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Blogging in the Classroom

man typing at keyboard
photo by yusunkwon, CC license

An interesting article from Ars Technica brings up the idea of using microblogging as a part of classes. Though I havn’t tried it, Twitter seems to be a useless application. Why would I want to talk about what I am doing in 140 characters? And why would people care? Yet, as I think more deeply about its possibilities I begin to see some possible uses. Dorothea Salo has said she has seen reference questions passed around and answered fairly quickly on Twitter networks. Twitter also seems very similar to Facebook’s “status” feature. This can be useful to see what people are up to, how they are feeling, and the like. It can be a very useful social tool for communicating your feelings or exploits or knowing others. It is much easier to read than mannerisms or body language.

It was fascinating to see that students Twittering away outside of class were able to bond better as a community in class. I think this is similar to discussion boards on courseware but much quicker and sexier. I have actually used blogs in multiple class settings and thought it was somewhat useful. You could subscribe to your classmates blog and read their posts on the reading or different questions that came up. The only problem with this is length. Students already have enough reading as it is. Reading 10-20 or more blog posts is just asking too much. The outside of classroom discussion is very useful but is difficult to do in addition to all the other class work. A solution could be limiting blog posts to one short or medium length paragraph and then have longer discussions in the comments. Another good possibility is something like Twitter. With only a few characters to get your message across, the Twitter posts would not be a chore to read or write.

I guess I am starting to see the utility of something like Twitter after all. Maybe I’ll try it out. Are there any other Twitter uses that I have left out? Is microblogging an effective tool for classroom communication?

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Learning on the Web

I really am amazed with the web. Learning is just so different now. Instead of having to pay for journal subscriptions, professors are now putting their articles up for the public to view. In addition, institutions are also putting up video recorded lectures of classes. What I take advantage of though, are the wealth of online tutorials, especially for computer skills. I am not a graphic design guy, but in trying to come up with a marketing logo I was able to make a really cool looking Web 2.0 button.Ask Button

If you want to learn a new skill, the web could be an invaluable tool. I found the tutorial for this button at Free Adobe Photoshop Tutorials. But you can learn lots of other DIY stuff as well. The web as learning tool…I really like that.

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Second Life

I just tried Second Life, the “3-D virtual world entirely created by its Residents,” for the first time last week. It was surprisingly fun and actually a lot more multi-purpose than I realized. I already have too much going on in my first life to need a second one, but I can see how Second Life could be a good supplement to your real life.

I was a bit wary at first about going on at first. I thought I may be chastised as a n00b or hit on by some guy with a mustache, but surprisingly none of that happened. All the people that I interacted with were very pleasant or at least not unpleasant. I first spent some time on Orientation Island figuring out how to move, change my appearance, communicate and even fly. It was pretty simple to learn and I quickly went through all the tutorials. The first place I went after I graduated from orientation was Info Island, a library based space, which I had heard about through various articles. There are actually many library based places in Second Life.

The place wasn’t terribly fun and I am not quite sure who would go there except librarians, but it was a nice place to get started exploring. I talked to a few people and learned about civil rights through one of the exhibits that was there. There wasn’t too much action though so I decided to teleport and find some.

I decided that I would check out some music, and there were a number of live shows going on at that time.  I first attended a DJ contest where they had multiple DJs spinning tracks.  I got my avatar to dance around like a goon like everyone else was doing.  It amused me for a few minutes.  I got bored though and that music wasn’t really my scene so I tried something else.  I went to a concert by Frenchman named Cyril Effingham.  It was all live vocals and piano.  He did a pretty solid cover of Imagine by John Lennon.  And it was actually a lot of fun listening to him.

What I really enjoyed about Second Life is that you can do things that you otherwise would not be able to do.  I can go to a French concert and do not have to be anywhere near France.  It makes me wonder about all the other things that I could do.  I also really liked that I could fly.  If I got bored or nervous about some place I could just zoom away.  It is also really cool that Second Life has the ability to help those who have social interaction problems.  People who are agoraphobes who are petrified by the outside world are learning social skills and getting out of the house.  I probably will not be building a house there, but I can see that Second Life has a number of beneficial qualities.  And if I feel the need to listen to some Russian techno, attend a class on some interesting topic, or just fly around for a while, I may just stop back.