Feel free to look around, but I have moved to a new blogging platform. Most of my posts going back to 2005 have been transferred there.

My Introduction to Agile Instructional Design

My professor introduced us to an interesting concept paper about Agile Instructional Design written by Peter Rawsthorme. One thing linked to another (as it usually does) and I have not only gained a new perspective on instructional design, but a new resource for mind bending ideas - see Peter's web site and current blog. At the heart of the paper on Agile ID is the perspective that traditional ID methods can "suffer the restraints of their linear roots." The author proposes that those restraints should be addressed to better consider,

"... time, budget, changing learning theories, increased use of constructivist methods, availability of subject mater experts, changing ID development staff, rapidly changing technology and media channels ..."

Sing it with me now . . . Isn't it Ironic?

H.R.5749: To amend title 18, United States Code, to protect youth from exploitation by adults using the Internet, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Foley, Mark [FL-16] (introduced 7/10/2006)

... and for his backing of DOPA and other legislation to "protect" minors as Co-Chair of the Missing & Exploited Children’s Caucus ...

Drupal CMS Academy

Just pointing to a community notice I sent out yesterday for the Drupal CMS Academy, part of the Worldbridges network. For those interested in learning how to use Drupal, check out the collaborative learning environment that is under development and join us for some live Drupal community brainstorming on Sunday!

Drupal CMS Academy Community Brainstorming Session #3: Join us this Sunday - October 1, 2006

5:30 p.m. GMT global times

Please join us this Sunday (October 1st) for our weekly live Drupal CMS Academy community brainstorming session. This week, we will kick around ideas for the Academy's web site interface. The Academy (as well as much of Worldbridges) runs on a Drupal installation, so we have a lot of options to create, layout and present content on the site. Whether you know a little or a lot about Drupal, we look forward to hearing your ideas about ways to enhance the Drupal CMS Academy's navigation, content creation options and more!

p.s. If you can't make the live session, please check back to listen to the recording at http://www.cmsacademy.net/drupal/ or subscribe to the feed at http://www.cmsacademy.net/drupal.xml

Tools: Creating, Publishing and Sharing Written Text Online

One of the struggles with online learning is finding tools to create, publish and share text based media within the online learning environment. Here are just some of the many problems:

  • Creating: Most of the written text that is created by students and teachers is MS Word based. While it is the best known text based creation application, it has several major shortcomings in an online learning environment, the primary being the difficulty in publishing and sharing the document to an online audience. While the work around is to "attach" the document (to a web page or an e-mail), there is little opportunity for interaction or collaboration. That has helped to drive the interest in wikis, blogs and other web based word processing applications (such as Writely.com) which have their own shortcomings (see below).
  • Sharing: Documents that were originally created for print pose a huge problem in an online learning environment. 99.9% of the time, printed media is shared in online education in the form of scanned pages that are stored in a .pdf files. While I am an Internet junkie and live in front of my computer screen, I now refuse to read scanned documents on my computer. Reading a scanned page formatted with columns is beyond frustrating and unless you pay to upgrade to Adobe Acrobat, there are no interactive tools to highlight, notate or bookmark passages. As a result, I end up printing out reams of paper each semester. Further, as noted above, there is little opportunity for interaction and collaboration with others.
  • Publishing: While Internet based ebooks, wikis and blogs provide a great way to distribute media and collaborate with others, learners are often tied to their computer screens. If offered, the print functionality for these Internet based applications is usually based on a dump to a .pdf or HTML file which often leaves the reader with a poorly formated mess.

That is why I was so intrigued today when I read about a couple of projects that are addressing the current shortcomings of creating, publishing and sharing text based media online:

Mobile: Text Mark

This is cool! Now how to explain it . . . the best thing to do is go to the site (textmark.com) and look at the nifty diagram they have concocted to explain it. In a nutshell, TextMark.com is an Internet based text messaging service where you set up a "message" that others can receive by texting the TextMark main number (41411) and the keyword you set up for your message. So, let's say you are a really cool high school girl's volleyball coach (for the Lady Eagles) and you want to make sure players, fans and parents are in the loop as to what is going on for the team that day. You could set up a keyword (like "eaglestoday") and provide a canned message with details about the team's activity for that day (like out of town game directions, time of practice, etc). Others would just text 41411 with "eaglestoday" in the message and get the daily update. Cool - huh, Britt?

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Trade and Swap Your Books

The Wall Street Journal had an article today (I'd link to it, but you need a paid subscription) about online swap markets for books. While the sites listed in the article differ slightly, they are all an attempt to cut out the middleman in the sale and purchase of used books (and in some cases DVDs, video games and audio books). In general, the idea is that registered users post their material and a point value is assigned based on the market value of the item posted. This becomes the users currency to trade items with others. Each site differs in terms of fees charged by the site owner and for shipping. Hmm . . .

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Akismet: Spammers - Take That!

My lowly little web site turned into a comment spammers paradise last Sunday. I had to delete over 500 comments that ranged from completely irrelevant to the site to downright disgusting. I had tried the Drupal module "bad behavior", but ended up somehow locking myself out of my own site. I'm sure that was due to some newbie mistake on my part, but I turned off the module.  I remembered reading a series of posts from D'Arcy Norman about his success installing Akismet on his Drupal site. I am happy to report that I, too, have had great success with Akismet. Since last night, it properly filtered legitimate comments and unpublished over 45 comments that even made me blush. Thank you, Akismet!!

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Be a Good Conference Attendee, Have a Good Time and Learn A Lot

My mom (to this day) sends me out into the world with the same old family pep talk that she heard herself when she was a wee lass, "Be a good girl, have a good time, and learn a lot." Even if I am just running out to the grocery store, those are usually her trailing words as I go. Therefore, I was kind of inspired when I stumbled on a few places on the Internet spouting a similar mantra for conference attendees. So, go forth and, "Be a good conference attendee, have a good time and learn a lot." But, before you go, check out these resources:

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AECT 2006: Dallas Here I Come!

I just pulled the trigger on my registration to the 2006 AECT Convention in Dallas, TX. It will be a great opportunity to hear some interesting presentations and to meet and greet students and faculty in my program (a very rare treat for a distance student). Also, I'm just guessing, but it looks like the organizers are using a Drupal installation for the "official" convention site - sure looks like Drupal, right? I may try to keep up regular blog posts about the experience if I get a reliable Internet connection while I'm there. Now, to find out about what Dallas has to offer for the "down time" ...

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Listserv: Instructional Technology Forum

Listservs may seem to have taken a backseat to blogs, wikis and community web sites. However, if you work or study in and around the field of Instructional Technology, but aren't subscribed to the Instructional Technology Forum (ITForum for short)- you are missing out on discussions, ideas and happenings in the IT community. No glitz, glitter or Flash plug ins - just pertinent information and thoughtful dialog - go figure? The web site about the ITForum couldn't be more bare bones, but it includes all the "need to knows" to subscribe and track upcoming events, a unique feature of the listserv. This week's event is focused around plans for an update to Instructional Design Theories and Models (Green Book II) with Charles Reigeluth, a professor from Indiana University's Instructional Systems Technology program (Yahoo! shameless program shout out) and Alison Carr-Chellman from Penn State (the 11th school in the Big Ten).

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Classmates as Awesome Resource Finders

I have the best classmates this semester! Each time I log in to "class", I am presented with a wealth of resources that I spend about an hour a day just filing away. The latest one was new to me, but worth taking an extra second to pass along. WorldCat is a massive online catalog of library resources, including "books, music, videos, articles and more." A student in our online class shared a resource link with our class by sending along the WorldCat link. Students could then search for the resource by zip code and find the nearest local library that has the resource available for checkout. How is that for making the distance experience a little more "local"? I also noticed that the site offers several WorldCat search toolbar options and the ability to quickly create a WorldCat link for an item by typing in http://worldcat.org/isbn/[insert ISBN]. Three cheers for DS and this resource find!

Cingular 8125 Review - Part 2

Back in April, I made a post about my new Cingular 8125. I had owned the phone for a day and had gotten off to a rocky, yet still promising start. I have now had 5 months to play with it, so I've collected my thoughts on the experience:

The good (or not so bad):

  • "Available" list of features still better (more comprehensive) than other PDA options out there
  • Wifi makes for a fairly speedy Internet connection
  • As a cell phone, the call quality is not bad. The speaker phone is just ok, but it does the trick.
  • Contacts and Calendar sync with Outlook. While I don't use Outlook for anything more than a conduit to sync up my contacts and calendar with Yahoo! and GMail (albeit, a cumbersome process), it does get the job done.
  • Touch screen: While there is a QWERTY key board, I find I use the touchscreen and stylus a lot of the time (especially for dialing the phone and browsing the Internet).
  • The screen: The screen resolution is great. Crisp and clear.

The bad (or not so good):

I Remember

I spent many years of my adult life working in and around the World Trade Center. After 9/11, I worked directly across the street to the east at 1 Liberty Plaza. My husband works directly across the street to the west in the Financial Center. Even though I have walked through and around the site hundreds of times in the past 5 years, I will always remember the World Trade Center as it was before that horrible day 5 years ago.

When I lived at 295 Greenwich St., I walked to my job in 2 World Trade Center. I moved there when I was 24 years old and I remember feeling at the time that I lived and worked in the center of the universe. I remember each step of the walk to and from work. I remember looking up at the vertical lines just before I walked through the revolving doors. I remember the unmanned window washers that would come up and down the building. I remember the sunsets looking out of the southwest corner of the office. I remember that we had file cabinets by the windows and how ridiculous that seemed to me - what a waste of a fabulous view! I remember walking home for lunch by cutting across the Plaza and down the escalator on the north side of the buildings. I remember that my doctor and Allstate agent had offices right by the escalator and I would go to appointments after work. I remember walking across the Plaza to Century 21 before or after work (too crowded during lunch). I remember buying 1/2 priced tickets at the TKTS booth in our lobby. I remember having drinks at Windows on the World with family in town for a visit. I remember standing in line with all the tourists going up to the observation deck. I remember cutting through the lobby of the Marriott hotel (once the Vista) and having business breakfasts with clients in the hotel restaurant. I remember coming into the PATH station in the basement on Sunday nights after dropping off our car in Jersey City. I remember sitting on my roof top deck at night and staring up at the gleaming lights in the Trade Center windows (and the flashing red antenna on the top). I remember coming out of any subway stop and getting my bearings by looking for the towers. I remember picking up my sister from the Olympia bus stop on West St. I remember flying into Newark (most often from the north to the south) and hoping I would get a seat on the left side of the plane so I could get a glimpse of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. I still do that today, but now I try to put imaginary buildings in the vacant spot where the buildings once were. While I do my best to get by the site without remembering the details of that horrible day, I do remember and I will never forget.

Finding the Water Cooler in Online Education

In one of my online classes, a few of us have been having a sidebar discussion on the human interaction that we feel as "missing" in an online learning environment.  We've had some great back and forth "conversations" in the asynchronous discussion forum that began when a fellow online classmate made the statement, "I can't help but think someday no one will attend class and there will be no 'campus'." This was followed by a thread of posts noting the human interaction that some feel can't truly be replicated in an online environment.  Here is a partial list of of missed interactions noted by members of my class:

  • hearing people laugh (and I'll add, without net lag), 
  • watching people discover things, 
  • having a whole group of people excited about something at the same time (I'll add again, without net lag),
  • real handshakes, winks, facial gestures (I'll add, not emoticons)
  • Potlucks: great coffee, popcorn, whatever you like to eat or drink

I pointed back to my "Being Spaces" posts from back in June which prompted a referral to the book The Ape in the Corner Office: Understanding the Workplace Beast in All of Us. So, even for us distance students who are putting our hearts, minds and hard earned tuition dollars into this new learning environment, there is still a longing for what I often refer to as "the water cooler".  This theme will be part of a free webcast today hosted by the folks at Innovate  with Robert Sanders, the author of "The 'Imponderable Bloom': Reconsidering the Role of Technology in Education"  (see details below).  In the article, Sanders notes:

Big Game this Weekend!

The worst part about getting an online degree from a university in another state is missing the big football games on Saturday. The planets have aligned and my undergrad school, University of Wisconsin - Madison, is playing my husband's undergrad school, Western Illinois Leathernecks, on Saturday. So, we're sitting at Newark about to get on a plane to go to Madison to catch the Big Game! You can watch it, too, on ESPNU at 2:30 p.m. Central Time. Go Badgers!

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The Word Aggregator Not in Google Spell Check

Not the most earth shattering news (by any stretch), but I found it interesting that the word "aggregator" is not in the Google spell check on my tool bar or in the Flock blog posting tool. The only reason this is worthy of 5 seconds of thought is that it highlights the fact that the tools I find "common" and use multiple times each day aren't sufficiently mainstream to make it into the popular spell checkers. I wonder what kind of answers you would get if you asked the 3 people behind you in the grocery store checkout line, "What's your favorite feed aggregator?" Makes you also wonder about the learning curve to get an entire class set up with an RSS aggregator to follow class blog posts? Hmm ...

Web Office: Point your browser to ...

The Read / Write Web announced that they will be profiling a roundup of web "office" applications. Just a heads up to point your browser or aggregator to Read / Write Web if you are interested in following along . . .

Podcast 6: Learning in Lecture Based Setting versus Guided Exploration

In this podcast, I contrast the experience of "learning" within a lecture based (tell me) setting to a guided (let me try) exploration. I argue that a well designed and facilitated guided exploration sets in motion the ultimate cycle of learning, creating and sharing. Links referenced in this podcast include:

Education is now trendy and profitable ... YES!

I subscribe to a terrific web newsletter at Trendwatching.com. Their September 2006 Trend Briefing just came out and it dissects a growing consumer and business trend that they have been covering for months. Trendwatching has been following the consumer segment dubbed "Generation C " (consumers who want to acquire and share "C"ontent and "C"reativity), as well as the trend toward "Customer-Made" goods. They have melded these ideas into the business concept of providing consumers with "status skills":

You know you are an edu-nerd when ...

... your husband walks in with the mail and exclaims, "Your geeky education magazine is here!" ... and then you spend the next hour reading the September 2006 issue of T&D magazine and the ASTD publications catalog. By the way, here is a link to a list of real-time conferencing tools mentioned by Darin Hartley in the "Beyond the Virtual Meeting" article.

p.s. Only true edu-nerds have already clicked on the links in this post :)

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Mobile: Merriam-Webster Mobile Dictionaries

While I normal limit my referrals to "free stuff", this one falls in the "inexpensive" category. Given that I am a horrible speller, I may just have to shell out a few bucks to try one of the Merriam-Webster mobile dictionaries. For under $20, you can get one with 40,000 definitions, a thesaurus and audio pronunciations. $40 will buy you 225,000 definitions! That's only $0.000177 per word - close to free, right?

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Official Seal: Drupal as My Personal Learning Environment

Introducing the offical seal for this site.  As I've stated before, this Drupal enabled site has become my Personal Learning Environment. This just makes it "official".

p.s. If you would like to make your own official seal, check it out.

Net Neutrality: All is NOT quiet during Senate recess!

Dozens of grassroot rallys were held across the country to urge Senators (currently on recess) to oppose Senator Stevens' telecom bill when they return to Washington next week.  However, some question whether the bill will see a vote this year given the anticipated early adjournment (estimated at October 6th for upcoming fall elections) and the growing opposition to a bill without strong Net Neutraility provisions.

p.s.  Proud to say that one of my prior posts was used in coverage about a NY rally!  See, if a tree falls (blogger posts) it does make a noise!!

Podcast 5: Sloan Consortium Report on Online Education

This podcast reviews the scale of online higher education in the United States. As more colleges offer online courses and more students enroll in them, will perceptions change? Links mentioned in this podcast include:

How would you compare the quality of online courses to on campus courses?

My Podcast in iTunes!

The podcast feed generated by my Drupal audio_playlist module made it through the iTunes Music Store gauntlet. This is the link to my podcast (audio only) in iTunes. I was unsuccessful in submitting a feedburner feed and the main site feed generated by the site. While either feed will work just fine within the iTunes podcast aggregator (at Advanced / Subscribe to Podcast on the iTunes toolbar), they were not "accepted" as a podcast "submission" within the Music Store. It appears iTunes is much "fussier" about the feed when you submit it through the Music Store. Now, I just have to improve my podcasting skills! (Update: I just received a late e-mail response from iTunes that the main site feed was accepted - just delayed, I guess. This is the link to my podcast (all audio, video and .pdf content) in iTunes.)

Project Management: Consultants

In my IU Designing Instructional Systems course, we were asked to share some experiences that we have had with consultants. Working in large insurance companies for over 15 years, I have experience working with a lot of consultants - even some long term consultants who stayed around so long they blurred the lines between "consultant" and "employee". In the mid-90's, I was re-engineered into a totally different job when McKinsey came in and reshuffled the deck at a company that is now out of business (any correlation, do you suppose?) However, most of those stories bring back painful memories, so I'll just share my take-away from these experiences:

Resource: Learning about Learning - Technology - Design (L2TD)

I just opened an IU student listserv e-mail announcing the Learning about Learning - Technology - Design (L2TD) web site. I spent a few minutes checking it out and, while the the content isn't very deep at this point and the concept is not new, it may be an interesting site to follow based on the background and mandate of the site's development team (see below). The familiar concept - a community based portal to collect and share information about learning technology - is based on a now familiar platform - a wiki. While it appears that anyone can sign up to be a contributing community member, the community leaders approve each entry before any content goes "live". As noted below, the site was developed with the support of a National Science Foundation grant. Per the grant, "The project involves pre-college teachers and undergraduate and professional software developers in teams producing interactive software for K-12. In addition to primary goals of studying multidisciplinary collaborative teams and the impacts of the systems they develop on pre-college students, the project also looks at software re-use and collaborative tools needed for innovative applications of IT in education." The founding members are from SRI International and several major US universities, including representatives from Stanford, Penn State and Drexel. Per the site:

Podcast 3: Drupal as my Personal Learning Environment (PLE)

In this short podcast, I discuss drupal as my Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and compare / contrast the experience to being a distance graduate student utilizing a traditional Learning Management System (LMS). Here are links to the items I mentioned during the podcast:
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