Monday, September 22, 2008

Classroom 2.0?

I was talking to a teacher today about classrooms and how the standard layout has remained the same despite the advent of the net, problem-based learning, collaborative learning etc etc. The traditional model of a teacher up front with students sitting in rows taking notes prevails and shows little sign of disappearing any time soon.

The virtual world of Second Life should have inspired us to try out radical new learning environments. You can meet people in the sky, under the sea or on top of a mountain and there are of course a few who really do try out new ideas. However it's interesting to see how many still build classrooms, lecture halls and libraries just like the "real" world. My avatar has been to several seminars in SL and has sat together with rows of other avatars listening to someone presenting PowerPoint shows (and my real self has in turn watched the avatar ... see earlier entry!). I can't be too critical here because I've also been guilty of this but it just goes to show how difficult it is to escape from the traditional paradigm.

When we design new schools and lecture halls do we get the teachers and students involved in the design process from the beginning? I've just read a stimulating new report on how to create stimulating learning environments produced by the British organisation JISC. It's called Designing Spaces for Effective Learning - A guide to 21st century learning space design and has many examples of how colleges and universities are trying to create learning spaces for the 21st century.

I particularly like the example of a university that has abandoned the traditional lecture model in favour of:
"active learning sessions, involving mini-lectures, videos, demonstrations and problem solving. Questioning and discussion replaced knowledge transfer as the main model of delivery, and a custom-built lecture theatre – the InterActive ClassRoom – was created"
(example from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow).

Related to all this is an interesting film on the gap between traditional learning environments and students' reality produced by students at Kansas State University.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Get offa my tag cloud

I've just added my tag cloud to the blog via and I'm afraid it looks rather messy. Other people's tag clouds look much cooler. I don't really understand why some of the tags have even appeared in my cloud and it all goes to show that I need to spend more time learning the finer points of tagging. I've got hundreds of bookmarks but have not actively tagged very many of them so I suppose they generate some kind of default tags instead. It's a simple matter of the more effort you put in the better the result and Web 2.0 is no exception to this rule.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Identity crisis

My digital footprint keeps on growing but my life doesn't really have room for it all. Almost every week now I join up with some new social network or web service. My portfolio of user names and passwords is also becoming frighteningly impressive and it's getting harder to keep them all in order (just waiting for someone to tip me off on a web service that organises even that for me!). It's hard to find secure passwords that you have any chance of remembering. I remember reading several years ago that the most common password is "password" but many sites won't accept simple solutions like that. If you try to enter a simple password you get told that it's too easy and that you really should use a mixture of letters and numbers and preferably lower and upper case letters.

There are now several tools available to help people who are OD-ing on social software. If you've got multiple blogs, wikis everywhere and are a member of far too many networks and communities you can now gather everything in one place and showcase your entire repertoire at one address. A new contender in this category is called Popego and it even promises to deliver related content and contacts to you once you've registered all your other networks there (I've previously mentioned FriendFeed which is a similar service). I got in there and have tried to register my various identities but keep getting told that my user name doesn't exist. In some cases I can't even remember what my user name is. I like the idea and it could be fun if I can only remember who I am.

I am however quite enthusiastic about, a social network based for sharing music. It tracks everything you play on your iPod and computer and tells your friends what you're listening to. It also enables you to compile your own "radio channel" so that your friends can hear the music you like. Whenever you listen to a track you get information about the artist via a wiki (you can add details to the wiki of course) and you can also download tracks and albums via Amazon.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Russian doll effect

I attended a conference in Second Life today. Or rather I eavesdropped on a conference since I generally find that on-line events tend to run in the background when you're at work. Whether you participate via an e-meeting tool or SL it's very easy to hide and do other things at the same time I'm afraid. So I half-listen to the speakers whilst writing e-mails, documents or answering phone calls. I imagine most people do the same unless something very special grabs your attention. However, it does allow you the luxury of being part of an event and hearing some of the content without the travelling and organisation (but minus the all-important networking and discussion).

One feature however did make me think. I sat at my desk looking into a screen where my SL avatar was sitting looking at another screen in SL that showed a film of other people at the real life conference looking at a screen showing someone's presentation. Then one of the presenters at the conference showed an e-meeting on the screen where a presenter somewhere else showed his presentation on a screen in the e-meeting tool.

It would have been fun if the guy in the e-meeting had shown a feed from SL showing us watching the conference watching him etc etc.

Magritte would have loved it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

15 minutes of fame

I saw an amazing map in today's edition of the Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter. It was an article about how popular the TV reality show Idol has become in the world. All countries in the world with an Idol show are shaded in blue and those who broadcast another country's Idol are shaded in green. It seems that if you want to completely avoid the concept you'll have to move to Mongolia, Belarus or Angola but it is probably only a matter of time before they join the flock. Intriguingly even North Korea was shaded in green - I'd love to know which Idol show they broadcast!