Monday, November 24, 2008
Matt Crosslin EduGeek Journal Version 3.0 Coming Soon

I've kind of run in to a common roadblock with the whole EduPunk Do-It-yourself ethic. It gets hard to upgrade or add features when you have to create them from scratch. EGJ is currently running on a Moodle installation. Which would be great if we were doing online classes, but we are not really doing that. Moodle just isn't meant as a serious blogging application, and as much as I hacked in to the code to make it so, it is really just so much easier to just use an open-source blogging platform. So I have been working behind the scenes to transfer everything over to a WordPress blog. Kind of slow going, at least with the comments, but progress is being made and soon we will have a much better infrastructure, not to mention support for mobile blogging! Comments are being transferred over, as well as some accounts (especially those with more than one or two comments), so most stuff should not be lost. I'm not sure when the actual switch will happen, but should be soon.


Friday, November 14, 2008
Matt Crosslin Visit Ancient Rome Thanks to Google

Not only does Google own the future, they are starting to take over the past, too. But when it is this cool - who's going to complain? Now you can visit a virtual re-creation of ancient Rome inside of Google Earth. Here are links to the official Google page and a BBC article about this project:

There was obviously some serious brain power and time behind this - but what a great educational opportunity for many different disciplines - not only history, but literature, art, cultural, and even religious studies. Hopefully, this will catch on and we will see more re-creations like this - maybe even ones tied to virtual worlds like Second Life? One can dream.

For those too busy (or impaired by archaic admin restrictions) to be able to go in and check this out, here is a video that gives you a preview:


Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Matt Crosslin Remote Desktop Access Using... Zoho?

We all like the companies that think of cool new tech tools for us to play with. For the most part, many of these companies still think within their respective box - even if the box is still out there and inventive. What I really like is when people that work for these inventive companies start finding inventive ways to use their inventive programs. Are you tired of me using that word? At least I didn't use the work 'maverick.'

I came across this blog post on the official Zoho blog describing how you could use Zoho Meeting to access a desktop remotely (and for free). Cool use of a tool, I thought - and then I came to the disclaimer at the bottom about this idea not being officially supported by Zoho - it was just a good idea someone there had.

Concepts like this are interesting, especially seeing that Zoho also works on mobile app versions of their products. Could remote access of a desktop through your iPhone or other mobile device be too far behind this? You never know. But think ofthe possibilities for "anytime, anywhere learning" if that does come true.


Friday, November 7, 2008
Matt Crosslin Hello. I'm a Copycat. And I'm an Original.

Oh, BlackBoard. I really do try to give you a fair break. You just make it so hard not to. Recently I linked to some videos that highlight the new changes coming in BlackBoard NG:

Chapter 2: User Interface... Something about that looks familiar. What is it... [stares off blankly at my iGoogle page] hmmm.... not coming to me. I'm sure it will soon....

Then, a friend sends me this link to BlackBoard NG ads:

While it would be so easy to mock the acting, the blank stares, the stand-ins with the look of "will this come back to haunt me when I finally land that sweet job at Google?" on their faces... that would be too easy. I mean, with as much money as BlackBoard makes, couldn't they actually afford actors and script writers? Probably even the real PC and Mac guys?

Nah - I won't go there. The thing that gets me is the righteous indignation that surfaced when defending "the patent." How they so defiantly defended how innovative and original they are. And then sued Desire2Learn for a system that basically comes close to their patent (but isn't really a down right copy). So, sue those that kind of copy you, but then blatantly copy others? Brag about being an innovative and cutting edge company, and then follow others? Hmmm.....


Monday, November 3, 2008
Matt Crosslin A New Vision for Learning Managment Systems (part 4)

As much as I have disagreed with the concept of living in flat world (because the world is truly not flat or anywhere close) - I still think that we need to have a flat world goal when looking forward in anything - especially in Instructional Design and the future of the Learning Management System. Not only do we need to find ways to turn the LMS into a hub of collecting student work, but we also need to find ways to get the program to intuitively seek out related content and pull it together for us.

Let's look at blog commenting for example. You post a blog entry, and then people comment on it. Pretty simple - right? How that be imporved? Here's one thought. You have probably seen this happening: someone will quote your blog in their blog, usually by creating their own blog entry for commentary instead of directly commenting on your blog (two examples are here and here - not the first time I have been called Mark). When someone does this, they should leave a trackback link or comment on yours. Howver, so many trackback functions have to be turned off because of spammers (or they are just confusing to figure out). But most people that quote your blog tend to forget to let you know that. They do link to you, of course - and that is all they should need to do.

This is why I use the Google Alerts service to let me know when someone has posted a link to EGJ. It catches some interesting commentary and discussions on our ideas that I would never have known were occurring. With this in mind, my question is: why does it have to matter where comments are made on your blog entries (or any other content you create for that matter)? Wouldn't it be great if any comment made anywhere about something you posted would automatically be pulled in as a comment on your blog? And if you replied to that collected comment - it wouldn't just post on your blog, but the other blog as well? There are some solutions already being worked on out there, and thanks to RSS feeds, tags, Google Alerts, etc, etc - stuff like this can happen. We need something like this in education. But there is no one "killer" system that accomplishes this totally, and then there is that pesky Spam problem.

Come to think of it - there is just so much progress that is hindered because of spammers. I guess it is not cool to suggest the death penalty for anyone, even annoying spamming, huh? Maybe we can just find a deserted island somewhere and the global penalty for spamming would be to cast them on this island - with no electricity or computers. Then they will be begging for the death penalty. Hey - one can dream....

Anyway, there could be some great benefits to education if a system like this could be created. Think of the discussions you could have with other classes at other universities anywhere in the world, and not even have to set anything up officially. Or if you do set something up officially, all you have to say is "go to this blog and comment on their post, making sure you include a link to the post - the program will take care of the rest!" The LMS makes all of the connections for you. You just log in to your blog or wiki or whatever to moderate the comments and then respond where needed and everything goes where it should.


Monday, September 8, 2008
Matt Crosslin Are EduPunks Really the Source of the Problem?

If you don't know what EduPunks are - well, you probably are one if you are reading this blog. Or, at least one at heart. We're all probably EduPunks here at EGJ (even though I personally hate the label). We want to bring change to the online education world, and some of us are even advocating leaving Learning Management Systems behind in favor of do-it-yourself classes created in blogs, wikis, and probably a whole slew of Google sites.

In the comments section of my last post on LMS problems, a colleague of mine (Chris) made a comment that got me thinking: why are LMS programs the way they are? The hard reality we EduPunks have to face is that Ed Tech products, just like almost any other tech product, are consumer-driven. They are the way they are - in large part - due to end user demand. Even something as dense as BlackBoard still had someone sitting there saying "our customers want this!" Yes - many got it wrong - but even those that got it wrong sometimes still thought about what customers wanted at some point. And many companies do ask for or at least listen to customer input. Some times customers either just get complacent and satisfied with what they have, or they leave a product or service without saying why (or worse yet, raising a huge stink). If companies think everything is okay with the status quo, they won't change it. And if you rave like a crazed banshee because of something - they probably won't listen either.

But it's those that leave that make companies worry the most. When the powers that be saw the EduPunks leaving the LMS for blogs and wikis and other tools - what do you think they did? "Hey - we need to add those tools to our product!" Instead of seeing these as tools to be connected with, they started seeing them as competitotrs. The sad truth is - EduPunks are probably more responsible for creating the "walled garden" effect than anyone else. The more we leave the LMS behind, the more they are going to try and assimilate what we are leaving for... rather than trying to understand why we are leaving. That's just the way businesses work. They usually want to add more features to an existing product rather than re-think the whole thing from the ground up.

So the battle to change online education tools is really within the confines of the LMS... not as a rebellious outsider. We need to try to win other professors and EdTech people to our cause from the inside. We need a tool that is native to professors (as Chris suggested), that allows them to teach in a way that their learners need to learn. Once the demand is there... once there is enough buzz being generated to get the attention of educational software companies... then we will probably see the changes we need.


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