Touring the digital through type

Month: August 2007 (Page 2 of 4)

Webcams and Teleconferencing in Education

coastcoastteleconferenceWhile webcams and teleconferencing may not initially appear to be Web 2.0 technologies, I would suggest that they important to the current 2.0 paradigm and, as these technologies develop, will become increasingly critical in whatever 2.0 unfolds to. By drawing in content from divergent areas, by crossing boundaries that were previously insurmountable for reasons of cost and time, and by demonstrating and expounding upon the digital connectedness between people, the ideals of student based learning becomes possible. I want to explicate that statement a bit, and then turn to the more ‘technical’ aspects of this post’s technologies.

Student-based learning is largely dependant on sudents having a hand guiding their learning. This is commonly translated into blogs and wikis, where the authorial voice is upset. A central issue with these kinds of collaborative/2.0 tools is that both are grounded in text – text is limiting because we cannot communicate using facial gestures/hand motions/intonations/etc, whereas webcams and teleconferencing both inject these essential dialogical elements into the discourse.

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Email and Calendaring

icsoutlookThe University of Guelph will be moving to a new email provider in the next month or two and along with that movement will come (over time) a unified student calendaring system. I want to discuss the role of email, unified calendaring, and how they impact TAs.


Email is the best-known electronic tool amongst TAs. It has been used for years to communicate with students, set up meeting dates, and answer rudimentary questions. The benefit of email is that it allows for relatively confidential communications between TAs and students – others cannot read the message unless either the TA or student break confidentiality. Email is not terribly well-suited for drawn out conversations, however, nor is it very good at developing content amongst a series of participants. It does, however, allow students and TAs to be accountable for what they say, which can be helpful in times of grade challenges that were supposedly made through email. For this reason TAs should ensure that no student information is deleted for at least one year after the course.

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Web 2.0 and Education

chalk2ipodI’m giving a presentation on Web 2.0 tools in under a month and, since I’ve received notice from the conference organizers, I’ve been working diligently to compile tools and identify their uses and potentials for abuse. Over the coming week or two I expect I’ll be posting a reasonably amount about thoughts and ideas that I have surrounding my presentation – comments are of course welcome here, and you are also welcome to look at and contribute to the wiki article that I’ve set up for the conference.

Before getting into content in any depth I wanted to take a step back and reflect on what I am referring to when talking about ‘Web 2.0’ and how it (potentially) applies to post-secondary education. I’m not going to get into the politics of technology in post-secondary environments, or at least I’m not planning on directly posting about this (largely because I work in an educational institution, and it’s really best to keep some thoughts to yourself).

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One Laptop Per Child and Long-term Possibilities for Education

olpclegoSome time ago a friend and I got talking about the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, and I haven’t gotten it off my mind since. The OLPC program aims to deliver sturdy, low-power, low-cost laptops to children under the age of 12 in developing countries. The visionary of the program, Nicholas Negroponte, wants to introduce these laptops into second-world, rather than third-world, countries. The difference? Second-world countries face poverty and a host of ills, but possess the resources to purchase these notebooks, to feed their people (at some level), and build roads. The OLPC program is not currently aimed at absolutely poverty-stricken nations – those nations have other, more pressing, concerns, and their resources can be allocated to more effectively than by providing affordable laptop computers for children.

The computers are incredibly simple, providing basic computing. What’s important is that they are almost entirely open-source; kids can take them apart and learn about every element of the computers through trial and error. They’re rugged enough (both physically and code-wise) that kids can put them through hell and they’ll keep on going. While the laptops can be charged by plugging the computers into electrical outlets, they can also be powered by converting physical action to electricity – ride a bike attached to the thing and you’ll be able to charge it. The initial roll-out doesn’t have this, but it’s in the overall specs of the project.

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