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November 30, 2006

Virtual Pals

I've long maintained that the real power of the internet is it's ability to connect people. A new survey finds that

... 43% of online networkers from the US felt "as strongly" about their web community as they did about their real-world friends.

Online education is often described as "impersonal" but this is evidence that meaningful human interaction can occur online. Some might not feel comfortable with this, but a previous generation had the same misgivings about the telephone. Now it's a very valued way for people to stay in touch and communicate. Perhaps online communication also needs some time to become part of our society's social norms.

This doesn't mean that online communication can always replace face-to-face interaction (neither can a telephone call). But it has its place.

November 23, 2006

Podcast study

An interesting study by the good folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Although the number of people who say they've downloaded a podcast in August (12%) has increased since spring (7%), only 1% o of people say they regularly download a podcast on a typical day.

You can find the report here.

The increase doesn't surprise me, but the low regular user is interesting. Why so low? Some possible answers:
1. Not enough content
2. Not enough quality content that adds value to someone's day
3. The process of subscribing to a podcast, downloading, ... is not convenient enough for someone to do everyday

Personally, I don't think that #1 or #2 is true. The amount of content, both audio and video, is growing (I personally think that NPR and American Public Media have the best content).

My guess is #3. This is why I don't listen to podcasts everyday. I have an hour drive in to work, when I could be listening to all sorts of interesting podcasts. I just don't take the time in the morning to hook up my iPod, download the podcasts, make sure the iPod has suffient battery, and arrange for it to be broadcast over my car stereo (I use an FM transmitter on my iPod). It's just a lot easier to turn on the radio. And, other than my driving to and from work, I just don't have the time to listen to podcasts.

Sometimes, I think we assume that students are all using any relatively new technology that exists. This doesn't seem to be the case for podcasts.

Podcasting is huge right now in the world of educational technology in higher education. It seems that everyone is talking about it and wanting to podcast their classes. I'm not sure that the findings of this study impact the use of podcasts for teaching/learning. Most courses use podcasts to record a class session so that it's available online afterwards. Perhaps a class has students for which English is a second language. Being able to review lectures could add some real value for them. But the ability to record lectures has been around for decades. Remember the tape recorder?

The innovation of mainstream podcasts is that (1) anyone can easily publish audio to the web for a world-wide audience, and (2) you can "subscribe" to them and get regular updates.These innovations aren't too important in regards to podcasting a class. Instructors generally aren't interested in an audience larger than their class, and subscriptions aren't important; just that the audio is available.

But these are just my thoughts, and I'm not a member of this "podcasting generation." On the other hand, according to the Pew study, neither are 99% of Americans.

November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Things I'm thanksful for:
1. My family. There is no close second.
2. Great colleagues. This includes the good people I work with across the college, but also the great people I get to work with across the University. You know who you are!
3. The CEHD Academic Technology Staff. I've been told many times that "your organization is only as good as the people you hire." I've found that to be absolutely true, and we've got a GREAT fledgling organization. :)
4. Opportunities to do great things for CEHD and the University.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, however you choose to celebrate it.

November 19, 2006

Space, Tools, and Collaboration

What this University needs is a space like Temple University's TECH Center. TECH stands for Teaching, Education, Collaboration, and Help.

Check it out.

The world is changing. People are recognizing that learning is best achieved through active experiences, social interactions, and self reflection (create something from yourself!). Thus the title of this blog.

I'll talk more about this later. If you'd like a primer, read "Learning Spaces" (free download) published by Educause Learning Initiative.