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Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Fri, 2009-08-14 11:09

As it's our last day, Calli and I thought we'd share a few "reflections" on our summer intern experience:

Things We Wish We Knew on Day 1

-Don't bring a lunch on Wednesdays. Look forward to the falafel.
-Do back stretching every day in order to avoid the "computer screen humpback."
-Try to become a part of as many projects as possible.
-Try to attend as many meetings as possible.
-Cede all control of your life to Google Apps. Do not resist.
-Learn how to beautify your blog.
-Don't hesitate to provide feedback.

Reasons We Don't Want to Leave

-It's not often you find yourself working in an environment where you can genuinely say you like EVERYONE you're working with.
-The fact that our duties did not include a single coffee run.
-It's OK to use gchat here.
-Willingness for the EdLab to throw parties for each EdLab event and accomplishment.
-The trek up to TC allows for ample summer book reading.
-The focus on "innovation" (even if we're not always quite sure what that means).
-The many things we've learned as interns this summer.

Thanks to all for a great experience! We really enjoyed working with everyone and wish you all the best of luck. We'll still be blogging here and there, but at least for now in the non-virtual world, so long!

Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Thu, 2009-08-13 13:01

An interesting article from last week in U.S. News describes a new virtual high school specifically for LGBT students.

According to the GLBTQ High School's website, the distance ed program will provide a "safe, high quality alternative to traditional high schools" for students who need a more welcoming environment. The curriculum includes traditional subjects as well as a one-credit requirement in GLBTQ Studies.

While some laud the idea of using new educational technologies to provide safe havens for students who feel threatened in traditional environments, others worry that the approach simply promotes segregated institutions and avoids the deeper issues involved.

Is there value in using the virtual world to promote educational environments restricted to particular groups?

Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Wed, 2009-08-12 10:41

Since it's been all over the news lately, I thought I'd share a few more updates on the topic of online textbooks:

In addition to Arizona's new digital initiatives (which Gary blogged about recently), California announced today that 10 new online math and science texts were now available, as part of a program created by Gov. Schwarzenegger earlier in the summer. The program invited publishers to submit sample online texts for use in California's schools as a way to cut costs and increase the use of new educational technology. Of course, many are skeptical of the new texts, saying that they don't meet all of the state's standards for math/science education. (My question is, why is the state only inviting traditional educational publishers to create materials intended for use in new and innovative ways?)

Outside of state government, NPR reports that Barnes and Noble is also delving into the future of online texts. The company is spending $600 million to purchase a textbook distribution/college bookstore operation chain (one it actually originally owned), in an effort to use the company's resources, as well as B & N's recently launched eBookstore, to corner to the online textbook market.

Should be interesting to see how this trend develops.

Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Thu, 2009-08-06 14:05

Could Wikipedia be waning? A recent article in New Scientist reports that the number of new articles added monthly to Wikipedia has sharply declined, in addition to the number of edits and the population of active editors.

Why is this the case? Researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center suggest that the Wikipedia community has shifted from a larger, more expansive body of infrequent, casual contributors to a smaller, highly active group, making the site less friendly to new editors. In addition, the focus of many editors has shifted from creating new content to improving old content, which results in many disputes and (as it's apparently termed) "wikilawyering."

While I think it makes sense that the number of new articles would decline (since content would be expected to accrue rapidly in initial phases), I do find the shift in editors interesting.

In informal learning communities such as this one, does the balance of power inevitably shift towards a core group of hyper-involved members, or is it possible to maintain a community built around the casual contributor? Also, does the fact that Wikipedia is getting older make it seem more "established" and thus less "editable" in the eyes of the general public?

Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Tue, 2009-08-04 09:04

is one of my favorite sites for infographics and data visualization, so I was interested to find that the site recently launched a new endeavor, entitled your.flowingdata.

Essentially, the service allows users to track any personal information they wish via twitter, whether it's eating habits, exercise, productivity, or something entirely different. Users simply record every relevant piece of data in real-time like they would a normal tweet. Then, this information can be played with, analyzed, and shared using the your.flowingdata tools.

I wonder if similar personal tracking tools could be useful at all in more formal educational settings--such as for students to log their process in class--or for educational research.

Though not a twitter user, I find this type of tool somewhat intriguing, given my personal penchant for far too much information. If you share my obsession with constant information-gathering, here's a list from FlowingData creator Nathan Yau of 23 other personal data tools sure to keep your data collection cravings at bay.

Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Fri, 2009-07-31 10:12

Here's an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education which profiles Jose Bowen, a dean at Southern Methodist University who advocates for stripping technology out of college classrooms, or as he terms it, "teaching naked."

Of course, the backlash against classroom technology is nothing new. One of Bowen's major points is that professors rely too much on PowerPoint, which leads to dull lectures and passive learning. This may be true, but isn't there a lot of newer technology which increases students' ability to learn actively?

I thought Bowen's most interesting point was that professors have to ramp up the in-classroom experience in order to compete with the online learning opportunities that are out there (i.e. why should a student pay to hear a boring lecture at Southern Methodist if they can watch a great lecture online?). While to him, this means stripping away the tech in order to facilitate even better discussion, I think that it could be as much an argument for incorporating technology into these active learning experiences as anything else.

Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Wed, 2009-07-29 09:10

As a bit of a public radio nut, I've been excited lately to come across a number of sites and projects which focus on integrating traditional public radio broadcasts with new digital media and storytelling methods.

Maker's Quest is one that I find particularly intriguing. Essentially, the project pairs traditional radio "incubators" (i.e. NPR, WNYC etc) with talented independent producers who then create forward-thinking audio projects with a focus on new digital contexts.

A lot of their 2009 projects tend to focus on integrating audio with online mapping features. For example, Open Sound New Orleans invites New Orleans residents to contribute audio of their city, whether interviews, music, or ambient sound. The audio files are then plotted on a map of the city based on the neighborhood in which they originated.

Mapping Main Street focuses on recording stories about each of the streets called "Main Street" throughout the United States.

Finally, Place + Memory deals with mapping sites that no longer exist.

There are a few other projects also, all equally interesting. Some of the content will be broadcast on traditional stations, while the rest will live online. Check it out here.

Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Mon, 2009-07-27 09:47

Democratic Think Tank Advocates for a "Kindle in Every Backpack"

About a week and a half ago, the New Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) published a report recommending a government-funded education program that would allow every child in the public school system to receive a Kindle, or a similar eReader. The report argues that providing students with this type of technology would eliminate the need for paper textbooks and enable students to receive a more effective and dynamic educational experience. While the program would log initial costs of $9 billion (making its creation unlikely, despite the fact that the report's author boasts connections to the Obama administration), the report argues that after 4 years, the education system would save up to $700 million annually.

Now, as reported in an article in eSchoolNews, educators are debating the merits of this type of proposal. Would a digitally-based system automatically create a more effective educational experience? Would this type of rapid allocation of technology cause more problems than it would solve?

Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Thu, 2009-07-23 12:32

Another example of a good online political experiment:

Washingtonwatch.com has launched an earmark-finding competition that will award prizes to the ordinary citizens who display the greatest talent for logging government "pork barrel" spending.

1st prize gets a Kindle, 2nd prize gets an iPod Shuffle, 3rd prize gets...a fruitcake. Hm.

Anyway, in three days the site's already received 3,500 entries in their earmark database. Seems like a good example of a site using crowdsourcing to generate large amounts of data, and (from a civic education standpoint) a good way to encourage ordinary people to take a look at the nuts and bolts of legislative documents.

More info here.

Submitted by Rebekah Judson on Tue, 2009-07-21 12:59

I've been enjoying the current moon fervor a lot lately. Isn't there something nice about having space in the news again?

In any case, I thought I'd highlight some of the web content put together in honor of the moon landing's 40th anniversary. Unfortunately, the computer I use here at EdLab isn't well-equipped to view some of these sites, so I haven't been able to get a hold of all of the content myself yet.

The first, of course, is Google Moon, the addition of the moon to Google Earth. I haven't tried this out in the software yet, but I've been enjoying playing around with the online version.

In addition, there's WeChooseTheMoon.org, which allows users to track the mission in real time, complete with Twitter feeds of mission control transmissions.

Finally, NASA's put up a real-time stream of audio from the mission, available here.

I find these real-time web exhibits sort of interesting. Are there other good examples of historical events explored in this format?