From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able by Wesch

Academic Commons
Academic Commons

Michael Wesch is a pedagogical hero of mine. I’ve watched videos his classes made; I’ve watched a video of him explaining his teaching, and I asked a question on Twitter, and even though he doesn’t follow me, got an anwser from him within a few hours! He understands the impact of the new communication ecosphere we swim in, applies his understanding to his teaching, and can explain clearly why this is urgently central to education.

Here is a link to my highlighted copy of his recent Academic Commons article – From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able which I discovered via Stephen Downes. Indeed, as Wesch says, you set up your network and information comes to you.

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 –, I found David Wiley’s 2008 ELearn presentation – – which I’m embedding below. Serious food for thought

Kluging: An LMS Alternative

I confess I’m ambivalent about Learning Management Systems such as WebCT ad Desire2Learn. (I’m not at all ambivalent about Content Management Systems, such as WordPress – I am an enthusiastic user.) The distinction is that an LMS is a container for class work –

Learning Management System is a broad term used for a wide range of systems that organize and provide access to online learning services for students, teachers, and administrators. …

and a CMS is

used to edit your website by giving the user an interface where they can log in and make text, graphic or structural amends to then publish the new pages on the live website. …

I’m ambivalent about LMSs because I learned to use the web in teaching using an early version of WebCT – it was a scaffold for my learning and, as such, I hold it in some affection. However, as a teacher of communication skills and arts, as someone fascinated by language, I continued to learn about what could be done on the web, even outside of the LMS. Both passion and a sense of (teacher) responsibility drove me.

Currently I avoid, as much as I can, LMSs. Instead I kluge together a loose collection of free web applications, (Eduspaces Community blog, PBwiki, Pageflakes, Audacity, a password-protected mark site, and whatever free file-hosting service my current students recommend.) It’s a bit more work than using a LMS but I believe this approach, the kluging together of a selection of free web services, is a richer and more productive teaching practice.

Pageflakes - the homepage for my kluged together cellection of web apps for my course
Pageflakes - the homepage for my kluged together collection of web apps for my course

Instead of keeping my students within a walled (and very expensive for the institution) garden, I am requiring them to learn how to use sites that are easily available to them for their personal and professional purposes. I am helping them become more indenpendant and sophisticated users of the most profoundly new communication tool our species has ever seen. And I’m pulling/pushing them into being part of creating the evolving web culture.

Publishing Changes

The web is less than 20 years old, but I see some remarkable yet indirect changes in the other media which are occurring because of it. Newspapers, magazines, tv shows, publishing, and textbook publishing are all being affected.

About a year ago I noticed that the way the Toronto Star, numbered its sections had changed. I had grown up with the sections in most newspapers being alphabetical, which seemed natural in our print-based society. The change was to a system where the sections were labeled with the first letter of the section’s name. So the Sports section was “S”, the Living section was “L”, Ideas was “ID”, only the World section had the atypical label, “AA”. It looked to me like the web-created concept of tagging, where you label sites you bookmark with terms that indicate what makes them relevant for you, (an approach made workable by hypertext linking) had ousted the print-based alphabetical approach. The Toronto Star had a number of their journalists blogging by then, but to me that seemed like a less significant change. Writers write, and any medium will do. Labeling sections in a new way and expecting readers to ‘get’ it and seamlessly shift to it, was a subtler but more radical change, to my way of thinking.

When magazines started developing an online presence that seemed pretty sensible to me too. Nothing too radical, just information, text and visuals, also available online. There was a cultural and economic bump, though. The paper & print versions of magazines and newspapers charged money. Customers had to pay for their copies. The web culture is based on free access, a very different approach. There are some sites that demand payment, but the practice has largely shaken out to the current web business culture: something for free, and payment only for more advanced information or features. The money is made from advertising revenue.

I also watch TV news shows, and my two most watched, the CBC and the BBC, provide extensive online news, with the BBC even offering one minute world news available any time!

BBC Website
BBC Website

Book publishing, in my opinion, is going through the most radical change. The gatekeepers that made publishing difficult and limited which books were published are gone, along with the jobs (and skills) that used to be required. Typesetting is now done on the author’s computer, using software. Editing is also the author’s responsibility, whether done by the writer or hired out. The expense of a set number of books published in the hopes that they will all be sold is becoming a thing of the past, replaced by just-in-time printing. Self-publishing is now possible and growing.

Last year I tutored a 14 year old who wrote a very really good coming-of-age novel. Rather than seek out an agent and pitch the novel, we went to, worked through the set-up process, and ordered enough copies for her family. They are attractive books that make her, and her readers, proud. Another friend wrote a good, but atypical detective novel; he used Amazon self-publishing because his book would then be part of their catalogue. And I’m putting together a collection of family photos for a Christmas gift (for someone whom I hope doesn’t read this ;-> ) that I will self-publish.

What inspired me to write this blog post was a textbook publishing site I just stumbled upon, Flat World Knowledge Its study texts (read about their very different approaches) won’t be available till 2009, but it is a very interesting and web-culture concept.

So the web is bringing all kinds of changes to the media world, in fact, –

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Analyst Marcel Fenez has told the World Association of Newspapers readership conference that traditional media has 5 years left until the death clock kicks in. –

So what are business and education doing to prepare for this evolving new media environment?

Dan Tapscott and Educating the Digital Students

I attended some very enjoyable PD sessions today in the beautifully old University College building at the University of Toronto. I was drawn to these sessions because Dan Tapscott was the featured speaker, and I had read, learned from, and admired Wikinomics

Don Tapscott, speaking about Grown Up Digital, at University College, U of T
Don Tapscott, speaking about Grown Up Digital, at University College, U of T

Today he spoke on the digital generation, based on research that he includes in his new book, Grown Up Digital, that’s Grown Up Digital, not his earlier book, Growing Up Digital. I loved what he had to say about the pedagogical implications of teaching students who have grown up in the digital age, and he articulated what I have been observing when I teach. Our students increasingly need, require, respond to, a different approach than the traditional lecture and regurgitate.

I’m not going to cover what he said – he was very amusing and entertaining – I’m just going to suggest you read his book. If you’re a teacher, you really, really, REALLY need to read it and take what he says seriously. It’s very hopeful about the future, and it’s a chellenge for our current teaching practice.

Teaching Communication Now!

As a longtime communications teacher, I am fascinated by our changing communications media and platform. And when I’m teaching, no matter the direct subject I’m teaching, I never lose awareness of the changes our culture is going through, and the responsibility of teachers to help prepare our students for this new and rapidly evolving communications environment. They will be swimming in it for the rest of their professional and personal lives.

What is often unnoticed is that in just over a century we have gone from having one way of recording, putting marks on paper, to multiple ways of recording, all more viscerally immediate than text. Photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures all speak more directly to our senses and emotions than squiggles on paper – which our minds must translate into meaning before we can have our sense and emotional responses. It is easier to think critically when text is what we are ‘reading’ than it is when we see and hear less mediated (so to speak) representations of the world we live in. We are now living in what Ong called “secondary orality” and that is what our students have been growing up in, and to a certain extent, what we grew up in too.

I have never known a world without photographs, radio and records, movies and television. However, text was still the dominant medium, at least in my educational experiences, for most of my early schooling, and mass media ruled. I looked, listened and watched, but I could only critique; I couldn’t participate.

Now I can sit in my study and produce multimedia, as in this blog post.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The audio is poor, but understandable, and I’m combining text with video. I can embed other sites, like what I thought about this new multimedia platform that we can access using computers –

and I can link to other sites for readers/viewers who want to explore more of the educational possibilities –

and I can make movies using my screen –
Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Generating a Table of Figures in Word…”, posted with vodpod

There are other tools that I can use to create a mixed media text, and, here is the point I want to make:

We need to be teaching our students (technical and non-technical) how to compose using the expanding possibilities of the web as a multimedia, participatory communication platform!

Twitter – a Brief Intro

I’ve been ‘playing’ on Twitter for a few months now. I choose who I follow based on whether we appear to have similar interests, and I let anyone who wants to follow me. There are people who I follow who don’t follow me, and people who follow me who I don’t follow back. It makes for a kind of discontinuous ‘conversation’, and you might wonder why I bother. Here are some reasons:

  • it can be interesting seeing what people are doing/thinking in different parts of the world;
  • I find links to sites about things that interest me, mostly about the impact of social media on education and small businesses;
  • I find blogs I want to add to my RSS reader;
  • reading Tweets can take the boredom out of waiting.

If you’ve heard the buzz about Twitter but don’t ‘get’ it, here are two resources that might help you start, but you have to play on Twitter for at least a month to find out how you might want to use it, and if it’s useful for you.

CommonCraft’s Twitter in Plain English by Lee LeFever

Biz Stone’s How Do You Use Twitter, on Vimeo

The discipline of only having 140 character spaces helps you practice alternative phrasing, brevity, and, possibly, texting spellings. The availablity of Twitter on mobile devices allows you to do silly things like watch political debates while reading Tweets and writing them while the debate (or game or show) is still going on.

Personally I use a variety of Twitter applications:

  • On my laptop
    • – the home site
    • – which allows me to see any Replys or Direct Messages even if I’ve missed them when they first showed up on Twitter
    • There are many, many Twitter applications – use Google if you want to try some of the others.
  • On my iPhone
    • Twitterific – which is free from the App Store
    • Summizer – $2.99 from the App Store and allows you to search for topics and/or follow hashtags (Look it up;-> I had to).

So give Twitter a try, but do watch out; it can become addictive;->

Live Blogging WordCamp – Day2

on my feet
on my laptop
Our awesome M.C. - Matthieu
Our awesome M.C. - Matthieu

Keeping WordPress Secure – Mark Jaquith

Upgrades will be automatic, and that will help keep up with security issues.

Top 50 plugins – good security, but less popular ones might have security problems.

WP 2.6 – notifications on plugin upgrades

Themes usually not a security issue, but can be – no system to check yet – again more popular ones, more seen, therefore likely more secure

Databases & hashtags important, but password security essential – bad if –

  • you can pronounce it
  • you haven’t used the shift key
  • you use it somewhere else
  • you write it down
  • it includes personal info

Info for developers – lots of code …

WordPress becoming much more secure! Result of concentrated effort by WordPress developers being very careful about code.

Password solutions –

  • others available

Running Your Blog Like a Pro – David Peralty

  • Blog every day
  • research your topics
  • prove your passion or expertise
  • come up with unique angle – don’t copy or be generic
  • look at what inspires you – use that to inspire yourself – interview, break news, dissect
  • promote your content – network, social bookmarking & sharing, comment on other blogs, Twitter etc., aggregate updates
  • track & join the conversation – etc.
  • Getting more comments – questions, open endings, be controversial, respond to comments
  • make commenting easy, thank people for commenting
  • getting links – compelling content, link bait, guest posting, create services, try out other media (audio & video)
  • Link bait = long, detailed, easy-to-digest, funny, useful, hard-to-replicate
  • increasing revenue = try other ad services, test ad placements, direct ad sales
  • don’t be afraid of ads – look at your competition’s ads, court advertisers, don’t undersell yourself (perceived value important)
  • secondary efforts – book deals, job offers, speaking opportunities
  • make your blog dummy proof – every page has contact info, make it easy to advertise, offer to promote their content
  • Find what’s limiting you – links? ads? content? SEO? more contacts? guest posting on other blogs?

Question Answers

  • colour coding for different topics
  • “link bait” definition – primary purpose, get people to share – compelling content
  • ad systems – “adify” –
  • FeedBurner – useful – some copyright protections
  • David avoids plugins, 3rd party comment services

Mark McKay – Video Blogging

Mark McKay - Video Blogging
Mark McKay - Video Blogging

  • Great video on Canadian content on tv
  • a videoblog can be anything! – tutorials, news, community activism, personal etc.
  • videoblog can be like a tv show – Mark is on MTV live


  • think before you speak – comments will respond! – have the facts
  • duration – about 2 minutes or less – long enough to make your point – short enough for a quick watch
  • Fair Copyright for Canada – Kill Bill C61 > viral, Michael Geist’s site – great video – 61 seconds
  • 12Seconds –
  • the camera doesn’t really matter – file size important though (100 mb) – compress before uploading
  • software – iMovie, Avid (free version available on their website), Premier,
  • be careful of the lighting, lots of light or outside, look & sound are important
  • syndicate to iTunes, BlipTV, Yahoo Video,, mdialogue, tubemogul – highly recommended, includes stats
  • viral videos – enter contests and win – especially controversial stuff – post on popular websites with a link to video
  • YouTube has made video mainstream & has created tv stars, brought amateurs into prominence
  • Using video sites saves you bandwidth use and gives you access to their audience – YouTube especially
  • MTV clears his copyright stuff
  • green screen in his basement – painted wall or used a piece of fabric, good lighting needed, there’s a FinalCut Pro plugin that helps

Brendan Sera-Shriar – Making the Most of Plug-ins

Brendan Sera-Shriar
Brendan Sera-Shriar

Plug-ins extend WordPress

Beyond out-of-the-box plug-ins

Customization – look a important as functionality – enhance & simplify the blogging experience of advanced users.especially developers & designers

coding needed for customization – PHP and SQL experience required

coding is a language & is learnable

Tips on writing plug-ins

  • look at source codes, especially of plug-ins you like
  • research to make sure you’re not just repeating
  • use a plug-in template

Demonstration of coding a plug-in

Feeling overwhelmed with content

Entertainment Blogging: A Panel Discussion

Frank Yang, Tim Shore, Chris Budd, Jonathan Dekel

Entrtainment Bloggers
Entertainment Bloggers

Melissa, one of the great organizers
Melissa, one of the great organizers

And I’m out of here ;->

on my feet
on my feet