New Blog Category: Sandbox

Well, I’ve had my Sandbox series this year. It didn’t end so hot this spring semester. Between my changing calendar and the CTLs new workshop scheduling system…we didn’t see much happening. However, I think the CTL and I got the word out to a number of faculty and staff about some cool tools. In the next month or so I’ll be posting an evaluative reflection thingy in the CTL’s wiki. While chatting with Biray today about our “new” technology FPLC next year I had the epiphany that I would do the sandbox in a different way, at least for the rest of the semester, maybe all of next year. Our CTL holds Cuppa, a community building event, each Friday morning. Lately I’ve found myself doing my “check and play with new technologies” on Friday mornings. So why don’t I bring mini-me down to the CTL and check and play with new technologies there?

I’m also thinking I’ll start posting brief little blog entries about the various new technologies I find (thus the new category). For a long time I didn’t do that because there are people already doing great job posting small blog entries at the websites I read (MakeUseOf, LifeHacker, WebAware, etc.). But, they are not necessarily thinking about how/why these technologies might be useful in higher education, specifically teaching and learning. So, as I start playing with new technologies I’m going to post my own version of these brief “check out this tech” blogs. While I will probably start by pointing to their various entries, I will also try to project about how/why I think this technology might be useful in tri-part duties of a faculty member in higher education: teaching, research, and service.

Multi-Modal Conference Reporting

Well…I had good intentions. I got some pictures (notice, however, I’m not alone in cccc07 pics). Stacey got one video up to YouTube. But I didn’t do any audio recording. And that is what my Podcasting FPLC really wanted me to do! I think Duku’s speech during the opening session helped me to understand why I failed; I didn’t have focus! Duku talked about having a set group of questions she asked different CCCCs attendees last year in Chicago. Ahhh Haaa! A focused question, or questions, would help. And then I realized I also hadn’t prepared for dealing with permissions.

Therefore, I have a plan! (Don’t I always, the problem is I have too many of the damn things.) I’m going to pick a single question for each conference I attend. I can then have a focus point to ask people about. I will also come prepared with a clip board and permission slips that will have the whole set of audio, video, picture, etc. permission options. We’ll see how this plays out this summer…I’ve got a handful of conferences I’m attending.

Sandbox: Bookmarking & Blogging

Although it’s already been over a month since the first Sandbox series workshop, I’m still glowing on how well it went. We had eleven participants, including a handful of CTL members and another group of Librarians. I admit, I pressured the Librarians to coming; I really wanted them to play with the social bookmarking tools. We talked about regular bookmarking, social bookmarking, and blogging (25ish minutes). The participants then spent the remainder of the time (60ish minutes) playing with the technologies. We also had a good discussion about security issues. According to the evaluations (both right after the workshop and a month later), people seemed pleased with the workshop.

Regular Bookmarking: I told everyone that I had started giving my students access to a bookmarks file that I made with various resources. I tell students they can import the file into either their Firefox bookmarks or IE my favorites.

Social Bookmarking: As a writing instructor, I discussed how these tools both help students keep track of their research, as well as find new resources by filtering through the social links available.

Blogs: We discussed what blogs were (web-logs) and I discussed how I use them in my classes and as a professional journal.

Inequality in user participation

I’ve been following Jakob Nielsen’s alertbox postings for a couple years now. One of the things I find fascinating about more “traditional” usability studies (which I associate with Nielsen’s work) is that they are very focuses on business models/websites. The more I read about them, the more I realize that educationally focused websites (specifically “course” or “lesson” materials) do not necessarily follow the same trends. For example, Nielsen just posted this alertbox about user inequality of participation on social networking and other “input” internet site like blogs (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html).

I think that educators learned this lesson really quickly with discussion boards. If we didn’t motivate students to post (ie, require a certain amount), the discussion would be very uneven. Now that I’ve switched to blogs, I have my students blogging regularly, because they have to. So, again, my interpretation of Nielsen’s warning is slightly different. He claims that since participation is unequal, we can’t rely on the feedback based on participants and participation statistics. Whereas, when studying technologies in my classes, I think I can rely a little more because everyone is required to use the technologies…they are not there by choice! My usability studies based on these users is not as lopsided; however, it is unbalanced in other ways…as are all studies.

Plug and Play as Interface—on some level, this has nothing to do w/NMC

Brilliant technology folks have come up with a method to interface (OKI, OSID, and Pachyderm?? Still not quite sure…http://www.okiproject.org/) different repositories, with different coding schemes, to allow faculty and students to access a variety of material when searching. What I find fascinating about this discussion (of what I can follow) is that the reason they can interface with the different repositories and their different content through a plug and play method (that is the metaphor for how the interfacing technology works). Brilliant! The idea being that instead of changing the core code of the repository, somehow just plug into it and play it (out I’m guessing?) to then figure out the interface.

I guess I’m just liking this metaphor and method as a way to think about a discussion about feminisms with my women and film students. Basically the postmodern “problem” with various issues based groups/movements is that they recognize that individuals within the organization are made up of different experiences, wants, needs, etc. In other words, how do a bunch of different women, with different backgrounds (class, race, sexuality, education, age, etc.) work together to advocate feminist issues without “re-coding” everything else that makes them individuals?

Academic Blogging is a “Good Thing”

Well…I’m back to this sooner than I thought. I figured I would post to the blog a couple times per week to get up and rolling. But nooooo…today I get a link about professional blogging in the TechRhet listserv (a listserve for rhetoric and composition scholars who teach with and study technologies, specifically primarily technologies, archives located at: http://www.interversity.org/lists/techrhet/archives.html). The link leads to an article from The Boston Globe: http://bostonworks.boston.com/news/articles/2006/04/16/blogs_essential_to_a_good_career/. According to it I should be blogging daily for the first couple of months. I guess this is as good as any distraction from dissertating and grading 😉

And although The Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.com/) has had a series of articles discussing the pitfalls of blogging while trying to advance an academic degree (http://chronicle.com/weekly/v52/i02/02c00301.htm …one among many, I searched with “blog and career”), I still think blogging is good and useful for all the reasons the Boston Globe article discusses. I really like the ethical point about blogging making the world a better place. In my first posting I discussed my concept of Kosmic Kharma…I think the article’s point is similar. And…it begins to make my point (one of the points I want to develop and argue for within this blog as a whole) that blogging is a very appropriate venue for “publishing” the scholarship of teaching and learning.

In various articles about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning scholars distinguish between scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching. For example, in “From Minsk to Pinsk” (http://education.cortland.edu/faculty/slekart/shulman.pdf), Shulman discusses that teaching is scholarly when it is grounded in appropriate research and literature and that the scholarship of teaching is:

when our work as teachers becomes public, peer-reviewed and critiqued, and exchanged with other members of our professional communities so they, in turn, can build on our work. These are the qualities of all scholarship.

I believe that blogs can radically reshape the scholarship of teaching and learning for a couple of reasons.

First, instead of waiting to publish everything that you have learned from your reflective study of your own teaching practices until the end of a course, you can regularly journal about your experiences as you go. Are these less polished, more raw, responses to the “research” that is the teaching and learning going on in your class? Absolutely; however, they are probably more detailed about specific practices and specific responses in a way that you can’t be in the average 30 page peer reviewed article.

Second, as a community college faculty member—who does not get regularly “paid” to conduct research—blogging is a quicker, more readily available method for publishing the “results” of work done with and in my classroom.

However, it is this “quickness w/o peer review” that worries many scholars I talk to. Yeah, blogs can just be the rant and raves (oh wait, isn’t that what I said this blog is?) of any ‘ol individual with access to the internet; however, just like regular webpages…there are “good” and “bad” blogs. We talk about the need for our students to be information literate…shouldn’t we be also? But back to the point, peer review. Shulman’s definition emphasizes “peer review” and “critique.” That is possible with blogs; however, it is not inherent (as with peer review journals). Obviously the technology has to support it (ie, the blog must have a reply feature), but there also has to be readers. But this brings me back full circle to the article from The Boston Globe…it takes time to build readers. I write this knowing that I don’t yet have many, if any, readers…but if I’m diligent, they will come. And eventually, they will read, question, respond, reflect, link to, ping back, etc…basically “critique.” And isn’t this form of critique by colleague a form of peer review?

References:

Blogs ‘essential’ to a good career. (2006, April 16). The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 18, 2006 from http://www.boston.com/

Shulman, L. (2000). From minsk to pinsk: Why a scholarship of teaching and learning? The Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(1), 48-53. Retrieved April 18, 2006, from http://education.cortland.edu/faculty/slekart/shulman.pdf

Up Next?: See above, or I guess technically below, but also recognize how easily that changed…isn’t that the beauty of it all?