Lit Trips

An interesting classroom idea - to use Google Earth to teach literature.

“Lit Trips” involve mapping the movements of characters over a plot’s timeline and providing excerpts, pictures, and links at each location using Google Earth.

For example, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian covers a lot of ground across the old West.

Some authors (McCarthy is said to be one of them) actually map out plots visually using geographic maps before and during the writing of novels.

Walk Two Moons
is another book (popular in middle schools) that works well with this approach.

There's a nice video introduction to Lit Trips done by Kate Reavey, a professor at Peninsula College, that is probably the best introduction to using them and will take you through samples.

There is quite a range of literature choices - The Odyssey, The Grapes of Wrath and Make Way For Ducklings (created by kindergarten and first graders) are all part of the collection.

And there is more than just maps and geography when you use the images and links to additional sites about people, authors and allusions.

There are sections from K-5 to higher education.

Jerome Burg is the founder of Google Lit Trips.

Social Media Privacy Is Your Responsibility

Facebook made the mainstream nightly news again the past week because of some new features and applications which, once again, take away a bit more of your already small privacy online.

Facebook recently held their F8 Developer Conference and if they are not already the social center of the web, they certainly want to be. Their new Open Graph API is part of that. It gives the ability to integrate websites and web apps within your existing social network.  Some big partners (Yelp, Pandora, Microsoft) are already on board.

User privacy continues to be an issue with Facebook whenever they launch something new. It's not unique. Google recently got a lot of flak when they launched Buzz and it grabbed all your contacts from Gmail and added them to Buzz. The privacy backlash often comes fro m the dame issue: companies grabbing or extending the information you have already given them and using it in a new way without asking.

The classic faux pas is to add a feature and have the default setting be that it's "on" or "public" when the logical choice for most users would be to have it set to "private" or "off" until you decided about it. It's like when a company gets you to put in your email and then checks the "send me a newsletter" box for you. It's how when you run a Java update it automatically selects "add the Yahoo toolbar" rather than asking you to select yes or no yourself.

In fall 2007, Facebook tried an advertising experiment that led to a class-action lawsuit. When they made big changes with your privacy settings last December there was a lot of immediate criticism online.

People started posting - on blogs and in Facebook itself - about the recent privacy settings changes. Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s “public is the new social norm” didn't go over well as an explanation.

How many Facebook users even know that there is a Facebook Security information page?

social graph via GoogleWhat is bothering people this time? Previously, apps that accessed your Facebook data (all those games, for example) could only store that data for 24 hours, but now the data storage restriction is gone. Some people say that it's not a big deal that they can store (not necessarily use) it without restrictions. (Apparently, many developers were already getting around the 24 hours limit anyway.)

User can not only log in or sign up for a service, but can see how many of their friends have signed up. The "Likes" feature is now universal, and those activity feeds that appear on websites will be customized for you (your view will be different than mine). So, my content is potentially viewable to more people than before.

How much privacy am I giving up when I click “Like” on a link from a friend and it shows up on a view that my "friends" see? What about if I "like" an article that's quite political in nature - does that change you concern about it going public?

Remember that with these new applications from outside the main Facebook platform, "public" means beyond Facebook and out into the "Facebook ecosystem.”

Pandora, the Internet radio service, lets you separate or opt out of linking their Pandora music selections  to their Facebook account. Hopefully, others will also work that way, but inevitably a good number will not. Why? Because it works to their business advantage to get big numbers of us sharing our content. You should assume that if it's public, it's available to everyone in your "social graph."

The privacy is of more concern if you're a parent of kids or a teacher trying to protect young students - or protect their social graph from their students. Another rarely mentioned Facebook site is their Safety Center.

Like so many things, being informed is the key to using social media wisely. The site has Safety for Parents, Safety for Educators, Safety for Teens and Safety for Law Enforcers.

No one will be (or should be) as concerned about your privacy as you.

Tweets Preserved in the Library of Congress - Really?


The Library of Congress is our oldest U.S. federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world. Their mission is research and it receives copies of every book, pamphlet, map, print, and piece of music registered in the United States.

And now, the Library of Congress wants to preserve the public tweets from Twitter. Since Twitter began, billions of tweets have been created - 55 million tweets a day and rising.

Yes, some are about significant global events around the world - the Iranian elections, earthquakes and other disasters come to mind. But there's also "A TiVo in my living room just made its little signature TiVo noise." and "Wow - Detroit airport is pretty snazzy!" and "I wonder if there is a professor of art history in all the land willing to say video games should not be considered art." - all of which popped up while I was writing this post. And those are from three intelligent and well known Twitter users.

So, Twitter has donated access to the entire archive of public Tweets to the Library of Congress (please don't tell me that's a big charitable tax deduction for them) for preservation and research.

By the way, only after a six-month delay can the Tweets be used for internal library use, for non-commercial research, public display by the library itself, and preservation. There's still time to delete that embarrassing tweet.

The Post-LMS Era

The idea of a Post-LMS Era is a very appealing one.

I have spent way too much time on committees the past 10 years reviewing and considering learning management systems (LMS). They play a big part in higher education and almost take over discussions about online learning.

As Jonathan Mott notes in his EDUCAUSE article, a Delta Initiative report indicates that more than 90 percent of colleges and universities have a standardized, institutional LMS implementation.  LMS issues are seen as the "most pressing IT issues."

Those issues break down into adoption and acquisition strategies, adapting the LMS to local needs, managing costs and maintaining system stability and integrity. And with all the considerations lately about changing an institution's LMS - especially with open source products like Moodle growing in popularity - the portability of course content to a new LMS and integrating LMSs with other campus tools and data is a huge concern.

Despite the increased use of other web tools for communication, productivity, and collaboration (like blogs, microblogs, wikis, social networks etc.), the commercial LMS (like Blackboard) still dominates.

Certainly, personal learning networks (PLNs) and personal learning environments (PLEs) do "represent a shift away from the model in which students consume information through independent channels such as the library, a textbook, or an LMS, moving instead to a model where students draw connections from a growing matrix of resources that they select and organize (Weinberger)," but they have not made a significant impact on LMS use as of yet.

The many PLE diagrams collected online show that the "personal" nature of these configurations means that there are many variations.

Is it currently, as Mott suggests, an "either/or" situation for teachers, students, and administrators?  Is it possible to strike a balance between the two?

What seems more important than deciding on a platform is avoiding using either just to be "pointing students to data buckets and conduits we’ve already made for them (Gardner Campbell)."

Mott's post-LMS era follows an "open learning network" (OLN) model that leverages the open architecture of the web. It's not the LMS
and PLE working together, but a mashup into a third platform.

Any predictions on when such an era might arrive?