Class assignment: Write an original Wikipedia article

Martha Groom of the University of Washington Bothell, has had her students do major edits / create new articles on Wikipedia as part of an assignment.

For her students, the Wikipedia experiment was “transformative,” and students’ writing online proved better than the average undergrad research paper.

Knowing their work was headed for the Web, not just one harried professor’s eyes, helped students reach higher — as did the standards set by the volunteer “Wikipedians” who police entries for accuracy and neutral tone, Groom said.

The “neutral tone” did cause a few difficulties for some students, as in academia it’s expected that at some point one view point or another will be taken.

Most of the articles were well received, but Groom said some students caught heat from Wikipedia editors for doing exactly what college students are trained to do: write an argumentative, critical essay.

That does, however, give a really good learning point into different types of writing.

Via Vicki Davis’ feed.

Mind Mapping.

Web 2.0 mind mapping tools came up at a meeting today (following a discussion on Portableapps – including the fact that you can install Freemind to a USB stick – as long as it’s got JRE on).

Someone mentioned MindMeister, which I’ve used before. I knew I’d had a play with something else, though wasn’t sure what. Googling found not only what I was looking for, Mindomo, but another tool that looks very promising. Judging by the review I found by Steve Castledine – and the home page, I think that it’s worth investigating further, much as I don’t really “get” mindmapping.

Kayuda have a mindmapping tool that appears to be a front end to a wiki.  I’ve only had a small play so far, and it seems to like IE better than Firefox.

Should I start to twitter?

I can very much agree with the first part of Marshall Kilpatrick’s review of the World’s Most Popular Twitter Clients.I thought it sounded stupid.” He’s now changed his mind, and has reviewed a range of different twitter clients. I’ve yet to be convinced, as it’s just another thing to have to do. Perhaps part of the reason that it doesn’t appeal is that I see texting as a purely functional thing. I rarely text someone just to say “hi”. Twitter has the same limited character constraints. (And I cn’t txt spk)

I’ve now discovered that Educause have one of their 7 things you should know about Twitter; I’m  beginning to think that I should reconsider, and at least start to find out what it does, even if I don’t get converted.

Audio and Online Learning.

Cathy Moore has created a (partially) narrated presentation highlighting some of the points that Kulhmann has made in regard to the use of Audio enhanced presentations for online learners.

They both make valuable points; I know that I am definitely someone who reads ahead of the presenter. I think there are infact two things that we have to consider.

  1. Effective use of presentational tools when there is a face to face audience.
  2. Effective use of presentational tools when the audience is at a distance.

There are some overlaps – the points that both raise about the fact that most audience members read ahead, while the presenter is discussing particular points. So, Kulhmann’s example of the way cells work for mobile phones is good. That’s something that it’s quite hard to get over in text – an animation makes it much easier to understand. I know that I’m guilty of poor powerpoint usage. I often use the bullet points – and then expand on them. Finding relevant images / animations isn’t easy. There is also the thought that students want to have the notes [aka key points] of the lecture for reference/ to catch up etc. (Indeed, I have just requested a set of slides for a lecture that I missed). Should the Powerpoint slides really serve as a summary of the lecture, or should they be something else – to trigger the imagination – to get students to start to create ideas or whatever.

The point, however, that both raise about the fact that most people read faster than they can listen doesn’t apply in the same way in a face to face setting. You can’t fast forward the lecturer though you can, in most cases, press the “pause” button to request further clarification – something that isn’t as easy in an online (asynchronous) lecture.

Online students have slightly different needs. They can’t use the “pause” feature of a live lecture – but they also have (assuming it’s given to them) the option to fast forward. Both Moore and Kulhmann point out the difficulties of not allowing that option.

Equally, as several of their commenters have noted, there are accessibility requirements that mean that just audio with out the transcript isn’t appropriate (nor, for that matter, should text without audio be appropriate. Not everyone finds reading easy).

I’m not sure that I know what the answer is, I do know, however, that they have given some really good examples of using audio effectively, and it’s something that I need to really look at.

Via: Stephen Downes

Audio bits and bobs.

EveryZing – attempts to analyse the audio in online audio and video to enable searching (Technical details are outlined in SpeechTechMag). I’ve just tried searching “News” for “Peter Tobin” – who has cropped up a lot in the UK news in the past few days. I didn’t get any hits, though when I extended this to “All sources” I got several YouTube videos (including several from UK based news agencies). I guess that it’s predominantly the North American (US?) news channels that it searches. Blinkx gave me quite a few more hits.
I’ve been using Talkr for a while now, to create audio podcasts of my blog posting. From Scott’s blog, I discovered xFruits, which he’s using to create a pdf of his rss feed. I’ve just managed to do the same, though it took some time, as I wasn’t sure which RSS feed it wanted -and it seemed to be quite fussy (the atom one satisfied it) xFruits have a range of services, including an audio generating one. After quite a few false starts, I’ve managed to create one, and after a while I’ve discovered how I think that I can listen to it. As far as I can tell, I have to go to VocalFruits – and sign in. The voice is better than the talkr one, the drawback – probably related to the quality of the voice, is the fact that I can only have 100 free listens. I’ve used up a few already testing it. If I want to use it more, I have to pay €35 a month (for up to 1,000 listens). Guess I’ll stick with Talkr! (The .pdf creation would appear to be free).

Popular News – facebook.

I’ve been wandering around Facebook – trying to see what I can see on the two networks that I’m part of. I’m registered with Uni. Portsmouth (thanks to working here), and Durham – as an alumni. I’m not entirely sure how the Durham network works, as I’ve got one friend who is also there – he’s listed as Faculty (though he was actually a classmate when I was there – which is how he located me). I’ve just realised, though, the reason that I’ve not got him listed when I go to the Durham network, is that I’ve not made him a friend. He’d only sent me a message, I’d not actually made him a friend!

What struck me, though, looking at the list of popular news items on both sites, was the similarity in interests between Portsmouth and Durham students.

Blogging Parent Letter

Clay Burrell (his name is really quite hidden on the site – luckily his commenters knew who he was), has shared a letter he uses to send home with his students for blogging. They’re 17, so, in theory “mature”, but clearly still under 18. While it clearly isn’t appropriate in its current form, the sort of things the parents have to agree to (publishing of first names vs full names, publishing of photos etc), are the sort of things that probably anyone creating a blog should want to think about.

Journal of Computer Mediated Communication.

Vol 13 Issue 1 is just out. It includes several articles on Social Networking. There are several that have interesting looking titles, such as one looking at IM and disruption in the workplace, email flaming, what (if any) differences there are between users and non-users of Social Networking sites, aspects of privacy – and several others.

20 Ways To Aggregate Your Social Networking Profiles

Stan Schroder, on Mashable, looks at aggregation of Social Networks. He quotes Kottke discussing different social networks:

since all of them require different credentials to log in, they’re just adding to the noise

20 different tools are listed, most, though not all, are websites. Not that many seem to include Facebook in their set of supported Networks (though I am only basing this on the information Schroder supplies). I’ve used (an Elgg based tool) – which is one of those that doesn’t work with Facebook. Profilefly is a Facebook application (I think you can use the Website as well)- so that will bring in information – but I’m not sure how well it works getting information from Facebook.

I’m also not sure with any of these (other than if you have to have an account at all of the sites that they integrate, or if, in the same way that Meebo allows your AIM account to communicate with your friends MSN account, you only need to have one account, and just know your friends identities in other systems. does seem to do that, albeit only over a limited number of networks.

Via Stephen Downes