Paradigm Shifting Again

RIP DeliciousI have waited a couple of days to post about the “relaunching” of Delicious … primarily because I had such a visceral reaction to it… as the image to the left illustrates.

The old Delicious was my gateway drug into Web 2.0.  Through Delicious, I began in 2007 to connect with colleagues (dare I say “friends”) worldwide who shared similar interests to mine, such as Gabriela Grosseck in Romania, Eduardo Peirano in Uruguay, and Michele M. Martin up in Pennsyvania.  Our connections have evolved over time (as has Web 2.0), so that we continue to connect through our blogs, Twitter, Slideshare and Facebook, but Delicious is where I first made the network connections.

I found Delicious personally very useful.  I could get to my web bookmarks on any computer.  I could in effect organize the web, bundling bookmarks around themes.  I could add colleagues (and students) to my network and follow what they were bookmarking.  I could use it as a vetted search engine to find resources that others worldwide had located.  Through class tags, I could share web resources with my students.  At Gabriela’s urging, I experimented with the use of Delicious in my online class, and presented my results at eLearning 2008 and in the online journal edited by Gabriela – “Instructional Uses of Social Bookmarking: Reflections and Questions.” (REVISTA de INFORMATICA SOCIALA, pages 28 – 39).

One of the more useful features of the old Delicious was the ability to set up RSS subscriptions around networks or tags.  I like to know each day what individuals whose tagging practices I value were curating off the web.  By adding people like Jeff Nugent, Jon Becker, Alexandra Pickett, and Gardner Campbell to my network and then subscribing to the My Network feed, I automatically built an amazing intelligence and environmental scanning process.  It piqued my interest to know what they found interesting.  When the term “edupunk” first surfaced, a subscription to the Delicious tag “edupunk” siphoned from the web a very interesting collection of sites.  Every morning, email is the first thing I check…but Google Reader is the second, and Delicious was an important component of my Google Reader aggregation.

Delicious was originally launched in 2003 and acquired by Yahoo! in 2005.  I joined in 2007, and by the end of 2008 according to Wikipedia, I and my public links were part of a global network of more than 5.3 million users and 180 million unique bookmarked URLs.  The site was sold to AVOS Systems on April 27, 2011 – which was exciting in that Chad Hurley and Steve Chen of YouTube fame were involved.  This week, Delicious was relaunched in a “back to beta” state.

Delicious was one of the first sites explained by Lee Lefever of Common Craft – a great explanation “in plain English” of social bookmarking.  The relaunched Delicious has invalidated much that Lee explains.  With the flip of a switch, Delicious went from a must-have tool in my digital toolbelt to just another web site.

My 5,547 links are still there.  I think ….but am not sure … that my tags are all still there.  My bundles are gone.  My networks have now become friends but what they are doing collectively has disappeared.  RSS functionality is gone, replaced with a Facebook like sharing function.

In other words, the ways in which I have been using Delicious for four years have disappeared.

Granted, you get what you pay for … and Delicious has always been free (though I would gladly pay for the old service).  The new owners warned that they were updating Delicious…I just did not expect basic functionality to disappear.  I am not the only one upset.  Just look at:

One of my favorite recent movies is “Up” … probably because I can identify with the old curmudgeon Carl Fredericksen.  Towards the end of the movie, he is pushing his way through a crowd and he says words to the effect of “Sorry, old man coming through”.  Maybe RSS is dying and friending / sharing are the new norms.  It seems paradigms are shifting once again.  The new owners are probably less interested in the old guys like me that stuck with the old product as they are in launching something hip that connects with the masses.  So be it.  But this old curmudgeon misses his old Delicious and so far has not found the energy to go back and stack what I used to have.

Pile on and let me know what you think.  Am I wrong?

{Up graphic from filmgabber}

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ELI 2011 Wrap-Up

ELI 2011

ELI 2011

Back home in Richmond, VA tonight, but my brain is still buzzing from the excellent sessions and networking at ELI 2011.  My post on the first day of ELI 2011 is here.

David Wiley kicked off the second day with a keynote address on Open Educational Resources and Learning Analytics.  Wiley noted that “open” carried many connotations, so he defined it as free teaching materials with the permissions already given for re-use or re-mixing.  He discussed the “Four R’s” of education – Reuse, Redistribute, Revise and Remix.  To illustrate, he went into advanced search in Google and looked for items with Creative Commons licensing, and found over 350 million items.  He compared this to our out-dated legal system that allows us to be stingy on a scale never seen before.  There were chuckles as he compared academics who do not want to share with your basic 2-year-old yelling MINE, MINE, MINE.  From David’s perspective, openness is the ONLY way to do education.

If one shifts the higher education model away from “you must come to us for the learning” and instead acknowledge that the content is already out there, then new business models are possible.  David mentioned Western Governors University and the new University of the People, where students sign up and pay for assesments, but self-organize their own learning groups.  This would not work for all disciplines, but I could see some real advantages to programs where demonstrated performance is part of the assessment.

The real “ah-ha” moment for me was when David began discussing learning analytics.  We are all used to analytics.  If we buy a book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble online, we always see recommendations for other purchases…based on tracking tons of data of previous purchases.  In a similar manner, David demonstrated how he could look at data for a class and track online activity versus time and GPA ranking.  The resulting waterfall of dots was darker for students with higher GPAs (i.e., more time on task online) and lighter for lower GPAs.  Getting to that type of data is difficult for most faculty, but as the latest Horizon Report noted yesterday, learning analytics are on the horizon.  Increased use of learning analytics will allow for the customization of learning for each student…something I find pretty cool!  For David, the combination of open education resources and learning analytics can lead to processes that allow continuous improvement in teaching and learning.

ELI used IdeaScale to gather and rank questions for David.  This was an interesting use of crowdsourcing to set up the Q&A portion of his talk.  One person asked if computers were replacing teachers.  David said YES – replacing them as broadcast machines and allowing them to concentrate on the human side of teaching.

The next session I attended was with Cole Camplese and Barton Pursel of Penn State on Exposing Emerging Pedagogies: Can Web 2.0 Tools Influence Teaching and Learning? In another example of learning analytics, they looked at usage patterns of wikis and blogs at their university by schools and departments.  They noted that their students have expectations not being met by the university.  Students expect a Facebook-like level of interactivity and get Blackboard instead…which is by just about any measure pretty unengaging.  The Penn State dorms have cable TV but the data shows that it gets little use.  Instead, students watch their “TV” on their computers when they want to watch it (not when it is “on”).

The data showed them that schools tended to adopt single platforms and not the range of Web 2.0 tools.  Information tech students like wikis, but science majors like blogs.  They could also see gender differences surfacing.  Women were more active both in posting and in commenting, including continued conversation after semester’s end.  Some courses found greater traction using a course-wide blog rather than individual blogs, though I agree with Gardner’s tweet:

gardnertweetAfter all, Jeff Nugent and I have both had our students blog individually and then aggregate the class blogs into either Netvibes or Google Sites.

I took a break and hit the “power room” to recharge my laptop.  Luckily, Jim Groom, Matt Plourde and Mike Caulfield were hanging out there as well.  We talked about Jim’s current MOOC on Digital Storytelling – ds106 (worth following on Twitter under hashtag #ds106 for great examples of student work).  That led us to recall one of the better storytellers – Tom Woodward, and the video he and Jim did two years ago about RSS.  I have put a link to that video in my current class for this week’s readings on RSS! 🙂

After lunch, I attended a session by Paul Fisher and Danielle Mirliss from Seton Hall University on supporting a mobile campus.  Seton Hall has been issuing laptops for years but now recognizes that the vast majority of students show up with computers in their back pockets (smartphones) with capabilities that exceed those of the older laptops.  Their surveys show that while faculty heavily rely on email as a ways of communicating with students, 60% of their students do not routinely use email – they text or Facebook instead.  The folks at Seton Hall University are looking for ways to capitalize on the technology their students already possess and use.  The definition of “mobile” is changing and evolving, so they want applications that are device non-specific and carrier agnostic.  They showed some neat projects students completed this year using smartphones to capture video and audio (similar to the NPR StoryCorps project). While this was going on, there was a fairly active backchannel conversation about the original “mobile” devices – books!  That prodded Derek Bruff to post “Here’s my (tongue-in-cheek) take on the book as a mobile device:“. Loved it!

Dinner Tuesday night was in an unexpected yet delightful place that many of my colleagues knew…but my wife and I just stumbled on – Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe. Good people, good food, and some nice wines. Plus I checked in using FourSquare to note our good time, and they tweeted back a thank you!  Good food and socially networked as well!

Today was spent at our poster session.  I previously posted our slides here. Valerie Robnolt, Ibironke Lawal, Alma Hassell and I had a good flow of people come by and talk, and we had a chance to circulate around to some of the other posters.  Our colleagues Terry Carter, Joan Rhodes, and Fran Smith had a poster on moving learners into the open, so VCU was well represented.  I also enjoyed talking to Linda Futch and Francisca Yonekura of University of Central Florida about their online faculty development process.  And I finally got to meet Kelvin Thompson of UCF…someone whom I have tweeted with for several years!

So, a wrap up of a very good conference! I know that I have missed some interactions in these two blog posts, but rest assured, it is not because these interactions were not important.  Rather, there simply was a lot to process…and I will be doing that for days!

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Our Class Technology Journey

journey2Over the past five weeks, the graduate students in my Educational Technology and School Leaders class embarked on a journey into cyberspace  – a first for many of them and one for many of them as mystical as the illustration here.  Five weeks ago, my students were self-described technophobes.  They were worried not only about taking an online class, but particularly worried about the requirement in this class to blog and, in the first four weeks, to post online a web tutorial that they individually developed to explain to their classmates how to use a Web 2.0 tool in their classrooms.

It frankly was overwhelming to most of them.

tutorialsFive weeks later, all students have begun to blog.  Last week, all students successfully posted in their blogs their multimedia presentations on their web tool.  Their tutorials covered a variety of web tools that could be used instructionally, as shown on the list to the left.  You can see their tutorials aggregated in our class Google Site page.

I was pleased with the results.  As would be expected, the quality range varied, but each student showed considerable growth in their own learning.  The students primarily used Jing for their presentations, but we had a couple of Camtasia screencasts, one Youtube video and one Screenr.

This past weekend, they each reflected on their journey in their blogs.

I had to smile at one observation.  She noted that she goes to Quote Garden whenever she is stressed and needs inspiration due to feeling overwhelmed…and my course had driven her to this site more than she cared to admit!  Many of my students talked about their initial fears, anxieties, stress, and even tears, but then remarked on the joy they felt as they achieved success.  As one noted:

“…At first, I was sceptical and was of the opinion that this [class] should have been a face to face class where we are actually taken into a lab and shown how to use {these} tools.  But I will retract on that; one of my most satisfying moments was actually when I did the first recording and playback after many failed trials…”

What was most interesting was the shift in tone in their posts.  The tone had shifted from concern to elation and confidence.  As one noted, “Who knew web 2.0 tools could be so cool?”  This Wordle below is a compilation of their 13 blog posts, and I cannot find any negative words listed.  What I see are positive action words.


“Use” and “Using” are two words that stand out, as does the word “students”.  Several members of the class discussed how they were already incorporating some of these tools into their teaching practice.  I loved the fact that one first-grade teacher was having her 6 year olds develop Jing videos!  Others had begun to experiment with wikis, photostories, and Glogster.

Several noted that their exploration of blogs in this class had opened their eyes to the use of educational technology by other teachers.  They also had been surprised when they approached their local school technology people and found that these “experts” had never heard of Jing, Slideshare, or other web tools we were exploring.  What I liked was that they felt empowered to share their learning with these people and their fellow teachers.  More than one noted that they had approached their principal about sharing and found their principal supportive.

We had mixed reviews when it came to the question of openness on the web.  One noted that she had become “more open minded about technology and that using the web to communicate and share information doesn’t have to be a scary experience.”  Another said that she was “a little more open minded about the use of technology not only for my own personal growth but in the classroom and in sharing with my students.”  But another candidly noted that her “reluctancy is not in the use of technology but in making my page public.”

Several commented about how I had organized this online class and introduced the topic of Web 2.0.  One said that she was looking for more scaffolding of her learning from me but learned that I wanted her to explore…and she learned that she could explore and learn.  Another remarked that she had put down YouTube in the past, but never realized what a wealth of knowledge could be found there.

This course ultimately explores how schools plan for and fund technology for their schools.  It could easily be a fairly dry course about boxes and wires.  By introducing Web 2.0 as the first module, I believe that my students are in a more knowledgeable position to wrestle with the ethical, legal and political issues associated with the use of the web instructionally, and therefore better able to articulate a vision for educational technology in their schools.  To borrow from Michael Wesch, these future administrators have moved from knowledgeable about educational technology to knowledge-able.

{Photo Credit: Rig329}

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An International View

There was an interesting point raised by one of my VIF students in our online class taught by Jon Becker and myself this weekend.  Half of our online class are Visiting International Faculty studying for their Masters in Education here at VCU, and half are Virginia teachers studying in our Ed Leadership graduate program.

When I first arrived from Mexico to teach here, it was very noticeable for me to see that students here are more used to that kind of fast, graphic and entertaining way of displaying information or teaching and it took me some time to adapt to those “new students’ needs”. Here I have been in the process of becoming a digital resident.

I think that in developing countries, this change is happening but at a much slower pace because of the differences in access to the internet, just by looking at your ‘ClustrMap’ (in your Blog) and the red dots representing the access numbers from different countries, I could realize the way many countries are so far behind in terms of Web 2.0 tools usage.

I have been looking at the ClustrMap and seeing the connections spanning the continents.  He looked at the same map and saw the missing opportunities being illustrated by the sparseness of some of the dots.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy working with international faculty.  They help ground me in some fundamental truths.  Friedman, Shirky, and Weinberger have all pointed to the democratization afforded by the web.  All true, but evolving slowly and not there yet.

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