Club Admiralty

v7.0 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Multilitteratus Incognitus

Traversing the path of the doctoral degree

Using blogs instead of Blackboard

I came across this post on the Chronicle of Higher Ed a few weeks back about a revolt of sorts that is happening in some pockets of academia. Many people seem sick of Blackboard (and in my opinion its anti-competitive tactics) and seem to want to move to different instructional technology media.

I don't blame them. Blackboard has become the Frankenmonster of the LMS world. If a new feature comes out that vaguely competes with its model it either buys it (like it has with other LMS makers) or it tries to replicate it. I have the misfortune of having used the BlackBoard "Blog" which is very unbloglike! Why use it? It looks like an anemic discussion board!

I am all for using freely available tools such as wordpress and blogger for student blogs. There are only two issues that come up: FURPA and Academic Honesty. As much as we hate Blackboard (and other LMS?) when something is due, it's due. All discussions are date stamped and time stamped and you can't go back and edit something without affecting change. In the real world (unless you have a multiuser wordpress blog I think), people can go back and add blog post, edit and delete them. Instructors will need to figure out ways to harvest blog posts and comments (if they are graded) and have a way to prove academic dishonesty.
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Why card based records are not good enough

I came across this article a while back on Open Source Exile about the deficiencies of the MARC format. For those of you not in the library world, MARC is essentially a digital version of the information you found in the card catalog.

The article echoes a lot of my thoughts on the subject from when I was reading about information organization and cataloging a few years back when I first started working for a library.

It's nice to see that I am not the only one who's thought of the issue lol :-)

Where does our information come from?

I was reading this article on Scienceblogs with an associated graphic on
where info comes from (click to enlarge):

further on in the article there is a more parody-like version of the same chart (click to enlarge):

For what it's worth, the original article is short and easy to read - so you should read it.

Here's my favorite quote from it:

So look at that graph. The X axis is years, which is OK, even if the inconsistency of the intervals is extremely annoying. But what are the units of the Y axis? What's being measured? I have no idea. I presume it's a stacked percentage of something, but that's unclear. Information produced? Absorbed? Thrown at a wall and forgotten? What kind of information? It's all lumped together and unspecified. Could we have some units, please? And can you really categorize a single unit of information that applies appropriately to what comes from a newspaper and what comes from a social networking site?

The other data we're missing is a source and methodology. If it's saying that someone in 2009 is getting 10% of their "information", nebulous as that means in this context, from blogs, how was that determined, and where are the raw data that was used to compile this chart?

Blogs in Education

I came across this presentation about blogs in Education a while back (see end of post). I actually think that blogs are a quite useful tool in an educational environment. For the student, if the blog is student-based, it provides an opportunity to start building a portfolio of academic work. The research papers that the student writes can be posted in blog format.

Obviously if the paper is 30, 40, 50, 100 pages long there can be sections and subsections submitted to the blog for peer review and review by the professor - or you may opt to no use the blog format for this. There are many mini assignments - like chapter reviews, that can be done in blog format and this gives students the opportunity to properly cite information as well!

For adjunct faculty is is a good opportunity to build a portfolio of their work. If they always teach TOPIC101, they can have a class blog, with the students being contributors. While each semester the information may be repeated in some sense, it gives the professor a way of showing the evolution of their teaching style and the evolution of their teaching topic...and this is just scratching the surface of what is possible.

by the way - LMS blogs (like the blackboard blog functionality) don't count. The BB blog is horrendous!


Grad students and hygene


Here's a little weekend humor by PhD :-)

A little light reading on Folksonomies

I came across this article on First Monday on Folksonomies a while back but I never really got around to reading it until now.

It is an interesting article and if you have some time go and read it. It gives the uninitiated a brief look at organization of information in the past, and how folksonomies differ from what has come before them.

It seems to me that the criticism of folksonomies are a little snooty given by this example:

Yet not everyone was convinced that folksonomies would deliver on this promise. The absence of rules in assigning tags has been feared to lead to quality problems, including imprecision, overlap, duplication, ambiguity, and erroneous identification (Dotsika, 2007; Guy and Tonkin, 2006). Others expressed doubt that user–generated tags would ever “organically arrive at preferred terms for concepts, or even evolve synonymous clusters” (Rosenfeld, 2005). With no guidelines for tag production, what was there to prevent all that potentially useful information out there from being tagged with broadly non–useful identifiers such as “mydog,” “readlater,” or “vacationpics”?

I don't disagree with what is said, I just think that people are failing to take into account that tagging is, after all, a way to organize YOUR personal collection of items. Who cares if I tag a photo of my dog as "Rex", "MyDog", "MyNinthDog" or something else? If it has meaning to me, then who cares? I do realize the need for a controlled vocabulary, and people who do this type of tagging for institutions can wrap their heads around it, but for personal use (like there is no need to be snooty :-)

All things considered - good article. Go read it (or at least bookmark it for future reference)

More collaboration, please.


There was an article that I saw a few weeks ago called Expert Predicts 6 Future Trends in Training. Being a sucker for predictions I went right ahead and I read it. I have to say that the six predictions were quite good - because we are already there, and we have been there for a while now.

We covered all of these issues when I took courses in my MBA program about three years ago in topics such as Knowledge Management. I have also experienced all of these points personally by being part of communities of practice such as,, and many, many other communities. The big thing here is the how. How does one effectively bring these into the corporation and into academia? How does one attain buy-in to get people to use the systems? There are many more hows here than I care to point a stick at. The main point is that these predictions are not predictions at all, but rather statements of where we're going (given proper leadership of course).

The main thing here is collaboration. What we need to do is collaborate. We need cross-functional units and teams with members that have knowledge of more than one subject area. All this stuff is not news to me (forgive me if I sound like a snob, it is not my intent), and it's not new to me because of my cross-disciplinary studies plus all the wonderful Subject Matter Experts that I've met and interacted with over the years. Right now we're all siloed so we can't effectively use what we know to get to where we need to be, and predictions of cool futures are made instead of working together to make a cool future and attainable present. We've got the tech, knowledge and the people now - no need to wait.

Thoughts on Esperanto

Here's a post to get me back to the linguistics aspects of things :-)

I was over at Steve Kaufman's blog the other day (yes a little late - google reader items are a little backed up) where he had a video post about Esperanto and French Immersion (two topics). I don't know much about immersion programs (yet) - much less French Immersion as is practiced in Canada, but I do have some thoughts on Esperanto.

I agree with Steve that Esperanto has nothing to entice me as a learner to go out an learn it. I know it's been designed as an auxiliary language, so that people can meet and converse without depending on one national language thus being fair to everyone. However Esperanto is not fair to everyone. It's mostly a European language, no Asian, American or African influences in it, so the argument that it's easy to learn only probably holds true for people whose primary language is based on a European language.

The second thing that I agree with Steve on (we're on a roll here!) is that Esperanto has no culture. As an auxiliary language and an artificial language, since there is no nation that uses it as the lingua franca of that nation, there is no history, media, culture, or art associated with it. One of the reasons I want to learn a language is for the quirky differences that exist between my language (L1) culture (C1) and the target language and culture (L2 and C2).

If I am going to learn a made up language, I might as well learn Klingon because the L2 is more complex than Esperanto - so you've got the mental gymnastics challenge, and there is a whole universe of Trekkies out there that have got the C2 down!

Students as Lemmings


OK, file this under "You needed a study for that?!"

I was reading an inside higher ed. article recently with the same title as this blog post. A study was conducted and surprise! surprise! (NOT!) Students have a greater effect on what fellow students choose to major in rather than aptitude in a particular subject!

You really didn't need to do a study because this falls under the "D'uh" category. Of course peers influence peers (Now if you wanted to know how much that influence is, that is another story". Of course as the article rightly points out, if you study things that you don't score well on you might have work mismatch, being in a career that does not fulfill you and one that you can't be as productive in as something else. (I italicized score because exams aren't always best indicators of one's success - something that the article does not point out).

The one thing I wanted to point out here is this: It's not just your peers, it's also your family and society at large. It's a running joke that us Mediterraneans put doctors, lawyers, and engineers on a pedestal and we want (or sometimes force) our kids to go into these fields for our own pride and edification. We can't lay the blame just on peers, but we have to look internally to see if we are also pushing our kids to fields that they aren't complete matches for in the name of status.

Oh yeah, the image has nothing to do with this article - I just like the game :-)

Twitter in Education

I came across this presentation on the use of twitter in education

Personally I would use twitter for informational purposes like: "in the office" - "not in the office", "class moved to room xxxx", and "assignment X due in my mailbox by xx/xx/xxxx"

IM is better for collaboration, chatting and discussions. Twitter doesn't really fit into this in my opinion.