Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Motivating Student Writers by Fostering Collaboration through Tagging and Aggregating

Hi Folks, I've just returned from a week in the states. Busy week, I settled my parents' affairs and bought their house off my siblings, so in a week I became once again a home owner. But my inlaws will move in there, so I hope not to be involved so much in home maintenance. Well that's another story. Meanwhile, back here in the UAE I'm waking up at 4 in the morning, which is good because it's a great time to blog. But I'm also falling asleep on the floor of my office at 4 in the afternoon, which is also good, because cat herders like catnaps occasionally.

This past week's activities in Texas made me miss the first week of the K-12 Online Conference. Our Writingmatrix project caught the attention of Wesley Fryer, one of my podcast heros. Wesley left this comment at our conference presentation node http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=162: "Wow, what a GREAT presentation on so many levels. This was the best example of a “blended” presentation I’ve ever seen," and he followed up with reflections on our presentation podcast here:

Meanwhile Nelba, one of our Writingmatrix project members and co-explorer in the world of social networking, has gone down the path of exploring pingbacks and trackbacks. I've got mine activated, so let's see what happens if I cite one of her blog postings here, this one a brief reflection on the Writingmatrix participation in K-12 Online:


There, a link to this post should now appear in the one above.

While I was flying, Nelba and Saša participated in a fireside chat on our behalf of Rita, Doris and I. Here's more information from http://www.geocities.com/vance_stevens/papers/index.html#071020

13:00 PM GMT Saturday, October 20 - The Writingmatrix group Vance Stevens, Nelba Quintana, Doris Molero, Saša Sirk, and Rita Zeinstejer present “Motivating Student Writers by Fostering Collaboration through Tagging and Aggregating” at the K-12 Online Conference “Playing with Boundaries.”

Presentations at this conference are all asynchronous except for the live chat events. The presentation itself can be found at these web artifacts:

Here's what our presentation was about ...

The presenters play with boundaries through the simple expedient of having student bloggers in different countries tag their blog posts with the unique tag term writingmatrix. Searching on that tag in Technorati, the student bloggers in four locations in three different countries have managed to locate one another's posts, leave comments for one another, and have subsequently interacted in other ways as well. The presenters explain how they started the project and how it has branched into other online and even face to face activities involving the students in the participant countries. The presentation is made not only through the voices of the presenters, but with the students themselves lending their voices through their blogs and videos.

Now, I'll wrap up this post with a couple of discoveries. The first is the Jing project from http://www.screencast.com. This is a tool, free at present but perhaps for a limited time only, produced by Techsmith, the makers of Camtasia and Snaggit, which captures images or videos from your desktop in a very nice interface, easy to use, which allows you to save the capture either as a swf file which you can keep as a file on your computer OR as a hosted file almost immediately available.

To give you an example, I wanted to show Nelba how Technorati now allows you to calibrate the authority of the posts you view. The problem was that we would tag our posts 'writingmatrix', and have our students tag them the same, but only a few of those posts would appear when we would search Technorati for posts with 'writingmatrix' as their tag. In fact, the default search on tags with Technorati is to return hits on posts with 'some authority', and this returns ten posts at present on Technorati when you search on 'writingmatrix'.

The problem is that if you ask a student to create a blog and tag a post 'writingmatrix', that student's first post is vested with zero authority and at the default settings would not appear in hits returned by students searching on that tag elsewhere in the world. So Technorati added a feature that allows you to return posts with 'any authority' and if that setting is used, you get 1000 hits when you search on 'writingmatrix', which is what we want, because it means we can see the hundreds of students who are trying to reach one another through this mechanism. This also generates a URL which you can use to aggregate posts with any authority, and now I need to change out my aggregators on Pageflakes, Bloglines, and Google Reader with one's like this, which return posts with any authority:


Now, if you want a visual example of how this is done, here is my Jing screencast:

What a morning. It's truly the dawn of a new day out there. I've got to get to my more mundane daytime job now.


Saša said...

Jing looks very interesting! Thanks. :-)

Prof. Nelba Quintana- La Plata- Argentina said...

Hi, Vance. I will explore Jing. It looks great. Very useful for a tutorial, isn´t it? Can you add voice? Thanks for sharing :)

Vance Stevens said...

Yes, as it happens you CAN add voice, nice tool, I like it a lot.