Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wiki by design...

Example of good design
Visiting wikis during this course I am reminded that good design should apply whether it be a web or a wiki. The Emerging Technologies Knowledge Garden page is very uninviting - too much text, little organisation and too much scrolling!
Cernohous (2007) observes that the vastness of the web conceals information. Relevant information is sometimes hard to locate on the web. Wikis can bring solutions for centralizing , organizing and disseminating information relevant to users. This is why its even more important that wikis be inviting spaces, well organised and use space, navigation and good web design practices.

Cernohous, Steve. Athletic Therapy Today, May2007, Vol. 12 Issue 3, p2-5,

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wiki culture...

As I work my e-book page, I am discovering more about wiki culture. The following is taken from The Open Content wiki

Maintain a Neutral Point of View (NPOV). Present information straight forward using language that would make it difficult to tell who wrote it - neutral.

I have noticed that a lot of comments on pages seem to be editorial in nature (eg. in my opinion, I think that). I have edited others pages this way myself. In future I will try for the NPOV tone, backing up statements with authoritive citations.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Learning languages through social networking is a Web 2.0 application that is creating language learning communities around the world. On this site you can find a language partner or group, share language resources and participate in language activities.
This application can reduced the isolation many L2 learners feel and create a sense of community. L2 learners can learn from their peers and build language learning communities. Working with others in this way could help to overcome anxiety and low self confidence that offen hampers second language acquisition in a classroom setting.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Google Docs and Spreadsheets is like pure collaborative oxygen"...

I have just read Asra's facilitated page about Sharepoint and have started to do some research to contribute some thoughts. Having read and used the functionality of Sharepoint, I am wondering if GoogleDocs is a light weight but 'free' alternative. Could this be a similar experience between WebCT and Moodle?

"There are a great many users who only require the most basic of functionality out of their productivity software but who also end up with something like Microsoft Office if for no other reason than compatibility with the other people they interact with" (Berlind).

Berlind suggests that many people do not need the high-end advanced tools like Sharepoint offered by Microsoft. GoogleDocs and Googlespreadsheets need no local software or specific operating system or system administrators with GoogleDocs and Googlespreadsheets all you to begin collaborating with someone else, all you need is a browser.

Perhaps the commercial and freeware products both have a place depending on the needs of the user and their environment.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Facebook no longer 'is'...

In an article in todays addition of the SMH, it has been reported that the users of Facebook have brought about a gramatical change - Each update started with the member's name and "is," followed by a blank box - until today - Users now supply all their own verb.

This may seem a small thing, but to many English as second language speakers, it comes as a victory against the very English-specific way many social networks operate. Facebook hasn't translated its site into languages other than English, but is planning to do this next year.

Collaboration or plagiarism?

In my quest for all things emerging, I came across Scriptova, a site created by 18 year old Aseem Badshah. Referring to it as a YouTube or Flickr for academic documents, " is an online community for students to collaborate and receive feedback on their academic work. This includes essays, notes, lab reports, presentations, and everything else students create to advance their knowledge" ( Students can upload their work so that others can review, make suggestions or use as part of their own work.
In an interview, Aseem was asked about the line between collaboration and plagiarism. Aseem suggested that school should be like the real world of work, where the goal is to take what is known and improve upon it. Knowledge should be built upon, rather than reinvented. This way knowledge becomes more analytical and real innovation occurs.
One of the keys to this kind of collaboration is to ensure that the foundation knowledge is built upon quality information. Aseem suggests that students should be taught how to research and how to evaluate, then taught how to collaborate for a true learning experience.
I have uploaded one of my old essays and await the results :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Web 2.0 is like obscenity"

This weekend I attended a conference - you guessed it - all about Web 2.0 (specifically Library 2.0)! The presenter defined web 2.0 as like obscenity - different to different people, depending on your own interpretations of the world around you.

Web 2.0 technologies are -
  • easier to interact with than a normal web page
  • seem to know there is a person at the computer
  • a service model with a user centered design
  • has network effects by default
  • has user generated content and trust
This definition fits well with me and helps me understand the concepts behind the technology. I think the last point user generated content and trust is an important one. It is important to have trust in your community and understand the implications of this trust relationship.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Situated learning...

This afternoon I transfered knowledge from my course to the real world. I have used Elluminate as a student, so I decided to use it for a meeting of peers around the country. A challenge for meeting in my context is that I work closely with colleagues in 17 different campuses, scattered throughout the desert, often separated by traffic snarled roads. Generally we don't meet, corresponding through email.

The problem with email is that it is easy for silent non-participation amongst some members of the group. It is easy to lose the thread of the conversation, have disconnected conversations or to lose momentum for a task. I believe that Elluminate and other conferencing collaborative software may prompt greater participation in my working party, especially during the start up phase.

Having attended a session as a participant, I learned the basic functionality and was confident I could pass on the basics to the group within a few minutes. Being a participant is easy, being the moderator is hard. I found that the moderators role is very complex, having to ensure equal participation, engagement and encouragement amongst the group. It takes a keen eye, as people text chat, talk and contribute to the white board at once and it is easy to miss vital parts of the discussion. The moderator needs to ask open questions to the group and also individuals directly so that there is less 'mt' (moderator talk) and more 'pt' (participant talk).

Although this was the first time for everyone in the group (6 participants) we found that after initial hesitation, everyone was chatting and using the emoticons and symbols to provide feedback to others.

We have decided to use a wiki or Sharepoint (our institutions common space) to continue to share our ideas in a collaborative way.

I learned that the software is easy, perhaps a little clunky with the microphone a bit like a walkie-talkie. I found its the human-computer-human communication that takes time and attention.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Scratching below the cyber-skin of wiki swingers...

The last couple of days I have been discovering the joys and horrors of posting to wikis - specifically the Knowledge Garden. I learned something of the topics, but more about the mechanics of posting, the nature of the wiki swingers, the discourse and the type of information wikis often contain.

Lessons learned:

I notice that the discourse for wiki contributions from experienced users is far less formal than my own. I use a very academic formal style, tending to back up statements with references. Perhaps wiki text is more editorial in nature, tending towards opinion rather than fact, informal and first person in structure. I need to develop this wiki-speak, to become part of the culture and community who value their own opinions and wish to contribute them in this style.

The mechanics of the post sometimes overshadows, and takes much longer than researching the content. This may become easier over time. I have found that different facilitated pages ask for comments to be written in different ways (hidden comments, invite, editing main page). At this point, the medium of delivery is far more complicated than the message.

"My fear is not of wiki or Google. My concern is that the confusion between finding information and building knowledge..." (Bradazon, 2007). In this article, Brabazon (2007) suggests that emerging technologies are creating confusion between finding information and possessing the literacy to evaluate and judge information. When I see unreferenced comments, my immediate reaction is 'how do they know this, are they experts, how do I validate this information'. When I think in terms of my students, I see the need for critical evaluation skills development, so that they can determine fact from opinion, as wiki and scholarly communication mesh into one.

Am I mistaking the purpose of a wiki? Should I be looking at it as a free flow of ideas exchange, like a conversation, not worry about authority, authorship or ownership, rather than a repository of scholarly information?

Bradazon, T. (2007). Boomers in thrall to a wiki universe. The Times Higher Education Supplement. Nov. 16, 14.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Directory of Web 2.0 Applications

One of my goals for this course is to get a handle on Web 2.0. I understand that Web 2.0 refers to web-based communities and hosted services such as social-networking sites, wikis, and folksonomies.

But what applications make up 2.0?

The GO2web20 site is a directory of web 2.0 applications and services. There were 1823 logos (sites) on the directory as of Sunday, December 02, 2007.

These include:

- Networking sites
- Easy site builders
- Idea sharing
- Search tools
- Organizers

...And a whole lot more!

By exploring this site, I have learned-by-clicking and am getting a better understanding of what web 2.0 means to me and how I can apply it to my educational context.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Making my wiki sticky...

To me a Wiki page is another type of webpage, which should be created using the same rules of good web design and therefore the planning stage is crucial. It needs to be sticky, to attract colleagues and keep them interested.

So how do I design a sticky wiki?

I feel that I have three challenges. First, my topic isn't as cool as some of the technologies we are investigating, pfft ...Ebooks? Who cares! Second, the technology constraints of Knowledge Garden makes it more difficult to create a visually appealing site. Third, how many of my colleagues have an ebook reader, use ebooks or will have the expertise to comment?

What does the research says about making my wiki sticky?

1. My wiki should have a purpose that other people care about. I shall consider ways to make people care about ebooks!

2. Most wikis should have one or two levels. Not everything should be listed on the first page, it's confusing. I will have to use other tools, like boxes, bold, spaces to highlight important things and break up the information into manageable chunks.

3. I need to lose anonymity and introduce myself so people feel comfortable contributing. I need to give people something to 'do' or to feel free to play. I need to add easy explanations on how to contribute.

4. "Wiki loves itself. Link to as many other Wiki articles as you can, within reason. Also, search for other articles to find places where it makes sense to link to your article. Your article becomes stickier with each link to and from it" (10 Ways to Make Your Wiki Sticky)

5. My front page should have a short explanation of the purpose of the wiki and links to appropriate pages, not one long scrolling page (Best practices for getting others to contribute to your wiki). This is going to be more difficult in Knowledge Garden, put I will try to use content menus.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Its raining forums...

Ok, its time to come to terms with the three learning environments.

Peter says in his announcement: "Moodle, knowledgeGarden and Virtual Classroom forum to ensure that you are aware of most of the important aspects of the course environment.......details are included in the Moodle, knowledgeGarden and Elluminate forum" (Forum Post:by Peter Evans - Monday, 19 November 2007, 11:03 PM)

So why is three learning environments better than one? From a learner perspective, much time is spent learning the technology rather than working with content. From a teacher perspective, I can imagine that duplication of posting to different forums is time consuming and difficult to management. The fact that these learning environments are emerging means that each is still developing functionaltiy and "one size does not fit all" purposes.

On refection, I think it is posible to compare emerging learning environments within a historical context. For example, an emerging technology of the past 10 years has been the mobile phone. I remember when once we had a phone, a music device, a camera and a computer. Now we have a device like the iphone that converges all these technologies and more.

Perhaps soon a learning environment will emerge that brings together the best features of the learning tools we are using in this course, without reducing fuctionality of each and with a user friendly interface.

Where in the world..

Click to zoom in on my visitor map!
Create your free world visitor maps

Thanks to Jane and others in the group, I have discovered some devices that I call 'hooks'. I like to think of the application of technology, (aka, cool things) and I think this and other Graphic Generators are a good way to generate interest and 'hook' the learner into discovering more about the site.

I have looked at two different generators of this type. The one above that Jane demonstated in her site which is and .

Using templates always have their limitations. Using this blogger template means that sometimes things just dont fit without some modification of code. I wanted to put the nifty map on the right hand menu, however it was too large to fit. The clutrmaps seems to me to be easier to modify.

This exercise has taught me a few things:
  • Jane's post not only alerted me to a technology, but showed an application of the technology in an educational content which added value for me.
  • Graphic generators have me thinking about how 'cool stuff' can add interest to a site and need not be just 'noise'. Hooks are important to add stickyness to a site, and educational sites need to attract and retain their learners.
  • When looking at a new technology, look around for different versions of the same thing. Test out any variations in functionality to find the right fit for your purpose.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The learning environment 'gardens'

This picture is a visual representation of my impressions of the three learning environment gardens I am exploring.

Why is my picture resized so small in this blog? Not sure, but perhaps I have come across my first 'weed' in this software.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Are Three Course Management Systems Better Than One?

WebCT? ..Moodle?..Knowledge Garden..

These systems provide more than just URLs for locating content; they provide containers that shape both content and experience (Feldstein, n.d.)

To me the design of the ‘containers’ play an important part in the ‘experience’ I have never been a big fan of WebCT, from a user and designer point of view, as I found it too restrictive in design and scope. However I have subconsciously become accustomed to the uniformity of its design and icons and orientation. Orientation refers to the visitors’ ability to easily determine exactly where they are in the site at any time (Krug, 2000). On reflection, I have realized that, in Krug’s (2000) words, WebCT ‘doesn’t make me have to think’- I know exactly how the discussion posts will look, I intuitive know the icon for assignment submission etc…. which from a pedagogical point of view means that learners can spend more time working with the content rather than the tool.

First impressions of the Moodle experience is that it has a natural flow of information and a more web-natural look and feel. Guenther (2004), De Troyer (2001) and others have emphasized that sites should be designed for their audience, and this holds true for emerging education technology tools. This shallow design has clear navigation and explanation of labels and links for ease of student use. From a designer point of view, the freeware might lack the ‘bells and whistles’, and I am yet to discover if I am missing some vital element that WebCT has that as a student I just cannot live without.

Knowledge Garden is in a word…overwhelming. Consistent and well laid out key elements are fundamental to creating a good experience for the user. (Guenther, 2004). This text based system perhaps has a different purpose, which seems to be purely information driven. I need meaningful categories with meaningful labels, headings, white spaces and display elements to organise and help me predict the what, why, when, how and who of the overwhelming amout of information. It will take me time to learn the system – perhaps the Knowledge Garden has grown into a jungle, needing some pruning, weeding and replanting!

Krug, S. (2000). Don’t make me think: a common sense approach to web usability. Indiana: New Riders.

De-Troyer, O. (2001) Audience driven web design. Retrieved April 14, 2006 from Vrije Universitiet Brussels Web Site:

Feldstein, M. (n.d.) Course management systems and pedagogical models. Retrieved November 19, 2007 from e-Literate – What Michael Feldstein is learning about online

Guenther, K. (2004). Web site management. Online, 28 (1), 54-56. Retrieved April 12, 2006 from Ebsco Host database