Weaving Conversations

TLT Knowledge Log

Archive for August, 2006


Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on August 27, 2006

fumifu… first use must inspire future use… thanks Nate!


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Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on August 27, 2006

From a faculty and administration perspective, the message is often about the mechanics of teaching. The rise of social networks tells us that students (even young students) have the interest and ability to put together material in a way that makes sense to them and helps them to make sense of the world. Managing information through RSS feeds, for example, is something most students know and care about… as this is how they often get their news. Blogs that give an opportunity to express themselves, however they want… etc. Interesting blog to refer to is http://elgg.net/julielindsay/weblog with notes about student experiences with libraries.

Glen’s pondering about why academic writing needs to be presented as academic writing probably follows along the ideas that Stephen Downes professes…

If adult learners are empowered to manage their learning, then they ought to feel empowered to use whatever tools are necessary. As doctoral students it’s essential that tools are provided and support given for tremendous amounts of flexibilty AND that the tools rise organically.

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Thinking about vocabulary OR How ’bout an order of slimehead?

Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on August 27, 2006

Okay, so after I wrote the topic below I was reading through several blogs and this article appeared in several… So… How about an order of slimehead?
Today as I was reading any number of educational technology blogs I realized I wasn’t understanding the significance of many submissions as they were so full of acronyms and insider phrasing that it made me realize how intimidating the adoption process is to newbies… particularly students who are attempting to develop their own comfort with technology supported learning (minus a mentor or faculty member directing them).

Who would know what del.icio.us means and what a TAG is… no less why Stephen Downes doesn’t tag people?

Who would know what VOIP is in an educational context without some interpretation of the value of Skype and Skypecasting (and similar adventures)?
One blog was so full of new “words” that I got lost and thought about seeking a web site translator to help me to understand.

The solution? Reinterpret the tools so they are understandable. Until very recently (and I’m no means a tech newbie) I really didn’t understand the utility and effectiveness of a blog for myself. The reason? Blogger doesn’t have an automated tool for adding links. If you look at this site you see that not only do I have a ton of links (probably too many!) I also have finally figure out how to integrate bloglines.

But, I know that if I hadn’t had a good mentor in this (thanks Glen!) and a bit of confidence that I could figure things out (not to mention access to all of Stephen Downes… (who walks on water in my POV) … musings I probably wouldn’t have figured out a darned thing.

Now… I’m a student (doctoral) and a teacher (undergrad programming). I find myself looking at each tool and each approach and each theory through two different lenses… and I think the least explored is that of the student experience. Students do not need (a) permission nor (b) direction to use many of these tools… but finding the educational purposefulness might be a challenge.

I have given myself permission and am so glad that I found WordPress to make a blog more understandable to me and Stephen Downes’ shared bloglines feed to jumpstart my learning in that area.

Feel like a number of doors have just opened! Ah Hah!

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Musings after a day of course development

Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on August 27, 2006

Young cat, if you keep your eyes open enough, oh, the stuff you would learn! The most wonderful stuff!
Dr. Seuss, Seuss-isms

I teach visual programming online. I have one environment to teach in… WebCT Vista. I’ve worked with Blackboard (since they let you create a course for free on their hosted site… the good ole days), WebCT in many versions, eCollege, IntraLearn, the SUNY Learning Network’s Lotus Notes based applications… and I finally figured out what’s wrong… I walk into those course “shells” and I feel like I’m closing the door on my classroom and making it mine. Even though I can link (often awkwardly) to many external resources, it’s “my” class. As a learner (in my doctoral program) I find this stiff and unworkable… I need to explore, link, network, collect, organize, analyze… think… write… systemize…

My students like that things are organized for them… that’s okay… they need to move in an organized fashion through the material. But then… they have questions that are outside of the planned material… what do they do? Ask me! What do I do? I try to answer them. Why? Because… it’s as if the door to the classroom is closed, there is not network connection (let’s imagine, say, 1980) and the only resource in the room (other than the textbook) is me.

Without noticing all that much this environment has changed. When I’m (rarely) in a physical classroom I don’t hesitate to google search on an error message or a task or a topic that I don’t know the answer to right off the top of my head. I model this behavior well in the classroom.

How can I extend this in my virtual classroom? What’s stopping me? Let’s see…

  1. administration has rules about what tools I can require students to use… as they have limited support for tools outside the WebCT tool set… that’s reasonable so… I can’t require my students to make a blog, engage in Skype conversations or otherwise socially network… I get that
  2. BUT… it’s my classroom… what can I model and encourage? How should I model and encourage? Here’s the dilemma… let’s say I decide to do office hours via Skypecast… but some students can’t attend because of the synchronous nature… they feel left out of the learning… what do I do?
  3. Okay, so I dispense with synchronous… and I ask them each to create a blog that supports their learning… HEY… maybe that would work… I have them always submit a statement of their personal learning goals and keep a journal… why don’t I have them do that in a blog??? That would work… and I could add their blogs to my aggregator and I would know when something new was posted and VOILA!!! We have a little bit of a one to one learning community going on… how do I get them all to link together?
  4. Big problem… most programming students don’t want to talk… they just want to do. They’ll talk to me, but not necessarily to each other… I can force it in a discussion board based assignment. Can I get them to share their learning journals? Let me think about this…

This approach has applicability even when the administration (supportive and wonderful as they are, by the way) can’t necessarily see a way into it… let’s see what I can do. I’ll post my path and observations here….

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Why the title?

Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on August 27, 2006

Tonight I was awakened by the cat at about 1:45AM. I realized my 22 year old son had not called me to report that he had arrive safely at his destination. I also panicked because I thought I might have missed an important work deadline… too much going on… too many entries on the calendar and to do list… everything blending together so that the really critical stuff didn’t pop out.

I got up to run upstairs to my study and check the grant application to find out that I have three weeks before it’s due…. not day after tomorrow! Phew! Then… checked the voice mail I had missed because I was having fun spending time with my son, whom I don’t get to see very often… and because I was preparing for and hosting a Skypecast for school (see post below on that!). Then… I decided to start working on this blog and continuing the research that is behind my interest in this blog. Well… I found myself in conversation with so many people throughout the night… not because we were talking but because I was hearing and exploring their ideas. These conversations are mostly with myself… right now… but oh the conversations that are taking place in my head. I wish I could simply record them all. Maybe the dissertation would spill out!

The last time I was engaged in such academic intensity (despite 20 years working in Higher Education) was 24 years ago when I was working on my Masters degree. I was dreaming chi-squares, struggling with analytic techniques, and working hard to “educate” an arm chair Marxist about true activism (after 7 years as a political and labor organizer… with disdain for armchair theorists). Now… I find myself thinking in real terms about systems, analysis, hegemony (and having rich discourse with my son — a brilliant political scientist and writer!) I can participate in conversations because my mind is open… like a sponge… and I thought I was too old for that. And, I am so grateful to have technology to support this. In prior grad school (at the then New School for Social Research) I used index cards stuck in my ubiquitous DATE BOOK to remember, recall, organize the ideas that I thought would make up my thesis. Now… I can put things in this blog and privately in my wiki and in End Note and in other ways that allow me to integrate my ideas and find them again! I think I’m finally getting it.

I have a feeling this blog… which for some reason helped me sort through the things I knew were there and hadn’t figure out how to make useful to myself… may become my “source blog”. It feels like it is growing organically and may just be the site of my personal learning explosion. We’ll see!

Now… to stay on track (the structuralist in me) and find a way to systemize my thinking into something that will be useful (perhaps even valuable) to someones other than myself!

So… I’m weaving through, among, around, together conversations throughout my life.

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Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on August 27, 2006

This site is incredible. Though not specifically associated with the topic of this site, I found it when looking up content on social networking. The way this site harvests data is amazing. Read the mission statement for details on what it’s doing.

I feel privileged to be part of a community that imagines such marvels.


“And I feel fine any time he’s around me now… and he’s around me now… almost all the time… and I feel fine!”

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Reflections on NE Cluster Virtual Session

Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on August 27, 2006

This morning 7 students and one faculty member came together in the first official virtual meeting of this cluster. We met via Skypecast. The Skypecast was open for login for 1/2 hour (15 minutes before and after the start time). This allowed me as the host to communicate with people who were not from Fielding, asking them to exit and ejecting when the time for the session was closed. The upside of this approach was we had a private session, essentially. The downside was two people had to exit due to technical problems and could not re-enter.

We had a well conceived agenda that followed the usual path of our cluster meetings:
Checkin (people report where they are in the program or life in general!)

Then we had reports from national session by those who were present, a bit on student leadership opportunities, conversation about the LCSS project (asking people to make sure they submitted comments on the project to the project team), update on library WebEX sessions and review of the schedule of meetings for the year.

We discussed the schedule for the upcoming year and made a few changes. Folks were glad to know of the scheduled presenters (Mike Suarez in September, Norman Harris in October… rest to be finalized… details on Felix forum).

We discussed the potential formats for the virtual sessions, of which I proposed there were three. There may be more but this set seemed appropriate for those present. Each type of session requires some up front preparation by the faculty in the form of a (1) video blog; (2) narrated Powerpoint (or similar); or, (3) suggested reading list. The group decided they would prefer either 1 or 2. I agree. Attendees will view the up front materials and come to the VC session prepared. I am to finalize the schedule with Four Arrows and Mark Scanlon-Green for December and January. Yolanda Gayol possibly for March, but for other reasons that may not work the best.

November RRI plan is not going to work… Jenny is not available. Sue will suggest other possible faculty participants.

My KA for TLT has me giving a presentation to the VC in either February or March (I recalled that after the meeting today) so I will need to consult with Sue G and the group on that.

From a research perspective, the group felt very good about a partipatory action research project. Sue G will be providing participant forms. I need to repost my questions (I think I’ll do this through surveymonkey or some online survey tool in order to make it easy to followup!) so folks can provide some baseline data. (Survey is out for review on 8/27/06… link is http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=697612513831.

Here are the questions….

Was the meeting on August 26th your first experience with non face-to-face meeting? Feel free to share other relevant experiences.

Was the preparation and participation in the cluster meeting on August 26th your first experience with Skype/VOIP? Feel free to share experiences in other contexts.

Was the August 26th meeting your first experience with Skypecasting? Feel free to share any other relevant experience(s).

What are your concerns about using a virtual approach (specifically Skypecasting) for Cluster meetings? Please don’t hesitate to share any and all as each of brings different experience to the table that can be incorporated into the ongoing planning for these types of meetings.

What are your hopes for a virtual approach to meeting?

Posted in NE Cluster | 3 Comments »

My Purpose

Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on August 26, 2006

This knowledge log (fondly referred to as my k-log) tracks resources, ideas and learning in the Technology, Learning and Teaching knowledge area that I am completing as part of my doctorate in Educational Leadership and Change at Fielding Graduate University.

In brief, I am interested in exploring technology empowerment for doctoral students in distributed or low residency programs in the developing Web 2.0.

I see lots of information about application of evolving pedagogical approaches to the classroom K-16… but haven’t found much, yet on the organic application of these tools by self-directed doctoral students in distributed programs. I hope to explore the gap between expectations and performance as well as providing models that might support the essential collaboration at this level in this time.

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