Wednesday, November 14, 2007

SL - A 3D Wiki?

It is according to the New World Notes blog. Blogger, W. James Au, believes that until now, SL as a 3D wiki has merely been an analogy. He states,

"Virtual/real world architects Keystone Bouchard
(Ryan Schultz) and Theory Shaw (Jon Brouchoud) of Wikitecture Studio have just filled this gap. Their "Wikitecture Tree" saves the data of a building project into a leaf on the tree. Collaborators can then review and critique each, and if they like, create a new version of it-- which then literally becomes, in turn, another leaf sprouting from the original design. To see any of these iterations, you just click on the leaf, and the design rezzes before your eyes."

A demo of Bouchard and Shaw's Wikitecture Tree is available on YouTube at .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wikipedians and a Representative Sample

Bryant, S. L., Forte, A., & Bruckman, A. (2005). Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of participation in a collaborative online encyclopedia. In M. Pendergast, K. Schmidt, G. Mark, and M. Acherman (Eds.); Proceedings of the 2005 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work, GROUP 2005, Sanibel Island, FL, November 6-9, pp. 1-10. Retrieved February 7, 2007, from

Curt mentioned that this article is heavily cited in journal articles and conference presentations related to the topic of wikis. I thought the authors provided a thought-provoking analysis of the ways in which novices become enculturated into the Wikipedia community. As individuals become move from novices to "experts" in this community, the roles shift from user to contributor to guardian. While articles tend to note the limitations of the study, the authors' disclosure in this particular piece made me question how generalizable their findings are to the average Wikipedia user.

In the Conclusions, the authors state, "Participants in this study were strategically recruited in ways that ensured awareness of community norms and active participation in community spaces. These were active, committed members." The Ns were also really small in this study - only 9 participants - and these individuals were not necessarily your typical Wikipedia user. Based on this data, it is unclear how the authors can claim that their findings may suggest an "emerging genre." For this group, it is, but expanding the claim beyond that is questionable. This is a rather brief article that is likely an abbreviated version of a much larger document. Thus, it is possible that in the editing process, details that would support the authors' claims were deleted for the sake of space. If not, the authors' conclusion is a stretch.

Wikis and Academia

Rosenzweig, R. (2006, June). Can history be open source: Wikipedia and the future of the past. The Journal of American History, 93(1), 117-146. Retrieved February 4, 2007, from

Like many articles that examine the wiki phenomenon, and the proliferation of Wikipedia, specifically, this piece by Rosenzweig begins by outlining what it is and how it works. Because the author's message is targeted at historians, he explores how wikis can be part of the historian's toolkit. He does this by comparing historical entries in Wikipedia to comparable ones found in more "traditional" encyclopedias - American National Biography Online and Encarta to name a couple. Based on his comparison, Rosenzweig concludes that Wikipedia is roughly equivalent to Encarta, but lacks in comparison to the American National Biography Online. However he does note that the authors who have contributed entries to Wikipedia are not representative of the general population. Instead, the contributors tend to be English-speaking males; hence the criticism that Wikipedia has been shaped by "geek priorities."

Rosenzweig goes on to make a case for why historians should care about Wikipedia. For one, he points out that you don't have to look to the Internet to find bad history; it's also found in the library stacks. [I can attest to this. When I was working in an academic library, we found a book in the stack stating that there is not evidence to suggest that smoking is bad for your health. Our records indicated that the book had been recently checked out so you know that a student included that little factoid in her paper.] Next, instructors generally do not want their students to rely on any encyclopedia entry for their term papers. The impact of Wikipedia alone is yet another reason why historians should care. Also, the peer review process for the featured article section is another Wikipedia characteristic that Rosenzweig highlights.

Despite the fact that there are difficulties implementing a Wikipedia-style model in academia, Rosenzweig nonetheless suggests that a publication that relies on volunteer labor would not be foreign to scholars. In fact, scholars are already spending numerous volunteer hours on journals and conferences. The discussion about the possibilities for history scholars to become actively involved in a tool, like Wikipedia, reminded me of the Pronetos project: "a global think-tank of the leaders in your field". Pronetos was launched at the end of October 2007, and members can post work for peer feedback, remix content posted by others, and produce new custom publications based on the resources found on the site. Will this catch on? Maybe with a group of pioneers (and those who have tenure) who are willing to try a model that runs counter to the traditional system. Until the tenure and review process changes, though, it will likely be difficult for Pronetos to obtain a critical mass.

Wikis and Friendship

Ferris, S. P., & Wilder, H. (2006, June/July). Uses and potentials of wikis in the classroom. Innovate Journal of Online Education, 2(5), Retrieved July 4, 2007, from

This article provides a general overview of wikis in education. The authors begin by discussing learning paradigms, such as secondary orality, which values "community, group-sense, and participation." They then move on to outline the various definitions associated with wikis, crediblity debates, and the ways in which wikis foster collaboration among teachers and students. While these issues and concerns are noted in numerous articles on wikis, the one statement made by the authors that attracted my attention was the following: "While a weblogs is most often based on a diary metaphor in which the weblog author is the primary author who posts on a regular (often daily) basis, a wiki is more like a friendship based on a specific interest."

Even though I think this is an interesting and unique metaphor, the term "friendship" is perhaps too strong of a word. The authors refer to stamp collectors who have no connection to each other with the exception of stamps. However, if the stamp collectors meet to discuss/trade etc. stamps, then there may be more to the relationship than people independently contributing to an entry on the
cyberpunk movement. To me, friendship is more than just people who share an interest in a particular topic - there has to be some type of communication or interaction. In this section of the article, the authors don't mention the interactions contributors may have on the discussion pages. If they had, it might be easier for me to buy into the friendship metaphor; but, based solely on the arguement made by the authors, they have not convinced me.

Blended learning, blogs and wikis - oh my!

A new book on blended learning - Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, and Guidelines (Garrison & Vaughan) - takes a look at the blended learning trend. Not only do the authors discuss the theories surrounding the incorporation of technology into the curriculum (e.g., active engagement, social presence), but they also examine ways educators can use blogs and wikis to enhance the f2f learning experience. In this Inside Higher Ed interview with the authors, they outline the design of assigments using blogs and wikis that foster collaboration, self-reflection, and peer review.

Monday, November 12, 2007


This just in...

CNN has just launched a news site in Second Life!

"Just as CNN asks its real-life audience to submit I-Reports -- user-generated content submitted from cell phones, computers, cameras and other equipment for broadcast and online reports -- the network is encouraging residents of Second Life to share their own "SL I-Reports" about events occurring within the virtual world."

For those interested in honing their amateur reporting skills, CNN will be hosting its first in-world training session on Tuesday, November 13, at 5 p.m. ET at the I-Report Hub.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Podcasting and Web 2.0

As I was reading the articles for this week, I was thinking about the question, "Is podcasting a Web 2.0 technology?" Stevens (2006) makes the following distinctions between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. To him, Web 1.0 was "the era of the 'read-only' Web"; in contrast, Web 2.0 is the "'read-write' Web (p. 3). When I think of Web 2.0, words like sharing, collaboration, participation, interaction come to mind. The white paper by Deal (2007) outlines three ways podcasts are being used: 1) lectures for review; 2) supplemental material; and 3) podcast assignments. None of these activities requires interaction through the technology per se. Sure, student may interact and collaborate while creating their podcast assignments, but once that recording is posted, that's it. Instructors could also design activities that foster this type of environment, but thus far, this does not appear to be the case.

Further, Deal, as well as Brittain et al. (2006) and Lane (2006), also points out that most students do not take advantage of the mobility afforded by the podcasting technology; instead, students listened to the recordings via their computer. To me, this type of use takes us back to the days of Web 1.0. The only difference is that instead of reading the content, they are listening to it. While I do believe that podcasting technology does have the potential to become more Web 2.0-like, I don't think it's there at this time. As was the case with early cinematographers, we are replicating what is familiar as we learn more about this technology. Perhaps the uses of podcasting will become more innovative and creative as we learn more about the technology and its capabilities.

Gadget Giveaway or Educational Tool?

The articles we read this week discuss podcasting and its use in academic settings. While the focus is primarily on initiatives at institutions such as the University of Michigan and Harvard, the Duke iPod program was mentioned in passing.

In August 2004, Duke University launched an initiative designed to expand the use of technologies in education by distributing iPods to approximately 1,600 first-year students. The results of this program can be found in this report. Even though data were collected to support the notion that the iPods added value to the educational mission of the institution, the actual impact of this tool is still unknown. Like the authors of this week's articles, Duke University researchers also concluded that more research is needed; however, anecdotal evidence suggests that the iPods did positively influence exam outcomes.

Still, the Duke program was scaled back and iPods were only distributed to students who were enrolled in courses that used the technology. Despite this turn of events, though, many institutions were making the move to hand out various types of devices (e.g., laptops, PDAs, Blackberries, etc.) to their students. This raised the question as to whether podcasting did foster learning, or whether it was merely a pawn in the "great gadget giveaway" - efforts not to enhance student learning but to recruit students to certain campuses.

What makes pieces like the one by Brittain et al. (2006) so important is that these individuals clearly illustrate why the University of Michigan School of Dentistry integrated podcasting into the curriculum. Even though students were asking for video recordings of lectures, the authors worked to determine whether this technology would best match the needs of the students. After several stages and pilot studies, podcasting was found to be a better match. Rather than selecting a technology just because it's hip and cool, this program and its students rationally considered their options before selecting one. It's research like this that can be used to counter claims made by skeptics. With anecdotal evidence alone, though, this is a much harder case to make.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Student Retention

Tresman, Susan (2002, April). Toward a strategy for improved student retention in programmes of open, distance education: A case study from the open university UK. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.

As I was reading this article, I found myself jotting down a number of notes in the margins. I suppose that means that Tresman's work really resonated with me or that some of her comments hit a nerve.

Starting with the hit nerve: In the early portion of this article, Tresman discusses the theoretical work she is using to frame her discussion. She points to Ball's work on the "market economy" approach, including a critique on the notion that "educational problems can be solved by technological means." A number of articles refer to these "educational problems," but few elaborate on what these are. What problems are we hoping to solve by implementing technological solutions? Is there a common list that educators are working from? Is this notion constantly changing and evolving? In the 1930s, Dewey was talking about the inadequacies of education. Are we still dealing with the same issues? (I would imagine not.) Tresman concludes this section by arguing that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. She states, "Careful observation and analysis of what is actually happening within a given institution, can lead to a theory that is both relevant to a given institutional context, rather than that of the government."

Continuing with the market economy approach, Tresman highlights the assumption that students are customers/consumers. She questions the idea that consumers "are the best judges of their educational needs and how these should be met." How do students know what they need? They often do not have any experience in a particular area and are not aware of the work that may be relevant to it. If students did have the experience and knowledge, then why would they even need education? While I agree with Tinto's assessment that educators should make students' needs a priority and create a rich learning experience, I do not think that students always know what is best for them or what they really want/need. As many retailers have discovered, young people are a fickle market - what's hot today is passe tomorrow.

In the section, "The Student Learning Journey," Tresman asserts, "All higher education institutions regard student dropout as an issue." It is interesting how quickly things change. When I was an undergraduate, it was a source of pride to weed out students. In fact, the professors in some of my course we repeatedly state that they intended to create an environment where students either dropped or flunked out. I suppose that is what happens when education becomes a business - those undergraduate dollars are what fuels the institution and now have purchasing power.

The last section that was of interest was Tresman's discussion of "rescue strategies" designed for those students who have to interrupt their studies. She proposes that these individuals would be able to carry forward earned credits if they decided to "recommence their work within a reasonable period of time." This statement reminds me of the article that appeared in the October 29, 2007 issue of the Arizona Republic (the one that includes the quotes by Curt). This article discusses a new system implemented at Rio
Salado College where courses started every week. While the Arizona Republic article does not specifically refer to stopping and starting courses mid-stream, it and the one by Tresman both do refer to a more flexible model of education. While this many be beneficial for students, how does this work for the instructor? It seems like these revolving door logistics (student in class - student not; one students signs up for class; next week another one starts, etc.) would be mind boggling.

So, what is a community?

The articles for this week discussed building communities among students at a distance and virtual teams. One thing that was mentioned in the Kimble et al. (2000) piece is that "the concept of the virtual team is not clearly defined and it often overlaps with concepts such as the virtual or networked organizations, the virtual workplace, virtual communities, electronic commerce and some forms of teleworking" (p. 3). Perhaps one of the difficulties in creating a sense of community in virtual spaces is rooted in the fact that online educators have not reached a consensus on the definition of community. How can we as researchers understand online communities and the formation of these entities if we cannot first define what they are?

Not only are there different ways of defining "community," but, as Brown (2001) notes, there is little research on the way students define community. In her study, Brown found that not all students participating in courses that were reported to have high levels of community did not share that viewpoint. Moreover, Brown states that while she was able to identify three levels of community (making online acquaintances or friends; community conferment; and camaraderie - p. 24), five of the students reported that they felt no sense of community in these courses; responses from four of the others were questionable. This discrepancy between the researcher's observations and the comments revealed during the interviews complicates the notion of community even further. Where does (or should) our focus lie - on the findings of our observations based on theory, or on the self-reports of those participating in these courses?

Brown indicates that this research involved telephone and email interviews. It would have been interesting to see whether the comments made in the first round were consistent with those made in the second. It is possible those who reported no sense of community had a bad day and upon reflection would revise their initial response. One explanation Brown gives is that the "participants did not want to be part of the community - did not want to bother with positive, supportive messages and interaction in the cafeteria" (p. 26). Isn't it possible that these individuals could have had an external support group, and because the cafeteria interactions were not a required part of the course did not feel the need to engage in optional activities? Overall, Brown's spin on her five explanations are somewhat simplistic and negatively skewed.

People are complex and developing a deeper understanding of what makes a community for individuals who participate in online course may require research that is more longitudinal in nature.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Virtual College in a Virtual World

Miss those college years? The current ones not living up to your expectations? Thanks to Second Life avatars Roberta Beauchamp and Redd Columbia, you can experience the stereotypical college years (e.g., beer parties, Greek life, late night cram sessions) in a SL role playing game, Kindly State University. Just complete their online application and pay 200 Linden dollars, and you too could be a part of this experience!

More about this "institution" is available through the Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog.

Blackboard and Connections

At the EDUCAUSE conference this week, the CMS company, Blackboard, announced its latest initiative - the K-20 Connection. According to the company's project site, the K-20 connection is "new initiative designed to foster collaboration between higher education and K-12 institutions worldwide." The overarching goal of this project is to create a bridge between K-12, community colleges, and 4-year institutions.

More about this project is available "Online Education: Tailoring, Measuring and 'Bridging'" in the October 26, 2007 issue of Inside Higher Ed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Face-to-face: How important is it?

Jones, N. (2005). The development of socialization in an on-line learning environment. The Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 3(3),

The Richardson and Swan article (previous post) was not the only one that brought to mind methodological questions. Another article where I started to think about alternative methodologies and what outcomes they might produce was in conjunction with the Jones and Peachy (2005) article. In their concluding remarks, the authors state, “Face-to-face contact played a significant part in the socialization process and subsequently in the creation of a community of learners” (p. 15). But how do they know that for certain? While they employed Solomon’s model, with the exception of the face-to-face component as an add-on, all of the students followed the same stages. What would have been enlightening, given that Jones and Peachy privilege the f2f interactions, would have been to really put that belief to the test. For example, half of the students could have followed an unmodified version of the Salmon model; the others could have followed the version with a f2f stage. The findings under these conditions may have confirmed the authors’ claims…or not.

Swan (2003) also mentions the techniques such as ice breakers and a f2f component to cultivate a sense of community among the students. One program she mentions is the LEEP program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [she misspells Champaign, though]. Swan points out that those in charge of this particular program connect their 95% attrition rate to the on-campus f2f meetings that they use to build community among the students. For a project that I’ve been working on for almost two years (one that’s not related to libraries or librarians per se), I have conducted interviews (and have transcribed interviews) with a handful of students from the LEEP program. In general, both male and female students feel positively toward the program and the school even though they may work full-time or live outside the U.S. They even report a sense of belonging in this online program. Is this the result of their f2f "bootcamp" or is something else at work?

Even though the article is older than the others, the points made by Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) are still relevant today. This, in spite of all the technological changes that have occurred since the mid to late 1990s. After they address and describe their seven principles, the authors make a point of concluding that technology is not enough. In fact, they argue that students and faculty need to be “tough-minded about the software- and technology-assisted interactions they create and buy into.” Those like Salmon indicate that a f2f component is not needed, and the cost savings alone behind this line of thought would make administrators tend to believe this to be sufficient evidence. However, those affiliated with the LEEP program have found a strategy that works for them and are doing as Chickering and Ehrmann suggest – being “tough minded.”

Democratization and Methodology

Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. (2003, February). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Environments, 7(1). Retrieved February 19, 2006, from

Rhetoric suggesting that the Internet has democratizing effects appears to be back in vogue. In this 2003 article by Richardson and Swan, they state in their Introduction that “the ability of personal identities to remain concealed mans that all students, regardless of race, sex, disability, or appearance are on equal ground” (p. 69). However, scholars, such as Herring (gender and language cues) and Nakamura (race and ethnicity) argue that the anonymity afforded by the Internet may be more revealing than users (and others) once hoped or believed.

Another section of this piece that made me stop to think for a moment is the one that includes the results associated with Hypothesis 4: Students’ perceptions of social presence for individual course activities are related to their perceived learning for those activities. The authors’ survey revealed that “about one-third of students indicated written assignments while one-quarter of students indicated class discussions/questions and answer activities” (pp. 79-80). Respondents to the questionnaire also mentioned that interactions and feedback were also important. The reason why this stands out is because, as the authors note, class discussions, feedback, and interaction are aligned with social presence, but the written assignments are not. As a result of this contradiction, the authors suggest that social presence “permeates not only the activities generally designated as social activities but also those activities usually designated as individual activities” (p. 80).

However, an alternative explanation may be related to their methodology. This study employed mail/online questionnaires that the students completed. Perhaps face-to-face interviews would have clarified some of these discrepancies. Interviews may have also enabled the authors to probe into the reasons behind the responses to their questions, which may have been more revealing.

CMC and Context

Rourke, L., Andersen, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing social presence in asynchronous text-based computer conferencing. Journal of Distance Education.

In their discussion on the community of inquiry model, particularly the core component of social presence, Rourke and his colleagues provide a nice overview of computer-mediated conferencing (CMC). In their discussion, they integrate much of the literature that makes up the history of CMC – work by Sproul and Keisler (1986) and Walther (1994), just to name a few. They even mention a piece by Angeli, Bonk and Hara (1998) that concentrated on a content analysis of messages created in a social setting. While these pieces serve to frame the concept of social presence, and the authors also acknowledge the tension between certain perspectives outlined by these historical pieces (lack of cues versus hyper-personal for example), they do not mention one factor: many of the studies conducted in the “early” days of CMC were done so in labs. The context was not an authentic one, and the study participants were not as invested as students relying on CMC in an online course may be. This is not to suggest that these lab-based studies are not valid or important; they are. As social informatics researchers would say, though, context matters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Online Learning

Inside Higher Ed reports that the Sloan Foundation has released a new report on the growth of online learning over the past five years. The report appropriately titled, "Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Higher Education" indicates that the enrollment figures for online courses has begun to slow down a bit. While students continue to enroll in online courses, the increase is not as dramatic as in previous years. For example, the percentage increase last year was almost 37%; in contrast, this years increase was only around 10%. In addition to examining student enrollment in online courses, this report also outlines topics such as where the growth has occurred, areas of future growth, and barriers to widespread adoption of these types of courses.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Michael Wesch is at it again!

If you have not seen this YouTube video by Michael Wesch, an assistant professor at Kansas State University, and his Introduction to Cultural Anthropology students, it is definitely worth a look. In the spring, these students created a survey about student learning and also wrote the script for the video.

While some of the figures are striking, particularly those associated with the use of technology (e.g., students will write 500 pages of email but only 42 pages for class; students bring a laptop to class but aren't doing coursework - okay, not so striking), I wonder how this really differs from when I was an undergrad many moons ago? I knew plenty of students who purchased a $100 textbook and never opened it; there were also those who paid for a class and never attended (particularly those huge lecture courses at UIUC in Foellinger Hall). Even though technology played a very minor role (if at all) in my undergraduate classrooms, I saw a lot of similarities between my experiences and those of the students in this video.

Video Clips and SL

Here are the clips that I'm going to show in class on Monday night:

Education in Second Life: Explore the Possibilities

EDTech Island in Second Life

Library Education Goes Virtual

Intellagirl Tully - student engagement and student retention (just the beginning)

Web 2.0, CMS, and Questions

As I've been reading the articles for this week, I can't help but notice that they take a rather utopian stance on Web 2.0 technologies, including course management systems (CMS).

Full disclosure: For another course, I've been reading a book titled, Brave New Classrooms, which takes the opposite approach - the authors included in this collection of essays take a very cautious if not a dystopian position on the adoption of technologies in the classroom. The chapter by Lockhard, "Manifesto for Democratic Education and the Internet," summarizes the tone of this book. To give an example, he states, "A 'virtual campus' is an educational scam in progress" (p. 290). Lockhard continues by noting that "electronic education is no less than a means of technological colonization in the service of capital" (p. 291). While he does temper these beliefs toward the end of the chapter, it is possible that these and similar views have caused me to question the ideas presented by the authors we read for this week.

In the article by Thompson, which compares and contrasts Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, he refers to the work of early filmmakers. He states, "It took time for filmmakers to move the actors off stage and into studios and even more time for them to begin making movies on location." Thompson is not alone in his connection to the movie industry. In a piece by Livingstone and Kemp, they too point to the connection between cinematographers who replicated existing work and in their case, 3D virtual worlds.

However, Thompson continues by arguing that "Web 2.0 applications will continue to evolve, making the process of change much more complicated." Which leads to my question: If the technologies that educators want to integrate into the curriculum are constantly morphing into new technologies, will it ever be possible to move beyond the fits and start stage?

Downes (2005) also talks about technology and education in his article on e-learning 2.0. Not only does he assert that "living and learning...will eventually merge" but he also notes that as a result of e-learning 2.0, there will be a "collapse of the distinction between teacher and student altogether." But, aren't teachers in that role because they possess a certain level of experience and expertise? By moving to a system where there is no distinction between students and teachers, why do we even need to bother with the teacher? Couldn't we just have the students "talk amongst themselves" as the "Saturday Night Live" character Linda Richmond (played by Mike Meyers) would say?

Moving on to CMS, I had a difficult time envisioning this application as one that would allow students to "experience deeper learning" (p. 27) as Carmean and Haefner (2002) contend. I suppose I still consider this tool to be a "system container" (p. 28). In their 2003 article on CMS tools, they boldly state, "As information literacy grows more significant in learning outcomes, the role of the library in course support increases" (p. 10). Does it? Not according to the OLCOS Roadmap 2012, which predicts that in 2012 "library services may be slow to find their place in open learning environments" (p. 115). The authors of this report also suggest that "traditional and current digital libraries will have a long way to go before they become part of 'the flow' of a new generation's learning landscape" (p. 106).

So, I suppose the overarching question for both educators and librarians is this: Do we roll with the punches and try to adopt the new technologies as they happen? Or, do we stop and take the time to assess how we can use these systems and applications most effectively (while hoping we don't get left behind in the process)? Or...

Friday, October 12, 2007

OLCOS Roadmap 2012 and Libraries

Geser, Guntram (ed.). (2007, January). Open Educational Practices and Resources: OLCOS Roadmap 2012 (149 pages). Retrieved July 4, 2007, from and

As I was reading through this report, libraries and the role of librarians kept coming to mind. While the focus was primarily on individuals affiliated with educational entities, I was pleased to see occasional references made to librarians. To me, librarians are an integral part of the educational mission - at least that is the way I approached it when I was a reference/instructional librarian.

Like those in education, one of the core components is the concept of sharing (knowledge, information, resources). Yet, the library community is not one that is quick to change. One of the first library jobs I had out of grad school was at an institution that was proposing to convert their online catalog to a new system. Many librarians threatened to retire - some did once the conversion was underway, but others stayed and found that this was not their worst nightmare come true. For some, it is difficult to be flexible and optimistic (and willing to invest a lot of time) when facing the unknown that often accompanies new technologies. As this OLCOS report indicates, this is true for educators, as well.

On page 106, a reference is made to a report by Lorcan Dempsey (OCLC) that asserts that libraries will have to change the way they do business if they want to become part of "'the flow' of a new generation's learning landscape." As this section of the report suggests, librarians are worried about losing control of information. This is evident on numerous librarian discussion lists, particularly when tools, such as Google, Wikipedia, or MySpace find their way into the conversation. Librarians believe they are the only gateway to "good" information - in other words, they continue to call for a top-down model that the report warns against.

In the long-term influence section of the Roadmap Briefs (- 2012), library services are listed as an inhibitor rather than a driver/enabler. The report makes the following prediction:

Library services may be slow to find their place in open learning environments. It is widely felt that libraries will need to adopt better to the considerable changes in information behaviour and Web-based environments. (p. 115)

As a librarian, I find this to be a very depressing outlook for the profession. No wonder librarians are worried about losing control of information resources. They may not be able to find their place in the larger picture in a few short years!

Perhaps, librarians should look to the model proposed for teachers - a more bottom-up approach. Rather than being the "expert" and a dispenser of knowledge, teachers are to become coaches that emphasize the students' own activities. As is the case for teachers, though, the culture has to change.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

OER and Sustainability

Downes, Stephen (2007). Models for sustainable open educational resources. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects. 3, Retrieved July 5, 2007, from

One section of the article by Downes (2007) mentions the issue of sustainability and the costs of providing the resource for free to the consumer. On page 34, he states that "'sustainable' in this instance may mean not merely financially cheaper, but capable of promoting wider objectives."

This made me think about the U. C. Berkeley's new YouTube initiative. An announcement for this project appeared in the October 4, 2007 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. On Berkeley's YouTube channel,
selected courses, special events, and lectures will be available for free to the public. One thing that has been a discussion topic on some library listservs is the long-term viability and sustainability of this project. According to some list members, there is no guarantee that what is posted will not disappear without warning. While I'm not familiar with the type of long-term arrangements Berkeley has made with YouTube in terms of preservation, it does add another dimension to the discussion of sustainability presented by Downes.

Open Educational Resources

Johnstone, S. M. (2005). Open educational resources serve the world. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 28(3), 15-18. Retrieved November 18, 2006, from

One thing that
Iiyoshi, Richardson, & McGrath (2006) emphasize is that their work on the KEEP toolkit is that their belief in it as an open source resource is one that is aligned with the mission of education in general - to share knowledge. This sense of sharing also comes through clearly in the article by Sally Johnstone. Not only does she advocate for the sharing of materials by educators in the U.S., but she also believes that this can work on a more global level. In addition to the interest in making resources and "knowledge chunks" available world wide, Johnstone also discusses some of the issues and concerns that faces these initiatives.

First, there are multiple definitions of a resource. What is included? What is not? (This is a concept that is elaborated on in the article by Downes (2007) - Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources.) In some cases, OER includes learning resources, resources to support teachers, and resources to support quality education. Others, like those involved in the Connexions project, place a greater emphasis on collaboration. The creation of community, like that associated with Open Learning Support (OLS), is yet another feature that is present in some OERs. In these communities, self-management and self-policing become important aspects.

Even though this is a rather short article, Johnstone is able to convey the breadth and depth of OER projects that are currently underway. Maybe it's the librarian in me, but one thing I thought would be extremely beneficial for educators would be to create some type of repository that would enable individuals to access all of these rich resources from one central location. Not only would that make it easier to see what others are working on and where the gaps are, but it would also make it easier to access (or contribute to) the materials in the various collections. In the words of Johnstone, this type of repository would further enhance efforts to "help people help themselves" (p. 18).

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Second Life Survey

The Friday, October 5, 2007 issues of the Chronicle's "The Wired Campus" included details of the Second Life Educators survey conducted by the New Media Consortium. Their findings show that educators are divided on the future of SL for educational purposes. The survey results and the appendix are freely available at:


Some of the interesting nuggets from the respondents include:

*80% of the respondents were between the ages of 36-55+
*43% took a class held in SL
91% have engaged in random wandering; 77% have used SL to meet new people
*46% have designed their avatar to resemble themselves
*45% indicate that rich interactions, meeting new people, expanding networks, and generosity of community have been their most positive experiences; 36% say that their most negative experiences are due to technical issues/using SL
*SL c
haracteristics that ranked high were engaging, interactive, social, and global; ease of use and realistic were lower in comparison
*46% consider SL to have great potential and is a taste of the 3D future


On Wednesday (10/3), Curt sent the class a link to an article in USA Today about the 23 year old owner of the social networking software, Facebook. In today's (10/6) New York Times, Alice Mathias (a 2007 graduate from Dartmouth) talks about Facebook as online community theater and a form of escapism. Check it out at:

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wheeler Revisited

When I was looking for an article on an unrelated topic today, I stumbled up a Jan/Feb. 2007 EDUCAUSE Review article by Brad Wheeler:

In this piece, Wheeler reflects upon his 2004 article that also appeared in EDUCAUSE Review (
Open source 2007: How did this happen?), and notes that a "major shift occured in the conversation about open source" (p. 50).

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What is free?

What does the word "free" mean in connection to open source software? Two of the articles I read for this week - one by Stephenson and the other by Lessig - discuss the definition of this word. Both point to the work of Stallman who founded the Free Software Movement. [Side note: A video of Stallman talking about free software is available at] According to Stephenson and Lessig, Stallman believes that the term "free" in free and open source software (FOSS) means free "as in free speech, not free beer."

I had not really thought about this term before and what it meant in relation to software, but this discussion about freedom made me question the use of this term. Perhaps "free" was not the best choice of words and has led to many thinking that free means free software instead of the freedom to run, study, improve, and share programs. However, in thinking about FOSS and its connection to the hacker culture (see Pan and Bonk, 2007), it is possible that the "confusion" surrounding the term "free" was part of the plan. As Pan and Bonk note, the hacker culture has a history of "cooperation and knowledge sharing." So, in this sharing climate, when/how does free shift from the "free speech" concept to the "free beer" version? Is it a matter of if you take you also have to give back (i.e., gift culture)?

Wheeler and Open Source

Wheeler, B. (2004). Open source 2007: How did this happen? EDUCAUSE Review, 39(4), 12-27. Retrieved July 4, 2007, from or

In comparison to many of the other readings for this week, I walked away from this article feeling very pessimistic about the open source movement. Two areas that Wheeler suggests are problematic are licensing and support. Starting with licensing, Wheeler contends that the licenses are inconsistent and many institutional technology transfer offices have prevented viable tools from being used because of different licensing terms. While templates created by EDUCAUSE have helped, it will still take years to rectify the situation. Support is another issue. According to Wheeler, "not all vendors are choosing to support a range of open source applications" (p. 16).

Wheeler is not optimistic about the future of open source, and he outlines factors such as failure to agree and inability to leverage as evidence of the failure of open source. In contrast, Pan and Bonk are much more optimistic, and state that "research on 'free and open source software' (FOSS) development is now flourishing and across disciplines." So, the question is: What happened from 2004, when Wheeler's article was published, to 2007, when the Pan and Bonk piece surfaced? Is it merely a matter of a difference of opinions, or is something more at play? Has the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies (and the participatory nature of these tools) revitalized the FOSS discussion?

Other topics that are discussed in many of the open source articles for this week are collaboration and community. The words collaboration and community have such positive connotations that it is difficult to think of them negatively, but Wheeler's argument is skewed in that direction. Like many other authors, (e.g., Kapor), Wheeler mentions the importance of community building and collaboration in the FOSS movement. While Kapor believes that open source is "a more efficient as well as a democratic way of developing software" (p. 73), Wheeler is more cautious in his assessment. In examining interviews with members of open source projects, Wheeler found that many reported that the team members "just couldn't agree."

One thing I noticed as I was reading through Wheeler's piece is that he uses the terms open source, home-grown systems, and community source models as if they were synonymous. Are they the same or do these terms refer to different things? The other authors we read for this week didn't shift their terminology as frequently, which made me question Wheeler's word choice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cognitive Load and Multitasking

In the article by Mayer and Moreno (2003), they stress two things: 1) that multimedia instruction should be designed to minimize cognitive load; and 2) that it is important to understand how people learn. Even though it is presented in a different style (journalism rather than scholarly writing), the piece by Seligman (2006) examines similar issues. Seligman integrates the experiences of a number of parents, their children, and scholars into her discussion. What stands out is that the children alternate between tasks (multitask), which increases their cognitive load. Even though some of the children Seligman interviews recognize that they are able to complete tasks more quickly when they don't multitask, they claim that they get "bored."

Researchers, like David Meyer at the University of Michigan, have studied the multitasking phenomenon. As a result of his work, Meyer found that individuals who attempt to complete multiple tasks at the same time show "costs in performance." He states that in his studies these multitaskers took more time to complete tasks and made more mistakes in doing so. Also in this article, there are those who compare "zoning out" on a computer to drug use, and refer to today's technology savvy children not as the Net Generation (or other such variations) but rather as "guinea pigs." So, while multimedia instructors are attempting to create designs that minimize cognitive overload, many students are thwarting these efforts by purposely placing themselves in cognitively taxing environments. Are these young people doing this as a way to seek out cognitive challenges (e.g., Steinkuehler, 2005 and her discussion about cognition in MMOGs), or are parents right to be concerned about their children's "excessive" use of computers and technology?

Going back to the Mayer and Moreno piece for a moment, the model they present in Figure 1 (p. 44) reminds me of Broadbent's information processing diagram that is presented on page 92 of Howard Gardner's book, The Mind's New Science. Is there a connection between the two? Just curious.

Planning for the Neomillennials

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(1),

Because I am in the group that is "channeling" Chris Dede during the panel discussion on Monday (10/1), I decided that this piece might provide additional insight into his thoughts on neomillennials and their learning styles. Much of the article is similar to the piece we read for last week that appears in the volume by Oblinger and Oblinger (Educating the net generation). The most noticeable difference, though, is that Dede spends less time outlining the various types of immersion in this week's article, which struck me because I enjoyed Dede's discussion about Salzman's FORs. That having been said, though, there are a couple of interesting statements that Dede integrates into the mix.

On page 7, he states, "Further, in the long run the mission and structure of higher education might alter due to the effect of these new interactive media." For the past year and a half (approximately), I've been working with a group that's been investigating the experiences students have in IT-related disciplines, including LIS and IST. This past spring, I interviewed 60 students at five different academic institutions in the U.S., and one thing was mentioned repeatedly: academia is broken! Undergrad and grad students alike said that the focus in academia is on research at the expense of teaching and students. So, while Dede's technologically deterministic statement may be correct - that new media may ultimately alter the structure of higher education - he might also want to take into consideration that there may be other contextual factors (e.g., people, work practice, environment) that go beyond the technology that may also spark changes in academia.

For example, in the piece by Oblinger (2003) on understanding new students, she suggests that these individuals are not passive consumers; rather, this group of new students use their "purchasing power" (p. 42) to evaluate programs and institutions. Oblinger also points out that these individuals have "developed new attitudes and aptitudes as a result of their environment" (p. 44). Therefore, customer service expectations combined with the "information age mindset" may be powerful enough to change not only what we typically envision when we hear the words "higher education" but also the environment itself.

On a side note: Oblinger mentions "generalist faculty" (p. 42) who respond to students' questions when the course instructor is not available. I had to read this section several times to get my head wrapped around this type liaison between faculty and students. It would be fascinating to read about the experiences of these generalist faculty to better understand how this process works and to hear their opinions about the role they play in student learning.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cutting and Pasting

Speaking of cutting and pasting, Google unveiled a new feature - individuals can now cut-and paste from its collection of online books.

More about this feature is available in the September 20, 2007 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education and Google.

Information Navigation 101

Foster, Andrea (2007, March 9). New programs teach undergraduates how to use the Internet and the online card catalog in search of the best sources. Chronicle of Higher Education, Retrieved June 21, 2007, from

As a librarian who at one time taught numerous information literacy courses, particularly to individuals who were in the 18-22 age range, I could relate to many of the points raised in this article. In the mid- to late 1990s, I worked in an academic library where the computer terminals were moving from being word processors to information resources. The internet was new to everyone, and the librarians were desperately trying to keep one step ahead of the students. Many professors (and some of the librarians) were not so enamored with these new resources, and concerns about plagiarism, quality of information, etc. was a major concern. How quickly they forgot about their students who photocopied articles and literally cut-and-pasted materials into their papers.

The article mentions that one librarian asks professors to attend the information sessions. I couldn't agree more with this statement. Even when the professors do attend the session, though, there are misunderstandings and confusion. For example, I worked with a marketing professor to teach her class how to access full-text articles via the library's databases (e.g., EBSCO). Even though she had participated in several of my sessions, she would often tell her students that the articles were available through Yahoo! (Her students were frustrated that they could never find the materials they needed for class through this search engine.) There were also those instructors who would bring their class to a session about online resources, only to tell the students they could not use online journals - they had to use the print. Not only were the students drowning in information, but they were drowning in misinformation, as well.

It's been a few years since I've taught an information literacy course; while I'm certain that things have changed, there are probably still those who maintain a skeptical view of online information resources.

Work-life Balance

A blurb in today's Chronicle of Higher Education references a list created by Computerworld on ways to balance IT work and real life. While the full list that appears in Computerworld includes 10 tips, the Chronicle piece only lists these top five.

1. Establish and enforce your own priorities. Sometimes that may mean saying no to overtime and promotions.

2. Communicate. Once you set priorities, let your co-workers know about them. Set boundaries so your boss knows when he or she is crossing them.

3. Build a business case for your better life. If you want to telecommute or have flexible hours, show how you can achieve superior job results in that situation.

4. Take advantage of employee programs. If your college offers job-sharing or on-site child care, find out about those options and use them.

5. Seek out a mentor. Find someone in your field who seems to balance work and life nicely. Ask his or her advice about how you can do the same. Maybe even copy what your mentor does.

Easier said than done...

E-Portfolio Questions

David Emmett, (2003, November). E-Portfolios at QUT: Providing the potential for competitive advantage and a motivating learner-centred environment. Proceedings of the OLT 2003 Excellence: Making the Connections Conference, Australia.

Paul Treuer & Jill Jenson. (2003, June).
Electronic Portfolios Need Standards to Thrive, Educause Quarterly, Volume 26, Number 2.

While I thought the two articles about e-portfolios made some good points to support the adoption of e-portfolios, they raised a lot of questions for me.

Starting with the piece by Emmett, he states that "interaction will best occur when the learning tasks are designed on constructivist principles." However, in his article about the neomillennials, Dede (2005) indicates that situated learning is the future, particularly in virtual educational environments. So, who is right? Is a constructivist approach more conducive to learning or is the situated learning model? Or, does it matter?

Emmett goes on to say that "the main issue is that relatively few teachers have ever been asked to reflect." How are students supposed to learn how to be reflective thinkers if their teachers do not know how to be reflective? Is this just expected to be an innate quality, and thus, it isn't necessary to teach someone how to do it?

Moving to the article by Treuer and Jenson, they provide several different definitions of e-portfolios, which serves to frame their argument that standards are needed in this area. While I agree that the ability to easily store and retrieve your educational information is appealing, the outline for standardization that Treuer and Jenson present seems too simplistic. What about students who transfer after one semester at an institution? Will they access the information through that institution, or will they have to move it do another institution or employer? Will all institutions (including those in non-U.S. locations) and employers have to use the same e-portfolio system, and how will the selection of that system be made? If the information has to be moved, how will privacy issues be handled? Institutions are having enough problems these days with the release of private information into unintended spaces. The e-portfolio concept sounds like a even larger and more daunting task that merely keeping student and faculty records secure and private.

Pew and the Content Creators

Lenhart, Amanda, & Madden, Mary (2005). Teens content creators and consumers. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Report. Retrieved on November 19, 2006, from:

This is yet another report by the folks at Pew that includes a plethora of facts. However, this time, the facts are related to online teens, the media materials they use, and the content they create on the internet. According to the authors, Content Creators are defined as "online teens who have created or worked on a blog or webpage, shared original creative content, or remixed content they found online into a new creation" (p. 1). Dede (2005) calls this process of remixing content "Napsterism." The authors (Tapscott and Williams) of the book, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, also refer to these content creators, and view them as prosumer "N-geners"(p. 52). While Tapscott and Williams cite the number of teens who can be classified in this category, they also recognize that the content creators are not "content to be passive consumers"; instead, these individuals "increasingly satisfy their desire for choice, convenience, customization, and control by designing, producing, and distributing products themselves" (p. 52). Tapscott and Williams conclude that in order to benefit from the content creators, businesses will have to be reconfigured.

Another "fact" that stood out in the Pew report was related to the percentage of youth who download music and videos. According to the Pew report, "teen boys of all ages are more likely than teen girls to report music downloading" (p. 11). The latest ECAR study (2007) of undergraduates reached similar conclusion.
What's interesting is that the research presented in a book by Miller and Slater (2001) titled, The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach mentions that teens in Trinidad avidly download music from the internet - it's not just a U.S. phenomena.

The section of the Pew report that outlined the results about legal and illegal music downloads was also of interest. In the report, the authors state that "75% agree with the statement that, 'Music downloading and file-sharing is so easy to do, it's unrealistic to expect people not to do it" (p. 13). This point was reiterated by Tapscott and Williams who talked to teens who were "high on music, low on cash, and convinced that 'information wants to be free'" (p. 57).

Dede and FOR

Dede, Christopher (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles: Implications for investments in technology and faculty. In D. G. Oblinger & J. L. Oblinger (Eds.), Educating the net generation. Retrieved November 20, 2006, from:

The one section of Dede's article that really resonated for me was his discussion about Salzman's frames of reference (FOR) as a way to induce immersion in virtual environments. This piece also tied in nicely to a topic that came up in another class about cyberculture studies and the blending of the virtual and the real (Is the virtual world separate from the real world? Can we understand the virtual if we don't take the real into account?). Dede outlines two different FORs - egocentric and exocentric - and refers to Salzman's dollhouse metaphor to clarify the difference between the two. According to Salzman (as quoted by Dede), the egocentric FOR "provides a view of the object, space, or phenomena from within" - like being inside the dollhouse. In contrast, the exocentric FOR "provides a view of an object, space, or phenomena from the outside" - looking at the dollhouse but only imagining what it is like to be inside.

While this section of Dede's article did not clarify the notion of blending the real and the virtual (and in my other class, it looks like we may be trying to get our heads wrapped around that issue for the rest of the semester), it did provide another lens for considering immersion and the learning experience.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wikis and Podcasts and Blogs! Oh My!

McGee, P., & Diaz, V. (2007, ). Wikis and podcasts and blogs! Oh my! What is a faculty member supposed to do? Educause Review, 29-40. Retrieved September 12, 2007 from

The latest issue of Educause Review includes an article that ties in nicely to the readings for this week. Like the article about the 24-hour professor, the individuals profiled in this Educause piece lament about the struggles they face in keeping up with technology and with the 24/7 model. Here's a sample of a couple of sections that stand out and provide interesting food for thought...

1) "It is important to remember that emerging technologies can be used to produce some of the same benefits that would result from a stronger focus on learner-centered, pedagogically driven instruction: improved information literacy skills: increased participation in the learning process or contributive learning and more collaborative and practiced learning" (p. 38).

2) "A study published by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) in 2000 showed that students who are innovators or early adopters of technology prefer moderate amounts of technology in their instruction and that younger students prefer event less technology than do their older peers" (p. 40).

Wingard: Web-enhanced courses

Robin G. Wingard (2004). Classroom teaching changes in Web-enhanced courses: A multi-Institutional Study. Educause Quarterly, 27(1).

I jotted down a few notes as I was reading this article.

1) Wingard found that the longer faculty taught, the more likely they were to be experienced Web users. She suggests that it is their experience with traditional instruction methods that enables them to be creative in their teaching. She fails to mention the structure of academia (i.e., tenure track) that may divert the attention of younger faculty members and force them to concentrate on endeavors that will count toward tenure. Perhaps the older, more experienced faculty, are well-beyond that point and have the ability to focus on other things, like using the web to enhance their course.

2) The faculty interview and survey responses produced different results. For example, the authors note that "on the survey, faculty reported less change in the classroom than they reported subsequently during the interviews" (p. 29). The authors suggest that the faculty had time to reflect on their survey responses and adjusted their interview responses accordingly. However, it may be that the faculty were telling the interviewer what they thought the interviewer wanted to hear. It is possible that the survey results were closer to the truth because the faculty didn't have to complete it in the presence of one of the researchers.

3) On page 34, Wingard emphasizes that the information presented in this article is based on faculty perceptions. She later mentions that it would be interesting to explore student perceptions of web enhancement efforts. Are there studies that compare faculty and student perceptions? I'm working in a research group on a project that is examining gender equity and IT education. One of the PIs has focused on mentoring and found that faculty indicate that they are mentoring students, but the students report that they are not being mentored. The ending section of the Wingard article reminded me of the mentoring study.

Online Instructor Roles, Training, Incentives, and Supports

A few points of interest from this week's articles:

Wilson (2003; On page 60, he states that "female faculty members are more likely to use university resource centers than male faculty members." Wilson links this finding to the fact that men don't ask for directions, but is the explanation that simple?

Two of the articles mention the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education - Shea (2003): "A Follow-up Investigation of 'Teaching Presence' in the SUNY Learning Network" (]) and Wingard (2004): "Classroom Teaching Changes in Web-enhanced Courses: A Multi-Institutional Study" (

Shae's piece on the SUNY Learning Network indicates that students rated their classmates almost as high as the instructors on effectiveness of discourse facilitation; however, the correlation between the rating of classmates' discourse and their satisfaction and their reported learning were not as high (p. 74). The authors later reiterate this point, and suggest that students have high expectations for their instructors and tend to be more "strict" in their ratings than with their peers (p. 76). Another explanation is that their are more classmates than instructors in the classroom. I'm still thinking about this finding and its corresponding explanations...

In the article, "Motivation and Incentives for Distance Faculty" (2003;, Parker states, "the study found that community college faculty tend to see distance delivery of education as a part of their job." Was this study a mix of community colleges and 4-year institutions? If there was a mix, it would have been interesting to see how the findings from Parker's lit review differed among the different types of institutions. Also, what has made community college faculty take on this view of distance delivery of education? How was that line of thought integrated into the culture? Or is it that individuals who teach at community colleges are focused on teaching, rather than research, which makes them more willing to try different course delivery methods?

The 24-Hour Professor

Chronicle of Higher Education (2002). The 24 hour professor:

As someone who hopes to one day teach (and who is intrigued with the concept of teaching online courses), I read this article about Lee Grenci with mixed emotions. At times I found Grenci's experience exhilarating, particularly the interaction with the students. However, there were also times when I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. This overwhelming feeling rushed over me the strongest when I read the sections that discussed the policies outlined by certain institutions (e.g., respond to students' email within 48 hours). When the drive moves from one where you yourself feel "obsessed" to watch over your students to one where the institution is holding your feet to the fire, that's when I become a little worried. In the past, course instructors have never been available 24/7 so why should moving to an online environment change that? Like Las Vegas, some institutions are attempting to become 24-hour "cities" that have a never close policy.
Is being "always on," "always available," "always open" necessarily a good thing?

Another issue of concern is the one of students seeming "bolder" in online courses about approaching the professor. This is a point that was raised in another article for this week - "What Do Online MBA Professors Have to Say about Online Teaching (2007; In that article, a couple of faculty members stated that there was a "small percentage of students whose attitudes and behaviors were negative when compared to students in face-to-face classes." But, are the students really bolder or are the lack of cues contributing to this sense of boldness? Alternatively, are the students who enroll in an online course more motivated and perhaps more aggressive, which in turn makes them more likely to approach the professor when they "feel like they've been trounced"?

Blogging and Group Discussion

In Monday's class, my group discussed the Pew article on blogging by Lenhart et al. ( One fact our group found of interest was that while blogging is equally split between men and women, their reasons for blogging differed. For example, Lenhart and her colleagues found that men are more likely than women (67% to 52%) to say that they blog to entertain people. In contrast, women who blog and younger bloggers (age 18-29) are more likely than other groups to say that keeping in touch is a major reason for blogging (p. 8).

Today, I was reading an article in First Monday titled, "Mining the Blogosphere: Age, Gender, and the Varieties of Self-expression (2007; In this piece, the authors outline their findings from a study on language use and blogging. They found a pairing that was similar to the one presented by Lenhart and her group. In "Mining the Blogosphere," the authors note the following:

"Factors and parts–of–speech that are used significantly more by younger (older) bloggers are also used significantly more by female (male) bloggers. Thus, Articles, Prepositions, Religion, Politics, Business, and Internet are used more by male bloggers as well as older bloggers, while PersonalPronouns, Conjunctions, AuxiliaryVerbs, Conversation, AtHome, Fun, Romance, and Swearing are used more by female bloggers as well as younger bloggers. "

It's interesting that not only do women and young people share similar reasons for blogging, but that the language styles of their posts are similar as well.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Blogging and RSS

Richardson, W. (2004). Blogging and RSS: The "what's it?" and "how to" of powerful new web tools for educators. InfoToday, 11(1). Retrieved September 3, 2007, from
Blogging is changing the way educators and students use the Web. Those in education have been slower to adopt this new technology for reasons, such as privacy and access concerns. This is changing, and many are beginning to use blogs in a number of innovative ways. Educators also note that one of the best features of blogs, besides their ease-of-use, is the fact that many blogging software tools are free.

One of the many uses of blogs in an educational setting can be for the implementation of collaborative projects. The author describes his own blogging experiences that occurred in a high school literature class he taught. The book selected for this project was The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and a blog was set up to extend the discussion beyond the classroom. Much to the students' surprise, the author of the book even joined in on the conversation. This is similar to the surprise experienced by the students who received comments from outside readers to their review of a circus (see Stephen Downes 2004 piece on educational blogging- Other examples, such as Pam Pritchard's use of audioblogs to help her students improve their reading and pronunciation skills, are also examined.

If I had to pick one sentence from this article that summarizes blogging it would be the following: "In other words, a Weblog is a dynamic, flexible tool that's easy to use whether you're creating with it or simply viewing the results."

Educational Blogging

Downes, S. (2004, September/October). Educational blogging. Educause. Retrieved September 3, 2007, from
The article opens with a brief scenario outlining the activities of fifth and sixth grade students at Institut St. Joseph in Quebec City to illustrate a new trend in education: the use of blogs in and out of the classroom. At the time this article was published, there were no exact data outlining the number of blogs being used in schools; however, several individuals and groups, like Will Richardson and the Educational Bloggers Network, were touting the benefits of this online tool.

Blogs have been shown to have many diverse uses and purposes outside the classroom. For example, some individuals use blogs for personal and social uses, while others use blogs in more of a journalistic capacity. One thing that makes the use of blogs so attractive is their ease-of-use. The article describes the technology and software that contribute to this feature. Negative features of blogs and blogging, such as the potential conflict between the blogger and the administration, the possibility that not all students will be motivated to use the tool, and the lack of commitment to continue the blog once the course has ended are mentioned. When comparing the positives to the negatives, blogging appears to be a tool that has the potential to provide students with a richer educational experience and promote life-long learning.

Comments and Questions:

Downes states, "Blogging is something defined by format and process, not by content. A blog, therefore, is and has always been more than the online equivalent of a personal journal" (p. 18). However, the Pew Internet & American Life Project report, Bloggers ( indicates that the "blogosphere is dominated by those who use their blogs as personal journals" (p. ii). Are students, at least the ones Downes encountered different from those who participated in the Pew interviews? Is Downes merely purporting his hopes for the blogosphere - that it will become more than a collection of personal musings?

Also on . 18 of the Downes piece, he notes that Halavais - a professor added blogs to his media law class - questions whether he would continue the blog activity due to the increase in workload. If adding a blogging activity means more work for the instructor, will they integrate blogging into their classroom simply because students are enthusiastic about it?

Downes states, "Imagine the young students' surprise when, some time after posting a review of a circus on their blog, someone from the circus read the review and wrote back!" To me, this statement suggests that the students in this class did not fully realize the public nature of the blog.

On page 24, Downes indicates that using blogging software is not the same as blogging. I would agree. As is the case with gaming in education, just because student use the technology doesn't mean they have appropriated it.