Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thoughts on Readings - Week 3

Online Activities and Pursuits: Twitter and Status Updating

This report on Twitter usage and how usage relates to other online activities made perfect sense to me although I was surprised that it suggested that the majority of users were between 18 and 34. I'd recently heard that Twitter use was most popular among thirtysomethings. The article did note that 31 was the median age. One point that the article mentions which I believe needs further illumination is this: "Twitter's open development platform allows outside developers to build add-on applications to expand the service's functionality". The article falls short of saying, but I will say it here, that this is why Twitter has seen such accelerated growth. I do not think it would be so popular without all of the Twitter tools that have popped up. The other salient point mentioned is the Twitter is more than just answering the question "What are you doing?". One noted use - "the airing of complaints against companies" - is and will continue to have serious implications for companies. This is the Web 2.0 version of the Better Business Bureau and you can bet that peer credibility for poor service, products, etc.. will be valued on Twitter maybe even more than the BBB, especially among younger generations. While you can argue that some of the demographics in the study might not be wholly representative of the greater population of Twitter users, I think some of the conclusions made are worth mentioning:

  1. Wireless internet users are more likely to be users of Twitter than connected internet users.
  2. Social network users are more likely to be users of Twitter than those who don't.
  3. Bloggers are more likely to be Twitter users than non-Bloggers. Twitter users also consume more blog content and maintain their own blogs more frequently than non-Twitter users.
  4. Twitter users are more likely to use cell phones to connect to the Internet than non-Twitter users.
  5. Twitter users are more likely to consume print & video news stories on cell phones and smart phones than non-Twitter users (probably because Tweets are pointing them to these news links).
Friends, Until I Delete You

This article talks about the whole concept of "unfriending" someone. They mention the "Whopper Sacrifice" (for those of you who have not heard about this, Burger King was offering a free Whopper to anyone who dropped 10 friends). This seems pretty anti-social to me! Apparently, Burger King thinks too many people have superficial digital friends and they wanted to discourage this practice. Hmmm - I might have to eat at Wendy's from now on! The article goes on to say that not all unfriendings are equal and that many people are simply trying to create a more manageable list removing "that grad student you met a party two years ago ... or that kid from middle school you barely remember." Really? Maybe because I'm still in a "gathering mode" but
I thought that was part of the fun of Facebook; reconnecting with old friends even if you don't still see or talk to them. Let's not forget the networking component also - I read recently that generation Yers will have an instant network of anyone they ever met by the time they graduate from college. Wow! Why would you want to delete people from that network? Ok, maybe, every so often, there might be someone you delete for one reason or another, but shouldn't that be very infrequently? Which brings me to the best part of the article, a suggestion by Henry Blodget, a now career blogger. Facebook should have friendship levels! Yes, great idea! Then maybe I wouldn't need a separate Facebook account for work - I'd just label them "work friends". Of course it would only work if you could set privacy levels for each friendship level, post separate status updates, etc... I know Facebook has friend lists but that's not the same as friendship levels.

Being There

This article speaks about what makes a great Facebook update. Is it an update that's a request? Is it something that's not both enigmatic and boring? Is it how many replies it gets? Is it humor? What is it? I suspect the answer is: it's different for everyone. But, I do like this description: It's the only place in your life that you can say whatever comes to mind at any point in time. Updates are "spontaneous bursts of being!"

25 Random Tips for the Busy Facebook User

This is a spoof on "25 Random Things About Me". As a joke, it's actually pretty funny. If it wasn't so true.

Web 2.0 Explained

Some great links on the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and a discussion follows.

I really liked the way this video captured the essence of Web 2.0.

Two sites mentioned really stood out for me and I was wondering if any of you have experiencing using these and would please comment on your thoughts. They are Zoho - sounds sort of like a competitor to Google Docs with more features, and Jooce - described as taking your desktop with you but doesn't really take all your files with you - only those that you choose to make mobile.

A graphic representation of Web 2.0 - Does a good job of representing what the video explains but in a neat little picture.

Differences between Web 1.0 and 2.0 - Blog by Advergirl.
I liked the concept of the examples from Advergirl but I have to say that I think some explanations would have helped her case. I did quite see how some of her examples demonstrated the difference in Web 2.0 vs. Web 1.0. For example:

  1. Finding information to making connections. In this one, it's very clear. Switchboard is a lookup service, Linkedin/Facebook connects friends or other contacts and Prosper (pretty cool,BTW) connects unknown people together for mutual benefit.
  2. Directed behavior to finding by browsing. Not sure I get this one. How does the Barnes and Noble or HomeDepot site differ from Crate and Barrel?
  3. Answers to Connecting to Support. Again, how does RevolutionHealth differ from WebMD? I get that SisterWoman is supposed to be like getting advice from friends with specialities. Think Lifeline.
  4. Value Propositions to Simple Value. I would have liked to see some explanation for the examples chosen in this category.
  5. Reading to Writing. Wasn't sure I get this one at all. Hill and Knowlton seem like a consolidation site of different articles, but I'm still confused about what Squidoo is all about (even though I have a Lens) and how does FoodTV have anything to do with reading?
  6. Accessible to Personal. Again, not sure I see the connections between this category and the examples. Also, NewsGator seems like a brand, not raw and how is Firefox or Target personal?
  7. Expert voice to peer credibility. How is NY Times "peer credible"? It's certainly not in the same way that Yelp or Digg are.
  8. You to Me. I get that Kashi is trying to get user participation though I'm not sure MySpace fits as a good example for raw.
  9. Content to Multimedia. Like she starts, she ends with a good example. About is static content, YouTube is peer videos and Chow is the brand including videos on how to cook, etc...

Barring my critique of Advergirl, I do believe concepts such as "personal" and "peer credible" are representative of what we mean by Web 2.0. However, I think there may be better examples that the ones provided. I also think we have to include concepts such as "collaboration", "participation" and "sharing".

From the perspective of educators, Web 2.0 does expose completely new challenges for teaching and yet, I would argue, also opens up entirely new and exciting opportunities for teaching.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Online Presence - Part II

This is a continuation of My Online Presence - Part I. The main difference is that part I covered tools that I was already quite familiar with. Part II is going to highlight some new tools or categories that were introduced to me through my Digital Media class and my recent experiences with them.

Photo Sharing
Shutterfly - I've been sharing photos for a while and I started with Shutterfly because it didn't require viewers to login to access my albums (like some others out there!) but it's also very different from today's photo sharing sites.
Picasa - I've switched over to Picasa beacuse it's so easy to upload files, create public albums, and uses your Google email address as the login.
On Photo Sharing - You may have noticed that you can't find my albums on Shutterfly. That's because they are not public. You have to be sent a link to view them. It's kind of like the "unlisted" feature on Picasa. That's another thing I love about Picasa - you can choose to make albums public, unlisted or login required. Now, Flickr and Fotolog may be great, but just how many photo sites do I need? If someone wants to convince me why these are better, I'm all ears.

Video Sharing
YouTube - My main location for video uploads, although I sometimes just use Picasa for "home movies".
TeacherTube - I just signed up for this so no videos yet. I also couldn't figure out how to link to my space, so add me as a friend: robinmichele.
On Video Sharing - At first, I really wasn't sure why anyone would want to view my videos unless they were at the same event (a wedding clip, for example) but then I discovered many other uses: posting videos for classes, promoting my company, getting followers who are interested in the same topics as I am, etc... I look forward to seeing how TeacherTube can help expand my edtech network, especially using the TeacherTube toolbar. A tool that I like to use to help make some fancier videos or video segments is Animoto. I thought Odeo was another video sharing site but it seems like you can't upload, only browse & subscribe.

Text and Video Streaming
Qik - I created an account but you won't see anything there because my phone is not supported.
FlixWagon - I created an account but you won't see anything there because my phone is not supported.
CoverItLive - I found this on a blog I'm following and thought it looked cool, so I created an account although nothing is streaming live on it at the moment.
On Video Streaming - The first two are for video streaming via cell phone and while I think the concept is great for streaming live events, I can't see that I would ever just stream my life or whatever random thing I happened to be doing at any given point in the day. Again, for event, happenings, etc... it could make sense. I really wanted to use this at CommunityOne last week. Unfortunately, my phone was not supported by either of these two sites and I couldn't find one that does support PalmOS. I'm not holding my breathe either since PalmOS is being discontinued. :-( The last one is for text streaming of live events and while I can't think of an application for its use right now, I think it will come in handy in the future.

Video and Voice Blogging
Seesmic - I just created an account on Seesmic, so you won't find any posts yet.
Snapvine - I just created this voice blog widget but haven't posted anything yet.
VoiceThread - I've had an account for some months but really haven't done anything with it.
Utterli - Just created this account. I'm putting it here because it seems to be like a voice mini-blog. It probably could go under the mini-blog section in Part I also.
On Video & Voice Blogging - I have to admit, that I'm not sure what to do this. I guess I'll learn more about video blogging at the workshop I'm attending but for now I don't see the value. Why not just use YouTube or embed a video in your regular blog? It also sort of reminded me of other tools like VoiceThread and SnapVine, hence my links to them included in this category.

RSS Tools
Feedburner - I have an account and use feedburner to provide an RSS feed for this blog but really don't take advantage (or know the advantage) of many of its features.
Google Reader - My main reader for RSS feeds. For now.
On RSS Tools - To be honest, I haven't found one that I love. I use Google Reader primarily to capture all the feeds I want to follow but it requires too much effort to check often. I also use the Windows Vista gadget which is at least "in my face" when I log in. I also downloaded SplashNews for my Centro but haven't successfully imported custom feeds. I tried the evaluation version of QuickNews which was ok - I might have to buy it. Definitely open to suggestions on good feed readers! For some useful feeds on educational technology, check my blog roll and also go to EdTechTalk and subscribe to the shows that interest you.

Wiki's & Online Collaboration
Wikispaces - I'm a member of several wikispaces (collectiveintelligence, educon20, eduplan, and globalschool) and a creator of another (bogs4c). You can also see the working details of bogs4c.
Wikibooks - I contributed a chapter to a book on Wikibooks for a class on managing educational technology resources.
Google Docs - I've included this here because I've used Google docs to host group collaboration on a number of projects.
On Wiki's & Collaboration - I'm a big fan of these sites. We use Wiki's all over the place at work and it's an easy way to work together on projects. I enjoy collaborating with others to work towards common goals.

Bookmarking - A list of my favorite bookmarks. Very easy to search and browse.
Diigo - Similar to Same bookmark list, but I have found that posted bookmarks are easier with Diigo and it will copy them automatically to
Digg - Bookmarking of articles, videos, pics. I have an account but don't really use it.
Bibme - I listed this here because I use it as a personal bookmarking site for all my research.
Pocket Knowledge - My e-Portfolio for school.
On Bookmarking - When I first started using these, I'd think I'd like them too much being quite comfortable with my Firefox bookmarks, thank you very much. But, the biggest advantage for me is being able to bookmark and view regardless of where I am. I don't really use the friend features of these sites too much.

Second Life - For fun, I'm Risa Wade. For work, I'm RobinGoldfarb SunMicrosystems. Yes, we use Second Life at work for meetings, training, press conferences, etc... It's kind of fun but I think the potential for uses in education are even more interesting. Check out the open source equivalent of Second Life: Wonderland. Stay tuned for more on this at Pocket Knowledge. - I signed up for this because it sounded interesting. Send multiple updates at one time. Makes sense. However, I have 2 problems with it. 1) From what you know of me by now, I like to keep work, school and personal stuff separate. So, what I'd like to see from is a way to group accounts and send an update to that particular group. Of course that will only work if they fix this second one. 2) I want to be able to send an update to multiple accounts of the same type (all my Twitter accounts, all my Facebook accounts, etc...) but only lets you enter one of each type. If anyone knows of an update consolidator that lets you do these things, please let me know!
Lenovo Social - A good overview to Social Networking but doesn't let you join the community or anything. In fact, for a site about social networking, it's pretty anti-social.
Squidoo - So, I created a Lens called AllEdTech but I'm not sure what to do with it. I wasn't even sure what category this should fall under. It's sort of like a blog site, or maybe a bookmarking site, but focused on one particular topic. I'm going to have to play with this a bit more to figure it out.
On All The Rest - I'm sure there are a ton more things out there that I've missed but we'll just have to discover them together.

Twitter Tools for the Soul

Twitter is a great new networking tool but it can be extremely overwhelming when you first get started. How do you manage all these tweets? How do find people to follow? Who's following you? To help you manage your Twitter experience, here is a list of Twitter tools that I find most useful.

1. Tweet Management

Both Twhirl and TweetDeck have their advantages. I like Twhirl because it lets you monitor multiple twitter accounts at the same time but the interface is not nearly as good as TweetDeck which lets you view tweets, @replies, and direct messages in nice, organized dashboard. Try them for yourself and see what you like best.

The other way that I keep on time of tweets is through my cell phone. Because I'm a diehard PalmOS fan, a dying breed, I use MoTwit. Not nearly as good as good as TwitterBerry for the Blackberry but it's all I've got.

Still, these weren't sufficient for me because I found I was getting stressed about all the tweets I was "missing". I envision a Twitter wristwatch that has a continuous stream of tweets that I can peer down at when I ever I want, but since that doesn't exist, I settled for the next best thing. My big concern was missing tweets with relevant and interesting links so I created an RSS feed of all my Tweets containing URLs using Yahoo Pipes. I've made the code accessible so that anyone can use it. Click on Twitter_URLS, select "Clone" (if you are not already logged in to Yahoo you will be prompted to login) and change the username and password in the code to your own. It's easy. I promise!

2. Who's Following You?

Ah, that's the big question. You are posing all these tweets out to the twitosphere but just who is reading them? And do you want them to? Here are some nifty little tools to keep track of your followers.

Finding out details about who's following you:
If you want to check out the profile of a specific Twitter follower, try SocialWhois. For example, if you enter Robin611 (my Twitter id), you’ll see my self-defined Twitter description, what I’m interested in and where to find me online. SocialWhois is limited by the fact that information either comes from SocialWhois itself, Twitter or FriendFeed.

Another handy Twitter tool is TweetEffect. TweetEffect will let you know why people are choosing to follow you based on your latest tweets.

Finding the ones that you don't want to follow you:
There are many direct marketers and other less-than-savory folks out on twitter. To protect yourself from these unfriendly followers, try using TwerpScan. The caveat is that you need to login to run this. Twerpscan will provide a list of followers they recommend blocking.

My new favorite is TweetSum which gives you a list of people who are following you that you are not yet following (plus the ones you are) and gives you a rating that tells you how annoying they may or may not be. I don't put much faith in the ratings because some of the "more annoying" followers listed on my page actually provide some of the most useful information. However, I like the graphical view of new followers, their latest tweets, their profile info, etc...

Who's stopped following you?
The last one is Qwitter, as the name implies, lets you know when people stop following you and will tell you which was the last post you made that *might* have caused them to remove you from their list. You get email notifications periodically.

2. Who (or what) do you want to follow?

Before Hash tags were "invented", there were several sites that allowed you to search for followers based on common interests and some were better than others. With hash tags, there are even more. Here is a list with some of the ones I've used and comments about each.
  • TwitterRel would send you a list of people twittering about a particular keyword but I never had much success with this tool.
  • CityTweets is kind of fun to find people either twittering from or about your city.
  • JustTweetIt lists categories that other twitters self-proclaim to tweet about, although the categories are somewhat limited.
  • I like Twannabe because it automates the process of looking at who your followed are following.
  • Monitter provides real-time keyword searching for up to 3 at a time and you can associate it with a location.
  • Twitter itself hosts TwitterSearch to find specific topics. It's probably the easiest place to start.
  • One of my favorites is TweetGrid, which lets you enter a hash tag and see real-time tweets using that tag.
  • WeFollow is brand new and lets you browse popular hash tags or search for your own. You can (and should) add your twitter account to the list.
  • The one I've been using for the longest time is TweetScan. What I like about it is that you can add up to 5 search terms and get an email notification on a regular basis with a list of tweets that mention those keywords.
  • Hot off the presses: Get Twitter results in your Google searches. It's a hack that uses the Greasemonkey plugin for Firefox, but it's pretty slick.
Now what?

I think we can all agree that Twittering can help with professional development - it's easy to meet other teachers who are doing interesting things with technology, for example. Just search the keyword "edtech" or start following people that I'm following and you'll have a big network before you know it. But, how can we use Twitter as an educational tool? I can't say it better than this post by Steve Wheeler - Teaching with Twitter. Thanks, Steve!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thoughts on Readings - Week 2

Yes, I know I just posted Week 1 earlier today, but I'm a little bit behind and trying to catch up...

Here are the readings for today:

1. Thompson, Clive. "I’m so Totally Digitally Close to You". Also called "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy".
An interesting review of how Facebook, Twitter and more came to be and the social connectedness that the drive. I found it interesting that Facebook Newsfeed was added after the fact, and that so many students were concerned about privacy when it was introduced. Having to wait to join until after it was open to the public (not being a student at that time), I've always had the Newsfeed component active. It is afterall what makes Facebook so social. Thompson describes the Newsfeed as a sort of "ambient awareness" like sensing someone's mood just by being next to them. What's most relevant about this article, and I think will become more relevant as this post continues, is that Facebook can be seen as a "reaction of social isolation". It makes people feel closer to each other even though they may be quite far away. Similarly, Twitter streams allow you to have ongoing conversations with people who have similar interests and get to know each other on personal and/or subject-oriented levels. Thompson observes that these tools are less cognitively demanding than email because email invariably requires all of your attention and these "ambient updates" just pass by you. You are not expected to respond. That's true - I often miss days of tweets going by but am able to pick up right where I left off. Thompson also notes that it's hard to make plans and have a busy social life (because of all life's other committments) but it's "easy to tweet all the time, to post pictures of what I'm doing, to keep social relations up". Is it? I still find it hard to keep up on all my blog postings, tweet about everything I'd like to and update Facebook statuses often. It's still a time drain. It's just a different drain. In my mind, it's still worth it, it still enhances my social capital, but it's still a balance. Just for fun: Here's my overall Dunbar number: Facebook (182+60) + Twitter (95+11) = 348. What's yours? Count up all your friends on all your Facebook profiles and all the people you are following on Twitter.

2. Putnam, Robert. "An Interview with Robert Putnam". Also called "Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital"
I'm not sure where to get started on this one. While he redeems himself somewhat later on, I found myself doubting the accuracy of his figures way before I got to that point. Putnam's claim is that America's social capital has been on the decline for several decades and it needs to be fixed. First of all I want to mention that this was written in 1995, over 10 year ago. Next, I want to refute several points that he uses as proof.
a. Voter turnout is down - Remember this is 1995, before the fantastical election of 2000, before 9/11, before a presidential campaign brought out the youth vote on Facebook. He also mentions that young people don't care about voting, like generations before. I alway have and I think this has been forever changed because of social networking. He also mentions that political involvement is more common with middle-class parents, but in actuality I was more active when I when I was single (because I had more time) than now being married.
b. Citizens are not engaged - While I can't speak to all of the types of engagements he mentions, I'll comment on a few. PTA participation is down from 12M in 1964 to 5M in 1982. He doesn't address whether or not the amount of children in school has also gone down proportionally (think Baby Boomers now grown up) or about the fact that many students now have 2 working parents. The same applies for lower membership in Women's groups. Working women have less time for engagement with these organizations. He mentions this briefly later on, but it's too late.
c. Loosening of bonds within the family and neighbors - Again, this is not my experience. I'm extremely close to my family both nuclear and extended. And, the answer to "How often do you spend a social evening with a neighbor?" is actually quite often. Especially when I lived in city - I had neighbor friends in my building. And even now in the suburbs I've become friends with a group of neighbors who get together every few months. This point is an overgeneralization which affects his credibility.
The real kicker is this. He speaks about how technology disrupts many "opportunities for social-capital formation". He clearly did not have the forethought to envision the impact of the Social Network then. He alludes to the fact that "horizontal ties" can be more productive as far as social capital but can't see that technology will enable that rather than hinder it. Ok, maybe I'm being a bit hard on the guy given that that Web 1.0 was barely a blimp on the radar screen in 1995 but it calls into question the relevancy of this article in todays times. You might want to take a read at Howard Reingold's posting on Participative Pedagogy for an alternative outlook on this topic. I should probably stop but I feel the necessity to share with you that I can't help but laugh reading Putnam's statement on the "new 'virtual reality' helmets that we will soon don to be entertained in total isolation". I wonder how he feels about Imaginary Worlds like SecondLife or the numerous MMORPGs that exist today?

3. Perez, Sarah. "How to Reach Baby Boomers with Social Media
A quick little article that highlights how Social Media is growing and reaching all populations. The article itself is quite derogatory in tone and I'm not even a baby boomer. The comments make up for the simplistic thinking of the author. Comments that stood out include "People forget that it was boomers who invented the whole PC/Internet thing...", "It's not a matter of making the process simple. It's about making it civilized and informative", and "I am one of what you classify as 'older boomers', and I socialize on facebook, use twiter, am on friendfeed, have several squidoo lenses and websites on different subjects; have created my own videos; buy AND sell my goods on the net..." You go, Marilyn, you go girl!

And that concludes my thoughts on Week 2 readings...

Thoughts on Readings - Week 1

I thought Prensky's readings deserved a post of their own. This post will capture my feedback on the rest of the readings for my Digital Media in the Classroom course for Week 1.

Week 1

Lamb, Brian. "The Online Classroom is about to become a noisier place".
Slightly dated, but the gist is that audioblogging and podcasting will offer a new medium for educators to "transmit knowledge and foster communication". Agreed. This is already being done in a variety of ways. Teachers listen to podcasts like EdTechTalk to learn about new topics and strategies in the classroom. Students listen to podcasts that they subscribe to and download from iTunes. Teachers are encouraging students to record their own podcasts to build frameworks for creative writing, express interests in various topics and more. To hear some examples, watch my video on Social Networking in the Classroom.

Budin, Howard. “Self-Publishing on the Web and Democratic Education”, Chapter 16, Social Studies and the Press.
Unfortunately not available on the web for you to access, so I'll mention the highlights here. Basically Budin argues that the ability to self-publish on the Web offers a unique opportunity to teach students about democracy in another way; a way that goes beyond traditional lectures on government and citizenship. He speaks about Dewey's conception of a democratic education followed by a description of tools for self-publishing. These include things like blogs, discussion boards, cartoon creation sites, sites that solicit youth wriing, shared writing sites, wiki's and sites that allow for student work to be published. But why are students interested in self-publishing? The same reason I am and you probably are and many others are too.
a. Free expression (a highly democratic value) - "I can reach the world".
b. Self-discovery - Discover your own interests and learn to value your own point of view.
c. Anonymity - Express yourself honestly and forcefully, without being judged.
d. Blending of communication and expression - Provides instanteous feedback.
e. Participation - Ability to share and get involved.
I personally have experienced many of these since I've started self-publishing, especially free experience and self-discovery. Budin explains that educators will need to use these tools in certain ways to teach elements that are essential in a democratic education: communication, information gathering, decision making and diversity. What was most interesting to me were some of the ideas that Budin suggests for using these tools in the classroom. Obviously educating teachers on these tools is the first step. Beyond that he suggests enhancing in-classroom discussions with asynchronous online discussions outside the classroom, creating class blogs and websites and maintaining online personal journals, working on collaborative projects and goal-oriented real world involvement.

3 Rosen, Jay. “The Weblog: An Extremely Democratic Form in Journalism
This article, like Budin's chapter, discusses how self-publishing is a democratic form of journalism. Specifically focusing on blogs, Rosen illuminates how journalism has changed with the advent of personal blogging. Both formal journalistic reporting and blogging record history in the "struggle against forgetting". One of the advantages he highlights is that amateurs and random citizens can "speak in the same public space" as professional journalists, CEOs and celebrities. At least for now. My question is: Why for now? Will that change? If Obama could change long standing rules and keep his Blackberry, why would a simple thing like shared blog spaces change? Weblogs give anyone and everyone who wants it a voice to be heard thoughout the world. I believe it can, and should, stay that way.

4 “Personal blogging and eduation".
I wasn't too impressed by this reading. It basically describes what a blog is, how personal blogs are differentiated from others and briefly highlights that blogs will be useful in the educational realm.

5 Alan November, “Teaching Zach to Think”.
A scary but relevant account of the dangers of assuming that everything you find on the Internet is true. This was a great reading to help educators to help their students learn to critically assess the sources of information they find online. There are three evaluation methods that we, as educators, need to teach students to use when referencing online material.
a. Purpose - What is the goal of the website? Make sure students not only know the purpose, but also know that it may not be immediately obvious.
b. Author - Is the author an authoritative source? Make sure students check Google or other search engines to evaluate the background of the author. What are they qualified to speak on? Do they have biases that cloud their judgement?
c. Meta-Web Information - Is the site valid? Where does it fall in the context of other sites? Make sure the students know how to tell if a website is really a personal home page. Also, make sure they research what others sites link to it. They can do this by entering link:url into the search string at AltaVista.
Lastly, encourage students to look "beyond the Internet for sources of authentic information" include 1st person accounts where possible.

Stay tuned for more reviews over the next few weeks.

Digital Nagrant?

What is a Digital Nagrant?

I think by now we've all heard about the whole digital native, digital immigrant divide that Marc Prensky brought to light. Today, I'm going to review 2 of Prensky's writings and discuss why I believe there is no clear line that divides natives from immigrants. Rather, there is a big gray fuzzy area.

In Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Prensky identifies, correctly I believe, that students today "think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors". They are "'native speakers' of the digital language" leaving the rest of us immigrants to the new world. These immigrants, he defines as "those of us who were not born into the digital world but ... have become fascinated by and adopted [it]." Great. But at what age does this cut off happen? He never really defines it. Why? Because it's undefinable. It's different for everyone.

With that in mind, let's take a look at The Emerging Online Life of the Digital Native: What they do differently because of technology, and how they do it, where Prensky explains all the different ways of doing things as a native and why, even if we are doing them, we are still immigrants.

The difference in a nutshell - Snail mail to e-mail to synchronous forms of communication.
Tools - Email, Chat (IM, text messaging), Cell phones
The advantages - Expensive and slow to fast and "essentially free".
Key benefits - Stay in touch more easily with friends and family, keep in touch with online-only acquaintances, meet people who share your own interests
Me (Digital Native) - Prensky says that digital natives dubbed the term Snail Mail for post office usage. Well, I've been using that term since 1994 when I first started using email on a regular basis. I also used email (on a VAX) as early as 1990 to keep in touch with an old boyfriend who went to a different school. I've basically stopped writing letters of any kind and often text my friends just to say hi. I go through withdrawal if my cell phone battery dies or loses signal.

The difference in a nutshell - Secret diaries to online journals.
Tools - Blogging, Twitter, Webcams
The advantages - Interconnectedness
Key benefits - Know what's going on in your social group, better more effective networking
Me (Digital Native) - While I might not use a webcam to record my everyday life, I'm certainly not using it monitor anyone either. For me, it's a mechanism to record videos about specific topics. But, the real reason I'm a digital native here is that I maintain several blogs and I was addicted to twitter since day 1. I've also loved writing in a journal and now I can share my convictions, thoughts, questions with the world.

Buying and Selling
The difference in a nutshell - BestBest vs. eBay
Tools - Any online store or auction site
The advantages - Ease of use, reach, time savings, cost savings
Key benefits - Buy and sell anything you want
Me (Digital Native) - No, I'm not buying schoolwork online like some natives (teachers - keep an eye out for that!), I do lean more towards online purchasing than stores. First of all, it saves a tremendous amount of precious time and I can't usually find anything I want easier, and cheaper, than in a real store. I've also been known to sell my share of items on eBay.

The difference in a nutshell - Physical trading vs. Digital trading
Tools - Peer-to-peer (P2P) sites. Think Napster.
The advantages - Sharing
Key benefits - Trade digital items quickly. Items are often (not always) free of "ownership and cost".
Me (Both) - I was a big Napster fan back in the day, and still do a bit of "digital trading" now and then again, but it doesn't occupy my entire life. I'm split on this.

The difference in a nutshell - Creating and innovating easily
Tools - Web sites, Avatars, Mods
The advantages - The ability to express oneself using powerful tools
Key benefits - Freedom of expression
Me (Both) - I was teaching other people HTML before most even knew what it stood for. I've been creating websites for over 10 years in one form or another. I have Avatars on Second Life, Wii, etc... Modding? Machinima? I have no idea what these are. So, I have to go both on this one.

The difference in a nutshell - Face to Face vs. Online meeting and arranging
Tools - Chat rooms, Wikis, NetMeeting,
The advantages - Geographic location is not a limiting factor
Key benefits - Meet others with common interests easily and inexpensively
Me (Both) - Well, I don't spend hours in chatrooms meeting with perfect strangers and I do have tons of face-to-face meetings, conferences and the like for work. However, I'm a big fan of and a member of several of the Meetups. And, I've collaborated with others on quite a number of wikis.

The difference in a nutshell - Coins and stamps to Songs and videos
Tools - Peer-to-peer applications, iTunes
The advantages - free, easy access
Key benefits - exchanging music and other media is a way to express yourself
Me (Digital Immigrant) - I have an iPod and use iTunes to buy songs, but quite selectively. My collection is in the hundreds not the billions.

The difference in a nutshell - Impromptu coordination of group projects (largely in a gaming situation)
Tools - MMORPGs
The advantages - self-coordination
Key benefits - problem solving skills, involvement in helping others for the common good
Me (Digital Immigrant) - Sure, I coordinate various stakeholders at work and school to faciliate group projects, but not like this.

The difference in a nutshell - Trust based on research and gut feeling to Trust based on ratings and reputation
Tools - Rating systems, Online presence
The advantages - quantitative measurements for evaluating trust
Key benefits - the ability to enhance your own stature by doing the "right" things
Me (Both) - As an eBay user, I'm already quite familiar with ratings. The better your rating the more likely someone will buy from me, and quite honestly, the more likely I'll buy from you. As for reputation, I know that my blog postings and tweets are already working to create my online reputation. I've also Google'd myself and I know where my online presence is. The reason I'm listing this as both is because I don't have the same mentality of natives when it comes to rating others: they know that "their online compass depends on them and are often more eager to comply" by commenting on posts, giving feedback, etc... I don't do this as often as I should.

The difference in a nutshell - "Casual or mini-games" (like board games, word games, card games and old video games) to MMORPGs (Massive Multi-user Online Role Playing Games)
Tools - MMORPGS, Wii (interactively), Virtual Worlds
The advantages - deep complex experiences
Key benefits - simulations, working together, "intricate, adaptive experiences".
Me (Digital Immigrant) - Ok, I admit it, I still like board games. Sure, I was a DOOM addict and we had managed to play it networked with one or two other people, but that's nothing like this. And, I'm currently addicted to Wii but I don't play it with others across the Net.

The difference in a nutshell - Libraries vs. Google
Tools - Google, Wikipedia, Blogs, etc.
The advantages - Information is more accessible (though potentially inaccurate).
Key benefits - Learn what you want to learn about.
Me (Digital Native) - I actually had to use a Microfiche for a class last semester - I was appalled. I didn't even remember how to do it. Who goes to the library anymore? I do all my research online thanks to my school library collection online, Google scholar and more. Now, Prensky also says that the big differentiator is that Natives only learn and study what they are interested in and ignore the rest. As educators, we obviously want students to get a well-rounded education. But, for me personally, I do the same thing. Why would I spend my limited resources learning things I don't have an interest in.

The difference in a nutshell - Phone Calls & Letters for Research, Phone Books, Catalogs, Dictionaries vs. The Internet
Tools - Google, Wikipedia, Blogs, etc.
The advantages - Information is more accessible (though potentially inaccurate).
Key benefits - Everything is available online.
Me (Both) - There used to be a segment in Wired magazine called "Old Way or Net Way" which examined which way was faster for finding information. Invariably the Net usually won. I've become adept on finding everything I need online and it's where I think to go to first. I can't remember the last time I used a phone book. Should phone companies ask us if we want to get one or save the paper (planet!) for something else? But, Prensky also notes that Natives search for everything without filtering and don't have a feeling of "information overload" - I can't say the same thing.

The difference in a nutshell - Researchers vs. Group Problem Solvers
Tools - Distributed computing, Cloud computing
The advantages - Multi-tasking, shared resources
Key benefits - Contribute your skills to solve problems; be part of the network
Me (Digital Immigrant) - At Sun Microsystems, we have been using the same slogan for years: "The Network is the Computer". This takes it one step further: "The Network is the Cloud" or something like that. Natives are opening up their devices and computing resources for others to use and volunteering to help with analysis projects. I love the idea but I'm not doing it today.

The difference in a nutshell - Journalism to Self-publishing
Tools - Blogs, Websites, Wikis, Mobile Blogging, Video blogging, Facebook
The advantages - Sharing
Key benefits - Report on your own life
Me (Digital Native) - Case in point, this blog.

The difference in a nutshell - Hire Developers to Be your Own Developer
Tools - Personalization/customization features in devices, Flash, JavaFX, etc...
The advantages - Speed, Customization, Innovation
Key benefits - Don't wait for someone else to do it; Be creative
Me (Both) - I'm the first one to personalize my devices, add applications, and find creative tweaks, but I don't classify myself as a programmer. I've written code in C and Java, but a programmer that doesn't make me. I don't know Flash though I'd like to. I cross both sides on this one.


The difference in a nutshell - Face to Face contacts vs. Online Contacts
Tools - Facebook, MySpace, myYearBook,, jDate, LinkedIn
The advantages - Helps with time management, Helps widen horizons and broaden networks
Key benefits -
A more extensive way to meet, A faster way to catch up and stay in touch
Me (Digital Native) - Don't get me wrong, it's not like I don't go to parties and socialize in real life with friends and family. Of course I do and so do they. But, I'm just as immersed in the Facebook scene as they are. I dated using jDate, Match and eHarmony before they were popular and even did something called the Relationship Line which was like before the Internet.

The difference in a nutshell - Continuously creating new online behaviors
Tools - The Internet, Mobile Phones, what ever is next
The advantages - Technology moves fast so adapt to keep up
Key benefits - Invent new creative ways of doing the same old thing faster, better, cheaper

Me (Digital Immigrant) - I'm swimming like crazy just to keep my head afloat of all the new technologies and the rapid pace of technology change. I think they have it down better than us.

Growing Up
The difference in a nutshell - Offline vs. Online
Tools - The Internet, Mobile Phones
The advantages - One additional place to learn about the world
Key benefits - More choice, more information, more exploration

Me (Digital Immigrant) - Ok, so I can't say I grew up online since I was already in my 20's when I was introduced to the Internet and all it had to offer. But, I did grow up in a tech friendly environment which I why I believe that I'm more a Digital Nagrant than one or the other.

So, if you like are like me: a techie type born in the early 70's, or if you just don't fit cleanly down one column or the other (I have 12 on each side, with 6 overlapping categories), you may actually be a digital nagrant.

To conclude - why is this all relevant to ed tech?
1. Know who your students are. Are they Natives? Immigrants? Nagrants? Not all of today's students will claim they are natives based on these classifications.
2. Know how the Internet affects their lives.
3. Know how they learn best.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Online Presence - Part I

I knew that my online presence was fairly large but until I gathered this lengthy list of social sites for my Digital Media class, I don't think I realized just how visible I really am.

Here's where to find me and my view of these social media outlets.

Gadget Girl's Education 2.0 (Blogger) - Everything having to do with educational technology.
Rockin' Robin (customized Blogger) - My Sun Microsystems blog focusing on Web 2.0, cool stuff that Sun does and more.
Kinderguarded (Wordpress) - The blog and website for my current venture. Kinderguarded is an online safety consulting firm helping families and schools to keep kids safe in the digital world.
Lloyd's Land (Wordpress) - A blog I maintain for my Dad - hosting podcasts of his childhood. He only managed to record one before he passed away in Sept '08 but I promised I'd keep it going and add to it.
On Blogger vs. Wordpress - I really like the ease of use of Blogger and the ability to add lots of different widgets to the site quickly and easily. I chose Wordpress for Kinderguarded solely due to it flexibility in creating multiple pages for a more complete web site approach. Adding new posts in both is very easy, especially when compared to the customized Blogger used at Sun which requires knowledge of HTML to post anything pretty or useful. I also wanted to note that there are some educational specific blog tools that are worth investigating. Edublogger is a for-fee blogger site for teachers and students. Classblogmeister is a free alternative. I have not used either one personally but know of teachers who have and they love it.

Robin611 (Twitter) - My main twitter feed, especially focused on ed tech tools.
Kinderguarded (Twitter) - Twitter feed for online safety.
Web2Sun (Twitter) - A twitter feed I just introduced to discuss Web 2.0 at Sun Microsystems.
On Twitter, Twhirl and more - I'm addicted to twitter. I have been since day one. I immediately saw the usefulness, particularly from a professional development standpoint, having made connections with other Ed Tech professionals, teachers and more. I'm still trying to figure out where Twitter might be effective as an educational tool for students. Twitter tools that I use include Twhirl - a desktop application for twitter which really helps me manage the influx of tweets (at least when I'm at my laptop). I have Twitter updates sent to cell phone for robin611 - but unfortunately can't set it up for two twitter accounts to the same number. My twitter feeds are also widgets in 2 of my blogs. Lastly, I use MoTwit on my Palm Centro. It pales in comparison to TwitBerry but I hated the Blackberry and love my PalmOS. I also use TweetScan to find any tweets on educational technology, online safety or other interests. Lastly, because I was tired of missing so many potentially good tweets containing links I wrote a Yahoo Pipe (Twitter_URLs) to capture these links and send it to my Google Reader. Since I thought this might have some value to you, I've published the pipe for your use. You just have to login in to Yahoo, edit the pipe to include your username and password, and select your favorite reader.

Facebook & more
Robin Wilensky - Facebook for friends.
Robin Goldfarb Wilensky - Facebook for work.
On Facebook - Are you sensing a pattern here? I like to keep my online presence separated by life function. No offense, but my work colleagues don't need to know what I'm doing over the weekend or at night and my friends don't need to be bogged down by the trillion Sun annoucements and events that show up in the mini-feed. BTW, I'm also addicted to Facebook. I love reconnecting with old friends and distant family. I've also created a Page for Kinderguarded - become a fan! I also have a MySpace account and a myYearbook account but to be honest I only use these to understand how kids might be vulnerable online and explain to parents how to safeguard the accounts.

Ning - Make your own social networks
Kinderguarded Online Safety - No surprise here. This one I created.
Digital Dialog - Encouraging regular communication about safe, appropriate, and fun uses of digital technologies.
Classroom 2.0 - The community for educators using Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies!
College 2.0 - Online Learning and Web 2.0 in Higher Education, social network with blogs, forums and RSS feeds
Passionate Teachers - A special group of teachers, who consider teaching as a mission and not just a job. Add to it your drop of knowledge.
Sun Alumni - A social network that I was asked to create to facilitate networking among those who were formerly employed by Sun. Yes, I still work there.
Sun-ISIG - A customized Ning site for Sun and it's work with Immersive Education.
On Ning - I have to be a fan of Ning since it was founded by Marc Andreseen, founder of Netscape. It makes a lot of sense to me to form social networks around topics of interest. It's kind of like a virtual Meetup. I've listed the Ning communities that I'm a part of.

Since this post is already quite long, I'm going to end here and pick this up in Part II. But, before signing off you might be wondering why I've labeled this as an Online Safety topic. The reason is that if you are going to keep yourself safe, you'd better start with knowing where you are online. First step: Google yourself. And, women - don't forget to also google your maiden name... :-)

Who am I?

For the purpose of my loyal followers, I feel inclined to tell you that I will be writing a number of posts over the coming months on the topic of "Digital Media in the Classroom" for a course of the same name that I am taking. These will be tagged under the label: MSTU 5814. I opted to use my personal blog site for this course rather than creating a new one because other than this introduction I feel that most of the posts will be relevant to the topic of Education 2.0.

For the purpose of my fellow classmates, here is an introduction about myself, why I am taking this class, the experience I bring to the group and some insights on the potential for social and digital media in the classroom. I look forward to reading and commenting on your posts as well.

Introduction: I have been working for the last 15 years at numerous technology companies including Netscape Communications, and currently Sun Microsystems. Over the years I have been in technical support, technology architecture and sales support roles and my product specialties include infrastructure software, desktop & thin-client technologies and most recently Web 2.0 tools. I have a B.S. in Business Administration/Marketing from SUNY Albany, an MBA in Management Information Systems from Binghamton University and am currently working towards my M.A. in Educational Technology at Columbia University Teachers College. I got married in 2006 to my wonderful husband, Neil and we live in Plainview, NY. My hobbies include playing tennis, traveling, genealogy, cooking, reading & writing.

Why I'm taking this class: I have always had a passion for working with children but I never knew exactly how I wanted to implement this in my life. I recently decided to pursue this career shift to begin down the path of helping to integrate technology into the classroom and educational venues. I am very excited at the prospect that Web 2.0 technologies and digital media offer to the educational arena and look forward to exploring this with you further.

Experience: With regard to digital media in education, the experience that I bring comes from several opportunties that I've been working on with customers of Sun Microsystems. The first is a project called Wonderland which is an open source virtual world similar to Second Life. Wonderland is a great platform for distance learning and real-world simulations. I'm also involved in the Immersive Education initiative using Wonderland. The second project is a new way for companies to deliver training beyond traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS's) and is similar to YouTube in implementation. We call it the Sun Learning eXchange internally. Videos, presentations, and podcasts explaining how our technology works are available to employees, partners and customers worldwide. My other experience comes from my work with and understanding of children, having tutored students in reading and being a big sister in the NYC Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter for over 2 years.

Insights: Since the summer, I have researched and explored numerous ways that digital technologies and online socialability can benefit students. Besides the ability to engage students and teach to the ways that they learn, there are distinct cognitive advantages to utilize technologies that making learning personal and relevant. Students will learn and understand concepts and skills that will be critical for 21st century careers and life.