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This table of contents chronicles the reflections on various projects and assignments of IT 860, Emerging Technology in Instructional Technology.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.    Introduction to Blogfolio

II.  Reflection on Assignments

III. Reflection on Readings

IV.  Overall Reflection on IT 860

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Web 2.0 is now a technological juggernaut, and these technologies are revolutionizing the way people communicate, collaborate and accomplish basic tasks. The focus of IT 860, Emerging Technologies in Instructional Technology, was to explore the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools that show promise in education. Dr. Yuen exposed each student to the theoretical basis for each Web 2.0 tool through his book, “Collective Intelligence and E-Learning 2.0: Implications of Web-Based Communities and Networking.” In addition, students were required to use each Web 2.0 tool that was discussed in order to gain knowledge through experiential learning.

The first generation of the Web was developed primarily by experts and aimed at merely sharing knowledge. Web 2.0 differs in that these tools are created and developed by a variety of users with the intent of collaboration and interactivity. This focus on collaboration and interactivity has facilitated a sweeping embrace of social media. For example, if Facebook was a country, then it would be the third largest in the world behind China and India.

The Web 2.0 applications covered in IT 860 can be divided into three categories: tools that connect people, tools that share knowledge and tools that connect people and share knowledge in virtual environments. A large portion of the readings focused on issues involved with connecting people, while the bulk of the Web 2.0 tools that were covered focused on the sharing of knowledge. It should be noted that while I discuss these ideas separately, the whole point of Web 2.0 is to provide environments that both connect people and share knowledge.

Tools that Connect People

The premise of collective intelligence is founded on the power of tools that connect people. A series of readings helped to shed light on the philosophical basis for the use of these connecting Web 2.0 technologies in education. A new paradigm in learning theories was introduced in 2004 with the birth of connectivism, which stems from the traditions of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. Our first reading was on connectivism and described the power of collective intelligence. Connectivists hold that learning takes place as networks of individuals share knowledge, and one powerful Web 2.0 tool covered that represents the power of human connection is Twitter.  For example, Twitter boasts 50 million Tweets per day; that is a lot of connecting!

As might be expected, this level of connectivity requires a good organizational infrastructure and can lead to a great number of legal concerns in education. Therefore, our second reading addressed the obstacles to implementing Web 2.0 in educational institutions. Further, educators need to consider the human and social issues involved with the implementation of Web 2.0 in the classroom, which was our third reading.

Synchronous Online Learning Environments (SOLE) represent an excellent example of synchronous online learning that is offered in an ethical and effective way. In SOLE, students have a chance to interact with peers and the teacher in a similar way to a traditional classroom, and multiple channels of media simultaneously connecting with learners enhance this interaction.

Tools that Share Knowledge

The power of Web 2.0 to share knowledge is robust; in fact, the number of tools is overwhelming. Dr. Yuen did an excellent job of weeding through the volumes of applications available and introducing students to the best of these tools. A reading that described the potential of Web-based video (e.g., YouTube) began this quest.

Following this reading, students dove into a myriad of Web 2.0 tools aimed at sharing knowledge. Social bookmarking (Diigo) is a Web 2.0 technology that allows users to bookmark Web sites and place tags on those bookmarks using keywords. Social publishing sites (Scribd) allow users to share and find written documents on the Internet or mobile devices, such as Word, PowerPoint or PDF. Screencasting (Jing or ScreenToaser) occurs when individuals capture a video of what happens on a computer screen over a span of time, and audio (e.g., narrative) is usually part of a screencast as well. File Sharing (Drop.io) is a powerful trend in Web 2.0 that facilitates collaboration, and users can create a “drop” by uploading an image, audio, video, document or other digital content. VoiceThread is a media aggregator that permits users to upload media to a website, and this tool also facilitates collaboration and feedback on such media.

Connecting and Sharing in Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds find their ancestry in video games. Therefore, our first reading on virtual worlds actually focused on a model of Game-Based Learning (VISOLE). Learning through games is gaining more attention from several educators. Perhaps an even more promising environment for learning is seen in virtual worlds. Our final reading focused on taking a Pedagogical Odyssey in Three-Dimensional Virtual Worlds (The SECOND LIFE Model). As a point of application, each student had an opportunity to make a presentation at a conference in Second Life.

Summative Thoughts

All of these tools described above promoted the sharing of knowledge. However, it would be misleading if I failed to highlight the intrinsic ability of each of these tools to also connect learners. A symbiotic relationship exists between connecting people and sharing knowledge in Web 2.0.

Dr. Yuen provided an incredible environment for learning these emerging tools. In fact, he taught the class through a platform (Mixxt) that closely resembled a social networking site (SNS) rather than through learning management software (LMS). Naturally, this approach led to more connectivity among students and facilitated the sharing of knowledge among the group.

This class has been an incredible journey of learning. I now feel confident to use Web 2.0 tools and design instruction around them appropriately.

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VoiceThread is a media aggregator that permits users to upload media to a website, and this tool also facilitates collaboration and feedback on such media. This free Web 2.0 tool has several unique strengths. Users can easily add a voice narrative on top of an uploaded media, and this media can be a video, photos, slide presentation or document. In response, viewers can add feedback to the uploaded media in the form of video, audio or text. The power of aggregation brings all of these elements together, so that the resulting page contains a Flash-based animation with the original media and related comments. Another strength of VoiceThread is that it is user-friendly, especially in posting comments.

Making a VoiceThread

Users need to sign up for a free account in order to start a project. Creating a VoiceThread begins by uploading media. Fortunately, VoiceThread allows subscribers to upload content from a variety of sources. You can upload from a local computer, URL, webcam or media source (Facebook, Flickr, New York Public Library and other VoiceThreads).

After the media artifact is uploaded, users have the option to comment on each slide. Comments can be made by a keyboard (text), audio file upload (audio), phone (audio), microphone (audio) or webcam (video). Each speaker (i.e., commenter) is identified by a small image that is interactive. In other words, a user can click each speaker’s image to retrieve his or her comment. Creators and commentators also have an option to doodle (i.e., lines, arrows, etc…) on the media as part of their comment.

Finally, VoiceThreads can be shared in a variety of ways: email, embedded in a Web page or through a URL link. Under the “Publishing Options,” creators can control how each VoiceThread is shared. You can make it closed to a group of friends or open to the public. You can allow anyone to comment or restrict commenting. You can also allow the VoiceThread to be searchable in search engines by clicking “Show on Browse Page.”

How can this tool be used in education?

VoiceThread allows students to post an artifact. The teachers and peers can then comment on this artifact. Students could also collaborate on projects in order to produce group presentations or oral histories. In addition, VoiceThreads could be used for digital storytelling and for communication. For teachers, this tool seems ideal for starting discussions. For example, a teacher could post an image or video and then ask the class to comment on the respective media.

Are there any disadvantages to VoiceThread?

VoiceThread might pose an accessibility problem for those students with low bandwidth. In addition, viewing the application on a mobile phone can be quirky because it employs Flash to deliver content. Finally, teachers will have to take a creative approach to assessment because this is a nontraditional tool.

Future trends

In essence, VoiceThread makes sharing visual media easy and accessible, much like tools such as SlideShare. Because VoiceThreads are so easy to make and post comments, users might embrace this technology more quickly than complex technologies. VoiceThread comes across as professional. The ease of use and high quality of VoiceThread makes it an ideal tool for collaboration and interactive presentations. Perhaps the greatest potential of VoiceThread is that it allows users to convey their own thoughts through media and contribute to other VoiceThreads.

You can view a recent VoiceThread that I made by clicking the image below. It is a presentation on “The Value of a Network” from the perspective of constructivism. Feel free to leave a comment!

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File sharing is a powerful trend in Web 2.0 that facilitates collaboration. Drop.io is one of the most popular file-sharing tools despite only being a few years old (founded in 2007), and this free online service is designed for real-time collaboration and private file sharing. In 2008, Drop.io formed a partnership with Scribd, a social publishing site. In this partnership, Drop.io adopted Scribd’s iPaper viewer that allows streamlined document viewing

Attributes of a Drop

Users can create a “drop” by uploading an image, audio, video, document or other digital content. Drop.io does not require an account, email or registration to create a drop. Each drop is given a unique URL so that users have a location to access the drop. In addition, each drop also has a unique voicemail phone number for messages, a unique conference phone number for collaboration and a unique email address.

Sharing a Drop

Once a drop is created, Drop.io makes sharing the content easy with many options. The various options are presented below in the illustration. For each sharing option, Drop.io automatically sends the content via the chosen medium. For example, if email is chosen, then users only need to type the email address of recipients and do not have to access their personal email account. The SMS option allows users to send the Drop.io link as a text message. Each Drop.io site can also be shared through social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Users can capture all of the content and voicemails from the drop site with the “Zip File” option.

Creating a Drop

In this assignment, students were asked to create a Drop.io site and invite others to collaborate on the drop. In order to get started, users should first access the Drop.io website. Creating a drop requires three easy steps and is exemplified in the following illustration.

  1. “Select Files” from your local computer and upload them.
  2. If you would like to personalize the drop URL, then you can click in the specified area and type an extension after “http://drop.io/….” Otherwise, the URL is automatically assigned for the drop.
  3. Click on “Create a Drop”

The next page that appears is the drop itself. The system automatically asks for an email so that a receipt can be sent of the drop’s creation. Providing this email will also allow users to edit the layout, design and parameters of the drop site. However, it is important to note that this confirmation is not required. Users can also join Drop.io, which grants them the ability to customize the drop site.

Collaborating Within a Drop

An important feature of each drop is the unique contact information that is automatically created. Each site is issued a unique voicemail so that others can leave a message on the drop site. If a user leaves a message, then it appears as an mp3 file that can be played by visitors. A unique conference phone number is also issued for each drop upon request, and this facilitates collaboration because everyone knows the point of contact. Finally, a unique email address is issued for each drop site.

Drop Potential

Drop.io is an excellent tool for peer-to-peer collaboration. The possibilities of this technology are far reaching. Students could use Drop.io to better collaborate on group projects. Faculty members and college committees could collaborate on pertinent information using this site. Businesses and industries could also use Drop.io for sharing information.

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One of the great aspirations of many researchers and academics is to be published, but sometimes this goal can seem elusive. However, document sharing in Web 2.0 is making this elusive desire much more obtainable and changing the rules of publishing. Scribd (ˈskrɪbd) is a Web 2.0 application and represents the biggest social publishing site in existence, even though it is was created in 2007.

Scribd allows users to share and find written documents on the Internet or mobile devices. Users can upload a variety of formats such as Word, PowerPoint or PDF. Scribd then turns each document into a web document, which is posted on iPaper. This final web document can be shared in a variety of ways: Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, email, URL or embed code. The embed code allows users to place the Scribd document in a blog or on a Website. Scribd documents can also be found through search engines (e.g., Google). In addition, users can subscribe to other Scribd accounts as an RSS feed, which automatically sends updates any time a new file is added. The vast and powerful sharing capabilities of Scribd make this tool very valuable for individuals wanting to disseminate knowledge and share research. The video below is a brief description of Scribd:

Scribd is easy to set up, free and user friendly. Signing up for Scribd is quick and painless. As mentioned before, Scribd easily connects with other Web 2.0 tools. For example, those users that have a Facebook account can actually join Scribd through their Facebook account. Users that do not have a Facebook account can also join. In either case, an activation email is sent to the user.

After joining Scribd, uploading a document is easy. Clicking on the “upload” button and selecting a document to upload accomplish this process. Users can also jot down a comment to upload, and all submissions can instantly be sent to Twitter, as illustrated by the “Readcast” option:

As soon as the document completes the upload process, Scribd asks for some basic information. A title for each upload should be given accompanied by a brief description. Each document should be classified under a specific category to aid those searching for documents. Once again, documents can be sent directly to Twitter by clicking the “Share” option, which is demonstrated in the illustration below:

The possibilities of Scribd go well beyond the classroom as evidenced by many professional companies’ use of the application. Users have the ability to view and comment on the documents hosted in Scribd. Social publishing sites are facilitating change in the publishing arena. Not only does Scribd produce and host a quality product, but they also connect users with millions of other subscribers. There have been very few changes in the way documents are published over history. Gutenberg’s printing press was one such event, and the advent of the Internet seems to be ushering in monumental changes in a similar fashion, though the Internet is still in its infancy.

I wanted to have first hand knowledge of this application, so I uploaded several documents to my Scribd account. I tried a PowerPoint file, Word document and PDF file. All three files uploaded quickly and accurately. The PowerPoint file is embedded below:

Scribd is a powerful and exciting Web 2.0 technology. The potential to share presentations and papers is enormous. In addition, Scribd can help store important documents. I will definitely continue to use Scribd in a variety of ways. For example, I am conducting a presentation in Second Life in coming days. I am going to link a couple of the files from Scribd into the Second Life presentation.

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