Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Post 333 - Over and Out

This was my first blog. I started it during a conference workshop in February 2006 and now 333 posts and 2.33 years later, I'm going to close it down. More accurately, I'm going to stop posting to this blog. It's not really closing down because all of the content will remain here indefinitely.

I'm moving into a new home at Barry Dahl dot com. My intent is to have a single source for much of the information that I need to have available related to speaking engagements and various web resources that I make available to anyone who's interested.

It will also be the blog where I post things most similar to Far From a Shining Star. Things related to educational technology, about Web 2.0 uses in education, about general uses of technology, and whatever the heck else is on my mind. Bye for now.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Seeqpod Added to My List of Music Sites

Thanks to Stephen for bringing my attention back to Seeqpod.com which I looked at briefly several weeks ago but them promptly forgot about.

Here is a playlist that I threw together rather quickly, but it somewhat mirrors a train of thought and discovery that I followed. I searched for a .38 Special song that I like, and from that I let the Discover button lead me to lots of other music that also fits my musical taste buds. .38 Special led me to Molly Hatchet, which led to Creedence and then Skynyrd and then James Gang and Rick Derringer and on and on. It was actually a lot of fun.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

As you can see, the playlists are embeddable in blogs and other webpages (such as your VLE). One thing I like about these services is that they are simply playing songs that otherwise exist out there on the net somewhere or another. In other words, you're not the one uploading and serving up the song - someone else is doing that for you.

Something else that is sort of fun about this is that there are a bunch of videos (mostly from YouTube) that you can find when you search. Most of these videos are home grown live concert footage made by fans. Variable quality to be sure, but there are definitely some nuggets in there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Video of Tag Galaxy

I'll be in Memphis this summer two different times, looking for some Blues and Bar-b-que. I saw a tweet this morning about Tag Galaxy and checked it out. Cool way of searching for tagged Flickr photos and creating a globe of photos from the galaxy of possible photos. You can drill down as far as you like, in any order that you like.

Here's a short (2.75 min.) video showing how Tag Galaxy works. I decided to look for Beale Street photos related to the Blues. Worked great.

BTW, I'm still a bit peeved that my own photos don't show up when doing any of these kind of Flickr photo searches. Maybe before I renew my pro membership they'll have to make that work properly for me - or no soup for you!

Here's a still shot of the Universe of Flickr photos tagged with Duluth.

And then a capture of the photo globe created of Duluth pictures.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Electronic Football Anyone?

John O'Brien showing an early version of a video game (without the video). Session at the 2008 Minnesota e-Learning Summit at Normandale CC. Session title: What's Next? Next Generation Faculty & Teachers. Yes, he's a superstar.

Michael Wesch Keynote

At the Minnesota e-Learning Summit.

I Love Anonymous Evals

I tend to live by the mantra "put your money where your mouth is." That's one reason that I tend to have the reputation of being willing to say things in meetings that other people are thinking but are unwilling to give their voice to. I actually think that speaking your mind is a good (and healthy) thing, but as you can imagine I have a certain bias since that's the way I am.

Each administrator at my college is evaluated by the masses every two years using an online, anonymous survey instrument. When I say masses, that actually means that the masses are invited to submit the evals, but most choose not to do so. This year it was my turn again. Only about 30 people chose to submit an eval about me. I'm not going to bore you with whether the evals were overall favorable or unfavorable, because that is not my point or even remotely related to my point.

I want to take this opportunity, dear reader, to share with you the negative comments that people were willing to write in the open-ended questions at the end of the survey. For example:

For the question - This administrator could improve upon the following:

  1. Communication with fellow staff
  2. Could improve on communication and planning skills.
  3. Look for opportunities to interact with staff and faculty.
  4. He needs to make use of more of the online faculty--a select few seem to be favored for various tasks, opportunities, committees, etc. He may need to get to know the various faculty a bit better. There seems to be a fair amount of comment from people who think Barry does not like them. I think he does not know them, and doesn't work at that as a priority.
  5. Tendency to find fault with others
  6. Can be (mis?)perceived as arrogant.
  7. Being more patient.
  8. Barry is a bit too impatient with routine tasks and routine pace of some procedures and tends to favor newer, more visible and faster-moving projects over them. This can, at times, make some people worry a little about the fate of the routine tasks.
  9. Willingness to listen.
  10. Attending department meetings so that faculty can communicate directly with administration about curriculum and technology issues before approaching the Dean.
  11. improve communication with their division, have division meetings, meet with departments within their division
  12. He needs to remember what the typical teaching schedule is like, perhaps teaching an online course once in a while to stay in touch with where our students are coming from. He is gone so much it's hard to feel like he really has an idea about our issues.
  13. Take time to listen to us more, he started something, and we were very wary of the intent. The intent seemed genuine, now please continue it. There is a potential for great growth, this is not a complaint, rather lets keep on doing this we fell valuable. One little thing when we e-mail please respond or tell us directly, passing things through the managers it isn't given to everybody and has caused some rough spots and confusion.
  14. Somewhat arrogant to others.
In the final category of Additional Comments:
  1. He is either the dean of online education and then in charge of the hiring and evaluation of online faculty, or he is not-the divided responsibilities between him and the deans is a problem.
  2. Get the impression that Barry often takes advice from others just for show and already has his mind made up as to what he is going to do.
  3. He can be distant at times, is sometimes gracious, and sometimes is almost rude in his abruptness. I am not sure that his people skills are his strongest area, and that really is hard on the staff and faculty he works with, as they are insecure about how he feels about them, and whether he knows and values their contributions and abilities.
Yes, there were positive comments, but I don't really care much about them either. In my experience it seems that people will share positive feedback with you to your face, but negative comments tend to only be served when your back is turned. It's easy to say the nice things, but it takes guts to say the more negative things and then face a possible rebuttal or at least hear what it sounds like to have those words come out of your own mouth.

This is why I find the anonymous evals to be of almost no value whatsoever.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Collaborative Toonbooking

Primarily for experimental purposes, about five of my fellow MooseWorks members joined me for a live online collaboration session. We used the Vyew web conferencing service so that I could share my screen with the others while we jointly built a Toonbook using Toondoo.

The premise for the cartoon was as follows: two aliens are trying to convince a third alien that he should start using Twitter. I just totally made that up so that we would have a topic to work on. I mainly wanted to see how well it would work for the five of us to try to co-write the dialog among the characters. Here is the result. (Link to the Toonbook in case the embed below doesn't work for you.)

Now none of us are claiming to be the funniest clown at the circus, so the dialog could be better I am quite sure. However, we just ran with several of the ideas that were brought forth via the telephone conference call and through the text chat window in Vyew (more from the chat window). It took less than an hour in total and we probably would have had it done in 30 minutes except that I forgot a few things about how to make a Toonbook. Once we got on track it flowed pretty smoothly.

Mooseworks is a Ning-driven social network specially created for people working in e-learning within Minnesota. There is currently well over 100 members and growing. Live events like this is a feature that we hope members will bring to the table.

This was a fun experiment. Thanks to Pam, Jackie, Mary, and Michael for participating.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Positive Feedback

I offer several workshops each year on college campuses around the country. One thing that I am hoping to get better at is following-up later to see what impact the workshop might have had on the teaching and learning for those who attended. I prefer to wait at least six months after the workshop to find out what has happened in an effort to give them sufficient time to have explored and possibly adapted some of the tools and techniques from the workshops.

Suffice it to say that there is at least occasionally a response that warms my heart. This is one response from a workshop I did in Michigan during October 2007. I think it's safe to say that she is my star student:

  • After the workshop, I started a personal blog to test the waters. I now have 3 blogs, one of them is professional.
  • I have inspired and guided two family members to begin blogs
  • I have several flickr accounts for my blogs
  • I am playing with converting our website to a wiki. It is launched, but a work in process.
  • I use bloglines to track 60 blogs.
  • I trained a teacher to use the podcasting software to incorporate audio into her online class.
  • I have trained my co-workers how to use flickr for sharing their digital photos and how to use picnik to edit them.
  • I have attended a second workshop of yours for reinforcement
  • There may be more examples, but that's it for now.
Most participants in the workshops don't start using as many tools right away, but several report getting started with a couple of the tools shortly after the workshop. Still many others report that they just don't have the time to start doing anything new. More about that later.

Monday, May 05, 2008

All Rise - Court in Session

I'm finding All Rise (click image to enlarge) to have some possibilities for both fun and serious business. As their About page says:

AllRise was built to:

  • Supply a smart mechanism for people to take out their agressions toward injustices.
  • Build a community of people that have something to say or to protest
  • Fill a void for people who want to debate in a smart and comfortable way, by suppling an innovative tool for debating
Right now it is very new (for example, only 33 votes for the verdict in The People versus Google) and it is only intended for fun. Nothing wrong with fun, but I could see this platform being used for a bit more serious debates if the creators would allow it. For example, if you could create a private group of users where you could debate a serious topic facing your school or other community or group.

I heard about this first on TechCrunch and then requested an account for their private beta. I was given a free pass within a day so I'm not so sure that the private beta is all that tough to get into. The service is based in Israel and you will see some butchered English on the site, but overall I find the site design to be appealing and the concept is a good one.

Okay, now having said all that - I realize that this is not a serious website. But still, I like it. Is that a crime? For a much more serious rendition of a similar concept, visit Debatepedia.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Trying out Songza

Emily Chang at eHub has once again pointed to a potentially useful tool. Songza is a little bit like iMeem, although doesn't yet seem to have as much functionality built into it. First thing I noticed is that Songza is built on the Skreemr music search engine. Apparently one way that they are solving their copyright issues is by providing mostly live versions of songs, and some of which are clearly not the "official" version such as from a live album. Still, I was able to find many songs that I liked and able to build a playlist of songs to be saved for my next visit, such as this version of Black Betty.

iMeem has a better interface, has more songs available, allows you to save more than one playlist, and allows you to embed a playlist as opposed to a single song as shown above from Songza. As of this writing, I very definitely still prefer iMeem, but I'll be keeping my eye on Songza.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Going Nutty with Ning

How many social networks is too many? I'm pretty sure that I'm on my way to finding out the answer to this question. My first exposure to Ning.com was over a year ago when I signed up for the EdubloggerWorld network and shortly after that I signed up for the Stop Cyberbullying network. I'm not very active in either one of those networks, and until recently I really didn't pay that much attention to the Ning platform that was driving either of those networks.

About a month ago I decided to start my own Ning network just to see if it might work as kind of an aggregator for all my different blogs and such. I'm thinking that it probably won't do what I want it to, especially since the free version won't support some of the functionality that I'm looking for. Here is that first effort, which will likely abandoned since I don't think it will do what I want it to. It is public, although it is not really ready for public consumption: Desire2Blog Ning Network

Within a couple of days of creating my first Ning network, I received an invite from Ken G. to join Moose Works which is a newly created community of Minnesota e-learning professionals. This is currently a private network. Just so you know the difference, this is what you see when you try to view a private network. Moose Works Ning Network. (There is a chance that this network might be made public before you click that link.)

I subscribe to Jane Hart's blog titled "Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day" where I learned about a Ning network that she created called 25 Tools. As a contributor to her Top Learning Tools lists I decided that I should join her network. This is currently the largest network that I am actively engaged in. 25 Tools Ning Network.

Visit 25Tools

This weekend I created a private network for administrators to interact in. This one is too new to know whether it will be an effective platform or not. I'm also thinking about replacing our online faculty lounge within Desire2Learn with a Ning network - at least for a while on an experimental basis. I'm also thinking that a Ning network might be a good platform for our online students to interact within, although maybe Facebook is a better choice for that crowd.

I'm still trying to figure out how much I like Ning and how effective it is for this type of social networking. I think it is safe to say that I'm somewhat intrigued with the possibilities since I am currently involved with 6 Ning networks with more on the way. Kinda nutty, I know.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Zoho Rocks

Wow, Zoho scores again. Today they are releasing another update to their spreadsheet product called Zoho Sheet. This is no ordinary update, IMO. They are adding functionality for both Macros and Pivot Tables with this upgrade. They continue to leave Google Docs and Spreadsheets in their dust with added functionality. Google gets more eyeballs, but Zoho is just better! This is a 5 minute video released by Zoho demonstrating some of these new features.

The amazing part is that they have figured out how to execute Visual Basic without using a Microsoft back-end, which should lead to some other pretty interesting possibilities for future functionality. It is great to be able to see those services develop right before your eyes.

A few other new features that make Sheet more Excel-like include:

  • a) You can double click on the column and row separators to set the optimal width and height. (I use this all the time in Excel)
  • b) Many new keyboard shortcuts are available.
  • c) There is now a Set as Text icon on the toolbar for when you want a number to not be a number (such as to display leading zeroes, etc.)
  • d) you can now add names to ranges or cells.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Agree - You Are What You Read

Jay made a post with an intriguing title: You are what you read. I agree completely. I have been reading more books over the past two years than in any other two year period in my life, maybe even when I was a student (I know, we're all still students). As other learning professionals talk about the books they are reading I find it too enticing not to get them and read them myself.

Jay mentions the Cluetrain Manifesto. I have referred to this book in many of my presentations because I still think that it should be required reading for anyone working in education. Even though it is now nine years old, the message still applies today as well as it did in 1999. Actually, it was probably a bit ahead of its time in '99, but definitely still very timely. I have re-read it twice in the past couple of years. Its a quick read and I'm trying to make their principles ingrained into my everyday thinking. In the true spirit of the net, you can read the entire book online for free. Still, they've sold millions of hard copies as well (there's a message there people!).

I just purchased three books. I have only read ten pages so far of Sir Ken Robinson's new book titled "Out of Our Minds, Learning to Be Creative." I have watched his fabulous Ted Talk about five times and find him to be very inspiring (in fact I'm listening to it right now as I write this). I've tried to encourage creativity in my elementary school technology club by having them make comic strips and music videos and design a new bedroom, etc., rather than learn how to keyboard better which is what they THOUGHT they wanted to do in the club.

The book-in-waiting (on deck) is Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody, The Power of Organizing Without Organizations." Here's Will's review of it. He has also created a Here Comes Everybody blog, designed to both chronicle and extend the themes of the book.

In the hole (and when did that get changed from "in the hold?") is Jonathan Zittrain's new book, "The Future of the Internet, and how to stop it." Quoting from his website: "With the unwitting help of its users, the generative Internet is on a path to a lockdown, ending its cycle of innovation — and facilitating unsettling new kinds of control."

Two books that I've read most recently are 1) The Big Switch and 2) The Starfish and the Spider. Both of these books were recommended to me by Myk Garn. Good call Myk.

"The Big Switch - The Wiring of the World from Edison to Google," by Nicholas Carr was a fascinating read. It is a pretty controversial book and you can find plenty of people who have reviewed the book that are taking shots at both the book contents as well as Carr himself. I really enjoyed the more historical part of the book dealing with Edison, Henry Burden, and Samuel Insull. The electrification of America is something that I really didn't know that much about. There's some good stories in there. I do buy into his basic premise about current day computing moving from locally installed software to software as a service/utility. In this interview, his first answer pretty much sums it up: Q) What is this big switch you see coming? A) "I think we’re at the early stages of a fundamental shift in the nature of computing, which is going from something that people and businesses had to supply locally, through their own machines and their own installed software, to much more of a utility model where a lot of the computer functions we depend on are supplied from big, central stations, big central utilities over the Internet."

"The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations," by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. To give you the gist of their idea, I'll quote from their wiki: "How can Toyota leverage starfish principles to crush their spider-like rivals, GM and Ford? How did tiny Napster cripple the global music industry? Why is free, community based Wikipedia crushing Encyclopedia Britannica overnight? Why is tiny Craigslist crippling the global newspaper industry? Why is Al Quaeda flourishing and even growing stronger? In today's world to answer this it is essential to understand the potential strength of a starfish organization." I'm not quite sure how much of this applied to higher education where there will most likely always be leaders with concentrated powers within the organizations, but I find it interesting nonetheless.

The basic premise of Jay's statement that you are what you read (not sure if he coined the phrase or not, well, most probably not) is that our thinking is heavily influenced by what we read. I buy that, and besides the books listed above, these are the other books that have had the most impact on my thinking over the past couple of years:

Free Culture, by Lawrence Lessig
Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams
A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink
The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson
The Future of Ideas, by Lawrence Lessig
The Rise of the Creative Class, by Richard Florida
Getting Things Done, by David Allen

There are several other books that I'm not going to list because they didn't have as much of an effect on my thinking as those above. However, there's not one of the books that I've read in the past couple of years that felt like a complete waste of time. That's the advantage of getting your book recommendations from your network comprised of the people that you know are doing great things. In closing, I've probably also learned as much from the blogs that I read regularly as I have from all of these great books.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Email Sucks

It's official, e-mail as a communication tool has now become more trouble than it is worth. I believe that it now has negative value, which is worse than the zero value that I thought it had until recently.

Much of the e-mail that I send out gets marked as SPAM, and many of those messages are never discovered and released from the SPAM catcher by the supposed recipient. This first started to become apparent to me about a year ago when some members of the ITC Board were not receiving the messages that I sent to the board e-mail group. Then, the fact that my e-mail messages were not being received almost led to the loss of two speaking engagements at other colleges. They thought I was ignoring their e-mail messages when in fact they just weren't receiving my replies.

It's amazing to me that e-mails coming from my official college address (@lsc.edu) continually get marked as SPAM by other .edu e-mail systems. The most recent (and saddest) example came earlier this week when I sent a message to the MnSCU CIO list asking for donations for a cash gift that we were giving to a colleague at the ITS conference earlier this week. It appears that many of the messages were never received, except for those who diligently checked their SPAM filters and released the message. Isn't there a certain irony there - that many of my messages sent to fellow CIOs in the same state system of colleges and universities are never actually delivered to the addressees? How valuable is that? How sad is that?

This particular message turned out to be the coup de grĂ¢ce for me. There are about 40 people on the CIO list who receive these messages (in theory, at least) and that of course includes me. So, when I am sending a message to this list, I am also sending a message to myself. Yep, you guessed it. The message sent from my @lsc.edu address was marked as SPAM when sent to the same @lsc.edu address. Apparently I have been blacklisted by myself.

Part of the problem has to do with the inadequacy of SPAM filters that are being used. However, another part of the problem is something that I don't have much control over. My e-mail address has definitely been used by spoofers, and apparently more than just once. E-mail spoofing is a growing problem which can easily cause a legitimate e-mail address (like mine) to get blacklisted by people who are victimized by the spoofer.

The bottom line for me is that I now have to spend an inordinate amount of time following up behind my e-mails to see if they have been received. If I don't hear back from someone I need to call them on the phone, or send an IM, or send another e-mail to their personal e-mail address if I know it. This constant game of "did you receive my email?" is a huge productivity drain and is really all you need to know about why I believe that e-mail now has negative value.

Monday, April 21, 2008

MnSCU ITS Conference

Here is part of the LSC crew of volunteers for the MnSCU ITS annual conference at Cragun's on Gull Lake outside of Brainerd, MN. Registration and setup today followed by 1.5 days of concurrent sessions, networking, and fun (oops, that's right, no fun allowed!)