Friday, November 24, 2006

50 Million Bloggers

I was forwarded a newsletter from ITinfo that included the following article by Dave Murphy:

"Technorati, the recognised blog tracking service, reported that there
are fifty-one million blogs were in publication as of today. This is one
hundred times more blogs than were in existence when the tracking
service started, three years ago.

It is estimated, based on Technorati's numbers, that the blogosphere,
the global blog space, is doubling in size about every six months.

One hundred and seventy-five thousand blogs are created every day--two
every second. These aren't blog entires, but new blogs, each with dozens
to thousands of articles. an estimated 1.6 million entries are posted to
blogs each day--eighteen per second. These numbers do not account for
the comments, trackback pings, and e-mail distributions that follow many
of the articles.

While most bloggers post in English--about thirty-nine
percent--thirty-one percent ware written in Japanese. Together, these
languages comprise seventy percent of the blogosphere."
It looks as if blogs are becoming a bit like mobile phones and email accounts.
Writing skills

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A stupid question from someone who should know better

Can anyone provide an explanation as to why all my posts these days have the words "writing skills" appended just above the tags? I've look in the template and don't see anything there that explains the mystery...

It's oh so quiet...

It's an odd feeling, this. I have been posting less than usual, due to the fact that I am up to my ears in assignments, a new project and various other commitments. And such posting as I have done has gone utterly unremarked. Even other people's posts on which I have commented have received no other traffic, so my CoComment site has gone equally quiet. I have never been one of the hot bloggers, so my blog posts don't often attract much attention, but this is weird. I feel like the "action" has moved somewhere else, while I've got myself caught in a backwater. I've never been one to post for ratings (although it is gratifying when something I say strikes a chord with someone else), but I didn't realise how much I would miss the inteplay if I ever lost it.

Gary Larson
- he of the Far Side cartoon strip (whose request not to have his "children" splurged all over the Internet I shall respect by not trying to reproduce or link to it here) - did a cartoon titled Last of the Mohicans, which shows a lone Native American in a settlement of tipis calling "Little Bear? Running Deer? Where are you guys?" I feel a bit like that.

Did I miss something?

Writing skills

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wisdom of crowds get challenged...

Clive Shepherd has posted about David Freedman's oppositional stance on the subject of the wisdom of crowds. I expect that David Freeman is going to come in for a bit of shtick on this one - it isn't PC to say that a bunch of people together can/will act unwisely, in this age when collaboration is the In Thing and can do no wrong. It is interesting to hear the voice of dissent.

I attended a workshop about James Surowiecki's Wisdom of Crowds some time age, and posted on it at the time. I have to admit that, the whole way through the workshop I was picturing those thousands upon thousands of people listening to Hitler speak and hanging upon his every word, and football crowds running amok, and Lord of the Flies (okay that last one is a work of fiction, and the group might be a little small to be called a crowd, but I pictured it anyway). I couldn't make those images fit with what I was hearing.

I can understand that under certain circumstances, crowds can be said to behave wisely. The 1994 elections in South Africa were a prime example: 90% of the country's population was getting to vote for the very first time. The world expected violence and bloodshed, but what happened was a peaceful, incident-free election.

This was a one-off situation when people consciously decided to strive for what was best for everyone. I fear, though, that the belief that crowds always display more wisdom than individuals is built upon the insubstantiated notion that people - individually and collectively - are always (whether intrinsically or extrinsically) motivated to do right and be the best they can be, and that this driver increases exponentially when people gather together. I have yet to see evidence of this. Many, perhaps even most, people strive to do the best they can for themselves under the circumstances, but doing well and doing good don't always go together... unfortunately.

In a post some time ago, I wailed half in jest: why can't we all just get along, to which Harold Jarche supplied a one-word explanation: greed. For as long as this is the case, I wonder how wise we really will be - collectively or individually.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The open hand

When we play cards, the idea is to keep secret from our fellow-players the hand we hold. Not long ago, the same was true of the knowledge we "owned". While card playing hasn't changed much, we have moved to a more generous age in relation to our learning.

Recently, I travelled through to the university campus where I am studying in order to facilitate a mini-clinic in online discussions.

To put this into context:
I don't think I do them a disservice to say that most of my classmates are in their 40s and 50s. There are one or two who may be older, a fair few in their 30s and a mere handful in their 20s. So the class is not exactly overflowing with digital natives! Some of them are still on the fringes of using ICT and one (a classical ballet teacher) had never sent even sent an email message before. One of the requirements of the current module is a certain degree of participation in online discussions. For a few members of the class, this was unknown and scary territory - a place on the map left blank and white and labelled "Heere be dragons ". Understandably, the teaching provided presupposes a certain level of competence. Unfortunately, some of my classmates do not possess this level of competence. Nor do they know how to go about acquiring it. To me, the answer is obvious - I have the knowledge they need and the skills to pass them on. I see no reason for them to continue to struggle for want of something I am in position to provide.

We who inhabit the blogosphere are accustomed to holding our knowledge with an open hand, and having easy access to the knowledge of others, as if playing a game with our cards on the table for all to see and use. Because they do not inhabit the blogosphere, however, my classmates (while grateful) were taken by surprise at my suggestion, and I realised that, a short while ago I might have reacted in much the same way.

It filled me with a renewed gratitude for this community to which I now belong. I have learned so much (and continue to learn, even though I have kept a rather low profile lately, due to time constraints). After even this short time (just over a year), I can't conceive of life without access to the online community - it would be like sensory deprivation.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Writing skills

Brag moment: my 13 year old nephew won an award for this poem. It's called "With these hands" and the young poet's name is Michael Ihlenfeldt.

With these hands - I could touch the sky
I could leap off the ground
Flap my hands and fly

With these hands I could slow down time
I could alter the weather
By simply clapping them together

With these hands I could hold back the rain
I could light up the sun
I could let rivers run

With these hands I could soothe the pain of the nation
I could dry up their tears
Remove all their fears

With these hands - I can do wonderful things
If, deep in my soul
My faith keeps me whole...

I was impressed at his depth and perceptiveness. Bearing in mind that he lives in South Africa - "the pain of the nation" is something he has grown up with - one would almost expect that he would consider this life as usual. It seems either his history teachers have been earning their keep, or my sister has ensured that her children are well up on the tragic history of their country!

Of course the poem is what it is, with a readership or 1 million or none at all, but I wonder if it would have made a difference if he had posted the poem on a blog. When he was advised that he had won the award, he couldn't remember what poem they were referring to (perhaps he writes many such pieces!). I have read so many wonderful blog posts about how kids have been affirmed by having people comment on their work when they have posted it online.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The future of learning design models

Over at LCB, the Big Question for November is about the future of learning design models (such as Addie, ISD and HPT).


My background has chiefly been in corporate learning and my interest is largely learning in the workplace. In this realm, these models have been very popular and, in some situations, such as technical skills, very useful.

A while back, there was a conversation about whether ADDIE had in fact become DI, and I have worked in organisations where that has been the case: talk about grindingly frustrating! At all costs, we need to avoid that, since the learner's needs are completely ignored. Whether or not we use models, my view is that the learner's needs and the learner experience should be at the heart of what we do.

As I said in a conversation some time back, I suspect we are going to become more and more like the designers of cars: we will provide all the features - it will be the learner who takes the driver's seat and decides where to go, when to go there, how often, how fast and by what route. However, some method still needs to be applied to decide what features to provide and the look and feel of the vehicle -if we are completely without strategy, we are likely to wind up with a resource like Homer's car that includes every feature imaginable, but is hideous to look at, impossible to use and completely outside of everyone's price range.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Happy birthday, Robyn!

Today is my sister's 40th birthday, so I am going to indulge myself with a personal post today. Like many of us, she is trying to convince herself that there has been a gross miscalculation and that she is, in fact, only 39 today. What she doesn't realise is that her milestone birthdays are even worse news for me than they are for her: she is my younger sister, after all!

The idea had been for her to come and spend two weeks with me in the UK at the end of October. This was to have been my gift to her, since (like most of our compatriots) she has never travelled outside of South Africa. She has also never seen autumn - South African trees are mostly evergreens and there isn't really an autumnal period there. But she was unable to come. So I decided to try to send autumn to her. England is very pretty in October - at its prettiest for my money. Photographs are a poor substitute for the real thing, and (unlike Stephen Downes) I'm no great shakes with the camera. However, for what it's worth, I don't think she'll mind sharing this part of her birthday gift with you.

Happy birthday, Robs. I miss you.

Tim Berners-Lee sets the record straight

There are times in life when it galls me to be proved wrong. Then there are those times when I am delighted to have one of my negative perceptions debunked. This is one of those times when I am happy to have been wrong.

A while back, I posted about an article on Tim Berners-Lee and his view of Web 2.0. His reported reaction disappointed me deeply. However, it seems he was taken out of context, and he has used his own blog to set the record straight. Hat tip to Vicki Davis for the link.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Juggernauts and handbrake turns

Interesting post today from Kathy Sierra (one of my all-time favourite bloggers). She's exploring the relevance of the sort of skills imparted in science courses - comparing what is taught to what skills are actually exercised in these fields. This subject has traction and has been explored from various angles by numerous people across a wide range of disciplines. I have to agree with some of the comments that the problem is not unique to the USA. I have been directly exposed to the education systems of two countries (UK and South Africa), and via the blogosphere have vicariously encountered concerns surrounding the Canadian, US and Australian systems.

Recently, during a Learning and Teaching lecture, we were exploring the concept of PLEs in schools. I posted recently on this point, but the lecturer advised me that the matter was receiving attention from on high.

While these are two separate issues, I think they suffer from the same limitations: the bureaucracy and red tape associated with state education systems. We have recognised the changes that need to be made. We know what direction should be going in, but the turnaround time is frustratingly slow. After all, government departments are akin to juggernauts and don't do handbrake turns very well. Perhaps we need to be looking at ways to restructure the education system to improve response times. For all I know - perhaps "we" already are, but that's yet another juggernaut turn. Maybe what we need is a streamlined, nippy little system like the Minis in "The Italian Job".

I wish.