Saturday, May 14, 2005

PBS | I, Cringely . May 12, 2005 - Inflection Point

PBS | I, Cringely . May 12, 2005 - Inflection Point

Cringely has his finger in the wind again. And it looks like a free-for-all cage match MSSS/Google/Yahoo/Apple.

Neural Jungle--New learning metaphor?

Lookie here now, boys and girls. Notice where the learner is-- the linking node in a swarm of tools. Borg? Hive mind? New soviet man? For the life of me it looks like a brain with neurons and glial cells and ever rippling complexity. Are we creating an artificial Gaia?

We, the WKU Summer Online Gradu-wits

I met some very fine folks at our weeklong summer camp here at Western Kentucky University. We were all introduced to WKU's lms--Blackboard. I was amazed by the intelligence and true "geek spirit" at work among us all. Thanks to Sally, Allan, Sean, Julie, Beth, and all for making it useful and memorable. I have only been at WKU for a year, but it feels a lot longer--and I mean that in the best possible way.

Harold gets a flash "tapping" in from the Grand Poobah of Datum, Allan Heaps, as another class graduates from Western Kentucky University Summer Camp. More pix are available here at my flickr photostream.



I could see this as a fun way to do blog PD for teachers.  At least it is accessible.  Note that Yahoo and Google are Park Place and Boardwalk respectively and that the IM is now classified as the “utilities” of the old game.  Nice argumentative piece in the form of a graphic. 

rider.jpg (JPEG Image, 480x713 pixels)

rider.jpg (JPEG Image, 480x713 pixels)


Blogosphere got you down?  Pep up with a little bit of fun from Mojo Nixon, especially these live cuts (definitely not safe for work).  Check out the jpeg above-it’s his “rider” to every live concert gig he does.  No, really.  It’s not just a joke.  Mojo insists on Lights ON! at his concerts and no flute players for opening acts exceptin’ the mighty master of the pan flute, the late Country Dick Montana.

The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design

Daniel Saffer has written a fine, useful, and readable essay on metaphor and its applications. This is great place to start if you are rethinking your teaching in light of the web. Below is a shortened set of his guidelines for using metaphors. Read the article to "fatten" the skeleton below. (You see? Metaphor is ubiquitous.)

Guidelines for Metaphor Usage

As we’ve seen, metaphor is a powerful but potentially dangerous tool for
designers. So how can designers use it appropriately? Some guidelines are

• Metaphors are cultural.
• Metaphors are contextual.
• Fit the metaphor to the functionality, not the other way around.
• Use metaphor to uncover otherwise hidden aspects of the material.
• Discard process metaphors when necessary.
• Don’t let your metaphor ruin key features.
• Choose metaphors that are appropriately scalable.
• Let your metaphors degrade and die.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom : Horizontal Classrooms

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom : Horizontal Classrooms

Command and control is "dead man walking." It will not survive in a world that is no longer built on command and control relationships. And our students will not be prepared for their futures if we continue to hold on to it.

Will Richardson


Will has really helped me clarify in my onw mind at least what might seem an esoteric bit of theoretical fluff,  but I believe that theory is the source of practice. Thanks, Will.

 I am reminded more and more of Edwin Abbott's math fantasy/satire Flatland. Weblogs and folksonomic technologies are the incomprehensible world of 3-D while hierarchical, taxonomic technologies (learning management systems like Blackboard and WebCT spring to mind)are the 2-D flatlanders. I would turn Friedman's tepid metaphor of flattening on its head and demand that we view the world as becoming more multidimensional all the time. We are moving toward a metaphor we don't understand, not toward one that we do. That's the bite of it. Moses couldn't delineate the promised land, but he sensed it. As Abbott said in his seminal book, "Flatlanders tell the truth about flatland." In the parlance of his book, we (you, me, and tech attuned) are squares who have been touched by a sphere.

We live in a world we know ain't "right", but knowing that doesn't mean we know what is true. It is the mystery Faulkner spoke of when he said we should never mistake the facts for the truth.

U of M Digital Media Center: Home Page.

One of my colleagues,  (they all know I blog) sent me this link from the U of Minnesota’s Digital Media Center.  It’s a blog rubric.  Is this proof edublogging has gone mainstream?  I think yes, but if that’s not enough proof for you,  the Daily Show’s had it’s take on the blogosphere this week. 

Can’t find the link for that, but I reaaaaallllly hate the expression blogosphere.  My son thinks my whole blogging enterprise is damned lame.  He will walk by me and in complete deadpan say, “Shouldn’t you be in (pause, then holds out both arms like the old Superman series) the blogosphere?” 









U of M Digital Media Center: Home Page.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Three Amigos

Check it out. Flickr is a very cool photo site with the ability to annotate pictures.
Here is a photo of our peerless tech leaders

New evangelism: mini loans |

New evangelism: mini loans |

These days, Christian and other religious organizations, both here and around the world, are lending more than just a hand. Microloans - of as little as $100 - have become as much a part of their ministries as preaching the gospel.


Two items sparked by this article:

Why can’t more relief  secular, religious, and governmental be in this form?

What can I do in the classroom with my skills and talents that even remotely approaches this level of effectiveness?  I honestly don’t believe that my implicit comparison of third world relief and college teaching is apples and oranges.  How do you leverage this kind of effectiveness?  Could it be as simple as finding out what people need and helping them get it?  Leverage like this and I begin to belive along with Archimedes that we can change the world.



Yahoo! Groups : minciu_sodas_en Messages : Message 5297 of 5299

Yahoo! Groups : minciu_sodas_en Messages : Message 5297 of 5299

The question here is "How do we
change?", and that's a matter of action

Does a phrase, seemingly unrelated and unconnected, ever spark off the page at you and you pull back both awestruck and aghast wondering, “How do I deal with this?”  It  breaks off a piece of an arctic shelf inside yourself—- but with you on it.  Adrift you are and heading toward warmer climes?  Or maybe the waterfall a la Perils of Pauline.  Still you wonder, WTF. 

That’s what this question does to me.  Maybe you are this way, too.   Poems come to me this way.  Dilemmas come to me this way.  They are harbingers of change.    Only begs the question.  When will the full retinue be here?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom :

And I know not every student was born to be a blogger. But, I would argue that every student, every person was born to be a contributor, whether that's via blog or wiki or podcast or whatever. We need to create a culture of contribution in our schools where our students' work is non only celebrated but put to use in meaningful ways. Don't just e-value-ate what they do but provide ways for what they do to have long lasting value.

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom :

The usual thought-provoking riffs coming from Will Richardson.  This inspired me to respond in a comment to him:

  If there is one insight to come out of cognitive linguistics over the past twenty-five years, it is Lakoff and Johnson's theory that the core of thought is metaphoric. We don't just use metaphor as a critical and analytic term and tool. We are metaphoric in our brains. "Classroom" implies an enclosure, a bottle of sorts, a boundary that encloses. What happens when technology breaks the bottle? You have a blogwikiflickrfurlicious open space full of connections. Edblogging 3.0 is the birth of new metaphors for new experience. I oversimplify, but I think we edbloggers hold both metaphors (classroom and connected-open space) in our hearts simultaneously. We live in both worlds, yet we know one of them is a dead man walking. 

I think that what we are seeing is a folksonomic revolution.  Maybe I mistake a small tide for a larger one, but when you begin to feel like a bobber in a spring rise on a mighty river, perhaps a tippin point is at hand.  This bobber-eyed view of the “catastrophe” seems so small;  I dream of  kites to lift me up to see.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Trojanmice Complexity Club - Newsletter No.15


An example of folksonomic behavior:

I came across a fascinating example of self organizing in the Plexus Newsletter – it’s called “slugging”.

“It is a form of commuting — solo drivers picking up strangers so they can all cruise to work legally in high-occupancy-vehicle lanes — is called "slugging." Passengers are "slugs," a label alluding not to their energy or wit but to counterfeit tokens and coins. A ride, too, is a slug. Drivers are drivers, or less commonly, "body snatchers," "scrapers" and "land sharks." With little notice outside Washington, these Northern Virginia commuters to the nation's capital and big office sites of nearby Arlington, Rosslyn and Crystal City have blended hitchhiking and carpooling into a quick, efficient way to outmanoeuvre a traffic-choked freeway.
Slugging started by spontaneous eruption and runs by perpetual motion. When the area's three-person, high-occupancy vehicle lanes opened 30 years ago, some guy and then another and another picked up commuters at bus stops to get the passengers needed to use the lanes. No government agency sanctions slugging, runs it, regulates it, promotes it or thought it up. The Census Bureau, which tracks most forms of commuting, knows nothing about slugging.
In slugging, there is no supervisor, dispatcher or schedule, no ticket or fare.”

Trojanmice Complexity Club - Newsletter No.15

Trojanmice Complexity Club - Newsletter No.15

Trojanmice Complexity Club - Newsletter No.15

"The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would
like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do."

*** Robert M. Pirsig (b. 1928) Author ***

Touchstone Tools and Resources: Part One

Touchstone Tools and Resources

This is a magnificent article, full of sound and fury, signifying a helluva lot. The problem is posed:

There is a subtle but pervasive pain in organizations. You can recognize it in such complaints as "How am I supposed to get my work done with all these meetings?" and "We always have time to do things over again, but never time to do them right." It is the pain of expecting things to be one way and repeatedly banging into a different reality. It is the pain of trying to do good work in an environment full of motion and effort but few results.

Ah, the voice of experience with a firm grasp on reality. I have felt the same way in both high school and college teaching. Tell us more gentlemen.

We are having to solve a new class of problems-wicked problems-using thinking, tools, and methods that are useful only for simpler problems. That is like trying to use woodworking tools to fix your car. The pain is exacerbated by the fact that people have not distinguished this new problem variety. It is as though we believe the best tool for a tune-up really is a hammer. The pain and frustration are so pervasive they seem inevitable.

Yes, to the surgeon all problems can and must be fixed with a scalpel. I love this expression—wicked problems—they do seem to be intractibly bad. So what metaphor would you use to describe the conventional wisdom on problem solving

Traditional thinking, cognitive studies, and existing design methods all predicted that the best way to work on a problem like this was to follow an orderly and linear process, working from the problem to the solution. Everybody knows that. You begin by understanding the problem, which can include gathering and analyzing data. Once you have specified the problem and analyzed the data, you are ready to formulate-and then implement-a solution…. In the software industry, this is known as the waterfall model because it suggests a waterfall as the design flows down the steps.

Duhs-ville, man. I don’t work that way so tell me how we really solve problems.

In the MCC study, however, the designers did not follow the waterfall model. They would start by trying to understand the problem, but would immediately jump to formulating potential solutions. Then they would go back to refining their understanding of the problem. Rather than being orderly and linear, the line plotting the course of their thinking looked more like a seismograph for a major earthquake….We call this pattern both chaotic…and opportunity-driven, because in each moment the designers are seeking the best opportunity to progress toward a solution.

So why call them wicked?

Of course, linear processes are quite appropriate for solving many problems, such as computing the square root of 1239 or choosing the shortest route to the new mall. But within organizations-such as corporations, institutions, and government-where lots of people work on complex issues, people are encountering a new class of much more difficult problems. We call these wicked problems because of the dynamic and evolving nature of the problem and the solution during the problem-solving process.

What does this mean for me and the online learning business? When we consider what it is we want our students to know and do at the end of our tenure together, aren’t we posing a seismically wicked problem? And if this study is true then we need an equally wicked folksonomic solution. Could this be as simple as saying let’s leave the lower level taxonomies for the web and save the higher stuff for class? I don’t think it works that simply. Let’s look at the elements of a wicked problem as they see it.

First, “the problem is an evolving set of interlocking issues and constraints. Indeed, there is no definitive statement of the problem. You don't understand the problem until you have developed a solution.” Christ, is that ever assbackwards, but as Richard Saul Wurman so pithily put it, “Ready, fire, aim instead of ready, aim, fire.” One must, therefore, be satisfied with ever-tightening approximations toward a ‘bullseye’ that grows smaller all the while. This runs counter to any institutional wisdom I have ever heard, especially within schools. In fact, the further up the educational foodchain, the more hidebound and inflexible the system becomes. This non-linear solution set puts you very counter to conventional wisdom.

Second, since there are many folks with a stake in a wicked problem it is important that those folks have a say in the answer, even if it is the wrong one. Wicked problems are social first, logical second. We realize this instinctively when we talk about how we have to “buy into” the solution, but that has usually had the equivocal baggage of the sales metaphor chucked in with it. And most people don’t buy it. And we end up with half an answer most of the time.

Third, constraints change all the time. Legislatures go broke, university presidents who spearhead initiatives move on which is simply to say that wicked problems are slippery. We shouldn’t be terribly surprised when we get grease all over ourselves handling these “little pigs.”

Fourth, final solutions do not exist.

Where does this definition leave us?

A wicked problem is an evolving set of interlocking issues and constraints. A linear approach to solving a wicked problem simply will not work.”

Now that presents a seriously wicked problem for all of us, even if we give it only a passing glance. I plan on responding further to this because it corresponds so closely to the wicked problem I will be facing all week--what do I want my students to be able to do after they have finished my online literature class?

Many thanks to Chris Corrigan who pointed this out via his weblog, Parking Lot. This is for me a groundbreaking analysis on the nature of problems and problemsolving. Thanks to E. Jeffrey Conklin and William Weil for finally bringing all this to the surface for me. The binary of taxonomy and folksonomy has finally fallen into place with a satisfying click of recognition. Part 2 tomorrow.

A Literary Evening with John Prine and Ted Kooser (Library of Congress)

I love this conflux:  Prine/Ted Kooser/Library of Congress.  It has never been easier to love language and literature and music and culture. 


A Literary Evening with John Prine and Ted Kooser (Library of Congress)

Poet Laureate Ted Kooser said, "I've been following John Prine's music since his first album came out and have always been struck by his marvelous writing: its originality, its playful inventiveness, its poignancy, its ability to capture our times. For example, he did a better job of holding up the mirror of art to the '60s and '70s than any of our official literary poets. And none of our poets wrote anything better about Viet Nam than Prine's 'Sam Stone.'


The Most Useful Web Sites for Reporters

The Most Useful Web Sites for Reporters

The most useful Web sites for reporters, yes, that about says it all.  Now,  where are the reporters.  They seem to have deserted us.  Check out Frank Rich’s Sunday column.  

Tiny Mix Tapes

What a cool site!  Now I have some focus for my many p2p searches.

Tiny Mix Tapes

Sacrilege! (Songs with sacriligious, though not necessarily profane, song titles or lyrics)

01. The The - "Armageddon Days (Are Here Again)" (Mind Bomb)
02. Richard Thompson - "Outside of the Inside" (Old Kit Bag)
03. Sting - "Saint Augustine in Hell" (Ten Summoner's Tales)
04. XTC - "Dear God" (Skylarking)
05. The Eels - "God's Silence" (Blinking Lights and Other Revelations disc 2)
05. R.E.M - "Losing My Religion" (Out of Time)
06. Johnny Cash - "Personal Jesus" (American IV: The Man Comes Around)
07. Simon and Garfunkel - "A Church is Burning" (Live from New York City, 1967)
08. Rufus Wainwright - "Gay Messiah" (Want Two)
09. Iron & Wine - "Evening on the Ground (Lilith's Song)" (Woman King)

bonus track for those of you who find this list too sane
10. Cake - "Satan is my Motor" (Prolonging the Magic)

compiled by: Be A Debaser

01. Tom Waits - "Chocolate Jesus" (Mule Variations)
02. Modest Mouse - "Jesus Christ Was an Only Child" (Lonesome Crowded West)
03. Beck - "Satan Gave Me a Taco" (Stereopathetic Soul Manure)
04. Grand Buffet - "Nake Kukla's History of Lemonade" (Cigarette Beach)
05. Grand Buffet - "Cool as Hell" (Pittsburgh Hearts)
06. Depeche Mode - "Personal Jesus" (Violator)
07. Lagwagon - "Kids Don't Like to Share" (Hoss)
08. Nine Inch Nails - "Heresy" (The Downward Spiral)
09. The Breeders - "Hellbound" (Pod)
10. The Misfits - "Speak of the Devil" (American Psycho)

Compiled by: peter gibbons

1. XTC - "Dear God" (Skylarking)
2. David Byrne - "Something Ain't Right" (Uh-Oh)
3. Patti Smith - "Gloria" (Horses)
4. Nirvana - "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam" (MTV Unplugged)
5. Steely Dan - "Godwhacker" (Everything Must Go)
6. Elvis Costello - "God's Comic" (Spike)
7. John Lennon - "God" (Plastic Ono Band)
8. Randy Newman - "God's Song" (Sail Away)
9. Madonna - "Act of Contrition" (Like a Prayer)
10. Jello Biafra & Mojo Nixon - "Plastic Jesus" (Prairie Home Invasion)
11. Austin Lounge Lizards - "Jesus Loves Me, But He Can't Stand You" (Lizard Vision