Insights from George Siemens and Dilbert

Well, I’m back to writing in my blog. I have been sick for the past few days, with my total exercise consisting of a walk between my bed and the chaise lounge in the living room. However, I try not to get depressed during these trying times, instead focusing on all I have to be grateful for. For instance, I have a caring, loving family and a quiet, wonderful home in which to rest. So, slowly, but surely I have made progress and am feeling ready to get back into writing about all things great and geeky.

I’m reading an article called “Knowledge and Our Structures of Learning” by George Siemens, an innovative leader and thinker in the field of educational technology, and highly recommend it. In this article, he talks about knowledge trends, the ones that aren’t as self-evident such as, “knowledge is global and connected.”

These subtle changes in knowledge structures have entered our daily lives and because they are so easy to use and so subtle, we might not take the time or even understand why we should care about the depth of their impact on how we learn and teach.

One of these subtle changes Siemens talks abut is co-creation and participation. He uses examples such as OhMyNews and BBC’s initiative Your News, which consist of user-created content. (OhMyNews is more of a wiki, content management software where users can edit and add content, while the BBC Your News simply offers a set of instructions on how to submit news-worthy content to the BBC for possible publication.)

Of course, we already know about bloggers and how they have become the Internet’s new storytellers. Much has come and gone since 2006 when Siemens wrote this article (remember, 2 years is a LONG TIME in tech-land). And so much more has come on board since then in the co-creation and participation field. Take a look at some of these neat ways to be a participant/creator and think how they might be used in your field:

Easier than ever to use wiki software

Wiki platforms now offer visual editors (WYSIWYG) that make writing and creating a wiki a snap. And, as we all know, wikis enable collaboration and co-creation, encouraging the participation of all. My favorites wiki platforms in order of preference are:

  1. Google Sites (you need a domain to get this part of Google apps)
  2. pbwiki
  3. wikispaces
  4. wetpaint

More featured-filled and professional looking blogging software

Blogs are powerful ways to get the word out, to stimulate conversation, to meet people with similar professional interests, and to do a lot more. Many books are now written from reworking blog postings. My favorite blogging platform is WordPress, but Blogger is definitely a great software, especially if you want something quick and easy that enables publication of multiple forms of content.

Easier than ever mashups

Mashups are just ways to take content and recreate it the way you want it. Simple. And now, there are more and more ways you can create your own mashups with very little work involved. I like Yahoo Pipes, but it DOES take some work to learn, so not for the timid.

MashMaker by Intel is a browser-based software touted as “Mashup for the Masses,” and we’ll see how this goes. I have not used this yet (but I HAVE downloaded it), so I’ll be reporting on it soon.

A really cool, and humor-inspiring tool is a mashup created for the comic-strip Dilbert. It’s a refreshing break from the realities of a world sometimes gone awry, allowing the user (you’ll need to create an account, but after that, it’s easy) to prove that (s)he is funnier that Scott Adams (the strip’s creator). This is where I really wish I had an intuitive and crazy sense of humor. When you read some of the punch lines submitted by the participants, you will see how many creative people there are out there. I could see this comic strip mashup providing a great opportunity for a class ice-breaker or exercise in writing that might stretch some students, but might also stimulate the funnier ones.

Oh, and I did try out the Dilbert mashup, and I’m warning you . . . it is addictive. Check out one of my creations: http://dilbert.com/mashups/comic/9109/

It’s good to be back to writing again.

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