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NITLE Conference: LMS at LAC : 6 (Bryan Alexander on Web 2.0) November 1, 2006

Posted by ficial in conference, LMSLAC2006.

Well, it looks like I’m writing thoughts on individual sessions after all, so I might as well break them into separate posts.

“Web 2.0, pedagogy and challenges to the LMS” by Bryan Alexander of NITLE

[In general I found this talk very interesting, though it went so quickly I had a hard time taking notes on everything. This was definitely a ‘things to think about’ talk, not a ‘things to do’ talk.]

  • his 11 year old daughter has no problems using audacity, director, flickr, blogs, games, etc, but needs help using an LMS [this maybe more a factor of motivation than UI; though I completely agree than LMS UI generally sucks, the preceding applications are ‘fun’, whereas an LMS is ‘work’]
  • blogs and wikis are NOT new tech (wikis: 1997, blogs 1999)
  • some thoughts/definitions on ‘what is web 2.0?’:
    • micro-content – content is available/addressable in small chunks: individual MP3, single paragraph, one photo, etc. [considering this made me decide to post my summary on a per-talk basis]
    • social functionality – deeply engaged in bringing people together [enabling, encouraging, both? blurry boundaries]
    • open (access, content, services, etc.) – both descriptive and prescriptive
    • networked constructivism – collaborative writing [extended to general authoring/creating, though our tool set currently best supports writing. does collaborative filtering fit in here? the genius mob?]
    • perpetual beta – continual small improvements [or at least changes/additions. I found this idea very interesting, and relevant not just to the web but to software development (and the rest of life, for that matter) in general. Digital products are not constrained by the same developement and release processes that the physical manufacturing world requires, but our business and deployment models are still modeled on them. We’re moving away form that with hotfixes, auto-updates, etc.]
    • platforms for development [which is related to…]
    • data mashups (e.g. google mashups) [these last two and the openess idea are all pretty closely intertwined]
  • some generally applicable/useful principles/techniques:
    • tagging
    • textual productivity
    • distributed conversation
    • micro-content

[it’s interesting to consider which web2.0 traits various LMS have, and why or why not. There are certainly some (most, even) aspects of web2.0 that seem closely aligned with larger liberal education ideals, but they aren’t necessarily aligned with teaching a course. web2.0 seems like a potential approach to making the online learning experience be more liberal-arts-y. Specific aspects of it probably work well as pedagogical methods for specific courses.

A lot of web2.0 stuff has to do with decentralization and giving up control, which are tough things to sell for a classroom setting/model. The tutorial program at Williams might be able to make good use of some of the web 2.0 stuff, given teh caveat below.

One of the other things that web2.0 thrives on, if not requires, is a large participation base. It’s unclear if many of the web2.0 principles are useful/relevant when they’re limited to a single college (1000-5000 users), let alone a single course (2-200 users). Possibly this means that web2.0 things need to extend beyond the immediate class to have any use; that’s actually a good thing, since one of the big challenges in teaching is getting students to take what they learn in class and apply it in the larger world. Web2.0 seems like a potentially good way of getting students interested/involved for their own sake rather than just for a grade.

It’d be fun to go to a separate conference that specifically focused on web2.0 and pedagogy, but unfortunately hard to sell as a part of my particular job.

Other thoughts inspired by the talk:

  • Living notes – multiple years of notes/commentary on a text or topic – a way to use a wiki in a class that’s not just ‘the class wiki’
  • The old question was buy or build. The new question is buy, build, or borrow. There’s a huge proliferation of powerful software (much of it related to web2.0) that’s available for free. Google mail/groups, flickr, various blog hosting options, del.icio.us, social news, facebook, etc.
  • Most social software needs a larger user base to be really useful, but the userbase need not always be concurrent.]


1. Thoughts and Experiments » Interesting point on Social Software from F I C I A L - November 1, 2006

[…] I was reading NITLE Conference: LMS at LAC : 6 (Bryan Alexander on Web 2.0) « f i c i a l and at the end came across this line – (the rest of the post is also worth a read) Most social software needs a larger user base to really be useful, but the userbase need not always be concurrent. […]

2. Bryan - November 3, 2006

I think you’ve hit on one key point (among several!), concerning size and Web 2.0 project viability. Yes, Web 2.0 is all about open content, according to many – which means people outside one class interact with what that class creates. Without that interaction, will projects fail?

You can imagine structuring expectations around limited world-participation. A personal record, for example, or a group’s internal work.

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