Monthly Archives: May 2007

Peer institutions

The list of our “peer institutions” seems to change depending on who you ask, but according an official statistical reporting place this seems to be the list. Posting it here so I don’t lose it.

Don’t follow me

So, a friend had a job come up where the client was having a heck of a time getting any pagerank—in fact, the site wasn’t coming up in Google at all.

One look at the source and there it was:
<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">
On every page.
Fixed.

Apparently the company has been trying to fix this problem for 5 years.

NERCOMP: The open discussion session

Open discussion following smaller group discussion. Lots of things we already know, but I’m blogging live so I’m just letting the fingers fly.

One person brought up how to approach MySpace and Facebook: do you start off the institution and set it up, or do you let it happen and do damage-control later. Your approach all depends on how you work with your students. An institution that controls the students’ access to things will be different than a more open community. May have to do with the size of the institution and what it needs to sustain, and the maturity of its student community.

What is the perceived technical aptitute of the students? How do you deal with faculty who may be less technologically savvy than the students? – video training; hands-on training—not everyone works together in the same way. The common thing is you need a goal—when you have something to accomplish people with figure out a way to do it. In many ways faculy are more savvy than the people administrating the technology because they have those goals. This technology is not going to be for all faculty, and it’s not applicable in all situations. Some faculty will still want an overhead projector, or just the chalkboard. Can’t shoe-horn technology into all situations. Online course management isn’t fully adopted, so why would these (blogs, wiki, flickr) technologies be fully adopted? Don’t force it.

Who’s driving it and who’s in the best position to ask people to step back and look at whether it’s the best thing vs. “Oooh, shiny new technology we want it.” Should IT play that role? Individual group didn’t come to a concensus and is opening it up to the floor. One institution is working together, IT and faculty, to rework what the IT role is to different constituents. Yesterday they were the sellers of new technologies; today they are looking to partner. That begins with ourselves. Trying to find ways to talk with the faculty and students to get them to talk about their needs, and IT is talking about technological possibilities. Very different than a few years ago. The flip side—whatever IT builds gives folks a road into the technology if they’re part of the former set of constituents who are not aware of the possibilities and available technology. There’s always a range; there are faculty who are not at the discussion table. Some faculty want to be collaborative in building new tools/solutions, but many still want it built for them, and with very high expectations with little understanding of how much is involved. They are working towards partnering with the faculty to education both groups.

Another institution works with their “usual suspects” of early-adopters. They work out the kinks (pilot programs) then have them help champion the new resources. Faculty need to show faculty. Very powerful.

A big note on how a bulk of Western Massachusettes doesn’t have DSL available—most on 56k dial-up. [note before I forget while the discussion veers off to discuss the Red Sox—first thing someone asked me when I got here was, “So, you have that homepage that changes every day, right? I love that.” Also note that guy has two brothers who graduated from Vassar.]

Lots of comments on whether kids will like their parents when they find out the parent was blogging the kid’s life.

Why would prospective students check out the school’s “official” blog when they can find your students’ blogs on their own.

Lots of students use an internal site (example) for “business type” posts—like, I have an extra ticket to the game; anyone going to New York; there’s a band coming.

One school breaks up blogs by student year. The freshmen year posts are password only—when they are sophomores they get promoted to have a blog open to the public. This was in response to the early questions on the freshmen blog, and then having information more open once they have worked out the kinks of being a new student. Students found this favorable. Large university system.

What is open? Does it mean that anyone can be anyone they want, or require some authentication. Commenter argues that once you associate their identity students will be more accountable to their comments/posts.

NERCOMP: notes from MIT speaker

Notes from the panel from MIT speaker. Some of the projects they are considering as a campus-only version of Twitter in addition to increasing education. Example: girl putting her away message to “I’m in the shower.”

  • MIT pre-frosh—how to communicate electronically
  • Freshmen seminar (1 faculty to 18-20 incoming students)
  • Experiment with a group of advisees asked to blog their transition to college. Personal reflection wasn’t the focus. First attempt containd mainly social engagement. Advisor developed blogging assignments—“What as it in the class this week that you didn’t understand?” Student could be referred to the right person, or students could chime in and offer advice. Semester-long project. Also used BaseCamp and LifePacker to project manage goals for the semester. Private version of blog utilized for things students didn’t want parents and outside world to see.
  • Some classes require blog use.
  • Wikis have been much more popular than blogs. 1200 groups on campus using wikis. Used for students, administration, and faculty
    • faculty developing a new course seeking feedback
    • needs faculty guidance (too much ‘what I had for dinner’ posts if left unguided)
  • Begining experiments with Twitter
  • Wikis beyond pilot stage (really took off) and now working with the ITS department to provide support
  • Debate now on build it or use other sites – Flickr for images, etc. In-house systems preferred (story of a co-worker’s photo ending up on someone else’s site claiming “This is my sister.”

Lessons from a failed wiki

Wiki used for a class – mainly used to store assignments (meant to fail, but faculty curious about “how” it would fail) The lesson the professor learned is you need to learn the nature of the system you want to implement, including peer pressures involved when using the medium, and the factor the professor’s involvement changes the experience.

What was the incentive for students to modify the class notes? The Professor realized he needed to add incentive. That worked out a little better, but only one or two students participated. Multiple people were not editing the document. Professor then added reading notes, and asked students to review them before class. Feedback form the students: “I was afraid to do things—I was afraid to do that because I didn’t know if it was right.” “Just my opinion.” Students drew attention to the nature of the audience—peers and a professor—and the drive to impress peers and the professor prevented them from touching the page.

The professor then made it part of the final exam and then the students had incredible notes.

The lesson the professor learned is you need to learn the nature of the system you want to implement, including peer pressures involved when using the medium, and the factor the professor’s involvement changes the experience.