Learning 2008 Keynote: Networked Academic Conversations and the Liberal Arts

The creation of knowledge through conversation is the core of liberal arts education.

Presenter: Ruben R. Puentedura

The creation of knowledge through conversation is the core of liberal arts education.

According to research from the past 5-10 years, blended learning (face-to-face + online) is becoming more relevant and necessary on residential campuses. These studies show that truly blended courses where the face-to-face and online components are comparable in magnitude will fix some of the problems with both face-to-face and online courses.

Face-to-face learning is good for:

  • establishing a local presence
  • discursive task definition
  • generation of ideas

Online learning is good for:

  • sustaining social presence
  • discursive task execution
  • evaluation & development of ideas

[side note: I am seeing truth in the above thanks to online social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and the Library Society of the World, which are responsible for both sustaining and growing the connections I make at conferences.]

Prior to the development of the tools and technology that led to Web 2.0, we did not have the ability to see bi-directional conversations on the Web. Web 2.0 has re-defined the Web as a platform for small pieces, loosely joined. The Web 2.0 is the architecture of participating, with remixable data sources and data transformations, harnessing collective intelligence.

Conversations as continuous partial attention
Twitter is both asynchronous and synchronous at the same time. Conversations can be both instantaneous and over time, and there are no expectations that you will read every single update from everyone you follow.

Conversations surrounding production/consumption
Flickr has taken the static image on a website and enhanced it with conversational elements like comments, groupings, tags, and notes on photos. Partially because the content is self-produced, this has created a supportive community and a culture of intolerance for troll-like behavior. In contrast, YouTube, which offers similar features for moving images, is filled with content not created by the sharer, and the community is unfriendly compared to Flickr.

Ustream contains user-generated live streaming video, and should have a culture of users similar to Flickr; however, it appears to lean more towards the YouTube culture. Swivel is a site for sharing data and creating visualizations from that data, and it straddles the line between a supportive culture and one that is prone to troll-like behavior.

All of this is to say that if you choose to use these tools in your classroom, you need to be aware of the baggage that comes with them.

Conversations mapping the terrain
del.icio.us is a social bookmarking service that can be an information discovery tool as well as a conversation. The process of adding a new bookmark tells you something about the URL by showing how others have added it (leaning on the expertise of other). The network of users and tags can show connections outside of defined groups.

Conversations based on shared creation
Most blogs include comment functionality which allows readers to participate on equal footing. Trackbacks show links from other locations, branching out the conversation beyond the boundaries of the solitary blog. The blog has also cause the rediscovery of forms of discourse such as the exploratory essay, epistolary conversation, and public scholarly societies (scholarly societies that are visible and present in the public eye as authorities on subjects).

Wikis provide a forum for discussion with a historical archive of past conversations. Through the interaction between scholars and non-scholars on wikis such as Wikipedia, the articles become better, more comprehensible explorations of topics. A student project using wikis could be one in which they create a scholarly essay that for a topic lacking such on Wikipedia and submit it, thus gaining the experience of creating scholarship in the public eye and contributing to the greater good of the whole.

SIMILE Timeline is another tool for creating content relevant to a course that provides a forum for discussion.

Conversations about conversations
Ning allows you to create a social network with tools like those on MySpace or Facebook but without the culture and baggage. You can do similar things in traditional academic tools such as course management software, but Ning is more attractive and functional.

What’s next? Puentedura suggests the SAMR model. As we move from substitution to augmentation to modification to redefinition in the way we use technology and tools in the classroom, we move from basic enhancement with little buy-in or value to a complete transformation of the learning process that is a true academic conversation between the student and the professor.

Resources:
The Horizon Report
ELI: 7 Things You Should Know About…
50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story

Learning 2008: Copywrong – Web 2.0 and Collaborative Multimedia Resources

Presenters: Paul Porterfield, Allison Czapracki, & Linda Fairtile

Fair use is not a right, it is a legal defense. That is something to keep in mind when using copyrighted materials in the classroom. Make sure you understand the circumstances and restrictions that allow for fair use before you do anything with copyrighted material.

PD Info is a website that provides information about music that is in the public domain, but they note that while some printed music is in the public domain, there is virtually no recorded music that is not covered by copyright. (Creative Commons licensed music is still covered by copyright, but the owner has assigned certain aspects of those rights to others.)

The UR Music Library maintains a server that provides streaming audio of recordings for educational use for specific courses. There are also resources such as Alexander Street Press’ American Song collection that provides streaming audio, as well as additional information about the recordings.

Public domain resources can be found all over the web. LibriVox is a site that provides free audio recordings of public domain works. Project Gutenberg provides ebook versions of public domain works.

Creative Commons is a way to allow others to use your work in whatever way you allow. This is a great tool for collaboration and new creations derived from old, just like the old days before copyright. Students need to know that they can use many CC licensed works in their assignments and presentations, and as long as they follow the license terms, they don’t need to worry about whether or not it falls under fair use. Allison has several sources for locating CC licensed or copyright-free media.

Learning 2008: A Blogging Bestiary

Presenter: Tom Woodward

If a blog were an octopus, a rhino, or a hydra, which one would it be?

In the past, making a web page was like an old woman fighting a dog — no one wanted to do it and it wasn’t pretty. A lot of people see blogs as an animal that emits fiery excrement and not something you’d want to experience.

Blogging began as ‘cat journals,’ but over time they have evolved into other things. Blogs can be whatever you make them, from boring and static to an ever-changing undefinable thing. Sort of like an octopus that can get through anything that it can fit it’s beak through.

Before you start blogging, think about the voice you want to present. Should it be yours alone or with others? The content can influence that decision. The platform you choose can also influence that, since there are often levels of permissions available in popular blogging platforms, which allows for more flexibility in who can write/publish what.

If you are using a blog to push content to students, consider incorporating relevant RSS feeds to pull content into one location. Not just text feeds, but also multi-media like music and video.

Blog software can be used to create static web pages without having to know a lot of HTML or take the time to do the coding. Depending on the software you choose, there can be many options for templates that you can use to make it better than the out-of-the-box version.

One concern with using blogs in the classroom is the openness to the world. Blogs can be limited so that only certain authorized users can see them, much less comment or contribute to them. This might be good for encouraging open participation from students, but it also means that experts or other knowledgeable people can’t contribute to the conversation.

In the end, blogs are more like octopuses. The tentacles can pull in content from all over, and it can be flexible enough to fit your needs. Check out these examples for whatever kind of blog you might want to create.

Public blogs and podcasts that generate content of interest to those outside of the classroom are more rewarding for students and take it beyond simply replacing papers or discussions with some fancy 2.0 tool. The content generated by upperclassmen can be used in teaching freshmen and sophomores, which I think is a very cool idea.

Learning 2008: Tools to Simplify Research

Presenters: Andy Morton & Laura Horne

Andy, being Andy, started the presentation with the YouTube video of Steve Ballmer going crazy. He did not do his own version of that intro.

RSS (the Common Craft video covers the basics) pulls in content from a variety of sources to one location, saving them to be read at your convenience. You can use web-based readers like Google Reader or Bloglines, or desktop tools like Outlook 2007 or NewsGator. [side note: Andy says that the university is moving to Office 2007 this summer. Gah! I thought I had escaped that nightmare….]

Undergraduate research is project focused, whereas scholars (faculty) will hold on to information for a long period of time because they are developing their field of study. This effects how both groups approach their information discovery. Scholars can use RSS to keep up with particular journals through publisher table of contents feeds or topics built using search alerts in specific databases.

CiteULike is del.icio.us for scholars, with a few additional organizational tools and features that makes it almost a hybrid of social bookmarking tool and a bibliographic management tool. There are far fewer users than on more general sites, which can be a positive or negative, depending on your perspective.

[side note: I did not have a computer with me when I took notes for the opening keynote, so I’ll be typing them up and adding them later.]