Friday, December 29, 2006

What All Students (and Teachers) Should Know About Using the Web

www icon

In my Elgg blog, I'm reflecting on what I've learned this very busy past term. In it, I recommend the web basics every students (and therefore every teacher) should know.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Temporarily Away

The view from my study.

I won't be posting in this blog until after Christmas, due to a heavy workload. I will, however, continue posting here - - on, among other things, my experiences as I use wikis and blogs in place of a commercial Learning Management System. Hope you can link to me there.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Free Applications for Education

From the blog  - AcademHack - - a list of tech tools for academics. The two I liked the looks of best are NeoOffice Aqua  - a free suite of office tools for Macs (For Windows, there's OpenOffice, also free) and Google Apps for Education which is downloadable for free.

With Google Apps for Education, you can offer all of your students innovative email, instant messaging, and calendaring, all for free.* You can select any combination of our available services (see below), and customize them with your school's logo, color scheme and content. You can manage your users through an easy web-based console or use our available APIs to integrate the services into your existing systems — and it's all hosted by Google, so there's no hardware or software for you to install or maintain. Find out more by reviewing detailed product information or attending an online seminar.

Google Apps for Education

I hope some educational administrators take advantage of this time-limited offer.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

VideoJug - How to do Just About Anything!

I was driving with the radio on, listening to CBC, and heard a description of a website called VideoJug that has short videos about how to do a wide variety of life necessities, and decided to check it out.

The videos I looked at are clear, short, easy to follow, and you can print up the instructions! Most are narrated with a lovely British accent, and the Aussie computer guys are funny.

Teachers might find it useful to show students how to give instructions clearly, and/or as a backup or reference to something they're teaching. they might also find the instructions useful personally ;->

If you have a blocked toilet, or want to know how to use make-up to give yourself smoky eyes, or how to floss your teeth, or how to make a martini, just go to VideoJug -

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Convergence Learning & Class Blogs

Via Will Richardson - - quoting Henry Jenkins

In talking media pedagogies, then, we should no longer imagine this as a process where adults teach and children learn. Rather, we should see it as increasingly a space where children teach one another and where, if they would open their eyes, adults could learn a great deal. (Emphasis mine.)

Weblogg-ed » More Henry Jenkins

I used to have a page tacked to my bulletin board with a quote from Elliot Eisner - from a Google search, this reference - Elliot Eisner (in Saks (Ed.), 1996, p. 412)

"Working at the edge of incompetence takes courage."

I thought this was true of all teaching, because we never know what our students don't know, and how they can actually 'get' what we want to transmit convey help them learn. I also thought it was true of all teaching because, especially in rhetoric or English lit., my areas, views and rules change.

I also thought it was what made my learning, (and theirs) exciting. When you are at the vygotskian point in your proximal development that you mostly know and can venture into interweaving your own experiences and ideas into what you are getting from the mentor/experts (teachers, books etc.), it is terrifically exciting. Things click, synapses connect, and you are in a wonderful state of flow!

As a teacher, I can sometimes feel the class in this state, and I work to keep that liveliness happening. As a student, I am very good at helping move the class (if the teacher allows it) into a space where this is possible.

Last term I used an Elgg class blog with a 3rd year undergrad course in oral rhetoric, which I've blogged about before - here, and here. I've had trouble writing up a "final report" on my experience for two reasons.

  1. I had my students use Elgg and I feel (I think the best description is) shy. (Paranoia - "If they look, they will find it, anywhere on the Web, but they know how much I like Elgg, so they'll know to look there." Well, yes, but it is only my opinion and they are welcome to differ. I guess this is a trace of the Staff Room effect where you can say what you want, get as extreme as you want because you won't be overheard. It's also a bit of a response to the "Rate Your Teacher" effect. Time to get over that.)
  2. The Henry Jenkins quotation at the beginning of this post. I feel some ownership of the class, but they own their success. In their blog posts I could see how they began to expose where they needed help, and I could see some of their classmates helping.
Many of the students in the class began the interactive learning that I believe is the most powerful and natural way of learning. I set up the environment, but they taught one another. Those who were active with helping each other learned the most, and learned a pattern of learning that will benefit them the rest of their lives, I believe.

The best part for me, is how much I learned from watching them teach each other. Teaching and/or learning "at the edge of incompetence" is both exciting and valuable. And, with our rapidly changing and developing communication technologies, a necessity.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Flock & Teaching/Learning

From Dave Tosh's Edufilter interview with Stephen Downes, Downes says -
In my mind, the browser is the LMS, and will continue to be the LMS. This is why I watch developments on the browser side, such as Flock, very closely.


(LMS = Learning Management System)

This fall I will be encouraging my students, as I have been encouraging my JNthWEB clients, to  use Flock for their Web work. It is the Web 2.0 browser, aimed at the social user, perfect for a variety of communication tasks. In the screenshot above you can see

  • both the icon for connecting to a Flickr or Photobucket account and how it can be displayed;
  • the address bar's blue circle with an embedded white star which allows you to add a site to your Favorites, and if connected to a social bookmarking account, like my account, to that, all in one click; and
  • The plume icon for the (WYSIWYG - see the Toolbar!) blogging tool and its window open and in use.

The other major aspect of Flock that I don't use but am recommending to my students and clients is its aggregation tool for blogs and news sites you want to follow easily and regularly (in the icon bar between the photo and blogging icons above). I will continue to use my Bloglines account (second from the left in the tabs under the photo stream) because I am used to it and like its set-up.

Oh, and of course, its Search Field on the upper right which searches a variety of search tools and lets you choose which one you want this time.

Flock has, as you can see, centralized a number of important Web communication aspects all within itself as a browser. For someone just beginning to learn how to use the Web, especially the social aspect of communicating using Web 2.0 tools, Flock is a great browser to introduce both the concepts and the tools.

The education is not in the tools, but rather, in the use of the tools


If people can learn the concept of what they can do, they are better off learning the open access free tools, such as Flock, than other over-specialized and over-complex systems that have limited uses. IMHO.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Elgg Interviewed!

Elgg - social network software for education:
An interview of the founders of Elgg

I heartily recommend the Elgg Learning Landscape to any teacher and/or professor who wants to use blogs with their students. To learn more, you can click the link at the top to read an interview with Elgg's founders. Elgg itself is both free and very user-friendly. I recommend giving yourself some time to explore it. I also suggest that, if you decide to use it, you ask your students to explore it and see if any can find aspects that you've missed. I've learned a lot that way.

What makes Elgg particularly recommendable - (Is that a word? Oh, well, you know what I mean.) - is that the individual user can set their own level of privacy for each of their own postings. Students can set their post as "Private" and no one, not even the Community Owner/teacher will be able to see it. They can also set it for just the community, or just the logged-in users of Elgg, or make it completely "Public" - at their own discretion. I like that (except when some students don't understand "Private" and can be upset to get '0' on their post) and the students like it. I sometimes am shy when I think about certain people reading what I'm saying. Although many of the student generation are very (too?) casual about who might be their audience, there are some that appreciate the "walled garden" approach to posting their thoughts on the Web.

Last term I used an Elgg Community blog with a class, and it gave me a view of how the class was working that I'd never had before. I gave a combination of guidance on what to post on and the language etiquitte required, and the freedom of their own casual 'voices' plus the freedom to go beyond the topic guidelines. What I got to see was their thinking, including problems, and, delightfully, how they were helping each other both think and accomplish assignments. I believe the Community blog encouraged more of a community experience for the class members. They were also required to use a wiki (on Wikispaces) and post their assignments there, which gave them a larger (and consequently more 'real') audience than just the teacher!

I also use Elgg for a blog of my own where I explore the pedagogical implications of this new communication medium, Web 2.0.

I am part of a more loosely-joined community. Elgg is designed so that I can designate other Elgg members as "Friends". How I use that function is by clicking on "Friends Blogs" (see the menu bar in the image above under the forest and railway image) and I get to read an aggregated collection of the posts of the people I have designated as friends. Here's what part of my Network page looks like:

You can see, above, some of the people whose blogs I follow. It was through Dave Tosh's blog that I found the reference to the interview link that I started this post with.

And yesterday, I noticed the menu bar's "Friends of" link and discovered who was connecting to my Elgg blog! When I checked out their profiles, I could see that we had interests in common, and added many of them to my Friends list. Thus I'm gaining a loose community of people interested in ideas, and possibilities that we can share.

As you begin to think about the fall and your teaching, I recommend you check out the possibilites of Elgg for your class and for yourself.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Following DOPA

If you want to keep track of what is happening in the States with DOPA, here are some links:

It looks like it's beeing slowed down, but the fact that only 15 voted against is very scary, especially combined with the apparent lack of Internet and Web knowledge of central people in the American government. Jon Stewart gives some insight in this area - It's worth the under 3 minutes it takes to watch.

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Monday, July 31, 2006

The U.S. DOPA Legislation

Damming the Ocean!

US House Resolution 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), was passed by a 410 to 15 vote tonight. If the Resolution becomes law social networking sites and chat rooms must be blocked by schools and libraries or those institutions will lose their federal internet subsidies.

Techcrunch » Blog Archive » US House: Schools must block MySpace, many other sites

This American move could have a huge impact on Canada, and the world, and the Web, but I think they are simply trying to dam the ocean. It's too late. And it's totally ironic.

It's Too Late

Pandora's Box has been opened, the genie is out of the bottle, this new semiosis will not be stopped, as long as there's electricity, computers, and networks. If/When those are destroyed, we'll have more to worry about than MySpace!

It's Totally Ironic

Guess who created the ancestor of the Web? The American military during the Cold War, wanted a way to make sure they could keep controlling their fighting forces even if all major cities were wiped out, so they created ARPANET, and from ARAPANET came the Internet, followed by Tim Berners-Lee's development of a visual interface, and, thus, the World Wide Web, and, currently Web 2.0, the Read/Write or Social Web, where the fearful MySpace is located.

Net Neutrality and the American Internet Regulator

The video, with sound, will start to play after you click - almost 5 minutes - on YouTube and Jon Stewart - It's funny, but it's terrifying because the people making the rules appear to know so little.

Net neutrality, BTW, is a different issue than DOPA - it's the attempt of commercial interests to make the Web less democratic, to set up a two-tiered, or multi-tiered system where some sites would be less available than others depending on your service providers whims, or business deals. And this could affect Canada directly too, as Michael Geist has pointed out:

Websites, e-commerce companies, and other innovators have also relied on network neutrality, secure in the knowledge that the network treats all companies, whether big or small, equally. That approach enables those with the best products and services, not the deepest pockets, to emerge as the market winners.Internet users have similarly benefited from the network neutrality principle. They enjoy access to greater choice in goods, services, and content regardless of which ISP they use. While ISPs may compete based on price, service, or speed, they have not significantly differentiated their services based on availability of Internet content or applications, which remains the same for all.In short, network neutrality has enabled ISPs to invest heavily in new infrastructure, fostered greater competition and innovation, and provided all Canadians with equal access to a dizzying array of content.

Michael Geist - The Search for Net Neutrality

But I digress.

To Learn More About DOPA, go here -

and find this section and read the links

I’m not the best person to analyze this though. Here’s who I recommend:

  • Declan McCullagh at ZDNet has posted a very thorough background article on DOPA.
  • Andy Carvin writes Learning Now, a blog about education and technology for PBS, and has set up a page called DOPAWatch to aggregate blog posts on the topic.
  • danah boyd is probably the web’s leading expert in analyzing the politics of MySpace and youth social networking.
  • Will Richardson’s Weblogg-Ed is a great source for all things Learning 2.0
  • Vicki A. Davis is a Christian school teacher in Georgia who uses blogs, wikis, podcasting and more in her classrooms. Vicki has written a number of powerful posts on DOPA

Techcrunch » Blog Archive » US House: Schools must block MySpace, many other sites

The most important communication development since the printing press, maybe even since the creation of writing, is being threatened! The most significant education tool is being blocked because some people misuse it. Why not ban cell-phones instead, because way more people misuse them!

What Is Needed

People of all ages need to learn how to use the Web safely and intelligently, because it isn't going to go away. The older and/or less Web-aware need to learn more about how it works and what it can do for them. The younger and supposedly Web-adept (but often strangely Web-naive) need to learn about b.s. detection (academically known as critical thinking) and privacy-protection. IMHO.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age: Books: Daniel H. Pink

A Whole New Mind reveals the six essential aptitudes on which professional success and personal fulfillment now depend, and includes a series of hands-on exercises culled from experts around the world to help readers sharpen the necessary abilities. This book will change not only how we see the world but how we experience it as well.

Dan Pink | A Whole New Mind... and more

This is a conceptual book, and deceptively easy to read. In some ways it is a travel guide to surviving our future. Pink points out the impact of "Abundance, Asia, and Automation" which is already affecting the kinds of jobs available. He then explores, and helps the reader think through, the six senses that are central to our developing culture: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and, the most important of them all, Meaning.

When I read Pink's work, I kept having a "Yeah!" response as he repeatedly wrote about things I'd noticed but hadn't read other people writing about. The computer and the Web are changing our culture at very deep levels. Reading A Whole New Mind will help you recognize this new space we're moving into. I recommend it.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006


Steve Rubel says in his blog Micro Persuasion: Only Generous Bloggers Influence and I agree.
The generosity dynamic that exists in the blogosphere is really important.

Micro Persuasion: Only Generous Bloggers Influence

Being generous is an act of creativity. In an interesting way, blog generosity is, in my opinion, a good metaphor for how generosity works in life-off-the-Web.

There's no way around it. You have to lavishly dish out links, advice, news, ideas, commentary, freebies, you name it. It's up to you.

Micro Persuasion: Only Generous Bloggers Influence

When you help people connect with others or ideas relevant to what they want to/need to do, you help them create by linking them. That can happen on the Web, and, as I said before, in life-off-the-Web. This is also the pattern that makes a good teacher or learning community member. I think it is more innate or socially patterned in some people than others; I also think it can be learned.

A major difference between generosity on and off the Web is that in life-off-the-Web generous people can be burned. I remember, in my late twenties, feeling really ripped off by a few people whom I had been friendly and generous to, but who just didn't bother to help a mutual friend when it would have been easy to. I started feeling like I had been designated "the server of others" by them. I decided to try to limit my generosity to those who I had received generosity from, or whom I had seen being generous to others.

Maybe I'm making an artificial distinction between life on and off the Web. Rubel also notes about selfish bloggers and reacts much like I did -

They focus solely on themselves and not an iota on others. I have unsubscribed from all of these blogs. They're just not worth my time.

Micro Persuasion: Only Generous Bloggers Influence

Targeting  my generosity is the choice I make. I don't want to throw my energy into the service of the greedy and neglectful. I try to be conscious of receiving generosity, and only welcome those who also share.

There are also, though,  the free gifts to the universe, and that are both generosity and something that is spiritual. WebToolsforLearners, for example, is my attempt to share what I know to anyone, generous or not, who might want to learn more about using Web 2.0 for themselves, their associations, and for teaching. And the Web is filled with people offering that kind of generosity, and I hope that spirit continues to be a major part of the Web culture.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Summer & Blogging Tools

It's hot, hot, hot! And time to play.


I suggest you read Seven Blogging Tools Reviewed  and then play with the one(s) that sound most promising. Play (practise) now so you can use them when school begins again in the fall.

Although I love Elgg, and think its Community Blogs are the best for teaching, you can set up group blogs on Blogger and add audio with AudioBlogger.

It's easy, if you just read the instructions!

Have fun and learn!

Happy heatwave!

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Where We Are Now

Social software and learning: An Opening Education report from Futurelab
By Martin Owen, Lyndsay Grant, Steve Sayers and Keri Facer

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning


For anyone who wants to understand the implications of what is happening on the Web now for education, this report is essential. It is clear, easy-to-read, long, and filled with information and ideas. I cannot recoomend it too highly as a foundational overview.

Here are some quotations from it, (collected by using WebSnippits, part of the Flock browser, which I am more and more impressed with.)

If learning to learn, if collaboration, and if the personalisation of educational experiences are at the core of current educational agendas, we need to find ways of enabling young people to come into contact with, collaborate with and learn from each other and other people. Social software is about bringing minds and ideas into contact with each other and is already, in the world outside schools, creating what was described by McLuhan as the global village.

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

New forms of collaboration tools are also emerging, based on collaborative document building rather than individualist blogs. We are also seeing a shift in the ‘modality’ of communication away from text alone: podcasting or audio publishing via the net is a growing movement and it will be relatively a short time before there is also good support for video publication on the net. Locative and geographically mediated activity is also a likely area for growth.

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

... there is a shift in the nature of knowledge and how knowledge is created and organised, and secondly there is a cultural shift growing from the use of information and communication technologies, the so-called cyberculture. These two strands mirror the twin concerns of those arguing for a shift in educational processes to align with the perceived demands of a knowledge economy: namely, the concern with developing young people able to act as innovators and creators of knowledge; and the concern with developing young people able to operate effectively within digital and information-rich environments.Identity, space, attention and creativity are all clearly central to the question of how we learn with digital technologies. These are not marginal questions to be relegated to the ‘out of school’ world, but are intimately bound up with the ways in which young people may be coming to expect to learn in a digitally rich environment.

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

Digital technology allows easy peer-to-peer exchange and amateur cultural production. Consumers can easily become producers. Mass market and user-generated cultural media is appropriated and critiqued, adapted and remixed allowing users and consumers to change the meanings intended by the original producer. This critical culture of consumption and remix blurs the line between consumption and production.

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

The researchers suggest that what these young people are doing is creating and projecting their emerging identities within a group of friends. Blogs, as with mobile phones and other technologies, facilitate a range of social and emotional work for young people (Ito and Okabe 2003, referenced in Carrington 2005).

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

schoolsshould not expect students to leave the 21st century in the cloakroom,for example, many schools do not allow e-mail, instant messaging,mobile phones or blogging. As a corollary there is an imperative toteach appropriate use and appropriate behaviour for ICT. This shouldinclude protection of students’ own identity.

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

There is a “substantially more subtle shift” pertaining to forms of reasoning. “Reasoning, classically, has been concerned primarily with deductive, abstract types of reasoning. But what I see happening to today's kids as they work in this new digital medium has much more to do with bricolage than abstract logic. Bricolage, a concept originally studied by Levi Strauss many years ago, relates to the concrete. It has to do with the ability to find something - an object, tool, piece of code, document - and to use it in a new way and in a new context.”2

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

Contemporary creativity may no longer be focused towards creating original content, but is a practice of rip, mix and burn, where content is taken, appropriated, adapted, mixed, and distributed in a way in which consumption of media and information also becomes a productive act. Digital technology can, then, give young people the opportunity to take control of information and media to consume and produce cultures of importance and relevance to their own lives and identities. Social software adds to the ways one can be creative and it has changed and expanded the audience for personal and social creativity. [Emphasis added]

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

Students who pool their research (in a bookmark tool or in a wiki) can clearly help each other do better. Students who peer assess their work can clearly help each other. Students who can work in different media extend the range of their thinking. Students in contact with people outside the school can learn more. Students who have a sense that their work is for a wider audience may be better motivated.

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

4.7 Conclusion: e-Learning 2.0?Our discovery of new ways to transform our lives using digital technologies is not slowing down. In recent years we have witnessed the emergence of new tools and services. Some of these have been characterised as Web 2.0, some of them have been characterised as social software. The significant attributes that these new tools and services display are that they are about knowledge creation, knowledge management, knowledge sharing and knowledge dissemination. Keywords have been creation, collaboration and communication. These technologies are changing the way we are able to deal with knowledge. This raises two issues for those engaged in education. Firstly they supply the enterprise of learning with new tools and new and useful ways to go about learning. The second suggests that because of the changing nature of human knowledge management we need to change priorities in what we need to learn.The individual learner has many choices available for their personal learning. The list of social software activity is long and is growing. However, there is also a need for a response in formal education. These technologies do provide a mechanism for transformation in education that appropriates these technologies for educational advantage. This includes a change in our vision of e-learning to a more open approach to the acquisition, organisation, creation and assessment of knowledge: e-Learning 2.0.

Futurelab - Research - Publications - Social software and learning

All teachers at all levels should be reading this and responding to this paper, IMHO!

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

MySpace + YouTube = The Global Village

You can see the enormous changes in communication that have occured in the last few years by looking at MySpace and YouTube.

We live in a global village, as Marshall McLuhan predicted in the 1960s. My daughter, an active MySpace participant, told me several weeks ago about a group she'd discovered through MySpace called Gnarls Barkley. She talked with great energy and enthusiasm about noticing the spread of their music in Toronto, hearing it on the street, and finding people who already knew about it. This was not formal advertising, but the new "word-of-mouth" based on social networks such as MySpace.


When I heard that I could see the Gnarls Barkley video for their song "Crazy" on YouTube, I searched for it, and found it there. The lyrics are great, and the video is striking, both beautiful and interesting But that's not what this post is about. What is amazing is that in a very few weeks, this music and video spread "virally", as they say, through the social networking sites, MySpace and YouTube.

Most of the social netwarking I look at is in English, my language. But YouTube uses videos, a more univeral language of images. We may not uderstand what is on the audio (or what they were thinking, for that matter) but there can be no doubt that we are only part of the world.


Look at the variety of languages that show up on YouTube. The Web shows us that we live in a global village, and the ease with which people can put content on the Web shows us how the enforced passivity of movies and television is being superceded by the activity of posting on the Web, whether it be homemade or professionally produced content.

To me, this worldwide activity is what is most amazing about the Web.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Elgg Described, with Examples

Supporting online communities with Elgg

by Josie Fraser, with help from Sasan Salari

Elgg is an open-source social software programme which is free for institutions to download and use. Elgg provides an excellent way to investigate e-portfolio provision or to support your college communities online. By laying out a number of scenarios, this article clearly highlights the benefits of Elgg, and demonstrates its ...

This description of the various aspects of Elgg, followed by examples of how students and/or teachers can use them is inspiring, in the deep meaning of the word. You can breathe in ideas, circulate them through your experience, and imagine possibile uses. My own experience of using an Elgg Community blog for a class last term matches what the authors describe, and I have seen some new possibilites for my teaching in the fall.

Great article - very practical, with helpful images. I recommend it.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Connectivism vs Constructivism - G. Siemens

A succinct and clear look at how we learn and learning theories. Siemens says:

Most learning needs today are becoming too complex to be addressed in "our heads". We need to rely on a network of people (and increasingly, technology) to store, access, and retrieve knowledge and motivate its use. The network itself becomes the learning. This is critical today; the rapid development of knowledge means that we need to find new ways of learning and staying current. We cannot increase our capacity for learning ad infinitum. We must begin to conceive learning as socially networked and enhanced by technology (it’s a symbiosis of people and technology that forms our learning networks). We need to acknowledge our learning context not only as an enabler of learning, but as a participant of the learning itself.


We rely on Google, libraries, friends, social bookmarks/tags, etc. to serve as our personal learning network (we store the knowledge external to ourselves). When we need something, we go to our network (know-where is more important than know-how or know-what)...or we expand our network. In the end, the constant act of connecting in order to stay current is a much more reflective model of learning than constructivism.

Connectivism Blog

That matches my experience as a learner.

Also very interesting, the

matrix posted by Derek Wenmoth on online learning (including a continuum of learning theories)

Connectivism Blog

A final note - I think using the Flock blogging tool is helpful, but it does alter my style.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Flock - One-Stop Web Browsing

I was checking what was happening on the site and saw D'Arcy's post -

Flock Beta 1 Available Now |

Finally, I thought, someone is pulling things together for the user - a Web 2.0 (social) browser that is a one-stop space.

So I decided to play with it.

I like it. A lot! In fact, I'm creating this blog using all the integrated bits, from putting my screenshot into Flickr and then into this blog post, all in one window. And the Favorites link to, so I can tag them for future reference. I haven't used the aggregator because I'm happy with Bloglines, but I would recommend using the Flock newsfeeds to anyone who has been thinking about using an aggregator, but hasn't set up their own Bloglines account yet. That way you would have everything you need, including a Search space, right in the same browser.For more detailed information, check out

Using Flock gives me a simpler interaction and saves me time. So I'm really impressed, so impressed, in fact, that I'm making Flock my default browser.

Give it a try - see what you think.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Social Software & Academic Commons

If you want to understand the "big picture" of the impact of social software on education, including the problems, I suggest you go to the Academic Commons and read Joseph Ugoretz"s Three Stars and a Chili Pepper
Ugoretz starts from this premise:
Social software includes many communication media, but the new tools which are the subject of this essay all fit three broad descriptions. These tools are interactive, with the content created and structured by a wide mass of contributors. These tools are also interconnected, with user-provided searchable links structuring and cross-referencing that content. And finally, these tools are bottom-up and communitarian, with the users of the tools providing and benefitting from associations, reputations, and authority within a many-to-many community. The various tools of social software are an increasing presence in the online world, as well as the offline lives of their users.

He uses anecdotes and clear explanations.

I recommend it.


A New Resource for Learning

I've been playing on (with?) a new resource for learning and teaching called
You can learn a lot on this site. For direct learning, take a look at the Tutorials section - the link is on the far right on the navbar at the top.
You can also learn by exploring a little using the (right)sidebar to click on tags or other links -
And finally, you can learn by exploring the navbar at the top. For example, by clicking on "Software" you will find information on various software that members recommend and/or describe.
If, as a teacher, you have trouble filling your time during the summer (;-> irony alert!) you could spend at least some of your "free" time exploring and learning from this site.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tagging - for Bookmarking Favorites

Tagging is an essential tool for anyone who wants to find interesting Websites again sometime in the future. In a previous post, I explained tagging, using extensive quotes from Ellyssa Kroski's post, The Hive Mind: Folksonomies and User-Based Tagging at InfoTangle. It's still an excellent starting point for understanding the significance of tagging. However, sometimes "quick and dirty" howto's are all someone wants to know. With that in mind, here's a link to -
Thirteen Tips for Effective Tagging, an excellent post on the "how's" of tagging with For example:
Below are some tips for choosing tags on from Web Consultant Alexandra Samuel.

Be a lemming. Check how other people are tagging the kinds of sites you want to remember. Linkbacks makes this very easy. Bear in mind that different people will bookmark the same site for different reasons: I might bookmark Terminus 1525 as a great example of a Drupal site, while you are saving it as a link to young Canadian artists.
Follow the herd. When in doubt, pick the tag that seems to have the most links -- this is the leading tag of the options you're considering, so hopefully will emerge as the dominant focal point (so you don't have to check "open-source," "opensource," and "open_source" to keep on top of the big world of open source).

I recommend the whole post, and suggest you bookmark it using ;->


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Contextual Spell Checking - a Great Advance

From CorrecteurOrthographiqueOffice, a truly significant development in spell checking - contextual spell checking!
A writing-teacher fantasy come true!


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Matthew McKinnon on Web Megasites

The Web can be a confusing and therefore intimidating space. Matthew McKinnon, published on CBC's Arts & Entertainment Website, gives the clearest map I've seen:
Think of the web’s old guard as TV networks — they provide mainstream programming for amorphous audiences — and its young turks as cable channels, offering niche content to avid subscriber bases.

The leaders of this new school excel at creating online communities. MySpace, YouTube and Flickr function as self-contained planets in cyberspace; Blogger is chief architect of the blogosphere. All of them encourage their users to contribute content, engage in conversation and form personal relationships. It’s a totally different tao of building traffic: Yahoo! takes you places, MySpace means you’re already there.

Settle in, and get a load of the big stars of the net’s new wave...

Here's the link to his article:



Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Connecting the Dots - CCHRD's 2006 Conference

Some conferences are just great, and this was one. Today I attended the CCHRD (College Committee on Human Resources Development) Central Region (Centennial, Seneca, George Brown, Sheridan, Mitchner Institute) Conference called Connecting the Dots. The one & a half hour rush-hour commute was not fun, but shortly after I arrived, I was greeted by two women, one of whom, with a lovely warm smile, told me she reads this blog! It was exciting to meet a such a positive reader!

Then Dr Marcel Danesi spoke, and he's wonderful! He talked about the fact that academic researchers don't actually know how people learn, however the person and their background, both personal and cultural, are at the core. He went on to affirm that human contact is central to teaching. Yes. I agree totally.

As a teacher you have to shut up and listen, which is part of becoming wise, and part of seeing your students as researchers of what you both are interested in. Absolutely! You want your students' respect, not their friendship. You want to be a "wise elder" and their mentor.

I can't possibly impart the flair and humour of his talk, but I enjoyed and benefitted from it.

The students on the student panel had interesting comments and insights.

The morning workshop session I went to was called "Popular Culture and Critical Media Literacy" given by Lena Carla Gutekunst, and it was very interesting. She's an engaging speaker with real insight into the culture many of our students live in, and how to teach critical thinking using (and respecting) it.

Lunch was great, as was the conference space Centennial had provided.

I presented on Blogs, Wikis and Students in the afternoon, and was grateful for the help I got from the sound man and a quiet stranger I later realized was Dr. Sandy Shugart, the closing keynote speaker. I loved talking about Web 2.0, and how it helped my students connect with each other, and how it gave them a real context for communicating with each other. (If they didn't reseach, present and post on the wiki, their fellow students wouldn't learn what they needed to learn.) And the subtext to both the class and the presentation, was that my students had engaged with each other because they had heard each other's stories, and had been heard when they told their stories.

The Web, my message was, is easy and allows our students to communicate in ways they find meaningful, using a technical tool they are familiar with, though they might have to learn some new elements. It is a powerful teaching/learning tool, especially when combined with face-to-face time in class.

Dr Sandy Shugart gave the closing keynote and what a wonderful note to close on. He spoke holding, and occasionally playing his guitar. He talked about Robert Frost's "Two Tramps in Mud Time" and how our work can deform us, how it can be a shrinking prison, or how it can be a crucible, where we are transmuted into our full humanity. He spoke about how important it was to a "servant leader" - and he sang great lyrics. I was very glad I'd stayed (instead of leaving early to miss the traffic). I needed to hear what he was saying, at many levels. Here's a description of him -,0,w

A lovely, rewarding day!


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cool Cat Teacher

Vicki Davis's students explain the difference between a blog and a wiki.
Synopsis of their posts
The most meaningful point that they have brought out for me is that they see wikis as a place to share information and they see blogs as a place to share opinions and discuss.

For more detailed versions of her students comments - go here

Thursday, May 18, 2006

mesh06 - Reflections

Looking back on mesh
Of course my first observation is that I had fun and learned a lot. Those are my two central requirements, and they were certainly fulfilled. Can't ask for more.
Last year at a college conference in North Bay, I noticed something significant, and I could see it again at mesh. The Web used to have distinct groups, especially at conferences. The technical people gathered and talked about java and ruby-on-rails and other obscure (to me) topics. Teachers, or in the case of mesh, PR, marketing, and business people (Web entrepreneurs), got together to discuss how to use the Web.

Both at This is IT in North Bay last spring, and here at mesh this spring, I see the two formerly distinct (except in rare cases) groups starting to overlap. There is a Web culture that includes engineers and communicators, and I see the business actions as coming from the middle, the overlap, where we are in the same space with similar enough understandings that we can disagree. (If you don't have similar maps and language, you can't communicate enough to argue ;->) A fascinating development.

So I see the emergence of a strong Web culture with segmented areas attached to it.

Other Observations
The conference had an interesting mix of (Web) business, PR/marketing, and engineers. I noticed a few differences from academic conferences - which is what I'm used to.
  • more hands are shaken more often;
  • more business cards are exchanged;
  • people move on from conversations more often; there's a faster pace;
  • the attendees were not as old in general as at academic conferences, but the conference wasn't as skewed towards youth as I expected. I would say most attendees were from 30 to 50, and there were more older than younger. Would love to hear from someone who found it different.

I did encounter a couple of misogynist moments.
  • I overheard, in the lunch lineup first day, two guys talking about a woman who was "too aggressive". They used the phrase repeatedly. It turned out they were talking about someone who didn't share back business contacts and information. (Hey, the lunch lineup was long and I couldn't help overhearing!) The phrase "too aggressive" has more negative connotations when applied to a woman than when applied to a man, and it is rarely applied to a man. "Aggressive" is a complimentary term when applied to a male. I have yet to hear people talking about a man who is "too aggressive" when what they mean is he doesn't share business contacts and information. They usually skip the negative definition and get straight to the information, maybe adding that he's an "a**hole" which is a nicely non-gendered perjorative.
  • I saw in one of the blog comments, a reference to "that Tara chick". I can't even imagine someone referring to "that [insert male name] pup". And she was criticized for preparing an interesting presentation that enacted what she was describing. I am NOT being critical of the interview approach (I liked it) but it takes less work to prepare for.

    On a related topic, my husband, after watching a public school talent show, commented that the boys got more applause for ballsy improvisation than the girls did for skill and preparation. I think some of that mindset is still there in less mature men.

So mesh was fun, amusing, educational, and provided grist for my tendancy to engage in analytical observations.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

mesh - Viable Web Applications

Live blogging is something I saw Stephen Downes do last year at the This is IT Conference in North Bay. As I watched him blog during the sessions, I wondered how and why he did it. I can’t answer for him but now that I’m blogging my way through mesh, I’m finding it helps me focus! It’s not doing 2 things aat once, it’s sort of like taking notes in a lecture, where you ‘get’ more of what’s being said because you write it down.

I’m in Idee‘s Leila Boujnane’s session on Creating a Viable Web Business, with Michael McDerment of FreshBooks, Malgosia Green of Nuvvo and Albert Lai of Nuvvo
They are describing the start-up mistakes they made, and what they would do differently if they were to do it over.

  • Being flexible and responding to change seems to be central. Feedback is essential.
  • Different patterns for getting your name out, some through the blogosphere, some more traditional newsletters etc. plus the blogosphere.
  • Making things simple to use and having good customer support are really important
  • Different approaches for tech support, one by phone, others by email and forums
  • Your tech support can be your sales department – you build loyal users who stay and refer others
  • Nuvvo – most users are free, then they can subscribe for more robust services. The free users are more forgiving of weak support.
  • Bubbleshare and Idee find customers want to help each other, (like on MySpace)
  • This conference – mesh – was advertised by 4 guys writing on their blogs, and the news spread.
  • simplicity of use, a fluid user-experience, is what users find attractive. Design for these, not for elite super-users
  • Understand the purchasing process of your customers, and it’s different for different applications
  • Set up almost a funnel – first someone looks, then a free trial, then full users – about 5% of the lookers
  • Raising money takes a lot of time
  • Recruiting talent is tricky
  • Knowing enough to know how to communicate with employees is important, worth taking some courses in their areas.
  • churn is scary but a chance to learn
  • mentors are a real help


mesh - Day 2, more - Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt – From Toronto – a former online marketing manager
Discovered the blogosphere, recruited through her blog and joined Silicon Valley .
BarCamp showed her both world and Toronto’s tech communities

What does this mean for the future of marketing?
We discussed this in small groups, and interestingly, there is an immediate distrust of the authenticity – in this group!
Bowiechick isn’t an “expert”; she’s a user and others would identify with her.
Many would trust bowiechick more than a TV commercial.
Tara suggests – “Go pinko!”
Pinko Marketing Principles
#1 inbound, rather than outbound messages
#2 you advocate to your company, not for your company
#3 100% authenticity (Stop using the word “viral”!)
#4 serve niche markets – the long tail Riya will soon have a Mac Uploader
#5 open source – wikis etc.
“Snakes on the Plane” – literally changed by the blogosphere, huge buzz
The blogosphere is the source of so many stories, but how do we bring social translucency into systems – evangelism – change your institution!

Is there a danger of community turning into just marketing?
You have to be part of the community you serve.

Reputation becomes part of it. You have to be in the community and build relationships over time, just like anywhere!


mesh - Day 2

Yesterday and today are my first experiences of blogging live. I just suffered my first lost post, when i lost a whole entry. Here's the summary:
Steve Rubel spoke this morning about PR and blogging, with many questions and rich conversation. Will blogs make PR more honest, or will monetizing blogs lessen thier authenticity?

Stuart MacDonald was an excellent interviewer, guiding and following the conversation.

Next up is Paul Kedrosky, interviewed by Mathew Ingram about Web 2.0 and venture capitalism.
  • There seems to be a concentration of capital looking to venture, and Web 2.0 benefits, but if you can avoid taking it for your company, do so.
  • The starting of a business has been democratized, BUT then there are multiple starts doing the same sort of thing.
  • YouTube, as an example, do they have a business plan? Is this an early version of the future of TV.
  • Google started up with no real business model, and found their way, but lately they’re running up their capital expenditures.
  • The pendulum is swinging towards business in Web 2.0, for example, DabbleDB
  • Some examples of Web 2.0 businesses that are successful – PlentyOfFish - $15,000 a day
  • Seed investing is problematic in Canada – DFJ - almost uses seed marketing as PR, lots of overage for what it does
  • Venture capitalists – trouble choosing when to jump in, seed financing can be too soon, later can be too late.
  • How many ‘products’ are actually just features – Google’s recent media day on 3 features treated as amazing
  • Skype moved people towards VOIP
  • IPOs don’t exist any more, creating problems with exits (Don’t understand but that’s what he said.)
  • A preoccupation with AdSense, Google totally dominates in this single-payer system, but subscription can be a viable option
  • P&G spend 10% of their advertising budget on online, “nada”
  • TV commercialization starting to break down, some companies refusing to play in the competition
  • Canada much lower in numbers per capita basis in terms of looking for venture capital
  • We don’t see as many examples of people making money exiting their companies
  • Where do eastern Canadians go fort venture capitalism – Boston, Canadians …
  • Advice – think about the contingencies of your business before asking for VC, a real appetite now for investments

Good session. Next up - 15 Minutes of Fame

More Later.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Blogging at Mesh

Writing with passion. Yup!

Tris Hussey is talking about blogging - and his presentation is EXCELLENT - and/or I agree with what he says. The room is crowded; I was lucky to get a seat. Joey, Accordian Guy, is in the room too.

Qumana is a free blog editing tool that Tris is referencing, and it looks interesting; I'll check it out later.

Blogs & Monitizing - Are ads the future? Does Google hold all the cards? Mark Evans suggests that blogs will federate and go to advertisers as groups. The money might come from branding, consulting, speaking etc. Someone suggests that the money made from blogs might come from the connections that result from your posts, with gigs and jobs coming to you.

Blogs could move into areas where people are used to paying - like education. I wonder if he is the guy from Nuvvo.

Now we're talking about marketing and advertising and transparency.

"We're all working for Google." Even if you take something down - it's still in the cache.

What about truth, opinion, and "blooging for evil"?
Who do you get to blog for your company? Webmaster, writer, team of developers, ....?

Good places to learn about blogs - books!


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Leonard Cohen Tribute Concert

photo by Meryle Cox

Yesterday my daughter, Meryle, (who has performed some of his songs) and I (both fans) went to the Bay-Bloor Indigo bookstore for the Leonard Cohen Tribute Concert, with Anjani, Ron Sexsmith, and the Bare Naked Ladies. I'd won Front-of-the-Line tickets in an Indigo contest (thanks Heather) so we had great seating! It was wonderful.

Here's a link to some of Meryle's photos on my Flickr account -

Ron Sexsmith knew all Cohen's lyrics. He and Steven Page gave great support to Cohen, and Anjani was like a female version of Leonard Cohen. Leonard, himself, both read a poem and sang. I waved my vintage 1968 Leonard Cohen album cover. Sigh!


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Fun Spelling with Flickr

From Shel Holtz

A link to a site where you can spell with Flickr images.

See my name!

J O oneletter A N
V Train Logo Circle N A IMG_0998 L

Neat, eh?


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Personal Web Environments

The online computer is essential in business and education today. It is also increasingly central to our family lives and personal economic life. People spend hours on the computer, sharing photos, keeping health and financial records, reading for news or entertainment, learning, and playing games. Having an effective and efficient Personal Web environment is essential for us all. One of the foundations for effective Web work (or play) is setting up your own
  • personal toolbar;
  • Favorites bar; or
  • Bookmarks bar.

Chose the name you want; they are all the same.

I first learned about how to use this feature of a Web browser from my friend, Janet, who works in a library. Using it is so easy and convenient that I have never looked back. In this post, I am going to introduce you to the IE version, because that is still the most used Web browser, but I will follow-up with a post about the slight difference to the way it works in the Firefox Web browser.

What is a
  • personal toolbar;
  • Favorites bar; or
  • Bookmarks bar?

Glad you asked.

A Personal/Favorites/Bookmarks Bar
In the screenshot above, you can see the Favorites bar, and the View Menu that allows you to make it visible or hide it. This view of the Favorites bar still has the links it comes loaded with; you can see many Apple links (I work on an iBook) and, on the far right, a link to my academic blog on Elgg, the only link I have added so far.

Delete (or Move) Rarely Used Links

In the screenshot below, you can see 2 red arrows:
  • The double-headed arrow points a link on the Favorites bar and where it is listed in the Explorer bar (found under View in the Menu bar.)
  • The second red arrow points to "Delete" in the menu, which appeared when I right clicked (or you could hold down the "ctrl" button and use an ordinary left click.)

That's one of several ways to remove a link you don't use very often from the Favorites bar. When I'm setting up a browser to be part of my Personal Web Environment, my first step is to clear the Favorites bar. The next step is to begin adding my frequently used Websites to the Favorites bar, where I will be able to quickly and easily click on them.

Adding to Your Favorites Bar
There are a number of ways to add sites to your personal bar. I have a favorite. First you go to the site you want on your personal bar, either by entering the URL (or Web address)or by using a search engine to find it. Got it up on your screen, like below?
  • See the Address bar, the now empty Favorites bar, and the empty Favorites folder in the Explorer frame?
  • Now look at icon to the left of the url in the Address bar
  • Put your mouse cursor on it and hold down the left click button
  • Drag the icon down onto the Favorites bar. Notice that you can see a shadow image of the icon and the site title
  • Let go of the button while on the Favorites bar, and presto! - it now appears on your Favorites bar.

Benefits and Possibilities
When you add sites to your Favorites bar, you can easily click on them there and watch them open!
In the image above, arrows point to the Wikipedia Webpage, the Wikipedia url, the Wikipedia link on the Favorites bar, and the Wikipedia link in the Explorer frame. I can go on and add as many links as will fit across the Favorites bar (and beyond, as I'll show in the next post with Firefox). Here's the last bit for this post -

How to Shorten Web Link Names
  • Right (or "ctrl") click on the link, either in the Favorites frame or on the Favorites bar;
  • Up pops a menu;
  • Chose "Edit Name";
  • Change the name to the shortest one you can easily recognize.

Now you can start building your Personal Web Environment by adding more of your frequesntly used Web sites.

Have fun!


Sunday, April 16, 2006

My Consultancy - JNthWEB

This might be "shameless self-promotion" or a handy page to bookmark - I've set up a wiki for my business, consulting on educational uses of Web 2.0, called JNthWEB. I'm using the wiki as an information source on the basics of educational uses of Web 2.0, and I'm hoping people will find it helpful.

I'm using pbwiki because I like the clean look that's possible with it.

Check it out; I hope you find it helpful!