Wednesday, January 31, 2007


And I'm sick. Sore throat, tight chest, runny nose, coughing, and--bonus!--chills that come and go. Sleep is good, but being horizontal is not. Figure that one out.

Tomorrow I have a bunch of meetings and Friday I have workshops to give, so I must steel myself for two more days of 8-to-5 before I can recuperate on the weekend.

Yeah, wish me luck with that.

wheeeeeeze. . .

Two weird things

1. Lucas's latest game is mimicking the Roomba.* He walks in straight lines across the room, spinning around a few times whenever he changes direction. It's pretty damn adorable, especially when he falls down because he's dizzy. When I turned off Romba tonight, Lucas looked at it, astonished at its sudden silence, and tried to talk to it by making vacuuming noises.

2. I finally printed out the "revise-and-resubmit" manuscript I've had sitting on my desk for almost a full year. Had I done that a year ago, perhaps I would have gotten a job interview or two? Anyway, I thought it might as well follow through (finally) since I had already revised it and merely needed to write a cover letter.

*Roomba remains unnamed, though I'm leaning toward a name that would be appropriate for a horseshoe crab or other crustacean of the late Permian because Roomba is definitely carcinomorphic. Any carcinologists out there? (And aren't you proud an English major knows what carcinology is? I am. And you can bet I'm going to work "carcinomorphic" into my everyday conversations now that I've stumbled across the word.)

(crab photo by Lou Tamposi)

. . .as lit

You know the Bible 82%!

Wow! You are truly a student of the Bible! Some of the questions were difficult, but they didn't slow you down! You know the books, the characters, the events . . . Very impressive!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Not bad for an atheist, eh?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Faculty poll: student access to prior course materials

I need your thoughts, oh wise professoriate.

If you had--hypothetically speaking, of course--created a bunch of course content in a learning management system (something like Blackboard or Moodle), would you want your former students to have access to that content? I'm talking about content like podcasts, any PDFs or docs you might have uploaded, tests and quizzes, etc.

For the purposes of this hypothetical, let's say you teach a course in the fall and again in the spring. It's the same course, but you have two different sites on the learning management system--one for the fall class and one for the spring. The sites will have a lot of identical content, but since you roll out content over the course of the class, the spring semester course starts as a relatively blank slate--you post content as students need to see it. Only students in the fall course can access the fall course site, and only students in the spring course can access the spring course site.

The question, then, is this: Should the fall students still have access to the fall course site once the fall course has concluded?

There seem to be two schools of thought:

1) Students should be able to access content from courses they've taken because they may need to review it for subsequent courses.

2) Students are lying, cheating bastards who can't be trusted not to pass test questions and other crucial course content to current students in the class. Therefore, the fall students' access to the fall course material may compromise the learning of the spring students.

What are your thoughts?

(Fox photo by Rob Lee, used under a Creative Commons license)

Candidate rejection etiquette

I've been pretty damn careful not to name names on this blog, but I'm making an exception this time: Cal State Fullerton Liberal Studies Department, I'm putting you on notice.

I've received an awful lot of rejection letters this job season, but all of them arrived on paper, on school letterhead, in envelopes. Get the idea?

Today I get an e-mail marked "high priority" from an administrative assistant. It says simply "Dear Trill Wing, Please read the attached letter. Thank you." And the attached letter is lovingly titled "Doc2.doc." Not even a PDF on school stationery with a scanned department chair signature. Boo!

As an added flourish, the signature of the administrative assistant includes "Happy New Year!"

I guess what's worst of all, really, is that this is the job that I totally wanted and felt I was a good fit for. And so did Fantastic Adviser, who went out of her way to write a special letter for this position. And it never feels good to hear that the school at which you thought you had the best chance didn't even think you merited a phone interview.

Still, I'm not so much miffed that I didn't get the position (since I'm happy in my current job) as I am about the utter lack of courtesy.

Oh yes, you're definitely on notice, CSUF Liberal Studies Department. On notice you are.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Why I shouldn't write e-mail when I'm tired:

Below is the text of an e-mail I sent this evening to bloggy friend Breena Ronan, who puts up with my shit because she thinks it's a burden for me to hear all her fabulous ideas. Anyway, the e-mail very much encapsulates why I shouldn't be teaching this quarter.

To give some context: I'm lecturing tomorrow in the American studies course I gave up teaching in order to take my new job. The topic is World's Fairs, specifically the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the 1939 fair in New York, and the unofficial "World's Fair" of 1964, also in New York.

I don't wanna read anything else. Wah!

I don't wanna write anything else! Meh!

If I see the word "trylon" one more time, I'm going to hurl.

On the other hand, there is this:

If you had to pick, which of these would you say best represents the World's Fair of today?

  • Vegas
  • Falconcity of WONDERS!
  • Disneyworld/Epcot Center
  • MacWorld and similar tech tradeshows crawling with venture capitalists and consumers

And don't say "Falconcity of Wonders!" just because you want to live in the Dubai Hanging Gardens of Babylon. (BTW, I call dibs on the 6,500 sq. ft. detached villa in the hideous "New World" style.)


P.S. Did I mention I don't wanna work right now?

P.P.S. I am sooooo happy with my decision to give up teaching for the time being. Playing blocks with Lucas is far more fun. And more important.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Read the dialogue out loud

Me: I think I'll take Lucas for a walk. It might stem his ennui.

Mr. Trillwing: I'll stay here. I'm not ennui'd.

Kinda creepy, eh?

Even creepier was the pet dog I tested out. It looked freeze-dried.

And why isn't there an option to put some flesh on the bones of the avatar?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Random observations (household appliances edition)

  • We now have a washer and dryer. A nice washer and dryer. It feels weird not to be pumping quarters into them after lo! all those many years of laundromat patronage.
  • Mr. Trillwing has declared the dishwasher to be off-limits because it does not meet his exacting standards for clean kitchenware. Fortunately, Mr. T also happens to enjoy washing dishes, which I do not.
  • Our oven, which is quite dated, proudly bears a logo proclaiming it was made by General Motors.
  • My stovetop has led me to believe there's a reason the popular saying isn't "Now you're cooking with electricity!"
  • Lucas likes to play chicken with our Roomba. Roomba always wins. Crying ensues.
  • Roomba does not cry.
  • I'm looking for a pet name for our Roomba. It's sage green in color. Please leave nominations in the comments.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Liveblogging (now with extra snark!): ELI Sesion on "Youth, Privacy, and Social Networking Technologies"

with Nancy Mitrano of Cornell University

Higher education must embrace web 2.0 for our own purposes, not commercial ones.

Pew Internet and American Life Project:

55% of online teends have created a personal profile online
66% of these teens say their profile is private
48% of teens visit social networking websites daily or more often

Older boys (15-17 y.o.) who use social networking sites are more likely than girls to say they've met new friends online. 29% of boys said they flirted; 13% of girls did.

(Bored yet? I am! How is this new?)

Oh, here we go. . . Rolling out the pedophiles with an anecdote about a girl meeting up with a scary man. Barbara Sawhill, next to me, is muttering: "That's bad parenting, not bad technology." Amen.

Bush/Gonzalez/FBI are protecting our children. Good. God. Am I really here? Someone save me. I thought my job was to protect my child from that triumvirate.

Audience member stands up and says she lets her 6-year-old son online onto the Disney kids' site, but she was with him as he explored the site's tutorial.

Praise from the speaker. "That's a great example."

What are we, at a PTA meeting?

"I learn a lot from Mickey."


Seriously, many of the speakers here have been stellar. This presentation, not so much.

Now she's saying we need to talk to our students so that we know how to connect with them.

Thanks for the enlightenment.

I'm shutting down my laptop to save the battery.

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

Liveblogging ELI: "Learning with Images: Aligning IT Decisions with Visual Literacy Practices"

with Diana M. Dagefoerde, Susan E. Metros, and David J. Staley, all of Ohio State University.

Literacy: the condition or quality of being literate, especially the ability to read and write

A literate human being possesses core communicative and quantitative skills--reading/writing and speaking/listening.

21st-century literacies: language, scientific, economic, political, cultural, technological, ecological, information, media, and visual

We live in a world of tremendous visual overload. Clutter is in our everyday environment, physical and virtual. We have tremendous visual dependency, too. (Slide depicts famous Nixon-Kennedy TV debate)

Visual overload + visual dependency = visually simulated, visual learners (but not necessarily visually literate students)

Ohio State's revised GEC: WOVE - Written, Oral, and Visual Expression requirement

Students needed to learn to retrieve and use written, oral, and visual information analytically, and also to think critically about this information. Writing emphasized. Stressed decoding, slighted enoding. Boiled down to "teach 'em Excel and PowerPoint" because they can write and make a chart, and thus we can check off the requirement.

So a visual literacy panel recommended: integration of VL throughout the curriculum, not just a single visual literacy course. Courses with a component in visual literacy develop visual intelligence.


- Students should decipher, analyze, interpret, and share visual materials
- Communicate ideas visually and create and compose virtual materials
- Be an informed critic and consuer of visual information--judge images' accuracy, validity, and worth.

Historians' mindset toward visual literacy (with Staley):
Historians are "word people." Tenure and promotion depend on words.
The visual is OK for school kids, history buffs, and museum goers, but it's not what "we" do.
The visual is not a rhetorical form that historians tend to accept on their own terms.
Book to look up: Eyewitnessing by Peter Burke. Subtitle: The Use of Images as Historical Evidence.
At OSU, 82% of History department faculty make frequent use of visual images in their classes. Again, images are OK for students. Hardly any faculty said they were trying to reach out to visual learners.

Survey at OSU found students are visually stimulated but not good at analyzing images.

David Green, survey: "Using Digital Images in Teaching and Learning"

How images are employed by professors and grad students:
- As illustrations, to provide a mood or setting in ways that words cannot always communicate
- As evidence to be analyzed

In history classes at OSU, students are asked to analyze images (decode), not asked to produce their own images (encode)

Most images presented during PowerPoint (70% of users), transparencies (50+% of users), CMS (20% of users), and others (web page, paper handouts, opaque projector, etc.)

Support services from the Goldberg Porgram:
- Goldberg Instructional Center
- Goldberg Multimedia Archive
- eHistory at OSU: a public history portal - grad student book reviews, magazine (current events in historical perspective), images, more

Helping (informally) grad students to learn about creating visual documents, esp. short films

- Faculty have scant concern for metadata and the provenance of images (versus their huge concern for provenance of texts), even assuming ownership when they don't have it (just because they scanned in an image themselves)

- Need for "translation" between "technology terms" and "history terms" (e.g. using "archive" instead of "database." "Bibliographic references" instead of "metadata").

Aligning IT Decisions with Visual Literacy Practices (Dagefoerde)

OSU developed Media Manager, which is based on the idea that faculty are mash-up artists. In order to bring visual literacy to the curriculum, faculty need to find, create, annotate, and share the images. Media Manager is optimized for images, but it will take any kind of digital file. Can annotate at the collection or item level. You can share your collection with people anywhere in the world, or can be placed behind a layer of authentication.

Media Manager developed by a collective of groups at OSU. So far, 24,000+ items have been uploaded. It's just starting to take off.

Everything paper-prototyped, and faculty approved everything before it went into development.

Pulls in course rosters to assist with authentication.

Ideas to keep in mind:
enable collection sharing
support collection flow
valuable collections will grow - bridge people can help

Faculty building "visual literacy" courses tend to work within ersonal collections, Google, and scanned images. Institutions tend to invest in digital libraries, databases, or archives.

The Long Tail of collections: Huge collections of libraries, museums, archives. But also numberless smaller individual faculty and small-group collections that are most relevant to curricular teams. Yet these last get the least amount of institutional support. Storage and tools need to move faculty from personal collections to their institution's collections of greatest hits--which may mean institutional collections or others' personal collections.

Important to have flow of images from scratch disk to sharing.

Key challenge: To maintain high-quality support and system performance while we expand the user base, the infrastructure, and the collection growing.

Q from audience member: How do you deal with copyright?

A: All images that come from personal collections are by default behind authentication. If there's any question that the institution doesn't have ownership of the image, then it's not made public. But individual faculty can make things public if they want. In that case, faculty are responsible for determining copyright info. In their experience, very few faculty are making their images publicly available.

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

Liveblogging ELI: Session on the Millennial Instructor

with Carl Berger (who has been speaking for two minutes, but whom I already really, really like. Yay for good speakers!)

What do we know today?

  • Many surveys of faculty exist.
  • When taken as a whole, they paint a picture of some common uses of technology in teaching and learning.
  • Caution: Some specific finding might not apply to you.

He cautions us not to try to build our own surveys--beg, borrow, and steal from other institutions. Carl's CARAT site has surveys anyone can use. A couple years ago, they started using a survey that applied to both students and faculty (e.g. "In your teaching or learning, do you. . .").

  • Many surveys have documented the "Millennial Student"
  • Fewer, but still many, have documented faculty use of technology in teaching and learning
  • Faculty are willing to learn on their own.
  • Faculty least prefer books, manuals, and anything with a cost
  • Significant group of faculty don't seem to respond to "adult learning principles"
  • Convenience stronger than need to know
  • Colleagues more important than expertise
  • "In my office" more important than hotline.
Informing, yet Perplexing
  • the curse of successful traditional teaching
  • time, effort, relevance to teaching. . .critical
  • Reward, recognition, "count toward". . .crucial
  • Awareness of not reading student may be tipping point. . .or may be totally irrelevant
No more "weeder" courses. In fact, one of his chem profs was just tenured for his research on teaching and learning with technology. "You can see these little bits and pieces of change coming. But how coming are they?"

All faculty?
  • Variety of learning styles
  • Culture of local department or field of study
  • Variety of faculty types
  • And something new. . . Could there be a new group emerging? The Millennial Instructor?
A funny thing happened on the way. . .
  • 2005 gave soime survey to faculty and students
  • Role and affiliation, hmmm. . .more responses than sample
  • Interesting group, faculty with student roles and students with faculty roles (e.g. TAs)
  • Some unusual comparisons but just a fluke?
A look at three samples:
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • This new group
  • A chance to directly compare them through responses to the same themes and responses within those themes
  • Drawing some tentative conclusions
Used matrix questions, where one question had a 9-part answer, thanks to the use of radio buttons. Seemed to faculty like a shorter survey, which means higher response rate.

2006 survey
  • Not identical to 2005 survey but very much the same
  • Few more of the hybrid group
Survey had section on demographics (association and role--adjunct, student, etc. and freshman, sophomore, junior, grad student, librarian, etc.)

Unusual combinations
  • Students who teach
  • Faculty involved in formal learning as students
  • Focus on teaching and learning
  • Would this group look different?
  • Probably an older student group?
  • Probably a younger faculty group?
  • Just echo faculty but w/more skill?
  • Echo students?

  • 1731 students
  • 391 faculty
  • 321 students w/faculty roles
  • 83 faculty with student roles
So. . .of respondents w/faculty connections, 16% are "millennials" (students w/faculty roles, faculty w/student roles). "Millennial" is a way of designating use, support, expertise, patience, etc.--not, in this case, age.

Faculty want WINWINI: What I need when I need it.

Faculty (50% of sample was 40-55), but range from 20-80
Students (50% of sample 18-23), but range from 18 to 52
Millennial Instructor (50% of sample was 24-29, 90% from 20-34), range from 18 to 65.

He showed a really interesting graph where faculty, students, and millennial instructors (MI) rated themselves as novice to expert users in a three-part question: Please rate your expertise in using technology for teaching and learning in three areas: educational use, research, and personal. I hope the graph is available online. The summary was that millennials are ahead in all areas, with faculty in the middle of the pack on research, and students in the middle on educational and personal use. MIs appeared to be even more "millennial" in their personal lives than they are in their professional lives. MIs have a strong perception of their own expertise.

How do people learn about using technology for teaching and learning? A sampling of responses, which I'm placing in red so I remember to share it with my supervisors:
  • all groups prefer self-taught from exploring and experimenting
  • help from others--still popular among all
  • from IT staff--faculty like this, students not at all
  • tech seminars--even less popular than IT staff
  • in person next less popular
  • telephone consulting
  • last popular among all groups--online computer courses
Barriers in using technology for teaching and learning (all three groups lumped together)
  • biggest barrier: instructors don't know how to implement it (students and MI most likely to believe this)
  • extra work, little connection to course (faculty believe this more than students)
  • takes too much time
  • students don't know how to use it (modest barrier, but faculty think students know more than students think they do)
  • too complicated (faculty perception esp.)
  • don't have technical support
  • I don't have the skills (relatively low barrier)
Both students and faculty see instructors as a large barrier.

Throughout survey, not too much correlation between gender or age and answers.

How do we guide such folk?
  • Get out of their way?
  • Meet special needs?
  • Recognize and reward?
  • Maybe I should just retire?
Future investigations/ways to tweak the survey (currently 15-20 questions long)
We didn't design a survey to find such a group. So:
  • Should we ask directly?
  • What kind of themes?
  • What kind of question?
Themes and questions
ease with technology
fits all of lifestyle
always connected?

CARAT website; look to the right side of the page for the presentations.

Wow, this was a terrific session!

Comment from audience: Ask instructors about role of technology in teaching and learning. Attitudes and values.

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Are you jealous yet?

Please excuse all the liveblogging posts. I figure no one but Geeky Mom will find them interesting or particularly useful. I'll provide a reflective post soon.

This afternoon was fabulous. Not only did I hear Bitch Ph.D. speak at Emory, but I also met Scrivener. And then Scrivener, Barbara Ganley and Barbara Sawhill and I went out for Mexican food. What fun!

I also forgot to mention (and was quite remiss in doing so) that I got together earlier this month with the lovely Julie Meloni, who's a real sweetheart and a hoot and a half. Thanks for driving out to see me, Julie!

Also this month: Saw Breena Ronan and spent much time, as usual, with my dear buddy Fang Bastardson.

Blogging rocks. With the exception of Breena and Fang, I wouldn't have met any of these people if it weren't for blogging. How much it has enriched my life with others' stories, how much I've learned from their experiences, and how much I've appreciated everyone's support.

Thank you to all my readers and to those numberless bloggers I read. Keep up the good work.

Mentoring graduate students with Bitch Ph.D.

Here's my latest post from BlogHer.

Thanks to a quick mention on Scrivener's blog, I learned that Bitch Ph.D. was giving a talk tonight at Emory University. And so I went.

"But trillwing," you say, "you live in California. Did you go all the way to Atlanta to see her speak?"

Not exactly. I happen to be in town for the Educause Learning Initiative conference. (More on that in a later post.) And who would pass up the chance to hear Dr. B talk about grad school life, even if one is no longer in grad school? And I, being a shameless hussy, was more than happy to claim a seat in the crowded room in a strange building at a strange university, a total interloper, a celebrity blogger stalker. (In my defense, so are edubloggers Barbara Ganley of Middlebury College and Barbara Sawhill of Oberlin College, who accompanied me on my trip and whose names you may recognize from last year's BlogHerCon edublogging session.)

Dr. B's topic was mentoring graduate students, and her talk addressed issues at the core of academic life.

One such issue is impostor syndrome, where, in a grad school context, you feel as if you don't really belong where you are, that you're a fraud and everyone will eventually find out. You're not intelligent enough, you haven't read enough, you don't work as hard as everyone else--and when you do work hard, you feel as if your labor gets you nowhere.

The problem, Dr. B pointed out, is that academia is both a job and an identity. You don't just do academics; you are an academic. Therefore, uncertainty about your job becomes uncertainty about yourself.

Another major issue is the relative opacity of grad school protocols and faculty life. Dr. B encouraged faculty to make more transparent not only the key milestones of graduate school--admissions, graduate employment and funding, time to degree, exam structures, the job market, and hiring committees--but also the everyday work of a professor. Many graduate students, she said, don't really know what it means, in the office and in one's private social sphere, to be a faculty member. What, for example, is it like to raise a child when one is an academic? How does one get grants?

But grad students need to ask harder questions, too, such as "How many people in this program are on antidepressants?" The answer to such questions may be difficult to find, but they open up important conversations about mental, emotional, and physical health.

Faculty, according to Dr. B, also need to help students determine whether they want to stay in academia. At a time when there are far more graduates than there are tenure-track jobs, faculty should help students think through their career alternatives.

Dr. B tells her students that "Before you worry about whether you'll get a job, worry about what kind of job you want. Do you really want to live in Grinnell?"

Sound advice. And fortunately, there's more rich career advice scattered through the academic blogosphere. Check out the Research, Academia, and Education blogroll to learn more.

Trillwing is a contributing editor for Research, Academia, and Education at BlogHer. A Grinnell alumna who would love to return to Grinnell if only they were hiring in her field, she also blogs at The Clutter Museum.

Liveblogging ELI: Session on technology surveys

“Assessment of Teaching and Learning with Technology at Seton Hall University” with Danielle Mirliss, Janet Easterling, and Shayle Abelkop

Technology survey, begun in 1996, mostly of student users. The Teaching and Learning with Technology survey, formerly called the Mobile Computing Survey, was administered to students enrolled in a laptop initiative.

Last major revision of survey in 2005 to 2006. Survey questions were narrowed to emphasize teaching and learning. Exploratory approach to achieve better questions: open-ended, focus groups. Smaller number, better questions. Application of results to inform practice.

Where they want to be:
- Asking questions that are meaningful to all stakeholders (faculty, librarians, students)
- Craft a survey each year based on needs in a changing context
- Disseminate information to campus and beyond
- Include additional stakeholders to drive questions


- administered April 2006 to a random sample of freshmen and juniors
- oversampling for males and for students identifying as non-white
- 253 responses, overall response rate 30%
- higher rates for women, residents, freshemen
- lower rates for men, non-white, commuting stuents, juniors

- 6-10 hours/week online for academic work
- 6-10 hours a week for nonacademic work
- students use tech for course assignments (77%)
- 62% using laptops in class for collaboration
- 70% using laptops outside of class for collaboration
- students prefer courses that use a moderate level of technology (42%) or use technology extensively (39%)
- Students feel using IT lets them take greater control of their course activities and that the use of IT results in more prompt feedback from the instructor.
- Four out of 5 students agree that the use of IT in their courses has improved their learning.
- Students saw technology's greatest benefit as its convenience--it helps them save time (68%). Nineteen percent of students said tech's greatest benefit was that it helps them complete course work. Only 9% said it improved their learning.

Improved learning came from. . .
- online readings and links to materials (67%)
- online discussion board (47%)
- sharing materials with students (45%)

Improved management of class activities came from. . .
- online syllabus (85%)
- ability to turn in assignments online (73%)

(Good stats, but *yawn*. This talk needs more analysis, less reading of stats off of PowerPoint slides. I can't keep up, and I doubt this info is interesting to my readers, so I give up. The guy next to me is snoring. Oooh. . .and now people are beginning to flee. Oh, look. . .so am I.)

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

Liveblogging ELI: "Teaching Learners to Take Charge of Their Education: Small Pieces, Loosely Joined"

Woohoo! Barbara Ganley and Barbara Sawhill and I just applauded because a quote from Laura (aka Geeky Mom just flashed on the screen! "The point is you now have the ability to be learning for yourself." (Strange glances from all quarters.)

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. . .

with Martha Burtis, Steven A. Greenlaw, and Gerald Slezak, all of University of Mary Washington (which is one of the many academic institutions I've attended, BTW. I only lasted there a semester, for those who are keeping track of my perigrinations.)

The story of a first-year seminar at UMW.

Question: Can the tools of social software be employed to create a genuine learning culture?

Nominal subject of the course was globalization.

Too often, new students see college as being 13th grade, hurdles to be crossed in order to attain accreditation.

Developed a seminar to introduce students to the pursuit of intellectual inquiry in a serious way. Not about easing the transition from HS to college--bigger than that.

After teaching not so much skills as intellectual processes or habits of the mind.

How to create an authentic community of learners?

Students need to know that knowledge creation is a collective effort. "Critical reflection is 'thoroughly social and communal'" (Lipman 1991).

Decided to give students a toolkit and to use different social networking tools as pieces of that toolkit: Wordpress, Bloglines, MediaWiki, flickr,

In this talk's title, the students are the small pieces; the joining is where the learning happens.

Ownership: institutional vs. individual. Focus on individual ownership in a space beyond just the university. Encouraged students to use these tools in their own lives for purposes other than learning. Hoped to show students that learning doesn't begin and end in the classroom or when they study.

Used tagging: "fsem100j" was the course code and a unique tag. Allowed them to aggregate the various RSS feeds. Through tagging, students learned to think about making connections.

Web-based, free resources. Aggregatable, "RSSy." Individual expression and social communication and participation.

Speakers provided a demo of the online course space.

Themes for discussion:
- "Freshmen can't do that." (reflection, discourse, collaboration)
- You CAN take it with you.
- There's a right tool for every student.
- Technology disconnect

(dialogue below is summary, not a direct transcript)

Q: How did these technologies enhance the content of the course (globalization)? Were you just using the tools to try them?

A (from Greenlaw): Some of the tools were new to me. But I wanted students to interact with others in the class and to work informally. The social bookmarking was great for people bringing in evidence to their story that someone else may not have found.

Q: What about student privacy and the fact that their work is in the public space? Did students know what they were getting into and was there any resistance?

A: We spent a good deal of time talking about what were were doing. Only one student, who was interested in politics, was worried about what he might write as a freshman in college and the archive of that.

Q (from trillwing): I was a freshman at UWM 13 or 14 years ago. Students seemed divided socially, culturally, and politically by race, religion, and class. Did you sense any difference in how the different kinds of UWM students came to the technologies and used them? And did the social aspects of these technologies bridge some of those gaps of experience and culture?

A (from Burtis, who was also a freshman at UWM at about the same time): Maybe not the same kinds of divisions today at UWM--not sure about the student dynamic. But these technologies could bridge gaps or augment them. These are social technologies, and people bring their social and cultural baggage with them.

(I'm interested in this not only because I harbor some, er, ill will toward the institution for the scars inflicted by Fredericksburg and the college on my 18-year-old self, but also because of my own experiences at my institution, where I deal with students from very diverse cultural backgrounds.)

class and cultural backgrounds: how did students take to the technologies? and did the technologies help bridge gaps in students' experiences?

Q (from Barbara Ganley): I too teach first-year seminars with these tools. And one of the questions I have in my own practice is what happens to these students after they finish the class. And then they go out into the university, and they slowly go back to the old ways of learning because that's what's being reinforced in the other classes they take.

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

LIveblogging: ELI Session on humanities and social science users

"Why Study Users? Use and Users of Digital Resources in Humanities/Social Science (H/SS) Undergraduate Education" with Diane Harley, senior researcher at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley. Project website

Harley is an anthropologist by training and does a lot of research on faculty and student attitudes. Interested in how technology gets integrated into the complexity of the academic environment.

Three-year project (2003-06).
- - Describe and map the vast university of digital resources, uses, and users in the H/SS
- How these resources are used and NOT used
- How to help users integrate resources into education

Why focus on H/SS?
- Understand variation in user and non-user types by discipline and institution
- H/SS different from science and tech courses
- H/SS not a monolith
- Primary source material and communication tools important
- Future role of technology in the delivery of general/liberal arts education

Research activities
- ongoing discussion with faculty, librarians, ed tech professionals, and resource/site owners
- faculty survey: sampling opinions about digital resource use among various disciplines and institutions
- consolidating knowledge about users of online educaional resources (OER) through lit review, and convening site owners, funders, and user researchers

Defining digital resources
- Objects that employ rich media and span text, images, sound, maps, video, and many other formats
- Sources included collections developedd by large institutional entities, individual scholars, as well as canned resources--and everything in-between
- focus on freely available, unrestricted resources

Online survey sampled California CCs, liberal arts colleges, UCs, range of H/SS disciplines, response rates ~18-20%. Prepondeance of historians.

Four overaching questions:

-What digital resources do you use in UG teaching?
- How do you use them?
- What obstacles do you encounter?
In a perfect world, what would you do with digital resources?

Assiduously avoided judgments about "value" of specific resources.

- dizzying range of objects and their use
- across the disciplines
- used for a wide range of educational purposes and goals
- variation in faculty enthusiasm and involvement

Types of resources used included images or visual materials (75%), news or other media sources (64%), portals that provide links or URLs relevant to particular disciplinary topics (63%), reference resources (62%), and lots of others.

Where people find resources: Google (81% of respondents), personal collections, public online image database, online journals, media sites, library collections, portals, online exhibits, campus image databases, commercial image databases (9% of respondents)

How are resources used in teaching?
- presented during lectures (71%)
- asssigned to students for review (59%)
- assigned for student research projects
- linked to from class website
- tests and quizzes

- integrate primary source material
- improve student learning
- more

(lots of teeny tiny unreadable charts and graphs in this presentation, and presenter is going very fast--sorry that I'm missing lots of stuff)

Barriers and frustrations:
- these resources don't substitute for the teaching approaches I use (75%)
- don't have time (60%)
- don't have reliable access to physical reosurces in my classroom (57%)
- more

Historians in particular, especially classicists, emphasize the primacy of the text. They worried about the web, where you can get pieces of information disembodied from context.

(Argh. These charts are driving me crazy. I'm hoping they're online so I can review them myself.)

Assistance is important:
- setting up technical infrastructure (82%)
- creating a website
- digitizing existing resources
- assessing validity of sources
- more

Faculty feeling: equipment in the classroom adds tension to the teaching experience. Classroom resources and support inadequate (at UC as well as CCs).

Dealing with faculty personal collections: copyright, digitization issues for those supporting faculty.

Not very many faculty make their resources available online to unaffiliated (non-paying, non-university) users.

Faculty use a variety of strategies for negotiating the digital morass. Path of least resistance is the one usually taken. "Easy" trumps all.

One-size-fits-all program unlikely to serve the needs of digital users. (Well, duh.)

- difficult of reaggregating objects that are bundled into fixed, often proprietary resources (including within LMSs)
- managing and interpreting digital rights
- uneveness of interface usability and aesthetics (and need for high end)
- growing demand for searchable collections
- knowing about and finding digital objects
- trillwing's inability to keep up with rapid-fire speaker who reads her PowerPoint slides

Advice for researchers:
- differentiate among types of OER content
- differentiate among OER users and contexts in which OER might be used
- differentiate users with different skill levels and learning objectives
- study non-users

(My fingers are too tired to blog the Q & A. Sorry!)

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

Liveblogging: ELI Session on "Emerging Educational Technologies and Neomillennial Learning Styles"

with Chris Dede, Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Harvard Graduate School of Education

The evolution of education:
-shifts in the knowledge and skills society values
- development of new teaching and learning

The Next Fifteen Years

- The last 15 years: the WWW and more
- Beyond tactical (e.g. blogs, podcasts, wikis, sociosemantic networking) to strategic (transformations in mission)
- "big picture" vision illustrated by leading-edge examples in present

What will we be thinking about tactically 15 years from now? We need to imagine this so we can make good strategic decisions now.

Emerging interactive media empower not only countries and corporations, but also individuals, to collaborate, accomplish, and learn in new ways.

Devices: cell phones, PDAs, HDTV, etc.
Applications: WP, intelligent tutroing systems, educational simulations
Medium: shared virtual environments, interactive TV, WWW
Infrastructure: Internet, phone system, cable and broadcast television, cyberspace

Distributed Work, Cognition and Learning
- Very definition of "information" technology keeps changing.
1940s: huge number crunching machines
later: data processing era w/punch cards
still later: suite of productivity technologies
then: information and web communication technologies
Definition will morph again within the next 15 years.

We now use these for personal experience and exploration, but also for collaboration.

Cognition is now distributed across human minds, tools/media, groups of people, etc.

He collects images of the future--"intellectually kinky videos." Showed Microsoft marketing video from last fall, a takeoff on The Devil Wears Prada. (Trillwing comment: Stupid and not very well done tie-in, though older folks in the room seemed to really enjoy it.)

Book: F. Levy and R. J. Murnane, The New Division of Labor: How Computers are Creating the Next Job Market. Princeton University Press, 2004.

Two concepts from the book:
- Expert decision making - work may be automated, but expert decisions won't be automated
- Complex communications

Evolving toward distributed learning

- guided learning by doing
- apprenticeships, mentoring
- more

"Next generation" interfaces for distributed learning
- world to the desktop: accessing distant experts and archives for knowledge creation, sharing, and mastery
- multi-user virtual environments: immersion in virtual contexts with digital artifacts and avatar-based identities
- ubiquitous computing: wearable wireless devices coupled to sart objects for "augmented reality"

His and his colleagues' research:

Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE)

virtual spaces
computer-based agents
digital artifacts

Massively Multi-Player Online Games (MMOGs) and complementary fan fiction (rich learning, identity formation peripherally linked to life)

Learning processes in the games by and large are outstanding, exactly what we'd want to see in any learning situation, tech-based or not: collaborative learning, mentoring, learning by doing, etc.

The content of the games by and large is garbage or, worse, pathological.

Seven years ago, Dede and his colleagues built a virtual environment, immersive and collaborative and game-like. But with deep academic content and higher-order skills.

So far used by 8,000 middle-school students, River City is the resulting environment. Teachers asked that it improve students' science fair projects--students become lost in the transition between problem-solving (classroom) and problem-finding (21st-century skill, outside the classroom).

Showed movie about River City.
- aid hypothesis formation
- assist collaboration
- meet national science standards

Students go back in time to a virtual place called River City. 19th century. Students investigate a virtual town with institutions (hospital, library), houses, and more. Students form hypotheses about illnesses that are sweepng the town. At the end of the project, students compare their research with other teams' findings and they find a web of competing hypotheses.

Target population is bottom 1/3 of students, who don't see themselves as learners in science.

Findings from research:
- enhanced motivation
- reaching learners who don't do well in conventional classroom settings
- learning both sophisticated content and higher-order skills
- building fluency in distributed modes of communication and expression

More info: River City project

It's not the technology that made it work. It was the powerful pedagogical models: guided inquiry learning with active construction of knowledge, collaboration, situated learning (constellations of architectural, social, organization and material vectors that aid in learning culturally based practices)
- apprenticeship (the process of moving from novice to expert within a given set of practices)
- legitimate peripheral participation (tacit learning similar to that involved in internships or residences)

Learning community: a culture of learning in which everyone is involved in a collective effort of understanding
- share and develop a repertoire of resources

How to build distributed-learning communities like this one?
- mostly across distance, sometimes face-to-face
- asynchronous media helpful: convenient participation and deeper reflection
- range of participants' skills and interests goes beyond geographic boundaries

Ubiquitous computing:

- one-to-one student tool ratio
- wireless mobile devices offer approx. 60% of the computer power of laptops of a few years ago at 10% of the cost
- "smart objects" and "intelligent contexts" enable animistic environments with distributed cognition (augmented reality)

Motors invisible to us, but in Victorian era, people were fascinated with motors. 20-30 years ago, people impressed by computers. Today we don't know how many microchips are in our homes and cars. Yet automakers spend more on silicon than steel.

This technology literally goes into the woodwork. Fascinating possibilities.

But negative consequences, too: Minority Report. Negotiating with objects, an animistic environment with distributed cognition. Walking down street where objects greet you--very intrusive.

Yet also some interesting opportunities, e.g. augmented reality.

Location-aware mobile device (pocket PC and GPS device that talks to the PC). Target in 2-3 years is the cell phone. Team walks around and investigates.

Example: Mystery@MIT. Players briefed about rash of local health problems linked to the environment: possibly a poison leaking into the environment. Provided with background informtion and video briefings. Need to determine source of pollution through various means in 3 hours. How? Drilling sampling well, interviewing virtual people, accessing virtual databases, analyzing water samples.

On screen of handheld device is a map of the MIT campus with a blinking "you are here" dot. Other dots on the screen reflect other resources--virtual people, databases, etc. If you walk to one of those places, you come into interaction with that virtual resource. Virtual people might be streaming video files or text files.

Each player on a team is either an environmental scientist, engineer, and reporter. And your role determines what you hear from the virtual resources. What a person says to the reporter, for example, is different from what they say to an engineer. And what they say varies depending upon where you've already been. Students must synthesize to solve the mystery.

Drilling virtual wells: shallow or deep, superficial or in-depth analysis. But sampling methods influence budget, time, accuracy. So students must decide which to use.

Students have created panics on the campus when they were overheard talking about people who had been poisoned. So students cautioned to speak quietly.

Emphasizes importance of discourse to science, combination of desk and field work.

A different model of pedagogy:
- experiences central, rather than information as pre-digested experience (for assimilation or synthesis)
- knowledge is situated in a context and distributed across a community (rather than within an individual: with vs. from)
- reputation, experiences, and accokmplishments are measures of quality (rather than tests, papers)

What we do now to remediate students is what some of us do when we travel abroad: when someone doesn't understand English, we say the same thing twice as loud and twice as slowly. That's exactly what we're going with our students who are failing, and it works just as well.

When you teach with virtual simulations, context and collaboration provide a richer learning experience.

Assumptions about learning
A spectrum of approaches:
sleeping (simple - basic needs, fairly universal)
eating (cultural)
bonding (cultural, psychological, biological, etc.)

We approach learning as if it's sleeping, but it's really more like bonding. We're providing a homogenous environment like a motel room provides for sleeping. A few of us provide learning environments akin to restaurants. But we need to provide contexts like those necessary for bonding. Complexity.

"Millennial" learning styles come out of the world-to-the-desktop interface. But what learning styles (neomillenial) will emerge from a virtual environment interface?

- fluency in multiple media, valuing each for the types of communication, activities, and expressions of power.

- learning based on collectively seeking, sieving, and synthesizing experience, rather than individually locating and absorbing information from the single best source.

"Cyberinfrastructure" from NSF: computing, data and networks, etc. All integrated. Funding coming from NSF.

Potential to transform teaching and learning:
- Content and Research: ubiquitous, pervasive access to resources; real-time data collection through smart sensors managed by virtual collaboratories
- Interactivity and Individualization: single, customizable, personal platform for distributed learning; formating assessment of students' educational gains via microgenetic data.

It's really not about us learning these new things--we need to unlearn our old beliefs and values (traditional pedagogy).

Beyond McLuhan:
- Media shape their messages.
- Media shape their participants.
- Infrastructures shape civilization.

Much easier to imagine dark futures than bright futures. Easy to imagine a future where people let the real world rot around them while they live fantasy lives in a virtual environment. Easy to imagine a world where objects make decisions for us that makes Orwell look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

We need to shape this technology to our world while minimizing the side effects.

Q: So far, simulated environments haven't tended to last. They get dated quickly, and higher ed hasn't tended to adopt them. Are we still looking at transient technologies, or will environments such as River City stick?

A: We need to differentiate between virtual environments for entertainment vs. for learning. We need to go beyond novelty experiences that eventually bore us because the novelty wears off. We want our environments to be purposeful.

So yes, technology itself will evolve, but as we learn to design these environments for education, the rewards may be very large, especially for those students who don't usually thrive in a traditional classroom environment.

Q: What about students engaged in a beautiful virtual simulation while their physical classroom crumbles around them?

A: Students still need to go out into the real world to, for example, collect water samples. A virtual simulation is a bridge to real-world engagement, not a substitute for a real-world ecology. Real world is much more complex.

Q: Great expense in creating these environments: what are the best disciplines in which to invest limited resources?

A: Once you've built the virtual world, you can re-use it for different stories, different characters, just as a movie set might be reused. As educators and the gaming world build up a huge digital archive of objects, artifacts, landscapes, etc., it becomes easier, from a technological standpoint, to create new stories. Much more difficult is the intellectual work behind coming up with good stories that support quality learning. These technologies are scalable.

Q: How do we help faculty help students learn to use these technologies so that students are critically engaged users of these technologies?

A: Someone once said it's harder to change a university than move a cemetery, even if those two tasks employ similar skills. It can be hard to change faculty behavior. And yet faculty would be outraged if a physician didn't prescribe antibiotics created after 1991 because that's when she graduated from medical school, or an accountant who used laws and regulation from the 1970s. Yet faculty don't want to adopt new technologies. It helps if faculty have someone working with them who gets the technology. But faculty aren't going to adopt simulated environments if they haven't experienced these worlds themselves, learning how to identify and solve problems collaboratively. And yet most faculty researchers collaborate with one another in virtual research communities that make use of communication, if not immersive, technologies. But this collaborative behavior doesn't get carried back to the classroom.

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

Monday, January 22, 2007

Liveblogging: ELI Session on Blogs and Skype

"The World is Flat: Using Blogs and Skype to Create Communities of Learners and Cultural Literacy" with Barbara Ganley (Middlebury faculty), Elizabeth Geballe (Middlebury student), Evelyn Levine (Oberlin student), and Barbara Sawhill (Oberlin faculty)

(As before, all dialogue is summarized, not a direct transcription. The speakers were far more articulate than I convey. Apologies to them!)

BG: Since fall 2001, I've been using blogs in all my courses. I also use digital storytelling, Flickr, podcasts, and other technologies. But I'm not a techy. But the shifts occurring so dramatically in the world outside our institutions pulled me and my teaching from a complacent slumber. Ken Robinson says our students don't communicate or collaborate well.

Livingston has observed that kids roam the Internet for communication and entertainment, while we in the adult world associate the Internet with the WWW and information searching. New communication tools and devices, yet inside our institutions we cling to romantic notions of teaching and learning that have never really served our students well.

James Gee says learning is going on in "infinity spaces." Yet we continue to teach the same material in the same ways. Yet we've known for a long time now from Dewey and Bahktin that learning is social.

We need to get away from our "little boxes" view of student learning in higher ed. A student's world is messier, more highly networked. We need to take into account notions of failure and experimentation. When is the last time any of us invited, nay demanded, our students to fail? We need to move away from lecture and what we've called "discussion" to conversation, collaboration, communication.

Disruption is essential to learning.

Bahktin: "I cannot do without the other." Can't learn without the other.

We have to make our students producers and co-learners. What if our classrooms turned away, really turned away from the teacher-centric model, where we're truly co-learners? Students help teacher to question, contextualize, and evaluate. The outside world is moving into our classroom. This demands new literacies from students.

But we don't need to jettison the old literacies. We still need to teach our students how to read and to write. This is where blogs come in.

Three columns to her class blogs:

1) Archives & links to outside world
2) Group story
3) Links to individual blogs, w/student photos

Blogging lets students read each other's work, develop skilled reflection on learning and the self. Looping abck seamlessly to drafts and past learning experiences while looking forward to future learning.

Communities instigate and curtail the things that can be said. A good community will create its own set of rules. These feedback loops create a sense of responsibility and respect I have never before experienced in my classroom. Students must negotiate with one another. In the past, my students might not have known each other names. Now my students are not only delighted to be there, but they socialize with each other and they don't want to leave. At the end of the hour, I have to kick them out.

My blogs are open to the world. Our learningscape grows exponentially. Then the semester ends, and it's hard. But sometimes students take the blogs with them to home, to travel abroad, etc. Students begin to experiment with image, sound, multimodal means of writing.

Lizzie Geballe: I had heard about blogging from my friends before the class. There were technological things that I was very wary of. I had some experience with blogging in my freshman year where there was one mother blog and we were forced to comment. It didn't work out well at all.

But in BG's class, blogging was integrated well. Blogs lost their officiality because BG took herself off the blog and left us to our own devices. We turned in our creative pieces as well as comments we made to our classmates. So we saw our own compiled work as well as the result of our collaborating with others.

I joined in the pilot project of Blogging the World. I blogged from Siberia. It was my place to put myself in order when I was separated from my home, language, and culture.

I was given freedom in BG's class to make the blog my own. I began the blog almost as a journal, but I quickly realized that wasn't the direction I wanted it to take. My family was using the comments to share their daily meals and activities, and that wasn't the conversation I wanted to foster. I wanted my blog to be sincere as a journal but also serious communication. I was surprised to hear that University of Texas students were assigned to read my blog as part of preparing to study abroad.

I communicated with other students keeping blogs as they studied away from Middlebury.

For the present, I've stopped blogging because I'm not as wide-eyed as I should be. I'll blog again when I travel.

Assignments in class: We listened to Dylan Thomas and other poets reading their own work, and then we were required to record ourselves reading our own poetry. BG told us the class was about "glorious failures"--I took that to mean both in our writing and with the technology.

Even though BG provided feedback on the blog, I felt the freedom to write without worrying about what BG would think.

I'm now less fearful of technology. I still don't love it, but I came back from Siberia thinking about new ways technology could be used to reflect on learning experiences. I made an iMovie incorporating video and photography.

Barbara Sawhill: I'm a lecturer in the Hispanic Studies department and director of the Cooper International Learning Center. It takes a learner 720 hours of contact time to become proficient (not fluent) in a language that mirrors their own (e.g. English-Spanish). It's three times that in a more foreign language (e.g., English-Russian). Compare that with the amount of time students actually get in the language classroom. In a class of 18-20 students, that boils down to about 2 minutes of contact time per student (trillwing: per day?).

Conversation is less valued in academia than writing and reading courses. Conversation courses aren't seen as rigorous and language majors aren't encouraged to take them. But in emphasizing something other than conversation, we lose the ability to promote cultural literacy.

What's more, we have a very teacher-centric way of teaching language: "I've got to get to chapter 9 by November. We've got to keep moving."

I've been looking at how social software and mobile technology can provide rich, rigorous directed learning in a second language.

Far too often, we rely on the last section of the textbook that's a photo of a rodeo or mariachi band. We rely on stereotypes or on the experience of faculty who haven't been in the country whose language they're teaching for 15 years. I wanted to provide students with a more authentic experience.

On borrowed iPods: Latin American music and more. Also microphones on the iPods so students can record themselves anywhere they wished. We also used Skype to connect with classes (often ESL) in other countries. We'd have 15 minutes of conversation in English and 15 minutes in Spanish.

Class blog entirely in Spanish, down to tool names and headers. Each student had his or her own blog, and there was a mother blog. Students could post to the mother blog, but mostly I did.

We were visited by more people outside of Oberlin than from Oberlin by the end of the academic year.

What it means for me as a teacher using these tools: Amazing, amazing things happen when you throw open the doors and windows of the classroom and let the outside world in and the inside world out. Ask students what they want to learn, how they want to learn it, and what works for them. Have them comment on one another's--and the teacher's--work, all in the target language.

The more you write in a foreign language, the better you will speak. On the blogs, I had students who wrote the equivalent of 50 pages of research paper.

I wanted to embody, and I continue to try to embody, the thoughts of Paolo Freire, who emphasized that students teach as well as learn.

I cannot imagine going back to teaching in a traditional classroom or from a textbook. My students' experiences were so much more vibrant than anything I could have found in a textbook.

Having a porous classroom is terrifying and intimidating to many people. But I found it incredibly enriching.

Evie Levine: Student in oral communications course two semesters ago. I had lived in Ciudad Juarez prior to taking Barbara S's class. I was worried about returning to Ohio. I realized I needed to keep speaking Spanish. I was a bit intimidated by the technology. There's a stereotype that I'm young, I'm 21, I'm of a generation that knows computers and knows them well. Well, I don't.

In addition to learning a new curriculum, I had to learn new ways to learn the curriculum. I had to spend extra hours learning the technology. But the benefits of learning the new technology outweighed the setbacks. Barbara S. was ready and willing to adapt the pace of the course to student needs.

The course content varied a great deal: poetry from Garcia Lorca, current events (e.g. Hugo Chavez), etc. We were able to take the exploration of these subjects to a new level with the technology. We talked with students by Skype in Spain and Argentina. I didn't open up a textbook and learn about flamenco. Instead, I talked to a student in Spain who shared my interests. We talked with a citizen of Venezuela about living under Hugo Chavez. We couldn't have had that communication via phone or traceable e-mail.

I carried out a final project that furthered my devellopment of cultural literacy. I carried my final project out on the femicides currently happening in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua in northern Mexico. More than 400 young women, most of them poor and many working in borderlands factories, have been killed or are missing there. I worked with Casa Amiga, an organization trying to solve the mystery.

One part of my final project was to foster a dialogue among the members of my classroom. (Her blog name: el blog de Evie.) Not only were my professor and classmates commenting on the blog, but people from around the world. I also interviewed my boss from the NGO about it and posted the interview.

A mother of a murdered girl drafted an open letter on Evie's blog, seeking help. I forwarded the letter to Casa Amiga.

I can't imagine that happening if the classroom doors were closed.

People also requested to use her photos of monuments and memorials to femicide victims.

To this day, my blog remains open, and I engage with people around the world on an area of study that's dear to me and that I think would have been lost to me had I not taken the course. I don't think I could have learned what I learned without these tools. I can't imagine developing my language skills without the use of these tools.

BG: I now have six years of students who have come through my classes and had those experiences. My students say they can't find this kind of learning anywhere else. They tell me "I'm not as engaged as I was."

Not everybody's going to teach this way. But how can we get our students to go to their professors and ask them to try out these technologies, or ask if they may turn in multimedia work instead of traditional work. Students from my classes are regularly winning the college's writing awards, turning in multimedia theses.

How are we going to prepare for students who are digital natives? How can we support a rigorous education driven by them?

Q from audience member: Let's look at the practical side for a minute. How do you manage the inordinate amount of reading faculty and students must do? And how do you assess student work?

BG: If you teach student-centered classrooms, you should not be reading and commenting on everything they write. You train them to be mentors and experts to one another. And they turn in their portfolios to me, which I then comment upon. And students hate that at first because they feel I've abdicated my responsibility. I read the same amount as I always have, and the work I'm looking at is better than ever. Students cycle through small groups that never have to read more than four other people's work. I evaluate them on the quality of their work. And they evaluate themselves. I've always had my students evaluate themselves, in concert with me.

BS: We set deadlines for blog posts so that students would have time to read others' posts before class. We used RSS feeds. You could leave written comments or comment in class. I had one student who didn't like to write--she posted podcasts. She'd walk along the bike trails in Oberlin and talk in Spanish for 45 minutes. That warmed my heart as a teacher. In the end, I had students identify five of their best pieces of work and had students comment on those. And then I commented on the piece and on the comments. Grades were based not only on quality of posts but on the ways they engaged with their commenters. Blogs became container for e-portfolios. The course ended with a 1.5-hour-long oral exam with BS and a native speaker.

Q from audience member: I teach entirely online, via WebCT. Students tend to exceed the minimum requirements for posting. Is it the public nature of a blog that makes it more potent? Through WebCT, the blogs are password-protected. Should these blogs be made public?

BG: That's part of it. Research is about efficacy. When students as learners feel their actions have authentic effects on their environment, that's going to engage them more deeply with the assignments. We had a course zine, and the authors students were commenting on Googled their own names and found us and responded to student writing. So students realized they had to really think about what they were writing.

The archive is also significant. Students seem to view classes as semester-long chunks. I ask students to read earlier students' work, to stand on their shoulders.

Q from audience member: Did people find your blog through Google?

Evie: Yes. That mother was looking for resources, for help, for ways to express her loss. And she found my blog through keyword searches.

BS: A woman from Venezuela took the time to come in and comment on every single student's post about Hugo Chavez.

Q: How to set up Skype conversations?

BS: There's a database of people who want to set up such conversations. I began there and it snowballed. Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Spain. . . I still have people from abroad asking when I'm teaching again because they have classes ready to go.

Q: I have the impression from the presentations that students needed to be away from the campus to make the blogging rich. If the students offered a blogging service, you wouldn't have used it unless you'd had those experiences abroad.

Evie: I started blogging once I returned to campus. The experiences drove it. I wouldn't have started a personal blog. I'm not that technologically savvy.

Lizzie: I thought of mine as very thematic. It seemed unnatural when I returned from Russia that I would keep writing it.

BG: I think it's a really interesting question. What is it about your education, your senior year, all the things you're learning are not interesting enough for you to continue a commentary and to have people come in and converse with you? There's something different about an experience abroad or for class.

Very few kids blog on their own out of class if they don't have a good reason to do that. They have their own My Space and Live Journal and social spaces, but they don't blog.

Q: Lizzie, do you still journal offline?

Lizzie: Yes. I feel propelled to write.

Q: What about the public nature of blogging? Were students aware they were going to be engaged in public blogging, or did it surprise them?

BG: I have a reputation now, so the kids know coming in about the culture of the class. My students always have the option not to publish their work. They can keep things in draft mode.

Q: How do you see it, then?

BG: I have administrative access to get into all the blogs. They didn't want the world to see a particular post, but they know I may read it.

Q: Do you give them guidelines on how to protect their privacy?

BG: We always talk about it. We talk about things that may go wrong on the blog. You guys are going out into the world, and imagine how you'll be perceived. I've had a few students a couple years out from graduation ask me to take down their blog because they felt like juvenalia to them. And that saddened me, but they were the writings of a college sophomore, and people were uncomfortable having that out there.

BS: My students only used their first names. Comments required providing a valid e-mail. And we dealt with issues as they arose.

Evie: It was empowering. I wasn't just writing for myself or within the confines of Oberlin. Anyone could read it, and I was glad to get that experience in college rather than in my first job.

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

Liveblogging: ELI session on Second Life

"The Next Generation of Digital Learning Spaces: Exploring the Frontier of Virtual Worlds" with Laurence F. Johnson and Alan Levine of the New Media Consortium, and Heidi Trotta of Seton Hall University.

This session is taking place concurrently "in world" in Second Life.

(Note: I'm an idiot when it comes to Second Life, so there's no way in hell I'm going to try to be in both places at once. Plus, I don't have the SL software on this laptop.)

Heidi: Had faculty member interested in using Second Life, a psychology professor trying to use virtual team building.

Possibility for economics instruction because of the virtual economy in Second Life.

Alan and Heidi role-played what it's like when a journalism faculty member asks about Second Life.

How to hold classes in Second Life (FYI, all dialogue here is summarized, not a direct transcription):
A: Where to hold a class?
H: Start with a traditional location in Second Life to establish an appropriate tone with students.
A: How to deal with interruptions from outsiders?
H: Not a problem in our experience.
A: Can I use my PowerPoint slides in Second Life?
H: Yes, on a whiteboard. We can also put those slides in students' SL inventories.

Students can also publish in Second Life. Lots going on in communication in SL.

A: Can I show video clips in SL?
H: You definitely can. That would be a great anchoring activity to start off students' experiences in SL.
A: How do I get more experience? I can barely walk, and my clothes look awful.
H: Good news. We have a faculty orientation planned. We're going to have all the faculty make an account. We'll have them go through orienation, and we even have a gift box that will include some clothes.

A: I already have an account, but the first time I went in there, I met some pretty bizarre creatures.
H: A lot of people explore different parts of their personality in SL. You get the experience of experimenting with whatever you want in SL. You'll find most people in SL are very giving and very generous.

A: How do I keep my students from getting distracted?
H: Provide a time limit on the activity and some structure, just as you would in a real classroom.
A: How to communicate with my students?
H: There's chat, there's IM. You can also save the chat. You can put together group notices so that when your students go into SL, they'll receive a group notice.
A: Do I need a super fast connection and computer?
H: It works best if you don't have any other programs running and if you have an ethernet connection. The university-issued laptops can handle SL.

A: Is the tenure committee going to take me seriously?
H: We're just exploring the uses of virtual worlds on campus now. We have had a lot of support to continue our investigation for its use.

Q from audience member: How did you get your location set up in SL? How did you get from dirt to here?

A: Everything in SL is built on prims--cylinders, cubes, etc. You build them up on a flat screen. We hired some SL specialty builders to build the first campus on the NMC subcontinent.

Larry: NMC has its own island, or space on a server. Buying an island is renting space on a web server.

We've been very careful in developing the NMC campus. We call it a sim, not an island. We want to let people know that what we're actually experimenting with is a grid that's a virtual world. We chose Second Life for this because it's the most advanced platform today. We spent about six months doing a pilot. We built a museum and collaborated with actual museums. We do something every day on the NMC campus.

NMC campus set up a simple web form that sends an invitation to your avatar to visit the campus. Join the group NMC Guest, and it lets you teleport to the actual complex. Also the Second Life Educators listserv.

Q: What are some good guidelines or ground rules that you have to keep, say, a class of 20 students under control in, for example, chat?

H: I think it really depends. You have to look at your goals and objectives when you set up the activity. We had a finite period of time. In this case, with the journalism class where you send them out into the SL community, they could get waylaid, but that could happen anywhere online. But you can control it by keeping it to a finite period of time, by doing it in a lab where you're all there.

We found students need scaffolding. They needed more support than we thought they did. During our second pilot, we were in world the same time they were. And students still had difficulty completing the assignment in a required amount of time.

A: SL is a scripting environment. So there are gadgets that help people organize classes, such as a hand-raising chair that, if students sit in it, makes it easy for them to raise their hands. And there's a speaking stick that avatars can pass around, where only the avatar holding the stick can speak.

Q from in world: I had trouble installing the software and getting it to work.

H: We had trouble the first time when we had students install the software on their own laptops. The second pilot we had them in a computer lab. Also, 2 hours into a 3-hour-long activity, we had to reboot the video cards.

A: Lots of updates in SL, usually happening on Wednesday mornings for about 5 hours. And then you have to download the updated client before you can get back into SL. Also occasionally issues, such as inability to teleport, loss of inventory. Chaotic things do happen there.

Q from in world: Is NMC looking to invest some time in developing SLOODLE (SL + Moodle).

L: Not a priority, but we'd be happy to work with someone who's interested. We seek to provide fertile ground where ideas can be planted.

Q from audience: Big learning curve in SL. What kind of faculty orientation do you provide? How many sessions?

H: Best advice I can give you is not to do it alone. You always need one or two helpers. We have an agenda. We get them to sign up for an account. Faculty take extra time to select a name (10 minutes or so) and tend to be concerned about what they look like. So we show them how to take clothes on and off.

We spend at least an hour and a half if not two hours. Plus we know everyone will be about 15 minutes late.

Again, don't do it by yourself. One of us will be covering things and the other two people will be circulating around. It takes a while for faculty to get their feet wet. We've reached out to faculty and asked them if they're interested. We've been working to get faculty buy-in.

A: There's something incredibly important to establish your identity as an avatar in SL. There's a lot of vanity, but it's important, and you should allow time for that.

First place you go in SL is Orientation Island, and from there you get dropped into a carnivalesque/bazaar-type area that's very disorienting. NMC is working on getting an alternate post-orientation location that's more friendly to faculty, a faculty-specific orientation.

L: Virtually everyone we work with at NMC is a faculty member. We started with about 20 people and the membership on the NMC campus is now about 2,000. I don't think it's necessary to train faculty on how to use SL. Most of you just need time in there to get comfortable in the environment. I think the most effective approach is simply to let people do that on their own time. Let people know it's going to take a couple of hours to learn to navigate. (trillwing note: I spent about 6 hours in world and still couldn't walk straight.)

You need a lot of bandwidth. Anything you've got on your campus is better than anything you're going to need. Wireless networks don't work as well. The graphics card in your institutional laptop or desktop computer may be a problem because some of them are loaded with cards that don't really allow for game playing. I bought a $600 Dell and it came with everything I needed.

Q from audience: I have a question about pedagogy. In the skit you did, I was thinking to myself, "Is there something inherent in the lesson and course goals that made SL the best tool?" rather than starting from SL and saying, "Here are some SL tools. How can I use them?"

H: I think where the strength is is that SL offers a bridge between the classroom and an internship. It offers students an opportunity to act and do before they go into an actual internship. They could, for example, act as a photographer and see what that's really like while you're still there to support them on campus. It offers students the opportunity to do something without leaving the classroom.

A: It takes your students from a highly structured environment (the classroom) to a place where students have to take on more responsibility. And it's incredibly social. You can do some of the role-playing in SL that you can't do in your First Life.

People use it as a virtual meeting space. Obviously, there are other virtual meeting spaces, but in SL you can still pull up documents, share them, etc. There are folks in the architecture field who use it for modeling.

Same audience member: Could I simulate an archaeological dig?

H: People use it to simulate things that may be dangerous if enacted in real life. So BP uses SL to model what happens underground beneath a gas station.

You can also set students up with students in another part of the country to collaborate and create things.

A: For example, a virtual theater with virtual lighting, set production, etc.

Q from audience member (freshman English class, UT Austin): One of the classes we piloted in SL was difficult because some students were under age 18. Because of concerns from parents, we had to take those students directly to our own island, bypassing Orientation Island, and they can't go anywhere else unless we authorize it. The instructor tied a particular portion of the course grade into the quality of things produced in SL. Students then focused more on creating things than on ideas and course content. We have assignments now that students turn in. They sign a statement saying that any objects they produce through their avatars, because we own those avatars, would belong to us. Are you aware of any intellectual property concerns as far as where students are concerned?

A: If students are under 18, by SL policy, they're supposed to go the teen grid on SL. So the people at UT Austin had to set up their own island.

L: Some very erroneous assumptions being made there. Under the terms of service, everything in SL is owned by Linden Labs--avatars and objects, everything. Linden Lab (creators of SL) is a for-profit company. When LL opens up the ability to host islands on your own servers, organizations like ELI and NMC are uniquely poised to host islands and make good things happen.

The teen grid and 17-year-old problem should go away as we begin to host our own islands. The bigger question then becomes, how do we best provide learning for people of all ages? We were told, for example, we needed classroom space on the NMC campus. So we built it. But what's the building on the NMC campus that's never used? The classroom building.

H: One other thing we want to do is to find out how we can use SL for exploratory learning. We have an instructor who is looking for more exciting ways to teach students about vertebrates. So we're using SL to develop environments where it's much more engaging to learn about, say, flatworms. So we're developing a reef that students can explore to identify vertebrates and then write a field journal.

L: We're hoping that NMC is a campus that people will really come and use. And people do every day, whether it's an art exhibit, or a SL/real life event like this, or a class visit.

The campus is huge. Each portion of this grid (points to map of NMC campus) is 16 acres. So this place is huge.

We've built a film and performing arts school. There are rehearsal spaces. There's a performance hall.

There's a life science school. We wrote a script that lets you rez any protein in our DNA database.

We're going to rent out space for between $100 and $800 per year, depending on plot size.

We announced NMC Virtual Worlds last week. It's a service arm of NMC that helps colleges and universities build whatever they want in SL.

NMC Campus Observer is a blog that documents everything we've done in SL since April.

Our approach to this entire project, which was originally funded by the MacArthur Foundation, was to make it open source. We've kept it an educational community, too, by requiring people to join the group.

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Curious about creativity

What are some things that damper your creativity and energy? And what do you do to recover your creative impulse? Over the past several years I've felt a marked decrease in my creative energies. I'm trying to figure out where to lay the blame, and what actions I can take to remedy that loss. So far the suspects are:

- lack of exercise
- lack of solitary time
- antidepressants
- academic discourse
- becoming a mother
- aging, and the increasing distance from childhood and play
- extended periods with an increased workload (dissertation + teaching + newborn, anyone? Glad I won't have to relive that.)
- diet without enough "brain food" (whatever that means)
- too much computer time (e.g. blogging), too little time spent, I don't know, meditating
- too many leisure-time interests that divide my attention (writing, crafting, blogging, reading fiction, etc.)

Any ideas?

Many thanks.


I have to be on planes or in airports pretty much all day tomorrow. I hate flying--not because I'm afraid of it, but because of the lack of space, the stale air, the crappy food, and frustrated travelers who lack common courtesy (As in "Hello? Don't you see my knees are already jammed in the back of your seat? Please don't recline.")

I'm headed to a conference with a big emphasis on educational technology. I'm excited to jump into the fray and see what's new in my new field, but I'm also worried about the potential blah-ness of the presentations.

See, last week I decided to look around the internets to see what folks are presenting at ed-tech-themed conferences, and a lot of it, at least based on their PowerPoint presentations (which have waaaaaay too much text, by the way) seems to be, well, common sense. And I'm worried that I'm heading to a conference, on which my employer is spending oodles of dough, where I'll be bored out of my mind and have nothing terribly new to report that my supervisors, who have decades more experience in tech than I do, don't already know. I'm supposed to present my findings at the next big staff meeting, so I really, really need to come back with something novel.

Of course I'll head into the conference with a cheery demeanor, but I wish I hadn't looked up all those presentations. So dreadful.

The good news is I'm going to Atlanta for the first time--in fact, my first time in the southeastern U.S. (excepting Virginia, if you consider it to be in the South). The bad news? I won't be able to see much of the city because (a) I'm on my employer's dime, so I need to attend as many sessions as possible, (b) it will be raining, which will probably curtail my desire to explore the city, and (c) I don't really know anyone who's going to the conference, so I'm going to be woman-on-her-own-in-a-strange-city.

So, to recap:

- I hate plane travel.
- I was looking forward to the conference, but now I have some fears and doubts.
- I'm going to miss Lucas and Mr. Trillwing terribly.

But: I will get to sleep in a bit on Monday morning because the conference doesn't begin until midday. And if by chance I wake up early sans jet lag, I will explore a bit of downtown Atlanta, dammit. If you know of anything I can do safely on my own after 6 p.m. (including vegetarian-friendly restaurants) Sunday-Monday-Tuesday or before noon on Monday, please leave them in the comments.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Poetry Friday

It's been too long since I participated in Poetry Friday. Today's selection comes from Robinson Jeffers and describes one of my favorite places.

Carmel Point
by Robinson Jeffers

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses-
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads-
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.-As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

Many many years ago I wrote an essay about my family's long and troubled relationship with faultlines, the literal kind that split the earth. I used the last couple lines in this poem to describe what I saw in my family as a fairly fatalistic view of what it means to live in quake country. But today I'm really liking "we must uncenter our minds from ourselves."

How do you uncenter your mind from yourself? I need desperately to know.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New words

In addition to "light?" Lucas is now trying to say "tree?" and "chickens."

Why "light" and "tree" are interrogatives, I know not. But "chickens" is apparently exclamatory.

The problem, however, is that he's only attempting the first syllable, and he doesn't have the hard "ch" sound down yet. So instead of "chicks!" we get "shith!"

Add that to his fake sneezes shtick and he's going to be the belle of daycare.

I heart Roomba

Mr. Trillwing gave me a Roomba (pet hair edition!) for Christmas. It was a total surprise, and I must admit that although I liked the gift, at first I was skeptical. This little machine is going to pick up ALL THAT doghair? The Liability, he is a shepherd mix, so he sheds mightily year-round.

But tonight I charged up the little robot and let it play its vacuumy version of Pong across my carpets. Wow! It works, and it's kind of fun to watch. I learned the hard way, though, that Roomba moves faster than does Lucas. Luke now prefers to keep a distance from his robot friend. We plopped ourselves safely behind one of the infrared "virtual walls" and watched the action from there.

The one downside is the cleaning of it. Dumping the bin is easy, but there was a lot of Liability hair tangled around the main brush. Roomba comes with a handy-dandy tube through which you pass the brush to remove the hair, but you have to take apart the vaccuum a bit to get to this step. This meant about five or so minutes of cleaning, but I guess that's how much time I'd usually spend walking out to the garbage to dump out the canister and clean the filter screen on my upright vacuum.

Otherwise, Roomba is terrific. Highly recommended!

(And I think there is a fabulous American studies essay waiting to be written on the Roomba phenomenon--something with a title that begins "From Housewives to Hackers.")

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Conference time

Are any of my faithful readers going to be attending the Educause/ELI conference this month?

Long shot, I know, but I thought I'd ask.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Freedom's Just Another Word: Will we ever be free of movies like Freedom Writers?

Warning: I'm about to become one of those people who write about a movie without having seen it.

But really, this post isn't really about the movie. It's about a time and a place I don't talk about a lot. It's also about why, although I'm an educator, I care little for the Blackboard Jungle-style flicks that come out every 5 to 10 years and attempt to stir our social conscience.

My secret past

You might say I'm the classic middle-class white girl: of average weight but worried about it nonetheless; living in a smallish city in a suburban house fronted by a giant garage; a working mom who spends a good chunk of the weekdays in a cubicle; perhaps a bit better educated than most. Yeah, my life is pretty bland. You might imagine me hanging out with other suburban white moms as we swap tales about poop and Ph.D.s. And that would be a pretty accurate picture.

But rewind my life 15 years and the picture is a very different one. I lived in one of Long Beach's most affluent neighborhoods because my parents bought an affordable house in the right section of the city at the right time. However, because of the way the school district's gifted education programs were arranged, I spent most of my public school career attending schools outside of this neighborhood.

That meant that instead of enrolling in the local high school, I attended Poly High School, an inner-city school that represented one of the most racially and ethnically diverse spots on the planet. It's in a pretty sketchy neighborhood. Snoop Dogg graduated from Poly. And yes, I was there during the L.A. riots. As I left orchestra practice on Wednesday night, it was not uncommon to hear gunshots.

It was a time and a place that it's important to remember, but it's not one that needs, say, its own major motion picture.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

Freedom Writers and Wilson High School

I'm not sure if I want to see the movie Freedom Writers. It sounds like a retelling of Blackboard Jungle, where the idealistic young white teacher comes in, wins over the working-class students of color, and shames the rest of the embittered faculty in the process. For those of you who don't pay attention to movies coming out of Hollywood, Freedom Writers is the story of Erin Gruwell, an English teacher at Long Beach's Wilson High School. The story begins in 1994, a year after I graduated from high school--and, incidentally, at the time my younger sister was attending Wilson and when I had family and friends working at Wilson as teachers and librarians and even as principal. My family has been attending the school since the 1930s, so although I didn't go to Wilson, I know the school and its history pretty well.

I also know how Hollywood treats high schools that have large populations of students of color. I can already picture the mob scenes of students in a ghetto-looking campus quad, the overflowing trash cans and graffiti on the walls. And of course, in the Hollywood version all the students of color will be poor and most of them will probably be gangstas. But that's not Wilson. Wilson is, as public schools in Southern California go, a really nice campus. It's a classical high school where today college prep students wear uniforms of khaki slacks, skirts, or shorts and bright white shirts with burgundy jackets or sweaters. Parents of all races jockey to place their children at the school.

I understand that Freedom Writers isn't a documentary, but it is based on documentary evidence--it's drawn from the journals of Gruwell's students, largely students of color bussed in from other neighborhoods. And people in theaters across the U.S. and around the world are going to see this movie and maybe believe its portrayal of a faculty that doesn't give a damn about students from outside the neighborhood, students some teachers in the movie deem "unteachable."


I'm sick and tired of movies like this one in which teachers are heroized simply for taking their jobs seriously and where students are celebrated for surviving their everyday lives and for passing English or math class. Yes, it sucks to be working class. It sucks to live in a crappy neighborhood. It sucks to lose friends to violence. It sucks to pick up your yearbook and read the obituaries. It sucks to go to the nurse's office and see girls comparing sonograms. It sucks to have razor wire atop all the fences at your high school. And yes, it takes a lot of energy and commitment to teach well in an environment where students have so many distractions. We all understand that, right?

Instead of a studio spending $20 million or more to make a movie and audiences paying upwards of $30 million for movie tickets and DVDs, why don't we pool that money and give it to, oh, the actual schools? Then maybe we won't have scaffolding propping up sagging walkways; maybe every student can have a desk instead of people sitting atop cabinets in crowded classrooms, and perhaps bungalow classrooms set up on the basketball court can have electricity. Inner-city schools could offer more college prep courses and quality vocational programs instead of shunting students into JROTC and the armed forces. And maybe, if we're lucky, the science books in the library won't say, as they did when I was in junior high, "Someday man might go to the moon."

Perhaps with such resources we'd have more schools like Wilson and its cross-town rival, Poly High, which every year sends students to the best colleges and universities in the nation. Instead of sensationalizing gang violence, we could quietly celebrate the upward mobility and increased political engagement of the next generation. We could recognize that most teachers are dedicated, and we could acknowledge their commitment with better salaries that would draw some of the brightest students back into teaching.

And maybe, just maybe, Hollywood and others would stop conflating the journal-keeping of high school students at a relatively affluent, integrated high school with the heroism of the Freedom Riders who risked life and limb to integrate the American South in the early 60s. Because with with the $50 million or more that Americans are spending on this one movie--plus the millions from movies like it in the past and future--we'd be able to teach our students some damn good history.

With a more educated citizenry, "freedom" won't be just another word we use to sell stuff.