Blog Action Day 2009

10,000 bloggers voted and chose as the topic for Blog Action Day 2009 "Climate Change." If you are a blogger, you can go can register for Blog Action Day 09 at

To be a part of this year's event, you commit to writing one post, in your own voice, on October 15, on the topic of climate change. Many top blogs - Mashable, The Official Google Blog, TMZ,
Autoblog, Daily Blog Tips and Serendipity35 - are already registered.

Bloggers of all types and sizes, involved in discussing the wide-ranging way in which climate change affects us all is what will make the day a success.

You can also learn more about the issue of climate change and see sample topics you might
write about - like the connections between climate and clean energy, food choices, green products, health, transportation, and the broader economy - at

You can get the latest by following them on Twitter at

One issue, one day, thousands of voices.

Forecast: Partly Cloudy With A Chance Of Mobile

If you haven't already caught on to using cloud computing, then you'd better move quickly because "mobile cloud computing" is the current flavor.

Like any cloud computing, it is when the infrastructure - the data storage and the data processing - happen outside of the (mobile) device.

If you are using applications like Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Documents, then you are using cloud computing whether you do it on your laptop, desktop or mobile device. In the mobile world, there are still many (a majority?) of applications that do most of the data storage and processing on the mobile devices itself and not in the cloud.

The term "cloud" is used as a metaphor for the Internet. In computer network diagrams, the Net is depicted in the shape of a cloud. Installing Microsoft Office on your computer and storing your documents, spreadsheets, databases and PowerPoints on your hard drive is NOT cloud computing.

What is so appealing about using the cloud? For one thing, as a user, you do not need knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure about the cloud network you are using. If you use those Google applications, then Google is your IT department. They handle the updates, backups and emergencies. Users also like that they can move from computer to computer (home, office, on the road, another classroom location) and all their data is waiting for them - not on a flashdrive or disk (Does anyone use those any more?) - in the cloud.

Companies offering cloud services   image:

That cloud might include infrastructure as a service (IaaS), the platform as a service (PaaS - ex: Salesforce, Amazon Web Services), or, most commonly for the average user, software as a service (SaaS).

More people are purchasing lightweight netbook computers and also keeping the software load on the computer light by using software in the cloud.

I store all my personal bookmarks in the cloud using Xmarks which works with Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. The service automatically syncs up any changes I make to my bookmarks so that what I have on my home computer is also available on my work computer. A few years ago, I would have copied the bookmarks file and then "tried" to copy them over to another computer. Very difficult to "synchronize." When I bought a new laptop recently, I just added the Xmarks plug-in and clicked sync and all my bookmarks were there.

Tech pundits (see link at bottom) are saying that cloud computing will become a disruptive force in the mobile world.

Why? First, the sheer number of users it can reach. Second, mobile applications are currently tied to a carrier. Want an iPhone or Blackberry app? You need a relationship with the mobile operator who carries the iPhone or Blackberry. But with mobile cloud applications, all you need is access to the web to use the application. (see Google Android?)

The first mobile cloud apps will probably be business-focused, but big education players (like Blackboard) are already showing their mobile apps for collaboration, data sharing, multitasking, scheduling and even navigation and mapping for your campus.

So, the cloud is the place to be, right? Well, there are some problems or poetential problems. Not everyone has a smart featurephone. Not everyone or everywhere has really fast mobile Internet access. The U.S. is behind in its 3G coverage outside urban areas. And what happens to all your data (like your presentation, class notes and your thesis) when you can't get online? Do you trust Google to protect your data?

Maybe new technologies, like HTML5 which does local caching, will help. Some pundits predict we may end up accessing the web on mobile devices with something other than a "browser."

Friends of mine know that I am not a big mobile user and definitely not a smartphone user. But I keep up with the trends, particularly in education. I was talking last week with some educators at a conference at UCONN and pointed out that many of the better practices I encounter come from business, not education. Take this case study on "Making the Transition to a Virtual Classroom in the Cloud" by Christine Mikolajczak. It's not from a school, but from ASTD - the American
Society for Training & Development, the "world’s largest
association dedicated to workplace learning and performance

I wonder how her four goals would fit those of your classroom - or the goals of your administration...
   1. offer a remote training option for learners who could not travel on-site
   2. create a new delivery option for end users
   3. reduce operating and maintenance costs on a per class basis
   4. launch the new program within 30 days.

I am not saying that we should necessarily be looking at the same stand-alone virtualization platforms and distance learning tools, (They used Skytap’s Virtual Lab in the cloud in this case) but we should be looking at what they are doing and how they are doing it.

I learned when I was the manager of instructional technology at NJIT and we created distance learning products for non-educational clients, that accountability, return on investment and adherence to standards (like SCORM) were taken far more seriously outside academia. In her case study, they accomplished "all of our objectives with a limited budget" launched a new training program "in record time" had "learners [are] excited about using the new solution," and they were "able to lower our tuition rates by 66 percent." 

Wow. Call the provost.



I don't really write about pure tech topics here, but the past few weeks some computers in our college writing center, two friends' home computers and now my own laptop were hit with a wave of scareware sites. These are sites that are injected into your web browser (usually by way of a Trojan).

The ones that have been hitting us pretend to be warning you of a virus or spyware on your computer. It's a nasty piece of code that you can't close or get rid of easily. I end up doing control-alt-delete, going into the task manager and ending my browser program. Of course, in doing so  I lose whatever I was doing or had open in the browser.

They becomes more
and more profound trying to get you to install them. They use exploits, backdoors,or unsafe downloading practices. There are a number of terms for these sites. Whether they are scareware, fakeware, or spyware won't matter to you. It looks a lot like a real virus program and tells you that you have a virus and that they can get rid of it.

But it is NOT an antivirus engine.

It used to be that this might happen if you were downloading programs or media from bit torrents or visiting questionable websites. But the cases the past few weeks almost exclusively came from clicking a legitimate link from a Google search that then hijacked you to this bogus site.

So, this just a warning.

This site lists many of the sites to avoid or know if you arrive at them that you need to get out. And never allow them to scan your computer or install anything.

Be careful out there!

Web 2.0 for University 2.0

September 25, 2009 at University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
"Web 2.0 Delivery & Content for University 2.0"

I wrote earlier about this session I'll be doing Friday at the conference eLearning 2.0: The Next Generation of Online Education. One thing I am observing is that, not by design, e-learning is becoming less independent and more collaborative. Web 2.0 and social networks are driving that, but whether educational institutions or businesses will lead in this is yet to be decided.

Companies have embraced the 2.0 world with less hesitation than schools.

In the fully online graduate program in Professional and Technical Communication that I teach in at NJIT, I use web 2.0 not only as a delivery method for the course, but as the content for the course - as do other courses in the program.

Students use blogging as a reflective practice to complement the more traditional ePortfolio that is used to assess core competencies. We use Moodle as our LMS, do collaborative work in wikis, use tagging to share resources, view my iTunes U podcast "lectures." More importantly, students work within that 2.0 environment.

We have been hearing for years that we value student discussion and should be moving away from the lecture, dispense information, and keep students quiet model of the last century. Virtual classrooms are already more interactive and more student-centered by the environment.

Small businesses, community schools, homeschoolers, some K-12 classes are using online classes for tutorials, instruction, and  certification programs, and most are using open source systems like the very popular Moodle, or smaller ones like WiziQ and Myicourse.

Should schools be a little worried that on the Myicourse site they say: “We do not believe all of life’s necessary learning is contained within the walls of universities or between the binders of books. We believe there is a tremendous need for on-line teaching of all subjects and we have eliminated the barriers to use for everyone."

Once, big universities and a few big businesses owned online education. Now, open sourceware makes it possible for almost anyone to teach online.

If you look at how companies are using web 2.0 the past three years, you see that they are starting to see measurable 2.0 benefits. This wiki tracks lots of examples of their use of social media marketing using blogs, mash-ups, microblogging, peer to peer, podcasts, prediction markets, rating, RSS, social networking, tagging, video sharing, and wikis.

It's all so new that it is not clear who the winners will be. People ask me if Twitter can be used in an educational environment. It can be used. It is being used. It is being used for study help, group projects, catching up on world or campus news, public relations and recruitment (and see the links below). But I would say the educational jury is still out.

In a piece last year, "Thinking Differently About Mobile Learning," Cheryl Johnson says that when we think about using mobile learning, we we continue to think in familiar terms: modules, quizzes, tests, assessments. "Sure, it is currently easier to create modules, quizzes, tests, assessments, and the like for small handheld devices. But people learn in many other—informal—methods."

She was writing for an audience of ASTD trainers, but universities need to also be looking at mobile as part of web 2.0 delivery, and need to consider if this is not also the time to evaluate how we present learning.

University 2.0 is probably going to be found online, and the next generation of online education will be more social and collaborative.

The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age

Redefining Universities and Ho We Teach and Learn
Redefining Universities part 2

The Twitter Hype Cycle and Educators
Twitter in the Classroom: 10 useful resources
101 Ways to Use Twitter on Campus
UK university Twitter accounts and a list of UK university fan pages on Facebook

Peer 2 Peer University

Teachers and Mad Men

You probably have heard this. You take five professionals from 1960 and bring them to 2009. There is a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a scientist and a teacher. Which one would have the least difficulty in doing her job after this 49 year gap? Most people answer: the teacher. She can still get up in front of the class with a textbook and talk and ask questions and lead a discussion.

I heard this story presented at several conferences as a way of pointing out that teaching has not kept up with technology. The other professionals would be faced with new methods and tools and be a bit lost. One version I heard actually had those pros time travel 100 years - and the teacher from 1909 was still okay in front of the classroom.

I'm not sure it's a fair comparison, but I get the idea behind it and I pretty much agree with it. But, after 30+ years in classrooms, I'm having mixed feelings about educational technology.

I thought about this as I was watching yet another promo for the TV program Mad Men. This period dramatic television series broadcast on the American cable network AMC started its third season in August. It is set in New York City at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue in 1960. The main character is Don Draper, the agency's creative director, and his life in and out of the office.

Mad Men gets great reviews for its depiction of the changing social mores of 1960s America, and its historical authenticity and visual style. I have watched three episodes, but I just can't get interested in the story.

In a recent episode, Don and his wife Betty visited their daughter's school for a conference about their daughter’s recent bad behavior. The teacher thinks it may be connected to the recent death of her grandfather.

Sally's teacher, Miss Farrell, was first introduced on the show dancing around a maypole with her students. The character is named Suzanne Farrell, after one of the most famous American ballerinas of the 1960s,'70s, and '80s.

Betty excuses herself from the meeting for a few minutes and Don and the teacher quickly connect. Miss F. even drops by the house one evening. It looks like another affair for Don.

I don't really recognize this view of a teacher from 1960. I do recognize her classroom devoid of technology, and it actually looks like a pretty nice place to teach.

It looks safe. JFK is still alive and so is Camelot. Teachers have all the answers. Parents trust that teachers will do a good job and know what needs to be done in the classroom. Teacher evaluations are one page long. Teachers request conferences with parents more often than parents request conferences with teachers. Some kids are a bit out of control in class, but no one is ADD, and no one takes medication so that they can do their work.

So, how fair is that charge that teachers and classrooms have not significantly changed over the decades? I checked out ISTE’s TimeGlider which covers 30 years in a timeline of tech advancements. How far have we come? Even though there are many new tech tools, devices and services, most are not in common use in classrooms. In some instances, it's not because of teachers, but because of school administrations. And the use of tech in K-12 versus higher education is very different - not better or worse - different.

I have always believed that if you have a really good teacher, you can put her in a classroom full of kids without any books, supplies or technology and have great lessons and real learning. Given a choice: a classroom with great technology or a classroom with a great teacher - which one would you pick? Yes, I know that you want the great teacher with great technology. I agree. So do the students and their parents.