Got Social?

SLOODLE Moot Conference in SL this weekend

A great friend of mine is working on the SLOODLE Moot conference that is happening this weekend – FOR FREE – in Second Life.  Here are some of the details.

https://www.sloodle.org/blog/?p=187

SLOODLE Moot 2010 is approaching!

This weekend SLOODLE Moot – a free, online conference will be taking place in Second Life. A range of presentations, discussions and demonstrations will take place over the weekend including:

  • Devil Island Mystery. Learn how freshman students in S. Korea were stranded on a virtual island – and had to develop their English skills to survive – and solve the Devil Island Mystery!
  • Hacking SLOODLE tools. SLOODLE is open-source – in this sessions learn why you might want to change SLOODLE to suit your own ends – and how you can do so.
  • SLOODLE at the Open University. With around 250,000 online students, and individual courses with student numbers in the thousands, the OU faces some significant challenges in using virtual worlds to support its courses. Learn how the OU has been using SLOODLE to meet this challenge.
  • Cypris Chat demonstration. After a very successful set of demonstrations earlier this year, Mike McKay gives another demo of SLOODLE and the Awards system.
  • Saturday night social. Lights, music, dancing!

Timetable yet to be finalised, but get all the details at the SLOODLE Moot pages.

FourSquare – love it or hate it?

For those of you who do not know what FourSquare it, you can look here or, from their FAQ,

foursquare is a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide and a game that rewards you for doing interesting things.  We aim to build things to not only help you keep up with the places your friends go, but that encourage you to discover new places and challenge you to explore your neighborhood in new ways.

FourSquare is a flavor of the day when it comes to social networking.  It is geo-aware, so it lets you “check in” wherever you are.  If that place is not already in their system, you can add it.  You get points for checking in (and adding places) and that can be compared to your FourSquare friends.  When you’ve been someplace more than anyone else (also, more than once and you have to have a picture posted to you FourSquare profile), you become the “Mayor” of that location.  You stay the Mayor until someone unseats you – I’m not sure how many more times they have to check in than you, but you get the point.  Business have started using the “Mayor”-ship as an incentive, providing free food, drink, hotel nights, etc… for the “Mayor”

FourSquare gives you three notification options – you can notify your FourSquare friends when you check in someplace (or not), you can have it posted to Twitter (or not) or to Facebook (or not).  You can do any combination of the above.

So, for example – I got to work – check in when I get to my building.  Go to lunch, check in there.  Go for coffee, check in there.  Go to the gym after work, check in there.  Go for a bite to eat after the gym, check in there, you get the picture.  Thats a lot of checking in.

For those who follow you on your social network, it can be a lot of postings to your time line.  Now, if you have a handful of friends who are using it, wow – that could be overwhelming, depending on how frequently people check in.  On Facebook, you can block applications without blocking a person, so you wont’ see the notices.  Not so on Twitter.

So, this seems to have created a problem for some folks.  In fact, I’m having an ongoing discussion with someone in a Facebook thread on this very topic, which is what prompted this post.  A couple of people have said they “feel like their stalking me”.  A couple of others have said it bothers them that they get this notices.  They don’t mean just from me, but if someone is into social networking, it is likely they know others who are – so one could easily have an handful or two of people checking in  all the time.

Do you use FourSquare?
How often do you check in?
Do you have FourSquare notify Twitter and/or Facebook when you do?
Are the check ins of others starting to bug you?
Do you see any benefit to FourSquare?
How about educational uses – either to learn about someplace or as a tool for learning?
What other questions or comments do you have about it?

[UPDATE] I’ve added the following poll

[polldaddy poll=2540404]

Bad press for Linden Lab

Someone on the SLED list posted a link to the following Slashdot story

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/09/11/20/1323231/SecondLife-To-Remove-Free-Content-From-Web-Search

The write-up reflects very negatively on Linden Lab.  This latest dust-up, about freebie items in the online store, has not sat well at all.  Is it my imagination, or has Linden Lab had trouble keeping on the good side of the news cycle lately.  Lets look at what they’ve done recently.

  • Announced a great shiny new enterprise solution that cost $55,000 to own.  Oh, sorry, just today, apparently they announced that they are cutting that to a measly $38,000 for higher education.
  • They served legal notice to a very high-profile, and very SL-supportive, educator regarding abuse of the SL in the name of a project she’d created – which, by the way, was in support of Second Life as an educational platform and held up BY Linden Lab as exemplary.
  • Eliminate the freebie market from the officially support web-based sales tool. (or at least trying to)
  • On shorter notice than had been previously promised, we all had to update our viewer – required.  Most people I know have said that their experience since that forced update has gotten significantly worse.  My experience has been that things are worse now than in the recent past as far as the in-world experience is concerned (lag, slow rezzing, voice issues, etc….)

I look at the above items and see “business” decisions, as opposed to “community” decisions.

I have never had a problem with John or Claudia or George.  Ok, sometimes they don’t get back so quickly…. :-) ….but they are busy.  :-)
But I have never once doubted their commitment to the education community.

One has to wander, are enough people widening their scope that even a gesture from Linden Lab right now wouldn’t stop the diffusion of the academic community?

What do YOU think about the current state of things – with Linden Lab?  with other Virtual Worlds specifically? with virtual world technology?

Course Assessment

I am looking for samples of course assessments, specifically those that are used in hybrid and online courses.

A course evaluation is the kind that students complete at the end of the course, evaluating the course and, usually, the instructor.

If you know where I can get my hands on samples, either link the URL in the comment field below or email me a pd or word document to keltona at mail dot montclair dot edu.

If you don’t have an examples, but want to have a discussion here (which would also be helpful), do you think course evaluations should be any different for face-to-face classes, hybrid class, or online classes?

National Educational Technology Plan meeting

As mentioned in my previous post, I was one of the speakers at the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Second Life meeting with members of the President’s panel for the National Educational Technology Plan.  Below is the content of my speech.

Hello, and welcome. I’m excited and honored to have been asked to speak today at what promises to be an interesting and informative event. My name is AJ Kelton and I’m the Director of Emerging Instructional Technology for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University, located in Northern New Jersey.

I am joining you from the premier technology in higher education event, the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, taking place this week in Denver Colorado. What an appropriate place to be when considering this topic, as EDUCAUSE is heavily invested in talking about, and acting on, improving the use of technology in the learning and teaching process. I’d like to thank all the folks at EDUCAUSE, especially Victoria Fanning, Lida Larson, and Justin James for assisting me today.

At this event you are going to hear about assessment, tools, pedagogy, and, I’m sure, a wide variety of other aspects of the importance of technology in education. As a doctoral student in the Educational Communication and Technology program at New York University’s Steinhardt School, this topic is of great importance to me. The work being done in the Educational Communication and Technology program, and other programs like it, is invaluable to our industry.

Funding and support for education needs to be consistent with the incredible importance we place on education. If funding continues to take a back seat in our priorities, we will fall further behind regarding a well-educated public and, more importantly, we risk losing the support of the most important constituency in this process, our students.

It has been said that technology is anything that was not around when you were born. At the rate we are seeing technological advances, everything we know as technology today will be passé to most students entering our grade schools in a few years. Things are changing that quickly and our students are adapting to the change. If we do not adapt with them, we run the risk of becoming the dinosaurs of the educational process.

This is not to say I believe we have to use technology because the students want it; or that we should use it just for the sake of using technology. No, we need to invest both time and resources to an ongoing conversation about pedagogically sound uses of both current and emerging technology.

We can spend a great deal of time talking about different tools that will engage our students as we move further into an increasingly digital age. Virtual worlds, like Second Life, are an excellent vehicle to engage our students in ways that are simply not possible in the actual world. I have watched students, those I’ve taught, and those in grade school, become completely immersed in the learning activities in virtual worlds.

Although not for formal educational purposes, many children are already immersed in virtual environments. There will soon, very soon, come a time when these students will expect the same type of engagement when learning in school. Want proof of this? Watch any small child while they play away in Webkinz, Club Barbie, Club Penguin, or one of the many other virtual worlds exclusively for children. These students are engaged.

These students are prosumers, those who are both producers AND consumers of content. Think YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia. These students will soon be in our grade schools, our high schools, and then our institutions of higher education, making their way into our work force. If we don’t do what is necessary now, we run the risk of creating probably one of the greatest social injustices in our lifetimes.

But it’s about more than just Second Life, or virtual worlds, or any of the tools that are just cresting over the horizon. What good are virtual worlds, augmented reality, web-based games, etc…, if our system does not have the three things it needs to be successful making use of them.

First, everyone needs inexpensive access to the Internet. I have watched my home Internet access bill go nowhere but up. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford the $60 for high speed access. Many people, however, all across this county, like in cities such as Newark, NJ, where I was born and still live near, cannot. Let’s do whatever is necessary to make Internet access a utility, like water, electric, and gas, instead of a commodity more concerned with profit margins. Want to see a kid learn, hook him or her up to the Internet and guide their learning process. This is not just about hardwired connection, either – it is very much about wireless.

Second, the tools we use to connect to the Internet need to be easy to use, well designed, and inexpensive. This is not just about laptops and desktops. In fact, it is about much more than that. It is about mobile technology and what the students can hold in their hands, walk around with, be connected wirelessly, and explore. The One Laptop Per Child program is a great start, but we need to take it further. We need to see handheld devices for educational use at a price point most can afford. We need to see the access to those devices come at a reasonable price, so people won’t have to look at the bill each month to decide if they can afford to continue to learn using them.

Bottom line, we need to make it easier for students to get the technology and access they must have in order to be great learners and the future of our world.

Lastly, we need to see many more people studying and talking about pedagogically sound uses of the technology. Our schools need to employ people who have taken the time to learn, and continue to learn, about theories and practices that will help the teachers plan the educational uses of existing, and new, technology. One instructional designer for 100 teachers is just not enough.

How can the government help with this, meaning, why did I couch such large issues into a meeting like this? These issues, although large, are also foundational. Unless we do something about them, the other issues on top of which these three are build, will continue to flounder. There need to be incentives created for the private sector to develop and maintain partnerships with school and students at all levels.

We need to be more concerned about what students learn, and not just what they remember. Well thought out and pedagogically sound use of technology is a gigantic step in that direction.

Thank you for your time.

“And Justice for All”

I am attending the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) 2009 Annual Conference and had the privilege to present with Dr. Leslie Wilson and Dr. Laura Nicosia, both from Montclair State University.

Our presentation was titled “And Justice for All: Using Artificial Environments to Create Community and Teach Diversity”. We had a large, and active group, who stuck around after we were done to continue talking to each other (and to us) about the content of the presentation. We actually had to move the conversations out into the hallway so the next presentation could get rolling. That was fine, since the coffee and fruit tarts were out there. :-)

Here is the link to the presentation. I’ve posted it here in my blog, instead of directly to my networks, to provide a place for those who are interested to be able to post comments and, perhaps, continue the dialog.

http://www.slideshare.net/sorry.afk/and-justice-for-all-using-artificial-environments-to-create-community-and-teach-diversity

Google Forms glitch

I’m having a problem with Google Forms, there seems to be a glitch and I’m trying to find out if there is a way around this.

I’m working with an amazing colleague who is teaching a class using a particular peripheral item. We’ve create an assessment in Google Forms and provided it to all the students in two of her classes.

In order to test to be sure the form was working properly, and also that it could be accessed via a mobile device, two “test” entries were done. There were on lines 1 and 2. I deleted lines 1 and 2 but the number of responses in “SHOW SUMMARY OF RESPONSES” under FORMS in the Excel sheet Google Forms creates and feeds data into is still showing the original number of entries (which is the total number of students who took the survey plus 2, the 2 test entries).

The data generate in SHOW SUMMARY OF RESPONSES is really handy, and now its inaccurate (by two entries). Is there a way to update the data that feeds into SHOW SUMMERY OF RESPONSES to reflect the number of rows actually in the current spreadsheet.

I already tried to copy the spreadsheet but the SHOW SUMMARY OF RESPONSES indicates that no entries have been made. My guess is that the SHOW SUMMARY is tied to the entries as they come in and now what is in the spreadsheet.

I also checked the HELP section in Google Docs and did find responses in the forum, but most did not address my issue and the one that did I couldn’t follow what the submitter was saying.

If anyone has info on how to do this, please let me know here (so others can know as well).

SnapSession – Zotero

As many of you many already know, I’m beginning my doctoral studies in the Educational Communication and Technology program at New York University. The last time I was in an academic classroom as a student was 2003 and many of the technologies we take for granted today were not around. For instance, during my last semester of my masters program there was no Facebook, flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and Google was just a search engine (not even a verb!).

In fact, as a graduate student, I’d never heard of EndNote, perhaps it was around, perhaps not. Now, I know a lot of faculty around here has asked for Endnote and have even purchased it for themselves. Zotero (http://www.zotero.com) may change all of that. Having never used Endnote, I can’t speak to its operation, but those I know who have used Endnote told me I have to check our Zotero. So check out Zotero I did.

The people who recommended Zotero to me told me they stopped using Endnote once they found Zotero and can’t think of a reason to go back. In fact, they can think of several reasons not it.

According to their web page,“Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.”

Ok – so what does this mean right away? First off, it means you have to use Firefox. What this also means is that you can be a Mac, Windows, or Linux user, as long as you use Firefox. It also means that it doesn’t matter if you work on a PC in the office and a Mac in the studio, if you have a Zotero account, its cross platform.

Basically, when Zotero sees that you are looking at content that is academic, it will, at the click of a button, import all the necessary information for the citation. If you want it to import something, you can still indicate that and fill in any information that Zotero might have missed.

Once something is stored within Zotero, it become searchable. Entires can be personalize, with your own notes, or with tags, which are all searchable. You can even attached screen shots or other attachments, like a PDF, which are ALSO searchable.

Now, here is what I think make Zotero better than Endnote – Zotero will follow you where ever you have access to the Internet. Lets say you take your computer to the library and you are working from there, you have Zotero. How about at the Starbucks, yup – you’ve got Zotero. How about if you go to the library ans use one of THEIR computers? Well, you can sign into the Zotero web page and access anything you’ve stored in “my library” in your account.

Here is the list of things Zotero does, according to their web site:

* Automatically capture citations
* Remotely back up and sync your library
* Store PDFs, images, and web pages
* Cite from within Word and OpenOffice
* Take rich-text notes in any language
* Wide variety of import/export options
* Free, open source, and extensible
* Collaborate with group libraries
* Organize with collections and tags
* Access your library from anywhere
* Automatically grab metadata for PDFs
* Use thousands of bibliographic styles
* Instantly search your PDFs and notes
* Advanced search and data mining tools
* Interface available in over 30 languages

No more needing to remember how to format something (although it is still important to check to be sure it is correct). I was “brought up” in MLA, but now have to switch to APA, and for several of the journals I submit to, they want APA. Now, I no longer need to try and remember what to do on which one.

Do you use Zotero? If so, what do you think? Do you like it better than EndNote? If so, why. If not, why not? If you need to make use of citations, are you willing to try Zotero? If so, would you be willing to come back here and add your thoughts into COMMENTS?

SnapSession: MeGlobe

I ran across a web based chat tool called MeGlobe (http://www.meglobe.com) that claimed to be a type of universal translator. I tell it what my native language is and then I can talk to almost anyone, almost anywhere in the world. I wanted to kick these wheels a bit so I put out a note asking if anyone in my network spoke a language other than English fluently.

Dr. Gina Miele, a faculty member in our Italian department here at MSU, agreed to create an account and indicate her native language as Italian.

The user interface was a bit confusing at first. After a few minutes both Gina and I figured out how to add each other on our friends list. I send along my first IM but it did not pop up automatically for her. She had to click on my name in order to see the IM.

The translations were not particularly good, and I’ll get to that in a second. I’d rather focus on what I saw as one of the really good things. The program allows you to edit the responses that are provided. If Gina and I were only IMing, and she didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Italian, this would have been no use. However, since Gina speaks both languages and we were on the phone with each other that the same time, it was possible for us to correct the translation.

I like the fact that the translation can be updated. It useful in the case we set up above. Otherwise, this is a hybrid between an IM client and a translation program life Babblefish, it’s almost like Babblechat.

The first time we fixed the translation and tested the same phrase, it worked. The second time we tried that, it didn’t work – it gave us the same wrong translation it had given us before. In fact, one time, I spelled a word wrong and when the translation came back, it came back with the word misspelled. So, like Wikipedia, where people can update information and it does not necessarily have to be totally accurate, the same is true here. So now we’re looking at Babblechatapedia. Our big question from this was, are these changes and updates universal or only to our conversation. So, in other words, if Gina wrote Ciao, Bella, and I decided to tell the system that this meant “Your breathe smells”, and we corrected it enough times, would others see it?

From what Gina was telling me, the translation used the wrong “person” many times is very formal and often mistranslated word that can have multiple meanings (like “live” as in what city as opposed to “live” as in, “live it up”). It also didn’t get colloquialism at all, but that is to be expected.

All in all, it translated with a good accuracy about 7% of our IMs (no including repeats) and with understandable accuracy about 15%. Now, there is a caveat. The English to Italian translation was not horrific. As Gina said “someone in Italy could understand the translation. They might chuckle at the word choices, poor sentence structure and incorrect grammar, but they would understand.” The Italian to English translation was bad, and sometime so bad that it was unintelligible.

Not wanting to end on a sour note, Gina and I both agreed that this is a great step forward, albeit it has a long way to go. This is working toward becoming a very useful tool and when the accuracy gets better, I’d love to test it with one of our language courses.

As a final note, they have a really cool clock on the top of the page with a drop down menu that has lots of cities around the world. So you can pick a city and the clock will change to show you what time it is in that city. Not only with the time change, but the clock is white during the daylight house and black during the nighttime hours. Great touch. Keep up the good work, MeGlobe, a work in progress but a good start.

Letter to the Lindens

Sorry for the disconnect on that last session. There were network problems that the technical folks at the hotel denied were happening [sigh]. I hoped to have the “letter” posted into the CoveritLive session, but that did not happen.

HUGE thanks to Daniel Livingston for the idea of the letter, for helping facilitate the session, and for passing along the “letter” to me so I can post it here.

*****

Dear Lindens,

Hi, how are you? We’re doing great, the kids are well. Having a blast with Second Life.

We’ve really enjoyed the better support over the past few months. Second Life is really the great for debating with small groups of students in depth – the Socratic model lives and is embodied in Second Life. The cost is fantastic! Open source too. J

We love telling all our friends about how great Second Life is, telling them about the wonders of exploration and experience that go on there.

However…

We are struggling to get large number of our friends registered at a time.

Once we have our friends in Second Life, we have soooo many that it’s kind of hard to keep track of our contacts and organise them. If we could somehow tag our friends, that would be neat.

Application sharing would really just be the neatest – we’ve seen some other guys do thast, and wish you could too. Integrating them locally, where we live would be sooo useful.

We got that letter from your lawyer – is that really necessary? We have to be able to work together without worrying about this stuff.

And why do our friends have to pretend to be other people? Sometimes it would be easier if we were able to use our real names.

Some more tools to make things easier for educators.

Our friends kids can’t come and visit. If there was a way we could get passes for the kids to come visit us where we live – even for a limited time, or limited locations. Being able to communicate effectively with the teens across the grid we also need.

And getting content to the teen grid! Man, that sucks. You really need to work on that, it is holding us back and causing us a world of pain.

I’m not sure how you can help here, but having my private space for the kids (which my supervisor demands) is restricting.

When we have a bunch of kids – even 40 or 50 – managing that is difficult. It needs to be easy for when we have a big event or want to invite the whole neighbourhood over.

And when the kids have their 18th! Oy, this transition is awkward. Sometimes it happens in the middle of a class even – really awkward.

Remember that cool thing I scripted? Dude, you updated the server and it broke. At least give us tools to manage unit testing or something.

Is someone keeping track of the successful grants that people have got? That would be handy.

Can we have invoices when we need them? Sometimes we have deadline to spend money or it just goes – if we can’t get an invoice, we lose the money then we can’t pay you and we lose our house here.

On the other hand, easily booked short term sim rentals would help us put big events on. We don’t need ten sims for the year, but for cousin Ted’s wedding we want lots of guests over.

You know us. We are your best advocates. But there are other people out there making overtures, looking for our business. There are some things in our relationship that we/you need to work on. We need to be able to talk more friendly like, and lose the attitude.

Our kids are our most important focus. It’s why we are here – to help our kids. Whether it’s practical issues or legal hiccups, we need support not barriers.

But you know, thanks for listening to our gripes. Thanks for coming over, we really do appreciate it. To hear you say that meeting us is the highpoint of your year despite all the kvetching is super.

September 7, 2008
Yours sincerely,
The Educators
Tampa