Archive for December, 2007

Comedy@Bears!

December 5, 2007

Thank you Dr Bonk for an amazing class and a great night at Bears! All of us thoroughly enjoyed it 🙂 Here’s something for the memory of this class…

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Education on Facebook

December 5, 2007

It might be late in the day, but I just realized that I can put up educational videos on my Facebook profile! I know… duh! But then I thought about something else too, there are a lot of groups and communities on Facebook…. Maybe I can join one or create one of my own on topics related to e-learning or instructional design. Make my own videos and host them on my profile and have a sort of a quick reference experience for people who may be interested in it! I could even have something completely inane about a group for people who want to work in India in the learning field!! Facebook, here I come!!

Six degrees of separation!

December 3, 2007

The other class I take is on Thursday, Computer Mediated Communication by Prof Susan Herring. Some of the concepts obviously deal with some stuff we have in the R685 class. A few weeks back we were discussion the concept of six degrees of separation.  We decided to do a simple task for the purpose of the class…. we picked the most popular celebrity or politician person we could think of and count the number of links before we could actually reach him. The links between a Turkish student and President Bush was about 5 steps (!) and between another student and a famous actor were 6. It w as real fun exercise to do. The basic idea behind the six degrees of separation is that every person is no more than six steps away from every person on the Earth.  There have been a number of games and media being popularized on the basis of this concept.

It would be interesting to give this some more thought. This is owing to the huge rise in Internet usage and networking sites. The six steps between two people gain a personality of its own… they are the most crucial 6 steps to finding that next big job, or increasing your social circle. It’s just a thought… what if these links are overloaded and exhausted at some point? Would they need to be monitored, and distributed evenly to people? There may not be any links left to stick together, as people will recognize and be interested only in the most crucial ones. Also, how justified is it to say that everyone is connected to everyone else in the world only through 6 links- when half the ‘developing’ countries in the world don’t even count in this philosophy?

Nevertheless, the whole idea is pretty interesting and I would like to watch Six Degrees of Separation… will see if I can get my hands on it this December….

Sports and Web 2.0

December 3, 2007

I ran a search for the role of Web 2.0 in sports. And I got some pretty interesting results. Check this:

http://2010.dailyvancouver.com/torino/symposium

A symposium on the future of sport and Web 2.0, should be pretty interesting. And I came across some actual gadgets and not just tools. Check the new sports tracker from Nokia.

http://www.intomobile.com/2007/11/23/nokia-sports-tracker-goes-web-20.html

You can record, analyze and compare your exercise data with users from around the world. I am all for a exercise buddy, so this could be a very good option for people who work out on their own but still would like to compare notes with other people.

I got interested in football the past few months. I had been to Miami one weekend and witnessed the couch scene for most of the day till the games, the laptops, and the fantasy football sites were on. I think the fantasy football (or any game for that matter) is a great collaborative tool. It records all the data, analyzes your players, as well as tests your knowledge about the game and the players looking at your tactics. Silly me, didn’t even know that the quarterback has a earphone all the time, through which the coach communicates with him about the play. That was another lesson for me about the game!

Open source… tooo open?

December 3, 2007

Anything free is probably the biggest boon for any student. I realized that after I came here… when I was tagged as an international student. Things were suddenly too expensive, too many readings and books became optional. Therefore the idea of open source was too much not to think about. This class has all the resources free, online, journals, articles, presentations etc…. the ease and freedom of access makes this class that much more attractive and convenient.

One of the articles we read about the Open Source was by Mitchell Kapoor, the founder of Lotus Development Corp. I was supposed to role play him in one of the classes, and I am pretty sure I ended up doing a horrible job. The main discussions at that point was how much controls should there be over the open source? If there is a control or a framework, does that make it any less free or open to use? Some of the basic features of open source are decentralization and freedom to use and distribute. The biggest issue in open source is management. A lot of people are always working on the same software and a lot of people are using it. There are a lot of version problems because most of the software is always being updated.

Open source software is an awesome tool for people interested in building a collaborative environment. There is a lot of freedom to build code, functions, and make the existing ones better. This is probably the most useful thing for uninitiated people (such as me) who don’t really keep up with the changing technologies all the time. This is a great way to improve on our existing technical knowledge, our view about technology, and the way we think.

The main issue still remains the constant state of flux that the open source community experiences. I would like to propose a small model for this…. it’s a pretty simplistic view of the concept, but worth a thought. If open source could work on the same philosophy as the Multinational Companies (MNC). Companies which have an international presence, they act, work, hire locally. They have a common philosophy, policy, working ideas, all over the world. Still they function together as a unit, maintaining their individual presence. Let us take the example of IST. Taking IST as the starting point, if we move towards the outside of the circle, it could be a pretty big community. IST is a part of School of Education, which is a part of the University. The university has different campuses which in turn have different schools and departments. If a model to control open source by the universities, statewide, region wide is constructed there could be a framework of sorts. Control is not what Open Source is about, but there has to be a system in place which acts as a guiding light. Too much access, too soon, with unlimited control may lead to misuse as well as a lot of confusion. Not set rules for the control, but set guidelines which depicts how each unit needs to function in that quarter of the play!  

Orkut and Facebook- the networking saga!

December 3, 2007

I  used to have a Orkut account till about last year. I didn’t really have it for too long to start with… but then I got bored of the whole internet networking idea… I was wasting a lot of time ‘orkut stalking’ reading other people’s messages and generally keeping an eye on things! J

 

After being ‘virtually’ anti-social for a long time, I decided to get back online through Facebook. I think it is a much cooler application than Orkut. There is just so much I can do; I can actually feel productive about wasting my time online! I can play games, fight with other Werewolves, and check my horoscope for the day, all in one day. My personal experience with all of these sites has been pretty limited, till I discovered Facebook. I spend a whole lot of my time (free and otherwise!) logged on to Facebook, looking through my friends photo albums, catching up, and comparing my movie tastes. Each application is a like a like a new toy, which you invite other friends to play with. This is collaboration in a true sense, where people add an application on the basis of your recommendations.  Six degrees of separation are truly tested and proved through this networking. It is not too difficult to find connections between 2 people from different cultural folders to connect, all within a range of 6 degrees!

It is also interesting to follow the economics of these networking sites. Microsoft has apparently bought 1.6% of the Facebook’s share in October of this year. Los Angeles based Intermix owns MySpace another big player in the social networking arena. The smart business deals made out of such popular phenomenon, has really given a new meaning to virtual profit. Each of these sites has their ardent followers, even though they may not be faithful. Just like maintaining different email ids for different groups of people, one person may have a profile on all of these sites at the same time.  He or she uses it to keep in touch with possibly completely different sets of friends.

Using Second Life, networking sites, and it’s like for the purpose of education amongst a whole lot of other things, is a very interesting thing. I think its Web 2.0 at its collaborative best. Again, the only concern I will have till I know better, are the psychological effects virtual lives and virtual realities are going to have on people of all generations? But as I said, after a few years, a virtual life night be the real life. It won’t be weird to feel that way, neither would it seem like a potential psychological risk. So, I still have hope…. I can be an excellent public speaker, in the virtual world!

India and Web 2.0

December 3, 2007

The place I come from in India is called the Oxford of the East. It is very rich in educational resources, universities, and institutes. Almost 70% of the student population is from other cities in the country. The Web 2.0 movement would be the perfect tool for such a varied kind of student, teacher crowd. I was just trying to imagine how it would be if the university from where I did my first degree tried to integrate some of the tools I see here.

It was pretty disappointing for me, because all I could hit with that idea was a blank wall. Education in our society is very important…. Formal education is a hallmark of a well developed person. At the same time, all the players involved in the educational arena are not very well educated themselves. Just as all the other things in India, education is subject to bureaucracy and corruption. Vested interests, politicians control how the educational world should function, than the people who really understand it more.  Conventional ways of learning have been tried and tested successfully since years, to rock such a comfortable boat would mean too many changes, too much of financial investment. Oh, don’t get me wrong….India has more potential to create opportunities and make them real than any other nation right now. It’s the middlemen- if changes really do occur, their major source of income, bribes, would disappear.

To imagine the kind of internet and computer access I see here, for the senior college students in India is almost impossible. We believe in the true meaning of collaboration, share one computer amongst 5 students. Buying PCs for home usage is pretty common in most of the urban human households. But the computer and internet is still not viewed with an open enough mind to understand its possibilities as a true networking and learning tool.  As I said earlier, availability or lack of technology does not make a difference. Especially for India, where learning is still very much a teacher controlled, teacher centered concept. It is the teachers, instructors; administrators who need to change their attitudes… open source, collaboration are some aspects which I believe will be very effective to get a large variety of students together. This could in fact help in reducing the geographical gap, the gap between urban and rural students in India. Collaboration could open up lots of possibilities for students from all walks of life, to communicate, talk, exchange information.

And as so many other issues in India, the learning issue continues, universities struggle to stay in business, parents struggle to pay the fees…. Wish there could be a collaborative degree, two people get the benefits of doing it half and half!

Curtis Bonk: A Web 2.0 educator

December 3, 2007

 

Dr Bonk must have given us a thousand articles to read and research over about the Web 2.0 movement. All of them spoke endlessly about the vast possibilities and awesome advantages of doing it the Web 2.0, collaborative way. Not trying to earn brownie points (or maybe I am) but I am going to try and look at how Dr Bonk is a true Web 2.0 type of an educator.

The three main features of Web 2.0 learning are Collaboration, Collaboration, and some more Collaboration.  Dr Bonk’s wiki book idea to write chapters with students from other universities and have us edit each other’s entries was an excellent to drive home the collaboration feature.  The wiki writing exercise was a very mature exercise in editing others work and have other people look at your work with a critical eye and taking it in the right way. I remember in one of the classes Dr Bonk got lots of slides to present with people and their faces and what they do in the industry…. That was the first time when I found out what the Bingo game was. Since I am an international student a lot of these things are lost on me… but the idea to match those faces and have a bingo thing going was pretty cool. It was one of the most innovative ways I have seen to make students listen to a presentation with drab subject content.

Another important feature I have seen is immediate feedback…students are never left wondering about a particular query, statement, or problem. He is always very fast about his feedback which is constructive and gives you a direction to work in. there is never a sense of demotivation in his class… I feel like I am in charge of what I want to learn from this class… there is a whole lot of stuff out there for me to access… its upto me how far I get into it. This blogging assignment is also a Web 2.0 feature he utilizes, using a free service on the internet, and having other people comment on your work.         

No matter how far the technology goes, and how advanced learning becomes… without a teacher/instructor/facilitator it can go beyond a point. There is just so much technology can do for the students, it is up to teachers like Dr Bonk to show us the different possibilities and help us tread the unknown path of Web 3.0 technology!

Anatomy and Instructional Design

December 3, 2007

The guest lecture by Dr. Valerie O’Loughlin: Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology, was pretty interesting. It was a good one especially for me since it talked about some of the core areas I have been working in as an instructional designer while I was in India. The first ‘course’ I ever worked on as an ID when I accidentally got into this field was about heart anatomy. I had to do the section on heart and blood related disease… was gruesome stuff trying to construct animations to explain the shortcomings of the human heart.

The ones shown by Prof O’Loughlin were simple, clean graphics, briefly explaining the different aspects in Cell Biology. The animations explained the different processes in a to the point manner which left very little chance of misreading or misunderstanding any aspects. I am not sure if she said it outright but there seemed to be some funding issues, which was maybe one of the reasons for keeping the whole look and feel simple and uncomplicated. There were some obvious questions which came to my mind…. the first one being about the voice over (VO). I have found it personally very useful to have a VO whenever there is an animation. But that does require a certain amount of expertise in other design tools.  One of the things which may increase the effectiveness of the animations would be to make the pre test and the post test visually appealing. Instead of having simple text based questions, some graphic based ones could be integrated into the list.

Another way to make it work more could be to give case studies or role plays which the students can do as a part of a group. Right now, the animation puts them into individualized environments. If they can integrate that knowledge to use it in an integrated group environment, learning may be more effective. I could come up with the obvious improvisations of a time line, for the changes happening at each step of the animation. But there seemed to be some technical and compatibility issues. There are some low investment options to improvise on an existing content… especially in this case when the target audience for these animations is medical students. The kind of subject demands that there is a lot of graphical interaction, depiction of the content with the help of different kinds of data presentation.  Another thing which could be tried is to make interactive graphics. Make the different part of the already existing figures interactive…. Display text to the area outside the image box.

This was the kind of stuff I wanted to do when I thought that I could be an ‘instructional designer’….for the first few months the only thing I wanted to do was storyboard, construct pages, animations, case studies… it was a very exciting time. The first brush with the new profession! The feeling is still, obviously minus some of the shine. Hope I can find it again! J