Category Archives: Pedagogy

24/7 is not as long as you think

A variation on the elevator pitch and the 160 character tweet, this one from the 2008 Ig Nobels

The ceremony saw the ever-popular 24/7 lecture series, where leading researchers from around the world discuss the technical details and ramifications of their work in 24 seconds, then explain it in layman’s [sic] terms in 7 words.

And to keep the ceremony moving

an eight-year-old girl [is] kept up past her bedtime whose role is to ensure that acceptance speeches are capped at 60 seconds.

The kiddie doesn’t sleep ’til the ceremony is over.

LMS tears before bedtime

deskjunk.jpgBlackboard and D2L are still at it: D2L making changes and Blackboard being indignant.

According to Blackboard, Desire2Learn failed to make several arguably easy changes that would have avoided infringement in future versions of the software, opting instead to rename features and keep functionality that was already seen as violating the company’s patents. The jury’s decision in February, which awarded Blackboard $2.5 million for lost profits plus $630,000 in royalties, opened the door for an injunction that barred Desire2Learn from marketing or selling course management software in the United States up to and including the latest version, as well as subsequent revisions deemed “not more than colorably different” from the existing versions.

[From Blackboard Accuses Desire2Learn of Contempt :: Inside Higher Ed

The changes do seem superficial, residing in the interface rather than the code or functionality –

“In crafting version 8.3, Desire2Learn made only transparently cosmetic changes to the previous version of its software. For example, it renamed the ’student’ role as ‘user,’ without any change in functionality. Likewise, it deleted the ‘default roles’ … from the database associated with the product, while leaving the product’s source code essentially the same and keeping the product’s infringing functionality intact,” the motion says.

In one case, according to the motion, the court suggested that Desire2Learn remove a feature that allows one user “to have multiple roles with a single login — a feature Desire2Learn repeatedly told the court was tiny and insignificant. Desire2Learn said that it could make that change easily and inexpensively. Blackboard’s expert testified that such a design-around would be non-infringing. But Desire2Learn chose not to remove the infringing capability.”

My quick take on the matter is that any change D2L makes without a complete re-design is going to complicate the UI and compromise usability. Consider Apple’s Trash v MS’s Recycling Bin.

It might be better for all to move outside the fray (which is so Web 1.0 anyway), to open source, or something more closely tailored to learning – something more Web 2.0, something like, you know, maybe wikis.

Let me know how it all turns out, I’ll be over here.

See also SocialLearn: Bridging the Gap Between Web 2.0 and Higher Education, Martin Weller

media arriving by post

proboscis package.jpgI have gotten so used to getting stuff online that receiving a package by post is an event.

Ok: I take that back. Most of my books come in by post. And some software. And most hardware. And spices because we can’t get much locally. Ok, and the magazines and journals. And Viv’s inks. And paper.

Ok, except for those things, I get most of my stuff online. But I got a package of stuff today. is a think- / project-tank in EC London who have been doing some interesting projects with storytelling, gps-annotation mashups, and re-remediation. Their projects involve using digital devices to map experience and understanding to material spaces: mapping day to day experience to the cityscape by way of public authoring and gps devices; mapping stories to cubes as a heuristic; re-mapping writing and images to inexpensive paper ebooks that are made to be further enscribed.

I found Proboscis by way of a mention on if:book, and started re-working course materials from wiki to paper using their in beta Generator. My work is timid so far, but last winter, Andrew Hunter offered a course Anarchaeology: Collecting, Curating and Communicating Culture making use Diffusion projects at the U of Waterloo. There are some interesting possibilities for First-Year Comp. Freshmen Map the Campus?

I have to put together a sabbatical project for 2009 – 10. Maybe London’s calling.

looking forward to looking forward

We’re beginning to wrap things up in Weblogs and Wikis. Starting tomorrow, we’re back to face to face meetings with two ends: project presentations, and some discussions of implications – looking back and looking forward.

The discussion idea came to me late last week when I ran into a posting on The Ed Techie, a blog run by Martin Weller, a professor with the IET (I’m not sure we ever met when I was in MK years ago). Whither the blogosphere? looks briefly at the fragmentation of discussion spaces occurring with Google Reader, Flickrr, Facebook, and Twitter. Not that there’s anything to lose sleep over. People are still reading and writing blogs, even as they start to use other spaces. Ed sees the fragmentation as succession.

What I think is happening is another example of technology succession. The blog was the primary colonizer for the barren landscape of online identity. The presence of this colonizer changed the environment, which made it more amenable to secondary colonizers, e.g. YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, etc which relied on the blog to spread. This in turn made the environment even more friendly towards the social flow apps, which started out linking to blogs, but have gradually taken on their own life. This resulting ecosystem will vary for each of us – for the people above the third wave of colonization has taken over the dominance of the blog and forced it into a smaller ecological niche. For others, the blog is still dominant, but these other tools flourish around it.

For me, it’s a matter of ends. Blogs are still used because they still serve rhetorical purposes, still provide a space for a running discussion.  Other spaces provide a space for different rhetorical situations (Twitter), or serve a different set of rhetorical purposes (Facebook, Second Life, Flickr).

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

Martin’s post started me looking for a way to frame up a discussion on the (social – rhetorical) implications of blogging and wiki writing. They are always just below the surface, but I don’t think I ever worked at bringing them out in class. Now that 16 students have finished 10 week projects, they are in a pretty good position to stop and think about what All This Might Mean.

Class discussions on implications tend to digress into hearsay, anecdote, clichés, and yawns. To avoid that, I’m starting with some class notes [link to come], and a set of links to sites that just begin to tease open some implications.


Then there’s the Wikipedia reminder for would-be posters that neatly puts students and professors alike in our place:

Remember that millions of people have been taught to use a different form of English from yours, including different spellings, grammatical constructions, and punctuation. Wikipedia:Manual of Style∞

Nothing like shaking the ethnocentric tree a little to get things started.

The trick to this discussion will be to focus groups on specific groups of people: university teachers, for instance, or marketeers, or administrators, freelance writers, technical writers, students who are only 12 years old right now… Keep a human face on the implications, and keep grounding matters in the material world of symbol users.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

special friday exercise: authenticity

What makes this authentic?

From Captology Notebook: MoveOne uses video to persuade (not text)

January 23, 2008
MoveOne uses video to persuade (not text)Today MoveOn started using online video to persuade supporters. For years they’ve relied on text.

However, with the U.S. election heating up (and perhaps declining response to email), MoveOn has created a persuasive video message, re: the link below. It’s about one minute long.

The age of persuasive video is just beginning. The success of video will make text seem old fashioned.

My advice to persuaders: Get out your video cams and start practicing! (And be sure to learn what works: brief, authentic, direct call to action. MoveOn does it well.)

–BJ Fogg

The video is brief (about a minute) and makes a direct call to action (two of them, by my count).  But what features make it authentic?

View the video a few times and make some notes.  Look at the usual stuff: setting, composition, cuts, but also listen to -  even better,  map out – the words and the spoken delivery.  As a start, to what extent does the delivery sound scripted?  To what extent spontaneous?

There are other elements and affordances to take note of, so don’t stop with one.  What, for instance, do you make of the final gesture of the speaker pointing out of the video and towards a url on the web page?

the lie of the portrait and a tangled web likeness

Girl with Pearl EarringThis (from a recent Chronicle article by Laurie Fendrich) is so cleanly stated that I had to have it on hand. It’s seeing portraiture as rhetorical, focusing on the message, the mediation.

The disheartening truth — a truth most often swept under the rug of aesthetic pleasure — is that while portraiture teaches us about the human range of emotions and character in general, no specific portrait can reliably be said to reveal the inner life of its subject. Instead, great artists have the daunting ability to deceive us into believing that they have painted the heart and soul of a person. When we are moved by a specific portrait, then, we are unwittingly moved by the artfulness of the artist rather than the personality of the sitter.

This perspective won’t come as surprise to citizens of a post-Einsteinian world, but it can be, as Fendrich has it, “disheartening” to confront the lie.

But then I look at the analyses of web sites that the E-Rhetoric class developed recently, re:, and I see Fendrich’s premise hard at work on the web, and students hard at work trying to negotiate the surface, untangle the differences between the personality and the artfulness of grrl. grrl as web celeb, grrl as huckster, grrl as obsessed with fame. We read the artfulness of grrl, not the soul. The class’s study of visitor roles on the web demonstrated how mediation reigns – lies and all – and how much knowing still counts.