Monday, December 12, 2005

Illustrated guide to building a website

PingMag presents an easy-to-understand guide to the basic website development process - each step illustrated with photos of little plastic figurines.

The text description presents a nice overview of the process - from setting a scope of work to developing wireframes to debugging the final site - in client friendly terms.

(link via boingboing)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Yahoo gobbles up

From the blog:

We're proud to announce that has joined the Yahoo! family. Together we'll continue to improve how people discover, remember and share on the Internet, with a big emphasis on the power of community. We're excited to be working with the Yahoo! Search team - they definitely get social systems and their potential to change the web. (We're also excited to be joining our fraternal twin Flickr!)

Video complaint letter

The Allen family had a very bad cruise, and they want Carnival's CEO to know all about it. View video (wmv file)

Another NYU dropout

Page Six reports Mary-Kate Olsen's description of why she dropped out of NYU:

"Like, papers don't really make me happy."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Feedback - multimedia and otherwise...

When I first followed Abject Learning's post to an example of multimedia feedback (presumably a screencast of a journalism teacher's response to a student's article) I was immediately both impressed and horrified.

Why horrified? I'm still not sure... part of it has to do with the passivity of the experience - and the fact that there are no user controls. As M.C. Morgan commented, certainly makes the student a passive receiver of the message: there’s no room in a screencast for dialogue. You can’t even change the channel.

But I don't think that's the whole reason for my reaction, since there's not a heck of a lot of room for dialogue in a teacher's handwritten comments on the page, either.

As a teacher, targeted feedback is a huge issue for me. I spend a lot of time providing detailed feedback to students - particularly in my online classes - and it certainly would be easier to do some of it verbally rather than having to write it all out. But something about this screencast just doesn't sit right with me.

It's funny... I started off as a journalist - in fact, I wrote my very first article for a local newspaper while I was still in high school - and detailed, often harsh, feedback was definitely the norm. That first article I wrote in 9th grade was positively shredded by the editor, but that was nothing compared with the going-over my articles got by the three editors who reviewed my work when I was a staff writer at a newspaper.

I spent a lot of time in those days writing and rewriting the same damn article (on a typewriter, not a computer), desperately trying to get it approved by the afternoon deadline... a process presumably designed to make those who survive it into better, faster writers (and typists) - and to give them a pretty thick skin.

When I first joined the staff, I'd get to meet one-on-one with each editor, who would calmly explain what was wrong with nearly every sentence I'd written - much like the journalism teacher in the screencast. (After a while, all I'd get was the butchered article itself.) Busy nursing my own bruised ego, I never really thought about what it was like on the other side of the editor's desk... until I became a managing editor myself.

The first time I reduced a writer to tears with what I thought was gentle criticism, I gained a whole new respect for those editors - and for the very fine line they had to walk in tearing apart the article without tearing apart the writer. I also realized how much harder it is for writers to avoid feeling personally attacked when they have to *hear* the criticism rather than to read it.

Maybe this is what I'm responding to in this screencast. In some ways, it seems like the worst of both worlds.... There's a certain amount of distance in a written critique that seems to be lacking in this screencast - and the fact that the interaction doesn't allow the writer any kind of response makes it seem somewhat brutal to me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The dog ate my hard drive...

Ontrack Data Recovery has unveiled its annual Top Ten list of computer mishaps for 2005 - including a dog who used a memory stick as a chew toy and a 10-year-old laptop filled with cockroaches. In each case cited, Ontrack says it was able to recover the data.

(link via BBC News article)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Podcasting and online education

It's interesting, just as I posted my very first CastPost podcast this evening, Blogger began a 2-hour outage for site maintenance. Not only were many blogs (including mine) unavailable, for some reason, my mp3 file just wouldn't play at the CastPost site, though it plays fine on my own system and other files I've posted to the site play fine... after an hour or two of fiddling around with it, I was ready to give up and just uploaded the file to my server.

Just another reminder of how difficult and time consuming it can be to implement new technologies into an active class. Along with the sometimes significant benefits comes significant challenges - and for every technology that works like a dream there are plenty of little daily nightmares.

With each new technology that comes along, we all have to weigh the potential benefits against the amount of time we're willing to spend - and ask our students to spend - dealing with the initial learning curve, implementation problems, etc. I tend to be more respectful of my students' time than my own, so I generally spend a fair amount of time as a guinea pig with every new technology before I even consider making it a required part of my classes.

I've given a lot of thought to podcasting over the last year. It's a great technology with a lot of potential - especially for courses, like ESL or Speech - and one that seems a natural fit for my own online classes, since all participants already have headsets, microphones, and audio recording capabilities.

However, I'm not ready to use podcasting as anything other than an optional technology for my own classes... there's still too much of a learning curve for things like coverting file types and setting up media accounts, and I'm not quite sure which podcasting resources are likely to be around long enough to make the investment of time worthwhile. In addition, there's the problem of the amount of time needed to *listen* to a podcast... something that I think will be a barrier to my use of podcasting until it becomes much easier to tag media files so users can skim through them to points of interest. For now, this is a technology I strongly recommend to my participants who are teaching classes that are a natural fit with audio, but I don't see it becoming a standard part of my own classes for the immediate future.

However, I do thank jmaddrell for giving me a podcasting task in this class that reminds me of what it's like to be on the "student" side of the assignment... and a chance to really start playing around with vlogging in my own media blog!

TheaterBlogger Podcast

Podcast interview with husband and theater blogger George Hunka from Superfluities. Thanks to jmadrell for the link and directions for using CastPost!

Additional links to content in this podcast:

Note: If audio does not play in your browser, please use this Link

Poetry to your ears

The new Poetry Archive lets you listen to a collection of past and contemporary poets reading from their own work, all for free.

(link via Superfluities)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Reinventing the Wheel: Objective writing

Great resource from St. Edward's University... This task-oriented question construction wheel (also available as a polygon in PDF) is designed as an aid in writing performance-based objectives

In addition to the usual practice of breaking out the behaviors for each domain in Bloom's taxonomy, each "slice" of the wheel also lists activities that can be associated with the behaviors.

While the behaviors and activities aren't always easily matched in this diagram - and there's a bit of inconsistency in the way items are presented - it's certainly easier to see the relationships of verbs to tasks in this tool than in the usual format for this type of resource listing cognitive tasks and verbs.

(link via e e learning)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Edublog Awards

If you have a favorite blog to nominate for the Edublog awards, time is running out... nominations close on Dec. 4. Voting runs from Dec. 5-17, with the winners announced on the 18th.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Blogging and Personal Investment - continued

jmaddrell and aperez pick up the blogging and personal investment meme...

Student Blogging and the Law

With blog banning increasingly in the news, EFF's Bloggers' FAQ on Student Blogging addresses legal issues arising from student blogging. It focuses on blogging by high school (and middle school) students, but also contains information for college students.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Other places

Some recent posts of note:

Splindarella makes some excellent points about blogging for classroom purposes in response to a post at Cogdogblog about the amount of personal investment needed for blogging. I've also struggled with this issue over the past few years .... on the one hand, I believe it's important for online instructors to understand blogging and aggregating and to get a real sense of their potential uses both in the classroom and as professional tools - and on the other hand, I find that only a handful of participants each semester seem to really gain some personal investment in blogging.

Individual blogs, collaborative blogs, directed assignments, free-form assignments, steady blogging, occasional blogging... it doesn't really seem to make much of a difference which strategy we use, the results always seem to be about the same - some participants blog just to complete assignments, some refuse to blog even when assigned, and one or two really take to it. Maybe it's just the nature of blogging, maybe it's just my approaches... the search goes on....