Thursday, January 27, 2005

Brittanica's credibility questioned

Remind me again why Encyclopedia Brittanica is so much more credible than wikipedia? Especially after a 12-year-old finds several errors in their 15th edition?

Read more:,,2-1456119,00.html

Teaching students something more ...

I really enjoyed this Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, reprinted today by ucomics:

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

List of blogging references

I must have missed this before (How did that happen), but I was glad to find today a list of references of blog-related publications. Here it is:

Thursday, January 20, 2005

But I have not yet begun to debate!

Do you ever feel that things in the blogosphere move too quickly to really digest? Maybe even if I had all day to mull over what I read in my morning jog around the Internet ...

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."...

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.

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.

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

Spam's good for something ...

A while back, CogDogBlog reported that you can take your favorite (?) piece of spam and make a shirt out of it!

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. ...

Usability guidelines never grow old

This post is especially directed towards my fellow classmates in Dr. Graham's HCI class. I recently saw an article by Jakob Nielsen where he sampled 60 usability guidelines from the 944 created for military designs in the 1970s and 1980s. He felt that 90 % of these guidelines were still valid. He concludes that:
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

Adding metadata to photos

D'Arcy tips us off to Keyword Assistant, a small plugin for iPhoto that makes it quick and easy to add keywords to photos. D'Arcy makes an observation that really hit me:

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


Now here's a good idea from Dave Gilbert through Will Richardson! Any bets on how long it will take this to happen? Based on how quickly podcasting is taking off, I'm betting not long:

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 (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

Why go to school?

From Will Richardson comes this thought:
What’s even more ironic (scary? sad?) iLinks 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

Can't we blog about something different?

Finally! Someone has said what needed to be said long ago. There is too much blogging ... about blogging! I love to blog, but the blog is not the answer to every educational dilemma, and I'd like to read more discussion about other educational technologies. But it seems all the really interesting educational bloggers talk about blogging, podcasting, rss, open learning, and the like. Blogging is still such a new (okay, it's not THAT new, but it feels that way) thing that the community still seems fairly small and self-centered. On Think Thunk today:
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

Blog use statistics

From Pew Internet and American Life Project and by way of Will Richardson comes these statistics:

  • 38% of people know what a blog is
  • 27% of people read blogs
  • 12% have posted to blogs
  • 7% of people own blogs
  • 5% of people use RSS

  • Even Microsoft uses Google

    For all the hoopla that Microsoft has put out lately in their battle to dethrone Google's search engine, Vistorville Intelligence (whoever they are) reported that in a study of how employees at different companies use the internet, 66% of Microsoft employees used Google as their search engine while only 20% use MSN Search.

    Who knows if this study is legitimate, but it's funny. I'd believe it -- go Google!

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    Does the Internet make us less social? reported last week that internet use has cut into our social time, more or less making us less social because we spend about three hours a day (is that all?) online. The researchers quoted in the article that
    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'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."
    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.

    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!

    "Everybody's doing it!"

    Here's a little positive peer pressure to encourage you to blog (although if you're reading this, you probably already blog anyway). The BBC reports that blog readership is up 58% this last year and six million Americans now use aggregators. I believe that most of the rest of America should be!

    The article also reports that most bloggers are,
    likely to be young, well-educated, net-savvy males with good incomes and college educations, the survey found.

    Which describes me very well, I must say ... all except the good income part! :-)