EduBlogr - Blogging in E-ducation

Of the millions of blogs out there, probably only a few thousand are specifically devoted to education. This is one of them.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

VERY nice - acoustic blues

Unplugged guitar tips - Bammerwiki.

Excellent step-by-step explanation of a complex psychomotor task.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pew Research Center: Women Can't Do Math...Or Can They?

Pew Research Center: Women Can't Do Math...Or Can They?

This is just plain cool.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Food for thought.

TSMI's Trade Show Marketing Report: Are Small Bites Enough for Conferee Appetites?

A trade-show blogger ponders the benefit of smaller, more focused conference sessions. Does the same principle apply to instructional design? I'd argue yes. But then, what can we do about content that is inherently big and difficult? How do you break down the writings of Camus, or the Bauhaus movement, into bite-sized pieces?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

BlackCT merger thoughts at FutureU

Gail and Terry at FutureU weigh in with some predictions. I agree with all of their points except this:

Schools may begin to take a greater interest in faculty training that is applicable across platforms. We’ve heard it time and again in FutureU train-the-trainer workshops. Faculty members eager to get started with their first online course will ask us: “Can’t you just teach us which buttons to push?” So, despite our strong recommendations to the contrary, they build a deep skill level in a platform that may soon be gone with the wind. We predict that the impact of this merger will be enough to convince a lot more schools that they should provide basic HTML training and start planning to “chunk” content into reusable learning objects that are compatible with any standards-compliant system (SCORM, AICC, ADA, etc.).

While schools may be interested in cross-platform skills, individual instructors will remain reluctant to expand their skillsets beyond their content specialities. Rather, look for schools to realize that they need dedicated specialists who understand both the educational process and the technology. (Being one of those kinds of people, I realize that this is a self-serving prediction.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Liveblogging the mergecast

I'm going to try my hand at liveblogging, using the EDUCAUSE broadcast of the Blackboard-WebCT press conference / "town hall" Q&A session. Someone on the BLKBRD-L list at ASU called this the "mergercast."

Here's the URL.

I've got my headphones and a fresh pot of coffee. T-40 minutes. Time to get a few things done before the fun begins. (Ironically, I'm working on a report for the college's Distance Learning Committee on the costs and benefits of upgrading to Bb Enterprise! Paging Ms. Morissette, Ms. Alanis Morissette)

T-minus-15: Sound check, refresh coffee, quick trip "down the hall."
T-5: What do I expect? Not much news, really. I expect a recap of how wonderful each CEO thinks the other is, their firm committment to their customer base and to continued product improvement, etc. etc. Corporate spin - seen it before, and I've got the hip waders on.

The real interesting stuff will be the Q&A session.

"Reporters only: Dial the following number to participate in the Q&A: 866-753-8247, conference code 3973210697. " I'm reporting, right?

Here we go - the mic is live... hey - there's thumbnail video, too! Background murmurmurmur, announcement asking folks to please take their seats and set pagers to vibrate. Rebuffering - must be several folks logging onto the data stream. I hope they've got enough outbound bandwidth.

Melissa Chautner Sr. VP of PR. Some questions we may not be able to answer.

Chasen: Bbs mission is to enable educational innovations everywhere. uniting will help meet mission. Two eliearnig pioneers.
Many common traits - both background in academia. Both focused on cuttiong edge products - Bb's list is longer. Communitis of practice . Proud and Excited. Meeting with several clients in town hall and 1-on-1.

Carol Valone: Marks an achievement in e-learning history. Enable collaboration across the globe at a critial time in elearning - worlds largest communty of practice - further innovation. Since 1997. greatest innovations yet to come...

Interuptted by a call. They took a few questions, it seems. but said nothing really.

Chasen - new system will be developed over time - over short term will continue to compete until merger closes in early 2006

Valone - we'll be having town hall sessions with clients and look forward to meeting with you.

That's it. Even less than I expected!

Update: Laura Little is similarly nonplussed.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The future downside of M&A

John Hagel has another interesting post up at Edge Perspectives. He's looking at the bankruptcy this week of GM supplier Delphi. I wonder what cautionary parallel there might be to the Blackboard acquisition of WebCT?

Maybe nothing - GM and Ford have huge labor costs that factor into their poor financial performance, and they are locked in fierce competition with each other and foriegn manufacturers. Blackboard has miniscule labor costs in comparison, and enjoys market dominance now and for some time to come.

On the other hand, look a few years down the road. e-learning is new and just becoming a major player; it is not yet fully integrated into the culture. Perhaps it's a bit like the automobile industry in the 30's. Even if many people don't yet own a car, almost everyone has at least seen one. The number of people who have taken online classes is relatively small, but the idea of taking a class via the Internet is widely-known (if not universally accepted as "quality" education).

Through the Forties and Fifties, the auto industry continued to grow, and the automobile became part and parcel of American culture. If the e-learning pundits are right, that could - should - must - happen in this industry over the next fifteen years or so.

In the sixties, though, the industry began to stagnate. Serious competition from overseas surfaced in the 70's, and ever since then Detroit has been on the defensive, cutting costs like mad.

Forewarned is forearmed, they say.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Blackboard - WebCT merger: links and blog round-up

Hat Tip to Dr. Cable Green at OLN for many of these links, passed on from the WCET list.

Audio of Blackboard's investor conference call

Live Blackboard press conference on Tuesday, October 18th, 10 AM Eastern. (See liveblog post above)

Scott Leslie at EdTechPost

Stephen Downes recaps reaction.

Inside Higher Education article (mentioning your friendly neighborhood EduBlogr!)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

reflections on the merger

According to the site, the product lines will remain intact and supported [for now I assume], while over time a new product set that combines the best of both worlds will be rolled out. As I wrote to one of our faculty (her immediate reaction was amusing, and unprintable :-D), it'll take several months to do the paperwork, several more months to fire and reassign sales and backoffice people, and then they'll be able to start thinking technical stuff. If they fast-track it, they MIGHT be able to have something (BlackCT?) in beta this time next year.

Or they might take a deep breath, step back and really think strategically about 21st century learning. Maybe they'll start slow; come up with a blog or wiki module that can be plugged into both Enterprise and Vista. ('Course, us po' redheaded stepchillin' - Basic customers - gots to stay out in de barn.)

I suspect that the low price means that Blackboard sees WebCT's main asset as its customer base rather than its technology. WebCT has some nice features. But having used both systems, Blackboard seems to deliver a more consistent overall user experience. They've been steadily gaining market share, and it's certainly not due to agressive pricing.
After the quality and customer-service debacle of CourseInfo 3.x Blackboard shook itself and decided to get its act together and become a Big Company. They're certainly structured that way now, and this deal only reinforces that.

Moodle and Sakai aren't real competitors for Blackboard's customer base IMO. I just don't see open source solutions as major players. WE are not the customers. We're the users. The customers are our bosses and their bosses, the VPs who sign the POs. relatively few institutions - especially small and medium-size institutions - can afford open source. Pay $75,000 a year for software licenses, or hire 1.5 FTE system admins / programmer-analysts at $60,000 to support open-source? Even I can do that math.

Feature-wise, OSS tends to be a couple of years behind commercial off-the-shelf products. A big part of that is the fact that OSS depends on volunteer development, while COTS vendors have dedicated developers. Bb is trying to straddle that line with its Building Blocks architecture. Unfortunately, their current pricing strategy leaves the smaller customers (like us) out in the barn. (Macromedia did the same thing with Extensions for Flash and Dreamweaver. Fortunately for the little guys, anyone can use the Macromedia extensions.)

There may be a third path. Maybe, just maybe, the combined company will say, Hey, you developers and end-users. We know you've had some great ideas that we've had to set aside in the past, because we've been locked into these legacy architectures. We're going to start with a blank sheet of paper and design a real, 21st-century learning system with all the features, bells and whistles you've been waiting for.

Sure, I'm an optimist. I'll be scanning the sky for swine. ;-)

UPDATE: Welcome readers of Inside Higher Education!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blackboard eats WebCT

Back in June 2003, Rob Reynolds suggested that a merger between Blackboard and WebCT would be a good thing. would simplify things enormously. As an online course developer, I could only hope that the combined resources of the two companies would result in an improved flexibility and innovation for course management.
We're going to find out.

Friday, October 07, 2005


The conversation with Chris Lott, Stephen Downes and George Siemens at George's Connectivism Blog has been a great example of why semantics is important. George points out that the focus has been on content for the past several centuries because it's been easier to create the content than the connections.

But connections have always been possible as well. You can go to a library (Carnegie, a university, a monastery, Alexandria). Read books and articles. Go sit at the feet of great teachers. Go do original research. Publish it. Get feedback. Rewrite, remix, feed forward.
That's all been possible since ancient times.

What's new, now, is that it's easy, cheap, and fast. Ridiculously so. We make connections at the speed of light rather than at the speed of text. I'm still trying to work out whether this represents a fundamental change.

People are still people. Mazlow's ladder applies today as surely as it did to the slaves of Rameses, the beggars outside Solomon's palace, or Siddartha Gautama. Technology does not change the things we do - only the ways in which we do things.

People today and a thousand years ago want to be entertained. So today we download mp3 files rather than wait for a traveling minstrel. Today we have far greater choice, zero delay of gratification. But is that a fundamental change?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Web 2.0 - developing a definition from examples

John Hagel has a thoughtful post on what Web 2.0 is. Up to this point, it's been a concept with lots of examples, but without a definition. Hagel provides a definition and goes through each word of the definition in exegetical fashion to show why it fits.

Good stuff on many levels, not the least of which is providing a worked example of developing a list of attributes from a set of prototype examples.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lost in the weeds?

Jay Cross has "Another Way of Looking at Instructional Design." Or so he says. He briefly recounts the history of ID, noting its roots in the need to train WWII recruits. He then quotes Stewart Brand (of Whole Earth Catalog fame) whose riff against "remotely-done power and glory - as via government, big business, formal education, church" epitomizes the triumph of bottom-up individualism over top-down corporativism. In further support of his argument, he cites Clay Shirky who writes,

"The great popularizer of this error was Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes stories have done more damage to people's understanding of human intelligence than anyone other than Rene Descartes. Doyle has convinced generations of readers that what seriously smart people do when they think is to arrive at inevitable conclusions by linking antecedent facts. As Holmes famously put it "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

This sentiment is attractive precisely because it describes a world simpler than our own. In the real world, we are usually operating with partial, inconclusive or context-sensitive information. When we have to make a decision based on this information, we guess, extrapolate, intuit, we do what we did last time, we do what we think our friends would do or what Jesus or Joan Jett would have done, we do all of those things and more, but we almost never use actual deductive logic."
The problem here is that Clay is specifically criticising the way that proponents of the "Semantic Web" want to use Sherlock Holmes-style reasoning and syllogism to Web searches. That's not how people generally look for "stuff." We bring a whole lot of context to the search. It IS however, how scientists conduct research, how historians investigate the past. It's a bit of a stretch to use that statement to imply that evidence-based inquiry has no value. As my old mentor Rob would say, the example doesn't examp.

Jay then goes on with a nice gardening metaphor that echoes a comment I tried to post over at the Connectivism Blog last week, but lost because I had failed to log in first and was not prompted to log in before I attempted to comment. (Not very user-oriented, that software!) He says we should create "learnscapes" and notes that landscape designers can't make the plants grow or predict exactly what shape they will take. All well and good, but he seems to then imply from that it is of no value to plan towards outcomes.

That's nonsense, of course. When I plant daffodils I expect daffodils to come up. When I plant tulips I expect to see tulips. If I don't see those results, then it's reasonable to conclude that either I bought a bad batch of bulbs, or else I've got squirrels.

A commentor named "shaggy" takes it even further:
"while education remains so closely tied to economics we're going to find it hard to remove the concepts of performance indicators, milestones and mearsurable outcomes ... Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of a good socratic education, I just don't think it can happen in our short sighted capitalist society. "

I'd like to avoid politics here, but this is a frankly ridiculous statement. Capitalism makes higher education possible, because it generates wealth beyond ones immediate survival needs and therefore creates spare time that can be used for education. You don't see people streaming into Cuba or North Korea or mainland China in the hopes that their children will be able to get an education. They're not immigrating to non-communist socialist states like Sweden or Singapore, either. Instead, you see capitialism raising the standard of living in places like India, where students get excellent training in real-world disciplines like engineering.

Perhaps "shaggy" values the rarified world of the ivy-coated academy, where the tweeded and tenured spend their time thinking deep thoughts about trivial topics. Of course, to be taken seriously in that world, one must have the Ph.D. (not a Ph.D., the Ph.D.). One must also publish in the right journals and be cited often by the right people. But of course, those aren't "performance indicators, milestones and mearsurable outcomes," are they?

I'm all for putting Skinner in his proper historical place, and opening up the behaviorists' black boxes. Indeed, that is precisely what cognitive learning theory - which Cross completely ignores - does.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Accessibility in distance ed

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Colloquy

I used to work at Capella; I've also worked at Walden University (where many of Capella's founders came from). They're certainly not diploma mills - the coursework is comprehensive and rigorous.

Ed's point - that some people just shouldn't do some things - is unsettling, but valid. The FAA doesn't let just anybody get a pilot's license. If you have a history of heart problems or spontaneous unconciousness, they're not going to let you fly.

Working at a community college, I see a lot of students who frankly aren't "college material." I also see a lot of students who could be successful with a little help and encouragement. Given how hard it is to raise a family on the income available to folks with no college education, shouldn't we do everything we can to help students succeed?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Free curriculum - at what cost?

A Simple Desultory Dangling Conversation: Free curriculum - at what cost?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Clueless in Academe

The Chronicle Online

The title of this article is richly ironic. Stanley Fish thinks Larry Summers was being "clueless" when he recently opined that women may be underrepresented in math and science because of innate gender differences.

That, of course, is thoughtcrime, doubleplus ungood. Mustn't go against the liberal academic dogma that states that men and women are exactly the same in all respects.

Dogma or not, anyone who has actually met real men and real women - or had significant interaction with children of both genders - knows that there are in fact many innate differences between the genders, and those will be expressed no matter how many dolls and tea sets you give Jack and how many trucks and tool chests you give Jill.

It's Fish who is the clueless one, and like a fish unaware of the water, he doesn't even know how clueless he is.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The morality of e-ducation - for more or for all?

USU's David Wiley with very thought-provoking commentary on the morality of "scaling" education versus making education accessible.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Good to Know The Leadership Gets It

The Daily Brief: It's Good to Know Leadership Gets It

“The metric is what the person has to contribute, not the person’s rank, age, or level of experience. If they have the answer, I want the answer. When I post a question on my blog, I expect the person with the answer to post back. I do not expect the person with the answer to run it through you, your OIC, the branch chief, the exec, the Division Chief and then get the garbled answer back before he or she posts it for me. The Napoleonic Code and Netcentric Collaboration cannot exist in the same space and time. It’s YOUR job to make sure I get my answers and then if they get it wrong or they could have got it righter, then you guide them toward a better way…but do not get in their way.”

If a commanding general in the USMC can say this, why can't a university president?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A diller, a dollar...

...a ten-o'clock scholar.
What makes you come so soon?
You used to come at ten o'clock.
Now you come at noon.

I haven't been posting a lot for a couple of reasons. One, I've been focused on my day job, which currently doesn't involve a lot of blogging. Two, I'd like this to become a "really useful" resource, not just a stream-of-conciousness rant. (I have other outlets for those needs.)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Blogging, ripping, mixing, and authentein

Will Richardson of Weblogg-ed suggests that ripping and mixing is very much like blogging. As students put more and more content online via portfolios, blogs, wikis, etc., it's likely that their content will be reused by others. His take is, so what? Focus on that process and the learning that results. Create collages.

I can go along with that, so long as there's a way to track back to the originator of each component of the collage. The Greek word authentein is the root for author, authority, authoritative, and authentic.

Primary sources are important.

Friday, March 11, 2005

RSS feed for

For your enjoyment and continuing edification - an RSS feed from

One small step

Blogs. Wikis. Furl. RSS. As Captain Jack Aubrey said, "What an age of wonders we live in."

I'm an educator. I work with technology at a mid-sized community college in a mid-sized community in a mid-sized state that's seen its economy undergo radical changes.

The head of the state's board of regents recently told an audience that similarly radical changes were needed in education. "If we don't succeed, we're doomed," he concluded.

I found that encouraging. Unlike most of us in the trenches who've been calling for reform for decades, he's actually in a position to get the ossified academic structure to seriously look at alternatives to counting butt-in-seat time as a measure of learning, to find ways to do things in fundamentally different ways.

The read-write web is a disruptive technology. It's our job as tool-using educators to figure out how to use it to help our students. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," the saying goes. Let's get our walking shoes on.