Northern Voice 2008

I am jealous. Not that I need to be on the road any more, but missing the awesome Northern Voice again has me down. Knowing there is a collection of amazing people all advancing our field right now has me wanting to jump a flight. Sigh. Well, tonight for a few brief moments I was able to join Alan Levine and his session via Amazing. Enjoy the event and the evening NV2008! Thanks for finding new ways to be open.

How can we do something like this for the TLT Symposium?


Collaborative Data Gathering: Now Easy

Most of us have used the suite of tools under the Google Docs moniker to do all sorts of collaborative things. Giving us a web-based, multi-user version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint has been a good thing. I’ve had my ups and downs with the tools since the Writely days, but I think in general they are a very powerful and flexible set of tools. This is so clear when working in committee or as a student working in teams — the idea that you don’t have to shuffle individual documents back and forth is an amazing benefit.

Yesterday during class we demonstrated the Google Docs suite to the students … most of them had seen them and we didn’t see too many jaws drop until I showed a new feature of the spreadsheet app — the ability to create web forms that actually dumps data back into the originating spreadsheet. This new feature was announced by Google just a few days ago and it makes the act of collecting data very straightforward and I would even say stretches into the online survey space. I read this morning over at Daring Fireball that there appears to be a 5,000 row limit, but that is a hell of a lot more data collection than you can do in many free survey tools.

It is so easy to make work … just create your spreadsheet and share it. In the sharing area you can now select an option “to fill out a form.” That’s it … select it, get the URL and send it out. Amazing that if you are in the google spreadsheet as people are filling out the form you see the data come in. I created a little form to test it out … fill it out for me! It also appears as though you can publish the spreadsheet with the data live updating.


One thing I don’t see that would really make this even more handy is a little web clip of code that I could drop my form on my blog or in a place like ANGEL. I checked it on my iPhone and the layout is great and it works … sweet for mobile data gathering applications. Nice little step forward.


I hope all Americans (and the World in general) takes a moment to reflect on the great things Dr. Martin Luther King did for this country. It isn’t everyday that you can point at a human being and have nothing but respect for their vision, passion, and sacrifice. A great man who is still an inspiration today … I just hope we can all find a way to respect his message and continually work to remember his voice.

As a quick pointer, I read a great article over at ESPN following members of the Portland Trail Blazers to the YMCA where a young Dr. King played hoops as a boy. What a great little read and I have to hand it to the people who are running the Portland organization for creating such meaningful experiences for what are becoming increasingly younger and wealthier individuals. Nice to see the genuine appreciation for history and such a desire to learn. It is worth a read.

Examples from the Digital Commons

Now that there are several new Digital Commons studios in place across the Commonwealth of PA we are starting to see some amazing things come out of them. The thing I am continually excited to see is that faculty and students come up with amazing ways to use the things we envision and install. We knew from our data that students were engaged in the creation of digital media, but we weren’t really sure what they were making. We’ve also been told over and over by faculty that they are more likely to accept a digital asset as evidence of learning — think of asking students to do a short film instead of giving a PowerPoint presentation on a topic. All of it was on the upswing, but as we set about installing studios we were anxiously awaiting the outcomes that would flow from the creative spaces.

Towards the end of the spring semester we started to see some amazing things emerge. From the Google Earth centered enhanced podcasts Dr. Laura Guertin’s students produced to the digital video that is shown below produced by Lindley Jones, the Digital Commons is providing a platform for faculty and student innovation — on the teaching and learning side. That is what is most impressive. Who would have dreamed we’d see something as powerful as what Lindley produced?