Archive for April, 2008

And in the end… (Thing #23)

April 18, 2008

Has it been ten weeks already? It appears we have arrived at the end of our journey, which of course does not mean the learning stops. This has been a good experience, a fertile grazing area for the Knowledge Nomad — Kudos to Mary for all she did in setting up the program!

While many of the tools we encountered during the program were familiar to me, I enjoyed discovering and playing around with some new ones. And even when I was familiar with some tools, it was useful to reflect on how they might be useful at work or in the classroom. Interestingly, that act of reflection has served to temper some of my technolust. In several instances (e.g. IM and social networking), it was hard to imagine how these tools could serve an instructional purpose. And that’s fine. It is important to think critically about whether some tool is right for the job, not to just jump on the bandwagon of the latest hyped application. And, whereas I may not find a good use for a particular tool, it’s quite probable that someone else will. At which point, I can reevaluate my own stance.

It was always interesting to read other participants’ blogs, and I would have liked to have commented more on them, but, you know, there’s only so much time in a day. No doubt the time factor is what prevented greater participation. I’m not really sure how you can tackle that problem to get more buy-in. Maybe by offering more brief f2f sessions (like what was offered during Spring Break), esp. at the early stages when people may feel the least comfortable with learning new technologies. In any case, I do think the program is worthwhile and should be offered again.

The Knowledge Nomad is off to explore more feeding grounds for his mind…

When acquaintenances become “friends” (Thing #22)

April 18, 2008

LIke IMing, I don’t see a lot of value to social networking sites for academic purposes.  They can be fun and they can be useful for professional networking, but beyond the marketing possibilities for schools, I think colleges and universities should steer clear of them.  There are some serious boundary issues involved here. My only cavaet to that is if you set up a niche network (such as Ning allows you to do).  The SLIS program at SJSU has such a bounded community.  I’ve joined, but I’m too busy with other things that I never use it.

The problems regarding (lack of) privacy are something I worry about.  A recent posting in iLibrarian pointed to the difficulty of actually leaving Facebook once you have established an account.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  It certainly gives one reason to pause and reconsider whether this is something you want to participate in.

I’ve had an FB account since last November.  On the positive side of the ledger, I have been able to reconnect with a few people through the site.  On the other hand, I have received “friend requests” from people with whom I’m not really friends with, just acquaintenances, putting one in the awkward position of how to respond.  Say “yes” and they are suddenly a “friend,” which seems to water-down the meaning of the term.  Say “no” and you may alienate a person you don’t want to alienate, but with whom you just don’t want to share things with in this online space.  And I have been guilty too of sending friend requests to people I know and would be interested in hearing from, but with whom I have no real intention of staying in regular touch with.  It’s all a bit weird, to say the least.

On the whole, I’m more interested in using social networking for good-old-fashioned professional networking.  That’s why I also have a LinkedIn account.

Thoughts on IM in the class (Thing #21)

April 18, 2008

I’m not a big fan of IM for educational purposes. It may have some role to play (e.g. IM reference service a la Meebo Me), but it seems like it would only be disruptive in the class. Reading the article Instructional Uses of Instant Messaging (IM) During Classroom Lectures only served to confirm my suspicion. Several aspects about IM and the study occur to me:

1. Seemed silly to me that the study did not even mention the pre-IM method for what they were essentially trying to investigate, namely students passing written notes to each other. Apart from now being able to virtually pass a note to someone sitting clear across the lecture hall, I don’t see much new here.

2. IM encourages ping-pong discussions, in this case between two students rather than between student and instructor, which is more typical in trad. discussion sessions. What is missing is the value of a group dynamic which can lead to some very fruitful discussions, and good instructors have many creative ways to initiate and sustain discussions that move beyond ping-pong. It is possible to have group chat sessions, but my own experience with these is that they get very messy in terms of understanding who is responding to whom. Perhaps we still simply lack a protocol for this type of discussion, something which we may have internalized when it occurs f2f. In any case, my initial enthusiasm for the possibilities of group chat has all but evaporated.

3. The content of IM/chat is strikingly poor. The medium discourages lengthy explication of ones thoughts since typing is too tedious. The study results confirm this — less than half the comments were actually on-task and those that were rarely went into much depth. Imagine these dismal results for a trad. discussion section!

4. The authors offered 3 reasons why they think IM would be more beneficial than having a group discussion, all of which struck me as silly: a.) efficiency – no need to leave your seats to break up into small groups; b.) quiet, so conducive to a large lecture hall; c.) students have a written record to use for further study. To a.) I say it helps to have students move around to break up the monotony of the class. To b.) I ask, do you seriously think students will sit around quietly and collectively IM one another? Finally, while c.) initially seems like a strong argument, consider two points. First, given the poor quality of IM/chat content, how valuable is such a record? Secondly, having a written record may also inhibit “thinking aloud” to work out one’s thoughts or test an idea, as the fear of “sounding dumb” is amplified by realizing the fact that now there is a permanent record of your dumbness. Perhaps this potential for self-censorship could be combated by make chat aliases anonymous, but I still have my concerns.

All told, I’m content to leave IM to the private sphere. Maybe others will come up with more creative uses for it in the class, but if nobody does, I won’t be disappointed.

Video Nation (Thing #19)

April 14, 2008

Liked the Big Think link.  A similar one that captures videos of public discussions from around the world is called Fora.TV and there’s lots of educational value in both.  One of the big drawbacks of these sites and youtube, as well, is the poor resolution, so they don’t lend themselves well to broadcasting on a large screen for an entire class.  It’s also probably why it’s hard to watch anything that’s over 5 minutes long.  And, of course, are Big Think and ForaTV are talking head formats, which has a serious yawn factor for many.

Interesting to see some of the Marymount videos on YouTube.  Checking out the comments can be a lesson in itself.  In one video, one person commented s/he had been interested in MM until learning it is a Catholic institution.  Another commentator responded that it no longer is a Catholic institution.  Huh?

I can see using video to teach things (love the Plain English video series) or introduce departments and services to the campus community.  Not sure it needs to be on YouTube, though, unless it is intended as a marketing tool.

Freeze Tag (Things #17 and #18)

April 13, 2008

I’ve been using Delicious for a long time. In fact, I just checked and according to my list I started posting on November 25, 2004! But here’s the thing – I almost never actually go back to my account to find previously saved links. I don’t know why. I think I need to put a freeze on posting any more sites, take stock of what I have already saved, do a better job of organizing stuff (I started tagging before I understood the concept and usefulness of controlled vocabulary), and begin to evaluate how to make more of the site.

Get wiki with it (Thing #15)

April 13, 2008

I especially like the site on “When to Use a Wiki.”  It was interesting to note that wikis work best for internal groups.  The advice on providing a clear nucleus also seemed very sound, i.e., provide some initial content to the wiki to get the ball rolling.  Not too sure about the notion that you need to have a clear final product in mind.  That seems too limited.  What’s nice about wikis is there open-endedness (is that a word?).  Perhaps what he meant is the scope of the Wiki should be clear, which makes sense.

In addition to the subject guide Wikis the Library is preparing to roll-out, I’ve been thinking it would be useful to have a wiki for reference questions.  Read about this somewhere a ways back.  Basically, library staff could use the wiki to track what resources they were able to find to answer a reference question.  Since we often get repeat questions, this might serve as a nice KM system and could be used to feed into the subject guide Wikis.  Of course, it’s pretty time consuming to maintain such a wiki, so the question is ultimately whether it would save time down the line.  Another wiki application in an academic setting could be the sharing of learnings from conferences.  For instance, everyone who gets TDW money could post their findings to a wiki as a way of sharing what they learned with the campus community.  This could supplement oral presentations.

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April 13, 2008

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