Thursday, October 25, 2012

Returning vets who can't get jobs

Jon Stewart interviewed vets who can't get jobs due to the disconnect between military training and experience in the field and certification. There isn't some institution already getting going on this and offering prior learning assessment and setting up a learning plan to get these people jobs ASAP? I'm checking out the Hillsborough Community College (Tampa FL) web pages devoted to veterans and notice this "Veteran students must be degree seeking; that is, planning to graduate with an Associate in Arts (AA), Associate in Science (AS) or Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree, Selected College Credit Certificates (CCC) or Post-Secondary Adult Vocational (PSAV). Note: Educator Preparatory Institute no longer qualifies." ( ) I wonder if HCC has any way to evaluate what a vet already knows to put them on a fast track to certification in some area such as EMT. Do schools offer such a service?

Monday, October 15, 2012


The TLTGroup of sMOOChers met online last Friday. The group's doing the Current/Future State of Higher Education MOOC(#cfhe12) together. Most of the group had just watched Siva Vaidhyanathan's presentation " Beyond MOOC Hyperbole: Why We Should Support MOOC Experimentation ... Critically and Carefully" CFHE12 is using GoToMeeting and we agreed that we don't like it. You can't see a list of participants and you can't chat with other participants while you are watching. You can send questions to the moderator, but otherwise there is no interaction. Do I see that organizers have a choice about allowing everyone to use the chat window?? I'm not sure why that function didn't seem to be available. See "chat with other attendees" Another aggravtion with GoToMeeting: Watching an archived copy of the first presentation by Jeff Selingo required putting in your name and email address again and downloading a codec (in my case) and THEN watching. Stephen Downes put up a copy of the Selingo's presentation at - no problems there! Having the right tool at the right time makes a difference.

Coincidentally, I was looking through Peeragogy: A Peer-Learning Handbook ( recently and like the way they suggest thinking about tools for self-learners in terms of function. Learners need tools to collect (search/visualize), relate (consulting others), create (and co-create), and distribute/disseminate information. ( ) We sure could add some criteria to a synchronous tool. I would like something more like Bb Collaborate or Adobe Connect.

One of the SMOOCHERS mentioned etiquette - or lack of it - in the discussion forums. I haven't noticed anything even slightly off to me, so I'm trying to figure out what might have seemed troubling. I'm wondering if this was a reaction to some informality(?) (Some participants in CFHE12 know each other, so there's that.) Want to see really bad behavior? There was plenty in the Coursera course I took. The teaching assistants for that course did not use a heavy hand, but they did remove some postings. We can remind participants to be polite, but what should we do when some aren't? Perhaps we should warn MOOC newbies about the potential for a lack of decorum in discussion forums Perhaps we should suggest that newbies warm up by spending a few hours reading comments on slashdot and reddit and get innured to flip comments. Perhaps we should be trained in strategies for dealing with rude postings when we are not in charge. (Some suggestions for dealing with difficult students in the online classroom at )

Last Friday was a day of complete confusion for me about what time I was supposed to be where - both in physical space and online space. I need an administrative assistant! I finally made it online for that first TLT Group sMOOCHers discussion on CFHE12. Talk about confusion in general! I've been using the wrong hastag for sMOOCHers. It should be #tltgSMOOCHERS . I would have sworn that I'd been reading all my TLT email, but I guess not.

Speaking of technology: I do not yet have a mobile device with a data plan/hotspot. I experimented with ways to get onto wifi as if I were getting out of work at 2pm and getting into a 2pm online meeting ASAP. Not much luck with a rapid launch with my current batch of devices from my work location! Maybe it's time to pay Verizon more money? (sigh).

What money can buy: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy For Girls

I watched the tv show about the first graduating class of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls on OWN network last night. Oprah is aiming to create a "new generation of dynamic women leaders." I poked around their web site this morning. The OWLAG says this about ICT: "We continually monitor ICT developments in education - seeking new ways of using connectivism as a learning theory and exploring the genefits of networked learning." There is an Arts and Culture Department that "provides after-school co-curriculum programme which focuses on creativity, opportunity and development." The OWLAG includes design technology in the curriculum with lessons that are mostly project-driven and assessed on the basis of teamwork as well as other results. The school stresses community service. There is an office of university guidance and a wellness team. The school offers the Internantional Baccalaureate degree for the middle years. The school teaches English, IsiZulu, SeSotho and Akrikaans. English is the "bridging language." The other three languages help ensure that these students will be "firmly grounded by their culture and South African heritage." The description of the library includes this: "Books are the most important part of the Library. Despite our very impressive collection of DVDs, movie recordings and subscription databases, the printed word in its traditional format is where research and reading skills begin." (That sounds almost quaint to me - but I appreciate the sentiment.) Nice! What if all kids had a personal advisor and a wellness coach and a life orientation curriculum? I know that Oprah has plenty of money to lavish on tis particular school and gets to pick the best blueberries (see ), but what if we had the will to do more for all of our children?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

CFHE12 Current and Future/State of Higher Education

CFHE12 MOOC is using Desire2Learn. Since UMUC recently announced that they are going with Desire2Learn, I'm glad to get an opportunity to experience this LMS as a student. I tried to log on right after getting the first newsletter. No luck! The log on procedure needed some tweaking. While that was annoying, I understand that these things happen. Online courses: You are going to put up with at least a little bit of technology pain. (Contrast this with driving to campus which is problem-free, right? No! They forgot to give us adjuncts the new faculty parking lot code at the beginning of the semester. Parking nightmare!) I had my own confusions getting used to D2L. Barry Dahl explained how to see many posts at once in the discussion forums by changing to "reading style". That helped! Initially I wasn't sure who Mark Read was - but I'm slowly getting the hang of it. Did I look for help screens? No! I behaved just like most of my students.
One of the nice things about the discussion forums in D2L: I did a search for "librarian" in the Introductions forum and found all the librarians I had listed as I read through the introductions. Perhaps we should all be trained to use keywords and tags in our discussion postings as a matter of course. "Imagine that someone is trying to find material on the topic of your post. Will they find yours?"

Whether it's a MOOC or not, my little, fleeting problems with D2L made me think about some micro-level aspects of online vs face-to-face courses:

Online courses: Course syllabi and instructions for assignments can be confusing. One course I teach asks students to list "discipline." Some students are asking for clarification. Perhaps we should just ask them to list "your major"? (It's a grad course.) (P.S. I ask students to list the last book they read for fun. Many students in my last two courses listed Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe they are thinking of a different kind of discipline.
Face to face courses: Course syllabi and instructions for assignments can be just as confusing, but it may be easier to ask questions about the instructions in a face-to-face class.

Students may have trouble navigating all the components of an online course. (I do not believe that navigation and use problems are restricted to use of an LMS.)
Most of us have been sitting in classes since the first grade. We know how face-to-face courses work.

Watching a professor deliver a video lecture online can be boring.
Listening to a professor deliver a lecture in class can be boring.

Wading through online threaded discussion forums can be tedious.
Listening to that one student who always hogs airspace in class can be tedious.

Contacting your instructor and/or other students via email, chat, phone, etc. can be a snap in online courses (though the response might not be instantaneous)
Students may be able to avail themselves of faculty office hours and/or stay after class to ask questions.

Students taking online courses may plagiarize and cheat on exams.
Students taking f2f courses may plagiarize and cheat on exams.

Students may complete an online course and yet not have a true, deep understanding of the content.
Students may complete an online course and yet not have a true, deep understanding of the content.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thinking about MOOCs

I'm collecting up too much information about MOOCs getting ready for a CIP talk about MOOCs and intellectual property. In my travels I found "The Summer of MOOCs" - Digital Campus - Episode 90 - George Mason U podcast The participants critique MOOCs with the usual: MOOCs may be able to supply training, but not real learning - not the kind of deep learning that you get on a campus where you also learn before and after class. What that sounds like to me is criticism from educators who have not participated in constructing or conducting a quality online course! We ought to be comparing MOOCs that are being offered to other online courses. Get back to the No Significant Difference web site and check on numerous articles comparing online and hybrid courses to face-to-face courses - and often researchers find that there is no significant difference. Is an on-campus education the very best education where deep learning always takes place and students lives are change forever? We've all been there and probably most of us have found value in being on campus and all that interstital learning that goes on before and after a scheduled class - but is that the only way to learn?? That can't be true! Study online has proven to be successful for many. Plenty of people have done their learning in less than ideal conditions with little participation in the traditional four-year on-campus college experience. I was reminded of Shai Reshef's remarks at a Harvard University Berkman Luncheon discussion from 2010. See Part 5 5:31 - 8:18 A student asks about the physical place and extra curricular activities. He wonders if anything can be done to encourage socializing outside of courses. What about a university World of Warcraft team? Shai Reshef asks if students miss something by only studying online? He points out that for University of the People students it's either study online with UoPeople or not study at all. .

Comments about the podcast: Dominik LukeŇ° make some GREAT points!
Summary of the podcast here: ;

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

K-Pop - Gangnam Style South Korea Diplomacy

Al Jazeera: K-Pop Diplomacy: South Korea's Soft Power Goes Gangman Style. Psy - Gangnam Style Gangnam style - The Psy - Gangnam style video itself is on this web site Read this one More info about Psy Gangnam Style Explained: Breaking Down Psy's Viral Hit And maybe this one 7 Bizarre K-Pop Songs You Need to Watch Now

Monday, September 3, 2012

University of the People is not free - mostly free

This recent article "A Free Online University Tests the Waters" prompted a couple of people on the Open Educational Resources discussion forum ( to point out that "free" is a misnonmer. Students are now asked to pay a small fee to take the final exam in each course. That reminded me to make a small donation to the general scholarship fund. (Link available from the home page at ) Donating time is a help, but so is donating some money.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Random thoughts about MOOCs

I’ve been thinking about some assumptions about MOOC that I’m reading in articles in the news. MOOCs are compared to face-to-face college courses.

MOOCs could be useful as a replacement for large lecture courses offered face to face. MOOCS will allow us to outsource those large lecture courses. MOOCs on more specialized topics are ignored in that conversation.

Students are plagiarizing. Students might not be who they say they are. Perhaps plagiarism and “are you who you say you are” only matter if you want to certified participation in the course. Otherwise, why drag all that baggage into a MOOC setting?

Students might repeat courses until they can get a good grade. That can’t be good, right? You should only get one chance to master a course. Obviously if you don’t get a high score the first time you encounter the material, you must not be very bright. If you flunk, that’s it for you! Yes, students might be gaming the system (whatever the system is). Or they might be learning the material. It seems to me that this matters if the main purpose of MOOCs is to identify gifted students (which seems to have become Udacity’s goal.) It only matters if you want to certify that a student is an A+ student.

Some MOOCs rely on peer assessment. This method can’t possibly provide useful feedback for students because a MOOC is not really a community of peers. Anyone can join a MOOC. Your work might be reviewed by someone unsophisticated! They might not even speak English as their first language! Could you learn anything from a reader who is not well-versed in academic writing? This concern is based on the assumption that our only readers should only come from the traditional academic community and the only form of writing should be traditional academic writing. It also only matters if participants are concerned about their grade in the MOOC. Course-like MOOCs such as those offered by Udacity and Coursera are just like courses – and students worry about their grade.

Some MOOCs rely on quizzes. Quizzes can’t provide evidence of Real Learning. Is Real Learning measurable and quantifiable quizzes or by any other means? This is an assessment issue for face-to-face courses as well of course. It’s thrown into relief by these courses being online.

We librarians want to be engaged in MOOCs. We can’t stand to see a bunch of learners trying to forge ahead without our guidance. We could just sign up for courses on a voluntary basis and audit the course and help out informally in the discussion forums, but I sense that some librarians would rather be invited and identified as assistants by course developers. Why institutionalize our participation asking librarians to work for free? Why not just do it? If librarians jumped in, what about writing coaches? I’m involved in discussions with the TLT-Group about what higher education faculty do after they retire. Could MOOCs provide an outlet for doing good works?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Coursera's Fantasy and Science Fiction Course

I've been sitting in on Dr. Rabkin's Fantasy and Science Fiction course offered via Coursera. There's a good article in the Chronicle of Higher Education today (August 16) about incidents of plagiarism. One thing that frustrated students doing the assessing - the course developers hadn't anticipated allowing for a zero grade for suspected plagiarism. Some students accused of plagiarism complained that they had NOT plagiarized. With no one in the instructor role, who mediates?

Laura Gibbs (faculty member at U of Oklahoma) who's quoted in the article has been blogging about the course and has plenty to say various problems that have arisen in these weeks of the course. (The course started July 23). I agree with a lot of her comments.

Example of one thing that's bugged me: When the course started, there was no course calendar with all the dates written out. If the essay on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is due on a certain date, list that. Don't just say that the essays are "due Tuesdays."

Another issue: Availability of the books for the course. Most of the books for the course are available via Project Gutenberg and other open access sites. There are only two books that are not available for free. Some students overseas were having some problems getting their hands on those two books (though perhaps by now those students have been able to order copies.) The two books not available for free: Ursula LeGuinn's The Left Hand of Darkness and Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. If you wanted to run an open course that concentrated on modern science fiction where fewer books are available open access... that would be a barrier for a world-wide audience - and students who might not be able to afford the books.

The units each week close with short videos where Dr.Rabkin discusses that week's book. Yes, you know what I'm talking about - those often maligned talking head videos. (But you know what? Dr. Rabkin has something to say! I'm happily watching the videos.) One of the glitches: The early videos have had subtitles in English and Spanish. This week's videos now have English subtitles. It seems that they are catching up with providing captions and transcripts. I presume that next time the course is offered, the videos would be re-used and all of that would be in place at the start of the course.

Another concern: The discussion forums. Originally there were no discussion forums for each unit. The course developers added those after we got started. If the developers took a careful look at how the discussions have developed, they could start out the course with more distinct forums.

Student support: Could Coursera provide a set of links to information on writing? Students in the course (including Dr. Gibbs) provided links and made suggestions about improving writing skills. Students also provided each other with resources about the readings. Should those be gathered up for next time? What about including an information literacy piece on Coursera? Perhaps they could offer some information on how to search for additional resources - or at least point to some information literacy materials. (That brings us to the "where are the librarians" question. Do librarians have a role to play in MOOCs?)

Note: We've got a few self-identified teens in the course. According to the terms of service, that's a no-no - but I hope that they didn't kick enterprising teens out of the class. I would have loved an opportunity to participate in a course like this when I was that age.

The Fantasy and Science Fiction course is just like a course. Dr.Rabkin pointed out in an announcement this week, this is the same course and schedule for readings that he uses in his face-to-face course at University of Michigan. Should the course be less traditional and more 21st century? Perhaps students could have been encouraged to start those Facebook groups and circle up on Google+. Perhaps students should have been encouraged to create videos or other projects like writing their own fairy tales instead of those short essays, but some students have thought of that on their own. Perhaps the traditional course is as good a place to start as any.

So...there are some issues - but there are plenty of messages in the discussion forums with thanks to Dr.Rabkin for offering the course.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Breaking up with ebooks???

Sarah Houghton Librarian in Black wants to break up with ebooks. I hope it's a momentary fit of exasperation. Librarians need to persist in working with content suppliers and make ebooks work. Here's one reason: kids like digital books. See this article from the Tampa Bay Times: Hillsborough "myON" users read more than 1-million books in just six months. I'm the first to admit that ebooks can have their problems - BUT I would be reading a lot less without them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Google Power Searching

I've been participating in the Power Searching with Google MOOC (July 10 - July 19) run by Dan M. Russell. I'm glad I decided to do it. (I see a few other librarian names I recognize in the Forums) Most of the material is a refresher for me, but I'm picking up some tips - and a few things that I ought to practice. Google Image Search? I couldn't figure out the challenge question even after knowing the answer and trying to reverse engineer it. About the course itself: One problem that's emerged is that Russell is teaching a few things that haven't been rolled out worldwide yet and there's a global audience for the course. It's not always clear what's brand new. "We changed that a couple of weeks ago" would be helpful! From the Forum postings: there seem to be a few problems for anyone not using Chrome as their browser(?). I don't remember any initial suggestion that using Chrome is a good idea. The relatively new "Knowledge Graph" is one of the things that caused some users' problems. Some students are already clamoring for more power search tips.


Jonathan Rees' More or Less Bunk blog is interesting reading. He has logged some objections to MOOCs - but doesn't seem to have tried participating in any. He worries about the state of the work life of faculty in higher ed as the liberal arts are attacked, colleges hire more adjuncts, and online learning becomes the rage. I think he's right to be concerned, but I keep thinking that he ought to do more exploring. He ought to be reading Tony Bates' blog where he's been posting about developing quality online courses. He ought to be looking at the research about online learning. He ought to be exploring what's been happening in distance education beyond the latest ( Udacity, Coursera, MITx, EDx, etc. ). Distance learning has a very long history. He ought to be thinking about learners who are not in a position to pursue a traditional four-year undergraduate degree. We need options for students - AND we need a decent work life for faculty and staff no matter what the delivery method. I hope Dr. Rees will help us think it through.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ereaders - a tool to use while traveling

Jonathan Rees writes a post "When your books aren't really yours" ( He says he has decided to take an extra backpack filled with print books rather than succumb purchasing an ereader. He plans on abandoning the print books in Korea rather than drag them back home. So is print precious or not? I suppose someone else might get use out of the copies he leaves behind, but otherwise, he's simply discarding books. He mentions a print book he owns that contains his dad's marginalia. I presume he wasn't going to take that book on the trip. I'm don't get it. Why not learn to use an ereader - a great tool to use while on a trip? It can be the right gadget for that purpose. Leave those print books at home where weight and bulk don't matter.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oprah Book Club 2.0 - A MOOC

Oprah Book Club 2.0

Oprah has started her Book Club up again. The Digital Reader Morning Coffee - 4 June 2012 - had a link to the New York Times video about Oprah's new interactive online book club.

Can we think of Oprah's Book Club as a MOOC? I'm impressed with how many options there are for learning about the book from the Oprah, the author, and her readers and for sharing comments.

First pick for the new book club: Cheryl Strayed. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The book is autobiographical - Strayed's of her hiking the Pacific Crest Trail at age 26 after the death of her mother. Strayed had no experience as a long-distance hiker and the journey chronicles her physical and emotional journey on the trail. The book is available in all kinds of digital editions - and in print. There are detailed instructions on getting the ebook from various sources. I went for the Kindle edition which is marked (Oprah's Book Club 2.0) The Oprah ebook editions are lightly highlighted and ends with a list of the highlights with annotations - Oprah's reactions to the highlighted passages. There is also a list of discussion questions at the end of the book. The Guide (E-Reader Extras) are also available online at the Book Club site.

Participants are invited to form virtual book clubs: "Form a virtual book club on GroupMe; watch video interview with the author, what readers are saying around the world, go behind the scenes with Oprah's Book Club 2.0"

What about other social media? "Using Mass Relevance Companion to capture and display the best conversations, Tweets, posts, and photos all in one place. To participate, just add the hashtag #oprahsbookclub to your tweets and Instagram photos." Participants are urged to send an Instagram photo of their favorite place to read. Follow @Oprah @CherylStrayed

Also online at the Book Club site: There is a list of the 60 print books from the original Book Club.

O Magazine for July 2012 is laced with information about Oprah's Book Club 2.0. The Book Club is highlighted on the front cover with the page number for the article. Oprah publishes a "What I Know for Sure" essay on the last page of every issue of O Magazine. Magazine. The July 2012 issue's last page "What I know for sure" is devoted to Oprah's embrace of ereaders as useful devices. She says that she is still fond of print books, but loves the ability to go online and buy a book and download it in an instant. She likes using her ereader when she travels.

Opposite her essay: an ad for the Kindle Fire.

I've received the Book Club's June 12, 2012 newsletter. Strayed discussions writers block. There's a section "how to write your memoir." There's a link to video with Strayed talking to Oprah about the book. There's a place to submit questions to Oprah about the book.

Sunday, July 22 at 11/10c: Oprah's television interview with Cheryl Strayed on "Super Soul Sunday".

Lots of ways in and lots of options to participate in discussions about this book.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Twitter Short Story by Jennifer Egan

I've been reading the New Yorker science fiction issue (June 4 and June 11, 2012.) Jennifer Egan has done a Twitter short story Black Box - broadcast on Twitter over a few days. Kirtley at Underwire hopes that it's the start of a return to serial fiction. I saw part of the story on the New Yorker's Page-Turner ( for June 2, 2012) and then after following @pageturner on Twitter, found the tweets. Did Twitter work for me as a way to convey this story? No... I didn't happen upon the tweets coming out in real time so I found myself reading the tweets backwards. Would it have worked if I were following the tweets in real time? Maybe. (How do I follow one person's tweets updating without seeing everyone else's tweets interspersed? I seem to be lacking some Twitter expertise.) Did the short tweets on the site at Page-Turner work for me? Not really. I had a really difficult time reading the sentences that were split in two in what seemed a extremely arbitrary way since some of the sentences were already very short. The breaks didn't seem poetic to me - maybe more like code that I was forced to break. Nevertheless I had a feeling that there was something going on with the story so I overcame my initial frustration. Once I finally saw the whole piece published in the New Yorker in print, I really got into the story!

William Gibson did a short piece in that same issue of the New Yorker about how he got into reading science fiction: Olds Rocket 88, 1950.( Now I'm trying to remember how *I* got into reading science fiction. I'm not certain! There were some Oldsmobiles in our family during the same time period. Maybe that was it! However I think it might have been Jules Verne and on from there.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bonk's open course - End of Week 4 - No badge

I had every intention of earning myself a badge for Dr. Bonk's open course - but no! I got distracted during week 3. I got a call from a friend who wanted to get together in person, face-to-face, so I did that instead of attending the live session. (I have a policy of ditching online activities for face-to-face activities unless money is involved (or I'm the presenter.) Unfortunately that broke the spell to some extent. It's better to KEEP UP.

I did listen to most of the recording for Week 3 and did review the readings. Week 3 was on collaboration. I know there are cheerleaders for collaboration as if that's the best thing ever, but my own attempts at a collaboration assignments were successes. My adult learners living in many time zones were not all that enchanted with the idea (even though others who teach in the same program have brought this off with a lot of aplomb.) In one group on semester, one student simply flaked out and did not do his part. The other students were extremely upset. They feared that 1) their grade would be affected and 2) that the student would get credit even though he did none of the work. My reassurances were not sufficient to calm their nerves. The students did not enjoy the process. I did not enjoy the process. What were the learning objectives for that assignment? I can barely remember! Mostly I remember that the students were unhappy. Mostly the students learned that collaboration was a risky proposition. As I noted I do understand that some instructors make it work. However the idea of tackling a collaboration activity in the future just makes me groan. I read through a lot of the discussions for Week 3, but I did not have a charming, original contribution to make about collaboration. So... no badge for me! I did make some comments here and there in this course, so I stretched beyond my usual lurker status, but I'm not comfortable I fulfilled the requirements for a badge.

Gerry McKiernan picked up Bonk's AUDIO | The MOOC Halftime Report. Interestingly Dr Bonk guessed that he'd attract faculty who were "petrified about teaching" online. I'm not certain there was an actual survey... It would be interesting to know more about the participants.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Where will independent learners get library services?

I'm reading all these articles on how the "strangle hold" that universities have higher education is being disrupted. Some seem to imagine a world of self-directed learners mixing and matching online courses, setting up their own personal learning networks, finding their own way learning based on their interests. Are these learners going to have the same access to library resources currently available at major institutions? I hope that the open access movement will thrive, but in the meantime we're still talking about plenty of proprietary books, articles, media, etc. (Any chance that scholarly publishers will drastically lower prices? What if scholarly articles cost each user a dollar - or less?) For that matter what role will librarians play? We're used to cooperating, sharing, etc. but our license agreements restrict how much sharing we can do. What will happen to all these independent learners? How can we serve their information needs?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hunger Games

I made Facebook friends with a library staff member in a middle school in Kenya. ( ) She'd like to come to the States and get a masters in library science, so we've been saying hello back and forth talking about being a school librarian, etc. You know - library chitchat. In a moment of zaniness I decided to send her a copy of the first book of the Hunger Games for their library. She got the book (Thanks, Amazon!), read it, shared it with the staff there - and the staff decided to buy 30 copies and use it for discussions with the students. We were on chat this morning googling hunger games lesson plans. Nice way to start the day - a little mentoring! (Evans has the same name as a famous journalist and it took me a while to figure that out when we first started chatting. Evans Wafula the journalist is not Evans Wafula the librarian.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bonk's open course: Week 2

George Hobson did a good recap of the BlackBoard Collaborate Week 2 session for Bonk's open course: Learning styles, teaching styles...whatever! Bonk's got his own personal style going on - zany, madcap, informal - and some expressed displeasure with the funny hats, etc. - pretty close to "stop clowning around - just tell me what I need to know" Very interesting to hear that reaction from adult learners who are in a course specifically designed to shake up their approach to online courses! Some students do not appreciate the clowning around!

So what about incorporating different kinds of doing into one's courses? I find that there's still a tendency to expect students to exhibit academic writing skills. What if the student turned in a spectacular video? Applause applause, but...the school still seems to want to know... can the student write?? (What if the student turns in a bad video? I wonder if we faculty have the critical apparatus necessary to goad students to the next level. )

One idea that I might be able to implement: Give the students a choice of assignments. This means that I have to get busy and dream up some additional, equivalent assignments.

(Best part of a MOOC: Getting to know a few more people. I've already collected up the names of a few librarians who are participating in Bonk's open course.)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kindle DX

New toy - a Kindle DX on sale for Mother's Day. It came this afternoon. I didn't have to set anything. It knew who I was when I took it out of the box. After charging the battery I loaded up some PDFs. I'd had high hopes that I'd be happy reading PDFs on the DX without messing around with the format. Yes! It works for me! I can see an entire page on the screen without resetting font size or rotating the screen. I'm reading Flexible Pedagogy, Flexible Practice: Notes from the Trenches of Distance Education. (The PDF is free from Athabasca University Press: If I wanted a larger screen, why not just go ahead and buy an iPad? An iPad is on the wish list, but I wanted to make sure to grab a DX with its non-glare screen. One issue: The DX has the page forward and page back keys on the right side of the device only. The older keyboard Kindle I own has the duplicatd keys on the left side of the device. As a leftie, I do miss the duplicate set of keys, but I'm already getting used to that.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Curtis Bonk's open course

Curtis Bonk's open course (MOOC) Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success is up and it's orientation week. The course is running on CourseSites. I've been spending some time clicking around. It's taking me some time to get acclimated. We've got "discuss" and "blog" on the left-hand toolbar. There seems to be a distinction between Forums and Discussions, but I don't see anything on the toolbar for Forums. When I click "Week 1", I find "Forum: Week 1..." which is listed under the bread trail as "Discussion Board > Forum: Week 1..." Everything's the same color. The discussion posts don't seem to know that you've read them unless you click a check box and then mark the selected thread(s) as "read" under a [message actions] button. I'm finding that have to scroll up and down to see the name of the post and a list of any replies. Then it seems best to scroll back up and use the breadcrumb trail. There are a few things listed as "Blog". We each have our own blog and there are some additional blogs... and there are some things listed as wikis - and then there are some groups - and groups have blogs and wikis of their own. That might be too many layers of blogs and wikis for me!
Nevertheless I'm trying to make some contributions to this course. I've got some time to spend on this course over the next couple of weeks. Maybe I can even complete the Badge work for this course. I'm wondering if it'll turn out that some people wish I'd maintain my usual lurker status.

P.S. It's fun to run across from familiar names from earlier MOOCs.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I attended some of the TCC Online Conference April 17-19. One of the features of this year's conference was the introduction of badges. Jonathan Finkelstein gave a great presentation about badges and the potential for using badges as markers/rewards for progressing through a course. Great idea! The conference had a series of badges. I worked my way through the first step toward the first badge: Complete 15 tweets or a 300 word blog post about the conference. I did 15 tweets covering the first three sessions I attended and got my 25 out of 75 points toward the first badge. Check! Well, that was it for me. No way to spend the time to get all the badges or most of the badges or parts of badges... The list of activities seemed daunting, so I just didn't go for it. Then... I spent the three days of the conference feeling guilty that I was not fully participating. I should have worked on the badges. (Also disappointing: I'm having trouble with my graphics card/driver - or something - on my desktop which has resulted in trouble running Second Life and playing DVDs. I had to skip the Second Life sessions.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Education is a waste of time and money

I've been reading too many blogs, Twitter posts, etc. Here's the way things sound to me:

Public higher education is a waste of time and money. Faculty are lazy and self-serving and have no interest in promoting student learning. The curriculum is outmoded and does not prepare students for jobs in the 21st century. Study the humanities? Laughable idea. Social sciences? Perhaps of some utility - but anyone who's not interested in pursuing STEM shouldn't bother with higher education. The Ivy League schools? The only point in going to a prestigious institution is networking. One probably has to put up with the existence of the Ivys since much of their funding is generated by endowments. (On the other hand perhaps we should start taxing those elite institutions and make sure that the Ivys have to operate at a lower-level.)

K-12 education is boring and irrelevant and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Schools are dangerous places - actually physically dangerous and a place where students are exposed to dangerous ideas. The curriculum is outmoded. K-12 educators claim to have the goal of preparing students for college, but that goal should be changed. Many students are unsuited for higher learning. In any case many students can't afford higher education. K-12 is a waste of public funds.

Public school teachers do not have their students best interests at heart. Teachers are morally bankrupt and uncaring - and overpaid.

K-12 teachers don't need any credentials. Anyone with a modicum of training can learn to follow a set handbook of materials and exercises. Students will do well on standardized tests which obviously means the students are learning.

For some reason private, for-profit schools (K-12 and beyond) manage to overcome all of the odds and beat our public schools when it comes to student learning. For-profit schools have the curriculum that students need.

When it comes to higher education a few superstar professors can develop courses with sections run by adjuncts. That will make learning more economical - and provide profits for shareholders.

We should abandon the goal of public eduation for all in favor of the goal of fostering for-profit schools for some.

Even better? Skip school as a necessary institution supported by the nation altogether. Children should be homeschooled - or how about unschooled? Children will learn those things that interest them using their networked home computers - no, their iPads - and by developing their own personal learning networks. Everyone knows a nice, successful, talented homeschooled kid or two so obviously this will work for everyone.

Higher ed? Skip college and become an entrepreneur. Surely everyone has the capabilities to start a business.

Those children from unstable and impoverished families may amount to something if they are by pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, but since it is unlikely that lower-income children will succeed, we should continue to build prisons which of course are privatized and run for a profit. We will have to stop any aid to dependent children because obviously it makes their parents lazy. This might mean that some children go hungry, but we're willing to risk it. Surely anyone who wants to work can find work.

People do not need degrees or other credentials to succeed. Degrees and credentials are an unnecessary barriers set up by the priviledged. The supposed needs for degrees, etc. goes along with other forms of regulation that simply hold us back from achieving economic prosperity. Truck drivers, pest control operators, lawyers, doctors, social workers... no one needs regulations/credentials/certificates/degrees.

I think it's time to find some a bunch of positive upbeat messages about education somewhere. Anyone know where I can find some?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The transformative power of literature

I just listened to LeVar Burton's keynote at Tools of Change Conference and I'm like... oh, he's talking about what storytelling can mean to humanity. He tells publishers "You've come here to make a difference." Goodness gracious! It's easy to forget about that. Everything I've been reading lately about ebooks, print, copyright, piracy, theft, infringement, DRM, providing ebooks to libraries, not providing ebooks to libraries, Amazon vs everybody else....pricing, authors rights, branding.... It's all about literature as a commodity - who makes money, who loses money. The transformative power of literature? That doesn't seem to be part of the conversation. It might be time for me to seek out some additional sources of information.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

ds106 can't get no respect (?)

Alan Levine wonders if ds106 ( is getting enough respect as a MOOC. I have a sneaky feeling that there could be lack of respect for ds106 because the course is about self-expression and creativity. Maybe some find the aims fluffy? Also, they all seem to be experiencing way too much joy over there in ds106 land. SePerhaps some tedious research articles about the impact of ds106 would raise the level of respect. See No respect for ds106?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Many E-Books, Many Devices

I read e-books on my iPod Touch, my Kindle, my Kindle Fire, my desktop PC and my aged laptop. (There's an iPad 1 in my household, but since it's not mine, I haven't used it to read an entire book).

The sources for e-books: Sites such as Project Gutenberg, other free e-book sources providing open access such as Athabasca University Press, PDFs of articles, reports, etc. The public library via Overdrive for Adobe Digital Editions and Kindle titles. The university library: I have accessed books via eBrary, EBL (eBook Library), EBSCOHost (formerly NetLibrary), etc. via my university affiliation. Purchased e-books from

I'm not an electronic purist: If the book I want is available in print and that's the cheapest/most efficient way to get the book, I'll use print.

Desktop: Tends to be the space I use to read PDF files and books from the university's vendors. Not my favorite since it entails sitting up straight. I've never figured out how to curl up with my desktop.

Laptop: I'm sorry - I can never get the stuff to look right on my laptop - 15 inch screen, but things just don't look right to me. It doesn't matter if it's the Kindle app or another format, either the pages look squished or the font looks too small. It's just annoying. Like the desktop, I haven't figure out how to curl up with my laptop either. I read on my laptop sometimes, but it's not a favorite for reading long form.

iPod Touch: I've owned this device for a couple of years. Kindle app - check! Overdrive's app to access public library e-books - check! Nook app - check - (but I've never gotten it to work properly. I've installed, re-installed, tried more than one e-book - I get a couple of pages into a book and it stops.) Various PDF readers apps - check (None of the PDF readers are perfect. Amount of real estate has something to do with it. My portable devices are on the small side. Former favorite way to read PDF: Using on PDF Annotator from GRAHL with a pressure sensitive pen on my HP tablet (the HP Compaq tc4200 with swivel screen).

Kindle (keyboard with wi fi only): I've been an Amazon customer for ages. The first book I ordered was in 1996, so I wasn't a pioneer, but I think I can count myself as an early-ish adopter. (Amazon went online in July 1995). I like my Kindle! It's the old one with the keyboard and wi-fi only. I like the glare-free screen. I like the long battery life. I like being able to set the font size. I'm not handy with that little keyboard so I confine myself to the highlighting. The ability to easily annotate would be great, but I find other ways to keep notes when necessary. What about color? Color would be nice, but when I'm reading straight text, the Kindle is my favorite. (I have a feeling that I might like the KindleDX if I ever got my hands on one. ) Privacy: I'm ok with the Amazon tradeoff. Amazon knows what I've ordered from them. Perhaps I will come to regret it, but I like having a list of all the books I've purchased and/or borrowed from the public library. I like having a list of the documents I've sent to myself to read on my Kindle.

Kindle Fire: Once I figured out how to sideload apps, I've had a good time with the Kindle Fire. It's the device I pick up when I want to read news or check out some video or fiddle with a drawing app. (Still no pressure-sensitive pen like I had on my old HP tablet! Note to self: Watch for a way to replicate this experience in the 21st century. Buy the new HP tablet?? Wait to one of those Samsung Galaxy tablets to do it right? I'm on the list for a jaja pen If it works well, it might tip me over the edge to purchasing an iPad. (Yes, there are a couple of other pens on the way. No, I've never plunked down the bucks for a Wacom tablet or any of those things. I'm looking for the device/tablet that makes it feel like I'm holding a drawing pad.))

I'm trying to use my library affiliations as well as free sources:

I use e-books from my public library - both Adobe Digital Editions and Kindle editions I use print books from my public library. (Let's hear it for the Hillsborough County Public Library system!) I use e-books from my university library (though these are the WORST to use. I suppose if I had an iPad, I would be happier with the e-books available through the university library.) I use interlibrary loan service via my university library. I use print books from my university library. I search for the best e-book price when purchasing the item is a good choice. I search for the best print price when purchasing a print book is a good choice.

Could I get away with using only one device? Hmmm... maybe. Yes, I've used apps for Kindle and/or B&N on various devices. I've used apps for PDF files on various devices. I have used Calibre and DRM-removal software to manipulate files and get them from one file format to another - and from there from one device to another. (If I can hack an Adobe Digital Editions file, anyone can hack an Adobe Digital Editions file.) However I have no reason to settle down to one e-reader device so I'm enjoying trying out more than one.

I purchased my iPod Touch in March 2010 - and my Kindle in September 2010 - and the Kindle Fire in December 2011. In order to track of what I've been reading and which device I've used, I've done up a spreadsheet and listed all the books I've checked out of a library in print or digital form; all the books I've purchased print or digital; all the free e-books I've read. The list includes a few items from my pre-specialized e-reader devices. The list covers December 2009 to date. Missing from the list: The many PDF reports which I've read mostly on my desktop. I'm going to see if I can recover some of that information.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Penguin pulls e-books from Overdrive - from libraries

Barbara Galletly writes Publishers grapple with change as e-lending rises over at Digital Book World. Some publishers including Penguin seem to be obsessed with trying to thwart Amazon and will no longer allow their books to be part of Overdrive. Their excuse for pulling out of Overdrive is that as their files are transferred wirelessly to a user's Kindle, it's on the Amazon servers. Apparently I am out of luck when it comes to borrowing their books electronically via the public library. They will (also apparently) be ok with my going TO the library to check out their books in there print manifestation. They just want to make sure that I cannot download a book of theirs onto my Kindle without going through some twists and turns - or perhaps not reading on my Kindle at all. Dan Messer points out that the entire exercise to cut out libraries is probably futile anyway. If users can't get a book one way, they will probably figure out another way. See his post from February 10 at He's got a point! Even I personally am adept enough to find plenty of that software that strips out DRM and allows users to change file formats. Jared Newman at PC World has much the same take Is the move to skirt libraries going to drive me to purchasing their books through other avenues? Not likely. Yes, I'll go to a library to pick up a book in print if that's necessary. Otherwise I'm watching my budget carefully and just don't have a lot of spare change. I'm relying on the affiliations I have with our county public libraries and two academic institutions to do most of my reading. Some authors have probably lost me as a reader. It'll be just a lot of trouble to track down their work.

MITx - MIT provides open courses with certificates

MITx - MIT's OCW program which will grant certificates (for a fee) for open course work - has captured people's attention. Audrey Watters notes the importance of a leader in open courses getting into provide credentials for self-selected learners. See Sean Andrews points out that there is a textbook for this course which is not OER, but rather a textbook by the course instructor published by Elsevier. The course description notes that relevant sections of the textbook will be made available to registered participants, but this does point to an issue with MIT's open courses. Readings have always been a problem with MIT OCW. The readings for the courses are not usually open access. Someone who wanted to work their way through the course material would need to buy books and journal articles or be affiliated with a library that could supply the works. One example: Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies ( lists materials with a "buy at Amazon" icon. There's no reason to expect that all MIT faculty would be willing and/or able replace all readings with OER at this point, but in order to be a truly open access course, the course materials will also have to be open access. See for information about Anant Agarwal's Circuits & Electronics - the open course being offered from March - June, 2012. This statement about the textbook is included: "The course uses the textbook Foundations of Analog and Digital Electronic Circuits, by Anant Agarwal and Jeffrey H. Lang. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, Elsevier, July 2005. While recommended, the book is not required: relevant sections will be provided electronically as part of the online course for personal use in connection with this course only. The copyright for the book is owned by Elsevier. The book can be purchased on Amazon."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

When your Internet connections are not so hot

I'm working part-time at the local community college library - one of the smaller campuses - and the campus is plagued by various network issues. The library staff has signs up to turn off your wireless device if you aren't using it. It might look like you have a wireless signal on your device, but email refuses to load. Getting a file to Dropbox doesn't always happen. This campus' connectivity could use a boost! Should everyone at the community college have to pay for their own connectivity via their mobile phone providers? It's not likely that everyone who goes to school here would be able to afford a phone plan that would include plenty of data usage. At the big university up the road there's Internet 2 and good wireless connections most areas on campus. You don't have to think twice about logging on to the network and getting where you want to go. It's a good reminder that media-rich, interactive e-textbooks might not work well for everyone all the time.

Ask questions thru your ebook and author answers in the margins

Get Will Hermes’ book Love Goes to Buildings on Fire via Copia and ask questions and get answers in the margins of the eBook. Good for those purchasing the book by February 21, 2012. Copia is using this to show off the note-taking, bookmarking, and highlighting capabilities of their desktop (and Android) reader. Readers can sync everything to their online account and share with friends. Doesn't that make great sense for a textbook? Students could ask context-sensitive questions and get answers related to the text and Other students could see the answers? Can your friends be your classmates and no one else? I'm going to have to give this a look.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sebastian Thrun

Sebastian Thrun is excited about online teaching and learning. He's a convert! This is one of the best advertisements for for online teaching I've heard. The fact that it's a massive course is less interesting than his realization that he can reach students who would not otherwise have this kind of opportunity. We've got the same kinds of students at UMUC - military stationed abroad, moms who are managing to fit in online courses, people holding down jobs and raising families who go above and beyond to learn. At University of the People, we have students developing countries who'd never be able to get to a bricks and mortar school and/or never be able to afford tuition. I also love what Thurn had to say about grades. Can we get rid of them? Watch

Friday, January 13, 2012

Student loan irritation

I have a parent's Federal PLUS Loan with the ACS (formerly College Loan Corporation). I would like to start making an extra payment or two without changing the amount of my monthly automatic withdrawal. The web site that ACS does not say anything about extra payments. After contacting their help team via email twice, I get the idea that if I make my extra payment on a certain date, it will go in as "extra" - so today's the day. I log on to their web site. I can see my account details. I can see that there's a place that indicates the regular amount of my monthly payment I'm making to them. There's a slot for filling in a new amount - but once again, it's not clear that it's going to count as an extra payment. I only have the say-so of their help team. There's no indication on their web form about extra payments at all. They want me to put in my banking information again. There's no place to check "make an extra payment and use the bank info you have on file for me." Will the extra payment reduce the principal of the loan? Can't tell. Oh - and how long will it take me to pay off the loan at the current rate? Can't tell. If I make an extra payment, how will that affect the length of time it will take to pay off the loan? Can't tell. I guess I get to do the math? Totally annoying. I'll keep trying to track down enough info to make sure that I'd be doing an extra payment correctly, but I'm not up to tackling that today.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Part-time work for the New Year

I've got a part-time 8 week long reference/instruction librarian gig at Hillsborough Community College - Brandon campus starting next Monday. It's been over two years since I had a regular "show up at a certain place at a certain time" job. I'm excited about getting back to a face-to-face library setting though I'm already noticing some online meetings, workshops, etc. that I'll have to forgo since I'll be at work. We'll see how it goes! I'll also be teaching DETT 611 Library & Intellectual Property Issues in Distance Education and E-Learning for UMUC. I have been checking links, checking up on readings, etc. I wish I had some brilliant ideas for new assignments. I have a few more days for inspiration to strike.