Blogs: March 2008 Archives

Squeezing in Blogging

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Another blog how-to article from the New York Times caught my eye, and I thought I would follow its advice and post to my blog.

like this article because it addresses a complaint I hear from my busy colleagues - namely that they are too busy to blog. This is the article that actually realizes that bloggers have a day job and may not have as much time. But maybe this article can help you think of blogging as a mini work break or "destresser".

Actually, I would say that once you get started, you may not be able to stop...

P.S. You can skip the part that mentions you probably won't make money. I think most of us knew that already.

Book Review: Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts

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We're selecting books to recommend for the upcoming TLT Symposium, and we thought we would blog about some of them. One of our likely selections will be Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom by Will Richardson.

Should you buy?

This book is written for the instructor who is completely new to the Web 2.0 world. If you've heard of "blogs" and "wikis" only as buzzwords, but want to know more, this is for you. I should mention that it's aimed for a K-12 instructor audience, but I think most of the principles apply to higher education. It starts out with definitions of the terms, adds educationally sound examples then shows you some tools to get you started. It also covers issues important to instructors such as making sure students understand the rules of blogging in your course. It also has great coverage of one of the most important "hidden" technologies - RSS.

Another great feature is that it's short and to the point, and for busy instructors, this could be the tipping point of whether the book gets read or not. But short does not mean incomplete - far from it. Richardson manages to touch on blogs, wikis, podcasting, RSS, tagging, mashups, social bookmarking (aka and image galleries (aka "Flickr"). I think this is a book that will help you "get" Web 2.0.

The other good news is that even if you've become "Web 2.0" savvy, you'll still find great examples and new tools to consider. Even now, I'm looking at Flickr in a new way.


This is great for the Web 2.0 newbie who needs it all explained and helpful for Web 2.0 veterans who can always a few more new ideas.

Does Course Content Matter for Instructional Design?

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I used to be involved in a project which created Flash animations and graphics for different courses. One question I was asked was how applicable it was across disciplines.

For instance, do I really expect a philosophy instructor be interested in an animation of supercritical fluids? Actually I don't...But would a philosophy course focusing on Greco-Roman schools of philosophies be interested in a set of historical maps, like the one we did for a Jewish history course? Maybe they would.

This leads to the larger question of whether academic discipline matters when considering tools. On the one hand, it doesn't matter. All courses have target learning outcomes (changes in skills/attitudes you want to see in your students), and the process for mapping objectives and tools should be the same no matter which course you are designing.

But here's a caveat - courses vary widely in their objectives. Even in the philosophy department, a course that focuses on ancient philosophy may share objectives with a history course as well as a course in modern policy, while a formal logic course may have goals similar to an algebra course.

I think that to expect the same courses to use tools in the same ways is doing them a disservice. So instructors naturally benchmark themselves with similar to theirs (i.e. a logic instructor is probably interested inother logic courses).

There are many tools like blogs, images and audio that can be applied in many disciplines, but the uses may have different nuances. Podcasting is a great way for students to create their own interviews (journalism), but is also a great way to capture the sounds of a natural environment (biology) or compare dialect samples (linguistics).

I can truly see three different courses in which students are creating audio, but it's not the same audio. I can also see courses where students aren't necessarily creating audio (maybe blogging is better because you need to learn the craft of writing concrete poetry, include phonetic symbols or explain still photos).

As an instructional designer, I like to look at examples from different disciplines because I do learn more about the capabilities and possibilities of a new tool. And maybe I will find that a technique from math can also work in a philosophy course like logic.