my brain with wonderful television and video games :-)

The funny thing about last night's exam was that we had the option of choosing which questions we wanted to answer, and from an informal exit-poll it seems like all of the class answered questions 4 and 5.

Here's a comic strip dedicated to those who still need to grade exams and project :-)


Monday, May 3, 2010

Week 13 of 13!

Yes indeed! The semester is almost over!

I have two classes tomorrow night and I am done with Instructional Design :-) Next week I have a sociolinguistics class (on a different schedule than Instructional Design) and I am almost done for the semester!

Funny thing, since I posted some of my assignments on Scribd (especially those linguistics papers), I've gotten emails from people looking for more resources on the subject. I don't really fancy myself an expert on some of these topics (after all I've only taken one or two classes on the subject), but I am happy to help people with their research :-)

If you cite any of my papers, do send me an email - it will make my day! :-)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Capstone now available on Scribd

This week I received the good news that my capstone had been viewed and evaluated by the powers that be, so since they know that I've done my work, I've decided to post my capstone on Scribd to share it with the community.

Truth be told, I am not really sure when I will be able to capitalize on my capstone (actually building the course which I have designed) so I've released the work under a Creative Commons BY-SA license, this way if there are Greek language teachers out there that want to use this work to collaborate on building this course, or if there are multimedia people who want to get some practice editing video or creating podcasts, or any actors that want to practice their acting skills, here's a venue.

I guess if there is enough interest by a number of parties I can create a community to organize this effort :-) In the mean time, if you are interested in language learning, and in particular learning or teaching Greek, head on over to Scridb to have a look.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Capstone | Done!

Well, that's it folks! The capstone is completely done!

I've proof-read the thing at least 6 times, made edits, added stuff, removed stuff, and kept myself from going overboard with the appendices! I printed it out, bound it, and submitted it! Woohoo!

Of course school isn't over for the semester, there are still projects for other classes that will keep me busy until May, but at least there is one thing off my plate :-) Since it is under CC licensing, as soon as I get a grade (and a diploma on hand), I will most likely post my fine work somewhere for people to use and add to it as they see fit :-)

Now all I have is:
1. term paper for Sociolinguistics class
2. eLearning project for INSDSG 616
3. a journal entry for my communications class
4. a presentation for my Sociolinguistics class

My Google starred items, things that I want to comment on is getting huge - I'll probably have to prune it before I can start commenting on it ;-)

Monday, March 22, 2010

ePortfolios - my take

Response to a colleague on sister campus, via our campus technology Google Group -- check out Carrie's original post here:


I was debating whether to leave a comment on your blog (as well as post on the Google group) or whether to post on my blog and the Google Group. Since this seemed like a rather lengthy topic I opted to post on my EdBlog :-)

Speaking of Blackboard...all I can say about that LMS is "bleh". We use WebCT Vista (aka Blackboard Vista) on our campus. I'm sure that the ePortfolio trial we had at our campus was because we couldn't wait for WebCT to implement something in their LMS products. Of course looking at some of the social features of Vista all I can say is that it's good that we started a trial instead of waiting for the LMS vendors to do something (it would have probably been bad anyway ;-) )

I personally don't have an ePortfolio, opting instead to list my academic work in my online CV (under print and online). In a sense, my ePortfolio for the instructional design program is the stuff I started for student/alumni network (wiki, ning community, twitter, etc.) and also my capstone project which I will be offering under a Creative Commons BY-SA license.

Of course, had I seriously pondered an ePortfolio earlier on in my academic career, I would have done all my work with the intent to fit into an ePortfolio from the start. I don't have the energy to go back retroactively and put it all out there :-) I think that it would be great for my graduate program to require students to have an ePortfolio for many reasons, some of which are:

  • To get some of my technologically challenged classmates out of their comfort zone and experiment some more - as instructional designers and eLearning professionals I think this is important.

  • To showcase your academic work to potential employers - even if your hard drive crashes, having your work online means that you always have access to it.

  • To create further incentive to produce top notch work - I know that we're all hard working graduate students, but having out material visible to the world gives us that extra incentive to polish projects to a shine!

  • To show how you've grown as a professional - unlike computers, we don't have two states: incomplete and complete. Showing that we've grown as we've progressed through the curriculum is important!

I think in our program it would have to be included into the syllabus and the design of each course taught in the program - along with other things - so it's something to add to our lobbying group's agenda LOL. :-)

As far as your situation with submitting your ePortfolio on CD-ROM, let me play devil's advocate for a moment. CD-ROMs may be boring, but they are also archival (much more so than websites). If a program is asking for an ePortfolio submission, they need a snapshot of that ePortfolio at the time of your graduation that goes into their records. If someone needs to go back and verify that you did the work you needed to do to graduate from the program, that information is easily accessible. On a website on the other hand, that information in malleable and it doesn't necessarily represent your work at the time that you were a student in that institution.

An ePortfolio can kill two birds with one stone. It can be something you can show to future prospective employers, and as such an online option that has a good UI is preferable to a CD-ROM. Then again, the schools don't care much about that part. What they want is something that they can look at, stamp with a seal of approval, give you your degree, and then keep the Portfolio for their records in case anyone asks. For this purpose the CD is much better.

By the way, I like your idea of using a wiki to create and an ePortfolio while tapping into your YouTube, SlideShare and Scribd accounts. Personally I think I would probably go with Rapidweaver (on the mac), create a custom theme and upload the Porfolio to the my hosted space :-) (similar to what I did with my CV). I think that with rapidweaver, the stacks plug-in (and others!) and with page-within-page you can come up with some pretty nice ePortfolios (provided that you've got some time on your hands to mess around :-) )