2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 62 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 548 posts. There were 48 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 10mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was March 31st with 57 views. The most popular post that day was Kluging: An LMS Alternative.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were teacher.pageflakes.com, c4lpt.co.uk, twitter.com, ianmason.net, and browse.workliteracy.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for visual literacy, fotobook editor, udutu, google cheat sheet 2010, and google search cheat sheet.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Kluging: An LMS Alternative October 2008
11 comments

2

Visual Literacy and Visual Thinking July 2008
10 comments

3

Joan Vinall-Cox’s E-Portfolio September 2008
20 comments

4

Photobook Adventures (and advice) December 2008
4 comments

5

udutu – Free, Easy, and Perhaps Unnecessary August 2008
2 comments

The Web is a Bottomless Toy Chest

I like to play on the web, and my biggest problem is my “I-can’t-catch-up” anxiety. There is always more to explore. And for free, either for the basic version or for a month. I can never try everything out. I can’t catch up. Ever.

I make things even more intense by following people who suggest really interesting web toys. Like Jane Hart, with her Jane’s E-Learning tip of the Day

If you teach or train, or just like to play on the web, you should check out her blog, and subscribe to it.Another of my current people to follow ’cause they give really neat toys – whoops, I mean URLs – away, is Steve Rubel – http://www.steverubel.com/ – Twice he mentioned Posterous. The first time, I tried it but left it orphaned. The second time, months, maybe years, later, I found my original account and started playing, even sort-of lifestreaming, copying him. Great fun.

His constant exploration and evolution is inspiring. Check him out, and subscribe to him in Posterous, and maybe to me too;-> As they say on tv, “Time well wasted!”

Social Bookmarking – Diigo

Social bookmarking is one of the most useful aspects of the web. You can use it to create your own online library, organized to your own interests by using tags. Although I’ve been using some form of social bookmarking for years, every so often I want to review what I can do with the social bookmarking tools I use.

Currently I use Diigo and del.icio.us.

One of the useful aspects of webapps is that many give you notice when an upgrade is available, and then, when you install it, open a page explaining all the changes. Diigo has recently upgraded and among the items available in the upgrade page were these very informative videos:

I use two social bookmarking apps because I’m wary of any web app closing down, and having two makes it more likely that I’ll still have access to most of my saved bookmarks if one closes. But who wants to do that extra work you ask? It’s no extra work, because I can save to Diigo and have my new bookmark automatically added to my del.icio.us account.

Diigo to del.icio.us
Diigo to del.icio.us

The final step I’ve taken is to add a del.icio.us widget to my blog so readers can see what I’ve been saving.

My del.icio.us widget
My del.icio.us widget

If you don’t already use social bookmarking, you might want to give it a try.

Always Beta, Never Done

The most fascinating thing about the web is that there is no end; there is always more and new.

The most frustrating thing about the web is that there is no end; there is always more and new.

Everything is always changeable. My website – jnthweb.ca – is not the same now as it was a half-hour ago. I just added my most recent brilliant idea,

Currently, I look at Twitter using the third or fourth application I’ve tried. It’s Nambu now; it was TweetDeck, and who knows what I’ll try next. And Twitter is the poster child for constant change, as Tweet after Tweet flips by.

My friend showed me her new laptop today, and I drooled enviously, although mine does everything I want and need and is only a little more than a year old.

I’m behind in my Bloglines again, no, make that still. I never did fully catch up.

Trying to catch up! - via Creative Commons/Flickr
Trying to catch up! - via Creative Commons/Flickr

So I love the web, and I learn so much from what often feels like frittering my time away, but there is no end to  what you can learn to do and learn and do on it. Clay Shirky, in Here Comes Everybody, says in the first 100 years after the invention of the printing press, it broke more than it fixed. I know that the printing press brought endless developments with it from dictionaries to science, from the Enlightenment to romance novels, and more. And here we are in the same early stage with the web, where everything is alway beta, never done!

Higher Education’s Survival

Sometimes you find someone saying what you have been thinking about. I think the future of higher education is in danger, and I would hate to see the loss of something so precious. Through Stephen Downes wonderful newsletter, OLDaily, which can be linked to here – http://www.downes.ca/, I found David Wiley’s 2008 ELearn presentation – http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/660 – which I’m embedding below. Serious food for thought


udutu – Free, Easy, and Perhaps Unnecessary

udutu – The price is right, free if you don’t use their server.

udutu
udutu

It’s fairly straightforward to use –

udutu work screen
udutu work screen

You can put it up on Facebook and learners can access it there –

My course on Facebook
My "course" on Facebook

The teacher’s view above and the learners’ below –

Self Assessment
Self Assessment

I like udutu’s encouraging course creators to use the assessment tool for learners to self-assess, rather than scoring with it. It allows learners to repeat going through the materials as often as they want.

I like the ease of use with no coding, and only some figuring out needed. The small “course” I created took 2 to 3 hours and was based on a pre-existing PowerPoint, an udutu suggestion. That’s pretty quick for a first try.

I like the appearance, what the pages look like.

I have two provisos:

  1. For a highly factual content course, it might be a good fit, but for a course with a lot of student input, the kind I usually teach, it could be too prescribed.
  2. As the early WebCT did for me, udutu could provide a kind of scaffolding for teachers new to using the web in their teaching. However, having read Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joinedhttp://www.smallpieces.com/ – at an impressionable stage in my learning about the web,  I prefer to use separate applications linked to each other. For my fall course, students will be using a class wiki, which will be linked to a class community blog, which will be, of course, linked back to the wiki. Within the wiki and the blog, there will be other links
  • to web applications needed to complete the course
  • to tutorials and information about those web applications
  • to student-chosen links
  • to assignments

To me, this is the most efficient way to set up a class, and it matches the overall web culture, as I understand it. Students will be living, learning and working in that culture in their futures, so why put them in a tight framework in this part of their learning.

So udutu might work for some purposes, but not for my current ones.

MERLOT 2008, Web 2.0, Part 2

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