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This table of contents chronicles the reflections on various projects and assignments of IT 780, Seminar in Instructional Technology.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.    Introduction to Blogfolio

II.  Reflection on Assignments

III. Reflection on Readings

IV.  Overall Reflection on IT 780

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Web 2.0 has only been on the technology scene for a few years, since around 2004. However, this new body of Web applications has transformed the way people interact with the Internet and each other. The focus of IT 780, Seminar in Instructional Technology was to expose students to current Web 2.0 applications. In addition, Dr. Yuen insured that students were immersed in the practical employment of these tools rather than just studying about them.

Content within the first generation of the Web was developed for communication and information sharing, and usually an individual or group created these Web sites.  Web 2.0 differs in that it is based on interactivity and collaboration, and users develop these new applications. The genesis of Web 2.0 has given rise to the popularity of social media, which I will discuss in five broad categories: communication, collaboration, multimedia, reviews, and entertainment.

Communication tools (e.g., blogs, microblogs and social networking systems) have garnered the most attention among all Web 2.0 tools. Most notably, social networking systems (SNS) are immensely popular. For example, Facebook would be the third most populated country in the world if compared to existing countries. Dr. Yuen covered communication tools in four ways. First, the IT 780 class was primarily taught through Ning, which is a SNS. Second, we had reading assignments that presented research on SNS, and each member of the class had to create a Ning Web site designed to teach a class. Third, going a step beyond normal Web site creation, Dr. Yuen assigned a project that asked each student to generate an original mobile Web site. Fourth, the blogfolio that you are now reading serves as an example of a Web 2.0 communication tool, and this blog represents the final project for the IT 780 class.

Collaborative tools allow groups of people to accomplish projects together and include such items as social bookmarking, wikis and news. Social bookmarking allows users to bookmark Web sites, tag each site with keywords and save the bookmarks to a public Web site. A wiki is simply a Web page that can be edited and viewed by anyone with an Internet connection and a Web browser. One of the reading assignments for IT 780 focused on social bookmarking. Also, the IT 780 class was divided into small groups, and each group was responsible for creating and designing a wiki. The development of the wiki was informed by two reading assignments on wikis that were given by Dr. Yuen.

A myriad of Web 2.0 applications have been produced for multimedia, which includes photos, videos, audio, livecasts and presentations. Flickr and Picasa represent Web 2.0 tools designed for photos and graphics, and podcasting represents an example of an audio application. In fact, one of the reading assignments and a project for IT 780 focused on podcasting, including the creation of an RSS feed. Dr. Yuen also assigned a project that employed the use of an online presentation tool, Slideshare. This presentation tool allowed each student to upload and share Adobe PDFs, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations online. I underestimated how many individuals would view this site. For example, I uploaded two presentations, and both of them have over 700 views in just a couple months. Obviously, the potential of such devices is enormous.

Dr. Yuen also asked the class to read an article that gave a general overview of Web 2.0 technologies. This article addressed many of the applications mentioned above. The focus of the IT 780 class was to expose students to Web 2.0 tools, specifically as it related to education. In light of this exposure to Web 2.0 technologies, Dr. Yuen asked each member of the class to make a presentation on a Web 2.0 technology that he or she found useful. Therefore, we did not spend a great deal of time on Web 2.0 applications designed for reviews (e.g., products, business or community) or entertainment (games, platforms or virtual worlds). However, these tools were mentioned in various class discussions.

IT 780 has been an incredible adventure of discovery in the Web 2.0 world. As Dr. Yuen says, many technologists read or talk about these applications but never immerse themselves in the tools. This class forced students to gain a functional knowledge of Web 2.0 tools. As a result, I feel prepared to discuss current Web 2.0 technologies with authority. In addition, exposure to these technologies has been a catalyst for personal and professional change. For example, I will certainly change several approaches in teaching and learning as a result of this course. When a class motivates one to make life changes and challenges previously held beliefs, then I would argue that it has been a great success. IT 780 is certainly in this mold.

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Web 2.0 was designed to encourage social collaboration, user-centered design and interoperability. An overwhelming number of applications have been developed in association with Web 2.0. In the midst of this social media, individuals can become overwhelmed with the options and inundation of information. This technological flood can, at times, send users into overload. Prioritizing what is important and urgent is an essential skill in using Web 2.0.

Interestingly, Web 2.0 enthusiasts have recognized this issue and created applications that assist users in filtering and prioritizing information. Aggregators represent a genre of Web 2.0 tools that accomplish this task. There are a number of aggregators available, but I would like to discuss Netvibes as a representative example from this group. In addition, one of the assignments from IT 780 was to present on a Web 2.0 tool, and I chose Netvibes as the tool on which I would present.

The term “aggregate” simply means to gather into a whole. Web 2.0 aggregation, therefore, can be seen as an application that gathers pertinent information from various sources into one place (i.e., Web site). An analogy to aggregation can be illustrated by the evolution of sandwich making. Before 1916, if someone wanted to make a normal sandwich, then they would need to go to the baker for bread, butcher for meat and, perhaps, a number of farmers to get fresh vegetables (e.g., lettuce or tomatoes). However, Piggly Wiggly became the first self-service grocery store in 1916, and sandwich connoisseurs could gather all the needed ingredients for a sandwich in one location. Similarly, aggregators allow users to gather all desired Web-based content in one location.

Netvibes offers a number of widgets and tools to facilitate this gathering of information. First, users create a custom home page with widgets that can be accessed from any location with Internet access. This allows users to always have access to their Netvibes home page. The application centralizes content. Live data can be added to the home page, such as stocks, email, weather or headlines. Social networking sites (SNS), such as Facebook or Twitter, can also be added to the home page. RSS and Atom feeds are also supported by Netvibes. In fact, users can embed another website within their Netvibes home page.

As mentioned earlier, a number of aggregators exist, but Netvibes offers several competitive features. SNS integration is a crucial component of Netvibes. In addition, Netvibes updates in real-time, so information is always current. There is a great deal of flexibility within Netvibes, including multiple page and tab creation. Bloglines, Google reader plus iGoogle, My Yahoo! and Pageflakes are additional aggregators. In my opinion, Netvibes, Pagefalkes and iGoogle are the three best aggregators currently on the market.

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Primary Ideas
Social bookmarking facilitates the sharing of knowledge and research in a real-time, dynamic fashion. In fact, social bookmarking can be used as a vital tool to enhance knowledge in the university setting, from the freshmen year to graduate school. The chapter “From Information Literacy to Scholarly Identity: Effective Pedagogical Strategies for Social Bookmarking” discusses the importance of social bookmarking in research and how social bookmarking can be used in the collegiate setting.

I must confess that I did not fully grasp the value or potential of social bookmarking before reading this chapter. Up to this point, I had not considered the usefulness of social bookmarking to teach the basic lexicon of a subject area. The President of the institution at which I work, Dr. Lott, often says, “We only know what we know.” By this statement, he means that we are each limited to our own knowledge base unless we look outside our institution and ourselves. The ideas presented in this chapter on the use of social bookmarking in the classroom helped to broaden my view of social bookmarking.

One of the most important subjects discussed was the difference between taxonomies and folksonomies. Taxonomy was defined as a formal hierarchy of vocabulary terms commonly used by researchers in a subject area. Conversely, a folksonomy was described as an informal and collaborative categorization of terms. In short, journals and professionals generally use taxonomies in formal settings with tight controls, while folksonomies rapidly evolve and allow for freedom and less control.

The authors describe the importance of building an “educated” vocabulary within the context of each level of college. The undergraduate years are largely spent learning the appropriate taxonomy of a subject area, and this immersion allows students to conduct more meaningful research and improves their own personal use of folksonomies. Teachers are to help move undergraduates from conducting searches to doing research. The graduate years are spent trying to find a “niche” in the midst of the current taxonomy, and this “niche” quite often serves as the basis of their thesis or dissertation.

Ironically, I actually did not know the term “folksonomy” before reading this chapter, but the term makes a great deal of sense. I believe that technological fields provide one caveat to the author’s general description of the purpose behind the undergraduate years versus the graduate years. Because technology is constantly evolving at a rapid pace, technology researchers must commit to being lifelong learners in order to stay current in their field and understanding of the taxonomy. In that sense, professional technologists’ mastery of the taxonomy can quickly be lost in a short span of time if they do not stay connected to surfacing research. After all, how many people even knew the term “social bookmarking” ten years ago?

Strengths/Weaknesses
This chapter was well written and made the case for social bookmarking in an eloquent manner. I thought there were two specific items that the chapter addressed well. First, the author’s discussion on the importance of developing a lexicon in college was well stated and true. Second, the examples given for each level of student (lower-level undergraduate, upper-level undergraduate, and graduate) were thoughtful and applicable.

In many articles, the idea or theory presented makes sense, but the application of the idea or theory falls short. At times, I have dismissed ideas that might have worked because the author’s example was terrible and unrealistic. I do understand that this is proverbially throwing the baby out with the bath water, but if the expert in the area cannot conceive of a good application, then I often assume the idea is good on paper but not in reality. Juxtaposed to those researchers, this author provided excellent examples of social bookmarking for each level. Further, these examples seemed feasible and useful. I actually got the idea that the researcher had tried this in class and it worked; I do not always get that feeling after reading research.

The only weakness I see was a lack of suggested platforms for facilitating social bookmarking. I would have appreciated some recommendations on what medium the author considered to be the best for displaying social bookmarks. For example, does he prefer using social bookmarking in a blog or on a discussion board? I do understand that the answer to this can be derived from the assignment given in a respective class, yet a few suggestions might have been helpful.

Future?
The potential for social bookmarking is immense. I do not think it is a passing fad. I see the greatest potential in undergraduate studies because social networking is an ideal tool to help teach the basic taxonomy of a subject area. However, I believe it will only be a tool to help learn the taxonomy rather than being the only means to teaching taxonomy. As teachers begin to see the potential of social bookmarking it will gain in popularity; it is not being used very much at present, to my knowledge.

I am unsure about the use of social networking in graduate studies. The tool is and will continue to be broadly employed to share new research and learn about new developments. Therefore, I believe social networking will increase in popularity as it relates to keeping abreast of current developments. However, I do not know if this tool will be used to develop ideas for which students will conduct their own research; this applies to professionals as well.

The problem is that of idea theft, conscious or subconscious. Certainly, a close circle of friends could be used to develop emerging research, but I don’t think anyone is racing to publicly offer their ideas on “hot” research topics that have not been explored. I hope that I am wrong on this, but I tend to think that social networking will primarily be used to report research already conducted rather than conjecture about possible ideas for research. There are other technology tools more suited to this pursuit.

Reflection
The place of social bookmarking in education was clearly defined in this chapter. Three ideas from this chapter served as items I will begin to employ. First, the importance of establishing a good lexicon within a subject matter is an idea I subconsciously understood but never formally considered. I will begin filtering assignments through this lens. Second, the place of social bookmarking to help accomplish this subject-area lexicon is obvious; therefore, I will employ social bookmarking as another means to help students learn important terms. Third, I am going to begin practicing social bookmarking to help distill my own personal research goals.

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