Monday, November 3, 2008

Welcome back to the bloggisphere

Hello all.

After a (another) long hiatus, I am back once again writing a blog posting. I took most of the spring, summer, and now into the fall off from writing. I have been doing much reading and processing of information. Now it is time for me to try and make valuable contributions through writing.

I have been blown away recently by social networking. Just week before last I found out about Ecademy. It is a social network started ten years ago in England. It still has a very large following outside of the US. I have been a member of LinkedIn for over a year. I have grown to like some of its features. One of its biggest drawbacks though is that it is not as easy to connect with people if you do not know them. Ecademy does not have this drawback. You can send a request to connect to anyone in the network with just a few clicks. It is also easier to find people. A drawback to Ecademy, however, is that it does not seem as easy to send messages unless you are willing to pay for the privelage. I am still learning about it though. I will likely post more soon after I have become more familiar with its features.

I have also spent the last several months trying to learn about many of the new Web2.0 tools. The problem is that there are so many tools out there, and so many more released every week, that it is difficult (if not impossible) to keep up. Nevertheless, I am continuing to try. I am now trying to focus on a few different categories of tools rather than all of them. Currently, I am looking mostly at tools in two areas:

  • those which can be used for personal learning and productivity improvement - tools for one's Personal Learning Environment (PLE)

  • those which can be used for group networking and productivity improvement

Even these two areas, with much cross-over between them, comprise a broad breadth of tools. That being stated, they provide something for me to focus on. I hope to write much more about tools in these two areas in the not distant future.

Now for a few questions. What categories of Web2.0 tools do you think are most important? Are there certain tools or types of tools you would like to learn more about? If so, which ones? How are you integrating Web2.0 tools into an overall learning program?


Friday, February 8, 2008

Is ISD Needed

The Learning Circuits Blog big question for February is Instructional Design - If, When and How Much? The question, in a more detailed form, is "For a given project, how do you determine if, when and how much an instructional designer and instructional design is needed?" As many suggested, the big question has a small but illusive answer - "It depends". There are many factors that interact to determine if, when, and how much.

I like what Cammy Bean said about Instructional Design being a Spectrum. I also like what Ben Hamilton wrote about analysis in his comments. He wrote"...a quality instructional designer will be able to identify if this is, in fact, a project that requires a training intervention." If a "training" intervention is not needed, then perhaps neither is an instructional designer. On the other hand, a non-training intervention might require the services of a "quality" instructional designer even more so than would a training intervention. An SME might be perfectively able to develop a good training intervention. However, she might not have the knowledge or skills necessary to develop a non-training intervention.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Social Networking

I'm here at the monthly meeting of Austin Bloggers which I found out about yesterday on Upcoming. The leader is Chip Rosenthal, writer of It's Just this Little Chromium Switch Here. Also in attendance is Jette Kernion, writer of Slackerwood, a blog "devoted to reporting and reviewing all aspects of Austin film". Just arrived is Kimbrough Gray, author of Austin Real Estate Blog. We also have Prentiss Riddle, writer of aprendiz de todo, maestro de nada, Chris McConnell, author of and Adam Rice, writer at of Random Neural Misfirings.

The conversation ranged from Mike Huckabee's admission about frying a squirrel in a popcorn popper to high technology to high school reunions and more. Good people. Good conversation. Good social networking.

Social Networking

Yesterday evening I was reading a blog post over at edtechpost about ”where can I meet you”. In it, Scott mentioned a program to use for personal and event planning – Upcoming. I decided to click on the link and check it out. Apart from the fact the page opened up customized for where I am located, which was a little disconcerting since I had never been there before, I was pleased. One thing that immediately caught my eye was a meeting for Austin Bloggers Monthly Get-Together. I decided to check it out and am here at Austin Java now. Although this is my first time here, I would highly recommend it. If you are ever in Austin come on over to Barton Springs Road just south of the river and visit. The food is great, they have bottomless cups of coffee, and there is a very strong wireless connection. AND most of the tables I see around me have power connections nearby so you can keep working for a long time. Great! Keep the coffee coming. OK. I didn’t intend to focus only on Austin Java, (there are actually several locations) but it really is great. I’m sure I‘ll be back.

I don’t really know enough yet about Upcoming to write intelligently about it so I will keep it brief. It allows users to set up events for themselves plus keep track of other’s events. It also provides the capability to set up favorite places and groups. It could be a quite useful tool, but only if people use it. I’ll try it for awhile and see how it goes.

I really enjoy technology. I enjoy learning about and using new tools. I also enjoy learning how using technology can help improve my performance and the performance of others. Nevertheless, there is always a time when getting together face to face is worthwhile. I am looking forward to this evening’s meeting just to meet with others in Austin who blog. It will be the combination of online social networking with f2f networking. I really don’t know what to expect but I imagine it will be fun. I’ll write more about the experience later. I just got a text message on my phone, sent from Google Calendar, telling me it's time to get to the meeting. Later.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Communication and Collaboration Tools

I do quite a bit of my work remotely. I tend to sit in my home office and work, sometimes late into the evenings like today. Also, much of the work I do is with groups of people spread all across the country or even in several different countries. Right now I am involved in one project with people here in Texas, in Georgia, in California, and in Japan. I am involved in another project with people in several states, in Germany, and in Eastern Europe. I also have to communicate with people from time to time in several other states and countries.

Of course email works well for much of my day-to-day communication needs. However, email does have some significant shortcomings. There are times when I just need to speak to someone. For that, one of my favorite tools to use is Skype – one of the popular VOIP tools available today. One great thing about Skype is that the basic service is free. All I need is an internet connection and a computer and I can communicate by voice with anyone, anywhere, who also has those. Since my laptop has a built in camera, I can also let them see me while we are talking and they can do the same. Skype also allows phone calls to any mobile or land line anywhere in the world for very small charges. I can even purchase a phone number in several different cities and allow people from those cities to make local phone calls to me. Of course Skype also offers voice mail so if I am out or on another call I won’t miss my calls.

Two other communication tools I like are LinkedIn and Ning. Both of these are social networking tools. LinkedIn is a great tool for professional networking. It provides a way to keep up with what is happening with other professionals in one's network. Ning allows people to set up their own personal networks. I have only been using it for a short time but I think it is great.

I will write more later about these and other communication and collaboration tools I use.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Information Management

I am trying to write my blog at least several days a week; it will be great if I can write at least every week day. Writing helps me reflect on what I have read from others and helps clarify and solidify my learning. Reading what others have written, however, can be an increasingly time-consuming task. There are hundreds of authors, many of them quite well thought of, writing on a regular basis about the things I am interested in. There are two tools I have found quite useful to help me keep track of all the information. I use Bloglines as a Feedreader. I currently have feeds to 35 blogs which I try to read with some frequency. There are many others which I will look at from time to time. I also like to use Pageflakes. I also use it as a reader but it has some features I like that Bloglines does not have. With Pageflakes, along with being able to customize what feeds I get, I can customize my page to much the way I want it to look.

Another tool I like to use, which I didn’t mention in my top ten, is another one by Google – Google Desktop. I use it to search for information I have saved on my computer. However, it will also search web sites visited. This is a useful way to find information contained inside files even if you can’t remember which file a particular piece of information is in.

There are many other tools out there useful for information management. I am sure I will be writing more about them at a later time.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Personal Learning and Productivity

I did not intentionally list the tools I mentioned as my Top 10 Tools for Learning in any particular order as to how much I like them, how often I use them, or how important I view them as aides to learning. Rather, I just listed them more or less randomly. I used the third place in my list to mention Google tools. Google provides a large set of tools quite useful for helping anyone learn and be productive.

I use Google Calendar as my main scheduling tool but, as with many of the tools I use, I don’t use Google Calendar by itself. I include the weather icon on each date so I can easily access the daily weather from within my calendar. I also use Remember The Milk for task lists and I have the Remember The Milk task list icon on each day. This allows me to very easily access my list of tasks from within my calendar. One of the things I like about Google Calendar is that it allows me to have multiple calendars, color coded and all viewable on one screen. I can have one for each customer I work with and thus easily keep track of tasks assigned to a customer. I also frequently set reminders for my scheduled events. I usually set a pop up reminder; however, if an appointment is very important, I can have a reminder sent to my cell phone. Another thing I like is that I can view my calendar from any computer and can share it with or hide it from anyone I want.

I also frequently use Google Notebook. One of the nice things about it is that I can access my notes online from any computer. Nevertheless, I usually always have my laptop with me and am not far from a wireless connection. I have the Google Notebook plug-in for Firefox. If I don’t see the necessity of tagging a page with, I can quickly and easily pop open my Google Notebook and take notes about any web page I am viewing. Although I often have a tab open to my Notebook, having the notebook icon at the bottom of my screen gives me another option to view a different page while taking notes in my notebook.

Some of the other Google tools I use also help me be productive – Google Scholar, Google Earth, and of course Blogger. I have used Blogger since 2004. However, I have not written very consistently for most of that time. I have determined to write much more regularly starting this year (not really a New Year’s resolution – more of a goal for the year). Because of this I decided to check out a few of the other Blog programs. I looked at both Wordpress (which is a commercial program) and Typepad (which has a free version or a commercial version). They are both very popular among bloggers and both have many popular features. Nevertheless, after checking them out, I didn’t see anything that made me want to switch away from Blogger. I might not stay with Blogger forever, but for now, it will remain my software of choice for blogging.