Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What does Amazon want you to have?

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Microphone, ME-15 by Olympus
SanDisk 2 GB SD Memory Card by SanDisk
A Guide to Composition Pedagogies by Gary Tate

Sharon Needs a New Word

I'm just rolling in from two back-to-back conferences, TYCA-SE and CFTTC. Someone please remind me next proposal season that sometimes everything does get accepted, and life just isn't long enough to do everything. But what the heck. Both conferences were wonderful, and I'd fired up and ready to take on the world even if I am too tired to lift a finger.

Something kept nagging at me, though, as I listened to the fervor over podcasting in both places. Inevitably, once anyone started talking about podcasting everyone in the room wanted to know everything they could about it. It seems lots of college presidents have issued the mandate to "Go forth and podcast." People everywhere are anxious to learn. Some are anxious to share what they know. Yet somehow we've also made a kind of cool club out of the word podcasting in which the term itself is used in a spirit that shuts people out.

Over an over I heard people say, "Oh, no. If you only post audio online, that's not really podcasting. That's just making audio files."


I'm well aware that technopurism defines podcasting as both episodic and available by subscription, but there are a lot of other great possibilities for digital audio in education. Many we haven't even discovered yet.

There's nothing wrong per se with limiting the term podcasting to mean only one kind of delivery for digital audio. The problem is that podcasting is the cool word, and we don't have one that sounds as savvy and impressive to bandy about for all of the other things we might do. Hence, we have people saying things like "That's not really podcasting. That's just making audio files." As if anything else is less cool and less important.

I don't mind a little technolitism here and there, but this particular variety of it was a constant at two very different conferences. I found it terribly counter-productive.

I think we can safely assume that most people who go to conferences to talk about technology genuinely want to share their knowledge in a way that is helpful to others. Saying things like "that's not really podcasting," however informative it might be, is not exactly helpful. It shuts people out. It makes people feel like the learning curve is insurmountable. It discourages them from experimenting with one little step at a time on the path to technotopia.

Therefore, Sharon needs a new word. Help me out, world. What can we call non-subscription based digital audio that will sound just as cool as podcasting?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Everyone is Talking About MySpace

First we banned MySpace on campus. Then we unbanned it due to large numbers of student complaints. Then we rebanned it only during the morning hours when computer lab traffic is heaviest. After 2:00 each day the block is lifted.

The controversy might be the most excitement we've had in years. Add to this that the MySpace ban also affected our campus connection to, and things have been downright chaotic. My students now joke that anything that goes wrong is a result of the MySpace ban.

It might take a little while, but sooner or later whatever is troubling the rest of world makes its way to Mississippi.

There are good arguments for the ban, though I don't agree with the sheer nervousness over what the students might be up to on there. My only real concession to the ban is that our campus isn't prepared to have massive numbers of students building social lives around our school computers. They were overwhelming our labs. Immediately before the ban, I walked into one of the student labs and saw nothing but MySpace. It was something to behold--a whole sea of social networking probably among people who could have gotten up and walked across the room to speak to each other.

Still, there's a lot to be said for students feeling like they do have a social network at school. In the old days, three or four years ago, we were often told that students who got involved socially on campus were much more likely to stay in school. To our way of thinking way back then this meant clubs and organizations. Maybe it means something else today. Maybe it is time for the campus to reorganize to meet the needs of the students rather than the other way around. Maybe.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Blogger Updates

I converted my own Blogger account to New Blogger, and in doing so inadvertently dumped all of my blog partners on various blogs. Evidently an Old Blogger cannot blog on a New Blogger blog. Sorry about that. Since I'm the only person who ever posted to this particular blog, and even I've been very infrequent about it lately, I'm not so worried. However, if you were once a member of this blog and would like to be again, please contact me: sharon dot gerald at gmail dot com.

New Blogger is cool. It has drag and drop template editing and other nice additions. It is also associated with Google Accounts, so presumably I could type my stuff in Google Docs and post it directly from there to my blog. I haven't tried that yet, but it's still cool to know I could.

I've also gotten my students on board with the New Blogger. This is a real work in progress, but it's been a fun, productive class, and we all feel like we've accomplished something just by getting everyone signed on to Gmail and Blogger.

So how's it going, blogosphere? I'd say I was sorry for not being more faithful to the blog lately, but I'll just wait to see if I get any better before I bother. Busy, busy days. More later...