Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beware of technology

A summary of my final e-project

One of the groups I teach at Mision Sucre is cirumstantially composed of students of two disciplines, Law and Social Work. There are three sections of Law students and two of Social Work. I have already assessed the level of technological literacy of the group: as expected, it was very low. However, in each group there are students who are proficient enough to carry on my proposed Lancasterian experiment.
The idea is to pick up one representative student of each group with sufficient previous knowledge in order to introduce them to the techniques of blogging. I don't know yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if one or more of these students already knew about the subject (they could even teach me a few things). Afterwards, the representatives will return to the group and show them the knowledge acquired.
This is the sequence I would like to apply: first, every one of the students will make her own personal blog in Wordpress, stating their personal data, working experience, etc. They should at least add a photograph. The next step would be to build a blog in Blogger for the whole class. This will be made by the representatives and the teacher and then shown to the rest of the class. The blog should include the links to every personal student blog. As a final step, a wiki will be made, divided in five parts, one for each section, where the students will apply all they've learned so far.
A final evaluation will be made using the wiki: a reading exercise with a series of questions directed to each group, which will be later reviewed by the whole class.

Monday, December 7, 2009

About Edmodo

I visited the site the othe day, went through registration and had a look. I responded the poll saying "I don't know anything about it yet." It appears to me that it is like a teaching agenda, an aid for plannification.

Being in doubt, I searched the web. I found Edmodo described as "a twitter-like type of service" and "twitter for the classroom." I must admit I don't know anything about Twitter, other than the general commentaries and the fact that it is very popular.

I will now transcribe what appears on the note I found.

Lo primero que vamos a ver al registrarnos en el servicio es la segmentación que hay en tipos de usuarios. Puedes registrarte como profesor o como alumno. Y si llegan a conquistar el cariño de muchos profesores, vaya que habrán muchos alumnos registrados a la fuerza (siempre le vi potencial por ello a herramientas enfocadas en los profesores).

Así que me apunté como profesor y me preparé para enviar el primer mensaje (pensé en escribir tweet por alguna razón). Aquí se me cayeron las esperanzas de un servicio sencillo pues no basta con escribir unos cuantos caracteres. Enviar un mensaje requiere además que digas a quien lo mandas (a otro profesor, alumnos o un grupo de usuarios). Aproveché entonces a crear un grupo e intentarlo, aunque me dio algunos errores de que aún no tenía destinatario.

Debo decir que la característica de grupos me gusta y considero que cada día se vuelve más indispensable en cualquier servicio social. Twitter no la tiene, pero habiendo probando la característica en Pownce y ahora en la Beta de Friendfeed, vaya que es requisito indispensable si quieres seguir a mucha gente.

Para continuar con las características, adicionalmente al envío de mensajes, hay 3 opciones que te permiten asignar tareas, dejar eventos específicos (entregas, horarios de clases y actividades varias) y también alertas. Puedes también enviar archivos, detalle muy útil para compartir documentos. O si te es más fácil compartir embedidos de otros servicios, también lo puedes hacer desde el envío de links. Yo hice unas pruebas con Slideshare para incluir una presentación e incluso modificó las medidas de la presentación para que encajara perfectamente (muy buen detalle). Creo que usar esta opción junto a documentos de Scribd o incluso con vídeos puede tener muchísimo potencial.

Entre otras opciones adicionales que vas descubriendo también tienes un locker, que funciona como un repositorio de los mensajes que quieras almacenar en plan favoritos.

Como verán, hay muchas herramientas que creo que le dan en efecto la funcionalidad para las aulas de clases, aunque no creo que todo sea necesario. Bien pudieron simplificarlo un poco más. Y si pudiera pedir algo extra, diría que hará falta integración con celulares y sería también bueno que apoyaran el OpenMicroBlogging Protocol.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

eLearning and the semantic web

This is the abstract of an article entitled "eLearning based on the Semantic Web," by Ljiljana Stojanovic, Steffen Staab and Rudi Studer:

Abstract: eLearning is efficient, task relevant and just-in-time learning grown from the learning requirements of the new, dynamically changing, distributed business world. The term „Semantic Web” encompasses efforts to build a new WWW architecture that enhances content with formal semantics, which enables better possibilities for navigating through the cyberspace and accessing its contents. As such, the Semantic Web represents a promising technology for realizing eLearning requirements.
This paper presents an approach for implementing the eLearning scenario using Semantic Web technologies. It is primarily based on ontology-based descriptions of content, context and structure of the learning materials and thus provides flexible and personalized access to these learning materials.

Web 2.0, Web syntactics, Web semantics

I have been browsing Academic Google and have found very interesting stuff, such as Web 2.0 applications in health services. One of the discoveries has to do with the concept of Web semantics and the need to merge Web 2.0 tools with Web semantics implementations. See the article The two cultures: Mashing up Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web, by Anupriya Ankolekar, Markus Krötzsch, Thanh Tran and Denny Vrandečić, from the University of Karlsruhe.

The concept of Web semantics goes more or less like this: the current approach is syntactic interoperability, which allows agents and Web services to identify only the structure of the messages exchanged, but failing to provide an interpretation of the content of those messages. For this reason there is a need to integrate syntactic interoperability with semantic interoperability. The latter "allows Web services to (a) represent and reason about the task that a Web service performs
(e.g. book selling, or credit card verification) so as to enable automated Web service discovery based on the explicit advertisement and description of service
functionality, (b) explicitly express and reason about business relations and rules, (c) represent and reason about message ordering, (d) understand the meaning
of exchanged messages, (e) represent and reason about preconditions that are required to use the service and effects of having invoked the service, and (f) allow
composition of Web services to achieve a more complex service." See Automated discovery, interaction and composition of Semantic Web services, by Katia Sycara, Massimo Paolucci, Anupriya Ankolekar, Naveen Srinivasan of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Project assessment

We finally meet F2F and tie a few loose ends. It was a wise decision to leave the final project precisely as that: a project. If you try to involve people in a web-based task, a thousand things can go wrong, and as Murphy said, if one thing can go wrong, it will probably go wrong in the worst possible way. Anything from a blackout to a virus. Or a chronic problem like the one I'v got with firefox and the cookies.

At any rate, it is clear that you have to adapt your project to the realities of your teaching environment. It's not the same to twit with kids from the Eastern part of the city who get Blackberries on their birthdays than to make a blog with adults from Catia who don't even know what a URL is.

Thus, my project must be focused to a modest, gradual introduction to the tools, following the logic of their own complexity: starting with Web 1.0, on to the creation of blogs, up to their production and maintenance.

It is essential to work with the most knowledgeable of the students first and ask them to act as multipliers with the others.