Tag Archives: learning

oooh, random!

One of the optional suggestions for week 4’s assignment was to check out Technorati.  From what I can tell, it’s sort of a blog-tracking site.  While there, you can figure out how to improve your own blog, search for valuable blogs, read what’s “hot” and see the top ranked and most visited blogs.  I’ll be honest, while first there, I searched for some Great Dane blogs, felt disappointed by the results, and left.  I felt comfortable with my effort, though small, and moved on.  While reading one of the blogs I follow, GetRichSlowly, one of the guest posters commented that his blog had recently been named as one of the top 50 in a certain category on Technorati.  Hmm, fate seems to be telling me I need to spend a little more time here.  I would like to improve my blog, so as I explore Technorati, maybe you’ll see the benefits!

The other random thing I came across, thanks to wordpress’s blog, is Plinky!  The basic premise behind Plinky is that “you have lots to share” and they can help.  Each weekday, Plinky posts a new prompt, and you can add it right into your blog.  Today’s post done, easy as one, two, three!  I am going to try and figure out how to do it…soon, I hope : )

until I Plinky, ekg

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controversy with civility

One of the trends within this blog (I think) is me trying to figure out how relationships work online.  I’m not talking eHarmony here, but I am talking about how we, as students affairs professionals (and humans) connect to one another and build relationships with students with Web 2.0.  The fourth “thing” for the 13 things @ Coe is all about connecting to one another.  In addition to creating and continuing our own blogs, we are now required to comment on and “follow” a few others’ blogs.  I was already reading quite a few of them, mostly out of curiosity, but now I’m an official follower.  I’m the only one not on blogger, though, so following isn’t working quite right between blogger and wordpress — mostly, I have no idea when their blogs are updated, so following doesn’t seem to be mattering much.  Like many other things in Web 2.0, though, I have found a way to deal with it!

Comments, discussions, forums, and all things interactive on Web 2.0 usually leave me a little leery, and for good reason.  Many of my colleagues (whose blogs I now follow : ) have noted the inconsistency of valuable feedback and discussion on the websites of our local news affiliates and other such boards.  And by invaluable, I mean rude, angry, and otherwise a waste of time.  I wanted to dig deeper into my leeriness about online feedback, so I have a bit of a trip down memory lane in store for you.

I remember when we first got the Internet!  I was in junior high, and I quickly became accustomed to ICQ (a precurser to AIM and many other messaging services) and chat rooms.  Lots of creepy folks were there, but my general ignorance made connecting with folks from all over the world really cool.  Web 2.0 = A.

Moving forward…

There’s a lot of time in the middle here (like high school), but I don’t remember any major additions to my interaction with the Internet until college.  One of my favorite authors/artists is Brian Andreas, creator of Storypeople.  I found an amazing forum called chatchatchat on the Storypeople website.  How fun!  The people there shared writing, poetry, stories, and my general love for all things Storypeople!  This was an online community I knew I fit in with.  I added a few poems, and eventually became a “regular” on the site, contributing my own writing and commenting on others’ work.  “starr” was ingrained in the daily happenings on chatchatchat and I felt a deep sense of ownership for the community there.  Then a few things happened.  The most prevalent in my memory is a deep seeded argument over what content ought to be “allowed” on chatchatchat.  Some felt as if writing stories and sharing poems was the purpose of the forum, no questions asked.  Others were enjoying sharing little thoughts for the day, including some not so happy (more like depressing teenage lovesickness) stories.  One member in particular called for another member to get over her useless teenage drama and only write about “real” stories.  It was such a painful argument, and it tore me up inside.  I stopped visiting chatchatchat on a daily basis for my daily dose of a smile and connection to a writing community.  I wrote a long plea to Brian Andreas himself (as did many other chatchatchat members), asking him to moderate this hateful discussion.  Brian eventually stepped in and defended both sides of the argument; I was particularly impressed at that point in his ability to honor that we are not all happy all of the time and that’s okay.  Now, when you check out chatchatchat, you’ll find a few different forums, each with their own “topic.”  Order was added and chaos debunked…for awhile anyway.  I strayed from chatchatchat, though “starr” and the person I was able to be in that community will always stay with me.  In a way, that part of me has resurfaced in this blog and in my ability to “verbally” process through writing.  Web 2.0 = B-

While in college, I also developed an insatiable love of Iowa Hawkeye Football.  I was one of those crazy people who got up at 5 am not to tailgate, but to show up outside the stadium and stand in line to get in.  We’d take a rapt pleasure in being the first at the gate.  Exactly 90 minutes before the start of the pregame, the Per Mar security guards opened the gates and we poured into the student section.  I had an impressively amazing tactic to get to the front row first — I ran down the bleachers, not the stairs.  In four years, we managed seats on the five yard line at every single game except one.  Iowa State, 2002.  I fell down, we sat second row, and Iowa lost.  Coincidence?  I think not.  This is how big of an Iowa Football Fan I am.  I was even featured in the media guide and on a U of I postcard (I’m in the striped sweater — one of my mom’s saved from the 80’s).

During this time of insane fandom, I frequented football chat boards on sites like ESPN.  I knew all sorts of crazy stats and figures, and spent time chatting with other fans about how amazing Iowa was.  I stopped being part of that community as I saw the other side of the intensity of fans — the anger.  People from other schools would go to Iowa’s fan page (and vice versa) and write mean, nasty things.  I’ve always been a fan of a healthy rivalry, but most of these comments got out of line and instigated some angry arguments.  This is when I first realized the anonymity the web provided gave a lot of people the license to say things they always wanted to say, but didn’t for fear of the negative consequences.  No harm done when the person on the other end is some loser from another school, right?  Wrong.  At least in my book.  Web 2.0 = D+

Flash forward many more years to today.

My interaction with Web 2.0 and online communities is far more entrenched than I would have believed when I first discovered this amazing thing called the Internet.  At the same time, I would say I am picky about my involvement.

  • Facebook is a minor addiction — I “like” posts, share links, stalk photos and share all kinds of things about myself.  The shift to my willingness to engage here?  No anonymity.  I know who people are, and if I don’t, I can make sure they don’t know anything about me.  I can also control who posts on my wall and who I see on my news feed.  Ah, order in my world again…
  • I participate in one and only one online forum, Danes Online, and it is a recent addition to my life.  It’s a mixed bag.  I like that, like chatchatchat, there are different sections, so I can only read what is pertinent to me.  For example, I don’t feed my pup raw or home cooked food, so I only check out the kibble posts.  I have met some really amazing people in real life after connecting with them on DOL — my online community connected me in real life, and I am incredibly grateful for that.  There are tons of amazing people on the forums who will answer the same question a hundred times because they love Great Danes and want to help people who are taking care of Great Danes.  At the same time, there is tension.  Like in any learning community, some people have more knowledge than others, and some people have a greater sense of “I should be listened to” than others.  There is a general theme of “put on your big girl panties” and deal with what I have to say because even if it’s harsh, I’m right and you need to do what I advise or you are a bad dog owner who does not deserve a Great Dane or any other mutt so go away now.  This is a major trigger for me.  Granted, it’s rarely that straightforward, but there is a general community of “old timers” and it’s not always welcoming.  I have stuck around because there is really valuable information there, and if you read between the lines, some really great people to connect with.
  • I read blogs, but like Rachael, I lurk 99% of the time; I don’t care to get involved in what feels like unhealthy discourse.  Most often, I don’t even read the comments because it always frustrates me.  Ah, back to the topic at hand!

Web 2.0 overall current grade = B+ (with a strong possibility of an A-)

Much like my participation in DanesOnline, commenting and following others’ blogs (and having others do the same for me) gives me both a sense of excitement and nervousness.  On one hand, I have been reading a few of the blogs pretty regularly and that won’t change now that I’m “required” to do it.  I have found it interesting that most folks have a similar reaction to many of the thought-provoking questions as I did; that’s right — no original thought here : )  At the same time, I worry a little bit about it.  What if no one reads my blog, comments on it or follows it?  Yikes!  I might feel even less connected than I started out.

I chose to follow a few colleagues’ blogs.  Mostly, I chose the blogs of folks who I know personally pretty well.  I’m following Tom, Laura, and Rachael.  Mostly, I feel like I can have conversations with all of these folks outside of our blogs (though we haven’t).  It’s also a little less intimidating to comment on their blogs since I “know” them.   I do secretly hope that this blog makes its way into the lives of people outside my immediate circle, so I suppose I have to get over some of those fears and jump into Web 2.0.  I feel much more comfortable when there are some boundaries and order.  When participating in an online community, much like participating in any live community, it is important to understand the rules and culture.  Understanding them does not mean you have to follow them, though!

I spent the last week teaching leadership to some amazing young folks at the Belin-Blank Center at the U of I.  We focused our attention to the Social Change Model of Leadership Development and it’s “7 C’s.”  One of those is controversy with civility.  It seems that one of the pitfalls of online communities and the ways in which both professionals and students share their writing is a lack of civility.  Just yesterday, I watched a youtube video of the “world’s reaction” to USA’s last minute goal in the World Cup.  There’s a lot to be said about the title in and of itself, but the comments section lit up with folks assailing one another for being terrorists, etc.  I read three comments and closed the browser.

I still feel some dissonance over wanting Web 2.0 to be experienced to its fullest; giving each participant the opportunity to share expertise, open doors, and allow all voices.  My gut and my experiences tell me that I still struggle to truly value all voices, especially the uncivil ones.  So I want rules and order.  I’m sure there’s a balance to find here, but I’m not sure I’m done exploring it.

Okay, novel paused, for now.

until next time, ekg

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Filed under 13 things @ Coe, life stuff, social media, student affairs, technology

what I know is…

This week’s assignment for the 13 things @ Coe is all about using wikis.  Someone stated that wiki means “fast” and the word has been back-tracked to stand for “what I know is.”  What follows in this blog post was originally posted on the 13 things @ Coe wiki.  It might have changed there since I posted it, but here’s what I originally wrote : )

I have often found myself telling students, “Wikipedia does not count as a resource.” I teach a leadership course to some pretty amazing students at The University of Iowa each summer and we do a research project to capstone their learning. The first day in the computer lab, we always talk about how to find valuable information on the web, and what that looks like. First of all, there are a ton of resources online to tell you how to find reliable resources online. Ah, the redundancy and information hole that is the world wide web. Here’s one “collection” of useful sites: Teacher Tab: Evaluating Internet Resources. Thanks, google (again).

What makes a reliable internet source?

  • Author(ity) — who is the author and are they credible?
  • Objectivity — is the information biased?
  • Authenticity — where did the information come from?
  • Reliability — is the information accurate?
  • Timeliness — is the information current?
  • Relevance — is this information helpful?
  • Efficiency — is it easy to find the information you need?

What’s unfortunate is that many “wiki” sites, and even blogs, have many of the criteria generally used to evaluate a “good” source. Wikipedia, for example, can cite the author and where the information originated, offer accurate and incredibly current, helpful information and for all other purposes appear as a credible source. There are even ways to warn other people that the information presented might be biased so that you can keep looking for more information. Blogs function in much the same way, and can seem even more reliable because we “know” the author.

What does this mean for wikis and education? Part of me screams, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!” The other part of me thinks (a little more quietly), “hmmm…cool.” I’ve used Wikipedia more times than I could even think of counting as a starting point for research, whether about a word or term I’ve never heard of, or to learn about something interesting to me personally, like the tree of life and Great Danes. We used wikis a little bit as a part of the Residence Life Staff Moodle page this past year. My staff didn’t like them and felt in many ways that they were a more difficult and timely process than just emailing in a journal and keeping the handwritten duty log in the office. I was really surprised. I would personally much rather type than write by hand…usually. Then again, a piece of paper is a little more portable than a computer on rounds of the building.

I do like that wikis offer a different element than google docs in that it’s more like an active webpage with links, different pages to navigate among, etc. At the same time, the “usability” and familiarity of the Microsoft counterparts of google docs might mean that students are a little more apt to jump on board with them. This generation is pretty adaptable1, though, so only time will tell, I suppose.

We’ll see where wikis take me this year. I’m enjoying the collaborative nature of the wiki and seeing everyone’s contributions. This is a lot easier than reading everyone’s blog! At the same time, it’s not as easy to find specific information within the wiki like you can with each singular blog post (by tagging it). What I don’t like all at the same time is that this is a rolling conversation in a lot of ways. We read what’s written, identify ourselves, offer our own information, and then maybe respond to some other participant’s information. This becomes a little muddled, like the brown eggs Bruce wrote about. Should I comment right after someone else’s edit? Do I identify myself so they know who edited it? Should I just add a footnote? I don’t know the rules, and as a “J” on Myers-Briggs, I desperately want some structure. At the same time, there are endless possibilities here.  A wiki might be the penultimate version of truly giving up authority on knowledge when it comes to web 2.0 — something I am realizing I might be a little less comfortable with than I initially hoped.

I’ll still tell the students in my classroom that Wikipedia is not a credible source, though it can very well lead to some and I’ll continue to use it myself for the random information gathering I do online. If I use wikis, I’ll probably set up some structure, at least until we get to a place where we feel comfortable exploring without some structure. I hope to experiment with some additional ways to incorporate these things into my work in the fall, most likely with the RA and ARD staff. This should fit nicely with my goal to be better company for the journey.

until next time, ekg

1. I realize this is a sweeping generality and I’m okay with that.


Filed under 13 things @ Coe, student affairs, technology

meeting them where they are

Today, I am thinking a lot about Web 2.0 and the journey we take with technology, especially as educators.  Hopefully, I can “theoretically” come to a place where we meet students where they are and provide them “good company” for their journey through Web 2.0…but there’s a lot I think we need to do to get there.

I had the pleasure of attending a reunion conference for my graduate program in student affairs over the weekend.  The conference theme was “the future of student affairs.”  One of the topics that came up over the course of the day was technology and how to provide the same kind of support to students, especially online learners who never set foot on campus.  As someone whose current functional area is residence life, I don’t really work much with online learners; “my” students live on campus!  At the same time, I recognize that there are some significant gaps in how we implement student success online vs. on campus.

As an older member of the millennial generation, I consider myself somewhat tech savvy.  At the same time, I discovered facebook in graduate school, not junior high, so I’m a little behind the curve in many ways.  Nonetheless, I have to ask what seems to be a constant question when it comes to students and technology: is easier access to communication technologies keeping our students from being able to communicate effectively?

I’ve heard a lot of examples that suggest the answer to this question is a resounding “yes!”  I’ve personally seen students’ poorly written emails and etiquette in the online world.

My follow up question needs to be: so what are we doing about it?  I’ve been doing some digging, both online and in some personal favorite articles for some background to help me answer my questions.  Two articles came to the forefront of what I believe I’m advocating for in this post.  The first is “Helping Students Make Their Way to Adulthood: Good Company for the Journey” by Marcia B. Baxter Magolda, originally printed in About Campus in 2002.  The second is from Marcia’s husband, Peter M. Magolda, and Glenn J. Platt, also printed in About Campus, but in 2009.

Marcia’s article calls for us as educators, both in and out of the classroom, to facilitate opportunities for students to achieve self-authorship.  She quotes a book by Robert Kegan (In over Our Heads), and goes on to describe what she considers self-authorship:

… self-authorship (is) the capacity to author, or invent, one’s own beliefs, values, sense of self, and relationships with others.  Self-authorship encompasses the multitude of expectation educators have of college students.  Educators strive to promote critical thinking, appreciation of diversity, and mature actions both on campus and beyond.  Educators want students to acquire knowledge, learn how to analyze it, and learn the process of judging what to believe themselves.  Educators want students to appreciate diversity and engage in civil interactions.  Educators want students to make wise choices about alcohol use and dating behavior.  These are expectations for complex ways of constructing knowledge, one’s identity, and one’s relations with others that would make campus life healthier and prepare graduates for productive participation in adult society.  Educators hope that students will integrate these ways of knowing, being, and interacting with others into the capacity for self-authorship–the capacity to define their own beliefs, identity, and relationships internally.

The article goes on to explain how educators can be good companions for students’ journey of self-authorship.  Good company on this kind of journey offers information necessary for the trip, insight into previous experiences, guidance about the minimum safety needs, and ultimately places the responsibility of traveling safely with others on the journey on the participant.  Given that we do indeed, as educators, want to shepherd our students on the journey towards self-authorship, what does that look like in the age of Web 2.0?

I’ll be honest; before the “13 things @ Coe: Learning Web 2.0” project, I didn’t think I had ever heard of the concept “Web 2.0.”  Looking back, I realized I had probably heard the term, even if I didn’t know what it meant.  What’s more, I was certainly participating in Web 2.0 in ways I never knew.  I looked up a list of the top Web 2.0 sites (thank you, google.com).  Among them are YouTube, Wikipedia, WordPress, craigslist, and many more.  I’ve used most, if not all of the top 15 sites (as listed for June 2010).  My involvement in Web 2.0 was much more entrenched in my daily life than I had originally understood.  What’s more, as a looked for a list of what Web 2.0 sites were available, I only learned how much I didn’t know.  Again, google helped me out with this information quest; here’s the site I found: http://www.web20searchengine.com/web20/web-2.0-list.htm.  Who knew how involved being involved was?

Armed with my information about self-authorship and Web 2.0, I began to wonder how to put them together.  That’s when I came across the article by Magolda and Platt, called “Untangling Web 2.0’s Influences on Student Learning.”  Magolda and Platt have a much simpler way of explaining Web 2.0: “ReadWriteWeb.”  At the most basic, Web 2.0 is about changing communication from a one way conversation (directed at the reader) to an interactive one where the reader can respond and shape the discussion.  Sounds amazing when you think about it, right?  If we want students to engage in their own learning, using Web 2.0 tools that encourage them to interact is a perfect solution!  Here’s the catch (I know you were waiting for it): how do we know what to use and when?  I gave you the website with the hundreds of Web 2.0 sites, very few of which I have heard of and fewer that I know how to use.

Okay, now the good news.  The whole idea behind Web 2.0 is that people are using all of these tools and telling others about them.  You can search for the “best” of any type of tool and get numerous lists, rated by all different kinds of people and even instructions on how to use them all.  The beauty of Web 2.0 is that the tools are learner-centered.

Drawbacks?  Of course, there are some.  Magolda and Platt mention two in particular. They write:

The two greatest concerns we hear when we consult with faculty and student affairs educators about embracing Web 2.0 applications are (1) they fear losing control of the classroom and (2) they find the task of learning new technologies daunting.

The reality is the Web 2.0 does shift the authority and ownership over the information; it takes away the teacher as expert and invites students to be mutual creators of knowledge.  This is scary, but it is exactly the method we need to offer if we are truly committed to being good company on the self-authorship journey.  Students are living in the Web 2.0 world.  Whether we feel comfortable in it may not matter, the question is more likely when, not if, we get on board with this shift.

I consider myself a student affairs educator.  Now I just need to figure out how to provide good company on Web 2.0.

until next time, ekg


Filed under 13 things @ Coe, social media, student affairs, technology