Thursday, June 23, 2005

What has the field of Instructional Design added to education?

Joel Galbraith at Penn State started a blog, it appears, to ask and debate one post (hopefully he'll continue blogging afterwards! :-). It's a good discussion. Joel gives this background to the discussion:
"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:
  1. What are the most "innovative teaching methods in higher education" these days?
  2. What are some innovative (effective) technology uses in higher education these days?
  3. What are some recent (you decide) significant developments/contributions of our field to teaching and learning?
I have a hard time with questions like this, and I get asked these all the time just like everyone else in our field. What I usually say is something along the lines of,

"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.

Odeo: Upcoming new podcast tool

I heard about Odeo a while back -- a work in project designed to make podcasting easy and free for everybody, much like blogging is. I signed up on their list to be notified about the project when the beta was ready.

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

Tips for effective blogging

Sometimes people ask me, "how do I become a better blogger or increase my readership?" My first answer is, "Why are you asking me? Have you looked at my blog lately? :-)"

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.

6.) Keyword-rich.

7.) Quantity matters.

8.) Frequency.

9.) Spell checking and proof-reading.

10.) RSS.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

My, how things change

Well, I know things changed quickly on the internet, but ...

I saw this today:
"thought I'd give the old podcasting a whirl"

Old? OLD?

Man, maybe I'm getting old. I'm losing my memory or something. I thought podcasting was up and coming!