Tag Archives: Uncategorized

A Plea for Youth

I’m finally getting some time to blog about a variety of interesting things I’ve seen over the last week or so, and I’ll start with this post about allowing today’s youth the space and freedom to express themeselves over at Danah Boyd’s blog, apophenia.

I think Danah’s done a fantastic job of capturing why it is that we need to allow space online for young people — and why we need to step aside and let them fill those spaces:

Post-Columbine, we decided to regulate the symptoms of alienation rather than solve the problem. Today, we are trying to regulate youth efforts to have agency and public space. Both are products of a culture of fear and completely miss the point. We need to figure out how to support youth culture, exploration and efforts to make sense of the social world. The more we try to bottle it into a cookie-cutter model, the more we will destroy that generation.

Danah’s plea is compelling and hearfelt enough to warrant a full read. I encourage any of you who work with, interact with, or just plain care about youth and youth culture to read it.

And, while you’re there, be sure to read the comments posted. The one about the experiences of a film teacher and students in Colorado is particularly chilling.

Google Reader: The Latest in RSS Fun

Via plasticbag, I found Google’s new (RSS) Reader tool.

I was able to import my subscriptions from a Bloglines XML export without any trouble. Now I’m trying to get my head around the interface. Since I just suscribed to the feeds, there are no items associated with them at the moment. That makes it hard for me to understand exactly how the service works. According to the Reader: “Items published from now on will begin appearing in [my] reading list.” I can also click a link to view older items from a source. But since there are no current items, I can’t quite tell what reading experience will be like. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a place that aggregates/clearly presents all the new items in my feeds. I definitely want that feature.

Frankly, on first inspection, the interface feels like it is trying to hard. The “lens” feature is a cool looking way to navigate the feeds, but it doesn’t seem as intuitive or simple as most Google interfaces. And I definitely don’t think it is as intuitive (or simple) as the Bloglines interface.

That said, I like how I can add my own tags to any post (for finding later) and how I can also freely tag my feeds. Just like in Gmail, I can also “star” a post. I’m not sure what this does. Does it keep that post around for me (like Bloglines Clippings) even when it has dropped off the XML feed? A system for creating some persistence for certain items is important to me. Before I started using Bloglines (I was using NetNewsWire Lite) I was regularly reading items and then “losing” them.

There is also a link labeled “Read items.” There’s nothing there now, and I’m not sure what it means. It is past-tense, as in “items I’ve read” (maybe this is where old items persist). Or is it a directly: Go Read These Items (because they’re new? because you’ve starred them). I don’t know. I’ll have to keep playing around until I figure it out.

It is also possible to send a post via Gmail or post to Blogger blog directly (no surprise there).

As with most Google Beta releases, documentation/explanation is light (if not non-existent).

In any case, a tool worth watching. . .

Please keep your python to yourself.

Um. Ouch.


And, I don’t get this quote:

“There had been some hope that alligators can control Burmese pythons,” Mazzotti said. “This indicates to me it’s going to be an even draw. Sometimes alligators are going to win and sometimes the python will win.”

Uh, I’m not sure there was a clear “winnner” in this situation.

The Power of Story

I love the radio show This American Life. I’m always happy when I’m out on the weekend and it comes on the radio(Because we live out in the boonies and have terrible radio reception, I only get to listen to NPR in the car. Poor me. ) So I was thrilled to find this short audio message from host Ira Glass at LearningTimes Network today.

It’s a wonderful anecdote of how important it is to create stories for learners. Not only does it make the learning experience more meaningful it makes it more memorable.

Registration is probably required and it took a little while for the Flash audio to load on my computer, but I think it’s worth the wait.

Sidenote: I know that TAL is trying to make money off of selling cd’s of their broadcasts, but a podcast sure would be nice.

Won’t you join my wiki?

I want to follow-up on yesterday’s (multi-part) post about synchronous document editing on the Web by pointing to this post at Om Malik’s Broadband Blog. He wonders if the writing world is really ready for all of these web-based writing tools–particularly given some users’ (himself included) discomfort with writing in a browser. I must admit I can sort of relate (Shameful Little Secret: While writing online isn’t so much of a problem for me, I still have trouble reading on a computer screen. Sometimes. . .I even print articles/webpages/etc. Ahhhh, it feels so good to get that off my chest 😉 )

On the other hand, in the world of higher education we (generally) answer to a higher power: the 18-22 year-old. And I’ve heard from these young adults that they think writing in the wiki-ed/collaborative/socially-networked world is pretty darn cool. And really, it isn’t surprising that this kind of writing would be more comfortable for those who’ve grown up online.

Another point: as a commenter on Malik’s blog notes, these tools aren’t really about personal writing (and personal comfort) but about group writing and collaboration and the powerful synergy that can come out of this kind of activity. We may be more comfotable writing our documents off-line in Word, but offline we can’t acheive the kind of collaborative dynamic that Writely, Synchroedit, and others are aiming to give us

A Wiki to Watch?

Via edugadget last week, I came across the CaseWiki. I love this wiki. Case Western Reserve is providing it as an online space for all of the university’s constituents to collaborate about and share information.

What kind of information? It seems like any kind. The creators provide an orientation page with suggestions.

Taking a look at the activity on the wiki, I found some interesting stuff:

  1. A student’s record of the progress of his independent study.
  2. A collaborative space for the team currently working on the Case screen saver project.
  3. Notes about an authentication projection at Case.
  4. A personal page maintained by a student.
  5. Instructions and information about using the Case email service.

And, then there is this map of content that has been geographically tagged.

Wiki-purists may object to the fact that you do need to be a registered user to make edits, and you must have a CASE Network ID in order to become a registered user. But, personally, I can understand the University’s reluctance to open this up to the entire world. And I think the community of users represented by those with University ID’s is probably large enough to make this a meaningful project.

I think this is worth keeping an eye on. The real test is how this wiki grows and evolves. Will it become a meaningful respository of useful information? Or will it become a cluttered wasteland of Web pages that time forgot?

Stay tuned. . .

Explaining the Unexplainable

Earlier this week, Michael “Brownie” Brown, former head of FEMA, testified in Congress about the Hurricane Katrina disaster. From the transcript:

SHAYS: Did you ask for a higher authority to help you out? You’re the head of FEMA, but if the governor and mayor aren’t paying attention to you, I want to know who you asked for help?

BROWN: On Saturday and Sunday, I started talking to the White House.

SHAYS: To who? The White House is a big place.

BROWN: Uh-huh.

SHAYS: Give us specifics. I’m not asking about conversations yet. I want to know who you contacted.

BROWN: I exchanged e-mails and phone calls with Joe Hagin, Andy Card and the president.

You don’t think it’s possible that he was using the e-mail address on this page?

On Shoulders and Burdens

Interesting conversation over at Abject Learning in response to a post by
Brian Lamb about, specifically, Technorati woes, and, more generally, faculty frustration with technology. More eloquent folks than I have already weighed in on this, but I feel compelled to add my two cents.

First, how lucky are Brian’s faculty to have someone like him on their side? We all should care as deeply about the successes and frustrations that our faculty encounter as they set sail on the technology seas.

That said, I agree with commenters that a burden we all need to shoulder* (we=folks involved with integrating technology into the world of higher education), is the management of faculty expectations. Yes, “managing expectations” is a tired cliche in many ways, but it is still worth remembering from time to time. This burden becomes a little more difficult to balance when we are depending on systems and tools that are managed outside our own realms.

It is a difficult line to walk: How do we vigorously encourage faculty to engage with new technologies while simultaneously preparing them for the possible, periodic failure of these technologies?

One answer lies in how we respond to these failures. We need to approach these times as our own teachable moments–they are opportunties for educating our faculty on the reality of using technology. And, more importantly perhaps, they are the moments at which we need to talk even more loudly and vigorously about why using these technolgies is still great, even when they are occasionally prone to failure.

At the same time, we probably need to do a better job of preparing faculty on the outset of possible system failures and breakdowns. We need to do this, but I think we all know that many people won’t really learn this lesson until they actually experience a breakdown first-hand.

*Side note: When I went to re-read this post before publishing, I discovered that I had actually written “a shoulder we need to burden.” Sigh. Can you tell that the littlest Burtis thought she would like Momma to get up and play last night during the wee hours?

Powerpoint Excellence

Lawrence Lessig blogged about this presentation by Dick Hardt at OSCON2005. I’ve decided that the next time I do a workshop on Powerpoint at UMW, I’m going to be showing part of this. And I’ll also show part of Lessig’s own Free Culture presentation.

A couple of observations:

  • Both Lessig and Hardt made me care about topics that I had previously known little about–I’m quite certain that the style of these presentations was key.
  • I’m assuming (and it looks like others have to) that both of these were done in PowerPoint, but I have no definitive proof of that
  • Whether they were done in PowerPoint is really irrelevant. They certainly don’t look like the typical PowerPoint presentation, and that is actually a dramatic part of their style (and perhaps effectiveness).
  • Both of the presentations would be basically meaningless without the addition of the presentation audio. How many of our faculty can say that about their own PowerPoints? There is a lesson to be learned here. . .
  • You know all those themes that PowerPoint includes (most of which are really silly)? Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Lessig one? Just white text on a black background (and to really be authentic, it would limit the number of charaters/items on a slide). If Ken Burns gets his own iMovie effect, I think Lessig deserves a Powerpoint theme. Who’s with me?
  • To be sure, Lessig and Hardt’s abilities as speakers contribute a great deal to the effectiveness of these. Neither presentation would work as well without these excellent deliveries.
  • Many faculty create PowerPoints that, in addition to being scaffolding for the lecture, are also meant to be study aides. Lessig-like presentations could be aides too, but in a different way. This is worth exploring. . .

Oh, and one more thing: Commenters on Lessig’s blog also applaud the “Who Owns Culture” conversation that he participated in with Jeff Tweedy this past April in NYC. I’ve tried multiple times to access and view this presentation with no luck. Quicktime just sort of freezes up on me when I try to watch the streaming video. Any one have any ideas?

Making a Difference with Social Software

Came across Scipionus.com via Wired today. Scipionus ScreenshotThe creators of this site have created a “visual wiki” that people can use to record conditions in areas struck by Katrina. They’re using the Google Maps API to allows tagging of locations. The tags are at the same time fascinating and heartbreaking.

One of the tags led me to The Interdictor, a self-described “Survival of New Orleans blog.” And from there I came across this Web cam which appears to be near the Hotel InterContinental where I stayed last January for the annual NLII conference.

This whole last week has been surreal watching this disaster unfold. One aspect of that surrealness has been following how people are “connecting” with each other and gathering information through the use of Web sites and social software. A disaster like this which disperses so many thousands of people in so many different directions reminds me of just how big the world can seem. Seeing how technology can help to make it feel a little smaller and more manageable is somehow heartening.