Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Podcasting and Lifelogging

Everyone has an I-pod, right? Look around, about 90% of people under the age of 30 are listening to one right now. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the explosion of portable listening devices has provided a valuable new tool in learning; the podcast. The podcast is so effective as a learning tool because it is so mobile. Nearly every college student owns a digital listening device, which makes the podcast unique because lectures can be listened to anytime anywhere; on the bus, working out, or driving a car (I think this is illegal but I know someone who did it once...). This incredible flexibility is just one more step toward ubiquitous learning.

Now, lifelogging...I find it kind of creepy, but people are doing it. Lifelogging consists of strapping on a digital recording device and capturing every moment of your life. I think it could have incredible benefits; the "I told you so" being one of the greatest in my mind. For example, your wife says, "you never told me that you were going to go out with your friends tonight"; queue the tape...."honey I'm going out with the guys tonight". Beautiful! On a more serious note, people recording every moment of their life could be very valuable; deterring crime, recording family history and helping doctors diagnose physical and mental conditions. On the flip side, every flaw and every mistake a person ever made would be on tape. Might this risk knocking respected family and historic figures off the pedestals that we place them? Some experts say that lifelogging will be commonplace in the near future...I don't' see it happening, but time will tell.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Virtual Worlds in Education

You can fly! Yes, in the future (and now in some cases) you can fly to class! How cool is that?! Soar in and drop into your desk...or into the heart of the Roman Empire, or anywhere - that is truly impressive!

Virtual worlds allow students to experience history, business, or countless other subjects first hand; and there is no better way to learn. Ask yourself, would you learn more reading a book about Roman architecture or actually walking through the streets of ancient Rome? Virtual world learning puts the student in charge of learning and enables them to explore, interact, and learn in a realistic environment. However, this type of learning isn't automatic, it requires considerable preparation and structure from the instructor. The instructor must provide students with compelling problems that engage them, while also providing structure and guidance. That is, there should be specific goals that students seek to achieve; not merely running willy-nilly around the virtual world.

However, there is something to be said for experiencing a virtual outside the educational realm. Like may web 2.0 applications, virtual worlds allow people to interact and learn from people from all different cultures around the world. This can only serve to increase tolerance and understanding of others.

Virtual worlds are becoming more and more popular every day, and "Intellagirl", the hot pink-haired superstar from Second Life, says virtual worlds will be ingrained in education within three years. Optimistic, I think, but it could happen, and it would be great for learners all over the world!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today anyone can have a voice to the world through blogs. Anyone can record their thoughts on anything from the daily events in their lives, to political commentary, to Web 2.0! All a person needs is a computer, an internet connection, and about two minutes to create the blog.

In addition to providing a mechanism for people to communicate with the world, blogs can be an incredibly powerful tools in the classroom. They can be used in a number of different ways. They can provide a platform for teachers to consolidate resources, links, and assignments, much like a course management system. They can serve as a forum for students to reflect on material that they've covered in class; while simultaneously allowing teachers and students to comment and offer feedback on one another's thoughts.

However, blogs don't have to be used in a classroom to be considered educational. I would argue that any blog can be educational. The mere act of informing a reader about a different perspective, culture, or subject can be considered educational. Also, anything such as blogs that get people, especially kids, to write more has educational value.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Online Groups and Communities

About a year ago when my wife was pregnant with our son, she had some unusual complications. The doctor told us that given her condition it was questionable whether she could successfully carry the baby to term. All her family and friends tried to comfort her, but what she needed at that time was to hear from women who had been afflicted with the same condition. She searched the internet and found a support group for women with the condition. The discussion and interaction with the women in this group gave her great comfort over the next several months, and thank God our son was born perfectly healthy.

The point of this story is that online collaboration in the form of groups and online communities has something to offer anyone, whether it be comfort or support from people in a similar situation, people to share and collaborate ideas with, or just people with similar interests to socialize with.

From an education standpoint, groups can be used by teachers and students to share resources and ideas, and to learn about other cultures and from other people from around the world. Participation in online communities can also help to foster communication, collaboration, and teamwork skills; skills which are vital to success in today's professional environment. In addition, the sharing and challenging of ideas with people of similar interests can act as a catalyst, encouraging cognitive growth and allowing participants to reach conclusions and intellectual heights not possible by ones self.