Friday, August 13, 2010

CEDO35 Week Five - Microblogs, Wikis and Web 2.0 Applications

It has been an interesting week as I reflected on the use of microblogs in education, polished-up my Wiki and explored a new Web 2.0 application.   Twitter has great potential to help me create a personal learning network with people I have never met before.  I created a Twitter list so that I can follow   tweets from a select group of influential educators.  The Educators list includes people who are very much involved in the cutting edge use of Web 2.0 applications in education.  Individuals I follow on this list are:  Will Richardson, Steve Wheeler, George Siemens, Steve Anderson, Louis Loeffler, Clay Shirky, Betty Ray and Judy Brown.    I chose to follow these people as they provide useful links and relevant insights about technology and its practical application in contemporary education.

The potential for Twitter in a Personal Learning Network (PLN) or with staff development  is that we can ask and receive coaching from others.  Learning doesn't occur in a vacuum . It is through the interactions with others that we can get help and also provide help within our PLN. I recently joined a Linkedin  group that discusses e-learning and instructional design.  I follow this group and  through the ongoing discussions gain valuable insight as to what is happening in the business world through the experience of others.

New Club Wiki for Hoofer's
On the Wiki front, the Hoofer Sailing Club Instructor Wiki I built using Wetpaint served its purpose as a prototype and to get people thinking about having a collaborative online space.  This past week the Sailing Club Web Administrator linked the Club Web-site to a Wiki hosted by the University of Wisconsin.  In fact, the Club had been paying for this service all along!  The prototype work done with the Wetpaint site helped the Club envision how they could use existing resources.  I am very happy with this development and will consult with the Web Administrator and Board of Captains on the phased roll out of the Wiki Functionality.

Finally, the entire MEIT program has been one of total immersion in what Will Richardson calls the 'read/write' Web.  Many of the applications explored are  Web 2.0 where the computing power resides in The Internet Cloud.  Resources are provided, much like electricity, on demand. I was asked to review a Web 2.0 application that we have not used before in our classes or lectures.  There are quite a few programs out there but I settled on one called PandaForm.  It is a very easy to use program which not only builds forms but provides the ability to track contacts, share the database and collect payments via Paypal.  What I like about PandaForm is that one can sync it with Google Docs Spreadsheets.  I like Google Docs but the form designer is harder to use than what is found in PandaForm.  Pretty neat that now the Web 2.0 applications are talking to one another.  Soon, unless you need the heavy desktop computing horsepower, a portable netbook should do the trick for most everyone.

Friday, August 6, 2010

CEDO35 Week Four - Podcasts, Microblogging and Crowdsourcing

Exploration of  the 'read/write' Web continued with social bookmarking applications, Twitter and podcasting.  I personally use diigo to store and organize my bookmarks with tags.  Richardson's book provided a real eye-opener when he pointed-out that one can create an RSS feed from a tag to receive updates to an aggregator.   I had never thought of doing this, but then again, I just learned about RSS feeds and aggregators this past week.   Richardson makes an insightful comment  on page 90, "So, social bookmarking sites complete the circle: RSS lets us read and connect with what others write; now we can read and connect with what others read as well". Richardson, Will. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Twitter and Facebook have something in common:  they are both microblogging sites representative of the 'read/write' Web.  Sure, Twitter limits you to a few less characters per post, but both allow people to create an online community of colleagues and friends sharing conversations.   Facebook users are familiar with posting links, photos and their feelings.   Readers can immediately respond with their comments which often leads to further conversation.

In last week's blog I mentioned the Hoofer Sailing Instructor Wiki that I am in the process of fine-tuning.   I am getting feedback from a few individuals but I need to find a better way to introduce the Wiki than in the weekly staff meetings.   Enter podcasts - or in my case - screencasts to create a brief tutorial on accessing and collaborating on the Wiki.  It is amazing how the barriers to entry to creating screencasts or podcasts have come down in the past 2-3 years.  Reduced cost of technology, Web 2.0 applications and increased Internet speed bring together a perfect storm where the epicenter shifts from expensive expert solutions outward to the DIY crowd.

Adobe CS5 Master Collection
In last week's class I lamented, after looking at Google Sites, that I had invested so much money in the Adobe Suite for Dreamweaver.  I also purchased the suite so that I could get Adobe Premiere Pro to create great movies.  However, Dreamweaver and Premiere both require a huge investment in personal time and training just to get off the ground.  I am excited about the ease of use of the Web 2.0 applications that will  allow me and others to quickly create and publish screencasts and podcasts across The Internet to a wide audience.

Our study group met and discussed a Wired Magazine article published in 2006 titled, 'The Rise of Crowdsourcing'.    Crowdsourcing is a play on the term 'outsourcing'.  Outsourcing is when companies take jobs that were traditionally internal and contract them out to the lowest bidder.  A firm that outsources services reduces its Human Resources overhead and benefits it would normally pay to employees. The article describes how companies such as Procter & Gamble extend outsourcing to 'Crowdsourcing' when they let non-employees attempt to solve their R&D problems. Instead of outsourcing the R&D department or positions, the problems are cast before folks over The Internet who in turn noodle away on the issues in their spare time.  If one of the crowd arrives at a workable solution then they are compensated for their contribution.

I think Crowdsourcing, in general, will have a negative long term impact.  Why so gloomy?  Let's think about Procter & Gamble's scenario. How did the crowd get so smart?  The problem solvers are educated in hard sciences but are underutilizing their talents.  So why aren't they employed in science jobs?  Did corporate outsourcing of jobs overseas dry up the demand for skilled domestic jobs?  So, after a day of flipping burgers at Wendy's they log-on from home and tackle a problem.  Sure, they might just win the knowledge lottery and make a few thousand - but that's today.  In the long run, where are they mentoring new apprentices to the trade?  The well of knowledge begins to run lower than an aquifer in the desert - exploited to make a crop bloom for a few years - then what?

Hey, that's my opinion and this is the 'read/write' Web.  Instead of playing it safe I am encouraging people to respond and we can take this discussion further - I think it would be great.  Before you write back, read this article from Forbes magazine that balances the Wired Magazine article and let's see where this takes us.