Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Newsworthy: Are bloggers journalists?

From Charles Cooper at CNET News comes some commentary regarding a ruling by California Appeals Court on the Apple vs. independent web publishers.

Here are some highlights:
The emergence of technology that allowed personal publishing on the Internet also triggered a tiring debate over who should be considered a journalist.

Apple claimed the public has no right to know a company's trade secrets. But the appellate court said any claim of legal protection for commercial secrets was trumped by the greater good served by the free and open disclosure of ideas and information.

"As recent history illustrates, business entities may adopt secret practices that threaten not only their own survival and the investments of their shareholders but the welfare of a whole industry, sector or community. Labeling such matters 'confidential' and 'proprietary' cannot drain them of compelling public interest," the court said.

Will this be the beginning of a new reality developing... bloggers and web creators considered journalists (at least in some ways)... what about bloggers as academic researchers?

How far will it go or should it go? How will our ideas on this change (or continue to change)?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Challenge to Educators

In the BG News Opinion article by Ryan Johnson, educators are prompted (no pun intended) to "drop memorization from tests."

"From the mouths of babes..."

This just shows the value of listening to students... especially those who are craving challenge to better prepare them for their future, rather than for our past.


Pop quiz. What's the capital of Bolivia?

While waiting for tardy clubs to show up to an orientation for Spring Fling last week, my roommate wondered aloud the same question.

He was sure I would know the answer. I spent a semester in Bolivia's neighbor, Chile, and my concentration in my international studies major is Latin America.

I didn't know it off the top of my head. Thirty years ago, I would have seemed unprepared and unknowledgeable. A fraud for saying I know about South America.

Instead, I took out my Blackberry, went on Google, and came back with the answer 20 seconds later. (It's a trick question. Bolivia has two capitals, La Paz and Sucre.)

It's a different world now. Memorization is a thing of the past. We have companies like Google, whose self-proclaimed mission is to "organize all of the world's information."

Our heads can't compete. Even the best geographer in the world is no match for the CIA World Factbook online. Wikipedia now has more than 1 million articles. Bloglines indexes over 1 billion blog entries.

No longer is it useful to be able to rattle off all 50 states in 30 seconds, except for maybe at parties. An 8-year-old who spends a week memorizing the Gettysburg address is probably less than 25 feet from the nearest computer when he recites it, if he doesn't already have a Sony PSP in his pocket. And I'd like to see ESPN's The Schwab, their trivia expert, compete against my mother - who knows little about sports - with the Elias Sports Bureau in front of her.

What does this mean for the professors who still think rote memorization is useful? The ones who make their tests so that students have to camp out in the library with flash cards?

It means they're wasting students' time. What they should be doing is focusing on what is going to be really important this century: Synthesizing and analyzing information. We're in an open-book world, and what's important now is how ideas and facts connect to each other.

This shouldn't be seen as letting students get away with not learning what they used to have to memorize. Instead, it means professors should list it, teach students how to find it and then move on.

Classes would actually get more advanced. "What's the capital of Bolivia?" would become "How has having two capitals influenced Bolivia's political development?"

This doesn't mean the end of all tests. Absolutely not. Tests will always be a staple of college life and an essential one at that. Tests let professors hold students accountable and serve the valuable purpose of distinguishing which students are best at the subject.

Instead, it means more open-book tests and take-home tests. Why not let students take tests with the Internet in front of them? When we get into the job market, how often will we have assignments when we can't use all available resources? When we produce reports, clients aren't going to care if they came from memory or from an online procedures manual.

Granted, this doesn't mean that everything should be done at home or with open books. One of my professors had everyone take a quiz before each class about the chapters we were supposed to read. Most of the questions were simply facts from the chapter, just to make sure that we read it. He would then use our knowledge about the chapter to have a more advanced class discussion.

Similarly, courses in subjects such as math and engineering may have some use for memorization. But why shouldn't an English class allow you to use writer's handbooks during in-class essays?

In 20 years, there will be much more on the Internet - including every book ever written, every speech that was written down and every newspaper article. We will also have advanced handheld computers more powerful than supercomputers today.

Shouldn't our education reflect that whenever we need information on anything, it's right there?

Professors, please try to make your tests reflect our reality.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Internet Filtering & Protecting Students/Children

"Filter a website and you protect a student for a day. Educate
students about online safety in a real world environment and you protect your child for a lifetime."

~Christopher Harris
His Blog

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

AudioBlogger Test Post

How cool is this -- no more typing needed (other than this part & the title)!

this is an audio post - click to play

Digital History Resources

Yet another website on U.S. history, but what a gold mine it is! Digital History is supported by the Department of History and the College of Education at the University of Houston as well as several other partners. The main selections include:

Online textbook (American History)
Primary Sources (documents) - searchable
Ethnic Voices
For Teachers (resources/lessons)
Active Learning
Interactive Timeline
Visual History
Virtual Exhibitions
Special Topics
History Reference Room

From their "Credits" page:

This Web site was designed and developed to support the teaching of American History in K-12 schools and colleges and is supported by the Department of History and the College of Education at the University of Houston.

The materials on this Web site include a U.S. history textbook; over 400 annotated documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection on deposit at the Pierpont Morgan Library, supplemented by primary sources on slavery, Mexican American, Asian American, and Native American history, and U.S. political, social, and legal history; succinct essays on the history of film, ethnicity, private life, and technology; multimedia exhibitions; and reference resources that include a database of annotated links, classroom handouts, chronologies, glossaries, an audio archive including speeches and book talks by historians, and a visual archive with hundreds of historical maps and images. The site's Ask the HyperHistorian feature allows users to pose questions to professional historians.

Our website offers a variety of ways for students and teachers to actually do history. We have created 72 inquiry-based interactive modules that we call eXplorations. These modules provide extensive primary sources on such topics as Mexican, Tejano, and Texian perspectives on the battle of the Alamo; Franklin D. Roosevelt's decision to relocate Japanese Americans during World War II and the Lyndon B. Johnson's decision to escalate American involvement in the Vietnam War in 1964 and 1965; and children's perspectives on slavery, westward migration, and World War II.

We also allow students and teachers to create multimedia American history exhibitions. These exhibitions can include historical images from our extensive database, which currently contains over 600 photographs, art works, and digitized letters. Users can easily incorporate their own text in their exhibitions. These presentations can be e-mailed, downloaded, or saved on our servers.

Digital History offers many other ways to engage students in the study of history, from fact checks (multiple choice quizzes on every era of American history), to 19th century high school entrance examinations, a time machine, an interactive timeline that links to primary source documents, and a flash overview of American history.

For teachers, we have created 24 learning modules, each of which includes a succinct historical overview; recommended documents, films, and historic images; and teaching resources including lesson plans,fact checks, and activities.

The site also contains resource guides for 44 historical eras and topics. Each includes a historical overview, links to the relevant Digital History textbook chapters, bibliographies, classroom handouts, charts, chronologies, film guides,
historic newspaper articles, primary source documents, lesson plans, historic maps, music, cartoons, quizzes, and images.

Library of Congress Webcast Resources

The Library of Congress Webcast Resources site
is a wonderful resource for educators at any level that would like to add video resources to enhance a lesson or as an extension activity for students in many areas, including:

Biography, History
Culture, Performing Arts
Poetry, Literature
Science, Technology

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

iTunesU - University Podcasting Examples

Stanford (First and most comprehensive)


Case Western (new & growing soon)

Radford (coming soon)

More to come in the fall... supposedly a LOT more!

It will be interesting to see how each university chooses to use and promote the use of their podcast portal site. As some of our other posts suggest, there are numerous uses of podcasting beyond a recorded lecture. It will be fun to watch the evolution of this process as it grows and teachers (many at student request) begin to value and use podcasts requiring higher levels of student engagement.

FREE (But Priceless) Tools for Teachers

As MasterCard(R) puts it so well, some things money just can't buy -- or shouldn't have to! When it comes to educational tools, we're just beginning to see companies, groups, organizations and individuals offer valuable resources at no financial cost. Call it open source, Web 2.0 or just plain old altruism, hopefully the "generosity" will continue bringing valuable tools to those that can put it to incredible educational use.

Here are some wonderful FREE tools for teachers to use in pursuit of educational excellence (NOTE: all are cross-platform... Mac/PC... unless otherwise stated):

Rubistar - Search for, create your own rubrics and save them online or download a copy
PBL Checklists - Problem Based Learning checklists that can be used for many types of projects, but especially suited for PBL
Zoomerang - One of many "free or fee" online survey creation and deployment tools; up to 100 responses and data stored for 10 days -- results can be copied/pasted into Word or Excel

Picassa (WinXP only) - Similar to Apple's iPhoto, it's a wonderful tool to sort, touch-up and manage digital images
Google Earth (now for both PC & Mac) - "Google Map on steroids"... Wonderful images from satellite pictures; often used on TV news stations
Cmap Tools - Concept Mapping - on your own computer or via vast shared Cmap network
Flickr - Create an image storage site or digital story on a given topic

Audacity - Sound recording and editing
PodOmatic - Online podcast creation or uploading and management/RSS
Vodcaster - For publishing/RSS audio and video podcasts

Please let us know if there are some we missed -- we'll continue to add to this post...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Wikis in Your Classroom

Wikis may sound like a silly term, but they can be quite helpful. Orignially named for the wiki-wiki busses in Hawaii (meaning quick), they offer a quick and versitile solution for collaborative works.

If you often have students work in groups to create a project or written product together, a wiki provides both a way to track progress and provide commentary (as needed) along the way.

PB Wiki is a site worth checking out if you'd like to try creating a wiki for your course. It's called PB Wiki to symbolize that it's as easy to create as a peanut-butter sandwich. (I know first hand since I've done both recently). Once created, you can take the tour of the capabilites and learn more about how to format entries (if needed) in the sandbox.