Several years ago, another professor in my department taught students about the use of the dash. Almost immediately I noted that these same students were using dashes all over the place in stories they wrote for the student newspaper I advised—quite willy-nilly, actually. They had all become dash-happy.

Now when I teach students about the dash, I caution them to avoid this serious malady because, like a lot of things in this world, just because you can use it doesn’t mean you should. I think every grammar book I own admonishes that the dash is to be used sparingly.

Certainly, the dash is an appropriate punctuation mark when used in the right places. According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary 4th Edition—the official dictionary of the Associated Press—an em dash (“a dash the width of a capital M in a given font”) is the punctuation mark  that is “used to indicate breaks in thought, parenthetical remarks, dialog, etc.”

Microsoft Word helps users create this punctuation mark by automatically squishing two hyphens together when you type a word followed by two hyphens then the next word—without any spacing between. Word will also create an en dash. This dash is the width of a capital N. You get it by typing a word followed by a space, then one or two hyphens (works either way), space, then another word. According to the website, Punctuationmatters.com, the en dash is used correctly to join numbers or words that indicate a range: July – October or 2011 – 2014. Otherwise, the em dash is the one you want.

So, when you are using the dash to indicate breaks in thought, you want the em dash.

Note the differences in the width of the dash.

em dash: —

en dash: –

 Richard Nordquist, in his article “Between the Dashes,” points out several professional writers who make good use of what he calls “interrupting dashes.” He shares recent examples from magazines where the authors used them as “a handy way of slipping details into sentences”:

  • Very little grows here. Yet it is the home of quinoa real—“royal quinoa”—whose seeds are the world market’s gold standard. . . .
    (Lisa M. Hamilton, “The Quinoa Quarrel.” Harper’s, May 2014)
  • Cardinal Walter Kasper—short, sturdy, 81—lives at No. 1 Piazza della Città Leonina, a brick apartment building near the old Vatican walls. . . .
    (Paul Elie, “The Pope in the Attic.” The Atlantic, May 2014)

Nordquist concludes with these observations: 

In almost every example, a pair of commas or parentheses could also do the job, but those marks lack the emphatic dash of the dash. Commas can lead to clutter, and parentheses seem to whisper (inviting us to skip over points that used to be relegated to footnotes).


Like any device, interrupting dashes lose their power and effectiveness through overuse, and too many of them can quickly become distracting. So good writers ration them.


Nevertheless, the next time you want to emphasize a detail clearly and concisely, don’t be afraid to try on a pair of dashes.

Punctuation guru Lynne Truss writes in her book Eats, Shoots & Leaves—”the Runaway #1 British Bestseller,” according to the book jacket—says using the dash is like lowering your voice as a way to add emphasis. And it has been around a long time. She offers a few examples.

He learned the arts of riding, fencing, gunnery,

And how to scale a fortress—or a nunnery.

* Byron, Don Juan, 1818-20


Because I could not stop for Death—

He kindly stopped for me—

The Carriage held but just Ourselves—

And Immortality.

* Emily Dickinson,”Because I could not stop for Death,” 1863

The dash, Truss explains, has become “the enemy of grammar.” She blames email and texting where the dash is now used to do the job of all other punctuation—because it is easy to use and easier to see than commas and periods.

I use the dash in my personal writing, but I still discourage my students unless they have mastered its proper use—dash-happy use is just annoying.


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The next time you find yourself in a foreign country where you don’t know the language, remember this: almost every language has one word that is the same and means the same thing.

If you are scratching your head, wondering what that word could be, you may be tempted to use it.


That’s it!

According to a March 2014 Smithsonian article, Mark Dingemanse and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, have found the little interjection  huh? in many different languages.

Dingemanse’s team analyzed recordings of people speaking ten different languages, including Spanish, Chinese and Icelandic, as well as indigenous languages from Ecuador, Australia and Ghana. Not only did all of the languages have a word intended to initiate a quick clarification, but its form always resembled huh? The utterance, they argue, isn’t a mere grunt of stupefaction but a remarkable linguistic invention. …

Huh? appears to be anything but arbitrary. Dingemanse’s team has already confirmed the similarities with speech transcripts from 21 additional languages, many of them unrelated. Are the researchers sure that huh? will turn up in every language in the world? “No,” Dingemanse says. “But we are ready to place bets.”

Quite likely, if you are lucky enough to find yourself in that foreign land, having an adventure, you will be using the universal huh? a great deal. Now don’t you feel better that you know you will be understood?

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/everybody-almost-every-language-says-huh-huh-180949822/#Qx6fHRB7EbZ7Z8iS.99

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The next time you find yourself in a foreign country where you don’t know the language, remember this: almost every language has one word that is the same and means the same thing.

If you are scratching your head, wondering what that word could be, you may be tempted to use it.


That’s it!

According to a March 2014 Smithsonian article, Mark Dingemanse and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, have found the little interjection  huh? in many different languages.

Dingemanse’s team analyzed recordings of people speaking ten different languages, including Spanish, Chinese and Icelandic, as well as indigenous languages from Ecuador, Australia and Ghana. Not only did all of the languages have a word intended to initiate a quick clarification, but its form always resembled huh? The utterance, they argue, isn’t a mere grunt of stupefaction but a remarkable linguistic invention. …

Huh? appears to be anything but arbitrary. Dingemanse’s team has already confirmed the similarities with speech transcripts from 21 additional languages, many of them unrelated. Are the researchers sure that huh? will turn up in every language in the world? “No,” Dingemanse says. “But we are ready to place bets.”

Quite likely, if you are lucky enough to find yourself in that foreign land, having an adventure, you will be using the universal huh? a great deal. Now don’t you feel better that you know you will be understood?

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/everybody-almost-every-language-says-huh-huh-180949822/#Qx6fHRB7EbZ7Z8iS.99

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Finding my stuff!

This index will help you quickly locate assignment reflections  from IT 780.

1. WordPress

2. Slideshare

3. Podcasting

4. Wiki

5. Mobile Web site

6. Ning

7. Final presentation–Googledocs

8. Readings/class discussions

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Final thoughts — overall reflections

Although this semester has only been three and a half months long, it feels as if it has been much longer since we first began this blog and the blogfolios. I am never sure if that is a good indication (sort of a “how time flies” situation) or bad (“are we there yet?”) Maybe it has just been a tiring semester in general for me.

Still, I have really enjoyed learning about all the Web 2.0 tools. During the presentations last week, I found myself jotting down notes about the tools others worked on because they looked so fun and useful as well. That brings me to the most valuable part of the class for me — learning about stuff out there that I didn’t know existed. I have been a Web surfer since the mid-’90s when I began graduate school for my masters. It was rather clunky to navigate with few search engines to help. Yet, like a lot of people, I stick to my favorite sites and figure that is about all I need. Then I take a class like this and find out about some of the things I didn’t know were out there, and I realize I am missing so much of what the Internet has to offer. I know people say you can find just about anything on the Internet these days, but if you don’t know it is there in the first place, you don’t know to look for it. And unless you are really keyed into technology blogs, like Dr. Yuen’s, or other technology Web sites, you wouldn’t even know about most of the Web 2.0 tools. So “broadening my horizons” has been the most valuable result of this class.

I have many friends and family members who blog, and I always thought that was for people with too much time on their hands! Then I had to do a blog for this class. I ended up with two blogs, really: one for this class and a personal blog of other things I am interested in. Items about language and usage that I wrote about on my personal blog got comments within an hour of posting, and that blew me away! Maybe this blogging thing would be something I wanted to do! Unfortunately, this semester has not allowed me to do much of it. My personal blog is a collection of stuff that I wrote several years ago when I contemplated trying to write a column about language for my local newspaper, so it really wasn’t as much work this semester as it appears there.

I don’t really need to recap each assignment; you can read the entries I made after each one was completed. But there are a few I should comment about. I had really hoped to be able to use the Ning for the class I teach on campus, but now that Ning is going to charge, that is out of the question (poor grad students can’t afford things like that!) I thought about using a Wiki, and I suppose that is still a possibility, although all the ads on Wetpaint are so annoying that I really don’t want to go that route. So I have made no decision on that.

The assignment and Web 2.0 tool I liked the least was Slideshare (because of all the problems I encountered trying to do the assignment), and yet I was thinking just last night that I could use it to help my 83-year-old father who lives 2,000 miles away with a problem he has understanding his new Gmail account. I could make a Powerpoint tutorial and add the audio, and he could view it in Idaho. I don’t know if I will have time to do that during the break, but I might just try it.

I have thought a lot this semester about the future of technology. My 81-year-old mother asked my last night what I thought would be the next thing to come along. I don’t really know the answer to that, but I think the mobile path is where things are truly headed. Accessing the web via cell phone, downloading movies and books to something like the iPad, carrying your lectures (think podcasts), notes, assignments, etc. in a palm-size device — these are all mobile ways the world is gravitating toward. I imagine that one day my sleek, compact laptop will be considered a bulky dinosaur and desktop computers will be as strange as a black-and-white television set is today.

I wish I could say the readings for this class really expanded my understanding of technology. I did learn some things from them, but I do not relish academic writings that are more torture than enlightenment. I really think academics do themselves a disservice when they write in a stilted style that forces people to “work” at reading. Writing can contain all the same information but be presented in a much more interesting style — and that’s OK. You might actually get more people to read it that way. Too many academics have the idea that if it is readable and easy to understand, then it isn’t rigorous enough in its research and quality. Not true!

This has been my second class with Dr. Yuen and the second time using Ning. It has, however, been like night and day. Last semester, people posted their assignments on the Ning and that was about it. This semester, it has been fun to watch the interaction and exchanges between class members. I have been too overwhelmed with other classes to participate much there, but I can see that it is a valuable tool in helping students have a better class experience. It has also created friendships in a way that a typical lecture class does not, another positive attribute for improving a class experience.

So, knowing what I know now about the class, if I had it to do over, would I take this class again? YES! I am really excited to explore more of the Web 2.0 tools for ways to improve the class I teach as a graduate assistant. When I talk about some of these with other grad students who teach or full-time professors, most haven’t a clue about how these free things could help them in the classroom. They continue to just do their job the old-fashioned lecture way (or my other least favorite — read-the-Powerpoints lecture!) I listen to undergrads all the time complain about boring profs, and I listen to profs complain about textbooks that aren’t exactly what they want (they need to develop a Wiki of stuff that IS what they want) and quizzes/exams they have to grade by hand (they need to learn about some of the online possibilities out there) and the problems getting students to work together (they should try out a Wiki, social network or Google docs), but they don’t even now about them. Maybe they should all take Dr. Yuen’s class!


Filed under Blogfolio, Googledocs, Mobile site, Podcasting, Slideshare, Social Networking, Wiki, WordPress

Class discussions

The following chapter critiques were part of the class discussions that took place on a social network during the Spring Semester 2010.  All readings are from the textbook:

Yang, Harrison Hao & Yuen, Steve Chi-Yin. Collective Intelligence and E-Learning 2.0: Implications of Web-Based Communities and Networking. Hershey, Pa.: Information Science Reference, 2010.

Assignment 1

Chapter 15: “Podcasting: A Flexible E-Learning Tool,” by Youmei Liu and Shawn McCombs.

Description and summary: This chapter on podcasting does just what one would expect a chapter to do. It explains what podcasting is, how it can be used and suggests what its future will be.

The chapter is really almost a list of all the reasons podcasting is a great thing. Podcasting is increasing in popularity because it provides a new way to access information, allows for mobility and portability, and facilitates timeshifting, which is just computer jargon for the more common jargon multi-tasking. It also enhances education. Even students who attend a lecture in person can review the lecture through podcasts to increase their learning. Podcasting also benefits students who must commute long distances to campus and sometimes find traffic and parking issues force them to miss class. It also bridges technical problems that an e-learning environment can have when students do not have the same technology as the professor. And it makes it possible to address changing learning styles, especially visual learners who, according to one study, are four times greater in number than auditory learners. Self-paced learning is another advantage.

The authors suggest teachers use all three types of podcasting: audio only, enhanced audio with still pictures, and vodcasting with video. However, “do not use podcasting as the only content delivery format” (p. 277). Tips for using podcasts include providing detailed instructions about how to use it, clearly labeling segments to avoid confusion, reminding students when new material is available, and keeping the podcasts short so they don’t take too long to download or use too much storage space or battery power.

Strengths and weaknesses
: The key strength of this chapter is that it is generally written on a level that even someone with little knowledge about podcasting would understand it.

That said, let me just say how disappointing I found the quality of the writing. Even before I looked back at the names I could tell within a few paragraphs that at least two different people wrote the chapter and one is NOT a native English speaker. A good editor should have fixed all the problems this caused: poor sentence structure, missing words, subject-verb agreement issues, poor transitions, and overall organization problems, just to name a few. My undergrad students think I expect too much from them because they are supposed to learn to do all these things in their own writing. They think I am being picky when it is obvious that the textbooks they use (many just like this one) don’t have to get it right; they see poorly edited textbooks as an example of “do as I say, not as I do.” Perhaps the hardest part for me personally is trying to stay engaged in the writing when I have to stop and figure out what the missing word is or what the sentence really says before I can continue. I want to be so caught up in the message that I don’t notice the sentence structure, etc. Sorry, Dr. Yuen, you need to demand that whoever edited this chapter for you returns the paycheck!

How can educators use this chapter: A few important ideas came out of this chapter. One is an greater understanding of how podcasting can address various learning styles and perhaps even reshape learning styles. The tips at the end for creating good podcasts are also helpful to educators who are trying to incorporate podcasting into their teaching.

Future trends: It is interesting that the authors make the statement that podcasting is here to stay. I suppose someone once said that about beta video tapes and 8-track players. Until the next great technology comes around, yes, podcasting will be relevant. Then, podcasting will go the way of black-and-white television. I have no clue what that next great idea will be, but it will likely involve more wireless and less electricity from wires!

What I learned: The only really new information from this chapter was not a fact but a statement that caught my eye and left me thinking: “Harnessing the power [of podcasting] for good may indeed present other challenges that will be debated for some time to come” (p. 271). I am constantly amazed by all the technology out there and the good it can do, and then I am dismayed by what trash or just plain evil comes from it as well. The amazing Internet, with all its wonderful components and possibilities, clearly is an example of this, especially with porn and identity theft running rampant. It is chilling to contemplate the bad that podcasting may inspire. I am concerned that it will become so highly accepted that face-to-face teaching will almost disappear, and what a tragedy that would be.

Technology in education: Yes, this chapter added to my understanding of technology in education. I would have liked to be able to use podcasting when I became one of the three professors at Lorain County Community College who taught online classes in 1998. My auditory learners would have been better served, and my visual learners would have had more reinforcement for the “words” they read each week.

Assignment 2

Chapters 7 & 8: “Using Wikis to Support Collaboration Among Online Students,” by Jay Alden; “Wikibook Transformations and Disruptions: Looking Back Twenty Years to Today,” by Curtis J. Bonk, Mimi Miyoung Lee, Nari Kim, Meng-Fen Grace Lin.

Summary: In a nutshell, these two chapters discuss the educational use of the wiki. The collaborative possibilities of a wiki make it a great tool for education (collaborative work provides a better project and better learning) and prepares students for working in the modern work world where “collaboration is the name of the game.” There are some challenges in selecting the right software and teaching teachers how to integrate it into their classes as well as encouraging students to put their work on the wiki and edit the work of others. In fact, the shared experience of the wikibook in many ways changes the use of textbooks, which must adapt to meet the individual needs of student. Some 20 years ago, researchers began to really study the culture of learning, noting changes that needed to be made. Now at the end of the first decade of the new millennium, learning has entered a participatory learning culture that the wiki certain supports. The second chapter details experiments in the use of wikis between institutions, with students from other countries and universities participating in the same projects. The results found a need to better handle some issues: more coordination and leadership skills required; more time needed; technology must be integrated thoughtfully; the student-led forms of instruction may not be familiar to some cultures; the overall structure of the class needs to be modified to provide more direction for due dates and collaboration.

Strengths and weaknesses: These chapters were well written (YEAH!) and provided a lot of good basic information. Still, there is not enough discussion about the best products for the various needs of the classroom, just cautions about making sure software is selected that meets those needs. I was disappointed that there was basically no discussion of the free stuff out there. In these almost desperate economic times for education, FREE is fabulous! I suppose there are concerns with controlling the design capabilities and the advertising that appears on the page (I am bothered by the ad on Wetpaint that uses OMG, which is an abbreviation for a term I find offensive on a religious level). If the authors were concerned about any of the free products, they didn’t detail those concerns.

How can educators use this information? Educators certainly need to understand the basics of how a wiki works before they can see how to use it in their classes. I imagine many will say there is just too much work here setting it up and monitoring the students. As the economy causes educators on all levels to do more with less, fewer educators are going to feel inclined to add more to the educational experience. That said, I myself am going to start a wiki for the class I teach on campus. These chapters have helped me think about some of the problems and plan how to avoid them when I set up the wiki.

Is this a passing fad? Actually, the design of wikis as we now know it may pass but the idea of collaboration is not a fad. I have read studies for the past 20 years that show two key skills are always lacking in many people seeking employment (and these never seem to change!): writing skills and collaborative/interpersonal skills. People need to know how to write well and how to work well with others! The use of wikis in education can address both issues. It is, however, likely that our present Web will become so much of a mobile format that what a wiki looks like and how it operates will have to change to accommodate that format.

What did I learn? I actually learned one interesting fact that was worth reading both chapters to find: working together produces better products. I have listened to students whine incessantly about group work, mostly because they seem to always get at least one slacker who doesn’t pull his or her weight on the project. Some tell me the end product is never as good as what they could have produced on their own. However, the research shows this isn’t what happens. The end product is better and the students learn more! I am already thinking of ways to incorporate more interactive group stuff into my class to see if I can improve learning there.

Did the chapters help my understanding? I can answer a resounding “YES” to that. Other than consulting Wikipedia, I have never had any interaction with wikis. I can see that wikis are a natural fit for education in probably every field, and one day the world will recall the “old days” when students worked alone and had to buy textbooks.

Assignment 3

Chapter 10: “From Information Literacy to Scholarly Identity: Effective Pedagogical Strategies for Social Bookmarking.,” by Deborah Everhart and Kaye Shelton.

Summary: In the introduction, the authors tell us that social bookmarking bridges a gap between students who learn more when they are actively engaged and the instructors who usually don’t want to give up class control and also lack skills to integrate the Internet into their classes. After explaining the terms taxonomy and folksonomy and providing some background, the authors shift into the meat of the chapter, which is to explore different teaching models for social bookmarking.

They consider the learning abilities and needs of three groups: lower-level undergrads, upper-level undergrads and graduate students. They also describe possible scenarios for individual and group projects for each level as well as professional use.

Strengths and weaknesses: This chapter has many strengths and only a few weaknesses. On the positive side, it offers more hands-on applicability than some of the other chapters. The group treasure hunt it actually a really great idea and one that could be adapted to almost any class. The authors are also spot on when they talk about pedagogical strategies that are geared to the student’s abilities, especially when they discuss the benefits of students being able to compare their work with others more established in the field, a kind of self test of where they are on the knowledge scale. At the same time, though, they miss the mark on one important fact: no class is ever at the same ability level. Many lower-class undergrads are more versed in some areas of Internet research than are even graduate level students. And some grad students (myself included) are actually novices when it comes to Internet-based research. Quite honestly, I had to look up social bookmarking in Wikipedia to understand what these authors were talking about in the first place because I have never heard of using a website to collect resources. I have never heard of saving a bookmark anywhere but to my own browser. I collect sources I need in a Word document. Of course, I can see where keeping all this online makes sense, and I plan to investigate some of these places to see if they will be useful to my research for my dissertation.

How can educations use this information? Educators certainly need more training. I haven’t heard of a single professor in my department here at USM using social bookmarking in classes. Perhaps students do it on their own, so I am not aware. Social bookmarking would provide more collaboration opportunities in the classroom, and from what we have read, more collaboration means better work.

Future trends: I suppose, as the old saying goes, the sky’s the limit on this. As the world moves toward more collaboration in every way, this will be a tool that will be utilized in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.

What do I think: Honestly, this chapter left me scratching my head. I really want more information about social bookmarking and I need to try it out in some way to get a better understanding of how it works and how I can really use it in my classes. The graphics that are included did nothing to explain what a social bookmarking website looks like or how it operates. Of course, that means there is just more learning ahead for me!

Assignment 4

Chapters 2 & 16: “Conceptualizing Codes of Conduct in Social Networking Communities,” by Ann Dutton Ewbank, Adam G. Kay, Teresa S. Foulger, Heather L. Carter; “Using Social Networking to Enhance Sense of Community in E-Learning Courses,” by Steve Chi-Yin Yuen and Harrison Hao Yang.

Chapter 2: This chapter is almost all about the problems associated with social networks. The examples of professors being prejudiced by activity of students online, future employers dredging up old posts, people losing jobs over their postings, students being punished for posts, etc., should convince everyone that social networks are not secure places and should be treated with caution. That fun Facebook site may just bite you!

Social networking has brought up other ethical and moral issues that people have never had to confront before. Privacy rights become a big issue. How much privacy can you expect? How much criticism can others throw at you in this public space before they are invading your privacy? Managing one’s privacy is different online where audiences are frequently unknown.

The serious problems of what amounts to public hazing and cyberbullying are also issues that need to be confronted. Many people, particularly adolescents and immature young adults, treat a social network like a restroom wall! Some teachers have used information they saw online to “tattle” on students.

Chapter 16: This chapter is filled with facts about social networking, about the unbelievable number of people who use social networks. “Social networking is already second nature to many student,” the authors state. “Social networking sites not only attract students but also hold their attention, impel them to contribute, and bring them back time and again.” Social networks not only provide entertainment. They can also provide the connections and community that enhance e-learning of the the net generation of digital natives who have grown up with technology. This chapter includes a case study of two classes of students who used a social networking site, Ning, as part of their IT experience. (Apparently that was a earlier version of our class.) Students in both classes reported that the social network enhanced the experience and built a sense of community among the class members.

Strengths and weaknesses: This chapter provided a lot of information and numbers about social networks, which was interesting to know. This was a strength. The case study seemed almost buried by all of this. It almost seemed like a letdown, especially since the study only further confirmed what was already known. Good research needs to extend or clarify existing research not just rubber stamp what we already know.

Future trends: There is no question that social networks are going to continue to be a part of the future of the online world. It has been a tool that has continued to do what the Web seems to have done best — make the world smaller. I can “chat” instantly with my friend in Scotland and feel as if we almost live next door again. The next step will be making audio and video interaction even more a part of the network. Perhaps my Facebook post will be more than the written word. It be more like a post on a video blog.

What I learned
: I learned a lot more about social networking and particularly the ethical and moral concerns that have arisen with social networks. It has become even more apparent that we must make sure people, especially children, are educated in the safe and proper use of social networks. Also, it is clear that the legal community is going to have to get involved to help deal with problems of cyber bullying, public hazing and privacy invasion.

Assignment 5

Chapter 4: “Designing Dynamic Learning Environment for Web 2.0 Application” by Robert Z. Zheng.

Summary: The author discusses the characteristics of Web 2.0 learning, the challenges users face, the models of instructional design and implementing the framework for instructional design for Web 2.0 learning.

Web 2.0 has three main characteristics: 1) Shared ownership (knowledge is created by a group); 2) enables learners to focus on one topic while accessing many domains at the same time to explore that topic; 3) social negotiation allows opinions to be critiqued, corrected and transformed into concepts that the online community can then accept.

The author also lists three challenges: 1) cognitive load can be intrinsic, extraneous and germane (only the last is really effective in learning); 2) selection and use of cognitive strategies — basically, knowing how to adapt to new learning situations that the online world provides; 3) integration of information across multiple domains — basically, connect all the pieces in this ill-structured environment.

The author explains the early models of instructional design, beginning with the linear ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement, evaluate); system instructional design (SID), also linear; and non-linear SID, which does not prescribe the steps one must follow. Three models are emerging: 1) WisCom where collective wisdom is created, with a focus on existing content as a starting point; 2) T5 design, which emphasizes tasks, tools, tutorials, topics and teamwork; 3) 3PD — three phase design where an environment is established for online teaching and learning, the environment is modified, based on feedback, and then the class is monitored and maintained.

Instructional design for Web 2.0 must consider a learner-centered approach, interactive social communication and dynamic learning. Implementing requires considering which activity to use, providing open-ended learning and promoting metacognitive thinking and self regulation. Mostly, Web 2.0 ID needs to consider the ill-structured, non-linear nature of learning.

Strengths and weaknesses and the other stuff: I read most of this chapter twice (a great weakness of the writing,  in my estimation!) in an attempt to understand what the author was trying to get to. Of the chapters we have read, this is by far the best example of serious academic writing that really sounds like nonsense! And I’m not sure the author understands it either. A classic problem I see in student writing is that they throw stuff out there and then don’t explain it because, quite frankly, they don’t know what it means. This author does the same thing with such ideas as intrinsic, extraneous and germane cognitive load. I haven’t a clue what he meant about that and why something called germane would be more effective in learning. I understand the meaning of all the words but have no idea how they apply to cognitive load. He does the same thing with metacognitive thinking and self regulation. What? Sorry, I am not impressed. I have been around education long enough to really appreciate an author who explains things without being obtuse and does it in such as way that it is fun to read. That wasn’t this author.

I didn’t learn much that I didn’t already know about linear and non-linear instructional design. The one thing I did learn was that there is a lot of research going on about online learning. The author notes an impressive number of studies, many quite recent.

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Using Googledocs — Final Presentation

The final project for IT 780 involved using Slideshare again. It wasn’t a nightmare this time. Everything loaded OK, and synching the audio was a breeze. I actually kept waiting for something to happen. Most of my projects this semester have not gone this smoothly, so naturally I was a little wary that I had really done something wrong and would find it out at any moment. Didn’t happen!

The best part of this assignment was learning to use Googledocs. I have never used it seriously to create documents but have loaded many documents there that I need others to access. I often create PDFs of handouts for my students and then I can email the URL to those who miss class. It saves me an extra trip to meet them on campus to give them materials.

Learning about forms was the most valuable part of this assignment. I need to do a survey in my class this semester for a project I am working on this fall. However, I need to do it AFTER the last day of class so I need to contact students via email. I was thinking about using an online survey tool like SurveyMonkey until I learned about the forms in Googledocs. With SurveyMonkey and other survey sites, the participant has to click to that site in order to complete the survey. He or she also must click through several pages to get to all the questions. For many people, that is just too much of a hassle. However, if you use the Googledocs form, the questions appear right in the email. As soon as the students open the email, they can begin answering the questions. All the questions appear on one page — no clicking through to get to the end.  The submitted questions are automatically recorded in a spreadsheet. Unless the form includes a place for the respondent to type his or her name, the results are sent to the spreadsheet anonymously, thus preserving confidentiality for respondents. The spreadsheet is quite simple and doesn’t allow you to do everything you can do in other programs like Excel, but that isn’t a problem because you can download the results into Excel and then do any of the functions that Googledocs cannot.

Another positive about Googledocs is that it provides another place to save documents. I will be working on my dissertation soon, and I am considering how to backup documents. A friend had her laptop stolen with her nearly completed dissertation on it, and ONLY on it! Looking at the devastation from tornadoes in central Mississippi reminded me that even information stored on external hard drives, discs and flash drives can be lost. However, anything stores online can be accessed if the original is lost.

Googledocs also provides a good level of security. You set the level of access. You can make the documents available only to yourself or you can stipulate that others who know the URL can find them. (This option allows me to post the URL for any of my students who need to download the assignment.) You can email just certain people who will be the only ones with access. You can give them access to just view the file or access to edit the file.


Filed under Blogfolio, Googledocs, Slideshare