Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Podcasting Tips

Some tips for educational podcasting, via the University of Wisconsin.

Here's my favorite part:

Research in educational media shows that people learn better when instructional material is presented in a personal and informal way. When you record your podcast keep some of the following principles in mind.

  • Don't lecture. Don't read a script. You can refer to an outline to help keep you on track during the recording session.

  • Instead, talk as if you were speaking with a student sitting right in front of you in your office.

  • Express your passion, enthusiasm and excitement for the content material in your voice and tone.

  • Be yourself, flaws and all. Listeners will tolerate a few ums or poorly executed sentences.

  • Edit out extraneous material later if you want.

Tracksy is Tricky

This morning I signed up with Tracksy, a free web stat service. The instructions said that, if I kept a Blogger weblog, Tracksy would automatically insert the needed code into my weblog template. All I had to do was click a button.

I clicked the button. Tracksy did as promised. It inserted the needed tracking code into my weblog template. The thing is, at the same time, it deleted everything else!

Consequently, regular visitors to this weblog will notice a reduction of sidebar content. This reduction is temporary. Soon, the ClustrMaps image, podcast player, subscription links, blogroll, and other sidebar content will return.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Too Cruel

Today, hungry because I missed lunch, and even hungrier because Dr. B. had me salivating all afternoon over his account of a recent Sunday dinner set with homemade pulled pork sandwiches and lemon meringue pie, this is what I had to look at for half an hour during the ride home.

It was just so cruel.

Word Takes Dictation

I've been experimenting with the speech features in Microsoft Word. Using my tablet PC, running Windows XP sp2 with Office 2003, I am able to speak into a microphone and have Word type what I say. Here's a video that shows this feature in action.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

E-Learning 2.0

Stephen Downes has posted a nice overview of what he calls "E-Learning 2.0," or education in the age of Web 2.0 and its emphasis on information distribution and personalization.

Podcasting Tools

Here's a list of podcasting tools, courtesy of Podcasting News.

Be A Reader

Another way to find quality reading material is to browse the "playlists" at the Berkman Center's new H20 Playlists web site.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Readers Are Everywhere

I took a cab home from the airport. As soon as I got in the car the taxi driver, a white haired, blue eyed man in his mid to late sixties, quickly asked me where I'd been. When I told him I'd been to a literature conference, he asked me if I'd come across any writers from Budapest. I had to say no, regrettably I had not. Then he asked me what journals I read. I gave him a list. Then he gave me a list of the journals he reads. His list was longer. Then, while driving, he produced copies of two magazines, Newsweek and Archeology, and complained to me how very difficult it is to piece together a reliable account about someone like Alexander the Great (a subject recently covered in no fewer than five magazines and journals he reads) when one's sources appear to contradict each other.

Readers. They're out there. They're real.

Unexpected Rewards of Reading

What many people don't realize about literary studies is that by studying literature you wind up studying everything.

For example, right now I'm reading Cory Doctorow's novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. In order to get a good sense of the setting (Disneyland, but in the future), I'm reading a few articles about Disneyland.

To better understand other aspects of the story, readers should also learn about blogging, social networking, and digital information management, interactive design, cloning, not to mention the history of science fiction as a literary genre from its inception to its practice in the present day.

This is what serious readers do. They read a text but they also read all about many things related to that text.

And so, by reading literature deeply and passionately, one gains a compelling reason to learn at least a bit about everything.

Praise Audio

There are some things I can tell students in an email. But sometimes, I feel the need to use audio to convey my message. A case came up this week. I was at a conference and my students were posting their work asynchronously in WebCT. Their work was good, and I wanted them to know it. How best to communicate praise? I chose to speak my praise and sent it to them as an audio file. I hope they listened and understood, from my words and my tone, how very impressed I was with their work.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Now That's More Like It!

Today in Louisville, Kentucky, at the 34th annunal 20th Century Literature Conference, our panel, "Technologies, Poetics, and Audiences" attracted a wide-awake audience.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


It is possible to make a letter its own envelope and mail it, just like that.

The Blog Meme Is Spreading

More and more of my colleagues are starting to blog. First there was Dr. Blessinger. Now, Dr. Nelson has a blog. Another friend of mine may soon be blogging about physical training. Blog on, my friends, blog on!

Update: "half marathon man"

Monday, February 20, 2006

Muppet Wiki

For Muppet fans, there is now a Muppet wiki.

Free Wiki Hosting

I've mentioned Writely, Schtuff and Seedwiki. Dr. B. recently introduced me to PBWiki. And now, for those who are interested in using wikis to support any kind of learning, here's a nice list of free wiki hosts.

Makes Sense, Doesn't It?

Today the child accompanied me through the car wash. Then, after the water stopped flowing, we went through the "car dry." Makes sense, doesn't it?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

They liked us! They really liked us!

see the big picture

Although they may look disenchanted, these people actually seemed quite interested in a presentation I and three of my colleagues made today at the Collaboration Conference in Minneapolis. Our early morning (8:00 am) presentation was about our use of computer technology in the classroom. Many who heard the presentation approached us afterward for more info. We were gratified by their response and hope this event marks the beginning of new collaborations!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Syndication-Centered Education

Here's one man's vision of what educational delivery predicated on syndicated web based content might look like:

"First day in the class students are provided an OPML file that provides the details for the lecturers for the semester, they will blog and provide course notes, presentations, thoughts and opinions via their blog, the students will receive content automatically via their RSS reader. At the end of each lecture the podcast is also sent out using the same process. If the lecturer needs to communicate about something out side of the normal course then the blog provides this mechanism. Let’s take this a step further, it does not need to be a blog in the tradition sense that we are using now, it could just be a portion of a LMS, but that is a topic for another discussion. Even internally corporate type courses can be delivered using a similar method, and here the process can go over a much longer time frame."
--Michael Specht


Sunday, February 12, 2006

LINUX Saves the Day!

After much experimentation, I have reached the following conclusions.

Conclusion 1:

It is possible to have a satisfactory OS experience with itty bitty versions of the LINUX operating system.

Conclusion II:

In my humble opinion (IMHO), of the versions I tried (Puppy LINUX, Damn Small Linux, and KNOPPIX) KNOPPIX provided the most satisfactory experience. Damn Small LINUX came in a close second (I like the feature called MyDSL which allows the user to conveniently download and run additional applications, such as Audacity, Gimp, and AbiWord).

Conclusion III:

The best way to burn one of these images (iso files) is with a little, free program called “Burn CDCC.”

Conclusion IV:

Even though I admire Damn Small LINUX's 50mb slimness, I'll stick with KNOPPIX because it comes with OpenOffice and did a better job of detecting the peripherals on my limping, six year old desktop PC.

Conclusion V:

Almost all my work can be conducted through a web browser and stored server side. I almost don't need full blown desktop PC anymore.

Conclusion VI:

LINUX rocks. It brought my old PC back to life. Thank you, LINUX Community!


Damn Small Linux


Puppy Linux


D*mn Small Linux

Okay, so I found a really small and light Linux distribution called "Damn Small Linux" or "DSL," the home of which is here. Now I would like to know how to get my Windows PC to boot it from a flash drive. Can anyone give me simple, easy-to-follow instructions?

Here's an FAQ to get you started.

Update: Nevermind, I figured it out. ;->

OPML Transformed

Link to an OPML file transformed, server side, into an XHTML file.

Click the plus sign (+).

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Relax, Think, and Let Go

"You have to allow things to happen. The more you sort of relax -- it doesn't mean you don't pursue something or work at it, but the more relaxed you are as you're doing it, the more open you are, the more you can see the different options that you have. So as you release the pink bubble, symbolically you're saying, "OK, I want this to happen, and now I'm open. And I'm willing to have it happen, and if it's not going to happen, I'm willing to see something even better."

What does Gawain mean when he refers to the "pink bubble?" He is referring to a visualization of a thought as contained inside a pink bubble. The idea is to visualize a state of affairs and capture it mentally, as if it existed in a bubble or another form of display, and then let go of it, to let it exist among other thoughts as one of many possible options which one may or may not elect to pursue.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Interview with an English Major V

My former student Kevin has turned his work as an English for Information Systems and Multimedia / Web Development major into his current position as a Web Communications Consultant at the Mayo Clinic. Today he spoke to my Composition class.

Link to (5mb)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My "Three Way" Writing Method

I've written and written and yet, the moment I sit down to write something new, I almost feel as if I've never written anything before. A product of the "cult of originality," I still harbor the sense, at some very persuasive level, that as far as writing is concerned, every day is a brand new day and any worthwhile writing must come as an inspired bolt from the blue.

This misguided view of writing plagued me even when I began to write my doctoral dissertation. The belief that the words I needed to write would appear on my computer screen if only I would sit and wait for them to pop into my head led not to productive writing sessions but, on the contrary, to discouragement and disgust.

Writing that dissertation did not have to be such a struggle. Unfortunately, I had to live through the ordeal in order to learn how to surmount it. The answer I found was a "three way" writing process that short circuited my wish for devine electricity and brought power to my writing (and thinking) through practical and attainable means.

It's not a hard process to understand or enact. It just took me a while to get there. In order to adopt this method of writing I had to learn to trust my own mind and to realize another thing: when writing, it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. What you want to do is find yourself a wheel and improve it.

To put it as plainly as possible, when you follow a "three way" approach to writing, you switch among loose writing, mindmapping, and carefully studying a generically appropriate prose model about a topic other than the one you are writing about. The model text is the wheel you will improve.

Here's what to do:

  1. Spend time researching your topic. Take many notes. Learn deeply.

  2. Read your model text. Analyze it rhetorically. In other words, pay attention not to what it says but how it says it. Most importantly, list all the implied questions it answers. Ask yourself the same questions about your topic.

  3. Write for yourself. Write nonstop in ten minute sprints, regroup, and write again.

  4. After you've written a while, switch to mind mapping. Map what you've written. Extend your thoughts. Ask your map questions derived from your model text. Then, if you feel moved to, do some more nonstop writing.

  5. Step back. Consider your model as a pattern. What does each line or paragraph do? What purpose does it serve? Does the pattern of your model text fit your thoughts? If not, how can you alter the pattern to meet your needs? How can you turn a wagon wheel into a whitewall?

  6. Write your report or what have you based on the pattern at which you've arrived. Don't worry if the pattern changes as you write. Don't worry if your whitewall turns into a four ply Greenball tractor tire. You wouldn't put whitewalls on a tractor, would you?

The point is that one can enter into a productive partnership with a piece of writing so that the model text acts as a foil for one's own thinking about something else. That the model exists can give one courage in the face of wordlessness. "Hey, if that guy did it, so can I!" One can make writing a toe-to-toe, word-to-word competition with one's model. Writing as blood sport, or, less violently, writing as duet.

For me, the shift from study to quick writing to mindmap to careful writing is important. Each phase serves a purpose. Study prepares my mind. Quick writing primes it. Mind Mapping lets me reconsider what I thought. Working with (or against) a model text helps me plan and develop the public presentation of my ideas. Careful writing of the final product is the step of fruition. However, I may, at any time during the last step, reenter any of the previous steps, like a bather going back for one more dip in the pool.

Had I not stumbled on this "three way" writing process I surely never would have finished my dissertation. And ever since I found it, when the time comes to write, I never sit and wait for a muse to show up with a whitewall. Instead I start with a wagon wheel, grab my white paint, and get to work.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"ITunes Killer"

Songbird is interesting. It's a browser (Firefox) and a media player (winamp) in one.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Marvelous Macros

Dr. Blessinger has refined the tutorial for his "pushbutton macros" automated grading technique. He's even included a haunting soundtrack.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Java HTML Editor

The developers of my favorite mind mapping tool, FreeMind, are planning to integrate a Rich Text (RTF) / HTML editor into the next generation of their program.

You can get a sneak peek at this editor here. It's called Kafenio. Type in the box on top. The HTML code comes out the bottom. The way I've set it up, you also should be able to save your file to your computer.

Link: Kafenio development web site.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Content Management Solution

What do you do when members of your organization whom you would like to add content to a website will write email but feel shy of web authoring tools? Have them mail it in!

Think about it. Anyone who can email can email a post to a Blogger blog. From there, the blog post may be routed through Feed2JS to any web page at all.

Boom! Instant, targeted web content via email!

Also, Writely documents, which may be created via email, may be posted to weblogs as well, and participate in the same chain reaction.

Isn't life delicious?

A Teacher's Blog

I am fascinated by the teaching weblog of Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson.

In it, Nesson shares his thoughts as he reads students' papers and prepares for class.

I believe this is a model worth emulating.