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Sunday, July 31, 2005

evolving from blog to wiki

I was trying to avoid doing this as long as possible but complexity of the information in the EduFrag blog has reached a point where a blog does not suffice. So I created this wiki and started to populate it with background info for the project, tutorial links and a list of the latest version of each map, including an indication of which one is currently running on the EduFrag UT2004 server. I don't think the wiki is suitable for tracking map versions - the blog handles that very nicely.

The blog will still be used for the recording of "miscellaneous" information (i.e. not fitting in any of the wiki categories). This blog-wiki hybrid object seems to fit our present needs:

-blog for fluidity and historical record
-wiki for order and efficient briefing capability

I picked Wikispaces for the following features:

-fully online service (no downloading software)
-nice clean interface (similar to Blogger)
-simple RSS feed
-automatically has Creative Commons license for posters
-there are lots of examples that appear to support a community of contributors over time
-completely free (read the fine print of other "free" wiki services - there is usually a time or user number limitation)

I still think that a blog should be used until it is really obvious that it is not handling current needs. For example, at this point I do not intend on creating a wiki for my class. Compared to a blog a wiki means a lot more degrees of freedom:

-have to decide not just what to post but where
-other people's input can be modified or deleted
-spam posts much more likely

Lets see how this works out.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Adding a FeedCount using Feedburner

It looks like FeedBurner has added a FeedCount Chicklet that you can add on your blog to track subscriptions in a public way. It is under the "Publicize" option. I have added it to the bottom of my Drexel CoAS E-Learning podcast to see how it works.

For a tutorial of how to use FeedBurner to set up a podcast see here.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Peer Review and Supported Documents

My talk with Tim Siftar (librarian at Drexel's Hagerty Library) last week got me thinking that I missed the target a bit with my blog assignment for my CHEM 242 Organic Chemistry class. I wanted to make sure that they used "credible" references so I asked them to use CiteULike, which strongly encourages them to use journal references by having specific fields to fill in like Journal Name, Year, Volume, Page, Authors, etc.

Certainly there is a tremendous improvement in the references used by students over the last term. This is a step in the right direction. They need to learn how to spot a "peer reviewed" article. But I think a skill that is even more important is the ability to assign a probability of authenticity to a document found out of context.

In chemistry, that means that every statement expressed as a fact has a reference. Every conclusion is linked to experimental data. Opinions and speculations don't need a reference - the author is the reference.

With these criteria, I think that (if done with care) blog posts of scientific research are potentially easier to authenticate than a paper in a printed journal because every statement can be supported by a hyperlink that can be immediately verified. Every conclusion can be supported by online data. It will be interesting to see how close we can get to this with the two students working in my lab and blogging about it this summer.

When the supporting information is not immediately available, peer review may not work the way many assume it does. For example, here is an article generated by the random linking of buzzwords that got accepted for publication after being reviewed by three reviewers.

I am not saying that peer review is of no value. If you work in a field for some time you know which journals are most reliable. In that capacity peer-review probably works fairly well in letting through articles of a certain specification. But how do those reviewers authenticate the manuscripts they receive for publication in those journals? Those are the skills I want my students to learn.

One of the key distinctions I want my students to make is between an apparently authoritative reference and an authenticable one. For example here is a dot-gov medical site with plenty of information but absolutely no references. Or if these sites do have references they are often all lumped at the end making any single statement effectively untraceable.

Based on these considerations I have attempted to further clarify my class blog assignment.

Teaching with Technology in Utah

I will be presenting a talk about podcasting, screencasting, blogs and games at Teaching with Technology Idea Exchange at Utah Valley State College on August 11, 2005. The registration is free.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

meetings this week

There is an EduFrag meet Monday July 25 at 9:00. Email me if you wish to attend.

The Drexel RSS club will meet on Thursday July 28 at 13:00 in 4020 MacAlister.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

screencasts for admissions

Kevin Owens from our Chemistry department has started to explore the application of brief screencasts using Camtasia for explaining department policy on issues like admission procedures.

I think that this is an exercise worthy of trying out. The key question is dissemination. Of course they could be linked to the Chem website but additional approaches might involve submitting to My Screencast.com. I have listed a few of my screencasts there and regularly get click-throughs.

Another option is to deliver the audio only as a podcast feed....

Monday, July 18, 2005

convert email to RSS: why and how

1) It would be nice to consolidate information feeds from mailing lists to RSS feeds
2) Information search sites often supply email alerts for queries but not RSS yet
3) Convert comments on blogs posts to RSS so anyone can subscribe to the comments posted
update: it looks like Blogger does not accept an email address to blogger.com so this doesn't work (at least for Blogger accounts)

1) set up a Blogger account
2) under settings/email/mail-to-blogger create a new email address
3) send your email lists or email alerts to this new email address
4) subscribe to the atom feed automatically provided by Blogger for any blogs. For readers like Bloglines that are good at autodetecting feed sources just pasting the blog url is sufficient to add that feed
Here are some variations:
5) Create a Feedburner account that will convert the Blogger Atom feed into RSS and will provide stats of how many subscribers you have to your new feed
6) under settings/email/ in blogger put the same email you did for mail-to-blogger in "blog send address". This will basically post new comments back as new posts in the same blog. This is good because it prevents you to have to create a new Blogger account but you will have to monitor more closely what kind of posts are getting submitted and delete if necessary.

Sorry for the cryptic instructions - running out of time to post.... Contact me for clarification if needed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Educational Gaming Workshop Report

We had a very productive meeting yesterday for the EduFrag project with Allison, Quinn, Al and Yana participating. We now have a complete 10 question organic chemistry map that is running on our server over the LAN and we made good progress on a math and more advanced organic maps. So, Drexel students, if you are running Unreal Tournament 2004 check out our server and give us feedback.

This "workshop" meeting followed a planning/demo meeting last week, which was a combined RSS club/educational gaming session. I'll resume the normal RSS club meeting on Thursday July 14 at 11:00 in 4020 MacAlister. Please RSVP if you plan on attending.

There are no recordings of the past two educational gaming meetings mainly because it is difficult running Camtasia at the same time as UT. At least that is the case with the machines I have used so far.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

blogging nanotechnology labwork

I have 2 students working in my lab this summer on nanotechnology projects. We use a knowledge management system to handle experimental details within our lab and collaborators. However, it is difficult to make all of that information public. Also, only experimental details are stored in this database. I think that the most meaningful learning takes place by a conversation process. This is difficult when only "publishable" experimental data is used to convey information.

I have asked the students to blog about their experience this summer, which includes experimental results as well as reflections and thoughts about their work. These blogs can then serve as a part of their electronic portfolio. So far, they are off to a good start. Here are their blogs:


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Blogging in the classroom book

Over the past few months several faculty have asked me to recommend a book about blogging. This is another chicken-and-egg situation: the quickest way to learn about blogging and RSS is by using blogs and RSS feeds that provide simple how-to information.

So to bridge that knowledge gap, a book could be very useful. I would recommend David Warlick's Classroom Blogging. Dave is very knowledgeable in the area and explains clearly.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Development blog for educational gaming

This is a follow-up to my previous post on educational gaming.

Unreal Tournament developers and players are welcome to check out our EduFrag blog. At this time, Drexel students with organic chemistry knowledge are particularly encouraged to see if this might interest them. However, I would like to hear from anyone interested in this type of educational gaming.

Students currently taking CHEM 242 may choose to submit their term assignment in the form of a map instead of a blog. Talk to me for details.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

NECC report

Here are some thoughts on the NECC (National Educational Computation Conference) in Philly this week.

The presentation I enjoyed the most was Dave Warlick's session on podcasting. It had a very hands-on/how-to focus, which I like because I can learn something useful. He defined some terms at the start, clarified some misconceptions and demonstrated how to record a podcast. At the end he showed how to combine audio tracks with voice and music to create a powerful intro to the podcast. I generally get annoyed when I hear music at the start of a podcast because most people leave it on way too long. Dave's example was fine at about 10 seconds. The audience seemed to be very interested in the details of what to do next for their own projects so I think it was a very effective session.

I also saw a nice presentation of digital storytelling by Helen Barrett. This was the first time I experienced what a digital story can be really be. It just draws you in. These are basically collections of pictures with voice over but the way the pictures were constantly in motion was very absorbing. Lots to think about there for future use.

In the poster sessions I spent most of my time talking with people about blogs and games. I attended a few talks about games and simulations. Most of these involved simulations, storylines and virtual meeting places. I was looking for something more in line with leveraging the addictive potential of rapid play in first person shooters.

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