Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Inspiration from Karim (a Google Video)

A blogroll buddy from the Blogging for Beginners workshop put the following video on his blog for for a bit of comic relief "after three weeks of hard work" (B4Bers, We deserve a Break!). The six-week workshop is over now, and I'm finally getting around to enjoying it. I hope you do, too.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Inspiration from Claudia

In comments on my draft blog plan, Claudia Ceraso inquires about students' cross-blog reading and commentary, homework, RSS feeds, and the relationship between course blog and wiki. I'd like to respond between the lines of her inquiry (excerpts in italics, below):
  • I understand from your post that drafting may be done at home, blogging will be done at the school. How about the reading of each other's posts and comments? Will that be homework? Will you be encouraging students to use RSS feeds?
That is correct, students will probably do a large part of their blogging in class - especially those without access from home. A number of additional computer laboratories will go online by next fall, so opportunities to do homework in the lab's will multiply. Another option, perhaps better suited to students' lifestyles than mine, is that of blogging from ubiquitous mobile phones. Those who wish to do that can send pictures and blog stubs from almost anywhere.

I consider reading and commenting on one another's blogs part of blogging, hence my rather optimistic projections of three to five student posts per week. Were they to devote their time to generating RSS feeds, I'm afraid that they would do much less communicative writing than they need to. English majors with the computer skills to generate feeds already may be few and far between.
  • Does the wiki already exist? How do the course wiki and blog relate to each other?
Yes, the wiki exists - just barely (it's not open to the public). I'm setting up a PmWiki and find it much slower going than Wikispaces, especially while B4B continues. To describe the relationship between planned course blog and counterpart wiki in few words is a challenge.

Suffice it to say for the moment (almost 12 hours into a constant keyboarding day) that I expect the two parts to be closely interconnected (for example: blog feeds on the wiki): the wiki to contain more mutable, less time-sensitive material than the blog (for example: grammar references); and the blog to serve not only as a model for learning bloggers, but also as a gateway to a local blogging community (as will the wiki).
  • I am particularly interested in these questions because I am thinking about my own blog plans adjustments for 2007.
  • I am adding a wiki to my FCE blog for students as from next April, so I hope you keep posting about how your project develops and the students' response to it.
(Fri Feb 23, 03:25:00 PM JST)

I had visited and bookmarked Claudia's FCE wiki not long before I found her comments on my draft blog plan. I'm looking forward both to returning for a closer look at the wikispaces she has started, and continuing to peruse her ELT Notes blog, which has been in my blogroll almost as long as any other but B4B!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Draft Blog Plan for B4B Review

The points this plans addresses derive from a Blogging for Beginners (B4B) workshop task on the B4B pbwiki (Task 1 - Looking ahead - The Challenges of blog integration into our teaching). I'm posting the plan here so I can continue to develop it at my leisure (hah!) over the next week or so; I welcome your suggestions via comments.
  • BLOG NAME: The name should match the course wiki name, so there's hardly any doubt that it will be ... Writing Studio Blog.
  • BLOG HOST: The host should be free, and match the blog type that students will be using - again, there's little doubt that it'll be Blogger blogging for them.
    • Note: This is a teachers' group decision, though I almost prefer Edublogging. Radical changes in Blogger during the next week or so could influence this decision.
  • BLOG SAFETY: I will require word verification, but only retroactively moderate comments from students. By retroactively, I mean I will assert administrative privilege to delete unwanted or no longer pertinent comments. I will strongly urge students to use word verification on their blogs as well. Regarding privacy, I note that an example student blog that I've just retrieved (see: Evaluation, below) is publicly accessible without going through university or community sites. The public nature of such blogs may influence what students post as well as who reads them.
  • OWNER[S]: I'll launch a blog for the two classes that I teach across town starting in April, and list it for other teachers' and their students' reference. Other teachers and I will help students launch their own blogs. So students, too, will be blog owners.
  • ADMINISTRATOR(S): This particular plan is for but one small part of a collegial and community-based blogging endeavor. As I suggest regarding the blog name (above), another small part will be a corresponding wiki. The planned blog and budding PmWiki will inform not only classes taught concurrently but in all likelihood successive cohorts, just as preceding cohorts, blogs, wikis and web pages have already done. The wiki that I administrate is provided as a courtesy of the host institution. I will join two teachers already collaborating on blogger community building, as I have joined them in writing about online educational endeavors. One of the other teachers currently exerts administrative privileges over the community website.
  • WHEN WILL THE BLOG BE KEPT ACTIVE? I expect to start the planned blog within a week or so after posting this plan for peer review and announcing it in the B4B workshop blog. I will keep it active for the duration of the coming academic year (April - March).
  • TOPIC[S]: The topics for the planned blog will most likely be varied. However, I expect the majority of posts to focus on:
    • writing coursework and assignment details,
    • language learning activities and strategies,
    • extensive reading and learner blogging, &
    • to the extent feasible, learned-centered blog assessment (see: Evaluation, below).
  • WHO WILL POST? - On the planned teacher's blog, though students, peers and conceivably other interested parties may comment; only the teacher is likely to originate blog posts. Students will maintain their own blogs and comment on those of their peers.
  • WHERE WILL AUTHORS POST FROM? Most student posts and comments will probably originate from on-campus computer laboratories. I expect to post to the planned teacher's blog mostly from my office before and after laboratory classes.
    • Wow, this planification thing is working!
    • I've just realized that where and when students actually do what proportions of their writing ought to become research questions for collaborating teachers.
  • HOW OFTEN WILL AUTHORS POST? - Offhand, I'll say three to five times a week, both for me on the planned teacher's blog, and for students on their individual blogs. Students should be able to create two posts, drafts at least, during class time in a computer lab. (90 minutes per week) - especially if they come prepared with outlines, notes and pre-located references to use for in-class writing.
  • WHY WILL AUTHORS POST? The course syllabus requires individual student blogging for a variety of purposes including: reflection upon extensive reading and viewing activities, sharing of learning and other informative resources, posting major assignments for peer review, and commenting on others' blogs. As have predecessors, I will encourage and model unfettered expression in optional types of blog posts, of both filtering and journaling varieties.
    • Evaluation of students blogging endeavors will continue to build upon a framework of weblog assessment indices (WAIs). A quick Google search (keywords: Kumamoto, WAI, weblog, assessment, index) top-lines an example from mid-term, second semester, last year (I LOVE SOCCER: WAI: the weblog assessment index;
      November 28, 2006).
    • Student blog authors will be EFL learners, so I hesitate to categorize anything that they write while learning English as "mistakes." Instead, I prefer to think of what they say and write as approximations of communication in the target language. As time allows, in class and out - without savaging learners' writing spaces, I expect that we'll negotiate both meanings and forms of their approximations, in order to achieve or repair communication with target audiences.
    • I intend to collect specimens to illustrate need for common repairs, and to model and suggest repair strategies.
      • I may rant in class and online about repetitive oversights or omissions that I find common in drafts, essays, blog posts or comments.
      • Students who continue to make such oversights or omissions may feel like they have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire!
    • I will encourage learners to review and revise their blog entries as often as they feel a need to do so, in order to make their intents and purposes clear.
  • TARGET AUDIENCE[S]: The students will be writing to an audience including:
    • themselves - to mediate and observe their own linguistic development;
    • their peers: class mates, cohorts, successors - as near-peer role models and cross-commentators within an intermural community of bloggers including other universities; and,
    • should students decide to make their blogs readily accessible outside the community - also to other interested parties around our blogosphere.
      • Note: I'll share this B4B advice with students: "Thinking of what kind of connection your readers may have should be important when determining what kind of content you'll include (remember the more you embed, the harder it is for people on a slow connection to get access to your blog)."
  • ADVERTISING: Rather than "advertising," which has strong commercial connotations, I'd rather use the word, promotion. Community organizers will promote students blogs with RSS feeds in instructors' blogs or wikis and on community web pages. I will confer with the organizers soon, and suggest an announcement of the community on Dekita.
  • WIDGETS: As a minimum, on the planned teacher's blog, I plan to include:
    • a Creative Commons license;
    • labels keying into types of posts and specific assignments;
    • links to a course wiki and community website;
    • reference tools: a calendar and a dictionary; &
    • some sort of a logo.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Sustainable Discussion" - "Moveable Feast"

Over in the Learning Times Green Room (TM), a discussion about "'Lurking' in online classes" continues. Whether I like the connotations of "'lurking'" or not, that Green Room Comments space reflects neither class- or course-based organizational principles. So I have no qualms about coming and going there as time and interest permit.

Of particular interest, I find, in a return visit and review of recent comments, is an analogy of participation in online discussions as a form of respiration, inhaling and exhaling. I had glossed over that anatomical analogy in hasty previous readings. After another long, deep inhalation there, I exhale here as previously (
Learner-centered approaches challenge standardization).

Among those Green Room Comments also is speculation that "sustainable discussion" might be a new turn of phrase. However, I find that it has been around since at least 1996 (Google search) for discussion of sustainable environmental practices.

Yet it seems that there is room for reappropriation and redefinition of the phrase "sustainable discussion" with respect to online learning environments. So, why not give it another go, here or there - making it some sort of "moveable feast"?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Comment on Best Blogging Practices from the B4B Blog

The following is a comment that I'm cross-posting from the B4B Blog entry on Week 4 - Best Blogging Practices (task 2). It reflects in part upon another less recent entry in Edublog Insights than I wrote about in a previous entry in pab's potpourri [link redefined, 2008.02.14].

Were I to be so bold as to assert knowledge of best bloggin' practices, I'd be stretching beyond my ken. Nevertheless, there are a couple things that sound good a mere 7-8 months into personal blogging.

First, I would like to reflect and perhaps re-spin Linda's suggestion... regarding how to treat learners' blogs. That seems to imply our treating their blogs with the utmost respect, as connected, interested and motivated learners, ourselves, who are focusing on emerging ideas rather than unrefined forms.

Second, since a number of preceding comments have focused on the second of the readings found on the B4B wiki
[Kathy Sierra, January 3, 2006; Creating Passionate Users: Crash course in learning theory], I'd like to bounce back to a point that immediately and memorably caught my attention in the first, by Ann Davis, a week or so ago when I had a moment to read it (and before I moved on to blog another of Ann's interesting posts):
Giving students a choice in making their own connections about their learning on blogs paves the way for blogs to be constructivist tools for learning. These attributes are compelling and powerful motivators that help us shape the pedagogy.

What Ann says about pedagogy still seems to resonate with my spin on Linda's suggestion (above), and sounds even more suited to educational blogging with adult learners - andragogy....

Friday, February 09, 2007

Rip, Mix & Burn "in Ideas" (Anne Davis on Ellin Keene)

Caught some good vibes reading into Edublog Insights, where Anne Davis reprises "Ellin Oliver Keene’s keynote at the TRLD conference." That's: Technology, Reading and Learning Diversity; I gather.

Continuing to sum up Ellin's presentation, Anne notes several strategies for enabling learners to "dwell in ideas... in the classroom", namely:
  • Clearing time for learners "to listen to themselves think and consider subtleties";
  • Modeling "how proficient readers frequently re-read and re-think portions of text... to explore [ideas] more deeply"; &
  • Teaching "about meta-cognition - thinking about one’s own thinking - and the seven most common meta-cognitive strategies."
I wonder whether a minimum of 10-15 minutes individual, reading-related blogging per day might help fill the bill. That is, to implement some of the seven strategies that Anne recap's:
  1. Connecting the known to the new;
  2. Determining importance, learning the essence of text;
  3. Questioning, delving deeper into meaning;
  4. Using sensory images to enhance comprehension;
  5. Inferring, finding the intersection of meaning;
  6. Synthesizing, discovering the contour and substance of meaning;
  7. Solving reading problems Independently [capitalization in original], empowering children to move from problem to resolution.
(Anne Davis, February 8, 2007; We Dwell in Ideas...)

Those metacognitive strategies go, I suppose, for adults as well as children.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Technical and Time-Saving Issues Re: Blogging Podcasts

Whilst announcing a wonderful interview on her blog, MaryH suggests that she'll try podcasting interviews "in the future" (B4B Message 1503). In response, Gladys points out a recording tool - blog sharing link-up (Podomatic: Blogger) that used to work for her, yet expresses a preference for "text in blogs" (B4B Message 1534, PS).

Elsewhere on the B4B list (forgive me, please, for relying here upon our memories rather than citations), contributors note challenges related to bandwidth limitations, making it difficult if not impossible to download media- (audio or video) rich blogs. They also may face restrictions on downloading media players or browser plug-ins to play back A/V blog elements.

Though I've begun listening to, and earmarking podcasts of interest, I prefer text in blogs, too, for reasons beyond downloading and playback difficulties. Granted, A/V podcasts are of great interest to educators who are intent upon presenting material that will help learners to develop listening and viewing skills.

However, for time-challenged educators and learners, sitting through podcasts is hardly a viable option. Attention spared while driving or cycling, I argue, is insufficient for uptake of ideas, intents, structures and vocabulary. Under such circumstances, note-making and cross-referencing are virtually impossible - unless you have a clip-board or keyboard mounted on your steering wheel or handlebars (or are concurrently recording your own commentary). Moreover, for city-dwelling pedestrians, traffic noise may well defeat listening at anything less than hearing threatening playback volumes on mp4 or mp3 players.

Rather than rant on about the drawbacks of podcasting, and before I develop a fuller argument for properly framing podcasts to develop learners' listening skills and vocabulary, I'd better point out the LearningTimes Green Room and suggest that you check it out before the folks there quit providing nearly complete transcripts in show notes on their website as a prelude to their podcasts.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Further, More Recent IP Related Resources

An announcement of a live Educause event February 15 reminds me to follow up on some older intellectual property (IP) related resources. Here are a few more gleaned through the announcement - two out of three with a U.S. bent:

Educause. (2007). Federal copyright law [online resource collection]. Retrieved February 7, 2007, from http://www.educause.edu/Browse/645?PARENT_ID=252

Educause. (2007). Scholarly communication [online resource collection]. Retrieved February 7, 2007, from http://www.educause.edu/Browse/645?PARENT_ID=428

Public Knowledge. (2007). Policy blog: intellectual property. Retrieved February 7, 2007, from http://www.publicknowledge.org/articles/49
  • "Public Knowledge is a Washington DC based advocacy group working to defend your rights in the emerging digital culture" (Public Knowledge, 2007).
  • Gigi Sohn, President & Founder of Public Knowledge, is to be a special guest at that live Educause event: "The Information Commons and the Future of Innovation, Scholarship, and Creativity."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Class-Based RSS for Reading & Writing

This post begins by recapping Parry (2006) and continues as a virtual dialog digesting and reflecting upon larger chunks of Parry's article (a Blogging for Beginners workshop task-related reading).


Laying the groundwork of an argument for class-based RSS feeding, Parry (2006) points out need for learners to make effective use of two distinct sets of analytical reading skills, especially in online venues: "one, the quick analysis to find what is worth reading, and the second, a switch to slow analysis to carefully consider what has been found" (Parry, 2006, Helping Students to Become Better Readers to Become Better Writers, paragraph 3). He argues that RSS supports the first, and saves time for the second. Rather than provide an RSS tutorial, Parry points out a number of other guides, and concludes by claiming "RSS alters the transmission (reading and writing) of digital knowledge, and thus is critically important to any classroom instruction which requires digital composition, but especially projects which involve blogging" (Parry, 2006, Conclusion).

Three Large Tender Morsels for Digestion

To require students to write papers and then post them to a blog or website misses the point. In fact, this often results in frustrated students, because understandably they fail to see the relevance of such writing. Instead, productive classroom blog projects focus on teaching students how writing for the internet requires a different type of authorship—again, an important lesson in how context shapes meaning.
(Parry, 2006, Why it Matters for Student Writing, paragraph 1)

The point Parry makes about relevance to learners is a point well taken. Simply transferring learners' papers to blogs won't necessarily foster awareness of or engagement with blog audiences. However, if they're first time bloggers, and one of their initial tasks is to introduce themselves, blogging a previously written piece of introductory writing may serve to bootstrap inter-personal communication by almost immediately supporting commentary from group, class or community members. Blogging a prepared piece of writing at course onset also may provide a baseline, or sample, and serve as a proto-portfolio component, indicating learners' initial interests and writing abilities.

... In order to be successful authors in this space, students need to construct content that takes advantage of the iterability and citationality that the web offers.... This type of citation and appending comments to citation is crucial to becoming critically engaged readers and writers.
(Parry, 2006, Why it Matters for Student Writing, paragraph 2)

Granted, there is a lot more opportunity to experiment in writing spaces such as blogs than there is almost anywhere but in wikis - "Weblogs on steroids" (Tomei & Lavin, 2007, cited in Wikis and websites and blogs, oh my! B4B message 319). Nevertheless, starting with a prepared text at first (say something already composed in a notebook or with a word-processor) could provide learners with a ready-made platform for experiments with the kinds of web-based functions that Parry finds advantageous.

... By using RSS, you can syndicate all of the students blogs; every student in the class will get the class “newspaper” with headlines and synopsis of each student's writing, allowing them to scan all of the posts at once, and then decide which ones are most relevant, and select them for close reading. Furthermore, RSS can facilitate commenting, as most blogs will allow you to syndicate the comments to a specific post, so that students can post to a blog and continue to follow up on the comment thread. Again, this will help students to realize how writing for the web is a matter of continuous conversation rather than static paper design.
(Parry, 2006, Why it Matters for Student Writing, paragraph 3)

The third and final bit of Parry that I cite above (Why it matters..., para. 3) seems based on an assumption that learners within a group, class or community have individual blogs - as opposed to simple posting or commenting privileges on a group or class blog, and at least commenting if not also posting privileges on one anothers' blogs. To extend the newspaper analogy, it seems educators then need to assume two inter-related roles: first, as editors and publishers of the learners' stories through RSS newspapers; and second, particularly in case they are teaching learners of English as an additional language, teachers of newspaper reading skills.

Parry, David. (2006). The Technology of Reading and Writing in the Digital Space: Why RSS is crucial for a Blogging Classroom. Retrieved January 26, 2007, from http://blogsforlearning.msu.edu/articles/view.php?id=6

Tomei, J., & Lavin, R. (2006). Autonomy Arising from Community: Experiences with Weblogs and Wikis [Keynote (trademark) presentation]. Kumamoto University: January 14, 2006.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Filtering and Journalling (LwC definitions)

Whilst scouting neighboring tribes in the blogosphere, I found a blog among MaryH's listings called Learning with Computers [LwC]: A community blog for the Learning with Computers Yahoo! Group.
What first caught my eye on that blog were a couple definitions posted there by one of MaryH's blog mates, which distinguish two different purposes of blogs:

The Filter Style Blog vs The Journal Style Blog (July 28, 2006).

In retrospective, those definitions makes this blog sound like a combination of both styles, a combination which I hope the blog title "potpourri" accurately reflects.

Although the LwC blog apparently has gone into hybernation (since October 2006), a comment linked to the filter vs. journal definitions (above) points out a typical filter blog that is still up and running, namely: The Generator Blog

Looks like some of the generators filtering through there are worth checking out. Two more generators have shown up since I started this blog entry!
LwC logo used with permission

Learner-centered approaches challenge standardization

In Thoughts on "Lurking" in Online Courses, an on-going Learning Times community discussion where I've been playing the role of a legitimate peripheral participant, Alan Sellig points out how, for virtually every educational stake holder other than learners themselves, learner-centered approaches challenge instructional standardization - especially for credentialing purposes (January 22, 2007).

I understand how technological approaches to educational endeavors manifest, perhaps by default, all kinds of IT standardization techniques. However, I don't understand why, in our enthusiasm or haste to adopt and adapt instructional technology, we don't recognize and remove as much of the IT industrial overburden as possible.

To do so could not only clear pathways, but also open broad avenues - perhaps even expose frontiers - conducive to learner-centered learning. In the weeks to come, I am looking forward to discovering ways that educational blogging might do just that.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lighten up, dude!

When a colleague emailed this morning and asked for reminders of what we'd discussed yesterday, face-to-face, in a global locale that may have been a tertiary or quaternary target the day that Nagasaki got a-bombed, I sort of went ballistic. Here's an annotated snippet of what I wrote back:

Tabula rasa, man, tabula rasa;1 let me twang your synapses!

You dutifully promised and faithfully engaged to:

a. Always bring a pulp and fiber-based notebook and indelible ink pen with you when you visit my office, and have them handy whenever you call;

b. Begin immediately listing to-do's in your notebook the moment that they spring to mind, because if you don't write your thoughts down, they may as well never have happened;2

c. Carefully annotate those to-do's as to whom you'll need to involve, what resources to obtain and distribute, and when you expect to do so;

d. Deliberately and diligently transfer all [pen & paper] notes to a byte-based format at your earliest convenience, supplementing them with electronic ticklers (reminders) as necessary;

e. Endeavor to duck and cover your pulp and fiber notebook at the earliest hint of an EMP,3 and soak the notebook with urine in case of subsequent firestorms;


r. Remember that all data stored electronically can be wiped out faster than ink dries.

Personal correspondence
February 1, 2007, 09:59:45 JST
Re: Success (L2 writing...)

Of course the colleague never promised to do any of that, but it should serve as a reminder!

  1. Tabula rasa (Wikipedia): blank slate;
  2. The bit about writing it down or it never happened is a long lost reference to a Tom Clancy novel;
  3. EMP: Electromagnetic pulse (Wikipedia).

Welcome to pab's potpourri!

This is an experimental, informal blog for learning about blogging, blog development, and blog-related professional development activities.

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