August 26, 2004
Thanks to James Farmer's goading, I've finally crossed out one item on my long list of basic blog maintenance and housekeeping tasks: changing the webfeed to display complete entries. So there, James ;)
Seriously, it's amazing how long it takes to get around to making even the simplest changes or updates. While something like changing one tag in a couple of templates shouldn't take three months, these little things do add up.
Sometimes the prospect of opening one more program to make one more change - even if it only takes a few minutes - can be pretty daunting. ... Not a bad thing to keep in mind when trying to convince people how simple it is to add new technologies to their already busy routines...
TECHNOLOGIES: Hazy Crazy Days of Summer
Summer semesters are always the hardest for adult learners (not to mention their facilitators). .. Any class stretching over two or more months during the summer seems to last an eternity for working adults, who are often dealing with out-of-school kids, covering for vacationing colleagues, trying to squeeze in some vacation time of their own, and/or engaging in some kind of nightmarish DIY home renovation project at the same time.
And that's just on the student side of the equation... On campus, facilities tend to be a mess. (It's bad enough dealing with room changes and locked computer labs if you're teaching evening or weekend classes during the rest of the year. Try finding someone to make copies or bring in your missing LCD projector when the building is only half-staffed to begin with.)
Online, the small portion of the tech-support team that isn't on vacation is generally busy "improving" the system you are trying to use as they prepare for the fall semester. And it's guaranteed that the minute you have a problem, all you'll get is a flurry of "out of the office" automated replies.
I used to think that it was easier to teach online classes during the summer semester than on-campus ones, but that was because I had never before had really serious problems to deal with in a summer online course. After just finishing a semester plagued with technical and logistical problems, I have to say that I think that the bad online experience is much, much worse than a bad on-campus experience.
At least if you're locked out of your on-campus building you have options: You can always find another space somewhere, even in the middle of Manhattan. And you have a whole group of participants to commiserate and grouse with. Heck, if you're feeling creative (or optimistic), you can even change a disaster into an "opportunity" ... or at least a learning experience.
But if you're "locked out" of your online course, you're locked out of communication. And you're locked out alone.
August 17, 2004
RESOURCES: Research on Distance Education
From the Spring 2004 issue of the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, the article Ten Efficient Research Strategies for Distance Learning is a good resource for anyone who's new to distance education and is looking for a way to get up to speed/keep up with important developments in the field.
Most useful are the listings of academic journals and Web portals, but those new to online research may also benefit from the basic information on how to search library catalogs and online databases. There are some obvious omissions, however... for example, I wish the authors had added a list of key online education blogs and a description of how to use news aggregators.
(link via Great Links!)
A shout out to the husband ... in addition to his regular theater-and-culture blog Superfluities, George has now started ArtsBlogging, an experiment in collaborative blogging where arts bloggers can connect on cross-discipline issues and share resources on technology and culture tailored to their needs.
As George writes:"Romantic tradition has it that artists are alienated not only from our culture but from each other, and despite the explosion of information technology in the past twenty years I can’t say that personally I feel any less alienated than I did in 1984. Blogs have the potential to provide the communication and communion missing from the fragmented cultural milieux in which we’re all participating. Now, at least, we can be alienated together."
August 12, 2004
Playing Catch Up
Slowly recovering from an illness that's kept me flat out for the better part of a week, I am facing a two-foot stack of newspapers and journals, a short stack of books I'd meant to start, and about 1,000 unread items in my newsreader...not to mention the actual work I'm backed up on.
While I know I could mark all my RSS feeds as read, toss the old papers and journals into the recycle bin, and move the books over to my already embarassingly large "someday" pile, this would be at odds with my obsessive-compulsive nature ... Instead I'll be playing catch up this week, using the experience as an opportunity to reflect on whether or not there really is such a thing as "too much information"...
August 07, 2004
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Penguin (finally) Does the Right Thing
The whole katie.com fiasco has been a long and nasty affair, but it seems that a satisfactory resolution for Katie Jones may be in the works... According to a press release on their site, Penguin has finally decided to rename the book A Girl's Life Online.
I'd like to believe that Penguin came to this decision after realizing that they had done Katie Jones a wrong turn, but as it's been about four years since the book's publication, it's more likely that this change in heart was due in large part to the response from the Internet community after the conflict was slashdotted this week.
A movement to call for a boycott within the Amazon.com reader reviews was cut short on Thursday when Amazon unceremoniously deleted a couple of hundred reviews mentioning the boycott (curiously, as of this posting Amazon has not deleted one review on the site that claims that Jones is a pornographer who is trying to slander Tarbox).
Penguin admits no wrongdoing, of course...as it states in their press release
After the book was released into the market, it was brought to Dutton’s attention that a website of the same name existed on the Internet. The fact that the book, Katie.com, and the website shared the same name was purely coincidental.
August 05, 2004
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: You Dirty Bird
For those few of you who haven't already read about this on boingboing or slashdot, Katherine Tarbox's book, which involves her experiences as the 13-year-old victim of an online predator, was given the name "Katie.com" despite the fact that the publishers were aware that this domain had been owned since 1996 by Katie Jones, a small-business owner in the UK. (Apparently, the publishers had originally thought to name the book "Girl.com" but decided not to do so when they realized that there was already a porn site at this address.)
The unwanted attention drawn to the site by the book has been a problem for Katie Jones, as detailed in the open letter on her blog. As Jones notes, Tarbox's lawyer also informed her that the problem "will only get worse" and suggested that she "donate" the domain name to them.
Without dwelling on the irony inherent in the fact that the book in question is about abuse of the Internet, I am appalled at the loutish arrogance of Penguin, Tarbox, and their lawyers, as well as their blithe disregard of the effect of their decision on Katie Jones and their fat-headed refusal to make any sort of amends.
Since Tarbox, her lawyer, and Wiredsafety have now set up a new domain that doesn't use the book's title, one can hope that their further efforts to promote Internet safety will not continue to infringe on the rights of Katie Jones.
UPDATE, Aug. 7: Penguin finally decides to do the right thing.
DESIGN: Shareware Design Course
This shareware course from ScratchMedia, a UK-based new media consultancy, offers practical information on good web design, including basic information about how to perform a simple analysis, "tutorials" (really these are more a series of brief essays) on design topics, and case studies that address design problems on real sites.... Nice, simple explanations with lots of supportive graphics.
(link via elearningpost)
August 04, 2004
DESIGN: IA & Info Design
In this article for the Australian Flexible Learning Community, Maish Nichani presents a nice, concise argument for taking a "big picture" approach to user experience design - with a useful description of some differences between IA & ID.
(link via elearningpost)
August 01, 2004
RESOURCES: Communication & Facilitation
Deep into the dog days of the summer semester, I'm trying to follow Amy Gahran's excellent advice about no-pressure blogging, so I won't feel too bad about having taken a few days off from posting.
I have been collecting posts from more industrious bloggers, however, so I'll share a few of these today ;)
- Analysis of Online Discourse. This paper presents a nice, brief overview of this topic with a focus on the characteristics of discourse in discussion forums, blogs, and wikis. (link via eCornell Research Blog)
- How to Run a Brainstorming Meeting. This item includes some good tips on how to run a brainstorming session - and how to keep it from becoming just "activity for activity's sake." (link via OLDaily)
- Online Interaction Impacts on Learning: Teaching the Teachers to Teach Online. This paper describes some approaches to using information and communication technologies and makes recommendations for staff development in the area of online teaching. (link via Online Learning Update)