Wednesday, February 27, 2008

social networking and the distance learner

There is a great post from PHM3 that really got me thinking: his notion (and there are many others out there in traditional learning environments already doing so) of using social software to provide a way for students with similar interests/majors etc. to find each other, I think, could be a very useful tool for our working adult, distance learners. In many cases, these students are working through their degree in isolation, with their only contact being with their mentor. I would guess that many students might find it advantageous to find others within the college who have similar personal or research interests, hobbies, areas of concentration, locales, or even professions.

At present, we have no significant college presence in Facebook or any other social network system that I know of, but I've been pondering putting forth a proposal to my bosses to set one up and promote it to our students and faculty (the hardest part: getting buy in) so that we can foster a better sense of community, which I think is so hard to build in the distance learning environment. But I think it has vast potential if we can put in place enough tools and services so that the incentive to join would be there. Putting the library front and center of that community would also be a plus for us and the college as a whole.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

my zen presenter place

I gave a workshop and a presentation in the last 2 weeks and both appear to have gone well. I got all positive feedback and I think I'm finally becoming comfortable talking off the cuff about things I know a good deal about.

The first was a 90 min. hands-on virtual workshop for students gathered together in 2 remote classroom locations - basically an intro to library resources, but with an emphasis on information evaluation and basic search techniques that work across databases. It's the first of a series of virtual workshops I'm working hard on putting together (the second is a more advanced research and search techniques session). We use the Wimba virtual classroom platform and everything went smoothly, both technically and content-wise, and based on the feedback and the distant classroom facilitator's impressions, the students really got something out of it. Makes all the effort I put into it worth while! The real challenge will be making these kinds of sessions available directly to students at home.

The second was a 45 min. conference presentation on using blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, and RSS for group/team collaboration and productivity. The audience was all professional staff at the college and I emphasized basic, free tools and how they might be used by those collaborating, especially in groups composed of members spread across the state (our college has offices all over the state and even overseas). I also emphasized how all these tools are merging and mixing function-and form-wise, similar to cameras, phones, mp3 players and web access in tools like the iPhone. Much to my surprise, the room was filled to capacity. Instead of a stale slide show, I used PBWiki to present my information and show off examples of how these tools could be used. Luckily after some initial struggle, I got the wireless internet connection to work and everything flowed smoothly (which was very lucky because I hadn't had time to create a back-up version in PP!). I had been sick the entire week prior to this presentation so my prep time was less than I am normally comfortable with, but again, everything went smoothly and I got great feedback from attendees.

I think I'm finally in a place, both personally and professionally, where my self-confidence and experience make me a decent teacher/presenter...