The Serendipity35 Review For 2008

Serendipity35 has been getting a pretty consistent one million plus visitors per month during the second half of 2008.
That both pleases us, and makes us wonder if we shouldn't have gone commercial rather than the non-profit route!

Our Top 10 visited articles
  1. Personal Video Online: YouTube and Beyond 49103 visits
  2. Public iTunes U Sites Still pulling in visitors at 43837
  3. Online Socializing: How Are Schools Reacting? 40804 visits
  4. This conference is only online 39676 visits
  5. Back to the Future Must have been that title that brought in 36370 clicks
  6. Google Page Creator 35073 visits - though Google dropped this in favor of Google Sites
  7. About Us 2.0 35010 people must be curious.
  8. Bookmarklets and Favelets 34129 visits
  9. Personal Broadcasting: Podcasting and beyond 32672 visits
  10. Classroom 2.0 Live: A Free Meetup 32395 visits

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archive of entries, an early one about the writer William Gibson brought in 31913 visitors, and even though the news is outdated about Tim & I and About Division 35 at NJIT  31494 inquiring minds wanted to know.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:
  1. Germany (Ken would like to go back and visit again, but his knees can't handle those ski trails anymore.)
  2. Russian Federation (thanks, but stop the spam comments and trackbacks please!)
  3. Canada (Hello to our friends from the north!)
  4. Netherlands (We appreciate your windmills, tulips, cheese, clogs, delftware, bicycles, and social tolerance. Any good conferences in Amsterdam that we can work up a presentation for in 2009?)
  5. Sweden  (We realize that the Swedish Bikini Team was really an advertising ploy that used American actresses, but we are still open to a paid conference invite.)
  6. United Kingdom (Love you guys.)
  7. Brazil  (We are ready to visit your beaches! No conference necessary. Send airfare.)
  8. Romania  (Wasn't Sibiu, in Transylvania, chosen the European Capital of Culture in 2007? Sure, we'll come and speak.)
  9. Italy  (Ken has been trying to get his wife to take him to Italy to visit her ancestors... give him an formazione o technoloy excuse to visit!)
  10. Australia  (That's a long plane ride. I may need to get a Kindle.)

About Us Version 2.10

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).

Zeitgeist and Buzz for 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.

Google does a Year-End Zeitgeist that has search data from more than 30 countries and Yahoo! has a year review from it's Buzz site.

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

And there is plenty more on Showbiz, Sports and the big old world.

The Yahoo! Buzz Year in Review has a decidedly more pop culture focus. But, looking at their searches under ECONOMICS, we get a pretty good picture of the year.

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

Jane's Favorites From 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...

Still Moodling After All These Years

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 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.

According to the author:

When I wrote Moodle E-Learning Course Development, I started with Moodle and worked towards creating an online course that adheres to good teaching practices. The book is organized according to the workflow that works best in Moodle: create your course, add static course material, then add interactive material, then add social material, then customize the roles for your course...and so on. The approach in this book is to start with what Moodle can do and work towards creating an effective e-learning experience. The keystrokes and clicks in this book apply only to Moodle.

When I wrote Moodle Teaching Techniques, I started with a list of proven learning principles. I then developed Moodle techniques that used these principles. Some of these techniques work around Moodle's limitations, which makes them inappropriate for a book on using Moodle as it was intended. Others combine features, or use features in unexpected ways. In each case, the approach in this book is to start with a research-based learning principle and work towards creating an effective e-learning experience. Moodle Teaching Techniques is less about keystrokes, and and more about teaching techniques. You could probably apply all of the techniques in this book to another LMS, like ATutor or ILIAS. The keystrokes and clicks would change, but the most important parts of the book would not.

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.