the educational possibilities of Podcasts

Just when you think there cannot be another educational technology to think about there is–Podcasting isn’t that recent but is growing in popularity. As essentially a broadcast technology I initially was less enthused about it (I mean I love my i-pod, but mostly for music. My 13 year old son Ross has been very interested in podcasting for some time and has been downloading news feeds to listen to on the subway in the morning on his way to school.
I have seen podcasting described as an audio blog and in that way it might serve a similar function to my “movies of the week” that I develop currently for students in my courses. However, I could start doing mini-lectures too–introductions to topics and more complex ideas. Would these be better as podcasts or as simple downloadable audio files? Not sure yet.
And, between video blogs, and short movies and audio notes and podcasts, it seems more a matter of user bandwidth, convenience and preference than anything inherent in the technology. One obvious difference though is accessibility–podcasts are out there, not simply in the database.
This page has everything: blogs, podcasts, blogrolls, flickr, RSS feeds:

I wanted to think more about what kinds of ways I might use podcasting in my teaching, so am collecting a set of links here about educational podcasts:
Gary Stager’s site has some useful information on how to podcast.
This site is interesting as it has everything you would expect to be linked, bloggers, RSS feeds and podcasting! From San Jose. Then there is the very official looking site here, developed by the Landmark Project, a firm in the US creating a lot of web related technology–headed by David Warlick

moving towards a prototype for GRAIL

Had an interesting meeting today with the ACG group in Education Commons about possible engines for GRAIL to provide the central frame for the environment that the various elements would link to. Mark Hume, formerly at UTSC, developed a really nice architecture there for their web environment that made everything very transparent and easy to find and communicate about. There is a guest login on this page that will allow you to click around and see a version of it:

Now for GRAIL, obviously there would be lots of different things and it would have a different look and feel and so on, but this is the first time I have seen a model that actually exists that could work as a modifiable prototype for what I envision for this environment. Basically there are two fundamental categories of things: roles and channels. Everything is describable and assignable to a role–and channels are locations for specific aggregations of things like news from the Student Services department etc.
Role categories are assigned centrally but updated locally–making information very current and the resulting interface provides a very dynamic notification location for students.
They are currently scoping out a plan and a timeline for how we might proceed with this. I will need volunteers soon!! (I hope 🙂

Visual representations of theory

One of my MEd students, Celynn Klemenchuk–whom many of you know, has a real knack for creating visual maps of complex ideas. She has a whole set of really great concept maps for different theories and theoretical perspectives and you might find these useful. While I’m not sure that reading them is as cognitively beneficial as the process of actually making them, they really do provide an elegant visual summary of key elements and their relationships, which might be very useful for the comps/proposal preparation people and those in 1608.
Thank you Celynn for sharing these with us!!

Setting up Del.ic.ious and Bloglines

Well that was a lot easier in the end! I have managed to get accounts in both, post to both and have set up links in my task bar which lets me add links directly without opening those pages first. My blogline links are in this blog on the right hand side after the calendar.

Great, I feel less like a technological incompetent–although it did take me a number of tries!

Off to sing for the day 🙂

The dissertation dive

I have been thinking a lot about how many of the most important elements of graduate education are quite implicit. One of these elements is the psychological aspect of the thesis process.

People often start out seeing it as a series of procedures: how long should the lit review be? what is a good research question? How do you think about what is an appropriate methodology for the question? What is the best theoretical framework? And while all these are important questions, they don’t have specific answers–each depends upon the kind of question you are asking.

I like to think of the dissertation process as one of diving into a deep pool. It is a little scary, but you can’t dive without going deeply and fully into the water. Similarly, the dissertation process is one of immersion–first into your questions, then your theoretic framework and later into your data. You have to trust that you will resurface and not drown! and learn to live with a state of uncertainty as you sort through ideas and data. In the middle of all this anxiety there is the thrill of innovative and creative work–the occasional edges of excitement as you suddenly have insights (which may just as suddenly disappear 🙂 Occasionally, you realize (and this is where blogging is so important) that you keep rediscovering the same idea (which will vary slightly and develop over time). This is good–it means this is important to you and will shape over time as you read and develop it.

You can practice diving–you can learn the elements that make up a good dive and similarly you can learn aspects of the dissertation process that will help you hugely as you go along–reading, methodology, theoretical frameworks etc. You need also to use discourse–write, talk, write and talk some more–with each iteration, you will clarify your thinking.

Yet at the heart of diving and dissertations there is something less tangible–more creative and risk-taking. You dive into the air, trusting that you will enter the water at a good angle and the dissertation is also a creative act–you are developing an original constribution to the literature, and no creative process can be entirely procedural nor be accomplished without risk-taking. In the case of the dissertation the risk-taking is attached to your own personal identity–that is partly what makes it so stressful.

I don’t know if this makes sense to any of you, but I put it out there for you to think about, so that when these things happen to you, you can recognize them and know they are normal–everyone feels these anxieties, and I suspect you can’t do a really good thesis without them!

Why reading matters even more in the digital age

I was planning what to talk about for an invited ECOO presentation next year and was thinking about the issue of technology in preservice education, particularly what are the most useful kinds of technology related knowledge and experiences could we offer to our preservice candidates that would let them go out and teach effectively. One of the big issues to me is digital literacy–not just computer basics of email, chat and surfing, but really good critical search and retrieval skills. Things to include would be evaluating websites, their credibility and sources of information, comparing the value of information from different sites; searching effectively and so on. To do this well requires sophisticated reading comprehension skills–but different ones than may be required for more traditional print sources. There are different tools–like the meta-web that lets you id sites and the links to them, to give you a sense of the context of this website and so on.

Some resources for this stuff include Alan November’s site:

and a recent copy of Educational Leadership on Reading Comprehension
which touches on some of these issues.

A couple of other resources I found are circa 2001–apparently a time when this issue was hot for the first time:
This is an article by November in TechLearning

and this presentation from the University of Delaware on being a web-literate educator.

A link from Wendy on writing and blogging: