Saturday, July 18, 2009

This blog has moved!

Thanks for following The Multichronic Classroom blog. All posts associated with The Multichronic Classroom will now be posted at under the Category "Multichronic Classroom".

Full link:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Grading Word Counts?

Here's a new tool I found for Firefox that helps me grade student blog entries without cut/pasting the text into a document when it seems thin:

Word Count Plus

by S Waters

Preview Image of Word Count Plus

17 reviews

Counts number of words in selected text. Can add the count to a running total.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Transform our Universities to meet new challenges

In his inaugural speech, President Barack Obama states:

We will... wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost... transform our schools, colleges and Universities to meet the demands of the new age.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

SL and students

I'm not sure who said this quote or where I heard it, but when I did I knew I'd been hit with some real wisdom:

"There are two types of people in this world, those that believe people can be categorized into two types and everyone else."

I would consider myself in the latter group, however when it comes to discussing educational and student adoption (or lack thereof) in Second Life it seems that many fellow bloggers and researchers would rather segregate and divide users into two easy-to-explain groups. Educators and students. Gen X'ers and M Gens. Us and them. It's hard to believe that in this complex and diverse world that anyone can really think they can quantify such groups so easily.

If you travel across the country and speak with educators from very different geographical locations, in higher ed or K-12, with students from very different socioeconomic backgrounds you know that such categorization is simply not helpful. I've ranted about the so-called 'Digital Native' before, so perhaps you're with me on this. But hopefully, you can see the difference between learners in your own classrooms and conclude that grouping all-students-everywhere into one group and then making blanket assumptions about them would just seem silly.

Some recent online articles trying to make sense of education and student involvement in SL do just that however. I thought I'd take a quick minute to point out a few, their salient points and the views that seem detrimental to the continuing research in this area.

First, is "How we should encourage cheating in youngsters" by Roland Legrand over at the Metanomics blog. The article points out that students could be engaging in "'collaborative co-creation' using the internet-tools at thier disposal" and "challenging the underpinnings of education like it is organized now". I believe this sentiment to be very accurate, with educators encouraging such innovations by promoting such online tools as wikis, blogs, Facebook and more. However, he goes on to ask such questions as:
"So are these Millennials the perfect flexible, collaborative inspired
people who will transform society and the economy, and who will stream
into virtual worlds such as Second Life as soon as some virtual
evangelists make them discover those virtual environments?" (italics added)

And even quotes Feldspar Epstien's post in The Metavers Journal, Students vs. Second Life:

In Second Life, the gap between Generation X and the Millennial Generation comes sharply into focus (...):

1. Second Life is primarily filled with Generation X’ers,
unintentionally creating a socially unwelcoming environment for

2. Generation X’ers know how to play in the freeform manner that
Second Life requires, whereas Millennials typically do not display that

While this observation may be insightful and seemingly on que (with everyone else making such categorizations)... is it really helpful? It is true that the average age of the SL user is 30+, but even out of that demographic the percentage of actual Generation X'ers grows smaller with many users being older than the Gen X'er. It's also hard to say that they/we are "unintentionally creating a socially unwelcoming environment," as if all of Second Life was made of the SAME kind of environment. Also, I'd like to see something that says all Millennials do not display the skillset to play in a freeform manner. I know that some of my Millennial students do... some do not. Again, two types and everyone else.

Over at Second Thoughts, the post "Why The Kids Aren't Alright" sums up student users SL experience by looking at their Blog Hud posts, the amount of users on a virtual campus on a Friday night, and a theory of "boredom" reified by one of the student interns at Metanomics.

Most of all, he hated that he couldn't grief people. See, that's the
reality of this generation, and why we need to wait another generation
for virtual worlds to be used effectively, until the griefing impulse
is bred out of this current one, raised on violent video games, or at
least, until there is enough of an institutionalization of virtual
worlds that they are able to successfully restrain the griefing genes.
Violent video games? Really? Give up and wait until the next generation comes along?

I can't say that there isn't reason to believe that certain individuals in the Gen M population don't like violence, even in my own experiences at BGSU. For example, last year Dr. Dena Eber held a student art critique in which two of her students 'crashed' (mildly greifed) the event by attending as horrific avatars. Since this was an art class the so-called griefing seemed appropriate, even performance like. This interpretation was reinforced for me when I attended the MUVE session at Siggraph last week in which Mick Brady (Chrome Underwood, Live Teams Manager at the Serious Game Design Institute) called griefing something like 'the most interesting and important thing happening in Second Life artwork'. (Please note that these were 2 students out of a class of 20... 10%. Imho, that's probably about the same percentage of student population that these articles are accurately referencing.)

Even AJ Tan, the intern at Metanomics whose blog post on boredom was referenced above, goes so far as to say:
In my experience, the demographic of Second Life residents is roughly
in the mid- to late-thirties. For me, these individuals represent
“real” adults who do not celebrate the end of finals week or the
advertisement of a city-wide bar crawl.
As a thirty-something Second Lifer and educator, let me just say... I do celebrate the end of finals week. I'd also like to point out that not all of my students are drunks interested in keg-stands, bar crawls, and/or violent video games. AJ's post on his experiences in SL are a wonderful addition to this discussion however, we need to see more student blogs, responses, and polls in order to better understand what the 'students' are really getting out of SL; students of various ages, geographical locations, races, socioeconomic and technological backgrounds who may offer a wider range of analysis than the tech savy Gen M raised on violent video games.

I would also challenge those intent on changing education - are we creating socially welcoming environments? Are you providing your students with a platform for reward advancement, much like an mmorpg? (I see this as a typical letter grade approach really.) Or are you pushing your students toward freeform play in which information can be applied and developed into a product of learning achievement, much like the structure of SL?

Monday, August 11, 2008

New Asynchronous Video Conferencing (Mail vs. Threads)

There are many people enamored with Skype or Yahoo IM for video conference calls, but with some new web 2.0 apps we may see some users moving towards browser based services instead. I've already mentioned the usefulness of when it comes to video conferencing, broadcasting that event, and even recording it. For a better form of asynchronous video messaging check out Tokbox and Seesmic.


This is as easy as it gets. Login, touch a button and your sending video messages all from your browser. You're notified by email if your recipient watches your message or sends one back. You can even make public video messages - tokbox's way of adding a twitteresque feature that can compete with up and coming sites like The video quality at talkbox looks great and if you're really not into the browser-ball-and-chain then you can download the desktop client which runs on Adobe Air.

Best features:
  • URL as contact info (like an email or phone number - anyone with the URL can call you)
  • Embedable widget (for places like MySpace, Facebook, Blogger, and more) allows one click calling for other users to call or message you.
  • Unlimited number of conference callers (according to the FAQ - untested by me)
  • 15 minutes of video message time
  • API for devs


Seesmic seems to be drawing an international crowd to publicly discuss virtually anything in a threaded video conversation. Essentially, you can make a public video post recorded using your webcam and mic (flash) - a question perhaps - then, users who speak your language can respond with their own videos - hopefully answers to your question.

Here's an example... This user says 'show us your favorite iPhone app'.

Best Features:
  • Your having a conversation with the world!
  • Send video messages - converse privately
  • Embed videos (not threads) easily
I'm not sure there's much for me on Seesmic, but there are a lot of people spending a lot of time there. I expect Seesmic to gain popularity for the webcamming crowd. Although it's been a while since YouTube installed a 'Reply to this Video' button, it still doesn't feel like many folks are using youtube for threaded video conversation like you see here.

I could see this site used in a communications class: Ask a question on Seesmic. How did users respond? Perhaps this could even help in the creation of an ePortfolio by posting a thread of former employers and colleagues who have great things to say about you. The video document resume of the future! Feel like adding your two cents? Respond to this video below here:

In either case, it seems the idea of video calling and public broadcasting is finding a crowd. How far it bleeds into popular culture and what effect it has on education as younger students familiar with the technology enter higher ed remain to be seen.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Live Broadcasting 2.0

Live broadcasting changes everything.

There are many new and exciting things on the horizon for technology in education (see post on browser based virtual worlds) and none more exciting than the acceptance of live broadcasting (call it "Web 2.Live"). As you will see demonstrated below, there are several different sites available for live social interaction via webcam or desktop. Some specialize in the production of live content and each allows for recording and distribution of live recordings via embeddable players.

How can these tools be used in education? How is this different than simple video conferencing?
  • Faculty, students, and other individuals (visiting lecturers, professionals, etc...) can interact from great distances while still having access to all media and desktop tools needed for dynamic discussions
  • Recordings of these interactions can be documented and distributed asynchronously
  • Like podcasting and video helped to create a culture of user-generated material so too might live media (there are many "live shows" already gaining popularity on these sites
  • As mobile video becomes more mainstream, so too will live feeds of people's lives: aka. Lifecasting
Below are a few sites I have chosen to feature. Each has a variety of similar or competing features. I have listed the pros and cons of each. Each video will also demonstrate some of the features. Since my interests also lie with Second Life, I was especially keen on the ability to publicly display a live feed of SL on the web. I have provided links to each site and also my profile or channel page. The only added software I am using beside the webservice is CamTwist for my Mac. It can be found here: Pros:
  • Highly social: up to 6 other "live visitors" and unlimited chat/profile page viewers or visitors
  • Easy to manage, record, embed recordings
  • Autopilot for embedded player when not live (plays video, pictures, etc...) plays media on demand Cons:

BlogTV demo for my blog - Broadcast your self LIVE

BlogTV Pros:
  • Co-hosting - records/shows up to two people in live video screen
  • Profile page modification tools are average (better than Stickam not as good as UStream)
BlogTV Cons:
  • Too many ads - show up on profile page AND in embedded player!
  • Video quality seems a bit lower than other sites
  • Video cuts off bottom of screen (notice the ticker is cut in half!)

Video clips at Ustream

UStream.TV Pros:
  • Lots of options and features!
  • Profile AND Channel pages that are highly modifiable
  • Text overlays (not shown in video)
  • Can port videos straight over to YouTube, Google, Vimeo and more
  • Better for making a TV-like show
  • Allows for co-hosting (I haven't tested this yet)
UStream.TV Cons:
  • Higher learning curve (as is the case whenever there are more features)
  • Non-intuitive user interface - I didn't like this one at first
  • Not as social (seemingly)

To play demo video:
  1. Click to turn player on (I have it set to off so that it doesn't start every time the blog is loaded into a browser window)
  2. Wait for player to fully initialize (On Demand button will not show up immediately)
  3. Click on "On Demand" button on bottom of player
  4. Click on "new VOD Folder"
  5. Click on "Live Show Aug 1 2008" Pros:
  • High quality production features built-in (ticker, splash pages, etc...)
  • Auto-Pilot playlist for videos, photos, and pre-recorded shows (not enabled in above player)
  • Graphical interface (GUI) is very easy to use, very intuitive
  • Dynamic player allows for "Video on Demand" for viewers to peruse playlist
  • Imports easily from YouTube (player can show other videos I've set to play including my machinima and even the piece from above. Cons:
  • Not social - chat confined to viewers, but not creator (not in studio window at least)
  • Ads - will come across bottom of screen (not as bad as BlogTV)

Please feel free to comment on this post. I'm very interested in hearing opinoins about live broadcasting.