Monthly Archives: October 2008

SMART Table

SMART Technologies has developed an interactive and collaborative table.

Eye-candy design and interaction or is there more to it? Let’s see what it comes with and if it can retain attention besides initial interest (maybe one more possibility for the Hawthorne Effect to take place)…

Wikis as a Learning Environment (at least as part of it)

Wikis offer a great opportunity for collaboration. Both as self-hosted or as a subscription service, there are many wiki engines to choose from and Wikimatrix makes it easier to compare them side-by-side.

As says this entry from Wikipedia itself:

“A wiki is a page or collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language.[1][2] Wikis are often used to create collaborativewebsites and to power community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis.[2] Wikis are used in business to provide intranets and Knowledge Management systems. Ward Cunningham, developer of the first wiki softwareWikiWikiWeb, originally described it as “the simplest online database that could possibly work”.[3]

“Wiki” (/wiːkiː/) is a Hawaiian word for “fast”[4]. “Wiki Wiki” is a reduplication. “Wiki” can be expanded as “What I Know Is,” but this is a backronym.” 

In the case of a class or workshop being delivered via a wiki platform, the instructor/facilitator has full access to page history information to see who adds/edits content and what exactly was contributed by each individual. 

For businesses, wikis, in their essence, offer an intuitive and easy to update knowledge management system and document collaboration tool, harnessing the collective intelligence of many to provide just-in-time, just-enough, just-for-me information.

Peanut Butter Wiki

There are many wiki engines out there, see Wikimatrix’s comparison tool. Some have corporate-geared features and storage space, others are more appealing to school educators and students. Some are engines for people willing to run them on their own servers, others are on a domain/subdomain basis. 

Out of all those, one seems to appeal to me a lot: Peanut Butter Wiki (or PBwiki). Simple to use, feature-rich and now with a lot more storage for the free accounts, PBwiki has no ads and is unbeatable in the feature arena. Very clean and user-friendly interface. 

Despite the name (that I am not really fond of – it doesn’t say much about a “wiki” – but hey…), this is a great tool to consider for both business, academic and personal collaborative projects. (You can upgrade to a custom domain name).

Eee PC

The Eee PC has been out since October 2007 but hasn’t gained much press coverage (at least I hadn’t heard about it until recently, and I ALWAYS try to stay in the loop of the latest gadgets and trends in technologies). 

The compact laptop is Asus’ attempt to compete in the market of small-sized computers such as Apple’s MacBook Air. While I assume that the Air has more to offer because it is Mac OS, the steep price difference might make you want to consider the Eee PC. It seems to be a good product for the drastically cheaper price tag if compared to the Air. Less storage is one of the down sides of it but this seems to be the perfect solution for schools and educational institutions for a completely functional and light-weight portable computer. For those who travel a lot, the Eee PC (whose name comes from the campaign slogan “Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play”) is a good option if you don’t want to pay through your nose for a MacBook Air.

The Eee PC comes in different models. colors, Windows or Linux and different prices, of course. 

Might be worth checking it out.

Crowdsourcing (and) Learning

Many companies, educators and students already use tools such as blogs, wikis, Google Docs, DimDim and other collaborative tools to co-create materials and learn collaboratively. However, these normally involve a small group of people that already know one another and are working together on a specific project. 

Crowdsourcing takes group collaboration to the next level by allowing people to post certain ideas, initiate discussions and attract a larger amount of people (normally strangers) who will contribute to the idea, improving it with their own expertise. Websites such as  Kluster, Innocentive, CambrianHouse, CrowdSpirit and IdeaBlob are a good example of what crowdsourcing is. One can say that Wikipedia, for instance is also a form of crowdsourcing knowledge.

In Education, websites such as Citizendium and Eduzendium, expert-moderated Wikipedia “clones”, the Encyclopedia of Life, a user-generated encyclopedia of life on Earth are all good examples of crowdsourcing knowledge in a more reliable manner.

In the meantime, I am still waiting to see more of this concept applied to learning, as we all become active  “learners” literally “building” knowledge with the help of one another…

A Virtual Forbidden City

Not forbidden (you are allowed to explore it), is the interactive virtual replica of the ancient Chinese Forbidden City that has been released by IBM after a few years of development.

Great environment for the History buffs, teachers and students.

You can download it here.

Check out TechCrunch’s post on the subject here.

World of Warcraft and Language Learning – a blog post

Interesting post about MMORPGs and language learning. There is no doubt that the social atmosphere of such games as World of Warcraft (referred to in the post above) offer a great opportunity for interaction with people from all kinds of linguistic and cultural backgrounds in a meaningful way, collaborating around a common goal where language is learned informally and the actual gameplay takes the stage, taking the pressure away from the language barriers themselves…

DimDim Webconferencing

DimDim just released their 4.0 version that has more features and is more compatible with Mac computers (including desktop sharing). The free version includes hosting and scheduling meetings for up to 20 participants and 3 participants plus the host can have active mics at the same time.

They also have an open source version for developers… so, if you’d like to run your own DimDim locally, there you go…

OneSentence – Stories Told in One Sentence

I came across this interesting website called OneSentence which, differently from microblogs like Twitter that has users post so many meaningless updates most of the time, lets users share stories in once sentence only.

Would be a nice experiment for a Reading class, for instance.

Also visit Ficlets, which allows users to create stories collaboratively with feedback, sequels, etc.

Learner vs Participant

The term learner bears a sense of a passive individual that is merely a receptacle for Instruction and information. In light of this assumption, one would presume that another word or another view of the “learning as a process” to take place. Most everyone has some to contribute to this process and, aside from situations in which individuals need instruction for imediate information, for more long-term knowledge retention learning needs to be views not only as a process but as a participatory process. Even if an individual will go through “instruction” alone, ideally, the learning process starts then and continues as this individual partakes in conversations, formal and informal situations in which that knowledge is applied, learners new nuances to that information from others, funds new applications for that information as s/he collaborated with other “learners” (please read all you can about Constructivist epistemology and some applied theories such as social learning).
Therfore, if learning is an ongoing participatory process, maybe those in the field of Education should see the learners as “participants” in learning constantly together. Not that this is a call for a different word, bit for the view that consructivists have had for a while and that now social media makes it easier to achieve by creating participatory environments.

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