More on Horizontal Contributions as Conversations

I should know better than to post more about this concept given the lack of interest (perhaps my lack of clarity) in my previous piece on it, but I am really interested in generating conversations about it. My friend and colleague, Brad Kozlek, has been working with Intense Debate on his blog showing what it looks like from an end user perspective … Brad does an excellent job of discussing the affordances of this specific tool offers. I think the idea that it is a service unto itself allows it to do so much more than simply handle standard text comments … to me that is exciting in light of at least two of our faculty fellows this summer. If you are interested in what a third party commenting engine can provide jump over and take a look at it in action at my PSU blog.

One of our Fellows, Chris Long, is exploring the notion of “digital dialogues” to start to understand if the platforms of the web 2.0 world can support ongoing dialogue with deeper meaning. From Chris’ post at the TLT Faculty Fellow site describing his investigations …

In Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, Socrates claims to be one of the only Athenians to practice the true art of politics. As is well known, Socrates haunted the public places in Athens looking for young people with whom he could converse. During these discussions, Socrates was intent on turning the attention of those he encountered toward the question of the good and the just. It is difficult to understate the lasting political power these dialogues have had over the course of time. Yet the emergence of social Web 2.0 technologies opens new possibilities for this ancient practice of politics, which Socrates fittingly called in the Gorgias, a “techne,” or art.

When we started exploring the notion of using an external commenting engine to support some of the work Carla Zembaul-Saul wanted to think about this summer, we instantly saw these new affordances giving Chris new ways to explore his thinking — commenting inline via video is a huge step forward in our minds to relate to his work.

While this interesting itself, the thing I was really interested in was not what you saw when you arrived at a given blog, it was what it looked like from a personal administrative side … I was interested in being able to think about how what my (or students’) contributions look like across the social web. We post and comment traditionally in a vertical fashion, while what we need is an easy way to track those contributions once we leave the vertical. So if lots of people, perhaps across the PSU blog service, could use a a service that keeps track of our horizontal conversations something really exciting could emerge. Something that would let us look at all of these horizontal contributions with ties to the original context. Since it is a service on its own, it has a set of dashboard tools that pulls it all together — people you are following, certain keywords emerge, your own comments, links to the original posts, and more. This is the side of it that makes me really hopeful.

Horizontal Memory

Horizontal Memory

If we can make this happen the way we are thinking about it we can empower some new uses for our platform. Chris gets his ability to engage people where they are in multiple mediums and Carla gets a way to use comments as measurable artifacts. I gain the ability to introduce this to my friend, Keith Bailey, in the College of Arts and Architecture as a viable platform to teach art appreciation — in that world, the idea of the critique is as important as the original contribution. So having an easy way for a faculty member to track contributions across many posts as a way to review and reflect on a given student’s growth in the critique space is now very easy. If we can work to understand how to capture and pack up a single person’s comments across lots of posts I think we are moving towards giving them more to reflect on and faculty a better set of evidence to base assessment on. At least I think so … any thoughts?

CogDog Visits PSU

Over the last two days I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Alan Levine here at my own campus. Alan decided to make the long drive from a weekend gig in NYC to spend time with a couple of friends — our CIO and Alan went to high school together! When Alan told me he was coming in, I didn’t have to twist his arm too hard to spend some time meeting with people and giving a presentation to a group. We did our usual community as committee approach, set up a wiki, and used twitter to get people to attend. In a matter of days we had over 125 people registered!

3505158108_c25940b979jpgThe last couple of days have been a real blast letting Alan see lots of stuff going on in and around Teaching and Learning with Technology at PSU. Alan got to hang out with our Educational Gaming Commons team, the Digital Commons group, talking with people about our Informal Learning Spaces, and just getting to know people. I was lucky enough to have Alan over to dinner where we created a new way to visualize information, watched while Alan read my two year old a bedtime story (I guess that is “analog storytelling”), and just had a great time enjoying a Cuizoo inspired homemade, local meal. Last night I was joined by Alan and a couple of other colleagues at Otto’s to enjoy another local meal. All in all, the informal parts of his visit have been not only fun, but flat out inspiring to quite a few people on my team and beyond. Alan took some time to blog about it earlier today.

3505197004_7c60756d56jpgYesterday afternoon Alan did his 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story to close to packed room in Foster Auditorium in the Penn State Library. One of the things I noticed was that there were lots of new faces in the crowd — that is really exciting to me! The thing that I loved about the session upon further reflection is just how interesting it was to see the same story told with so many different tools. The funny thing is that my initial thoughts were the opposite — he should use different stories with each tool, but after thinking about it I started to realize that the tools themselves are somehow linked to the outcome of the story. I was happy to read that my friend and colleague, Chris Long, took something similar from the session … Chris says it much better than I do.

This is a significant and important insight. It not only forces us to attend to the myriad Web 2.0 modes of digital expression that are open to us, but also, and more significantly, to ask how these modes impact the content we create, engage, critique and experience.

The other thing I am thinking about with this talk is how it works to focus on the notions of storytelling as a real form of discourse. That there is a process to good storytelling that can (and should) be taught. The intensity of the “tool selection portion” is balanced very well with the introduction of the narrative itself. I think it is a talk that requires some post event thinking … it is so overwhelming at first and then it all starts to settle in. I know that I’ve had that conversation this morning with several colleagues and it made quite the positive impact. Just as an aside, I was looking around the room and noticed how engaged people were not only with what Alan was saying, but also with how many people were going to the various sites while he was sharing them. Great, great session!

3505526583_b38d1d7d82_bThe day wrapped up with a panel conversation that had ETS Faculty Fellows (Chris Long, Carla Zembal-Saul, and Ellsya Cahoy), myself, and Alan — moderated by our CIO Kevin Morooney. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t feel a bit intimidated to be a member of that group. We had a sweeping conversation related to digital literacy, open education, disaggregation, the Academy, adoption of technology, cultivation of faculty, and so much more. The questions pushed us to answer and expand — and when you have a couple of educational technologists, a philosopher, a librarian, and an expert in education the conversations got deep. It was a professional highlight for me. The questions and the conversations made the whole thing sparkle in my mind.

I am in love with these kinds of opportunities … where else can you find such a diverse set of people participating in that kind of depth of conversation on a Tuesday afternoon? It continues to be part of my professional goals to make sure conversations like this continue to happen on our campus. Conversations that challenge us as a community to engage in a meaningful and complex dialogue that can work to move us forward. I continue to be humbled by the people and passion I see around me. I send a huge thank you out to everyone who helped, participated, came, and just enjoyed!