Monday, December 22, 2008

Undergraduate Students and Technology - Part 5

Continuing commentary and opinions on content of The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008.

I’ve decided to forgo the discussion about students and plagiarism; I’ll save that for another day, and go on with the discussion from the ECAR paper.

“The majority of comments, however, were negative. Four themes emerged – that the lack of face-to-face interaction detracts from learning, that online courses facilitate cheating, that technical problems still exist, and that online courses require students to “teach themselves”, making the course more demanding.

Ok – wow – where do I start with this.

1. Lack of face-to-face interaction detracts from learning
Ok, so I’m not sure I disagree with this, but probably NOT for the same reasons as the students. I do believe that it’s important to be face-to-face during a portion of the class. I hold with high regard whatever is happening, physically, when two or more people are in the same place at the same time. Call it vibes, call it aura, call it energy, call it whatever you want. However, this “thing” does not exist when people meet in cyberspace (or don’t meet at all, if the non-face-to-face portion is asynchronous.)
That’s my perspective, and I’d guess a small percentage of student think the same thing. But I’m willing to bet that there is more behind this for most students. We’ve seen that students are social and we’ve also seen that they don’t want their social networking tools to be taken over by the educational process. But it is that very social thing that students get from each other. They make friends, they develop relationships, they distract each other, they cover for each other, they do a lot of things that can’t be done when one is sitting on campus in his/her dorm and the other is at home in her/his bedroom, and one is at Starbucks.

2. That online courses facilitate cheating
Ok – so students are worried about cheating? LOL, no really? Students are worried about cheating? ROFLMAO!!!!! Oh, pull the other one! I’m not going to paint all students with the same brush, only MOST of them. I think the only reasons students are worried about cheating, most of them, is that they are afraid someone is going to get credit for cheating and a) they won’t be able to take advantage of it, b) they think it will make them look worse, of c) all of the above! There is this belief out there that classroom learning is a race, and that only so many people can get “good” grades, and if someone gets an A, and they cheated, then I might not get as good a grade because that other people took my A. I don’t buy the lion’s share of the bell curve of students care about cheating.

3. That technical problems still exist

This one still cracks me up, especially today. They have no problems teaching themselves how to use mobile devices, social networking spaces, and advanced video or computer games, but they think Blackboard is too hard to learn! I’ve actually had students tell me they couldn’t watch the YouTube video I assigned because it wouldn’t work on their computer

4. That online courses require students to “teach themselves” making the course more demanding.
To me, this translates to “Holy crap, look at all this work I have to do which I can’t fake now because I can’t sit in the back of the class an pretend that I read, answered, followed.” The use of technology actually makes the students do the amount of work they would have had to do had they participated in the class as it was designed. This is, of course, based on the idea that the course was designed properly. There is always the case that a technology is NOT being used properly and that, in fact, the class is harder then it would have been if it had been offered in person.
The other part of this is that students want us to give them the answers, because they believe learning is being able to tell us what we want them to tell us when we test them. We (and I mean society here) have these student so accustomed to the pitchers/vessels way of learning that if we are not giving them the answer, well, how are they going to know what to tell us back on the test. You want US to come up with the answer, they ask? Are you kidding, just tell me, so I can get a good grade on the test.

My goodness, there is so much more wrapped up in that. Perhaps I’ll come back and revisit that sometime, for now I’ll wrap up and move on in the next post.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Undergraduate Students and Technology - Part 4

Continuing commentary and opinions on content of The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008.

Still in the Executive Summary section,
“A much never mode of communication, social networking, has become nearly ubiquitous as well: 85.2% of respondents use SNSs (Primarily Facebook), and most do so on a daily basis to keep in touch with others. Text messaging (used by 83.6%) and instant messaging (IM) (used by 73.8%) are immensely popular, especially among younger students. More than one-third of respondents are also interactive on the Internet by contributing content to blogs, wikis, and photo or video websites.” (11)

I don’t have much to say about this, but I thought it was interesting. From time to time I may just pop out there a quote I underlined, even though I have no real commentary to add to it.

A reminder that the n on this was 27,317 from ninety-eight institutions, consisting of only Freshman and Seniors, as identified by the institution.

Another note I found interesting in this section was that “the emerging online virtual worlds (such as Second Life) are already being used by about 1 in 11 respondents (8.8%).” (p11) Over 8%? Almost 9%? Nearly 1 in 10 students are already using Second Life? Really? That just seems like a huge number to me, especially given the conversations I’m used to seeing on the Second Life Educators (SLED) list. To find archives and sign up for the SLED list, go here:

To find out more about SL’s commitment to Education, go here:

“Although respondents are generally enthusiastic about IT, most say they prefer only a “moderate” amount of IT in their courses (59.3%).” (p11). I do not find this surprising in some way and in other ways I do. I guess students don’t see computers or email or other standard technology as technology and what they DO consider technology, they use for fun (or social reasons) and they don’t want to do work with a social tool.

“Of special note is that although few respondents (4.2%) used podcasts this quarter/semester, student comments from focus groups and from the survey were extremely positive about podcasts as a supplemental tool for courses. This mimics last year’s finding. ECAR also asked students if they liked to learn using specific types of technologies. The most frequently cited item was running Internet searches (80.2%). More than one-third of respondents (44.3%) say they like to learn through text-based conversations over e-mail, IM , and text messaging or by contributing to websites, blogs, or wikis (35.5%). Interestingly, a solid half (50.8%) like to learn through programs they can control, such as video games or simulations. This is important in the context of discussion about digital game-based learning in higher education and whether the extent of learning justifies the resources required to implement a game.” (p12). From this they also have a footnote, referencing VanEck’s EDUCAUSE Review article “Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless”, which can be found at

The Internet searches answer doesn’t surprise me at all – this is how students find content for their papers. I often wonder how genuine they are when they say they didn’t realize they’d copied and pasted something from the Internet right into their paper.

Ok – that a subject all by itself, I’ll have to cover that next time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Undergrad Students and Technology - Part 3

Continuing commentary and opinions on content of The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008.

In the Executive Summery of this ECAR report, the authors note, “social networking sites (SNSs) [are} a technology that students are enthusiastically adopting and that is already changing the social fabric of universities.” (p9) Does this make the SNS the latest iPod?

Being a devote Mac person, I use iPod and not the more general MP3 player. iPod has, much to Apple’s delight, become the “Kleenex” or “Xerox” of music players. So many people still make Xerox copies, even if they are using a Canon, Kyocera, or other type of machine – it is still a Xerox machine. To that same end, most people say iPod when meaning an MP3 player.

Back to my point, are SNSs the next iPod. How many instructors out their use podcasts in their classes? Ok, keep your hands up. Now, how many would like to use podcasts in their teaching? Ok, probably a pretty good amount. Why? Did someone one day wake up and say “hey, podcasts might be a great way to get information to the students so they can listen to it any place or any time!” Or is it more that students were carrying around the iPods already and someone got smart and said “Hey, they already have the tool, lets figure out how to leverage that. Lets give them content the can keep on their iPods.”

Students already carry around mobile devices with them. We can’t say “cell phone” any more because voice services are only a fraction of what some of these devices do. More and more we are seeing faculty adopt the transmission of whatever content (or process) they want to utilize for their courses to easy access on these mobile devices.

Montclair State University is a leader in this, receiving national awards for their groundbreaking participation in the RAVE Wireless program. This not only makes use of the tool the students are all carrying around but it was designed to also provide added security, especially important in a day when crisis can strike without warning.

Now, we are all noticing that students are making exceptional use of SNSs. [Palm to forehead] Of course, lets figure out how to make use of this as an educational tool. Caution! Danger Will Robinson. Students can access the content on the phone or iPod when THEY want to, so its access and availability at their own schedule and place. This might explain why they don’t want us as their “friends” in Facebook – since that gives us unfettered, or even partially fettered access to them, it gives the control to us, and not them.

The moral of this, I believe, set up systems that students can be a part of, without getting in their face (or Facebook), and you’re likely to get better buy in.

Do you agree? Are you on Facebook? (I am, feel free to find me , I’m the AJ Kelton at Montclair) Can you think of ways to use Facebook in class – if so, how? What other SNSs do you belong to? Would you want them to use them in a class you were teaching? How about one you were taking? Feel free to leave comments and we’ll pick this up again next time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Undergrad Students and Technology - Part 2

Continuing commentary and opinions on content of The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008.

As I mentioned yesterday, in the Fall of 2007 I was teaching an introduction to college writing course, its MSU’s equivalent of first year English. The plan was to use several different social technologies in the class as part of the emphasis on the class theme, which was images of the self, perception, and identity. One of those social networking sites (SNSs) was Facebook (FB). The idea was to use FB groups to work and communicate some things but to also use it as a medium to investigate our selves (who we friend, what other groups we belong to, etc..).

The response was a pretty typical bell curve in that a few students were happy to see us using FB, the majority fell someplace between “ok, yeah, sure, whatever” and “I’m not so sure about this but you’re requiring it so I’ll do it”. A small, but very vocal, percentage, outright refused to open up their FB accounts to me as a “friend”. I told them they could do a limited view, still no deal. These few eventually obliged or opened an account under a different email and only use that account for this class. The last small, but again, very vocal percentage simply refused to use FB. They wanted no part of it, they didn’t use it, they didn’t like it, they didn’t approve of it, and they didn’t want to have any additional information about themselves out on the Web, especially on FB. All relented in the end, but it did take some coaxing.

This supports the point originally made in the last posting that students, most of them at least, will be happy to belong to a class group, or an university group, but they don’t want their teacher on their friends list. More and more, around our campus, I’ve seen student organizations saying “find us on Facebook” instead of listing a web site. FB IS their web site. No hosting cost, no HTML coding or uploading pages and links.

Educators ignore the power of social networks at their own peril. Saying that the anything “social” has no place in the educational process is doing two things that are, in my opinion, quite dangerous. First, it is ignoring the way students today communicate with each other and an essential way they process information. Second, it is suggesting that education, and learning, should NOT be a social activity and I believe there is great benefit to the social nature of learning.

I’m not suggesting we give up other avenues in favor of this, just that this gets added as an arrow in a quiver that can always use more arrows.

Perhaps, in the next entry, I’ll actually get back to the contents of the ECAR report. : -)

Undergrad Students and Technology - Part 1

I wish I had a dollar for every time I said I needed to make blogging part of my regular routine. And I have tried, a number of times. So this time I’m not going to say that. What I am going to say is that I need to get a number of things in my life into a regular routine.

I recently attended a meeting and in preparation for that we were asked to read “The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008.” This is not something that I would have had access to if it weren’t provided to me for this meeting. MSU does not have a subscription to ECAR. When my own Research Bulletin appeared in ECAR in August of 2007 I suggested MSU might want to subscribe but I think there is just not funding for this, or nobody wants to pony up.

So, in reading this I found myself underlining a LOT of things. My plan is to take 15 minutes or so out of my day and read through the report, posting into the blog what I underlined and why. I hope this can be a conversation, so feel free to post your thoughts about my thoughts in the COMMENTS sections (below). At the very least, I hope this gives you something to think about.

The reason we were asked to review this had to do with an entire section on social networking sites, or SNSs. In the forward, on page 5, Ron Yanosky proclaims SNSs a “quintessential new [form] that define a generation.” I found this to be a bold statement right up front, but I don’t disagree. In fact, I hope to make this very issue part of my ongoing research.

The survey that this report is based on found that 85% of the respondents use SNSs and that number jumped to “95% of those 18-19 years old” (p5). The n on this is 27,317 students from a variety of different institutions, both in size and focus, and only those who the schools identified as freshman or seniors. The n is the response number and not those who received the email invite.

Another surprise is that their findings indicate that “students are neither obsessed with [SNSs} nor careless in the way they share information about themselves.” (p5) I found this most interesting given the number of young people who foolishly post pictures of themselves on sites like Facebook that they will certainly later come to regret anyone else having seen, like a potential employer. Forget that some are posting pictures of themselves doing things that are illegal.

In written comments that were provided, “some students vociferously objects in their written comments to any institutional intrusion into SNSs.” (p6) To that same extent, I’ve found many students like to see groups and organizations from the school in Facebook. So they want us in their they just don’t want us to “friend” them.

Last year I required Facebook for the class that I was teaching and I got a very interesting response from the students. More on this next blog.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Snap Session - Word Clouds

Tsk tsk – shame on me, I know. I haven’t posted one of my 15-minute Snap Sessions in a while. Things have been hectic, with a lot of travel and many presentations.

Want to know what I’ve been up to since the last snap session posted here? Check here
and here
and here

I poke into my bag of “apps to try” and decided instead of focusing on one, I would mention a few that I like. There are little apps that dedicated 15 minutes to figure out and test would have been over kill. They have pretty dedicated purposes, as you will see.

The first one I really like is called Wordle. Wordle ( creates a “word cloud”, which is a visual image of the words used in a document, with used the most often appearing larger than other words.

The sample above is a word cloud of this blog entry up to the point above the image.

You can also take a URL and create a word cloud from that. For example, here is a word cloud of my last blog.

An excellent example of the use of word clouds is the recent blog posted by the President-Elect Obama’s transition team on the subject of health care

One of my plans is to go back into my web site and make word clouds for my publications. I might even do that for my blog entries here and at

Well – it looks like I was actually able to spend a good deal of time talking about this one application. I can see some great uses of this, especially in writing class.

One idea, not just for a writing class, might be to have students do a word cloud for a paper they are working on in order to get a good visual idea of the words they are using.

How else could word clouds be used in education?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

first stab

The first suggestion is to work on your "about" page. I think this is a good idea since it, as the instruction says, is how readers get information about you in order to contextualize the content of the blog.

I don't have an about page in my blog but I do have an area in the top header. I decided to add some text there - which includes my name, my title, where I work, how to get me by email, and a link to my web site (which explains why I use "sorry.afk" -

I'll come back to this first days entry as there was more to read and perhaps more to update. Until then....


href="">30 Days to Being a Better Blogger
I'm going to give the 30 days to being a better blogger (30d2bbb) a stab.

Friday, November 14, 2008

#NC08MSU Portrait of a Micro-Blogger: Have You Twittered or Plurked Recently?

Portrait of a Micro-Blogger: Have You Twittered or Plurked Recently? Presenter: Laura Nicosia

#NC08MSU Pageflakes vs. Blackboard: An Exploration of Content Delivery in Foreign Language Education

Pageflakes vs. Blackboard: An Exploration of Content Delivery in Foreign Language Education
Presenter:Enza Conforti

Keynote Address: Curt Garbett, Spencer Johnson Partners

Keynote for this year's Northeast Connect 08

Northeast Connect 08

I'm attending (and presenting at) the Northeast Connect 08 conference here at MSU today. Here is my current schedule.

8:30 - 9:30am Breakfast and Registration

9:30-10:30am Keynote Address: Curt Garbett, Spencer Johnson Partners

10:45 - 11:30a Pageflakes vs. Blackboard: An Exploration of Content Delivery in Foreign Language Education. Presenter: Enza Conforti

11:40 - 12:25p OK, So I Have My Second Life Account. What Now? Presenter: AJ Kelton

12:30-2:00pm Lunch

2:00 - 2:45p Using Second Life to Teach Difficult Concepts Presenters: Edina Renfro-Michel & AJ Kelton

3:15 - 4:00p - Learning in a Virtual Environment: Managing Emergency Preparedness and Health Security Using Second Life as a Teaching Tool Presenters: Anne Hewitt, Susan Spencer, Riad Twal & Ramesh Ramloll

4:10 - 4:55p - Portrait of a Micro-Blogger: Have You Twittered or Plurked Recently? Presenter: Laura Nicosia

I have no power in the main conference room, so I"m not sure about liveblogging and I don't know about Internet access in breakout rooms - but I'll post to my updates if/when a liveblog will start.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Opps - wrong blog

I would like to apologize to those who follow this blog for the overly political posting about the election. I have several blogs and meant to post this into my personal blog, and not my educational-technology related blog.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

2008 U.S. Presidential Election Live Blog

Blow is the CoveritLive blog of my experience of Election Night, November 4th, 2008.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

EDUCAUSE 2008 - Sarah Robbins' Featured Talk

Social Media and Education: The Conflict Between Technology and Institutional Education and the Future
Sarah Robbins

Thursday, September 18, 2008

ELIFALL08 - Learning Architectures That Help Biology Students Reach the Pinnacle of Bloom's Taxonomy

Learning Architectures That Help Biology Students Reach the Pinnacle of Bloom's Taxonomy
Robin Wright, Associate Dean, University of Minnesota

This session will present the academic architecture of a new course for entering biology majors and explore how the physical architecture of the Active Learning Classroom at the University of Minnesota supports sophisticated learning goals, including the ability to synthesize and evaluate ideas.

ELIFALL08 - Building Community with Virtual Spaces

Building Community with Virtual Spaces
Shannon Ritter, Social Networks Adviser, Penn State World Campus, The Pennsylvania State University

Building a community of learners can be especially challenging when working with online and distance education students. By using social networking tools like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Second Life, we can begin to construct a community of sharing and participation that leads to enhanced satisfaction and a true sense of belonging.

ELIFALL08 - The Research Library as a Center of Learning

The Research Library as a Center of Learning: Noteworthy Trends and Complementary Assessment Efforts
Crit Stuart

For a decade, research libraries have increasingly turned their attention to the learning needs of undergraduates, best depicted in the emergence and evolution of collaborative spaces referred to as learning commons. These successful spaces and the programs they support are inspiring libraries to take a fresh look at the needs of graduate students and faculty. The most innovative expressions of support for students and faculty spring from insight provided by user studies, deep engagement with constituents, and helpful collaborations. In this session we will review emerging library trends in support of learning and research, and their impact on learning space design. Some of the more promising assessment techniques that are helping to inform this work will be reviewed.

ELIFALL08 - Learning Space 3.0: When Real and Virtual Spaces Collide

Learning Space 3.0: When Real and Virtual Spaces Collide
Mark S. Valenti, President, The Sextant Group, Inc.

Demands for flexibility, collaborative learning opportunities, and access to digital information are resulting in a new design paradigm for learning space that transcends academic disciplines. Concurrently, technology enables the development of highly specific and realistic simulation environments for education, business, the health sciences, and other disciplines. Maturing technologies such as wired and wireless networks, low-cost projectors, flat-panel displays, and productivity software are integral components of a traditional modern-day educational facility. New and emerging technologies such as collaboration software, personal broadband networks, virtual environments, and 3D displays are creating opportunities to rethink the learning space-what and where it is-and what happens inside it. This session will explore developments in technology, classroom design, and concepts for future facilities and their transformative impact on the teaching and learning process.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ELIFALL08 - Designing Learning into Learning Spaces

Educause Learning Initiative
Designing Learning into Learning Spaces
Malcolm B. Brown, Director of Academic Computing, Dartmouth College
An important goal of all learning space design is to make students and faculty successful in the practice of learning. The shift in focus from just classrooms to the more inclusive concept of learning spaces is at least five years old. Much has changed in our thinking about how to design spaces for learning, and today we face a new set of design challenges (for example, furniture selection and whether to use mature or emerging technology). Amid such considerations, it's important not to lose sight of two core issues: how people learn, and the practices we employ to foster learning. In this session we will review constructivist learning theory and its impact on learning space design. We will also look at how learning space design must be informed by learning practices, and how these practices need to both shape and evolve with all our design efforts.

Our hosts - University of Minnesota

Special thanks to Ann Hill Duin, Associate Vice President and Associate CIO, and the University of Minnesota, for hosting this conference. At check-in I received a nice packet of information including a one-page "Did you know?" that included the following:

* The first pacemaker was invented at the University of Minnesota

* Scientists at the U of M isolated Uranium 235

* The heart-lung machines was invented and used in first successful open-heart surgery

* The U of M was involved in the development of the "black box" flight recorded

* A U of M engineer created the first retractable, locking automobile seat belt

* Doctors at the U of M performed the first bone marrow transplant

* The father of the supercomputer graduated from the U of M

* The Internet's first search and retrieval system called Gopher was invented at the U of M and paved the way for the World Wide Web.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Machinima for my presentation.

The following are machinima clips I'll be using in my upcoming presentation for ELI on Learning Spaces.

Rezzing a Clever Zebra Build (using the building assistant), rezzing something from inventory, and using a sky platform.

A clip from a YouTube Video from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Hotel and Tourism Management, demonstrating how quickly and easily a ballroom can be set up/changed.

Biome, an underwater learning area

The Tsunami exhibit on Meteroa, NOAA's first sim

Virtual Hallucination (warning, some foul language is used in this exhibit - not work or child safe)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Letter to the Lindens

Sorry for the disconnect on that last session. There were network problems that the technical folks at the hotel denied were happening [sigh]. I hoped to have the "letter" posted into the CoveritLive session, but that did not happen.

HUGE thanks to Daniel Livingston for the idea of the letter, for helping facilitate the session, and for passing along the "letter" to me so I can post it here.


Dear Lindens,

Hi, how are you? We’re doing great, the kids are well. Having a blast with Second Life.

We’ve really enjoyed the better support over the past few months. Second Life is really the great for debating with small groups of students in depth – the Socratic model lives and is embodied in Second Life. The cost is fantastic! Open source too. J

We love telling all our friends about how great Second Life is, telling them about the wonders of exploration and experience that go on there.


We are struggling to get large number of our friends registered at a time.

Once we have our friends in Second Life, we have soooo many that it’s kind of hard to keep track of our contacts and organise them. If we could somehow tag our friends, that would be neat.

Application sharing would really just be the neatest – we’ve seen some other guys do thast, and wish you could too. Integrating them locally, where we live would be sooo useful.

We got that letter from your lawyer – is that really necessary? We have to be able to work together without worrying about this stuff.

And why do our friends have to pretend to be other people? Sometimes it would be easier if we were able to use our real names.

Some more tools to make things easier for educators.

Our friends kids can’t come and visit. If there was a way we could get passes for the kids to come visit us where we live – even for a limited time, or limited locations. Being able to communicate effectively with the teens across the grid we also need.

And getting content to the teen grid! Man, that sucks. You really need to work on that, it is holding us back and causing us a world of pain.

I’m not sure how you can help here, but having my private space for the kids (which my supervisor demands) is restricting.

When we have a bunch of kids – even 40 or 50 – managing that is difficult. It needs to be easy for when we have a big event or want to invite the whole neighbourhood over.

And when the kids have their 18th! Oy, this transition is awkward. Sometimes it happens in the middle of a class even – really awkward.

Remember that cool thing I scripted? Dude, you updated the server and it broke. At least give us tools to manage unit testing or something.

Is someone keeping track of the successful grants that people have got? That would be handy.

Can we have invoices when we need them? Sometimes we have deadline to spend money or it just goes – if we can’t get an invoice, we lose the money then we can’t pay you and we lose our house here.

On the other hand, easily booked short term sim rentals would help us put big events on. We don’t need ten sims for the year, but for cousin Ted’s wedding we want lots of guests over.

You know us. We are your best advocates. But there are other people out there making overtures, looking for our business. There are some things in our relationship that we/you need to work on. We need to be able to talk more friendly like, and lose the attitude.

Our kids are our most important focus. It’s why we are here – to help our kids. Whether it’s practical issues or legal hiccups, we need support not barriers.

But you know, thanks for listening to our gripes. Thanks for coming over, we really do appreciate it. To hear you say that meeting us is the highpoint of your year despite all the kvetching is super.

September 7, 2008
Yours sincerely,
The Educators

SLEDcc Working Groups: Feedback to Linden Lab

What would Educators Like to See in the next 1-3 Year Time Frame?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

SLEDcc Afternoon Keynote: Barry Jacobs / Global Kids

Welcome to this afternoon keynote session. The amazing Barry Jacobs, from Global Kids, will be speaking. The title of his presentation is "Why Second life Can't Tip: The Power and Perils of Living La Vida Ludic"

SLEDcc - Saturday Opening Keynote

The first full day of SLCC (SLEDcc is a track of SLCC) and our opening keynote, over breakfast, are Chairman of the Board of Linden Lab, Phillip Linden and new CEO, M Linden.

Friday, September 5, 2008

SLEDcc: Sarah Robbins-Bell Keynote - Take II

SLEDcc: Sarah Robbins-Bell Keynote

Sarah Robbins-Bell is giving the first keynote called "Explicit Bargains: Setting Realistic (Yet Powerful) Expectations for Teaching in Virtual Worlds"

SLEDcc Opening Session

I'm finally here at SLEDcc and it's really great to see so many people I work with regularly and meet so many new people. There is definitely an excitement in the air and we are all waiting for Claudia and Pathfinder Linden to kick us off. Feel free to join the CoverItLive below during the session and share your thoughts. Once the session is over this will be part of the permanent blog posting.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

SNAP SESSION - The Brain (mind-mapping tool)

As promised previously, I tested a product called The Brain. It is a mind-mapping tool and, to be honest, it blows away all of the others I looked it. They have a 30-day free trial of the PRO version and once that expires, you get the basic functions unless you pony up.

I remembered seeing this a few years ago and thinking it was pretty cool but, at the time, had no application for it. I’d forgotten all about it until the need for a mind-mapping tool came up.

It took me about 5 minutes (of my 15 minute allotment) to set up my account and get the product downloaded – which was actually quite simple on my Mac. I have no idea how easy or hard it is for Windows, and they also have a Linux version.

I decided to recreate what I had done in VUE – so I could show you the differences. Not only was I able to recreate what I had done, but I was able to add to it! One of the things I like most about The Brain is that the nodes move around to show relative relationships to the whole. In order to show you this properly I needed to use a product called Jing in order to record the action. Jing is usable for PC and Mac and I have it on my list of things to write about.

Here is the short video demonstration

I think you can see the difference between the static mind-maps and this. There is SO much you can also do with this, I was barely able to scratch the surface in the short time I had.

So, again, I put out the offer – instead of using VUE to chart my work in Web 2.0 apps, I’m going to use The Brain. I’m happy to revise and add by suggestion as appropriate, so please feel free to make suggestions. When I get a decent working model, I’ll post it here again.

Until then, see you next time!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

SNAP SESSION – VUE Mind Mapping tool

Well – the last two days got away from me – as should be expected as we approach the start of the semester. But today I was finally able to get back to my 15 MINUTE SNAP SESSION testing and I poked around a little in VUE.

VUE stands for Visual Understanding Environment and is brought to us by the good folks at Tufts. It is a free mind-mapping tool and I decided to try and map my mind a bit. I decided to try and organize my work bringing together Web 2.0 technologies. I see a few major classifications that these technologies falls into and I wanted to try and categorize them (visually) and then list samples within each category.

I first spent some time looking at the PDF manual they provide and also the Quicktime videos they have to show off the features. This tool has some pretty cool features that make it a very robust tool, and could easy be used in place of a slide show for a presentation or lecture. It is not as intuitive to put together a map, as most of us know how to do slide presentations already, but it is much more visually appealing to show relationships between things. I suggest, if you’re interested, you visit the VUE site and check out the capabilities.

I didn’t have enough time to do something dramatic and in-depth, but here is a jpg of what I was able to do. It is VERY easy to export the work into a variety of formats, I choose JPF since I knew I’d be uploading that into this blog.

As you can see I created major categories, started putting items (actual applications) under each category and then started to show the relationships between the applications and the categories.

I was not able to move a “node” once I placed it someplace. I know there must be a way to do that, but when I click “the hand” it moved the whole map. So I was forced to leave things where I placed them.

One thing I would have liked is if you could click on an item and it moves to the center, showing the relationships in contrast to the otheres. I know another application did this, or at least I think it did. I saw it a number of years ago and it is called The Brain. I just remembered the name and found the site again, so I will probably review this next.

I like the visual nature of this – its great to show relationships between things. It’s almost like a flow chart on steroids.

Oh – the VUE map I started, I plan to complete. So if you have any ideas for major nodes, sub nodes, applications to be added, please let me know. I plan to use this in some of my presentation and also to post it someplace (not sure where yet) for others to be able to use.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mind mapping, part I

I’m back. After two weeks away, I’m finally back in the swing of things. Ok, well, not really. Today is my first day back in the office, but hardly my first day back at work. A new blog post soon on all the exciting things that happened in Brasil.

I decided to start looking at mind mapping. One of our faculty members here in the CHSS has seen a mind map that was dedicated to a specific topic and asked if something like that could be created with his own content. I told him sure, and let him know I’d look into it.

I almost hate to admit it, but when I want good, general (and sometimes quite specific) information, I’ve been finding myself looking to Wikipedia more and more. When it comes to academic use and research, not so much, but for good basic information – it’s a great resource. So I found this page that talks about mind mapping:

I found this during my Google search on the topic. The thing I like about this is that it gave a few examples of free mind-mapping tools, saved me a ton of legwork.

I’d already downloaded the Freemind tool. It seemed interesting, but had a ton of buttons all along the borders. It was very confusing and I couldn’t easily figure out how to do what I wanted to do. If I’d already known something about mind mapping it might have been more intuitive.

Through the Wikipedia page I noticed VUE, which is something I remember seeing before. I know I had an account so I re-requested my password and signed in. After downloading the application I got started right away. The interface was clean and simple – and it was quite obvious how to do what I wanted to do. I also like VUE because it is education-oriented, whereas Freemind is supposed to be more for business.

I created a simple mind map of my efforts in checking out web 2.0 applications but quickly ran out of time. As you know, I only spend 15 minutes doing the research. My thought behind that is, if it takes longer than that, the average person will probably give up on it unless there is a strong drive to learn about it.

Now that I have the tool, perhaps tomorrow I’ll spend my 15 minutes learning how to use it. I’ll even try to generate an example.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

What do you use, how and why do you use it?

This popped up in the CoveritLive "Hanging at my desk" a few blogs below. But the more I've thought about it, the more I believe it deserves its own blog.

Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, GoogleDocs, Jott, and Diigo.

Are these any good for us in education? If so, how and why?

What makes them special, or even unique, compared to other products like them.

What is it about these that has caused them to rise to the top?

How might you use one or more of them in a classroom?

One might even question how you´d define each of them.

If you were trying to tell me why I should take the time to look into these, what might you say?

Meu amigo do Brasil

For those of you who follow me, I humbly suggest you also keep an eye on Joao Mattar. Joao teaches at Anhembi-Morumbi University in Sao Paulo. He and I met through Second Life, a portion of which he documents in this very kind blog he posted about my upcoming trip there.

We've worked together again since then and I hope to forge new ties with him, and others, during my visit.

I'm not saying all these nice things about Joao because he says nice things about me. Dig a bit deeper into his blogs, this guy is spot on! Oh, and he even has a translator on his site, so you don't need to read Portuguese to enjoy his work.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hanging at my desk

My travel plans have changed, I'm still in New Jersey, but that should change again tomorrow. In the meantime, I've been coming into work but still taking a break from blogging, etc...

Since I'm at my desk, I thought I might kick open a CoveritLive session - come by and say hello!

Friday, July 25, 2008


Greetings, all.

I'll be taking a short break from this blog while I do some traveling. But once I return I'll be back to testing out applications and writing about all the things that will be going on starting in August.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

CoveritLive - Take 2

Ok, so a few people (some publically, some privately) mentioned that they'd have helped but I was only online with CoveritLive for about 20 minutes.

Well, now I'm sitting at home working on other things so I thought I would give it another shot, and this time stay on a bit longer.

So, here it is:


Today’s tested application is CoveritLive, thanks to Chris, who left a comment in my blog from yesterday.

At a recent conference (NMC in Princeton, I think it was), Chris was using CoveritLive to post notes about what was going on. I liked it and asked him about it later on but never got a chance to try it out.

Now that I’ve tried UStream, and Chris suggested that UStream and CoveritLive might go together, I decided to check it out.

Again, the initial read seems a bit complicated; I wasn’t exactly sure what I might use it for. The introduction talks about reporting election results, game scores, etc.. I’m not interested in using it for any of those reasons, but I forged on and set up my account.

My account is SORRYAFK, of course. For those of you who might be wondering what sorryafk means (or sorry_afk, sorry-afk, or sorry.afk), here is a link to my web site that explains it.

Back to CoveritLive. My idea of why I want to use this is so that instead of taking notes at meeting (like SLCC or EDUCAUSE), I can use CoveritLive and the good thing about that is that others can join me, comment, we can post images. So it seems as if it does in a text version what UStream does in a video version. Once a video from UStream is recorded, it can be added into the CoveritLive, although I’m not sure if they can both be used at the same time.

I’m not sure why one might use both at the same time, since they seem to do similar things. UStream has a chat log for those watching the stream, which is the same as what CoveritLive does. Both allow for polls. Both can be posted into a blog or website. Although similar in some way, I think both are valuable and I’ll look to use each in some fun and creative ways.

One way I can see faculty using CoveritLive might be to chat with students during an off-campus synchronous meeting, such as part of a hybrid class. In fact, I hope to be able to test this out in the fall and have a few faculty members in mind to give it a go.

Here is the CoveritLive I started to test the service.

I’m going to post this blog and then link it to a few of my social sites. I’ll leave it up there for a little bit and see if anyone checks it out. If not, I’ll try it again another time. The good thing is that the CoveritLive will stay here for folks to see it again later.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today I decided to test I’ve seen any number of people recently streaming from their various locations, such as conferences. It was a way to either bring those remotely to the presentation or to share a presentation (such as a keynote) with others.

In October we will be holding the first meeting of the EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds Constituent Group. Last year it was a “hot topic discussion” and due to the success of that, and the forward motion of virtual worlds, EDUCAUSE granted my request to form a CG.

During last years meeting we showed the in-world location through a data projector but it was too complicated to have the on-site location streamed back in world. It is time to start our discussions with EDUCAUSE’s fantastic tech people and the question came up again about the ability to stream back in world.

I wondered in Ustream might be a solution and so decided to test it out today.
As you know by know, I allocate 15 minutes with these new applications in order to see how far one could get in a short time frame. Anyone has 15 minutes to check something out. More tech savvy folks that I will do things faster, less tech savvy folks might take longer – so I selected 15 minutes as a good jumping off point.

In that time frame I was able to get my account set up, figure out how to get the video to show through my built-in camera (in my MacBook Pro) and how to start a broadcast. Of course, the problem was, in that short time, and now in the times it’s taking me to write this, I had nobody come and watch my test. Poor me. :-)

It was not intuitive at first and I would recommend that the folks at Ustream take some time to improve the first minutes experience for new users. I was a bit confused, having never tried anything like this before. It didn’t take me all that long to get going, but I was resolute because I have a need. Others, less comfortable with technology, might have given up.

There is a LOT to this service and I’m very surprised it is free. Looking for now at the main page during a broadcast you can show just the video, just the audio, or both. There is a place to determine which video or audio source to use, so a web came and portable or wireless microphone are almost certainly an option (I am going to test that). You can slider up and down the audio and video quality, if you want or need to compensate for conditions at/in whatever you are streaming. And you can record as well as just broadcast.

In a bottom window you can have chat, which is great for those who are viewing. There is also a place for advanced settings, which tells you all about adjusting frame rates, mixing sound, and so on. Next to that you can create a poll, have co-hosts, send the broadcast to Twitter, and something called Overlays, which I didn’t have time to figure out.

All-in-all these seems like a great tool. While I was writing this someone popped into my broadcast. I waved, said hello, and asked him/her to chat, so I knew who was out there. This person decided not to engage me, or to take my poll (asking if s/he could see the poll LOL). The first person popped out as quietly as s/he popped in and a few minutes later, another person (or the same one, perhaps) came in but did not engage. It’s certainly possible that there were technical problems, that the person was not familiar enough with the program to use it, or someone was just lurking. In either event, I learned how to use this and now my mind is spinning with all the different ways this could be used in teaching.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ping, at last!

Ping is clearly one of the coolest apps I’ve stumbled across in a long time!

As I’ve gotten deeper into my exploration of Web 2.0 apps, each one seems to have a place for you to update your status. I was only using one of those places since who has the time to go to six or seven different sites just to say “I’m heading home”, or “I’m at work”

Ping lets you enter an update in one place and then it pushes it down to any of the sites you choose. They have one or two sites you can send to. If you missed the sarcasm in that last sentence, here is the list: Bebo, Blogger, Brightkite, Custom URL, Facebook, FriendFeed, hi5,, Jaiku, Kwippy, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Mashable, MySpace, Plaxo, Pulse. Plurk, Pownce, Tumblr, Twitter,, Xanga. So, as you can see, its more than just microblogging sites or status updates.

And one could completely configure this to do any number of things – you should really do to the site and check it out.

I decided, for right now, to just use it for updates. So I set it up to tell my Twitter, Plurk, and Facebook accounts whatever it is I was updating from the Ping web site. I tested it and sure enough, my Facebook status was updated and the entry was posted in both my Twitter and Plurk. I was a happy man! I need to try and figure out if I can have it update my GTalk status too, but I didn’t see that option at quick blush.

What’s that you say? Why have to go to another web site to update all these other web sites. Well, no need – you can enter you update from: AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk (GTalk), Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, iGoogle Gadget, Facebook Application, iPhone Web App, Mobile App (WAP)

So I set Ping up as a friend in GTalk and then “chatted” a message to Ping and it posted it to all my sites.

All of this took me just under 15 minutes from sign up to set up to posting. The only thing I haven’t tried yet is to set up the iPhone Web App. I wanted to see how much I could do in 15 minutes so you can see, with all of these apps I keep writing about, how much can happen in that short amount of time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ping and Plurk - sounds like a cartoon.

Back from a week off I was ready to sink my teeth into some great new Web 2.0 stuff. Not entirely meant to be, I guess.

The first thing I wanted to try was I am not able to keep up with updating ALL of the sites I’m now trying to test out and follow. Apparently, will do that for me. It’s a great idea – enter your update in one place and it updates many, most, or even all of your social networks.

One problem. Its in beta, and I don’t have a code. Ok, so I dropped a Twitter and asked if someone has a spare code. Then I went to their web page where they basically said one could grovel for a code. No such luck there, either – they’ve taken that down while they play catch-up a bit.


Ok – so what else is on my list?

Mind Mapping. One of my faculty members asked about mind mapping and I recently received a link to a student technology blog that gave a list of some. I went back to check that and there are 8 or 9 options there – too many for me to just arbitrarily start checking. So I dropped another Twitter asking if anyone could recommend one over another.

Last resort, I decided to check out Plurk. I really didn’t want to get into another microblogging site, but one of the faculty here started doing it a month or so ago and I’ve heard a few other folks talking about it. I like the time line idea, so I signed up. I had very little time left to play around with it, but I did post a first post – my user name is sorry-afk for those who want to look me up or friend me there.

I then posted to Twitter that I’d become a Plurker and instantly got the following from someone who follows me on Twitter.
@sorry_afk Nooooooooooooo! (enough said)
Um – ok, so I Twitter back, trying to find out more. We’ll have to see.

I did get an immediate response on Plurk from that faculty member I mentioned. I guess we’ll have to see how that one goes. It will be nice to have someplace to go when Twitter is offline or down, which seems to happen a lot lately. And if I ever got on, maybe I can update both Plurk and Twitter at the same time (as well as Facebook and a few others.)

Do you use Plurk? Or Twitter? Or Both? Any thoughts on either? How about on Microblogging in general?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Am I on time delay?

In October of 2006 I’d read about this thing called Second Life. I went to the web site and determined that I did not have the time to invest in looking at this, it seemed far too complicated.

What it did remind me of, though, was a few years back how Dr. Jack Baldwin LeClair of the then Legal Studies Department (now Political Science and Law), had told me about these things called “avatars” and how he had created a whole world and his students were doing something with them. It seems really interesting to me, at the time, but I didn’t pursue it.

Fast forward to January 2007. Since school is out of session, I know have time to poke into this Second Life thing. Well, the rest is well-documented history. I now spend part of my full time job, and my entire part time job, working in Second Life.

Many years ago, in one of my many exceptional conversations with Jack, he mentioned a book called Snow Crash. He recommended I read it. I didn’t. I don’t make time to read, although I know I should.

Last summer he even loaned me his copy of the book, which sat on a shelf in my apartment, unopened, until I finally returned it to him in the Fall.

Being involved with Second Life, I’ve heard people talk about this book time and time again. I know it was something I should read, but like I said, I never make time to read.

A few weeks ago I decided that I MUST insert “down” time in my life – hobby time, some of which includes reading, exercise, writing, meditation, etc...

Last Monday I sat down with Dr. Laura Nicosia, of the English Department here at MSU, to talk about what her plans are for her Fall classes. She will be using the CHSS Island in Second Life for a few builds and one of the texts she is using (although not specifically on our island) is Snow Crash. I decide, given my new regime of down time, to get Snow Crash and finally read it.

Now, I realize how many forces have been pushing this book in my direction for such a long time, and I fought it. Maybe I need to stop delaying things that keep trying to happen in my life. If one likens life to novels, perhaps The Celestine Prophecy is a good one to think about now.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Today was a blah day for me on the Web 2.0 front. I didn’t have anything I REALLY wanted to try out. If you have suggestions of apps you like, leave them in comments and I’ll give them a try.

My day started with a very interesting comment from someone in my recent blog entry. I thought for a long time about allowing the comment to post or not. I have my comments moderated, for a reason. As the day went on I started to feel more and more sorry for this person, it seems as if they can’t even feel a brief moment of joy from something as simple as the linked video. I then encouraged folks to leave comments. A couple did, and I encourage you to as well, but a few wrote to me directly saying they felt SO strongly that they didn’t want to put that kind of thing in print.

Then I poked around at Meezmo. Meh, didn’t really interest me. In fact, I really had to dig around the site to get a good idea what it was really all about. Perhaps I was just being think.

Then I spent some time trying to figure out how to get pictures from my phone to Flickr. I can’t send them by email because for some reason my email (google) gets stuck in the sent box and never sends. I tried some of the troubleshooting, but for some reason it will not work.. There are a couple of tools listed on the Flickr site, but two of them don’t support iPhone and the other wants me to download something from the iTunes store, but isn’t that just for the new iPhone? Perhaps I missed something, and am about to make a fool of myself, but I didn’t think I could download apps to my iPhone. I’m happy to be corrected if I’m wrong.

I posted to Twitter that I was looking for Web 2.0 apps to check out, so we’ll see if anyone posts back. In the meantime, I’ll be on vacation for the next week or so. That doesn’t mean I’ll be entirely off the grid, but I won’t be doing “work” work. So my next update of tested apps might not be until sometime the week of the 21st. In the meantime, hopefully a few of you, or others in my extended network, can recommend a few for me to kick off the second half of the summer checking out.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


In my ongoing effort to learn more about cool and useful Web 2.0 apps, today I signed up for Diigo. Although I know Diigo is not brand spanking new (I usually don’t like to be the first person to kick tires), I’ve recently seen a few people in my network talk about this service. So I decided to try it out.

The sign up was easy. There is a very well constructed video on the main page (you can also find it HERE on YouTube) that did a good job of letting me know what to expect. It was less of a promotional piece and more of an informational one.

As I was going through the sign up process I decided to drop a note on Twitter to see what others thought and felt about Diigo. A colleague here at MSU, one I greatly respect, responded right away that she uses it and likes it. It was good, positive reinforcement while I was going through he short and relatively painless sign up process.

They do give you the option to search Gmail for anyone who might be on the service, but in light of the fiasco last year with a viral web 2.0 app nightmare (which I won’t name, but I’m sure some of you remember), I never send something to all my friends or to a list. I prefer to send to folks directly (and as side note, I prefer to get my invites that way also).

After signing up a searched for a few friends I figured would be on there and sent them a personal invite. I then dropped a note to Twitter and mentioned that I’d signed up and my username is SORRY_AFK, and invited anyone who had a Diigo account to friend me. Its kind of a test of social networking to see how many people I can get in my Diigo network in 24 hours. Be warned, Diigo puts a toolbar in your web browser – so there is a small bit of set up, but it was quite simple and looks really intuitive and easy to use.

To that end, if you are reading this, feel free to friend me. :-)

I have not tested Diigo yet – I figured I would do that when something came up naturally, instead of forcing it. I do use another social bookmarking service, but I use that more for ALL my bookmarks, not just my professional ones. Its not that I have anything up there that would really matter, but my goal is to use Diigo for career-type stuff and share that with everyone, the other will stay more for personal stuff.

Do you use Diigo? If so, what are your thoughts? If you checked it out and do not use it, why not? Are there other services that do the same thing that you prefer? What and why? Any great Diigo groups (communities?) you like and would recommend?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Where the Hell is Matt? He's EVERYWHERE, today!

Today was a very good day. A lot of fun, cool, and wonderful things happened today. As it also so happens, I spent time at the start of my day the same way I just spend a few minutes now.

Early this AM a really good friend of mine sent me a link to a video called “Where the Hell is Matt? (2008)” Now, I usually don’t follow any of these links but for some reason I did.

If you have not seen this video, watch it right now.

No, seriously, if you didn’t watch it – do that right now. If you’ve seen it before, watch it again – I’m sure you won’t mind.

This video dispels two really important myths that some people believe:
1. Social media has no value (yes, there are people who think this)
2. Nothing good ever happens in a big way, only bad.

This video has been around like mad. Everyone I know has linked to it today, or Twittered it, or Facebooked it, or FriendFeeded it, or....well....or [insert appropriate social media name here]. Who can keep up?

I think it’s ironic that I first got it by email – how so very 10 minutes ago. Ironic.

If you don’t’ get a smile out of this video, check your pulse. This is a wonderful celebration of life and the human spirit. How we are all so different but ultimately all very much the same. That the only thing that separates us are those who are trying to control us. Well, of course it’s not quite so simple in every spot on the Earth, but I do believe that the spirit of that does live within each of us.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Flickr - do you Ya-hooo-ooo?

In my effort to learn about as many tools as I can, especially before school starts again in September, I’ve taken on trying out Web 2.0 apps I’ve never tried before. The second part of this experiment will be to write about the experience, here.

Today I decided to finally give in and set up my Flickr account. I was tempted to try Picasa, since I already have a Google account and wasn’t too keen on setting up yet ANOTHER account. I also wasn’t keen on giving in to Flickr’s right to use my pictures without my consent – and to even changing them.

Now, I suppose I should go and find that part of the ToS myself, since I only know that from what a couple of other people have said. But those folks are pretty in-the-know, so I have no reason to not believe them and not time to comb through the Toss.

But give in I did, and I’ll just be judicious at first about what I put up there. I won’t put up anything they might want to steal and hack up for their own evil purposes! LOL

Anyway, I did not find the sign up process as seamless as I have other products. I tried to use my usual brand name, sorry.afk. It told me the name was in use, so I figured that maybe I’d already set up an account. Well, when I went to try and get my password, it told me that the sorry.afk did not exist. So, which is it – does it or doesn’t it? Anyway, I had to give in and use

Then, after getting that, I had to set up a DIFFERENT sign in for Flickr. Why can’t they be like Google and just give me one sign in for everything! [snort] It’s one of the things I like most about Google, single sign in. The good new on this is that I COULD use sorry.afk for this, so my Flickr account name is sorry.afk.

I spent the rest of the time trying to get my cell phone set up to send pictures to Flickr directly from there, without having to email them. There were a few choices listed, I started looking into ShoZu and also using I’ll test both of those and see how it goes.

I am sure for many of you this is old hat – you’ve had your Flickr accounts for a long time and you’re probably wondering why on earth I’m so late to the game and even talking about this. For many others, they are so overwhelmed by these “web” things that they just never try them. Today’s exercise is for you, if you’re in that group.

Do you have any positive or negative experiences with Flickr? Any tips you think are important? Any apps you use from your phone or your computer to make uploading easier? Any tips for staying organized within Flickr and/or helping to make the Flickr experience better?

Monday, June 30, 2008


Yeah - I know - feast of famine. I don't post blogs for months and now I post two in one day. I hope to post more frequently - but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Anyway, although I'd seen and heard of Animoto before, a work colleague recently tried it out and I like the result so I thought I would try it myself.

It took me about 15 minutes from soup to nuts. I watched a 30 second intro, signed up, uploaded 12 pictures I'd take in Athens in March (which are now on display in an SL art gallery - contact Wealthy Mizser in SL for details.) I selected a favorite classical piece and hit enter - Animoto does the rest.

Here is the result.

Have you ever used Animoto before? If so, feel free to post the link here or talk about your reaction to this app.

Renaud leave Cisco

I received an announcement in SL for a Metanomics event today (6/30) with Christian Renaud, who announced on Friday that he'll be leaving Cisco. Renaud has been a leader in the VE field for the work he's done at Cisco and, apparently, he's heading off to do his own thing.

The quote they used in the promo was a bit odd to me.
"From the heart of Cisco's incubator for emerging virtual technologies, we'll explore Renaud's experience, and you'll find out why he believes that "Second Life and its walled/closed ilk will fade into the sunset in the next 24-36 months.""

I'm not sure its a very bold thing to say that SL and other closed environments will fade in the next 2-3 years! 24-36 months doesn't sound so long, but it IS a long time. Think back 24-36 months - had most of you reading this even HEARD of Second Life? I know I hadn't. Now, say that SL will be on a serious downslide this time next year, that might be considered out there, but 2-3 years?

I argue, almost ANYTHING can happen in 2-3 years.

Unfortunate I have previous plans at the time this takes place. Hopefully some of my colleagues will be there (cough cough Fleep cough cough) and perhaps they will write about it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Showing off for my workshop

Hi everyone, I am posting this blog to show the workshop I am leading how to enter a blog. Please just reply and say hello

Friday, May 23, 2008

EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds Group

After the wonderful response at last years EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Seattle, an EDUCAUSE Constituent Group was formed as was a group in Second Life.

Plans are in the works for a meeting in Second Life of both of these groups and a poll is currently being taken of what time would be best.

Please consider joining either or both the Constituent Group and/or Second Life Group.

Friday, April 25, 2008

PodCampNYC 2.0

Today I had the pleasure to present with Peggy Sheehy (SL: Maggie Marat), who works as a librarian/media specialist at the Suffern Middle School in Ramapo, NY. The Ramapo Islands (originally 3 sims but now up to 6) were the first school-owned sims on the Teen Grid.

I was fortunate enough to spend a day at the Suffern Middle School observing how the students were using Teen Second Life in their classes. I left there very impressed after watching four different classes. It was at that point Peggy and I decided we wanted to do something collaborative.

When the call for PodCampNYC 2.0 came out, Peggy asked if I wanted to do a joint presentation. The title developed was “Second Life: Shift Learning” and would focus on how learning was shifting for both grade school and at the college level.

So, bright and early this morning Peggy drove down to pick me up and we left for Brooklyn, to Polytechnic University, where the Unconference was being held. We got there plenty early, which was fine since we needed to put the finishing touches on our presentation slide show. Both of us are Mac users so it was great to use Keynote and make the presentation really sharp. It’s over 30mb, which is the max for Slideshare, but I’m going to try and cut it down so we can post it. I’ll probably reduce the size of some of the graphics.

The day started with a nice opening from the organizers. We then proceed to our first session but the presenter never showed up, so we picked up and joined “Teachers Teaching Teachers”. It was a great session and I’m glad I got to catch it. The next session we wanted to see was in the same location. It was a presentation by Tabitha from Global Kids on some of the machinima their students are doing. It was very interesting and great to see that someone is engaging young people to think and act on global social issues.

During this session we met some folks from Rutgers and we all hit the Cafeteria for lunch. I know, I know…but the food was surprising good and not stupidly expensive.

I was a bit concerned that our presentation followed lunch – that is a slot that many people miss, come in late, or sleep through due to a food coma. Although it is true that a number of people came late, we had a great group. Attendance was not our problem.

The presentation was being made in a classroom and it was clearly not set up for this type of activity normally. No big deal, ya work with what you get when you go to a conference. After hooking the computer to the projector, the projector promptly died. First the bulb went and then the thing would not turn on at all.

This was a huge challenge for us but it didn’t stop us. Peg passed around the presentation on a flash drive to folks with laptops. Those without we invited to move closer to my computer. Peg has a 12” screen but mine is 15”, so we used my computer. It worked, well, and everyone seemed really engaged.

My big gripe about this was that nobody came by at the beginning of the session to see if things we okay and when the tech guys came by at the end to get the projector from the room (we were still presenting, I’ll explain that in a second), I told them the projector wasn’t working and this tech started arguing with me. Forget the fact that I know how to use a projector, or that Peg is a media specialist, or that the room was full of tech types (this is a tech conference), clearly we were wrong and didn’t know what we were doing. This is an example of why some tech types get a reputation for being rude. Fortunately, this seems to be more the exception these days, and I’m sure this guy is highly qualified, but he lacks the skills to effectively interact with people.

Anyway, there was nothing scheduled in the room after our presentation so we just kept going. We told people they could leave if they needed, wanting to get to other presentations, but that we were just going to keep going. We stayed for more than an hour overtime and there were still people there. In fact, three people actually walked out of the room with us! Needless to say, the attendees were engaged and interested.

We attended one more session after that and then decided to brave the rush hour traffic to get home, which was really not that bad.

Overall it was a great experience. Peggy is a talented and gifted individual who has more energy than most people I know combined: I’ll present with her again anytime, anywhere. What they are doing up at Ramapo is nothing short of incredible.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Anshe wins!

To those of you not in (or into) Second Life, this is not going to mean a thing. To those of you just getting in, give it 6 months and re-read this. To those who have been in for a while and/or know something about SL - enjoy a good belly laugh.

There is a Twitter account called SecondLie - they post false, and often very very funny fake updates. Here is the most recent

secondlie: Still think it's a game? Fine. Anshe Chung is the winner! Congrats to Anshe, and we'll be zeroing all accounts on Monday for Round 2.

OK - I have to go back to laughing now.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Students don't think

It is so important that we teach our students to be critical thinkers. I'm not sure why, but so many of them come to us and are either apathetic, lazy, or something else I'm not sure what.

I have plenty of examples from over the years, from my classes alone - but here is just a recent one. Our college has an email address that is not really publicized anyplace. One would have to stumble across it in order to find it. It is used mostly for things like warranties, etc...

I monitor that email address and just now we got an email from a student

I need a permit for the following course:

Fall 2008


CWID: ########

So - this student writes to an email address that has nothing to do with the course, or registration, or the department - and, in fact, I have no idea how s/he even found the address. The student even goes so far as to include his/her CWID, which is MSU's replacement for the SS#, meaning, it is not something s/he should be dropping into an email that s/he has no idea where it is going.

The New Student Seminar has an office, a phone, counselors and staff here all the time to help students, they do a stellar job and have a very high profile on our campus.

I just don't understand. I'm sure the student had a reason, I'm just left to shake my head.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Today's Presenation

Today I did a presentation titled "Second Life: Blending the real and virtual worlds for a hybrid learning experience".

The slide show can be found here

Part one is a basic overview, part two talks about my specific class, and part three is a mini-tour in pictures. I also went in-world for a real-time demonstration. There were faculty members there from Anthropology, English, ESL, History, Linguistics, Sociology, as well as a few visitors from around campus.

There are some ideas rolling around my head about what makes the "recipe" for a good hybrid model. When I do post it will be based, in part, on some of what is in the slide show.

Fell free to post any comments or questions you might have about the slide show or hybrid learning models.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Chat History Logs / Ideas for Discussion

Each week we hold the SL Education Roundtable at 2:30pm SLT on the Montclair State CHSS Island. We've had some incredible conversations over the last few weeks and I look forward to what the future meetings might bring.

I'm working on getting the chat history logs posted in the Dickson Hall Information Center on the Montclair State CHSS Island - I'll let you know when they go up.

If you have any ideas for discussion at future meetings, please let me know - either here or privately by email.

Monday, April 7, 2008

UPDATE: Upcoming presentation "Using the 3D virtual world Second Life in the Higher Ed classroom"

Unfortunately, the President of MSU is addressing the campus at the same time as this session. The following Wednesday is our University Senate Meeting. Not wanting to compete with either of those, but needing to do this for faculty before the end of April, this session has been moved to Monday, April 14th from 3:00pm to 4:30pm, still in Dickson Hall 280. I have revised the text below


As part of my ongoing, and growing, focus on working with instructors to implement technology in their teaching, and a move to greater online and hybrid learning, I'll be offering a presentation titles "Using the 3D virtual world Second Life in the Higher Ed classroom" The event will take place on Monday, April 14th, from 3:00pm to 4:30pm in Dickson Hall 280

The description is
This presentation will be broken down into three parts. The first part will provide a short overview of the 3D virtual world Second Life. The second part will review the actual use of Second Life as a tool for hybrid teaching in my Spring 08 ENWR 105 course (Introduction to College Writing I). The work of other CHSS faculty members who are using, or have used, Second Life will also be discussed. The last part will consist of a tour of educational sites in Second Life, Q&A, as well as hands-on (time permitting).

If you are not a CHSS instructor, but would be interested in attending, please let me know. There are only about 25 seats in the room, and we need to give CHSS instructors priority, but we'll see what we can work out.

Need folks for a group photo

Recently the Montclair State CHSS Second Life effort added the Montclair State Library to our island. This followed a number of meetings between me and some of the folks at the Sprague Library. One of our librarians, Kathy Hughes, has taken this effort very seriously and worked hard to get the ball rolling on this project.

The building is up and "stuff" is being added over time. Aside from being a resource to all those who visit our island, the folks in our real life library have committed to putting content into the SL version of our library that will be of benefit to classes taking place in SL. An example of this exists right now, for my writing class (ENWR 105:18).

One of the Dean's in the library is doing a presentation and would like a photo. We could take a picture of the library as is, but we thought it might be better to have lots-o-folks enjoying the environment when the picture was taken. :-)

Earlier today I send an email to the SLED and EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds CG lists, as well as all of the groups I belong to that allow notices, and I even dropped a notecard to everyone I have a calling card (in SL) for (which numbered over 200!). I also plan to send IMs to my groups and those who are online a few minutes before the meeting. It will be interesting to see how many people we can get to show up. I currently have the max threshold on the region set to 40 – I may up that to 70, or maybe even 100! (Has anyone out there ever done that before, and if so, what was the result?) Thank goodness for the CEHS Island, I’m going to build a bridge way over the water so we can accommodate overflow if necessary.

Anyway, if you have 15-20 minutes to be in an in-world snapshot, please visit the CHSS Island tomorrow, Tuesday, April 8th, at 11:30am SLT (or 2:30pm EDT)


SEARCH MAP for Montclair State CHSS



Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Upcoming presentation "Using the 3D virtual world Second Life in the Higher Ed classroom"

As part of my ongoing, and growing, focus on working with instructors to implement technology in their teaching, and a move to greater online and hybrid learning, I'll be offering a presentation titles "Using the 3D virtual world Second Life in the Higher Ed classroom" The event will take place on Wednesday, April 16th, from 3:00pm to 4:30pm in Dickson Hall 280

The description is
This presentation will be broken down into three parts. The first part will provide a short overview of the 3D virtual world Second Life. The second part will review the actual use of Second Life as a tool for hybrid teaching in my Spring 08 ENWR 105 course (Introduction to College Writing I). The work of other CHSS faculty members who are using, or have used, Second Life will also be discussed. The last part will consist of a tour of educational sites in Second Life, Q&A, as well as hands-on (time permitting).

If you are not a CHSS instructor, but would be interested in attending, please let me know. There are only about 25 seats in the room, and we need to give CHSS instructors priority, but we'll see what we can work out.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Web 2.0 App - Wetpaint

Today I’m looking at an application called Wetpaint. It can be found at, you guessed it, The first thing I noticed is that the home page is clean, uncluttered, and airy looking – not all full of stuff – that usually bodes well for a product, but not always.

According to their “more info” link, “Wetpaint powers wikis, but unlike most wikis, Wetpaint wikis are as simple as 1-2-3 so anyone can start a free wiki that they can share with friends.” So Wetpaint is basically a wiki site, which they claim is “100% free, Simple to start, Easy to build, and Fun to share.” Lets find out.

As I scroll down, they have tabbed areas for different content – which is good. They have What’s Hot, Entertainment, Gaming, Education, and “more wikis”. Another good sign, they have education mentioned. Ok – lets give it a go.

There are, of course, many decisions to be made while setting up. I’ve chosen my usual name, Sorry AFK, listed it as an education site, and allowed it to be open to the public to see.

My big decision is – do I only allow people I invite to be able to edit, allow anyone who joins my wiki, or just allow anyone. There are certainly benefits to each, and the good thing is that someone setting it up can make that choice based on their own need (only want students/committee members, etc... to be able to edit). I’m choosing to leave it open to anyone (even anonymous). This concludes the first step.

The second step, which they call “the fun part”, is about choosing one's image/appearance. This is where you get to choose the template that you want to represent your desired look. Can this be changed later? Yes it can – and says so right at the top of the page. You can also, at this point (or some time later) change your display name. That completes the second step.

The third step is where they get all your information, where you actually set up your account with Wetpaint. After entering all the required info they give you the chance to “invite some friends”. I am going to skip this step for now. If you look to the bottom the BIG button says, “invite now” but next to that, in smaller letters, it says you can skip this step and move on. There are two reasons I’m skipping this for now. First, I don’t like spamming my friends and colleagues with emails and second I don’t have a designated group to invite. If I were teaching using this, this is where I’d invite the students.

And there we go – in less than 15 minutes, I have a wiki site. It would probably take much less than that since you won’t be writing notes for a blog at the same time. :- )

Please go to and leave a message for me and we’ll all see how it goes with WetPaint. I can tell you that my initial, very brief, experience, is that WetPaint is clearer and seemingly easier to use then Wikispaces. In the next day or so I hope to spend a bit more time poking around.

Do you have any experience using WetPaint? If so, share those here in comments.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

ammendments and updates - SLSC Project

The Second Life Student Center project is off and running. Two operational notes. First, I accidentally listed three avatars twice, do I took them off and adjusted the number. I can't do that with the notecards that have already gone out but I will update the notecard giver.

Second, I dropped a copy of the notecard to everyone who was actually at the meeting. So, if you were at the meeting and did not get the notecard in world, please IM AJ Brooks in world and I'll drop you another one.