Blog Entry

A Motivating Sort of E-Textbook?

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After a national conference, what is telling is whether I’m interested in pursuing further contacts with various vendors, presenters, or attendees. The default is to not ask for a further presentation of a tool or to discuss possible collaboration. In other words, it takes a lot of motivation to get over the default state. People are busy, and they are not going to push for more information or work without good justification.

An Electronic Textbook Presentation

One presentation that ...

Blog Entry

The Interstice between Technology and Academia

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Recently, I’ve been working on a project that involves the overlay of interests between technology and academia, particularly in the areas of research methods. I’d always thought of these as melded issues because they are pretty deeply melded in my everyday work.

What shook me out of this complacent view was a critique that a professor offered for a draft chapter that introduced a technology used in research. The essential critique was that the author did not fully ...

Blog Entry

It may be that being some years away from national-level academic conferences has offered a new perspective for me. Or it may be that the particular one that I attended just had a certain tone that was maybe a little disagreeable.

I’m not sure when I started noticing that the audience was a tough one at a recent educational tech conference held stateside. Maybe it was the night of one of the audience-wide presentations when the presenter’s ideas ...

Blog Entry

Co-creating a Survey (with Multimedia)

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A recent experience with co-creating a survey that included multimedia has taught me the importance of restraint. Multimedia is an integral part of e-learning. There is a wide availability of open-source digitized sounds, imagery, videos, and other learning object resources. There are also very low-cost ways to capture, create, revise, and edit such multimedia file types. However, the inclusion of multimedia in surveys is a more recent phenomenon.

Part of the reason for this shift is that the technologies in ...

Blog Entry

Planning Attendance at a National Conference

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With budgets in higher education as they are, it’s a rare treat to be able to travel to a conference to present. Given how rare such endeavors are, it’s so critical to make the most of every moment. To do so, it helps to wait until just before the conference date (when the schedule is absolutely finalized to the best of the abilities of the conference organizers)…to plan which sessions to attend with one primary and one ...

Blog Entry

Proper Handoffs of Inherited Online Courses

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If an online course has been designed well and maintained, it will often have a life beyond its original creator (or development team) and animating professor (or instructional team). Such a course is inheritable by other instructors. The contents are still relevant over time…and the essential course is updatable in parts and pieces. The inheritable course is personalizable and customizable to the new instructors.

My sense of such online course handoffs is that the inheriting instructor often does not ...

Blog Entry

Poor Anonymizing and Real-World Names

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Recently, several occurrences have brought to mind the challenges of anonymizing fictional names used in learning objects and academic articles. In the first case, the author of a learning object used the name for a professor that she’d made up; she apparently assumed that because she’d made it up that there was no individual by this name. (Just because they thought it up doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.)

In the second example, in a work that ...

Blog Entry

Reliance on a Distributed Team

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In general, with edited projects, I am not much a fan for creating a team for its own sake. I’ve long suggested that it’s better to go either solo or with a lean team for development work. The more efficiently work can be done, the better. The more people that are signed onto a project without real direct need, the more make-work there is, and the slower a project evolves.

Of late, though, I’ve found myself relying ...

Blog Entry

Avoiding Make-Work

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One important skill in instructional design has little to do with pedagogy and technology. It’s the skill of “avoiding make-work.” “Make-work” refers to the needless effort invested in endeavors that are not directly relevant. An analogy could be the work of moving a stack of paper from area to another. Nothing is really achieved. It just might look busy from the outside.

Where make-work comes in for instructional design is in client requests. The clients may be both administrators ...

Blog Entry

Beta-Testing a New Book Production System

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Every technology system that is designed for work has its limitations. Most enable workaround that help solve some of these issues. I’ve never worked on an internal work-based system that has a semi-public facing side to test out a possibility. After all, this conceptualization was not put into the initial design specifications.

What was positive was that the developers of the system were hovering a little to see how the system would be used and how they might be ...

Blog Entry

Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer

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For years now, various books have covered the issue of “big data.” Certainly, the general public has benefitted (directly and indirectly) from all sorts of big data analyses in a variety of fields—from weather systems to healthcare to simulations to security issues. Very little direct usage of big data is available to the broad public without special training and access to local high performance computing. That is not to say that there aren’t some. One of the more ...

Blog Entry

Unfunded Research at the Margins

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For many, what is compelling about a research field or a research question does not disappear once the funding for the research does. For many, funding for research is sporadic; for many, the only funding comes with the paycheck and some of the support structures for the research (access to data repositories, access to various types of computing, and sometimes access to labs and lab equipment). Faculty researchers have to make the case that they are productive and are advancing ...

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Face-to-Face Learning Object (LO) Walk-Throughs

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In most instructional design projects, it helps to define standards early on and to build an early prototype which can be thoroughly critiqued, so that a working stylebook may be created for project understandings and standards. This simplifies the work and heads off the expense of development time and effort, so that dead-ends may be avoided. However, this is not always possible. Some projects may begin without the client fully understanding the technologies or even knowing what he or she ...

Blog Entry

Academic Productivity

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In a recent presentation by a leading qualitative researcher, she discussed how she has experienced peak and non-peak years in terms of productivity (defined as research and publications). In times when her personal life was undergoing transition, she had to back-burner her career ambitions and strive to recover from set-backs. She had to get the other parts of her life under control in order to be able to focus on academic production. Her presentation really showed how intimately work ties ...

Blog Entry

Collaborations around Writing

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When I am perusing the research literature around certain topics, I see a fair number of papers that are by singletons and then others by dyads and teams. In the back of my mind, I am looking for differences between these various works…to see if there are very broad over-generalizations that can be made.

I might suggest that single authors may have their own rough edges and tendencies that are more pronounced than in a team-written project. Team-written projects ...

Blog Entry

In general, instructors do not want to get into it with students. They want to maintain positive working relationships in order to promote the learning. There are topics that can be highly controversial in a writing and research class, and while students are encouraged to propose their own topics, most instructors would avoid typical hot ones like politics and religion. There is really no benefit in engaging in arguments over world views because people arrive at their own world views ...

Blog Entry

The Appeal of Social Graphs from Social Media

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For the past year and a half, I’ve been entranced with learning about social graphs. These are two- or three-dimensional graphs that are basically node-link diagrams. These represent entities and their relationships. There’s actually some straightforward statistics behind how relationships are extrapolated on social media sites and then probably very complex math for the various layout algorithms.

It’s hard to know what the initial appeal was, except that a fellow graduate student J.S. suggested that I ...

Blog Entry

A YammerJam Brainstorming

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A colleague recently invited quite a few of us to a “YammerJam,” which is a speedy meeting on Yammer, a collaboration software which coalesces threads, URLs, embed text, and other elements. She mentioned that it would be a group brainstorm around certain events on a shared calendar, and boy, was it lively!

Just a few minutes before the event was about to start, several of us were already at-the-ready at our keyboards.

Riffing off Each Other’s Ideas

The moderator ...

Blog Entry

Designing an “N of All” Survey

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Of late, a small team of us has been working on a survey that will go out to campus. It will represent the IT interests of the university. It is being sent out for a number of purposes…to educate the broader campus about the role of IT, to elicit information to improve services…and other interests.

One possibility that is being discussed is considering whether the survey should be sent to all, or if it will just be a ...

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“Right now, the average person’s data footprint—the annual amount of data produced worldwide, per capita—is just a little short of one terabyte. That’s equivalent to about eight trillion yes-or-no questions. As a collective, that means humanity produces five zettabytes of data every year: 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (forty sextillion bits).” -- Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel’s “Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture” (2013, p. 11)

As many have asserted ...