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I’ve just created a new video blog called Podcasty Bits, full of bits of pod casting that I hope to do this winter for my course. I really hate videos of myself, and don’t like how I look or sound on camera, so I figure that this is a good way to get over that once and for all.

At present there are a few interesting bits, one of me singing “I’m a little tea pot” with Mr Pants, and a video one of my students did last term.

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Originally published at Lemmingworks. You can comment here or there.

UNICEF, One Laptop per Child, Google Launch Initiative to Preserve and Share Stories around the World: “UNICEF, One Laptop per Child, Google Launch Initiative to Preserve and Share Stories around the World.”

A child’s view of the $100 laptop

What will a child in the UK make of a laptop designed to help children in the developing world? Rory Cellan-Jones brought an XO home to find out.

The laptop was designed to be robust and easy to use
In late November I returned from Nigeria with a sample of the XO laptop.

The computer, made by the One Laptop per Child charity, is a robust little machine designed to entertain and educate children while allowing them to learn by themselves.

I knew there was only one person who could review it for me.

The Nine Year-old’s View

Enter Rufus Cellan-Jones. He is nine, has far more experience of games consoles than computers, and has strong views on most matters.

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Via, Slashdot | EU Bans Sock-Puppet Blogs:
Fake bloggers soon to be ‘named and shamed’-News-Politics-TimesOnline

Hotels, restaurants and online shops that post glowing reviews about themselves under false identities could face criminal prosecution under new rules that come into force next year.

Businesses which write fake blog entries or create whole wesbites purporting to be from customers will fall foul of a European directive banning them from “falsely representing oneself as a consumer”.

The Times has learnt that the new regulations also will apply to authors who praise their own books under a fake identity on websites such as Amazon.

Online consumer reviews are playing an ever greater role in shaping shopping
habits, with websites such as TripAdvisor for the travel industry being seen
as increasingly influential. However, a string of businessman in the UK and the US have been caught posing as supposedly independent customers in an attempt to boost sales.

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

Education Forum: “The Star spoke with Jason Nolan, an assistant professor at the School of Early Childhood Education at Ryerson University, about educational blogging and learning with technology.”

[This was in the print version of the star last month, but didn’t get online.]

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

[This is the text of the Toronto Star article from a couple weeks back. They never posted it on their web site, so I thought I’d put it here. Typos are, I think, theirs.]

Blog is effective teaching tool — Education Q&A
The Toronto Star
Thu 21 Dec 2006
Page: R05
Section: GTA

Is blogging the new way to help students learn? How can teachers incorporate blogging into their lessons? The Star spoke with Jason Nolan, an assistant professor at the School of Early Childhood Education at Ryerson University, about educational blogging and learning with technology. If you have a question for Nolan, submit it to www.thestar.blogs/education….

Q Could you start by telling us a bit about your research?

Read more... )
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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

I’ve marked 40 odd exams (not that they’re odd exams, but that I’ve not got an exact count) out of ~140, and at the same time following the discussion on RFAnet, an email list for Ryerson Faculty. The discussion has been very serious, and is centred on how difficult it is to mark a large number of exams in a short period of time. I have 4 days to do it. There is a feeling that there is too much rush, and that more time should be available. Mostly well intentioned and well thought out, and it is a great way for me as a newer faculty member to know about and share in the struggles that the university community face.

I think we’re all getting a bit exhausted at this point… so some wag (”A person whose words or actions provoke or are intended to provoke amusement or laughter.”) posted the following link as a suggestion. It is nothing new, but rarely so well illustrated. Enjoy. I’m back to the grind.

Concurring Opinions: A Guide to Grading Exams

It’s that time of year again. Students have taken their finals, and now it is time to grade them. It is something professors have been looking forward to all semester. Exactness in grading is a well-honed skill, taking considerable expertise and years of practice to master. The purpose of this post is to serve as a guide to young professors about how to perfect their grading skills and as a way for students to learn the mysterious science of how their grades are determined.

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

Rochelle sent me this article which is really interesting: The Chronicle: 10/6/2006: E-Mail is for Old People: “As students ignore their campus accounts, colleges try new ways of communicating….” While I’m very happy that people are thinking this through, they don’t seem to be thinking that wisely or deeply. I did post something recently about this and thin technologies but it also is an issue of appropriate technologies. When I’m the prof. and I want to communicate with students about formal matters, sending an IM is, well, stupid. And with Facebook and Myspace, the cognitive equivalent of social communication as dressing up to go to a disco in a stripmall, you’ve got to wonder how far out of touch the admin might be. I’ve used IM for communicating with students for years. The problem wtih that is that they don’t use any of the ‘good’ ones and I have to use MSN (I guess I’m old school prefering IRC (yes, I know I trash IRC but that’s for a diff reason), ICQ, AIM/iChat, MOOs or the like).

I use AIM/iChat mostly to communcate with colleagues. While I was working with my RA on the songchild project (http://songchild.org) I was IMing with Danny, who teaches part time at ECE, showing him how to use media wiki, and editing the CSS for his wiki. We were in text, but when he was trying things out we switched to audio (which is a function of iChat) so we could type while we talked. And of course I could have 2-3 other chats going on with other faculty. Facebook isn’t quite up to that level of communication, though it is good for the rather thin communication that perhaps is all students want to engage in.

I’d prefer a jabber server for our school though, then we could be sure that we had a record that messages were at least sent. That’s what I like about institutional email… we have proof that it got to a student’s account, and the reverse. You can lead a student to email, but you can’t ensure they read it… Hmmm… I’d even think that setting up a monastic learning environment in World of Warcraft would be better than just getting a school facebook account. Now that’s a thought.

Our job is to improve student’s ability to communicate, not bring the level down to what has been marketted at young people. I’ve yet to find anyone who can justify FB or MS as a more rich or sophisticated form of tech over whatever else is available… and there are so many other ways of keeping in touch… of course blogs and livejournal, or even MOOs.

As well, if students were ACTUALLY more sophisticated they could do what I do. My university email is forwarded to my gmail account, and the email I send out from Mail.app is configured such that anything I send out appears to come from my university. And they wouldn’t need to go to the unversity account at all, nor embarass their friends with a stupid email account name.

This is also funny. UofT and Ryerson both allow for firstname/lastname@ email accounts. My students who try (they stop after the first try) to email me from elsewhere as fuzzybunny15634@coolmail.com are directed to try again from something slightly more appropriate.

The final interesting point is that I strongly suggest that students experiment with a more professional language register than they are used to.

Dear Jason;

I am sorry that I will not be in class today, as my new puppy ate my bus pass, and my student loans will not be in until next week, and there’s a meteor shower at the moment.

Sincerely,
Ed the Horse

Most of my students want a job when they graduate, and they see the point of knowing how to communicate effectively and professionally with their future employers, and later on with their employees. If they just want to communicate with their friends, they’re more than welcome to, since education is all about the choices we make based on the opportunities available to us.

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

I was reading the always thoughtful and reflective Alex H’s post Facebook retreats where he talks about the privacy issues floating about there, and how the people running Facebook have responded…

…designers failed to predict the potential privacy implications of their systems. It’s worth contrasting these with another rollout over the last few weeks: Flickr’s addition of photo geotagging capabilities. …they made clear when you started geotagging that it would affect your privacy, and gave you a reasonably fine-grained control over who would see what.

I’m not suggesting that more participatory design and evolution, particularly for social systems, isn’t a good thing or a necessary thing. But I think a more pressing issue may be preparing our designers—both on the CS/application coding side and on the designerly user experience side—to think more about the moral impact of their code.

This led me to muse on thin vs thick social networking technologies:

I wonder if this sort of problem isn’t in itself embedded in the architecture itself… this has to be a question, as I’m not as versed in Facebook as I might… mostly because I wrote it off as uninteresting to me as an educator, though recognizing its interest to IS and sociology people. FB is one of the thin social technologies; linking people and building social networks, but never plumbing the depths of the individuals or social relationships. It is always the event, the happening, the cocktail party, the rave perhaps, (insert current social activity). It is not the kitchen conversation at a party, the dinner with Andre, tuesdays with Morrie. It may be a funeral, but never a wake. With thin social technologies, one can build a community, but never actually have a community, thinking back to Rheingold. It got me thinking of some of Wellman’s stuff… it is not what we do with a technology that is important, it is what we say with a technology. I always rant that computers are tools for putting people in touch with people (and the personal products that they create). And I guess that this stands but with thin social technologies the connection is all that is there. Just a link, a line, contact information, event planner… what we’re doing, and to a lesser extent what we did.

Of course it is thin, because we only show our good sides. Social networking technologies never have a slot for morning breath, inability to finish a thought, non-standard sexual orientation, or bad hair. Thin social communication technologies are also thin because they do not allow or afford the opportunity to look beyond the surface.

So what is a thick social technology? Example-wise I would say that Flickr! and LiveJournal.com (or Vox) are prime and very different examples. Flickr! is very hot in people’s minds… sharing and tagging photos. Livejournal is often derided on the other hand. But both through photography and text, provide the possibility for generating thick descriptions… deep and rich visual or textual narratives about an individual and her/his way of seeing and interacting with others in the world. When you look back over 5 years of someone’s blog or someone’s photo-stream you can see development and growth, where it is happening. Or the potential is there; in a way that it never is with thin technologies. If someone reads on my blog, they can see 6 years of my life, such that I’ve chosen to make public, and they can tell if they think that I’m a good person or not, interesting or not, thoughtful or shallow. Try doing that with a thin technology where all you get is a business card, likes and dislikes and an event calendar.

Both flickr! and LJ have rather well developed privacy tools for tagging personal and private content in a public space, as well as public. This is key.

When someone sees my ‘thick description’ I am also able to see theirs. And if I don’t like what I see, I can block them from seeing me. That’s what it is like when we open our hearts and minds to others in face to face social situations. A statement or comment on a post or photo can be read back into the commenter’s own work or thoughts… you have context and reciprocity.

I never engage with an LJ or flickr! user who has not posted images, thoughts or information about themselves (except my students who use these technologies under duress). I can’t see why I would bother communicating with someone who is themselves a closed book. And when the book is open and full, I feel that I am able to have a good sense of who I am talking to.

This speaks to the problems of MySpace that came up this year, and how children were running into problems. MySpace is another thin social technology that in my own mind I thought of as MyHype. It seemed to be used as a tool for self-promotion, even when the promotion was a fantasy fiction of yourself. As the dominant discourse of the space is a “fantasy fiction of yourself” it is easy to see how children (children covers up to 18 in Canada when it relates to these sort of issues) who are not yet the most sophisticated in their social dealings with others can be so easily manipulated.

I should wrap this up, as it is too long for most people’s online attention span, and aside from Clevergirl few people seem to read this. Suffice it to say that when social communication technologies provide a two-way dialogue with narrative descriptions of self over a sustained period of time you are left with a rich and complex model of the individual (in terms of what they want to share online), and it is much easier to have a sense of who you are talking to, who their social network is (and what those people are like). You can never trust someone online any more than you can in real life… but when in both situations you ‘know’ someone’s family and friends over a period of time you have a deeper sense of who they are and you can made rather valid social decisions based on this information.

Some people get picked up at bars. Some people meet when attending the reunion of their best friend’s extended family.

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

Was just reading Alex’s post on Facebook creepifies?, and then went to have a look. I’ve always ignored it. Seems like Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, LinkedIn are all just examples of form without content technologies that allow people to pretend that they exist.

As one sage and urbane professorial friend put it while we were chatting online:

- never assume anyone on facebook does anything
- fb is about college and stuff
- orkut is about brazillians having sex
- linkedin is about business
- and myspace is about teenagers pretending to be adults pretending to be teenagers who are actually 45 year old women looking for teenagers pretending to be adults… so they can condemn the practice

Of course he’d trash blogs and Livejournal, but for me, and I point to Rochelle for getting this into my head, it is about metaphor and the location of discourse. Blogs locate a narrative on yourself. It is all about you. The others mentioned above are all about pretending you are someone… the location of discourse is ‘elsewhere’, and the metaphor is hype, with a little bit of the simulacra thrown in somewhere. What I find interesting is that there seems to be a relationship between popularity of a technology and its inability to actually DO anything of value. If you have to work at it, express yourself, think about what is important to you and how you want to share it with others, then it is just too much work. If you just have to create a list of personal opinions edited to highlight how you are simultaneously just like everyone else and much cooler than you really are, then the technology is a hit. Hmmm… I wonder why that is? :)

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

I was looking for Jason Nolan the Surgeon who lives in NYC. Ran across him years ago, and I have my reasons for checking him out again that are scholarly, not medical. But I tripped across this that made me smile. Found someone that who read my little article in the encyclopedia of community!

Berkshire Blog: a global point of reference: Why are we blogging?
On my other blog, The Armchair Environmentalist, I’m always confessing something or other because I’m not, by a long stretch, perfectly Green. Now I have a technology confession. I first heard the word blog when we were compiling the headword list for the Encyclopedia of Community, the subtitle of which is ‘from the village to the virtual world.’ Our Internet communities editor Barry Wellman had included it and we already had an author signed up. “What,” I said irritably, “is a blog?”

“A web log, of course,” said our project assistant, “Don’t you think it should be in?”

Ignorance spoke too quickly. “Blog” remained, and when 2004 came and suddenly everyone knew about blogs (remember the New York Times magazine cover story about the political bloggers at the party conventions?). Blogs are not necessarily a community-building tool, like a wiki or even an old-fashioned online bulletin board. But they can be, and that’s where we’re heading with this blog. I’m getting it warmed up, but we’ll soon have others connected with Berkshire Publishing adding their thoughts, and we want to move the debate about interdisciplinary scholarship started at the Charleston Conference to this forum.

In his article in the Encyclopedia of Community, Jason Nolan explains, “Blogs have been traced back to 1997, according to Rebecca Blood, an early chronicler of blogging and author of The weblog handbook. They were termed weblogs by blogger Jorn Barger, and only twenty-three were known to exist when ‘Peter Merholz announced in early 1999 that he was going to pronounce it ‘wee-blog’ and inevitably this was shortened to “blog”‘ (Blood, 2000). Blogs are children of older online technologies such as Usenet News, bulletin boards, handrolled web pages, and eve MOOs (Multi-User Object Oriented systems), but the blogging revolution comes from the ease with which one can update and maintain an online journal.” (Christensen & Levinson, 2003).

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

Just had a chat with someone from The Canadian Press. It was a phone interview on the educational uses of blogging in higher education. Got to mention alex, Rochelle and Roger regarding their blog work, as well as the development of blogging tools at Ryerson. Relatively painless, and good to get Ryerson on the map.

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

I can’t believe it but I got two proposals submitted to the American Educational Research Association, for the conference in Chicago next April! It is a struggle to get them in in mid-summer, but this time I had three to get in, and got two of them done.

Rochelle and I got “Critical and Reflective Narrative Technologies: Developing Pedagogically Appropriate Blogging Environments for Institutions” submitted two days ago. And today I got “Polysychronous perspectives on technology: do learning objects go bump in the night?” submitted.

Sigh of relief. Now I know that that my first year at Ryerson’s complete, and the next is underway.

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

Don’t miss Alex’s video clips he put together on blogging: The learning blogosphere. For no other reason, it is fun to hear his voice overly compressed. But in general, this thoughts are always well contextualized and measured. Will be required watching for my winter course.

LJ Talk

Jul. 25th, 2006 11:12 am
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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

LJ Talk is a built in jabber server for livejournal. Now you can talk to everyone on your LJ friends list. This is a great teaching tool option, as I don’t need to keep a separate system set up for blogging and chatting with students. All my students with blogs will show up on my LJ Talk. Thanks for the intel rochelle!

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

Building a better brain | Science Blog

The piece… doesn’t just ease parents’ toy-buying decisions - it lays out the scientific basis for why helping all kids have the best early experiences is good economic policy.
Their argument is based on work from the diverse fields of economics, neurobiology, developmental psychology and public policy. Working independently, the four authors each came to the conclusion that the earliest years of life forever shape an adult’s ability to learn.

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

Everyone should read this blog, IMHO. And buy the book. And get the plush toy. I plan on using the book in my course this fall, though not as the text book, as I’d originally planned. Today’s post: Poor People, Rich People, and People Who Hate covers the new GoogleJet, and how hate groups are getting into the US military to fight in Iraq.

And don’t forget the Freakonomics study guide!

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

Rochelle and I have a new web site and blog, and such. Head on over to Metaphorica.net and check out the podcast of our conference presentation today: Podcast of our STHLE Presentation

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

Guardian Unlimited Film | News | Baghdad Blog to become a film:

The Baghdad Blog, the daily dispatches penned by the Iraqi architect known as Salam Pax, is to be turned into a film.FilmFour will co-produce the big-screen version of the acclaimed blog written by Pax, which chronicled life during and after the allied invasion.Salam Pax is the pseudonym of the 20-something from Iraq whose online diary Where is Raed? received huge media attention and a loyal, worldwide readership after it appeared on the web in 2003.

If you don’t know about the Baghdad Blog, aka Where is Raed ? you should check it out. I remember reading it during its run, and enjoying some of it, but not being that interested in the war, and busy with things, I didn’t follow it as much as others did. When it came out as a book, I was astounded to see how well it read as text. I’ll watch the movie, as it should be hard to wreck.

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Ex-Lemmingworks. ##.

TeacherSource | learning.now . What Exactly is a Blog, Anyway? | PBS:

In the coming weeks and months here at learning.now, you’re going to hear a lot about the exciting educational work that’s being done with technologies like podcasts, photo blogs and video blogs, just to name a few. But before we jump too far ahead, I thought it might be useful to talk about where all of this got started: blogs.
If you don’t know what a blog is, you’re not alone; according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, nearly two-thirds of Internet users don’t have a good idea of the meaning of “blog.” In case you fall within this group, you’re in luck, though - you’re looking at a blog right now.

This is an interesting primer, but geeze, you think they’d mention the actual history of blogs, such as Rebecca Blood :: Weblogs: A History And Perspective which I think is a great intro/history.

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