Presentation Space: Welcome New UMW Faculty

It’s a presentation-filled week for us in DTLT. Tomorrow we’ve got two hours with new incoming faculty to talk to them about our division and the work we do at the University. On Friday we’ve got three sessions with new freshman: two smaller afternoon sessions will be devoted to introducing them to free, web-based tools that they can use and a larger session in the evening is titled “The Pitfalls and Pinnacles of Social Networking.” The jury’s still out on what that larger session is going to involve. If nothing else, we’re giving away some cool prizes and, hopefully, going to talk about social networking sites in a non-fear-mongerish way. We’ll let you know how it goes. . .

The session with new faculty tomorrow will have two parts. During the second hour, we’ve invited several current faculty members to come and talk about projects we’ve worked on with them. The point is not just to demonstrate innovative uses of technology for teaching and learning but also to talk to new faculty about the kind of collaboration these projects entail and the process we go through when working together. We did something similar last year, and it worked well.

For the first part of the session, I volunteered to spend 45 minutes or so talking to the new faculty about low-threshold technologies that we use and recommend (sort of the faculty version of what we’re doing with freshman on Friday). Last year, this part of the session was a whirlwind tour of emerging technologies (sort of our own version of the NMC Five Mintues of Fame). I sensed that this might have been too overwhelming at the time — not sure why; just a sense I got. This year, I thought we’d take a different tack and stick to easy-to-adopt technology recommendations that can be built into something bigger.

As I prepare for tomorrow, I REALLY didn’t want to put together any kind of Powerpoint to present from, so I thought I’d just throw up a blog post and use this as the central point of command, especially for links. Then, I can point them to this space if they need a refresher later. (It’s also important to mention that Jim Groom and our student aide, Joe, have been working on another persistent resource for the freshman session on Friday — a resource which we actually hope will morph into something bigger. I don’t think it will be ready for primetime by tomorrow, but it will ultimately be more polished than my random post. I’ll update with a link when it’s done.)

So, here goes. . .

In some particular order, I’ll be covering:

  • Firefox
  • Google Docs
  • delicious
  • Flickr
  • Creative Commons (obviously not a technology, but definitely worth mentioning)

Firefox

Firefox is by far the most standards-based browser out there. Why does this matter? Well, good standards are arguably what make the Web work well. By adhering to standards, Firefox allows us to develop applications and Web sites that can be consistently viewed and experienced by all users.

Firefox, like many of the technologies we use or advocate in DTLT is also open-source. This means that it’s developed by a community of users, not by a corporation. Firefox isn’t just free for you to download and install; because it’s open source, that community of users can develop and extend the application through plugins and extensions.

But, the real reason why you’ll want to use Firefox is that it’s just got great features. Tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking, and intelligent searching are all built into the application.

Also, did I mention the plugins and extensions? You’ll find plugins and extensions that add all kinds of functionality to Firefox:

  • add chat functionality (Chatzilla or the Skype Sidebar)
  • write directly to your blog (Scribefire)
  • gather and organize resources for research projects (Zotero)
  • integrate with a number of other Web tools and sites: delicious, Flickr, Yahoo! Maps, Digg, eBay

Google Docs

If you’ve ever tried to find a way to more easily collaborate with colleagues, friends, or family on a Word or Excel document, look no further than Google Docs and Spreadsheets. This site allows you to create (or upload) documents and spreadsheets via a Web interface. The editing features are robust and will seem very familiar to users of Microsoft Office.

Once you’ve created your document or spreadsheet, sharing it is as easy as entering an email address. (Users will have to register with Google to access the site.) The spreadsheet application is particularly interesting; if you’re viewing the document at the same time as another collaborator, you can have a real-time chat in a sidebar. And since all collaboration is being tracked, at any time you can view the editing history and rollback to a previous version.

When you’re done (or when you want a local copy on your computer), you can save the documents as Word, OpenOffice or PDF files. Spreadsheets can be exported to a number of common data formats.

If you decide that your document or spreadsheet is worthy of grander exposure, you can make it publicly viewable. In other words, Google Docs allows you to very quickly and easily publish content to the Web.

delicious

If you feel like you spend far too much time trying to retrace your online steps and re-find resources you’ve already discovered, than you should consider a social bookmarking tool like delicious. Just like your browser allows you to store bookmarks, delicious allows you to easily store links to Web resources. The difference is that delicious bookmarks are stored online. That means you can access them from any Web browser by simply logging onto the delicious Web site.

In addition, delicious is a SOCIAL bookmarking site, so you can easily share bookmarks with others. The easiest way to do this is to simply point people to your public delicious page. There it’s possible to filter your bookmarks by any tags that you’ve entered. If you want to get more targeted about your sharing, you can send friends and colleagues to a particular subset of your bookmarks. If your friend is also a delicious user, you can get even more targeted: by entering a particular tag on a bookmark in your account, it will show up the next time your targeted friend logs in.

(Did I mention that Firefox has got a very slick plugin for integrating delicious directly into the browser?)

Flickr

When text-based bookmarks just aren’t doing enough for you, turn to Flickr, DTLT’s image sharing tool of choice. With an account on Flickr you can upload up to 100MB of photos every month for free. (For $25 a year, you can go “pro” and upload an unlimited amount.)

Once you’ve uploaded images into Flickr, much like delicious, you can easily tag your photos and add them to collections and sets. You can even geotag your images, placing them directly on a Yahoo! map for even easier locating.

While by default images uploaded to Flickr are publicly available, you can set more granular controls, only allowing your Flickr contacts or invited friends to view them.

Flickr also has an amazing community users that self-organize into groups around all kinds of interests:

  • The Kitchen Chemistry group is made up of members who upload images of home-grown chemistry projects.
  • History is All Around Us shares photos by historian-photographers.
  • Check out the Art Directory for a meta-group that organizes information about the hundreds(!) of art-related groups on Flickr.

Creative Commons

If a photo is up on Flickr and publicly available, you can link to it from your own Web site. In many cases, through the use of a licensing mechanism called Creative Commons you can also download and reuse many Flickr photos–you may even be able to make derivative works from them and share them with a class in print or online. Creative Commons provides a framework for authors, artists, scientists, and educators to easily add licensing information to their intellectual property, effectively changing their copyright terms from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.”

Use of a Creative Commons license does not eliminate copyright protection; rather, it further defines the terms under which you grant use of your work. Generally speaking, all Creative Commons licenses (and there are several to choose from) mix together some of the following licensing terms:

  • Attribution: requires a user to credit you for the use of your work.
  • Non-Commercial: prohibits any commercial use of your work.
  • No-Derivatives: prohibits the creation of derivative works; users can only copy, distribute, display, or perform your work in its verbatim form
  • Share-Alike: requires users to re-share their own version/redistribution of your work under a similar CC license.

Creative Commons is a critical component of the open content movement in education — a movement which encourages a more open distribution and sharing of educational content back into the commons. If you’re interested in licensing your own work under Creative Commons, check out their licensing tool. If you’re interested in finding Creative Commons work to use as you prepare your own classes, check out their search engine.

Even more to explore. . .

If you’re interested in these tools, we encourage you to download or sign-up and start using them. DTLT is always available to help you think about how these technologies can augment your teaching.

If you’re looking for resources to point you to additional low-threshold, (usually) free, and (often) Web-based tools, there are a number of sites we can point you to. One of the best is Emily Chang’s ehub, a constantly updated directory of next-generation Web sites, with a particular focus on social networking and collaboration.

One last plug: This fall, DTLT is launching a blogging platform at www.umwblogs.org. It’s what we call a “soft launch” as we target particular users and courses for our first big push. However, any member of the UMW community is welcome to login and start a blog, and DTLT is ready and able to help you think about how that space can be used for teaching and learning.

UPDATE: Well, no sooner had I clicked publish than I noticed a tweet from Jim announcing Joe‘s site at tools.umwblogs.org. As Jim rightly points out, “Joe does an excellent job of framing [the tools’] relevance in at once a nonchalant, perceptive and focused style.” The style is perfect for our students this Friday, and will no doubt add a lot more to my brief write-ups. Thanks Joe and Jim!

UPDATE #2: I want to add a few more links to this page, since I told new faculty I’d point them to it as a persistent resource after today’s session.

Most importantly, I wanted to add links to the faculty projects that we talked about today:

Please note, I haven’t included links to Craig Vasey’s logic sites because they are password protected.