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MERLOT 2008, Web 2.0, Part 2

August 15, 2008

I’m home again from the MERLOT Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and found it exciting for a number of reasons, especially as it was the first academic conference I’ve ever attended that had a strong focus on the importance of web 2.0 for teaching and learning. I think the MERLOT members are ahead of many other educators because they are most concerned with distance learning, and the possibilities of web 2.0 are really useful in making online courses rich and lively.

Here are some of the presentations I attended:

The 12/10 Conspiracy: Guiding Faculty and Staff Exploration of Web 2.0  as Learning Tools – Fritz Nordengren gave a highly polished performance using the 12/10  tarradiddle as an amusing shell for valuable suggestions about how to encourage exploration and adoption of web 2.0 applications to support learning and teaching. I found his reference to the PEW Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users especially helpful. I agree with him that people have individual needs and often require individual coaching, and that we are still defining what the basic technology skills are. Very enjoyable and informative.

ZSR Library Presents: Blogs & Wikis @ Wake Forest University – Susan Smith, Lauren Pressley and Kevin Gilbertson, from the MERLOT 2008 program:

Blogs and wikis are valuable communication and educational tools. These technology-enabled instruction tools can supplement or replace the traditional LMS. To provide the faculty with 21st Century educational tools, Z. Smith Reynolds Library offers locally hosted blogs and wikis for classroom use. This service supports the university’s academic mission, as well as allows the library to fulfill its mission of collecting, indexing, and preserving local content. To create a successful program, library staff integrate instructional design and technology training for faculty. This presentation will provide a program overview, explanation of the instruction, and the specifics of the open-source technology implementation.

I like their approach of hosting WordPress – http://mu.wordpress.org/ and MediaWiki http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki installations on their server for multiple accounts. WordPress is a highly regarded free blogging application; I use the WordPress.com account myself, while theirs is the WprdPress.org version. MediaWiki is the wiki used for Wikipedia; I prefer wiki applications that are totally WYSIWYG while MediaWiki requires some wiki coding. Intelligent and interesting presentation.
Talking with Technology: Asynchronous, Synchronous Communication and Beyond Using Free Software – Takako Shigehisa. Of special interest to teachers and learners of languages. In this excellent presentation, the following applications were introduced: Audacity, which I use in my own Oral Communications course, Photostory3, SkypePowergramo, and Chinswing, plus Gizmo ProjectVoiceThreads and iVisit – A rich selection of very useful teaching/learning tools.
Facebook and Podcasting: Convergence for Freshmen – Peter Juvinall suggests going where the students already are:

Facebook provides a unique opportunity for educators in that it enables a convergence of communication technology. This presentation will cover the benefits of using Facebook as a classroom management solution, the lessons learned from a freshman-level class, and a proper approach to using it in a classroom environment in conjunction with podcasting and traditional means of classroom communication.

Interesting approach, although I’m not sure I’d want all my students on my Facebook account, and not sure they would want me on theirs. Juvinall, however, makes sophisticated use of Facebook Groups and other possibilities. Very interesting and student-oriented approach.
eLearning Strategic MERLOT – Robbie Melton is an amazingly skilled speaker, and I found her strategies fascinating and practical. As the chief academic officer for the 5th largest system of education in the USA, with a 29% increase in online learning this year, she has her institution use MERLOT as an integral part of faculty development. As a teacher of rhetoric, I was deeply impressed by her speaking skills, and personally envious. As a teacher educator, I admired her sensible approach for involving both teachers and students using MERLOT.
Wikis and the Pressure of Public Writing – Dorothy Fuller case study on having groups do collaborative research and writing using wikis was very valuable. Her description of how inhibited people are when editing other people’s text, matched my own reactions to using wikis. This is an important aspect to using wikis for collaboration; we, as a culture, have to learn the ‘skill’ of sharing writing tasks in a public space. An informative piece of research.
Web2.0, the Social Media and Academia: Using Personal Learning Environments to Expand Teaching and Learning – my presentation – described by blogger Lauren Pressley http://laurenpressley.com/library/?p=623 She kindly didn’t mention the technical snafu when the Hotel Hilton’s irritatingly weak wireless system caused my computer to crash, leaving me to talk through the last third instead of showing. My PowerPoint can be found on SlideShare here – http://www.slideshare.net/vinall/merlot2008-vinall-cox-j-presentation

So I learned a lot at MERLOT – check out the richness of the program if you like, – http://conference.merlot.org/2008/Program2008.html – and I met people interested in the web applications I find both useful and fascinating for teaching and learning. Some people I will encounter again on the social network based on Ning called MERLOT Voices – http://voices.merlot.org/
I recommend MERLOT membership –  http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm

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