Friday, July 30, 2010

CEDO35 Week Three - RSS Feeds and Education

RSS Icon
Our third week of Facilitating Collaboration Using Web 2.0 has us exploring how RSS  can be useful for gleaning information that we want to see.   Prior to RSS Feeds one had to go to blog and news sites to see if anything new had come along.  RSS feeds turn the flow around and new information comes to the user via an aggregator.  Just about every Web-site has the RSS symbol and with several clicks of a mouse you can start subscribing to new content from that site.

My first RSS feed was easy to deploy right into my blog.  Just look in the upper right corner and you will see the RSS feed coming over from my Posterous Photo Blog Site.   In my work with the Hoofer's Sailing Club I added RSS feeds to the Wiki just by copying and pasting the RSS URL from popular sailing and windsurfing sites. Instructors now see the latest Volvo Racing results populate into the Wiki along with other sailing news.

Real-time news updates are great for a site, but what about other information?  This week I have been subscribing to educational blogs and e-learning sites and I can read them at my leisure.  I use Google Reader for my aggregator and I just open it up and it provides a list of anything new that has been published from my subscribed sites.  I skim through the items and delve into them if I like or dismiss them as being read.  I enjoy this functionality as it is like reading a magazine with only the content I care to see.  A big plus is that I don't have to go to each site and wade through all the ads and surveys - allowing me to focus on the information.

Although I have been using Posterous for my Photo Blog, I created a Flickr account and uploaded some of my favorite photographs.  Unlike Posterous,  I now share my photos with a community of users who are free to view and comment on my pictures.  Plus, I added tags and descriptions to make it easier for others to find pictures. If you would like to take a look at my Flickr site click here.

There are a few of my photos that took a lot of work to get just right. I want to share my work with others but also receive credit.  I created a Creative Commons License which I will apply to a few of the pictures requiring attribution.  Hey, I would be happy if someone decides to use my images - but I do want to maintain control over what people can do with them.  I have a few nice close-ups of Bumblebees but I really don't want them used in an advertisement for, say, something like 'Bee-B-Gone' toxic bug spray.  It just wouldn't feel right - so I limit my work to non-commercial use and keep my humble Bumblebee pics safe from such a fate.

Friday, July 23, 2010

CEDO35 - Week Two - Sailing Education and Wikis

What an interesting week as we explore and begin to use Wikis for education and organizations.  As I continue my journey through the 'read/write' Web I had a reality check about Wikipedia.  Often disparaged and dismissed as a source of research because 'anyone can edit' the content - Wikipedia does have a legion of followers who fact check articles to get the stories right.  I examined three subject areas where I have extensive knowledge and discovered that they were all correct.  Just performing this exercise seriously rehabilitated my esteem of Wikipedia.  Sure, it should not be used a single, definitive source - but from now on I challenge anyone to test an area of their expertise on Wikipedia.  If you find something that is incorrect or want to add to the body of knowledge - just do so.  This is the era of DIY and  fellow contributors on Wikipedia will review your work and you can even debate in the Discussion section.  

Wikis are more than a big clearinghouse for information, they can help bring businesses and organizations together.  I created a Wiki site on WetPaint.Com for the UW-Hoofer's Sailing Club  Instructors and Club Administrators and it can be found here.    I selected one of many themes available from WetPaint resulting in a dashboard user interface with tabs across the top.  I added discussion categories, uploaded pictures and added an RSS feed for sailing news. I edited the home page of the site, added a welcome message and directions for accessing the discussion, photos and news tabs.  Later, I went back and added hyperlinks so that anyone could click directly into those sections of the Wiki Site. 

My goal for the site was suggested by the Chaper 4 reading from Will Richardson's 'Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts'.  I am attempting to create an online community where members can contribute and drive the discussions and collaborations.  I seeded a few categories but my hope is that this site could be a good prototype - a shakedown cruise - to see if WetPaint can be the Wiki for the Sailing Club. I do like the controls one has over who can see the site and contribute to it.  The initial review by the Head of Instruction is favorable and I lobbied for rolling it out to the target community in the coming months.  

Have you heard of 'Microblogging'?  Well, I am blogging right now but millions of people are blogging daily with Twitter.  I now have a Twitter account and anyone can tweet me at
I am trying to find value in Twitter and have created several lists that I can follow.  I have a list for my MEIT Cohorts so that I can follow their microblogging.  Honestly, I thought that this would be a waste of my time.  However, already I have seen posts from others that contain brief reflections and very interesting links.  I will give Twitter time and use it every day for a few weeks and see if any light bulbs go off in my head about how to employ it for school and professional use.

Finally, I added an RSS Feed to this blog site.  If you want to see the latest 5 Photo Blogs from my Posterous site just look for them in the upper right hand corner.  On that last note, this is the 'read/write' Web and I always look forward to comments about my posts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

CEDO 525 - Week One

Our first week of CEDO 535 has us delving into the use of Blogs (Web Logs) for use in schools, businesses and clubs. The course has us reading from Will Richardson's book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Blogs are a great way to support e-learning and collaboration. Blogs initially provide a one-to many format for sharing information. Blogs transform into many-to-many communication when responses and comments from others build upon the author's thoughts. An advantage of blogs is that authors and responders can post links and images that support or lend credence to their point of view.

Businesses can certainly benefit from internal company blogs that are open to all employees and external to a customer community. Markets are rapidly changing and companies should muster all the resources they have to adapt to their customer needs. Businesses exist because they have products, services, solutions and most importantly they have customers. How nice it would be if customers could blog about what they like, don't like and would like to see in a company's line of business . Blogs or forums for existing customers would allow them to become stakeholders in existing product improvement and generate ideas for new product(s).

But what good is a blog if no one elaborates on the insights or ideas expressed in a post? Businesses in this case would want to have various departments regularly review and comment back to the customer. In turn, they would link the posts and discussion threads to internal teams for reflection and review. It is critical to know your customers and such a direct pipeline to product teams would drive the business model. Via comments back to the customer, teams could seek clarification or brainstorm on business line enhancements.

So how can blogs become an effective tool supporting collaboration in an organization? At the UW-Hoofer's Sailing Club there are 1350 Club Members with over 100 lessons provided weekly by volunteer and paid instructors. UW students are annually elected to administrative positions and there is a paid Head of Instruction. Communication and innovation are two important factors to ensure that the Sailing Club runs smoothly. A Club blog could facilitate discussion categories setup by fleets and topics and permit Club leaders to post thoughts and challenges for the Club. Members could respond and share their expertise or insights and involve all in a collaborative effort.

In both business and non-profit organizations there is need for some control over what is published by contributing authors. A moderator role, In both cases, should be present to avoid unproductive comments that might be hurtful. In K-12 education there is a push to help young people develop a sense of digital citizenship। But, just because someone is over the age of 18 doesn't mean that they have mastered good judgment when making public posts that can reach a large audience over a long period of time। It is best to have moderators assigned to review and publish posts - or have the rights to hide certain posts - to help the collaborative environments work towards positive goals.

Oh, and if you are using moderators - you might want to make sure you select the right ones for the job.