Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reflecting on my journey during this course, I realise, like the fish in this cartoon, Web2.0 technologies can seem like a lot of new web 'junk'. This course has helped me realise the potential of exciting new tools, that create opportunities for learning.

Grosseck suggests that students are already digitally fluent, so education must give students the knowledge they will need to in a web2.0 workforce. Grosseck also suggests that educations should 'assume a new attitude' and set ourselves up as innovators in creating opportunities for new pedagogical frameworks. I feel this is what the course has been about.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Back from the vast desert of internet-less land

Having just spent the last two weeks without internet, I realise how engaged I have become in this course and how much I miss the interaction of colleagues, watching pages develop and reading how friends are getting along in the course.

In the article Learning at a Distance: Engaged or Not?, the authors report that distant online learners are often more engaged in the learning process than their oncampus counterparts, except in the area of activies and collaborative engagement.

"Student engagement takes many forms—intellectual challenge, active and collaborative learning, meaningful interactions with faculty, and the perception that the learning environment is supportive of the student's efforts to overcome obstacles to learning"

The authors suggest that online courses should encourage collaborative activity, which I believe this course has tried to do with the Knowledge Garden. In my last unit of the Masters, I find myself more engaged than ever before in the process of learning through interaction.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Google: White bread for the mind

A recent article in the Times Online quoted Tara Brabozon, as saying Google is “white bread for the mind” producing a generation of students who survive on a diet of unreliable information

She states that “To-day’s media is shattering the world into a billion personalised truths, each seemingly equally valid and worthwhile.” I guess this is a good description of collaborative technologies...but is this a bad thing?

Judging by the response to this article, many people disagree with her statements that google is creating a generation of 'cut and paste' students who cannot differenciate between good and bad information. Others suggest that collaborative minds create valid information that is just as reliable as academic research.

Blogger in three new languages...

Blogger is now available in three more languages, including Arabic. I first learned this when opening my account and it had defaulted to Arabic. Luckilly I know enough of the language to change the settings back to English.

Having Blogger in Arabic shows that Google and others realise that it is not necessary to disenfrancise communities who do not speak in English. The web is 'big business' in the Arab world, and a whole subset of Web 2.0 technologies are developing in alternative languages.

Not sure all the glitches are ironed out, but تهاني to Blogger!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lessons learned from wiki lessons...

Using the Knowledge Garden as a good and bad learning experience has made me think of ways to use wikis in my classroom.

One idea I used recently was to get Group A students to research a topic and create a wiki page. Group B students then read the page and asked some questions and made comments on the page.

Rather than the facilitator generating the questions and calling for comments, the collaborators did.

Students often have to do research of their own to come up with the questions and comments. Group B (C and D) students were also busy creating pages in the same wiki and going through the same process.

I find it takes a lot more scaffolding at first, and probably has different learning outcomes to my own experience, but the students are motivated by the technology. Its a great way to teach collaboration, critical thinking skills, reading and writing for understanding, etc...

Its not over until its over...

I have just realised that Assignment One is not over. Will it ever be over? Is the nature of the beast something that is going to keep going forever? I thought about submitting yesterday, but I have the urge to tinker more.

It seems all about validating movement within the pages, by contributors and myself. I need to keep moving...

Monday, January 14, 2008

One down, two to go!

I have just finished Assignment One for FET8611 and upon reflection, it was a great learning experience. I really want to submit the assignment and have a feeling of completion, but with a this one, I dont know if it was really complete.

I have reread the instructions for Assignment Two, and I was a little horrified to learn that we are still emersed in the Knowledge Garden. As part librarian/part teacher/part resercher, my tools of research are academic databases and research journals. I know for this assignment I am going to have to search through the garden to use the material there.

Its not that I dont believe the information is not extremely valuable there, the problem is the navigation and the search tools. Searching tools, indexing facilities and metadata are so much part of my 'tools of the trade' that not having them makes everything seem that much harder and time consuming. Wikis are great learning tools, but as they expand, they need some indexing so the information can be accessed easily.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Watching the wiki grow...

Watching the development of my "Book Club" wiki, is like watching a child grow. I had expectations of what it would look like and how people would interact with it, but I have learned that the collaborators use it in many different ways.

I think that the shared ownership of the wiki has allowed it to develop in different directions. Different groups of learners have found their niche pages. Some pages have lots of activity, and these seem to be the pages that encourage the most interaction, like the "Favorite First Line". Its quick and easy to use and changes regularly.

I am interested in how the 'write a story' page develops, and notice that students are peer mentoring each other, by correcting mistakes and changing grammar! Fantastic learning!

Monday, January 7, 2008

In search of the perfect wiki...

As my wiki page develops, I am searching to find what makes a good wiki. It seems that the assessment criteria for this course is that a good wiki is gets as many contributers as possible. This drive for popularity reminds me of 'virtual friends' on FaceBook, and the need by some to collect as many as possible.

Should a good wiki be based on the number of people you can solicit to visit and comment on your page? Are students in this course driven by numbers rather than content?

To find the answers to what makes a good wiki, So naturally I look to the most famous of them all, wikipedia. This blog article sugggests that "It’s just like my high school English teacher said — the secret to writing well is to “rewrite, rewrite, rewrite" It suggests that collaboration helps to underpin the value of wikipedia, and that there is a correlation between article quality and number of edits.

So collaboration is key. The trick is to find collaborators who are truely interested to build knowledge on the topic, not just to accumulate the highest number of 'friends'.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Building wikis...

The process of exploring a wiki for my educational application has shown me that there are a number of different paths to develop a collaborative space, and also different online companies offering me similar prepackaged ways to have a wiki up and running quickly. The easiest method I found was to use a pre-packaged wetpaint site, using one of the many templates provided. The advantage of template design is that everything is pre-planned, easy, quick and I don't need to bother with learning special code. This works well with an uncomplicated shallow design with a limited number of pages. However the wetpaint wiki template doesn't let me modify code to alter the design or automatically update links.

As part of Wetpaint's business model, it takes me to other 'add on' tools by its affiliated companies. For example, if I want to add a survey I click to, which integrates a survey tool on my wiki.

One nice touch to Wetpaint wiki is that users have contributed 'splatters' which are matching graphics (borders, bullets and spacers) which can easily be incorporated into the wiki to give it a much more user friendly appearance.