Monday, October 26, 2015

Thinking about Curating and Sharing for #OpenTeachingOU

We're hosting the next #OpenTeachingOU chat this Friday, and I've been giving some thought to why I think curation matters and how I manage it personally. And by the way, you haven't viewed them yet, Laura Gibbs has three great posts about curation tools for reading, curation tools for sharing, and curation and student choice.

I was actually all set to write down my thoughts when I ran across this piece by Jo Wikert on the future role of readers as curators and resellers. While the post targets publishers and the evolution of reading digital reading, this particular example hit close to our learning home.
Now imagine that same use-case in a digital world where there are no barriers. Think of the textbook as one long web page the reader can manipulate and add to.  
The original textbook content forms the foundation but the reader can add to it as they see fit. So while Jane is studying chemistry she comes across a slick periodic table website that allows her to dive deeper into any given element. Today she merely bookmarks the site in her browser; tomorrow she drags the url into the textbook, perhaps configuring it as a pop-up element inside the ebook, thereby enriching the reading experience.
Maybe she also finds a few terrific videos online that explain some of the more complicated concepts in this chemistry course. Why not drag those into the book too?
At the end of the semester, Jane has managed to curate an entirely new product. The textbook is the foundation, but web elements and widgets curated by Jane help round it out. This has been useful for Jane, but what if she’s also able to sell her annotated edition to other students next semester? Maybe Jane’s edition sells for $5 more than the standard edition and Jane gets a cut of that price difference.
While I've never believed in a scaled marketplace for student-curated material, I'm a big believer in both the importance of learner curation as well as the need for connectable tools to manage the activity. What Joe imagines is a type of reading that facilitates easier, embeddable connections both within e-books (or web pages), as well as between students. Not surprisingly, I'm all for that vision -- tools that allow us to curate and share --and you can see that support via my activity and the number of tools I actually use for curation.

Like Laura, I use different tools for different needs or habits. As I look at the list, it seems that part of the reason there are so many is because I have refused to change old analog habits and have, instead, selected different tools to map to different analog and digital preferences. In other words, if I had never researched or curated extensively prior to the Internet and, in particular, the rise of great online curation tools, I might be more content using fewer tools.

At any rate, looking through the list and reflecting my workflows has been both fun and instructive. Without further ado, here's what they look like.
  • Feedly (for reading) -- I use Feedly for managing the feeds of the many blogs and news sites I have curated over the years. This list, by the way, ebbs and flows constantly, based on my evolving interests and changes in the information sites I follow. I have been curating blogs and news this way for over a decade and I like Feedly because of its interface, ease of use across all devices, and, well, because I'm getting too lazy to change. I am a big fan of Inoreader and have used it (like Laura) for curating things like Twitter and Google+ hashtags. But I don't utilize enough of its other great features to make me all that interested in moving away from Feedly.
  • Diigo (for bookmarking and sharing) -- Once I find things that interest me on Feedly, I open the website and then use Diigo for bookmarking. My Diigo account began with Delicious and has been evolving for the past 7 years or so. I have almost 10,000 items bookmarked using more than 3,000 tags. This has developed over the years as my personal research database for my professional edtech work and is particularly helpful with consulting and blogging. Because it's public, it's also a convenient place I can point people to when they are looking for a particular reference.
  • Flipboard (for bookmarking and sharing) -- As my life has grown increasingly mobile due to travel, I have done more and more bookmarking on my phone and iPad. While I could do this via other apps or tools, I was an early user of Flipboard and have found it works best for me given how I bookmark on the go -- essentially in short intervals while I'm sitting or standing around waiting for a plane or meeting. I bookmark everything of interest on Flipboard, saving it to my Edudiner zine, which anyone can see or subscribe to. When I find things that are particularly useful for my research, I e-mail a link to myself, open them on my laptop or desktop browser, and save them to Diigo.
  • Twitter (for sharing and discussing) -- I have traditionally used Twitter for sharing links to items and for participating in group conversations. The latter inevitably leads to curating ideas and posts/websites from participants, but I move those over to Diigo. I have tried to use Twitter for information curation on a number of different occasions but it has never taken root with me.
  • Google+ (for sharing and discussing) -- I'm not sure I needed another tool/place for curation and sharing, but I jumped into Google+ to keep up with Laura's active posting and have enjoyed it. I do some curation here, mostly recommendations from trusted sources, but I thoroughly enjoy the interaction and conversations. It's a bit too hard for me to find things on Google+ for it to be truly central to my own process, but I think it's a great place for talking about information and ideas.
  • The Learning Lot (my personal blog for sharing) -- I use this particular blog to think through my own processes and for teaching or learning out loud. This a personal space where I can write more informally than I do at NextThought, as well as on topics that are not necessarily part of my professional life.

Monday, August 17, 2015

#Agoratry80: My Left Hand

For today's Daily Try (#agoratry80), we're asked to tweet a your back of the hand photo. Since I'm always at the keyboard, I opted for this photo.

This mostly what it appears to be. The ring and watch add details for those who are interested.  One thing less obvious is the little finger, which is permanently bent. I earned that souvenir while attempting, quite foolishly, to ride a child's bike off a ramp in 2001. I flipped over the handlebars and tried to catch with my left hand on the sidewalk. Needless to say, I was not entirely successful.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

More Improvisations: Where is Clippy?

For today's Daily Try (#agoratry69), we're asked to answer the question "Where is Clippy hanging out these days?" and to create an image that shows where Clippy is now.

I imagine Clippy is happily performing street art in Luxembourg.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Value of Modeling When Designing for Student Engagement

I've been a big Dan Meyer fan for some time, and have always appreciated his real-world, participatory approach to learning. His recent post -- Literally Everything I Know About Modeling With Mathematics [SMP 4] --provides links to some of his most salient work in modeling, as well as a general summary of modeling in mathematics education.

Modeling asks students a) to take the world and turn it into mathematical structures, then b) to operate on those mathematical structures, and then c) to take the results of those operations and turn them back into the world. That entire cycle is some of the most challenging, exhilarating, democratic work your students will ever do in mathematics, requiring the best from all of your students, even the ones who dislike mathematics. If traditional textbooks have failed modeling in any one way, it’s that they perform the first and last acts for students, leaving only the most mathematical, most abstract act behind.

In his post, Dan links to one of my favorite modeling examples, Is the Checkout Line a Scam? (the answer is "yes," by the way). In it, he models several things that we can all do to bring the real world into our course design in order to make our content more relevant and the concepts we're teaching more meaningful.

  1. Use interesting examples from the real world -- A big part of fostering student engagement is presenting course content in relevant ways. The best and easiest way to do this is by using meaningful examples from the real world. This not only makes learning concepts relevant -- it also allows participants to make personal connections and applications.
  2. Get participants to think about possibilities and assumptions before the formal concept is introduced -- Contextualization of learning concepts is a critical part of student engagement. Participants want to know why these concepts matter. By sharing models from the real world, and by allowing participants to reflect on and discuss these models before ever introducing our formal learning concepts, we provide a foundation of purpose and interest for our lessons.

  3. Present concepts within the framework of a relevant example instead of sharing them in the abstract and then trying to link the real world to the concept at some later point -- When we lead with relevant, real-world models as opposed to formal concepts, we establish a narrative context for all subsequent information and discussions. It gives us an important anchor point for our explanations.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Improvisation Practice: Today's "Daily Try"

Today's Daily Try from the ADG Agora project:
#agoratry67 Randomly Generate a Luchador Name and Announce Yourself to the World.

As you can see, I went with the Spanish version of my name, Roberto, and was awarded a fabulous luchador handle: El Hijo del Relámpago (Son of Lightening). I'm thinking I should get to work on my mask later this afternoon.

This is really a great, entry-level student creation activity because it requires little to no skill acquisition, it's fun, and it connects users to valuable cultural information.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#NTPoC Unit 3: SNA Artifact Challenge

In Unit 3 of our Power of Connections learning experience, Stacy asked us to map our social networks using the tools she had suggested. Here are some of my "findings."

My Twitter map doesn't show anything surprising. Most of my connections are in the US, with the exception of a small group scattered throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Here is the second map of my Twitter connections and it tells the same story, only in percentages.

My LinkedIn social network is actually much more interesting.

For starters, it is much more diverse than my Twitter network. My connections on LinkedIn have been formed while I was at different companies focused on different parts of the education industry. I have contacts in publishing, educational technology, publishing technologies, content management, Higher Education and learning design. Not surprisingly, while my network is sizable, it is not incredibly interconnected. In other words, few of these people would not be connected in any way without me.

Interestingly, that lack of "connectedness" does not diminish the value of this network, at least in the way that I use it. For me, LinkedIn is about staying connected to multiple industries, and about having access to experts in those industries. It's like a professional reference (a professional Wikipedia). In that context, it continues to serve me extremely well.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

An Early Timeline of My Personal Computers

Stacy Zemke created a great Artifact Challenge for Unit 2 of our Power of Connections learning experience -- Framing Connections Through a Personal Archive.

The task is to make connections with your past by creating either a history of your Web presence or of your personal computing life. I opted for the latter as it says a great deal about the practical or adaptive approach I've taken to personal computing over the years.

You can see pictures of my primary personal computing devices from 1983-2005 on this Pinterest page, and here is a bit more detail on some of the specific machines shown.

Commodore 64 -- My parents gave me this personal computer as a graduation gift when I received my M.A. from Texas Tech in 1983. Until that time I had done all my typing on a Remington manual typewriter and an old IBM Selectric. The Commodore 64 had two joystick ports (you played four-player games by having the other two use the keyboard), a 5 1/4" floppy drive, and hooked into any small TV.  I bought a third-party dot matrix printer that allowed be to change fonts by changing dip switch settings, and used this for much of my coursework at the University of Texas.

Apple IIe -- A friend was selling off some equipment in 1986 and I bought an Apple IIe. This was an eye opener for me as the Commodore had required me to type in commands such as "Load" and "Run" just to access programs. The Apple IIe was my first experience with self-loading programs and something resembling and actual menu.

Apple IIc -- I like my IIe so much I couldn't wait to by a IIc (circa 1988/89). I typed the first chapters of my dissertation on the IIc and my daughter, born in 1987, played Treehouse and other games on it in her early years.

IBM PC -- When I took my first faculty job in 1990, the department issued me an IBM PC with dual floppy drives (3 1/2"). You booted Word Perfect or some other program from a disk on the left drive and stored data on a disk in the right drive. I had used WordPro and other PC-based word processing systems in the past, but this was the point at which I converted to DOS-based Word Perfect for much of the 90s.  I knew all the keystrokes, created my own macros and, in general, couldn't imagine computing getting much better. I finished my dissertation on this machine and also wrote my first article on it.

Macintosh Classic -- My personal life went through some changes beginning in 1997 and, not surprisingly, so did my computing life. I moved to a new teaching position in a new town, and along the way picked up an old Macintosh Classic. While it didn't connect to the Internet (I did all my Internet research and e-mail at the University library during this period), it was amazingly reliable and also provided my introduction to Microsoft Word.

Compaq Armada -- By 1998 my writing projects were increasing rapidly and I wanted something cheap that was also portable. Enter the used Compaq Armada laptop that ran DOS and has Word Perfect installed. It was blazing fast and really familiar. It allowed me to teach at multiple institutions, write on the go, and be extremely productive.

Dell Laptop (2003/4) -- I actually owned a number of desktops and Dell laptops at the university from 1999-2003, but this laptop is memorable because it came with the founding of a startup in Boston and represented a whole new way of thinking about productivity and communication. My wife worked for the company as well as still has hers (that she uses daily!).

Fujitsu Laptop -- The Fujitsu was my first experiment with "tablet" computing and, except for the limited computing power, was an enjoyable little machine. I like taking notes by hand and used One Note with great delight during this time (really!).