My Browsing Experience

In my “Introduction to Computers” class this semester, I’ve described the “browser experience” more than a few times.  My own personal, customized browser experience has become a critical point of efficiency when it comes to my use of the web for learning, researching, and playing.  When I happen to use a machine other than my laptop and don’t have my personal browser configuration available, I feel like a fish out of water; I’m much much slower, and browsing becomes a hassle more than anything else. To what extent is your browser customized for your use? How different is browsing for you when not using your personal browser configuration? Does your personal browser configuration make your learning easier or more efficient? Out of curiosity, the add-ons I use in Firefox 3 are: Continue reading

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Google Shutting Down Lively

I’ve been absent in this space for several months; I’ve spent any available blogging time in my general educational technology blog: Edtechatouille. However, a few developments within my institution will likely bring me back to this space on a regular basis in the coming months – more on that later.

I did see an interesting announcement in the last several days I thought worth mentioning here. Google will be shutting Lively down at the end of the year: Continue reading

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Great Image Library for Educators? Or Not?

I noticed via a post at Lifehacker today that Google is hosting the entire LIFE magazine photography archive. As Google’s announcement indicates, this doesn’t include just published images; it includes any and all images which can be digitized; currently, they have about 20% of the 10 million image library scanned and online:

Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We’re digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos.

Whether browsing from the LIFE Photo Archive Hosted by Google start page or doing a search from Google by adding “source:LIFE” to the search, it’s an amazing resource and collection with only 20% currently available.  I’m not sure where else we might find images like this one. What baffles me about the announcement and the resource home page is that there’s absolutely zero mention of copyright or license or permissions to use the content.  Given that there’s nothing posted, the assumption is that the entire library is (C) All Rights Reserved, and of course, that doesn’t mean that the content can’t be used in the classroom.  But, I’m surprised that there’s not at least some explicit indication of the license of the images.  And, it’s discouraging that such a collectoin isn’t being made available via a more lenient and usable Creative Commons license: attribution-noncommercial-noderivative, perhaps? Maybe that’s an educator’s perspective, and just maybe, I’m asking and expecting too much.  Oh well.

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Resyndicating Podcasts in Your Class

More than a few (as in, I don’t want to say “many”) faculty are generating podcasts as part of their course content, but even within that group, how many use already available podcasts to supplement their own course materials?  In my experience, that number is relatively low even among faculty generally familiar with podcasts. Within my own class (Intro to Computers), I’ve identified several podcasts; in particular, The Real Deal by Tom Merritt and Rafe Needleman is an excellent supplement to my course content.  In the past, I’ve always made the link to a specific episode available within the context of my instructional module; I can’t confirm it, but I believe that link gets overlooked or ignored by students. So, my question is, “How can I/faculty better incorporate already existing podcasts into my/their course?” I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to survey my students to see how they use any MP3 player they may have and learn what podcasts they listen to if any; then I can begin to help them use podcasts and – here’s the key – better integrate podcasts into the way my course functions. The first way is to integrate required reading for learners via a Google Reader tag and/or a Diigo tag.  I already use a shared_cfclass tag in Google Reader to tag articles I want to discuss or highlight in class; that tag results in this resyndicated feed.  I’ve also used, although not as much recently, a Diigo/Delicious tag to highlight specific webpages for the same reason.  I use those as an optional resource for learners currently; I could make subscribing to those two feeds required to ensure learners are engaging the content on a regular basis.  With learners using one or both feeds (or perhaps I could combine both into one Yahoo Pipe feed), I could easily begin including specific podcast episodes in that feed.  An important aspect of that would be to tag the podcasts and articles on a schedule synchronized with the course content.  Basically, instead of providing links to learners in a course module that they’ll blitz through too quickly, have them reading an RSS feed through which a podcast and other content will be delivered.  I’m wondering if that wouldn’t give the content more immediacy and attract more learner attention. A second idea is apparently a bit more complex than I initially thought it would be or altogether not possible.  I’d like to be able to tag – using any social media tool – a podcast episode in a manner which the original enclosure would appear in a resyndicated feed.  If I tag a podcast episode using Google Reader or Diigo/Delicious, the text and description or made available in my resyndicated feed, but the original enclosure can not be accessed through my feed.  If a tool makes that possible, learners could simply subscribe to a resyndicated podcast feed I’ve created using their podcatching application.  I know the tools I’m currently using don’t enable that type of functionality, so I’m looking for a tool or possibility. For general interest, what’s on my iPod?  At the moment, it’s a collection of general news, technology, sports and educational technology podcasts.  There’s also music, but I generally don’t use the iPod for music – I prefer radio ;-) America Votes 2008 The Buzz Report CNN=Politics Daily Dilbert Animated Cartoons EdTech Weekly EDUCAUSE Podcasts ESPN Around the Horn ESPN Fantasy Focus Football NY Times Front Page NBC Nightly News The Real Deal TED Talks

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What’s a test when you have a pocket encylopedia?

Encyclopedia is “A complete copy of the Wikipedia encyclopedia on your iPhone/iPod.  This app is the fastest and simplest way to browse Wikipedia on your device, and crucially, doesn’t require any internet connectivity . . . When you first launch Wikipedia, you will be required to download a copy of the database which will occupy about 2GB of space on your device.” I noticed this via LifeHacker and tracked through a Google Code page and the home page for the application. As an educator, think about this for a second.  The entirety of Wikipedia on a mobile device no larger than a cell phone; that’s over 1 billion words in your pocket, literally.  That’s over 25 times as many words as the next largest English-language encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica.  What does that mean to me? My daughter lives in a world in which she thinks “Daddy knows everything.”  I’m not talking about the normal, narrow-world-view naivete of a child to whom it seems Mom or Dad knows everything; in reality, she’s never asked a question for which I didn’t or couldn’t provide an answer of some sort; even the less definitive answers to philosophical questions are still answers.  Most recently, it was, “Why do we carve pumpkins at Halloween?” I have explained to my daughter that I don’t know the answer to every question; I just have a real good idea of how to find the answer to most any question. As an educator, that perspective and ability is a wonderful thing. As an educator, that perspective and ability creates a significant problem. It’s an incredible prospect to be able to find the answer to most any objective question given an internet connection and better than average internet search skills.  But, what implications does that have for education, in it’s current, American incarnation?  It may have been nearly 20 years since I last sat in an American History class, and many of the facts I learned then have long since escaped the clutches of my memory.  However, if you were to put me in front of one of those same history tests along with a mobile device, could I not do fairly well on it?  especially if I had a mobile device?  In fact, why should I not have a mobile device available to me, as some Australian schools are now allowing?  In terms of authentic tasks (see previous post), is remembering specific dates, facts, or information something I’ll ever have to do again?  If I can use my iPod to help me answer almost every question on a test, what’s the value of the test?

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