They say a picture is worth a thousand words

How many words is a good infographic worth?

This is a guest post by Sneh Roy, a graphic/web designer from Australia, who’s  personal design blog Little Box of Ideas is also well worth a look.

The Anatomy Of An Infographic: 5 Steps To Create A Powerful Visual

If you have something that could be a job aid, I’d challenge you to try Sneh’s 5 steps and make an infographic with a very small amount (if any) of related text. Try it with something that is a continual, repeating issue and see if you don’t get more “ah ha!” moments than you do with a page of text.

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This is not one of those posts

This is not one of those posts where I apologize for not posting for months and months.

This is also not one of those posts where I explain all the boring reasons why I haven’t posted for months and months.

This is not even one of those posts where I promise I’ll post weekly, if not daily, from now on.

This is the post where I say, no, I haven’t abandoned this space completely.  More things will appear here eventually.  Eventually may mean next month or it may mean this summer or it may mean who-knows-when.

I’m currently teaching 3 classes, overseeing one other one, project managing a project in the beta testing phase and recording almost all the audio for said project.  The dissertation is at a total standstill and I’m toying with the idea of completely revamping my reference database as my Zotero files have somehow gotten corrupted.  I’m not sure how much content any of that will generate here but at least there are things going on to write about should I have the time and the inclination.

TTFN and have a great spring semester

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It’s about the utility

How’s your Google-fu these days? If you have a question, how do you find an answer?

Better yet, how do you find an answer that you trust?

Social media is an ever-growing set of tools that allow you to build relationships with peers and with people that you may be too in awe of to ever approach in real life. That network of relationships provides insight and opportunities that you may never have known existed otherwise. It also allows you to share what you are doing to a wider audience who may be interested in collaborating, supporting, or just cheering you on.

At The Learning Generalist, Sumeet Moghe shares his thoughts on Mark Oehlert’s workshop on tools for the Social Learning Landscape. The tricky part is embedded in his suggestion that “you need to find the reasons why people will want to engage and will be interested.” Mark also mentions that it’s not information overload, it’s filter failure. Social media needs to integrate into work and build context around people’s work so it doesn’t become one more extra thing to do.

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Deliberate design, andragogy, and social media applications

Both Tony Bates and Janet Clarey are thinking here about elearning but the discussion is applicable to blended learning and f2f learning as well.

When you begin to think about providing a structured opportunity for learning is it all about delivery? How am I going to present content? Or is it about interaction and collaboration? How are the participants going to work with this content and each other to learn to apply it?

To start, you may want to unpack “learner-centered social constructivist approach” a bit. (You’ll also see social constructivist referred to as sociocultural though there’s a bit of a difference I don’t nit-pick at this level.) To do this, I’d recommend reading what IMHO is a classic overview of the topic: Searching for Learner-Centered,Constructivist, and Sociocultural Components of Collaborative Educational Learning Tools (and not just because it’s by two people I know and have worked with).

Curt and Don note that “Theory certainly cannot operate within a vacuum. Views on questions such as the nature of mind are developed by considering not only philosophical questions like the form of underlying mental representation, but also the world within which learners function. . . . If learning is predominantly a sociocultural dialogue, then instruction should provide opportunities for embedding learning in authentic tasks leading to participation in a community of practice. . . . But [this] presumes the availability, in the world of experience, of tools and structures to support them.” (p. 26).

As an adult educator you’ll notice that a lot of this learner-centered social constructivist approach sounds like andragogy. While some of it is dated please read through to the second half for their take on theory, principles, and collaborative learning tools. Given the advances in technology since 1998, there are many more collaborative tools available for use in any mode of learning (f2f, distance, or blended). How can you design deliberately to support adults and how can you leverage social media and applications to connect them to a larger community of practice?

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we’ll talk of ships and sealing wax

 I’ve spent a good chunk of the weekend transcribing interviews.  I had one done previously and I now have two more complete. As I was starting a third I thought to organize my audio files and see how many I actually had to do. It turns out I only have seven usable files.


I’ve done 11 interviews.

So what happens to the other four? One early on was unusable because the person was also the chair of the department.  Due to her administrative responsibilities she simply wasn’t teaching enough too meet my criteria.

Then I had a lovely interview with a very lovely woman who turned out to be an adjunct. And that was my own fault. I didn’t check.  Looking back, I don’t think she got my standard recruitment e-mail, which would’ve screened for that. I’m actually hoping to be able to use her interview in a different project at some point after I finish my dissertation because she had some wonderful insights on related topics.

I had the interview that was eaten by Skype and that one really irks me. I haven’t had the nerve to go back to her and ask if we can re-create any of it but I will later this week.

Then I had a lovely discussion with a very enthusiastic faculty member who I can’t include because she’d been teaching blended classes. The class she was currently teaching the summer was her first completely online class. Again, we had a lovely interview and I hope to use her information for some future project, but she doesn’t meet my criteria for this one.

So I have seven. If I can re-create, with some help, the one that was eaten by Skype then I’ll have eight.  I have two more possibilities for interviews, which would put me up to 10, but I had really hoped to be done with the actual interviewing by now.

Though I have to say, having to do more is not necessarily a bad thing. As I’m transcribing the first interviews I did I’ve realized how far I’ve come in interviewing skill and in really focusing in on my topic area. The interview I did last week was so much better than the ones that I did in March.

I guess the bright spot in all of this is that I promised my chair I’d be half done with transcribing the next time I met with her, which is a week from Monday. I only have seven interviews, so I only have to have three and a half transcribed.  I’m almost done.


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maintaining a presence

Presence. Something to think about on many levels.

Here and now however I’m thinking about online presence.  How present am I in the online classes I teach, in the CritLit2010 course I’m participating in this summer, on this blog, on my Amplify blog, on Twitter and so on?  This is not a post about the Community of Inquiry Model – though that is certainly one way to look at presence and one I have used before.  This is more of a personal look at presence.

What do I do and what are others doing when I really *feel* present in an online environment?  What do I need to do for some critical mass of others to *feel* that I am present and an active participant in community?  Here on this blog and other blogs I have had in the past it’s mainly about me taking the time and energy to post something substantial on a regular (at least weekly) basis.  If I stray too long it’s very hard to come back round and re-engage.  (Note to self for dissertation progress as well. ) I like getting comments but I’ve never had a lot of comments on a blog and I don’t tend to comment on others’ blogs.  It’s just not a conversational place for me.

When you go to a class – either physically or in a synchronous online setting – you interact and get feedback and stimulation immediately.  There has been much written about the rapid give-and-take of synchronous meetings versus the time delay of asynchronous ones.  It’s the whole delayed gratification issue.  You send something out and by the time someone replies you may or may not have forgotten where your train of thought was going.  However, the anytime-anywhere flexibility of asynchronous is what attracts many people to online classes and communities in the first place.  And there is a line between being an active presence in a community/class and feeling tied to it 24/7.  I have spoken with faculty who are present in their online courses 7 days a week because they want to be and those who are because they feel they *have* to be and those who state up front that they will only check in the course 4 or 5 days a week and that specifically excludes weekends and holidays.

I was involved in a discussion recently about the minimum size for an online class to run and the real crux of the matter was how many people does it take to carry on a reasonably-paced conversation to maintain interest and motivation for learning?  Of course it depends entirely on how active the participants are but since there is no way of knowing that in advance you have to pick a number and live with it.  (we picked 8.) In the CritLit2010 class, there is not a lot of discussion going on in the course Moodle site but there is a lot of posting going on outside on blogs, Twitter, etc. I have blogged but haven’t participated in any discussion so I don’t really feel like I have a presence in the course yet. 

I had another dissertation interview yesterday and we talked a bit about hand grading papers versus typing in comments.  Is part of “presence” really about, as Virginia Shea would say, remembering that (normally) every user ID in an online setting is a real, live human? I hand wrote comments for one assignment this past spring, scanned them in and uploaded them to the course. It made me feel more present but does it help the students?  Most of the faculty I have interviewed record audio or video for their classes.  Some studies have found that students connected more to online classes if they could see the instructor.  In a smaller-enrollment graduate class (as opposed to a 50+ roster undergrad class) I wonder about the possibility and practicality of having students record audio or video on a regular basis?  It would certainly increase my perception of their presence but it would also increase the amount of time it would take to process their work – both for me and for the other students.  Reading is faster than listening. Are the trade-offs worth it? Is file size still an issue?

I could go off on a tangent about legitimate peripheral participation here but this is long and rambling enough so I’ll save that for another day.

If you’ve actually read through this far please leave a comment so I know someone is present 🙂

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Reading and Writing

I seem to have stopped reading.  It happened slowly.  I was interested in other things. I was too busy so the books would go back to the library only being flipped through.  If it wasn’t related to the dissertation then I shouldn’t be reading it anyway – it was a distraction.

The weeks and months stretched out and things happened in my personal life and the dissertation went on hold for a bit.  As I picked it back up, even reading for the dissertation was difficult.  There was always something else to do.

Busy work.

Make work.

I especially couldn’t bring myself to read what I had written.

I’m wrapping up my dissertation interviews in the next couple of weeks.  Yes, the transcription will take for. ev. er.  after that but hopefully I can start writing things later this summer.

In order to write I need to read.  To re-read.  To face what I wrote in my proposal and honestly assess what is still usable and what is not.

To ease back into that mode I need to read things that are not work-related or geared toward the 6 to 7 year old set.  I need to read things that are related to the dissertation and start writing about them.    This is where it loops back in to public writing and accountability.

I would like to be able to post a couple of times a week some commentary on dissertation-related writing.

I would like to set some time aside each week to that reading and writing and actually follow through.

I’ll admit I have a bad track record for saying I’ll post and then disappearing for weeks on end but my real name is on this blog so we’ll see if that makes a difference.  I’m going to clean out the home office this weekend and organize my references so I can at least find things to read and I will report out on the flip side.

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about resources

I’ve been trying to find a way to incorporate the random things I find through my feed reader and other sources – preferably with the ability for me to add notes to them – into my online classes.  Yes, I could just post an announcement or send an email every time I found something interesting and applicable, but there’s no way to easily find something at a later point that way. 

In addition, this post by Harold Jarche on personal knowledge management has been nudging at me for two and a half years now.  He has a system that allows him to mine these sorts of things along with his thoughts and connections.  The problem has been that my aggregation tool (delicious) got over-run very easily with this and that and something else and I rarely took the time to go back and annotate a resource. 

It came to a head a couple of weeks ago after spring semester ended.  I realized that I had a delicious account with around 300 links in it.  And an older delicious account with around 400 different links in it left over from the point a year and a half ago when I declared “bookmark bankruptcy” and just started over fresh.  There were also over 200 starred items in my Google Reader account to deal with.  

That’s almost one. thousand. things.

** head <-> desk **

So I spent two. solid. days. doing nothing but sorting and deleting.  Then I made another new delicious account and this blog.

Today I happened to stumble on a tool called Amplify through a Twitter link and spent a bit of time playing with it.  It has a built-in ad-free widget generator that works in my course management system (though not here) and generates a feed that doesn’t look too bad.

The problem this solves for me is one of accountability.  I was throwing bookmarks willy-nilly into delicious with the intent of “doing something with them someday.”  With Amplify, I can’t post anything unless I have something to say about it that is worth asking a group of people to take the time to read.  It goes back to public writing.  How I keep from starting another pile of things-to-post-in-Amplify, I don’t know other than a fierce desire to never have to sort through that many bookmarks again.

So, the upshot of all this is that I will post (probably sporadically) to my Amplify page aptly titled “Sporadic Questions” about things I’ve read or tools I’ve found that may be useful/interesting to adult educators or students of adult education.  I will post (also probably sporadically) here about the dissertation and other general items that might be of interest to a broader audience in education, elearning, faculty development, etc.

There may be a few cat pictures but I’ll try to keep them to Fridays 🙂

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snapshots from transcription

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Public Thinking


After blogging for over 5 years pseudonymously I have finally started a new blog with my name on it. My plan for this blog is twofold – to share resources and my comments on them with my classes and to hold myself accountable to regularly generate (hopefully) useful and thoughtful writing.

Plus, the folks who read my other blog about knitting and cats probably aren’t that interested in my teaching and dissertation. If anyone reading this is interested in knitting and cats please let me know 🙂

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