Monday, December 05, 2005
My former school, BYU, I guess is in the middle of some controversy because a physics professor is doing research claiming that the WTC towers fell because of controlled demolition and not from the planes. This is, of course, not a belief shared by many, and some are very upset about his allegations. But here's the part of it that irks me: The student newspaper reported that a BYU PR spokesperson said, "My advice to him, as I would tell any professor, was to not discuss a paper until it was published."
What!?! Why would you not discuss your work just because some random profs haven't yet blind-reviewed it? I would think you should encourage professors and scholars to talk about their research as often as they can, believing that exchanging ideas will help them refine and improve their papers for review. The process shouldn't be "wait, publish, then discuss" but "discuss while writing, discuss after writing, and more discussion after publication." Wouldn't that improve our ideas as well as circulate them more quickly around the world?
I know the PR spokesperson is trying to protect the university and its professors from half-baked research that hasn't passed peer-reviewed muster, but I think we shouldn't be afraid to stand by our ideas and discuss them--whether they've been peer reviewed yet or not. I want to be clear that I am not criticizing this spokesperson, because I've heard her speak before and she seems like a wonderful person. I'm sure she's following protocol, and it's the protocol I take issue with.
But that's just my opinion, and I haven't published it. Maybe I shouldn't be discussing this yet!
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Don't they get it? They're barking up the wrong tree! What we need is an invention to convert HUMAN fat into fuel. Then we wouldn't have to rely on foreign fuel imports at all! :-)
Saturday, November 19, 2005
So I did, miraculously, find some parking open near my building in between the tailgaters already set up for the game, but can I park on campus? No! I would need an athletic parking permit, priced at several hundred dollars, or pay a hefty fine. What if I wanted to just park there for a few hours? $20 for a single stall in the parking terrace.
But wait! Isn't this an institution of higher learning, not higher football playing? Isn't the point of these buildings existing so I can study and develop my intellect? Shouldn't a student trying to find a quiet cubicle to work take priority?
You would think so.
And Georgia officials wonder why their school does so poorly in academics and ranks high in partying. Is it any wonder?
(BTW, I am typing this post at home, where I will attempt to work with toddlers in the background. I love sports--and I love football--but I love education more, and it's sad to see which activity rules the roost at my new school.)
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Here are some thoughts I've had ...
- The impact of alternative degree-granting DL
institutions on change in higher education (and K-12
for that matter). It seems that whereas higher ed's
been resistance to change, the emergence of
competition from these alternative avenues for getting
a degree is forcing higher ed, to some degree, to
change. Maybe we could point this out, and talk about
how systemic change thinking is important in higher ed
because we can either thoughtfully design how we will
change or else change only as a necessary reaction to
the competition in order to stay marketable.
- It seems that DL is pushing change in many ways
besides just the fact that more courses are now
offered online. Because of the nature of DL learning,
it seems instruction is moving towards more
self-regulation,and project/problem-based activities,
etc. So DL can be a powerful tool for effectuating
change in teaching pedagogy and practice -- and do far
more than simply offering "anytime/anyplace learning"
which is what people think the main advantage of DL
- DL is changing the hierarchical structure of
instruction as well, flattening it out so that more
people have access to learning opportunities
regardless of their situation. This is especially true
in developing countries, I think, with many of the
initiatives to bring open learning there.
- There are many ways that DL is changing the
educational system besides just how people are taught.
For example, I have been reading an Educause report
about how the emergence of DL is forcing us to rethink
things like accreditation (how do you accreditate
completely online programs where you can't visit the
campus and "see it for yourself?), funding (should fed
government have different process for awarding
financial aid for DL courses?), and quality control
(what is "good" DL? How do we protect students from
I'm also wondering how to talk about systemic change and DL when DL is very unsystematic. Can it still contribute to systemic change in education?
wasting money on DL degrees that may not help them?
Thursday, November 10, 2005
"The MIT Musical Theatre Group will be staging a musical version of the Star Wars Trilogy (Eps. IV through VI). There will be tap-dancing stormtroopers, singing Ewoks, etc."
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
A year ago I thought Google was the answer to all of the world’s problems, today I’m changing my mind. I have two major frustrations with Google. The first is that they do not release any of their products for Mac users. I would pay to have a copy of Picasa for Mac if they would just port it over. Perhaps they think that because Mac users have iPhoto they don’t need Picasa (probably because they’ve never actually tried using iPhoto). Anyway, there is no similar excuse for not releasing Google Earth and Talk for Macintosh.
With Rich, I share more than the same first and middle names--I also share this growing annoyance with Google's product limitations! For a corporation that claims to value open/free access to products, information, etc. with its Google Print and other initiatives, why do they close the doors to a small, but significant share of the market when they don't port their products to Macintosh? Why shouldn't Picasa run on all platforms? Why would you claim Google Talk allows you to talk to anyone, "anywhere in the world" when it doesn't run on Mac? I know you can run Google Talk with the help of other clients, but that just seems silly--why not just use these other clients then?
And for goodness sake, why do you still need an invitation to sign up for Gmail? This closed-door approach is really annoying, and if Google's interfaces weren't so much more usable than any of their competitors, I'd be tempted to switch.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Who do we believe?
In my carpool, we're taking day by day. we're not leaving today, and whether we leave tomorrow may depend on tonight's nightly news. We definitely do not want to pull a Houston and get stuck on the freeway trying to escape.
I've been thinking the last couple of days about the irony of what my religion (LDS - Mormon) teaches us about emergency preparedness and the reality of the situation I am in. As Mormons, we're instructed to be ready to support ourselves and our families in any kind of emergency. We are encouraged to stockpile a year's supply of food in our homes, several weeks' worth of water, and well-equiped 72-hour kits for immediate evacuations.
I have my 72-hour kit. And some stockpiled food. And where is it? At home in Georgia. And where am I? In Orlando, in the path of the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, without anything more than a banana in my hotel room to preserve in case of food shortage.
That's ironic ... and probably foolish on my part. But my presentations aren't until Friday and Saturday, so I'm turn between whether to stay or leave! Plus, who knows how dangerous this situation will turn out to really be?
And then when I get home, I won't remember anything that was said, so I won't have anything to post about! Oye!
In reality, my biggest barrier this week might be that I'm giving too many presentations (3). Two of these are also collaborative efforts with student researchers from other universities that I don't see very often, so (you guessed it) it was hard to pull our presentation together until we were physically together this week.
There's something there to be learned about the realities of the difficulties in distance collaboration. I always think with all of the powerful CSCL tools we have available to use that distance collaboration will be a snap, and it's always more challenging than expected.
Anyway, so my posting will be spotty ... but I've hopefully learned my lesson and will take on less challenging tasks for next year!
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
But here's some more thought to add to the conversation.
I found it interesting this past week or two that there's been a heated debate on the EdTech listserv about this issue. This listserv is mostly read by K-12 teachers and technology coordinators, so there is a good mix of conservative and skeptical folks when it comes to new technology ideas, as well as the "jump on the technology bandwagon" folks. I won't go into what both parties argued in the debate because, really, it's the same argument that goes round and round on the internet about Wikipedia.
There were many in this debate who argued that whether you use or don't use Wikipedia as a resource, that you should definitely always be critical of all your sources and be sure you know where you get your information and if the source of the information is credible. In other words, we should be critical readers.
I definitely buy into that. I think the most important thing teachers can do nowadays is teach HOW to read, not WHAT to read, but that's another post for another dayl.
The funny thing about the debate on this listserv is that immediately after it finished, someone asked for a reference for the quote, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." Of course, about a dozen people offered that this was a quote by Thomas J. Watson, IBM founder, in 1943.
What was funny, however, is nobody cited where they got this citation. If they did, they usually cited websites on technology history or sites that are a collection of funny (but who knows if they really said it) technology quotes. The most credible citation was one fellow who cited Wikipedia! The next best credible citation was from a secondary source--a Microsoft Research presentation by Gordon Wood at ACM 1997. Even more ironic, Wikipedia, the supposedly "unreliable resource", was the only cited reference to raise the warning voice that "there is no evidence he (Watson) ever made it (this quote)."
I brought this to the attention of the listserv, by saying that we were being hypocritical proclaiming how important it is to be critical of our resources when everybody agreed Watson said this quote, even though nobody could prove it. How critical were we, really, then? How thoughtful about the credibility of what we were quoting and saying? Not very much.
My point is that we shouldn't criticize people for using Wikipedia, and other like sources, if we are not critical and careful readers ourselves in the sources we use to get our information. Also, I agree with many of the posts in the listserv that argued that it is not about Wikipedia OR Encyclopedia Britannica, but rather an argument of WHEN Wikipedia and WHEN Encyclopedia Britannica. Both have different purposes, different kinds of claims to credibility, and different educational uses. So use both.
And above all, teach the kids that what matters is HOW they read and think, not WHAT they read.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
That may have been true once, but not anymore.
Richard Miller on theBYU Mac User Group listserv I belong to recently posted three great sites for finding free Mac software:
NVue--a dreamweaver/frontpage competitor that is open-source and free. And it runs on a Mac. I'm downloading it right now and can't wait to try it out!
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
That is an unexplicable new luxury of having left the state!
Monday, October 03, 2005
Can't we all just get along? Or agree to disagree? :-)
Yahoo, Inc.: Get your own innovation and do something unique. You don't have to be Google to beat Google.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
1. On this blog, you can't have trackbacks naturally through blogger, so I installed a plugin through HaloScan to allow readers to trackback to me. However, I just realized today that it doesn't email me when people leave comments, like Blogger used to. I don't ever actually read my own blog, so I never know if I have comments unless they are emailed to me. (And all this time I thought nobody was commenting on this blog, when, in fact, there have been a few kind posts left and I haven't known about them).
So how do I get HaloScan to email me when people post? Or is there a better way to get trackbacks, and emails of postings, through Blogger?
2. The bigger issue is trying to get my edublogs blog going, because eventually I want to leave my blogger past behind and migrate to edublogs. I already have the domain at rickwest.edublogs.org, but I'm wanting this new site to be able to function as more than my blog, but also as my online portfolio for first year review here at UGA, etc. (that's the whole point for using WP instead of blogger: having more flexibility).
Everything was fine, but suddently the rich text editor no longer shows up when I log into my edublogs blog! I know html, but what's happening is all the stuff I've written are jumbled into one big mess within the editing window, so knowing html doesn't help. I need the rich text editor back!
Otherwise, I may have to abandon this edublogs experiment and stick with my blogger blog :-(
Anyone have any ideas to help out? (and I WILL read the comments to this post! :-)
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Woah. Did I just say that? Can there be such a thing as techno-addiction because apparently I've got it.
As I was thinking about this new interface design and the pain it will cause me and millions of users, I began wondering why Microsoft would do this. Despite competition, MS has a pretty solid consumer base, so they don't need to redesign the interface to stay profitable necessarily. So why tick off all your users by redesigning what everyone is comfortable with?
I don't get it.
And this led me to another thought: At what point is redesigning your interface warranted by the return on investment you'll receive? For example, MS must be expecting some benefit from redesigning their interface--will that benefit be enough to compensate for all the ticked off users who had to learn the new interface? At BYU, the library has become very well known for redoing their website's design nearly every year. Each iteration of the design is supposedly more usable and "better", but everyone on campus has such a poor opinion of the library's website, and in interviews I had a couple of professors explain that their productivity was impacted because of the annual learning curve of learning the website all over again.
So, at what point can you expect the benefit to outweigh the difficulty you'll create for your users? It seems that many times, even if the new interface WOULD be better (which is often a debatable assumption), it may be better for your users if you just left good enough alone and didn't mess with the design anymore.
That's my takeaway from all this--to be careful in my designs to limit the desire to innovate, change, and redesign so that, above all, it's usable and familiar to my users because it's intuitive and similar to what they've used before.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
I plan to check them out, when I have time. The problem, however, is they are only available in video stream format. Hey, Syllabus! Ever thought of a podcast? :-)
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Ryan O'Rourke writes "According to a study led by Dr. Sam A. Deadwyler and published by the Public Library of Science Biology, a new drug called CX717 developed by Cortex Pharmaceuticals has been shown to reverse the biological and behavioral effects of sleep deprivation. Tests performed on monkeys that were subjected to 30-36 hours of sleep deprivation revealed an average test performance accuracy drop to 63 percent, but that performance was restored to 84 percent after administering CX717. During normal alert conditions, performance accuracy of the animals was improved from an average of 75 percent to 90 percent after an injection of CX717.
What an awful drug! Who can't see where this will end? With humankind forcing itself to sleep less and work longer just to keep even with the other guy, and nobody being as happy. Even with the drug, I am sure sleeping less than we already do would be bad for our health and sanity. Eventually, a drug won't hold off mother nature, and we'll start falling to pieces.
Good night! I'm going to bed to sleep this bad dream off.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I'm crossing all fingers and toes that this idea becomes reality, and doesn't get stalled like the Google Print plan ...
Thursday, June 23, 2005
"I got a question today from a friend asking what the most "innovative teaching methods in higher education" were these days. I had to stop and think, and felt a bit frustrated that I had no quick response. Furthermore, as I asked fellow INSYSers, I got the impression that no-one had a good handle on an answer that didn't sound like we were treading water, and grabbing at straws."He then asks the following three questions for us to debate:
- What are the most "innovative teaching methods in higher education" these days?
- What are some innovative (effective) technology uses in higher education these days?
- What are some recent (you decide) significant developments/contributions of our field to teaching and learning?
"I don't think it's possible to answer that question in an easy way. Why? Because education is about people, not things, and as Josh says, we're really talking about systems or communities of people. Anytime you deal with people, you deal with too many variables. Answers don't fit neatly in little boxes. And that's actually okay. That's why research in our field is so important -- so we can find as many answers for as many possible variations as possible.
I mean, asking us what the "best ways to teach someone" are is like asking a sociologist the "best way people form relationships." Or asking a therapist the "best way to resolve disputes" or asking a child development professional the "best way to raise a child." These questions don't work, and they shouldn't be asked. We are not scientists looking for the one great truth, we are technologists (in the broad sense of the word) looking for ideas, tools, and solutions that may work, sometimes, with some people in some contexts."
Personally, this is why I think many people in our field struggle with defining what we should be doing and publishing about. We have too many people trying to be scientists, when really we are technologists (see an articles by Andy Gibbons in TechTrends and other places about this topic).
Anyway, a couple people in the discussion didn't like my answer. They want clean, simple answers to the questions. I don't think it's possible, but if you do, please go over to Joel's blog and add your ideas. I'll keep an ear tuned.
Well, it's ready! Got the email today.
I only had a minute to look over the site, and it seems to be fairly easy to navigate and use. However, it doesn't have quite the slick and easy feel of iPodder, which I love, but seems to crash on me all the time.
But I'm only talking about Odeo's listen and sync features. And to be fair, I did only spend a minute looking it over. But to my next thought: Odeo seems to be exactly what the internet needs to push podcasting further to the masses. It is planning to have easy, create-your-own podcast features. By easy, I mean upload-your-mp3-and-it's-done easy. That's how easy it should be, and that seems to be the vision Odeo has.
That's cool. REALLY cool. Once we get tools like that out there, we'll get more podcasts from more of the smart people in the world who are smart about things besides technology. People with brilliant things to publish, but not knowing how to set it up themselves. Think of it: What if podcasting was as easy as talking into your telephone or computer, and hitting "submit"? What would that do to the young podcasting trend?
I'm excited! Way to go, O-D-E-O!
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Here's a few tips from Sharon Housley about how to be an effective Blogger. Thanks to Mike Barbour, and a bunch of other people to tipping us off to this. Here are the tips in brief:
1.) Stay on topic.
2.) Stay informative.
3.) Old news is not news.
4.) Adhere to a schedule.
5.) Clarity and simplicity.
7.) Quantity matters.
9.) Spell checking and proof-reading.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Sunday, May 15, 2005
My guess is that this is a bad move. The Blue Screen of Death isn't nearly as alarming; that blue tone is almost peaceful. Red--well, do we really want people seeing red everytime their Windows crashes? The only people who'll be happy about this decision are the monitor manufacturers who'll get to replace those broken by aggravated Longhorners.
Here's a new idea that I can't find anyone mentioning. How about No Screen of Death? How about something that works for a change? If cars broke down as often as Windows did, there'd be outrage. Why are we content with higher failure rates for some technologies than we are for others?
Saturday, May 14, 2005
"My great deficiency as a weblogger is that I never write the posts I really want to write. If I feel genuinely engaged with a topic, I defer the actual writing of it endlessly -- mulling it over, adding elements, seeing linkages elsewhere"
That is exactly how I feel! The most exciting and (hopefully) important ideas that I have I do not write on my blog, but tuck away to blog about later. Or they turn into articles that seem too big to summarize for a blog post. So my blogging becomes more knee-jerk, thoughts of the moment instead of developed ideas that I DO have on occasion, whether this blog is evidence of that or not.
I'm glad to hear I'm not alone. I'm all for open sharing of ideas and using the new web technologies to spread ideas around quicker, so I'll try to do better.
Really, I'll try.
"Any statement of philosophy regarding instructional technology is tentative."
He is also commenting on the fact that the only constancy in our field is change. How exciting ... and how stressful at the same time! This is a field where it is constantly important to be up to date, involved in the recent conversation, and working towards new thoughts. There's no standing still, because technology development is not standing still.
Like I said, exciting ... and stressful at the same time!
A few statements from Don Ely that we voted on by raising our hands:
- Will the field be destined for extinction unless we take the opportunities afforded by new information technology?
- Is the field and the process of instructional design largely the same as it was before, despite new technologies? Or do the new technologies require new paradigm shifts?
The voting? Very evenly divided among the audience of professors and students in instructional design technology.
OK, maybe structured, organized conferences are useful too, but there is some benefit in an informal arrangement like PIDT. How many of us have been at other conferences and when the speaker didn't show, we just circled the chairs and talked about the topic at hand and left feeling that was the best session of the day?
The theme of PIDT this year, being the 20th anniversary of the conference, is looking back and looking forward in the field. The guests of honor are the legendary Don Ely and Tom Schwinn. I'm excited to hear them live!
I'm also excited to be here together with Sandie Waters from USU and Sanghoon Park from FSU. We're working together on a project doing case studies of students about their first year in an IT department. Even though we've been working together through email and the like, I have never actually met Sanghoon, so it was great to visit with him the last couple of days--I wish I had met him earlier, he is an outstanding person and scholar!
Anyway, sorry to disappoint, but I'm not going to blog this conference too much. We're here to socialize, discuss, and work on projects together, so I'm going to try and cut myself loose from the computer most of the weekend. Oh, yeah, and the wireless is unreliable in our lodge ... that may have something to do with it as well ... :-)
But for a fuller recap, go to http://scottadams.blogs.com/, or look for the Flickr tags about PIDT.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
I'd be interested in hearing any comments--what will be the interface design challenges of tomorrow?
My exam answer:
This is a very difficult question! It’s easier to know what needs to work or be designed to meet current needs with current available technologies. It’s much harder to think of what the future technologies will be, and what the future needs of users will be. Trying to predict this is usually futile—because technologies develop so quickly that it’s hard to anticipate what will be available! However, this is a great question to think about, and I’d love to hear what others in the class have to say. I guess I’m giving a disclaimer that I almost feel foolish trying to guess what the future designs will/should entail!
One thing that is interesting is that in the past, the biggest design challenge has been to provide more in less space. For example, how to provide more computing power, more speed, and more memory in smaller boxes. However, this really isn’t as big of an issue now, and will be even less so in the future. The cheapest laptops still have plenty of computing power for 95% of the users. Only the most demanding users need more computing power and memory. So I believe future designs will focus less on “this computer (or technology) is faster/more powerful/etc” and more on what unique things the technology can do. These are some of the issues that I think tomorrow’s designers will face:
1. Developing ways to handle large amounts of information
It’s becoming pretty obvious that the major dilemma of our decade is not having access to enough information, but being able to handle all of the information available. More and more we’re going to need technologies designed to help us find what we want and need instantly (and not without hoping that what we want is in the first 20 results of a possible million). We also need technologies that help us find things we don’t know we want, but would be glad to have if we knew about. Here I am not talking about commercial products—although businesses have jumped onto this idea more quickly than other services—I am talking about finding the article I didn’t know existed, but which would be just the thing I’m looking for, or being alerted to the weather in a town I plan to drive through next week.
The potential of the Semantic Internet, and of artificial intelligent computing, will allow for more customizable searching and handling of information. What we will need are interface designs that provide more information for users without providing too much. These designs need to be very intelligent, and intuitive so they fit users’ minds like a glove, so that everything is where they would expect it to be and they can find the right article, image, etc. more quickly.
2. Developing ways for people to have access to what they want/need at anytime/any place
The iPod and other mp3 devices are extremely popular right now. Why? Because you can have any of your 200 cds or 50 audiobooks available anytime, anywhere, with only one restriction—that you have the iPod with you and a way to listen to it. The biggest rush right now is to develop the best desktop/internet search engines. Why? So people can find what they need, when they need it. I think this will continue to be one of the biggest design challenges in the future because we are still hindered from the goal of “anything, anywhere, anytime.” For example, I have an iPod full of music, but when it’s at home and I’m at school, I have no access. I may have TIVO full of favorite movies … but only available at my home. I may also have every document I have ever created … but only on my hard drive.
We need less limitations in getting the media that we need or want! I think future designs will allow you to put earbuds in your ears (without cords) and through Bluetooth or wireless technology be able to access music from your iPod at home. Another example is to have one iPod stream wirelessly the entire database of music to little speaker/receivers in every room of the house. So I could be upstairs listening to Bach while my wife is downstairs listening to Rock—all from the same iPod. I’d like remote desktop type of technologies to become more powerful, but also more secure, so I can access any document on any of my computers (home, work, wife’s computer, etc.) from any other computer, palm, portable, etc. I’d like to be able to access the commercial software that I’ve paid to have installed on my home computer, but be able to access it from other computers (such as at school).
Soon we will need portable video to be as accessible as portable audio and photos. Perhaps a device that will store hours and hours of video, and then display through a small screen, or better yet, project onto flat surfaces or connect through wireless/Bluetooth technologies to small, paper-thin screens that can be kept in your wallet. You could then stick these screens on any wall, table, car seat—anywhere you wanted to view your video.
3. More secure access to private information
Security and privacy may be the most important design and technology issues of the future. Already we are at the point where the potential is available to do a lot of neat things that many do not do because of security issues. For example, there are many things I am reluctant to participate in online because I am concerned about the security of my private information. Making online interaction more secure and private will be THE most important issue in the near future, because I believe we can’t really progress much more until this issue is resolved. We need technologies and designs that can recognize who we are, and match us with our profiles. This may seem Star Trek-esque, but what I’m thinking about is being able to sit down at any computer, and having the computer somehow know who I am, so I can do anything online at that computer and have the interaction be secure.
4. Phones have got to be more usable!
The newest innovation I see is a phone that is actually easy to use for anything other than calling people. We have the technology to make phones be computers, complete with all our media, hard drives, anything you want! We can stick 40 gigabytes on something as small as a phone, so the potential is huge to make one device that does everything you need—including call people (I know we have palm pilots that can call people, but they’re not very popular). Why don’t we have this yet? Because phone number pads are the most unusable thing on the planet for anything except calling people. Someone’s going to get smart and design a really usable phone/mobile device that will become as popular as the iPod is now. Speaking of iPod, why not throw a scroll wheel on a phone—that would be a start!
I know I have talked a lot about technology design, more than interface design. It’s really hard sometimes to divide the two because all technology needs an interface for us to be able to use it, and all interface designs are useless unless they have the backend technology available. So they are in way the same thing. I have talked about the future of technology design because the technology needs to be there first, and then once we know what we can do, we can design interfaces so humans can use the technology.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
1) "because blogging is not an educational use of school computers."
2) "he found the prospect of students putting information on the Internet, potentially available to predators, was a serious concern."
Well, let's not throw out the technology when it's not the technology causing the problem! First, blogging CAN be an educational tool. ANYTHING (almost) can be an educational tool if used and applied the right way. Can cell phones be educational? Sure--if students use GPS-enabled phones to go on a virtual scavenger hunt. Can spoons be educational? Sure--if they are used in an object lesson of some sort. Almost anything can be educational--you just have to be creative!
I believe blogging is an especially powerful educational tool for encouraging reflection and discourse, both of which are well-researched principles of effective learning. You may not agree with me, but even if you don't, I maintain EVERYTHING can be an educational tool if used right. So if you don't think blogging is an educational tool--then dig a little deeper.
Point 2. Why ban blogging because kids put their info on the web? That's a problem with the students, not the tool! You might as well ban phones, email, a lot of things...
I always find it interesting that there is a backlash with new technologies--immediately accusing them of being bad because they are not understood.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Another "yay!" from Google!
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
SOOOOOOOOOO true. I just got back from SITE and have one more worthless bag and worthless propaganda to trash. They even gave me a water bottle. What is that supposed to be for? Who needs a water bottle? Who needs another bag? The only thing I needed in the bag was the conference proceedings CD. Now that's somewhat more useful.
AECT is the same way. I still have their bag (although I don't really need it). No more! Conference-goers revolt! Demand that they take our hundreds in admissions fee and give us something useful!
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Friday, March 04, 2005
Anyway, we were quite pleased to see about 50 people show up for our thing. I wish we'd had more time to talk and have some discussions and questions--it sounded like several people have had experiences that we could have learned from as well. I think it just goes to show that there is a lot of interest in trying to understand how to use these tools. I feel the research is only beginning here.
In an effort to model the tool that we were talking about (as well as get away from the PowerPoint thing), we used wikis to structure our presentation. We passed out the URL and password to those attending and encouraged them to add their ideas, student/teacher examples, and questions to the presentation wiki.
I'd love to see what other application ideas people have for these tools. If you have one, go to http://ipt.byu.edu/~wiki/515/Main/SITE05WikiBlog and use the password "BYUIPT515" (we use a password to dissuade spammers).
Anyone who knows me knows I love my Mac. So I was interested in a presentation about a college struggling with the decision about whether to buy/support macs or PCs. They had PC people and Mac people work together to evaluate the advantages of both platforms. Here's some of their findings:
Mac servers were more reliable. One person claimed to run with Mac servers for three or four years without ever rebooting because of problems.
59,940 Windows-based identified viruses
60 Macintosh viruses, based on OS 9 not OS 10
iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iPages, and a bunch of other free, easy-to-use programs that are ideal for schools and students on a budget.
PCs have more freeware and software available. (very true-but that is changing with more opensource Apple stuff coming out)
PCs computer of choice in some careers and some high schools
Support infrastructure was greater with PCs
The dean's decision was to use both Macintoshes and PCs. He wanted to terminate the Macs, but there was enough convincing evidence to still include them.
Good for him! :-) I'll agree that there is definitely advantages to both platforms, and personally feel students should be taught to be able to use both, in case they ever need to.
At AECT, it seems people rarely go to poster sessions, and consequently, people rarely stay by their posters because why should they if nobody comes? But at SITE, EVERYBODY goes to the poster session because it's a quick way to take in many ideas all at once.
I wish AECT would do this.
Last night I went with some friends to the Mesa LDS temple. That was a wonderful experience. What a beautiful building and temple grounds! Talk about aromatherapy--we walked around for a little while and just drank in the blossoming flowers and lemon trees. I actually quite like Phoenix and Mesa--more so than other large towns. If only it wasn't so awfully hot for half of the year.
Charles Graham from BYU posted on his blog about a presentation he went to yesterday on Internet safety. It's at http://ipt286.blogspot.com/2005/03/internet-safety.html#comments
One thing that AECT does do well that I wish was here at SITE (sorry to directly compare conferences, but these are the only two conferences I've attended for two years in a row), is how AECT members are open, friendly, and wanting to meet and talk to new people. At AECT I've never had trouble finding groups of people to go socialize with or with whom to go out to dinner. SITE participants don't seem to be quite that way, and if you don't come with a group, you might be spending some time alone. How (not) fun is that?
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Anyway, it was a roundtable reporting a project Charles and I worked on together last year that will be published in Educational Technology in a few months. Basically, we asked instructional designers on campus and department chairs for recommendations of the most "innovative" technology-using instructors on campus at BYU (admittedly, "inovative" is very subjective and means different things to different people, but what can you do ...). We interviewed about 40 of the most creative/succesfull of these teachers (based on their perceptions of success and our perceptions of creativity--again very subjective), and tried to identify some global patterns indicating how technology was impacting learning in this classrooms. This was exploratory research, and we wanted to just get an idea of what the "master" teachers were doing across campus.
We found many exciting and interesting applications of technology, and five overall patterns that seemed to span multiple colleges and departments:
1. Technology helped learners to visualize content
2. Technology facilitated learner/instructor and learner/learner interactions
3. Technology supported meaningful learner reflection
4. Technology involved learners in authentic, real-life learning activities
5. Technology improved the quality and quantity of learner practice
Anyway the upcoming article gives case study snippets and support for how teachers were using technology in these five ways. But I won't go into that now.
I felt the presentation went well--I counted about 25 people attending. A couple people were questioning at first about what our terminology meant, what our criteria for selecting cases were, and ideas for applying this research. Admittedly, those are issues with this project because of the focus of the project. Charles explained it well: This was exploratory research--so our methods were not clearly defined but more flexible and developed as we moved through the project. Basically we wanted to see what was happening, and get ideas for future projects. In fact we've delved a little deeper into a couple of the issues we identified and will address those in future articles that we're working on right now.
Now we've got to try and nail down what exactly we will be presenting on Saturday, but does anyone even stick around until Saturday?
Pamela Redmond, Univ. of San Francisco
I was interested in this session because as we have tried to help preservice teachers get the vision of how to integrate technology into their teaching, we have found that the use of models is very important. We have used both video case studies, and “live” modeling where the instructor roleplays an effective lesson with the preservice students. In fact, I’m presenting on this on Saturday.
This group is creating a website database of video case studies at http://www.teachinginterchange.org.
They asked: Should video cases show authentic classroom footage, exemplary footage, or what?
Comment: I think some of both is good, but they should be clearly marked. I think we’re all interested in best cases most of the time, but my interviews with preservice teachers concludes that many do not pay attention to video case studies or give them much credibility because they know they are best cases, and in their minds, not realistic. So it’d be useful to have some authentic classroom footage, to give credibility to the students that something positive—even if it’s not the best practice and has a few minor problems—CAN happen in a classroom. This would also help them see “what is really happening” so they can reflect on what they want to do differently.
“You can send students out to observe classes, but they don’t know what they are looking at—they don’t know how to deconstruct.”
I’ve found this is true. No matter how good the model, students often don’t know how to learn from the model. How do you teach these tacit skills? They are crucial to truly learning and becoming good teachers, but it’s hard to teach students to reflectively learn from video case studies and other models.
"Examining the teaching styles of online instructors: A proposed research study of online instructors at the university of Florida."
Quoted Marcel Proust
"The only real voyage of discovery ... consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes."
How do we help teachers to think differently about education online, so they realize that teaching online is not just using old methods with a new tool, but means actually changing your methods to match the new tool?
He is proposing using an instrument to track how teachers interact online, and how students perceive their teachers interacting online, and overlay Grasha's metaphors on these results:
Grasha's metaphors, or orientations: (think in terms of a continuum)
1. will the two sets of perceptions be aligned?
2. determine reliability/validity of results
Comment: Unusual that a research proposal was accepted, when not only is the study not completed, but it hasn't even begun! He hasn't even begun to collect data! But, I'm glad he was accepted and that I attended. He has some good ideas for how to research online teaching, and his presentation was engaging and well-prepared, and I'd like to work with him on a project like this.
This brings to mind the discussion going round about whether AECT should accept projects that aren't yet completed. I think we should--IF THEY ARE GOOD. We can learn as much from good ideas and research methods as we can from results because we all need to research and publish anyway.
The lady next to me in this session said this is a valuable website, that stores other instruments available for use.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
"The paradox for knowledge workers is this: the more time you spend in gaining knowledge, the less time you have to apply it. The reverse is also true. We must strike a proper balance between learning and doing. Most people have their nose to the grindstone. Very few spend enough time, energy and money in a quest to gain and process knowledge. But maybe the Web can change this. With the Web, each of us can make a list of all the experts in our field and track their every move and their every word."With over 100 feeds to my Bloglines account; gigabytes of books, podcasts, and talks on my iPod; and papers all over my house that I should be reading striking the balance between gaining knowledge and taking the time to reflectively apply it is tough. That's a needed skill in the information age that I still need to hone.
I wish I had been taught information literacy skills in school--remind me why embracing the digital age and emphasizing the skills needed for this new era isn't taught more in schools? :-)
Another clip from the article, basically saying we need to spend some time and money teaching employees (and I'd say students) how to use the information available for professional development:
"Why pay someone $50,000 a year and not spend 3 or 4 percent more to help them stay sharp?
Good point, Paul!
If you're lazy and don't want to subscribe and create your own list of favorites, you can borrow mine:
If you are aware of other podcasts or downloadable audio that is related to the field of instructional design, please let me know! One idea that I think would fly would be to create a site where departments could upload seminars conducted at their conference. We have weekly professional seminars in our department that are recorded and stored on our server. I'd love to have a repository for all of these recordings from other universities as well, if they have.
What a great resource that would be--to be able to listen to the presentations made by others in the field whom we can't afford to fly out to Provo to listen to them live. For that matter, why doesn't AECT record some of its conference presentations and post them on a members-only (if they want to go that route, if copyright is an issue) portion of the AECT site. That way we don't disenfranchise paying members who can't attend the conference but are interested in some of the presentations.
I would be the most loyal listener to that kind of material!
As is my custom, I'll be blogging my notes from the sessions I attend, or at least some of them. My formatting style will be to put my comments/reflections in italics. Whether anyone reads it or not, it's helpful for me to organize my thoughts.
The keynote today was:
Yong Zhao “The Social life of technology: an ecological analysis of technology diffusion in schools and its implications for teacher professional development”
Mr. Zhao asks:
- How much is spent on computer technology in schools?
- How many good uses for computer tech have been developed?
- How much are computers used in schools?
- How well are computers used?
OECD, 2004 report: investments have brought computer tech into nearly all schools in the world. But they are not used well.
Mr. Zhao talked about the difference between an innovation and an appliance, and the issue is largely one of transparency:
Little social capital
Innovations: Introducing something new
rich social capital
Appliance: A tool designed for a specific function
Mr. Zhao explained three stages of IT integration
2. Sociological “I want to replicate it in other situations”
3. Ecological “It’s part of the environment … We can’t study schools without noticing
computers. They are there.
He explained that Ecology comes from Greek “oikos”, meaning “household” combined with “logy” meaning “the study of”. I like the idea of studying the integration of technology as the study of a household, or what occurs naturally.
Classrooms as Ecosystems
- Computers are constantly evolving
- Consume resources
- The survival of a technology is how “fit” it is for a certain environment
Here’s an interesting quote from Mr. Zhao:
“Ask your students, and they will not be able to tell you very many different ways to use computers, to draw, to paint, (to type).”That is sad. Computing technologies are so powerful, and all we usually use them for is typing and drawing. That was so five years ago! J It reminds me of friends who want the biggest, baddest processors and souped-up machines so they can just surf the web. Can we find more powerful applications of these technologies?
Zhao's lessons learned from his study of the ecological practice of using technologies
- Give the idea some time to grow. Do not implement too many ideas at once
- Encourage play instead of teach – ideas evolve because teachers played and understood the technology
- Connect to existing practices/beliefs
Monday, February 28, 2005
I really do need to get my blog hosted somewhere where I can use Wordpress ... I just need to get around to doing it.
Virginia Governor Mark Warner:
""We can't keep explaining to our nation's parents or business leaders or college faculties why these kids can't do the work,"
""America's high schools are obsolete," Gates said. "By obsolete, I don't just mean that they're broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools _ even when they're working as designed _ cannot teach all our students what they need to know today."
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee:
""This is an issue that transcends all those typical things that cause people to split in different directions"
These quotes are from an AP story published by Yahoo! News. Schools aren't ready to prepare today's students for tomorrow's workplace. But the biggest problem is so few people realize this, so most are content with just trying to patch the current system. What I think is particularly funny is that everyone's answer for improving schools is to give them more money--where is the data that money equates better instruction? It's helpful to have money, of course, but this is a false assumption of causality. The reason this happens is because it's easier to simply tax and spend than actually think about what good instruction means, what the world is becoming and what our children need to learn, and then having the guts to suggest the kind of radical overhaul needed.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Recently there's been some buzz about Google's allocation of employee time, the "70/20/10" split as reported by EWeek. Basically, employees spend 70% of their time working on main projects, 20% of their time working on adjacent projects (like Froogle, Google News, and other beta projects), and 10% of their time working on personal pet projects that may or may not pan out, may or may not be useful, but that are sure fun to play around with.
How brilliant! At other businesses, spending time off-project working on things you like would be called "wasting your time" or "being distracted at work." But Google calls it "innovation." THAT'S why Google is the hottest company out there right now, and will stay that way for a while. As Paul Allen put it:
"Most companies operate from the top-down. Managers tell employees what to do. Executives make all the resource allocation decisions. But Google has embraced a philosophy which I think can revolutionize the business world--if other companies are smart enough to adopt it. While the most talented, creative, and entrepreneurial people leave companies like Microsoft in frustration in order to start their own enterprises, Google has created an environment where the most talented, creative, and entrepreneurial employees can play in their own sandbox, attract attention and support from top management, and have their pet projected funded within the company. I understand that Larry and Sergei keep a list of the top 100 pet projects in the company. Many of the existing services which Google offers (including Orkut and Google News) were developed by employees. I expect to see hundreds more innovating and exciting free services coming from Google in the coming years. I see more innovation here than from almost all the other top internet companies combined."
"Never mind the Apple versus PC debate: Until Apple unveiled this 5.1-pound machine, most "portable" computers were curiosities for technophiles with superior upper-body strength. But the PowerBook 100's greatest and most lasting innovation was to move the keyboard toward the screen, leaving natural wrist rests up front, as well as providing an obvious place for a trackball. It seems like the natural layout now, but that's because the entire industry aped Apple within months. The first PowerBooks captured an astounding 40 percent of the market, but more important, they turned notebook computers into mainstream products and ushered in the era of mobile computing that we're still living in today."
Seeing Apple on top made me smile.
Of course, like all lists, some gadgets turned up missing. Everyone has their favorites. Among mine on the DNA ("did not appear") list are: flashlights, cell phones, digital voice recorders, eyeglasses, and DVD players. I know I'm forgetting others--the hardest thing is to think explicitly about gadgets so transparent that we forget about them, but couldn't live without them if they were taken away.
Any favorites not on the list? I'd love to hear them!
Friday, February 18, 2005
Add Google maps to that now.
I've always been loyal to Mapquest, but I tried out Google maps for the first time today and I'm never going back. Here's why:
- If you type in the city a little wrong, Google searches for what you might have meant. I've gotten really annoyed lately that Mapquest will reject any search if you don't have it exactly right (S. for "South" and so on)
- zooming in on Mapquest maps takes way too long, so I usually don't do it. With Google's service, it's as easy as a scroll bar and immediately resizes the map without the wait!
- I thought this was slick: When I printed out my directions, the map printed on one page, and the directions printed on a second page. There was no extra stuff usually associated with printing from internet sites. Cool!
Can Google ever go wrong? Is it too late to put my retirement in Google stock :-)
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
" Flickr Graph is an application that explores the social relationships inside flickr.com. It makes use of the classic attraction-repulsion algorithm for graphs."
This is really quite wild. You click on any node, and it becomes the center of the graph with all relationships dynamically linked. I'm not sure exactly how I'd use this ... or when I'd find time to use it ... but this is cool.
Here's an image of the tool from cogdogblog, and try it out yourself at http://www.marumushi.com/apps/flickrgraph/flickrgraph.cfm?q=willrich
Monday, February 07, 2005
Thursday, February 03, 2005
And Mr. Gates and the administration hate it.
"So popular is the iPod, executives are increasingly sending out memos frowning on its use."
It's really not any surprise. What a cool gadget. Being the audiobook addict that I am, I'm loving my iPod. I don't have time to read, even though I enjoy a good book ... but I do have time to listen to something on my way to school or while exercising. MP3 players are only going to grow in popularity as the competition gets more intense, and prices drop.
The future in technology is to allow people instant access to any media or information on demand, as evidenced by iPods, TIVO, and rss. The iPod is one step in that direction, and eventually I hope to see devices, continuously connected to the Internet that allow instant access to anything audio, video, or text-based. Then you can personalize your own learning, listening, viewing, or reading WHAT you want, WHEN you want, and maximizing your free time for something useful instead of just listening to whatever's on the radio, or viewing whatever's on the TV.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
The low-cost computer will have a 14-inch color screen, AMD chips, and will run Linux software, Mr. Negroponte said during an interview Friday with Red Herring at the World Economic Forum in
. AMD is separately working on a cheap desktop computer for emerging markets. It will be sold to governments for wide distribution. Davos, Switzerland
Someday, we'll be able to go to Wal-mart and buy a decent computer for the price of yesterday's VCRs. What kind of implications will that have for education? I have taught preservice teachers for the past year and a half how to use educational technologies, and I was constantly amazed and frustrated with their constant pessimism. If I had a dollar for every time I heard or could see in their eyes, "Well, we won't have technology in the school where I will teach" -- then I'd be going to Vancouver in April to the ISPI conference. They struggled to understand that while they may not have sufficient technology tools when they first start teaching (although I don't agree with that necessarily either), but give it five years, and they will.
When computers cost $100, and we can give one to every student, how will education change? When you can pick up wireless internet in any building in the developed world, and can have instant access to anything you want to know, will we still pretend that as teachers we are the only way students will gain any piece of information? When will we realize that we need to get ready for a new age, a new time when we'll need to teach very differently than we have in the past. Information Age? I get the feeling that we have no idea just how easy, available, and ubiquitous information will be in a few short years.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
I often have felt like Calvin. I have a pretty good verbal memory, and it was easy for me to memorize words, especially, and numbers to regurgitate on tests. But did that mean I learned anything? No, not necessarily. Learning has to be more than known facts, dates, and principles. Right now I am working on some research with Drs. Allen and Graham here at BYU considering just what learning entails. We feel that students' learning needs to create a change in the students: a change in what they know, what they can do, but then something else as well. That something else is difficult to nail down. Is it a change in motivation? Feeling? Attitude? Character? Emotional Intelligence? What does it mean to truly become a __________ (fill in with words like "journalist" or "nurse" or whatever), and how can teachers/trainers help students to do this?
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Thursday, January 20, 2005
For example, I used to be a journalist for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Logan Herald Journal. I also love to blog. So I have some interest in the debate over blogs vs. traditional journalism. I read what Will Richardson, and others say, and know their debates that traditional journalism will slowly disappear or diminish as more people get news from first-hand accounts. I think they're right ... to some extent. But I still read my morning paper. There are things I want from a newspaper, and things I want from blogs. I'm still not sure what those "things" are--I'm still thinking about that. That's why I haven't posted my thoughts here on my blog yet on this topic. I have thoughts, but they are not developed enough to speak aloud yet.
But I guess I'm too late! Because now Jay Rosen declares the debate is over, before I could even join the debate. Here's a few snippets, by way of Will:
Bloggers vs. journalists is over. I don't think anyone will mourn its passing. ... In the final weeks of its run, we were getting bulletins from journalists like this one from John Schwartz of the New York Times, Dec. 28: "For vivid reporting from the enormous zone of tsunami disaster, it was hard to beat the blogs."...I think for me, the biggest issue is credibility. I know by saying this that any hard-core bloggers reading this will be upset. I agree that journalists are not always credible, and they are biased. But so are bloggers. But bloggers don't lose their job or get forced to retire if they get caught lying. So there does seem to be a credibility check with journalism. I agree that ultimately, we must become discerning readers, able to sift out the bogus from the true for ourselves. But it's a lot easier to do that if a good share of the bogus is already sifted out before we ingest it.
The question now isn't whether blogs can be journalism. They can be, sometimes. It isn't whether bloggers "are" journalists. They apparently are, sometimes. We have to ask different questions now because events have moved the story forward. By "events" I mean things on the surface we can see, like the tsunami story, and things underneath that we have yet to discern.
Can blogs and journalists co-exist? I think so, and I hope so. They provide credibility checks for each other. But I don't think I'll ever read a blog first for my news -- I'll read a news website for the first story, and then read the blogs to get the detail, description, and first-hand account, if I want it.
I think that's what I'll do. But the debate isn't over for me. I'm still thinking about how blogs and journalism can both be valuable for me personally ...
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
At least that junk is good for something ...
On the topic of spam, I have had much less trouble with spam in my gmail accounts than I do with my Yahoo accounts, although it's gotten a little worse lately. What is the experience of others? What email accounts handle spam the best? What tips do you have for limiting your intake of spam? For example, I've heard that making an incomprensible email address of letters and numbers makes it harder for spammers. Is that true? Emails like that are so hard to remember, however, that I've always tried simple email addresses.
I'd be interested in your comments. ...
The more permanent guidelines tend to be those that are the most abstracted from technology. ... Usability guidelines have proven highly durable, and most hold true over time. Present-day designers should not dismiss old findings because of their age.I'm reading Donald Norman's Design of Everyday Things right now and would tend to agree with Nielsen. While Norman's book is about doorknobs and phones, there are good principles that can be abstracted for computer interface design. I've summarized these principles from his book, for anyone who's interested, at http://ipt.byu.edu/~wiki/515/Main/RWNotes011105.
I found it odd when I spent more time tagging web pages that I might look at possibly once or twice in the future, than on the photos I take of my family that I hope will remain valuable forever.
Guilty as charged, D'Arcy. I also need to do better about adding metadata to the photos I want to be able to find for years to come. Maybe this tool will help.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Podilicious is an imagined social search engine and clips manager for the Podosphere. The design of Podilicious is based on successful social software such as del.icio.us (its namesake), Flickr, and Furl.
Cool, very cool. This would be helpful to me, at least, because I like listening to audiocasts, but I hate listening to worthless ones. But if someone I know or trust has a podlicious link, I can listen to those snippets, which are probably good ones. Sign me up!
Thursday, January 13, 2005
What’s even more ironic (scary? sad?) is that we have an educational system that still asks students to basically try to learn independently (they work collaboratively but seldom learn) and use that learning to impress a very limited audience of teachers. Meanwhile, what the real world expects are students that are able to truly learn through collaboration and share that learning with large, extended audiences for meaningful purposes.
He's right--we don't give kids a very good model in our school systems for how they will be expected to perform in "real life." So, why go to school in the first place?
I'm kidding. I really am. I know going to school is crucial for young students and that they learn many wonderful things in school that will prepare them for their futures. But I think a big challenge in education is that we get too comfortable with the way we do things, and we don't seriously consider whether we are even doing it the best way. And then when students "fail" on some test or another, instead of reconsidering our basic assumptions, we charge ahead with "more of the same" of whatever it is we are already doing.
"What, our kids are not scoring well on tests? Well then that must mean we need more testing!"I feel it would be a good idea for educators and administrators to take a more serious look at what they want the school experience to provide for students, and then maybe consider if there would be better approaches to doing it. I think we don't discuss these types of issues enough.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
I've also been in this field for over a decade, and social software is still a tiny fraction of what educational technology is. It represents an overwhelmingly disproportionate share of the word count on the blogs that define themselves as being of the field. Some of that's to be expected. ... I have to imagine that there are some other pros out there who'd like to use the medium to discuss the vast sweep of technologies, applications, resources, and models in the field of academic computing.Amen! And yes, I know that I blog a lot about blogging ... and this post is an example. But it's the new year, and I resolve to be more perceptive of other technologies that, like blogging, can also be useful for improving education.
I hope more bloggers will share this resolution!
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Who knows if this study is legitimate, but it's funny. I'd believe it -- go Google!
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
According to the study, an hour of time spent using the Internet reduces face-to-face contact with friends, co-workers and family by 23.5 minutes, lowers the amount of time spent watching television by 10 minutes and shortens sleep by 8.5 minutes.Well, if these statistics were true, then I'd be spending about four hours less time with my family than before the internet. I hope that's not true!
The report also found some good news
The survey found that use of the Internet has displaced television watching and a range of other activities. Internet users watch television for one hour and 42 minutes a day, compared with the national average of two hours,I can hear the anti-internet activists striking up their argument right now! Warning: internet use takes Daddies away from families and makes us all more disconnected from each other. I had this debate with some of my students this past semester as well. One student, who was always thoughtful in his blog posts said on his blog that
We are in an age where communication is easier than it has ever been. We can follow the news in myriad mediums. We can send and recieve emails rather than wait for days or months to receive snail mail. But it seems to me that technology leads to a downgrade in communication rather than an upgrade. We spend time every week sitting at a computer communicating in writing precisely so we don't have to sit down in person with people who walk around all day on our same campus.These are legitimate concerns. Too much of any media can make a zombie of you to some degree and disconnected from reality. However, I don't buy into the argument that using the internet discourages social contact. Rather, I believe it ENCOURAGES social contact! I know much more about my friends and family because of email and instant messenger than I would otherwise because I am a horrible letter writer and phone caller. I still prefer visiting face to face, but when that's not possible, then communicating online is phenomenal!
I responded to this student by saying:
Some people argue that technology increases collaboration and interaction, some argue it doesn't. I think a key is, does the computer-supported collaboration replace face-to-face interaction? If so, then it might not be a good choice. However, does it add interaction that wouldn't be there otherwise? For example, if the choice was no interaction because we don't have time (or whatever our excuse is), or interaction through the Internet, which is better?Another example: I spent two years serving as a religious missionary in Ecuador. I developed many fierce friendships with many Ecuatorians. However, it's been difficult to stay in contact with them because they usually do not have phones, or even mailing addresses. Recently, though, a few of them (mostly the younger ones, attending a trade school of some kind) have started using email. In this way, the Internet is increasing my social contact with dear friends I would not have been able to stay in contact with otherwise.
Another example, I'm interacting with teachers from Australia and England right now on a project. They met me through my blog, and we are collaborating by working together on a wiki, discussion board, and through email to accomplish a project. I'd never talk to these people for real, so being able to communicate through the Internet is helpful. But I agree that emailing my wife or close friends here at BYU is less effective than actually talking to them."
I seem to be often fielding questions from people who seem so anti-technology ... as if the increase in technology was going to destroy the world. I believe we should understand the danger in any technology and medium, but seek to find ways to use this technology to improve our lives in a positive way. I read today that internet gaming can help immerse students in foreign language learning and this is another example of what I mean. Too much gaming can hurt you, but the technology, used in the right contexts, can be very postive.
That's enough of my soapbox for today! Sorry for the long post!