September 24, 2008

Learning Games Network and Reading Group

There's a new blog on the block, run by a number of the leading lights in educational gaming, so I recommend checking out .... the Learning Games Network. It's new - in fact, it is in beta - so bear with people as they ramp up.

Meanwhile, here is a chance to experience for yourself the advantages of distance/online learning: the reading group, which is entirely virtual. So distance can't be your excuse not to attend! The first book they are reading is even available for free online. And it is a good one - The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, edited by Katie Salen, game designer and educator (high school level). Not only is the book excellent (I've read some chapters already), but each chapter stands on its own, so you can jump into the discussion group as your weekly schedule allows.

Posted by bjohnson at 5:13 PM

July 30, 2007

Virtual Worlds News

Yes, there is a blog about virtual worlds, probably more than one, but this is the latest I've found: Virtual Worlds News.

Notice also that they have a tie in to a conference approaching in October.

Posted by bjohnson at 9:38 AM

May 20, 2006

I've been quoted!

It is the ultimate goal of any author, particularily a blogger, to be picked up and quoted or linked.

Finally, my time has come - in the form of a complete copy of an article posted on someone else's blog. Granted, my article was ABOUT this organization, but still...enjoy your successes when they come....

Read the article at Global Kids, Inc:

Posted by bjohnson at 12:46 PM

March 24, 2005

Is Blogging for Class Really Blogging?

This is a question that is going around among those of us who are NOT educators. Is a blog that has to be written for a class really a blog?

This is a question that is going around among those of us who are NOT educators. Is a blog that has to be written for a class really a blog?

This goes back to the wild and wooly days when the web was new and regulation of any official sort (I'm not including the peer-pressure sort of policing that DID go on) was unimaginable. Those of us who were involved in the developing web of inter-connected computers were involved because we wanted to be. We were interested in trying new things and pushing the boundaries of what could be done with the existing technology. Or, we HAD to be involved because we were doing research that required such interaction (like shipping data from California to Minnesota without the use of a plane!).

Now, we take a medium such as a blog and make it mandatory. Seems like a travesty. The blog originally developed because someone somewhere had something to say - something that they were heavily, personally invested in and wanted to get out to the world at large because they believed the message itself was important. So important, that you could try to stop them, but they'd keep finding a way to speak out.

Now, we take this public, open soap box and assign people to step up on it? Reminds me of Orwellian fiction. What isn't proscribed becomes mandatory.

Of course, we will not now be able to reverse this trend. The software itself (such as this one - Moveable Type) makes it so very easy to assign web-based publication that any instructor would be tempted. But using blog software doesn't make what comes out of it a blog. If you want to see the difference, go out and surf classic blogs. See what people will right about when there isn't a grade associated with it. See what they are passionate about. You may not care for their grammatical usage or spelling, but these factors are not important measures of the quality of a blog (forgive me all teachers of composition). What matters is the content and person who chose it.

Posted by bjohnson at 11:17 AM

November 17, 2004

Why do Blogs Die?

Toc Doc asked, "Why do blogs die?"

That's an interesting question, and one that begs the question of whether or not blogs actually die. If they do not have activity for a certain number of days, weeks, or months, are they really gone?

Adam Stein of argues that even if the author of a blog isn't posting, the blog isn't dead. He bases his assertion on the volume of readers who continue to visit his blog even during a hiatus of months. Even discarding the hits that can be accounted for by web crawlers, his readership is often UP during his dry spells.

What's up with that?
I continue to describe blogs in terms of journals. Not personal journals, but the scholarly journals that sit in the stacks at the library, or better yet in electronic databases. Just because they are published once per month or every two months doesn't mean that the communication is dead. While the author isn't writing, readers may still be reading. This is one key difference between blogs and threaded discussions. A blog is not a conversation, and does not take interaction between parties to remain viable.

Does this really mean, however, that blogs can't die? No, I don't think so. If an author really walks away from a blog or even takes it down, it does cease to exist in any real terms. Once an author stops writing AND readers stop reading, then the blog can be said to be "dead". But it can be hard to tell for certain when to declare the end point of a blog's viability since a writer can get sparked at any point by something he or she has read and wants to share.

So, until next time I feel inspired ...

Posted by bjohnson at 1:48 PM

October 22, 2004

A Use for Blogs

Imagine it is Sunday night. Tomorrow morning, you will go into your classroom and announce a group writing assignment. You want your students, in small groups of 3 or 4, to put together a series of essays on a given topic. Each essay can be done individually or jointly, but they should all be related to a common sub-theme that you will allow the groups to choose.

Since your school is trying to bring technology into the classroom, you want to involve computer technology SOMEHOW, but you don't want to spend a lot of time teaching technology since there already are not enough hours in the day for writing let alone teaching 20 or 30 kids (or more!) how to publish electronically. Heck, YOU don't even know how to do anything more than a boring web page.

If you leave the choice of publication medium to the students, you know you will be barraged with questions about how they are supposed to do this. They all have different schedules and cannot all get together at any one time to meet let alone work together. They don't all own computers or the same software, and you know you really don't want to read their scrawled copies of hand-written notes. They don't know how to publish things to the web, and if they do, they don't want to share their personal pages with other students.

So, what do you do? You blog.

No, "blog" is not a synonym for "cry in a corner". It is a way to publish content to the web quickly and easily.

A blog is usually defined as a collection of writings (called "posts" or "entries") on a theme arranged in chronological order on the web. The term "blog" is short for "weblog" or "web log" - which gives you some idea of the origin. "Blogs" were once ongoing web logs arranged by date as would any other type of log file. Now, as we enter the 21st century, they can be used for announcements, travelogs, personal journals, and informal personal publications.

Blogs are often hosted by blogging companies, although your technical staff can install blogging software such as MoveableType fairly easily and at low cost. They are easy for a host (such as yourself) to configure and make look reasonably good without knowing anything about web publishing whatsoever.

The best thing is that blogs can be set up so that a single author controls it or allows collaboration of a group, much like publishing a magazine. But unlike a printed magazine, blogs allow readers to make comments about the entries they read. It is like having an immediately available editorial page!

Blogs can be set up with various levels of restrictions, especially if you install it on your own system, so this can be tailored to the classroom's needs. While the tradition of blogging is for wide-open spaces and nearly anything goes, you may not want just anyone coming in to comment on little Johnny's work. On the other hand, it can be an incentive for learners to write well if they know they can share their achievements with family and friends. It might even help them clean up their spelling and grammar when the audience includes more than their teacher or professor.

But this is not to say that blogging is the answer to all of your collaborative or publishing needs. You should also look into related technologies such as threaded discussion and other collaborative software. Always start by looking at your needs and those of your students before selecting a tool!

Posted by bjohnson at 12:14 PM