Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media: An Opinionated Digest by George Siemens - Dec.16 07
Google Knol, Wikipedia, Third Places, Yale Online, Google, Rogers Wireless and the relevance of online information presentation design are all under the "making sense" radar of George Siemens weekly digest.
Photo credit: Dmitriy Shironosov
If you need not to miss media and technology announcements that may have a direct impact on your future, George Siemens short but insightful coverage provides a valuable learning pill that is easy on the taste and always offering further learning opportunities.
Sense-Making of Technology and Media: a George Siemens Weekly Digest
George Siemens - Connectivism - Photo credit: Cogdogblog
by George Siemens
Google Responding to Wikipedia?
A few days ago, I posted on how up to 30% of Google and Yahoo search results link to an article in Wikipedia. Google started its life by being a pointer - pointing to and filtering an overwhelming information base. The "pointing to" was valuable for searchers because it helped to eliminate much of the junk.
But, with the rise of Wikipedia, Google serves little value to its users by simply linking to the site (though as one reader commented, it's not only the first link, but the many different search results that are of value).
Why not just go directly to Wikipedia and skip Google? Well, it appears Google realizes its vulnerability. It has launched a new project called knol: "Earlier this week, we started inviting a selected group of people to try a new, free tool that we are calling "knol", which stands for a unit of knowledge. Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it."
"Google is moving away from simply indexing the worlds content to being a content provider itself...Knol on the other hand brings the power of Google into a marketplace that is already rich with competition, and a marketplace where Google can use its might to crush that competition by favoring pages from Knol over others, on what is the worlds most popular search engine."
Keynote Presentation: Ohio State Extension
I've posted my keynote presentation for Ohio State Extension Conference: Pressures of Change: A response. Basic message: the confluence of change factors places strong change need for education institutions. In two words: transformation and transformation. Transformation and innovation need to occur at all levels: course design, delivery, policies, funding, and the organization of the institution itself. We can only tweak at a course level for so long before we have to conceptualize an entirely new system.
The concept of third places - "social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace" - is gaining a fair bit of attention. Teemu Arina assigns space-based attributes to serendipity in his "Serendipity 2.0: The missing third places of learning" presentation. I indirectly addressed this in my University of Manitoba blog on coffee houses as "penny universities". Richard Florida suggests that "hotels and some airline lounges provide a possible glimpse into the future of third places".
New Media Consortium states in their whitepaper Social Networking, The "Third Place", and the Evolution of Communication (.pdf) that the internet is the new space "where people connect with friends, watch television,listen to music, build a sense of togetherness with people across the world, and provide expressions of ourselves which are themselves forms of communication".
Constance Steinkuehler views online games as third spaces (.doc). Third places have been with us since recorded history. New technologies and media, however, are providing a new shape and new ease of access to these spaces. The question comes down to: how can we as educators make use of these spaces as informal learning tools.
Wikipedia, Google, and Rogers
Two points - which don't really belong together, except for the common presence of Google:
1. I've noticed the prominence of Wikipedia results in Google searches. But I didn't anticipate the significant rise over the last few years: In 2005, for all 10 first page results, "2% of the links proposed by Google and 4% of those proposed by Yahoo came from Wikipedia. On the first link alone, Google offered no Wikipedia results (at least not in our sample) and Yahoo offered 7%.
The strategies have changed completely. Today 27% of Google's results on the first link alone come from Wikipedia, as do 31 % of Yahoo's. "
If increases of that size persist, eventually we'll skip the search engine altogether and just use Wikipedia.
2. Rogers Wireless (the Canadian mobile phone company that overcharges me each month for mediocre service) illustrates why net neutrality is such an important discussion (the comments and links below the article offer differing views). Essentially, Rogers splits (adds content to) the Google search page in order to "communicate with its customers" (which in this case is a Rogers-Yahoo information banner).
I received an invite to attend an online presentation of Open Yale, but unfortunately missed the session as I was in transit to Ohio (I'll be delivering the keynote address on Wednesday for Ohio State University Extension conference).
The Yale initiative is interesting in that it offers course outlines, readings, transcripts, and lecture downloads.
I sampled a few of the sessions.
Great video quality and talented presenters. My only complaint - I'd like to interact with others who are viewing the resources. Yale faculty do not need to be involved, but allow those of us on the outside to react to course materials and dialogue with each other. I certainly appreciate these types of initiatives. Unfortunately, creating a one-way flow of information significantly misses the point of interacting online. However, as Hewlett Foundation President Brest states: "Truly, all the world is becoming a classroom".
I've tried Twitter on numerous occasions. I just can't make it a habit.
Yet I keep hearing about how valuable many people find it for staying in touch with friends, family, and colleagues.
Why are these micro-communication tools so popular?
Possibly because they are phatic communication tools?:
"This is communication with little hard, informational content, but lots of emotional and social content. Phatic communications doesn't get much said, but it has social effects so powerful, it gets lots done."
Robin Good and Making Ideas More Accessible
I won't surprise many readers in declaring that I'm not the most visually creative person.
A few years ago, an individual from Australia sent me an email stating that he was considering unsubscribing from my newsletter because of my apathy toward visuals. Since then, nothing much has changed.
I spend most of my time in text (though my presentations include greater visuals than even a year ago).
Robin Good, perhaps out of sympathy, requested to take my newsletter and spruce it up on his site.
The results of week one are here, including his introductory comments:
"Breaking technology news, the latest app, scores of startups launching in beta every day. The incoming wave of technology and media related news keeps increasing by the day with no signs of pause or slowdown. And while many blogs and news sites give plenty of coverage and space to the latest and most promising ventures, very few devote their time to make sense of all that is happening and connecting the dots of the ongoing revolution we are witnessing."
This prompted Mike Powers to state:
"Robin Good republishes the same material but in a much more presentable form making the very same ideas seem far more interesting.
There is a lesson here for all those bloggers who think content trumps everything else."
I respect what Mike is saying. Yet I likely won't make any huge changes in how I write my blog.
Why does Robin do it?
I imagine the motivation is partly economic (traffic or adsense), but in the process, he is adding value to the network for people, like Mike, who prefer greater effort paid to the presentation of ideas.
Making Science Accessible
Five plus years ago, as blogs and wikis were beginning their emergence from the technology field to wider use, I frequently encountered comments acknowledging their value for communication, but with a tone that questioned their practical application in classrooms.
The concern of practical use has largely been settled as learners and academics alike have adopted blogs for learning, communicating, and connecting. Sub-networks of academic, school, and corporate blogs (sometimes created intentionally with a handful of prominent bloggers posting to a site or sometimes created through interests shared by bloggers and the resulting links of information exchange) are a viable means of staying informed of trends and interacting with colleagues from around the world.
Youtube is crossing a similar chasm of uncertain application to education. While some videos are of useful (like the Stanford Prison experiment), most are of limited value.
Originally written by George Siemens and published as weekly email digest on eLearning Resources and News. First published on December 15th 2007.
To learn more about George Siemens and to access extensive information and resources on elearning check out www.elearnspace.org. Explore also George Siemens connectivism site for resources on the changing nature of learning and check out his new book "Knowing Knowledge" .Goerge Siemens -
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