Wednesday, December 31. 2008
Serendipity35 has been getting a pretty consistent one million plus visitors per month during the second half of 2008.
Our Top 10 visited articles
Proving that there is a long tail in blogging when you have an archive of entries, an early one about the writer William Gibson brought in 31913 visitors, and even though the news is outdated about Tim & I and About Division 35 at NJIT 31494 inquiring minds wanted to know.
New entries on the blog usually take about a week to get about a hundred "direct hits" on them. Those come when someone find that particular post's URL via a search engine. When you visit our home page, you could read all 11 posts that show up, but it wouldn't be recorded as anything but a general hit on the site. We added the counter to each entry to see how much attention individual posts were getting, but we realize that those numbers are probably low. I myself read most blogs that I follow in my Google Reader application and I'm not sure that those reads count as anything other than another "subscriber" to the blog's owner.
I continue to get email about presentations that I have done at conferences that have accompanying entries on this blog. I did one on Social Computing at the NJEDge.Net Faculty Best Practices Showcase in 2006 when I was pretty new to blogging, wikis and all that, but a lot of other educators were even more Web 1.0 then. That post has pulled in 31369 visits.I'm always tempted to delete old entries that seem "dated" - like What is this thing called Web 2.0? from early 2006 - but with 30131 reads, I suppose it has "historic" value too.
Some entries get a push because of other sites linking to us or for less desired reasons. My original 2007 post about Randy Pausch unfortunately needed to be updated when the man behind The Last Lecture died 8 months later.
Serendipity35 received 540 comments which might sound like a lot, but is quite low based on our visitor count. Some of the best blogs get that many comments in a month. I haven't figured out the secret to getting readers to comment. More controversy as with talk radio and TV?
We have been averaging 4.54 entries posted per week. And the statistics machine keeps calculating: Total amount of characters we have typed = 2,591,164 characters with an average characters per entry of 3,772 - though the 2006 "A Serendipity35 Year in Review" swelled up like my stomach after the holidays to 25,352 characters all by itself. (That's because I was using tables, so most of the those characters are hiding in the code.) That's a lot of keyboard action for my two fingers.
We get a good amount of traffic from outside the United States - the top 10 other countries that visit the blog the most are:
Tuesday, December 30. 2008
I looked back at my first entry from February 2, 2006 and it seems simultaneously not that long ago, and a lot of posts ago.
Looking in our stats tool, I see that we have a total of 698 entries posted, but we have to get Tim's numbers up in 2009. Tim has 36 entries (5.2%) and Ken has 662 entries (94.8%). (I think Tim needs an infusion of strong coffee and cookies!)
What can I update about myself since my last update in January 2008? That was when I was leaving NJIT for PCCC. I have completed my first year at Passaic County Community College. We launched the first 3 writing-intensive courses for the fall semester, have 2 more piloting in spring 09, and will select 3 more in January to redesign for fall 09.
Our writing center at PCCC was finally completed in December. Three months late and about 3 hours before our outside evaluators came on campus to grill us on the first year of the 5 year grant. We know we didn't hit all our own high goals for year one, so we are trying some new things in year two. Luckily, not much is written in permanent ink, so we have the freedom to redirect our efforts.
Our greatest success may be in an area that all agreed was more likely to occur in year 2 or 3. A number of our efforts like using LibGuides, use of our standard writing rubric, changes to the rubric and scoring sessions for the College Writing Exam have moved beyond our writing-intensive courses to the college community with very little prompting from us.
I have a few new projects starting in January including some presentations and conferences to prep for, and helping out with another grant that PCCC acquired for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Monday, December 29. 2008
People search because they want to know about things. Curiosity is generally a good thing, especially in the education world. The people who work at search companies are also curious - about what we are curious about.
If you read any of these searched names or terms and shake your head and say "Huh? Who or what is that?" then you had better do a search on it yourself right now, or take the risk of feeling left out at that New Year's Eve party. I can carry on a reasonably decent conversation now about Boyd and American hot rods or Brad Renfro's filmography. I have to say that those will probably be better conversation starters than explaining how to create a custom theme in Moodle!
What are the two big global search trends? Socializing and politics. Social networks are 4 of the top 10 global fastest-rising queries. Our two-year long U.S. election had search action around the globe. Sarah Palin lost in the election, but won as the fastest-rising query on their global list. (Obama was #6)
I can't explain why in Poland, the #5 term was "Jozin z Bazin." The Google Blog told me that it's an old 1978 Czech song that roughly translates to, "Joe of the Swamp" and that it was a sensation on YouTube, - but, as Yoda might say, explain it I cannot. Try humming a few bars as you approach someone at the bar...
Here are some results:
Fond Farewells 1. heath ledger 2. bernie mac 3. tim russert 4. isaac hayes 5. george carlin 6. brad renfro 7. randy pausch 8. paul newman 9. boyd coddington 10. michael crichton
"Fastest rising" is the phrase they use for the most popular searches conducted for 11 months of 2008 based on how much their frequency increased compared to 2007. The Fastest Rising (in the U.S.) were 1. obama 2. facebook 3. att 4. iphone 5. youtube 6. fox news 7. palin 8. beijing 2008 9. david cook 10. surf the channel
Google's translation service (it's good for a word or phrase; it won't do your French homework) Fastest Rising (U.S.) words searched for a translation - 1. you 2. what 3. thank you 4. please 5. love
How about the most popular cocktails searched? 1. martini 2. mojito 3. margarita 4. manhattan 5. cosmopolitan 6. sangria 7. bellini 8. mai tai 9. white russian 10. bloody mary
1. IRS Stimulus Checks 2. Oil Prices 3. Gold Prices 4. Gas Prices 5. Dow Jones 6. Sallie Mae 7. Stock Market 8. AIG 9. Foreclosures 10. Debt Consolidation
I do like that Yahoo! (must I use that annoying ! when I type Yahoo?) includes some explanation and additional links with the lists which would be useful if you were going to use this in the classroom to have students discuss or write about the year, current events or trends.
The most searched WOMEN were a mixed group: 1 Angelina Jolie 2 Sarah Palin 3 Oprah Winfrey 4 Hillary Clinton 5 Gina Carano 6 Tina Fey 7 Michelle Obama 8 Katie Couric 9 Barbara Walters 10 Dara Torres
Saturday, December 27. 2008
One of my favorite bloggers from across the pond, Jane Hart, took a look at all the resources that she had collected during 2008 on her LearnTech Library and LearnTech News and made a list of 100 favorites that should be useful to all of you.
I have been reading her blog, eLearning Pick of the Day, and occasionally stealing an item to review myself. (Though I'm always happy to post something before her, even if it's just Norad's Santa tracker.)
She also put them into Wordle to generate a word cloud and identify trends in her collection. This will keep you busy during the winter break...
Friday, December 26. 2008
Moodle is my favorite of the open source course management systems (CMS). [AKA learning management systems (LMS) or by many Moodle users, as a virtual learning environment (VLE)]
Beyond the software, "to moodle" is that "improvisational process of doing things as it occurs to you to do them, an enjoyable tinkering that often leads to insight and creativity. As such it applies both to the way Moodle was developed, and to the way a student or teacher might approach studying or teaching an online course."
Of course, if you applying for a grant or pitching it to a high-ranking school official who needs to approve its use but hasn't a clue about what you're talking about, you can say that Moodle stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. That will sound much better.
I have been using Moodle since 2005 starting with a comparison pilot study at NJIT with Moodle and Sakai.
There wasn't much available then about using Moodle except what you would find at the Moodle.org site and from other educators who were developing courses.
Here are 4 books that would be very useful to anyone starting to work with Moodle as an administrator, designer or instructor.
Moodle 1.9 E-Learning Course Development: A complete guide to successful learning using Moodle focuses on course development and delivery and best practices. Moodle is known for being fairly easy to install and use. Of course, any of us who use it to teach or train the teachers know that the hard part comes after the install. Three of these books might help you develop a learning process using Moodle, learn how the software works and what kinds of lessons work best within the platform.
Moodle E-Learning Course Development: A complete guide to successful learning using Moodle has the greatest emphasis on using the software for better teaching. It goes into most of the tool available such as quizzes, tests, surveys, projects and the social tools like forums, choices, wiki and journal that encourage interaction and group work between students.
The social constructionist learning philosophy is at the heart of Moodle. The philosophy predates social networking as we use the term online these days, but Moodle fits very well into that. If you believe that all of us construct knowledge through interactions with one another and with learning materials in a social way, then Moodle (and these books) might seem quite natural to you.
Hopefully, you and you fellow educators are past arguing whether or not a virtual learning environment should be used to support traditional class teaching. (The idea that all of this is just for online and distance learning courses is not worth my time to argue.)
Moodle Teaching Techniques: Creative Ways to Use Moodle for Constructing Online Learning Solutions This book (and the 2 other non-admin titles) is written by William Rice. His infrequently updated blog also has some good Moodle info (here's a Moodle versus Sakai post) This is the newest title of this group. It's tough to teach/learn software from a book, so there are many screenshots in these books so you can see what a course looks like - hopefully, the version matches the one you are using. This book assumes you have some basic background with Moodle (it's not a how to use Moodle book) and want to get into using it to teach. More Ed, less Tech.
Finally, Moodle Administration: An administrator's guide to configuring, securing, customizing, and extending Moodle is written in a problem/solution style for technicians, systems administrators, and academic staff. It's not for novices to Moodle or to IT administration.
Thursday, December 25. 2008
How geeky a Christmas post is this?
Four elves worked together simultaneously on a single Google Docs spreadsheet.
Each cell in the 100 row x 186 col spreadsheet was filled using 18 different colors. The entire process was captured in time-lapse for the video below:
You can get the original spreadsheet used in this video and learn how it was created at: http://docs.google.com/holiday
Wednesday, December 24. 2008
If you were lucky enough to get some snow days when you were a kid, and you ended up staying in education as an adult - then you know that it's just as exciting to have a day off from school when you are an adult.
Amazingly, though it is ruled to be too snowy to get to school, kids all over America are able to make it outside and to hills covered with snow.
I was thinking about Randy Parker in a Christmas Story all bundled up so he could no longer have any fun in the snow as I watched some kids last Friday sledding down the hill at the park.
I'm not crazy about shoveling snow, icy roads and all that, but I think I would miss snow days.
Apparently, in warmer climes they only get "weather-related cancellations" which does not sound like any fun at all.
Where's the EdTEch in this? It's a stretch, but you can check cancellations.com to find cancellations or delays in your area, and the wonderfully titled SchoolsOut.com lists school closings in 18 U.S. states and Washington DC.
I'm not sure if snow days translates all over the world, but I did find snowday.co.uk which can be used to find out if schools or colleges are closed in bad weather in the UK.
Monday, December 22. 2008
A number of bloggers are announcing that the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt's regular radio broadcasts that were known as "fireside chats" is back in version 2.0 with President Elect Barack Obama's weekly address to the nation using via YouTube.
Roosevelt's chats occurred in a financially troubled time for the nation, and he used the popular medium of the day - radio - for his informal and folksy talks. Obama plans to talk about the economy, energy, healthcare, education and other issues.
When Obama talks about tech issues like a commitment to making broadband connections "as common as telephone lines" and calls it "an enormous economic engine," it is compared to FDR's construction of railroads.
It makes sense, since Obama's win is at least partially due to his team's adept use of the Web and new media. Some have dubbed him the first Blackberry President (though it seems he will have to give up that favored mobile device due to presidential restrictions). His campaign team used Twitter and garnered 150,000 followers (though that stopped on November 5th) and created an "internet army" of financial contributors and volunteers. Their email and mobile phone numbers database is supposedly over 10 million users. Plus he's on Facebook and other social networks.
On the change.gov site you can submit questions and vote on those you most want answered. The "Open for Questions" feature logged 1000+ questions and 70,000 votes cast in its first day. That feature promotes the ideas of government transparency, and priorities guided by the people.
From the site blog on December 15:
There's also a discussion board where the Obama team asks the question and users can respond. Some topics have included: "How is the current economic crisis affecting you?" Perhaps some of the responders have had some experience in a course management system because their answers are often quite detailed.
In a CNN poll, 79% approve of Obama's performance so far during the transition. That gives him 14 points higher than the approval rating for President-elect George Bush in 2001 and 17 points higher than President-elect Clinton's rating in 1992.
The team hasn't only used Obama on YouTube. Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett also appeared to talk about the transition and explain new policies regarding lobbyists.
Other tech plans mentioned include:
The Obama team continues to use the Net to organize grassroots efforts. They have a holiday break assignment for you.
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