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Posts Tagged ‘assignment’

Wikis are powerful tools to promote collaboration. For one of our class assignments, Dr. Yuen asked students to form into small groups and create a wiki. After each group formed, we agreed upon a topic and began working. The topic chosen by my group was called Doghouse Solutions, and the wiki was designed to help guys get out of trouble with their wife or girlfriend (i.e., get out of the doghouse.

In the past, I have not enjoyed group assignments as much as individual assignments for a number of reasons. The greatest concerns were flexibility of time, dependence on others, or sacrifice of ideas to reach a consensus. However, after reading a couple of articles on wikis, I entered this project with new insight on group assignments. The work of Warren Houghton (as cited by Alden, 2010) maintained that group activities cultivate deep learning. He explained that the obligation to develop a single collaborative answer required a great deal of multifaceted interaction and exploration. Individuals in a group do not tend to simply accept unsupported information. Instead, new ideas are developed and distilled through discussion.

The process of creating a wiki was fun and informative. Each member of the group worked collaboratively on each page. One member would add the page, and each individual would add and tweak content. These additions included graphics, videos, text and links. Wikis allow for a large variety of media, so a wiki site has the potential of being very dynamic and interactive.

Another superior feature of wikis is the ability to track changes. A wiki site will keep a recorded history of every time a new version of a page is created. This allows website managers to revert to previous versions if necessary. Also, the teacher of the class has the ability to see exactly how much work each individual has done. Group projects usually have the potential for some students to do less work, while leaders carry the majority of the load. However, in a wiki scenario, each student will earn a grade this is based upon the amount of work he or she contributed to the wiki, which can be seen by the instructor and all group members.

As our group project developed, each member contributed a different viewpoint, and we helped to sharpen each other’s ideas. This effort was not limited to content or text. For example, some group members included multimedia elements, and other group members suggested graphics and videos that would be even better than the originals. In this instance, one member had the idea of adding the video or graphic and another member improved upon this idea. Similarly, gender perspective was important to our site because it was aimed at helping men get out of trouble with women. Women helped balance the absurd ideas of men, and men helped to clarify what men would be best at accomplishing.

There are a myriad of possibilities for incorporating wikis in the classroom. This format is ideal for group assignments, especially in online and hybrid settings. An entire class could actually coordinate to create a larger work, such as a wikibook. Wikis help to facilitate group work in a way that encourages idea development and sparks conversation, including those individuals that may not contribute as much in a traditional setting.

Alden, J. (2010). Use of Wikis to Support Collaboration among Online Students.  In H.

H. Yang & S. C. Yuen (Eds.) Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking (pp. 110-132). New York: IGI Global.

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Information sharing is one of the greatest revolutions emerging alongside new technologies. In many cases, access to highly esteemed professors and universities is as easy as downloading the respective professor’s or entity’s RSS feed or podcast. The playing field is beginning to level for those that have traditionally had access and those that have not. No longer do students have to pay an obscene amount of tuition and expenses to access this information.

In large part, this revolution is made possible by the emergence of new multimedia and Web 2.0 technologies. You Tube, podcasts, and similar applications provide a good medium to deliver content such as lectures, presentations, and classroom discussions. No medium can replace the traditional class, but producers of such content are edging closer each day.

One such Web 2.0 technology is Slideshare. The concept of Slideshare is simple; this free application allows one to upload a document or presentation (e.g., Word or PowerPoint) and distribute it to the masses. In addition, Slideshare allows the presenter to add an audio file and line up each slide with the audio. This scenario “feels” similar to a traditional presentation, and Slideshare has named such a presentation a slidecast. Assignment #2 for IT 780 was to create a slidecast, and I developed two videos based on Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” These presentations are below:

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Sharpen the Saw

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: First Things First

Similarly, a presenter can also choose to embed a You Tube video in a Slideshare presentation. In other words, a normal presentation can be uploaded to Slideshare, and midway through that presentation, a You Tube video can be inserted. From the standpoint of the viewer, this all comes across seamless and professional.

In addition, Slideshare allows users to share content very easily. As might be expected, presentations can be categorized as private, which restricts viewing. However, the idea behind Slideshare is a collective community sharing ideas and presentations for the greater good. An easy way to find presentations is to search within Slideshare. In fact, after submitting the slideshow above to the public on Slideshare, over 450 viewers watched the presentation within two weeks of publishing the presentation. Outside of the Slideshare format, I would not have been able to communicate with this many people in such an easy manner.  Conversely, Slideshare allows users to embed a presentation in other applications such as a blog (e.g., the slidecast above). Finally, Slideshare allows users to link a feed of the presentation to social networking tools such as Twitter or Facebook.

Slideshare is an excellent idea. There are several “bugs” that need to be worked out of the system. However, the prospect of possibility far outweighs any obstacles to creating and publishing on Slideshare.

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The art of keeping a journal has not produced a great deal of fruit in my past. I have desired to begin keeping a journal several times at various stages of my life, but I have failed to do so each time. The longest stint of success in keeping a journal came during one summer of my undergraduate work. In this specific scenario of success, I was somewhat secluded and found time for reflection. Exhausted ManApart from this short period successful entry, the speed of normalcy has prevented me from staying current in a journal or diary. Similarly, I like the idea of blogging, but I’ve never committed to it.

As I am midway through my Ph.D. journey, this moment in time seems like the most inopportune stage to begin a blog, at least from the standpoint of time. However, from an importance standpoint, the few years of doctoral work I am undertaking could possibly be the most important juncture to force reflection on what I am learning. This is the struggle between importance and urgency.

The decision to start this blogfolio was made easy because it is a major assignment of IT 780, Seminar in Instructional Technology. The blogfolio assignment provides an ideal outlet to settle the struggle described above. Like most struggles in life, creating the blogfolio and beginning the process were the hardest parts (though not that hard). Hard only in the sense that I had to decide to commit to the blogging process.

WordPress.com makes setting up and managing a blog quite simple. In addition, the templates included in this Web 2.0 tool are robust and help to ensure a professional presentation of a blog. The widgets that are optional for each blog help to make the blog feel more interactive, allowing for such tools as seemless searches and information about the author.  There is also a great deal of flexibility for each blog that is produced through WordPress. For example, I created the header at the top of this page and uploaded the image to WordPress, and this flexibility allowed for a personal touch on the blog from the beginning.

I look forward to posting reflections on each assignment this semester. If for no other reason, the process of blogging will solidify the learning that takes place on each assignment and will allow me to look back on those reflections to see the importance of each tool. Still further, the blog might also help jog my memory in how to accomplish various tasks in each Web 2.0 tool associated with the various assignments. So in the end, I am excited about blogging this semester.

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