Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Creative Commons SlideShare

For some time now I have been wanting to put together a self-directed presentation that explains the use of Creative Commons licensing for various educational resources. But why should I do that when Mark Woolley has already done such a great job and of course, he licensed this content using CC-Attribution, Non-commercial? Therefore, here it is embedded below for your learning pleasure.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Off the Grid

I plan to be totally disconnected for the next 9 or ten days. I suppose I'll have cell phone coverage for the first day or two and the last day or two, but no Internet access at all. A few thoughts and predictions:

1) I expect to have about 820 emails waiting for me in my college email account when I return. About 50% will be spam or spam-like (look what's on sale today!) and another 30% won't require any sort of reply. That leaves the other 20% which will be a real pain. Then there will be another 100-150 personal emails in different accounts.

2) I expect to have about 1,500 unread items in my Bloglines account.

3) I expect to have only a few blog comments waiting moderation, about 6-8 new Twitter followers to check out to see if I want to follow them as well, about 10 YouTube comments to check out to make sure that they are appropriate and don't need to be deleted (yes, I censor those comments - my kids look at those), only a couple of friend requests for Facebook or new contacts for LinkedIn, and about 10 new items sent to me by people in my del.icio.us network.

4) Maybe most important is that I will have a chance to see if 10 days away from the keyboard makes any difference on heading off the carpal tunnel that seems to be starting in my right arm. One can hope. At any rate - I'll be back the week of March 24.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Students Using Wireless

Here are more results from our beginning of semester Student Technology Survey that was completed by over 800 students here at LSC. I think it is surprising that only 28% report never using wireless networks. I would have predicted more like 50% use wireless networks either at home, schools, or other places. (Click to enlarge)

Even more surprising, I think, is that nearly two-thirds say they have a wireless network in their house. I guess that shows how cheap and easy it is to install a wireless network these days.

And finally, less than 1% say they pay to use wireless in public places. I'm with them. I'll gladly buy some coffee, or a beer, or a sandwich, or maybe all three - but I'm not going to pay to use your network to check my email (I mean Twitter page).

CC-By photo by dana~2

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Article on Second Life

The Second Life article ran Sunday in the Duluth News Tribune. They are notorious for disappearing links on their website, but hopefully this article will still be available for a while.

The following lines were taken from my interview with the reporter.

"Using it for educational purposes can have downfalls, said Barry Dahl, vice president of technology and the virtual campus at Lake Superior College."

"Powerful technology is needed to run the program, and while the college has accommodated this, not everyone has that at home. Behavior “in-world” as it’s called, can also be a problem, he said. Linden Labs, which runs Second Life, has taken steps to end illegal gambling. But a large amount of sexual activity and “griefing” takes place on Second Life, he said."

"Griefing is when someone causes harm to another avatar or disrupts others."

"If a student were to complain about something done to an avatar on Second Life, Dahl said, the college couldn’t treat it as a serious offense because it didn’t really happen."

I have no qualms with any of this except for the last sentence. That is not what I said. In fact, I've never said that we "couldn't treat is as a serious offense." In fact I'm concerned about whether our existing policies and procedures are applicable to some of the things that could happen in SL, and I'm not exactly sure how we would handle something that is a serious offense. I believe that the potential for a serious offense is actually quite high.

All in all, I wasn't painted as the extremely negative SL-guy - which is probably a fairly accurate portrayal. I do however, have many more questions than answers about using SL for serious academic pursuits.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Second Opinion on Second Life

I'm becoming known as the anti-SecondLife guy around these parts. It's a badge that I wear proudly even though I don't think it's entirely accurate. I'm not the anti-SL guy, but I am the somewhat-less-than-enamored-with-SL-guy.

Most people think that I would be the first one in line for the virtual world experience. Sure, I have spent some time in there, but so far it just hasn't floated my boat to a level where I'm ready to give up several other pursuits in favor of SL. My experience so far tells me that I really would have to immerse myself in SL in order to "get it" on the same level of those SL evangelists. As far as I can tell, that would mean giving up my time spent a) blogging, b) using my personal learning environment, c) keeping on top of Web 2.0 technologies for presentations and workshops, and probably d) some of my non-technology personal time.

You don't get much out of SL by spending an hour or two per week in there. I do read many items about the ways that SL is being used in education, or at least trying to be used. Right now it's a bit more fun to sit back and watch others go through the trial and error process that is inevitable with something like this. Yep, I laughed right along with many others as some of the early efforts of building an educational setting within world was to build a virtual classroom that looks basically like a traditional (i.e. old-fashioned) classroom - with students sitting in rows and the professor standing in front delivering a lecture. However, I am intrigued as I see (or at least read about) others who are now thinking outside the virtual box a bit and trying to come up with some novel uses of SL for educational purposes.

Today I attended a classroom session of a hyrbid Sociology class at LSC where SL is being used for part of the instruction. Marlise is teaching this class which is a good thing because she is absolutely one of the hardest working and most engaging instructors on campus. It was fun to see all of the student avatars and some of the places they are visiting, including this Sociology research library in SL (photo below).

At the same time it was strange to see all these students in the same classroom but interacting with each other using their avatars. Many of the issues that we have encountered this semester are related to this unusual use of SL. It was never intended to have many people all in the same location, using the same bandwidth (etc.) but interacting within world. It is obviously intended of bringing together people (or at least their avatars) from various distributed places. There is a reason that the class is being taught in this unusual way, and from what I witnessed today I would say that it is paying off. Most importantly I think, is that Marlise is able to pilot this approach with real students in a real educational setting. I think she is learning even more than her students about how this tool can be used effectively for educational purposes. It would probably be harder for her to assess what the students can do and can't do in world if they truly were distributed over various locations.

The local paper is doing a story about all this which will probably be published in the next couple of days. I'll wait to say more until after that comes out. Chances are good that I will be painted as the anti-SL guy, mainly because I am the only one (at least that I know of) who is asking some of the tough questions related to school policies and how we will deal with the problems that will surely pop up further down the road. I'm also questioning whether Second Life is the correct choice for a virtual world for educational purposes. More about that later.