Blogosphere Meets Twittersphere

birdTwittorati has launched from the folks who run Technorati.

Twittorati is billed as being where the blogosphere meets the Twittersphere - a way to see what top bloggers are tweeting about, and how these trends compare to blogosphere trends. You can filter tweets by topic, see the most tweeted blog posts, and compare leading blogosphere and Twitter trends.

For the launch, Twittorati is featuring the Technorati Top 100 Bloggers but will expand to include other authors in the active blogosphere. One disappointing trend in blogging, in my opinion, is the dominance of large blogging conglomerates at the top of the rankings. The individual blogger has almost no chance to find an audience via rankings like this.

It might be useful - even if you are not a blogger or Titter user - to use this just to monitor what is relevant to you, compare the day’s top blog and hash tags to see the hottest topics in both spheres, as well as see the most popular links that are being tweeted and which blogs are linking to them. Writer pages display each tweeter’s blogs and Twitter information and their Technorati Authority.


Early College

President Barack Obama referenced Bard High School Early College last week in a speech. It's one example of the "early college" programs that I wrote about earlier this year.

BHSEC is a joint venture by the New York City Board of Education and Bard College. Designed for students who are ready and willing to do college work at age 16, they can cover in four years high school and the first two years of college. At graduation, they will earn an associate of arts (A.A.) degree as well as their high school diploma.

At EarlyColleges.org, you can find out more about the partner organizations of the Early College High School Initiative (Bard is not one of them). They have started or redesigned more than 200 U.S. schools.

I find the idea of the early college very appealing. But, I agree with BHSEC graduate Kesi Augustine, who wrote a piece on the Huffington Post about her experiences there, that it won't work for all students.
"Not every student could learn this way. A few dropped out over the four years despite the supportive network of teachers and faculty available. However, those students did not cop out. BHSEC was emotionally demanding. Those students simply realized that their destiny was in their own hands, as Obama said, and that BHSEC's accelerated method of learning, while it stimulates the mind, requires a sense of maturity some teenagers do not yet have while in high school."

These early colleges are public institutions and charge no tuition. The student populations are generally diverse ethnically and economically. The design of the schools is to offer low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education opportunities.

At BHSEC, there are about 500 students with an average student-to-teacher ration is 20:1.  Admissions receives about 4,000 applications for 135 available spaces. Admissions is based on the student’s academic record, teacher recommendations, writing and math assessments, and an interview which should show evidence of the student's ambition and intellectual curiosity.

I don't know how unique Kesi might be as a Bard graduate, (She is now at Williams College.) but her description of her academic life there sounds encouraging to me.
The typical night of homework included musing over the implications of W.E.B. DuBois' theory of double consciousness, calculating anti-derivatives, and writing about the similarities between Toni Morrison and William Faulkner. During our junior and senior years, the professors expected everyone to read works by writers like Sophocles, Plato, Dante, Darwin, Marx, and Kafka. Those texts were our repertoire--we discussed them together and wrote about their relevance during their time period as well as our own. After taking a contemporary architecture class, my friends and I would walk the streets of Manhattan and jokingly remark, "That is so post-modern."


Blackboard Loses on Appeal


"This week, a federal appeals court invalidated Blackboard Inc.'s 1999 patent for its learning management software, overturning a lower court's decision last year finding that the Blackboard competitor Desire2Learn had infringed the giant's intellectual property.

Blackboard officials expressed disappointment but played down the significance of the ruling by the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, saying that new patents gained by the company -- which Blackboard has again accused Desire2Learn of infringing -- essentially make moot the issues present in the lawsuit in question.

But Blackboard has already initiated another lawsuit against Desire2Learn, accusing the Canadian firm in April of infringing new U.S. patents that the company received on its software. So while company officials continue to reassure higher education technology officials and others that Blackboard has no intention of asserting its patent rights against "open source or home-grown course management systems that are not bundled with proprietary software," they show no signs of retreating in the wake of Monday's stinging defeat."

Source: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/07/28/blackboard

All The News That Fits Your Screen

There is no shortage of stories about the death of the print newspaper. For many of us, newspapers are still the main source of local news, arts and entertainment guides, community information, sports, and shopping. Now, that may include a local newspaper's online services. And if the news is across the country or the world, THAT local paper may be the best source. And, for those of us at colleges, our campus newspaper is certainly the only source for much of our "local" news. So, here is a post about how to read more of those newspapers online.

NewsVoyager.com is a "newspaper portal" to newspaper sites around the world.  NewsVoyager.com provides links to U.S. daily and weekly newspaper home pages and sections, Canadian and international daily newspapers, newspaper groups, associations and other media organizations. I found 61 daily and weekly papers here in New Jersey.

They also provide a link to other sites with links to college newspapers and newspaper archives. This site is a service of the Newspaper Association of America, a nonprofit organization representing the newspaper industry and more than 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.

A Digital Bloom

You can never be sure what reaction you will get if you bring up Bloom's taxonomy with a teacher. Though it is fairly ubiquitous in the K-12 world, it is equally unheard of with higher ed faculty. That's a bit odd, since it came from higher education research, but not so odd because K-12 faculty are the ones who take the education courses. A school district that I worked in for many years used it so much for a few years that it would illicit groans when it was brought up.

If you are familiar with Bloom's taxonomy, you can skip down to the Going Digital section.

A group of colleges, led by Benjamin Bloom (1956), knowing that there is more than one type of learning, identified three domains of educational activities: Cognitive (mental skills or knowledge), Affective (growth in feelings or emotional areas or attitude) and Psychomotor (manual or physical skills).

If you want to think of that taxonomy as helping to set your educational goals, then learners should have acquired new skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes when the activity is completed.

Though they produced a framework for the cognitive and affective domains, they did far less with the psychomotor domain which was seen as "manual skills" which was not seen as the purview of college courses. The three domains are subdivided and classified from simplest behavior to the most complex. Though other systems and hierarchies have emerged since Bloom's work, his taxonomy is still probably the most widely used way to categorize and order thinking skills and objectives. It's logical and follows the thinking process. You can't understand something you don't remember, and you can't apply them if you don't understand them.

The original taxonomy was revised in the 1990's by a student of Bloom (Lorin Anderson) using actions/verbs rather than nouns for the categories and changing the hierarchy at the top.

steps version


Another visual variation on the taxonomy


Many people have done variations on the taxonomy (such as the Bloom rose or "steps of rigor" version shown here) to explain what types of lessons or activities address lower and higher level skills.

GOING DIGITAL

More recent revisions and additions have often focused on addressing digital skills. Where "remembering" always included activities like having learners recognizing, listing, describing, identifying, retrieving, naming, locating, finding etc., now people are adding ones they feel students do or need to do in a digital world. They are not so much new skills as they are additional ways of doing things.

For example, "listing" might include being able to do bullet-pointing.  Identifying could include highlighting. We often do bookmarking/favoriting online as part of our way of remembering sites of information. (Getting into "social bookmarking" probably jumps you up to a somewhat higher order because of the collaborative aspect.)

Think about that most natural of online tasks for students today - search. Depending on the student's grade level, you can easily imagine a hierarchy of search skills from the simple enter a keyword to the higher order skills of understanding how to do a Boolean search, what the results mean, analyzing the validity of information sources and creating something new and original from what is found.

Where do we place things like creating a podcast, writing a blog, creating a mashup or playing an educational game?

Some possibilities in the category of "understanding/comprehension" (going beyond the recall of knowledge) might include commenting and annotating web pages and documents online or categorizing materials or sites and setting up a folder or organizational tree.

Moving up to "applying" that understood knowledge, you will typically use actions such as comparing, organizing, outlining, mind-mapping and integrating. Turning digital, you could use mashing, linking, reverse-engineering, cracking, and tagging. Mashups, for example, take pre-existing digital elements and combine them to apply to a new problem or use. As student using Google Maps to plot the journey of the protagonist in a literary work would be using knowledge, comprehension, application and probably higher skills in the taxonomy to complete the work.

The more you work with the taxonomy, the more you realize that there is a lot of overlap and that the best activities bridge several levels. It's also important that you not think of "lower level" activities as a negative. The higher level work never gets done without the knowledge base and understanding. But, a course that remains only in those lower levels is doing learners a disservice. I have had instructors tell me that, "It's a 101 course and I just have to dump a lot of knowledge into those kids." That's painful to hear - though less painful than actually being a student in that class.

Think about having students reverse-engineer or deconstruct something like an iPhone application, evaluate its effectiveness and then build their own app. You couldn't keep that type of activity into one level no matter how hard you tried. It runs up all the levels.

And the use of a digital taxonomy is not limited to "technology class" assignments. For example, most of the work being done with digital storytelling addresses all the levels.

On top of the taxonomy are the students who are filming, animating, podcasting, mixing and remixing, directing or producing a product, performance or production and "publishing" (via the web, or in text, media or digital formats) it on a wiki, YouTube, their own e-portfolio or a school site.

Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification. Its Greek root is in taxis, meaning "order" or "arrangement," and it is one way to bring order to the process of learning and creating learning situations.

More

Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms Digitally   

Bloom and Technology Tools for Instruction  

Intro to Benjamin Bloom http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Bloom

Bloom’s Taxonomy—How to Make Your Studying Perfect?



 

Government Says Firefox Is Not Free (Laughter)

One for the weekend.

Here's a great example of how our government works - or at least how it moves forward (or backwards) in the area of information technology and the Internet.

This transcript excerpt comes to us from a Town Hall Meeting to Announce the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State in Washington, DC on July 10, 2009
MS. GREENBERG: Okay. Our next question comes from Jim Finkle:

Can you please let the staff use an alternative web browser called Firefox? I just – (applause) – I just moved to the State Department from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and was surprised that State doesn’t use this browser. It was approved for the entire intelligence community, so I don’t understand why State can’t use it. It’s a much safer program. Thank you. (Applause.)


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, apparently, there’s a lot of support for this suggestion. (Laughter.) I don’t know the answer. Pat, do you know the answer? (Laughter.)

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: The answer is at the moment, it’s an expense question. We can --

QUESTION: It’s free. (Laughter.)

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: Nothing is free. (Laughter.) It’s a question of the resources to manage multiple systems. It is something we’re looking at. And thanks to the Secretary, there is a significant increase in the 2010 budget request that’s pending for what is called the Capital Investment Fund, by which we fund our information technology operations. With the Secretary’s continuing pushing, we’re hoping to get that increase in the Capital Investment Fund. And with those additional resources, we will be able to add multiple programs to it.

Yes, you’re correct; it’s free, but it has to be administered, the patches have to be loaded. It may seem small, but when you’re running a worldwide operation and trying to push, as the Secretary rightly said, out FOBs and other devices, you’re caught in the terrible bind of triage of trying to get the most out that you can, but knowing you can’t do everything at once.
There's some humor in that portion of the meeting as shown by the (Laughter), but like most humor, it also contains some truth. Even free applications require support.

If it's you using Firefox or Chrome, Moodle, Ning or Twitter, Linux or any other open program, the cost is probably your time. You need to download, install, run updates etc. But if it's your school or company and there are fifty or hundreds or thousands of users, that time is money. Though I am certainly an advocate of open everything, one fear I do have when schools look at "free" products, they avoid looking at support.

For example, downloading Moodle is free, which compares very favorably with a commercial product like Blackboard. But if you're on the team that is going to support faculty and students using it, you know there is a lot more to it.


Transcript (and video!): http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/july/125949.htm