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EdTech Update





Blogorrhea and blogs vs cellulose

Blogorrhea noun. An unusually high volume output of articles on a blog.

Usage: "Well, 48 hours and 4,195 words later, we're reaching for our dictionary to check the definition of "significantly." After that, we're going to look up blogorrhea." - William Quick <>
I stumbled across this term the other day. I immediately felt shame. Am I guilty of blogorrhea? Does posting on a daily basis (not for the sake of the reader, but the release of the writer) qualify? Should one let one’s significant other know of this embarrassing condition? (As if the LWW doesn’t know already.)

Part of my long Turkey Day weekend was spent writing and revising two columns for publication in cellulose. Both pieces seemed to come hard from the mind to the page. Blog entries rarely do. I am wondering why.

How does writing for print (or established website) publication differ from writing in a blog?

Print: word count matters - conciceness is a virture
Blog: take as many or few words as one needs - why say something in five words you can say in ten?

Print: topic of broad interest to a particular readership – to inform, convince others
Blog: topic of personal interest – to inform, convince oneself

Print: careful proof-reading, best if by a second party
Blog: catching embarrassing mistakes (usualy)

Print: little reader response
Blog: expected reader response

Print: careful conclusions
Blog: conclusions under construction

Print: deadlines (and those whizzing sounds as they shoot by)
Blog: no deadlines, as inspiration strikes

Print: scheduled for publication 2-6 months in advance
Blog: now, yesterday is old news

Print: formal language (well, kinda for me)
Blog: natural voice, including works like kinda

Print: editorial oversight
Blog: one’s own conscience

Print: monetary remuneration
Blog: jewels in one’s crown (am I biting the hand that pours beer in my mug?)

Print: gravitas
Blog: whatever

I recently attended a Soaring to Excellence teleconference called Google and Your Patrons. One of the video segments showed two college students doing research. One chides the other that she is reading journals, not RSS feeds, to prepare for a class assignment. And this from a library teleconference. Uff-dah!

So who is better informed? The journal reader or the blog reader?
Should monthly print journals/magazines be worried about readership?
What should the informed professional be reading - blogs or journals - when there is not time for both?
What really constitutes blogorrhea? Too many words or too few ideas?



Personal use of the Internet

I’ve been thinking a lot about a line from Frances Jacobson’s book, I Found It on the Internet.  (My review.) She worries libraries suffer from comparison to the Internet in students’ minds when, “Libraries become places to look for information other people want you to find, not for information that you yourself find intrinsically compelling or valuable.”

On our state media association list, a Minnesota media specialist recently asked a question all have asked at one time or another:

     …what do you allow students to do on the Internet? I started the year (in a high school) with a pretty loose policy, then had to step it up to no games, videos, quizzes, chat rooms, email, discussion boards, IMing, etc. Now I am battling eBay and anime sites and I am tempted to squash Internet use for personal things altogether.
     However, I also had a student today looking at different religions and I get students researching signs of depression and serious topics that they should be able to learn about on their own. I need to find a balance between no personal use and free access.

Below is a snippet from a book chapter I wrote for Carol Simpson’s Ethics in School Librarianship: A Reader which summarized my answer to the above question:
The pursuit of information by students to meet personal needs should be encouraged in schools. Life-long learning strategies, practice in information evaluation, and experiences in building effective communication strategies are all reinforced when students use information technologies to meet personal goals.

As library media specialists and technologists, we need to lighten up a little in regard to what students are doing with the Internet in our libraries and classrooms as well. The Internet has vast resources that are not directly related to the curriculum but are of high interest to students at all grade levels. Information about sports, fashion, movies, games, celebrities, and music in bright and exciting formats abounds.

 The use of the Internet for class work of course must be given priority, but computer terminals should never sit empty. And there are some good reasons to allow students personal use of the Internet:

  • It gives kids a chance to practice skills. After all that’s why we have “recreational” reading materials in our libraries. Do we really subscribe to Hot Rod or Seventeen because they’re used for research? If we want kids who can do an effective Internet search, read fluently, and love to learn, does it make much difference if they are learning by finding and reading webpages on the Civil War or Civil War games?
  • It gives weight to the penalty of having Internet access taken away. The penalty for misuse of the Internet is often a suspension of Internet us privileges. As a student, if I were restricted to only school work uses of the Internet and had my Internet rights revoked, I’d pretty much say, “So what?” and wonder what I had to do to get my textbooks taken away as well. But if I am accustomed to using the Internet each morning before school to check on how my favorite sports team was faring, the loss of Internet access as a consequence of misbehavior would be far more serious.
  • It makes the library media center a place kids want to be. Many of our students love the library for the simple reason that it is often the only place that allows them to read books of personal interest, work on projects that are meaningful, and explore interests that fall outside the curriculum in an atmosphere of relative freedom. Kids need a place like that, and we should provide it – even at the Internet terminals.
Granted, my thoughts on this are pretty idealistic. Recreational/personal use of the Interent in schools can and does cause problems. But we risk losing kids as library users, both now and as adults if we take a hard line approach. Unless you only want kids in your library when they HAVE to be there, it must be cool and meaningful place to be.

Where is the happy medium? Is there one? How would you answer the question 'What do you allow students to do on the Internet?"



Three laws of AI

George Dyson in his Edge article "Turing's Cathedral" (November 24, 2005), quotes a Google employee as saying about the  Google Book Seach (formerly Google Print) project:

"We are not scanning all those books to be read by people... We are scanning them to be read by an AI."

I have to admit, this gave me the willies. Should it? Is there an AI equivilent to Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics?

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

I'd sleep better knowing that someone a whole lot smarter than I am is thinking this through. Will AIs be the benign helpmates envisioned by Ray Kurzweil in The Age of Spiritual Machines or the nemisis of humanity desribed in Dan Simmon's science fiction novels of Hyperion or Clarke's 2001?

Is my friendly little PowerBook about to say to me: "I'm sorry, Doug. I'm afraid I can't do that."?