Friday, March 18, 2011

Annotating Text

At our school, we really push students to get comfortable and familiar with the idea of annotating academic text that they’re reading. That’s just one of several reasons why we don’t use standard textbooks much in our English classes, and instead use copied units from Pebble Creek Labs, the Write Institute, or ones developed by local universities. And we always have a lot of post-it notes on hand for when we aren’t using consumables. We encourage students to read text with a pen or highlighter in their hands.

This is why I’m really big on web apps that let you annotate webpages (see Best Applications For Annotating Websites).

This kind of annotation habit is a reminder and strategy for students to interact more meaningfully with the text, and makes follow-up work so much easier (unit projects, studying for tests, etc.). It’s a habit that they’ll find useful for years to come.

Annotation “prompts” include using the typical reading strategies (ask a question, make a connection, visualize by drawing a picture and writing what it is, summarizing, predicting, and agreeing/disagreeing) and highlighting a specifically limited number of words (to help students develop the discipline of not highlighting tons of them)

Not just for research, note-taking and studying but also helps reading in general by focusing attention on the text.

Posted via email from Academentia

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Facebook, News and the Future of Free Thought

I came across this article in my drafts file ~ over a year old. It's still interested and hardly obsolete. I still read most of my news as rss feeds on a Google Reader, although I now use Twitter more than I did a year and especially for fast breaking news. From casual observation, I suspect those using Facebook as their sole news source are not serious news readers, were not before Facebook. Then as now, they take the easy option: one stop shopping. Then it was one newspaper, usually local, with AP or UPI providing the news window on the larger world, supplemented by a weekly news magazine that told them what to think about the news. Media change; human nature does not.  

Where do you read the news? Your friends and colleague? Your students? What are your thoughts about internet culture and how it is changing the way we learn, read, acquire and process information (to turn it into knowledge)?

via ReadWriteWeb by Marshall Kirkpatrick on 2/3/10

The consumption of news -- that formerly-respected category of information outside of humorous cat and music videos that impacts hundreds of millions of peoples' lives -- could be substantially improved by new methods of subscription offered online. Unfortunately, that's not happening. Numbers from web traffic analysts Hitwise released tonight indicate that almost nothing has changed in 10 years when it comes to popular consumption of news online. The big portals and search engines, delivering their version of news, remain in control. That's bad for independent thinking and human free will.

If you were hoping that a new world of web technology would empower free-thinking people to subscribe to diverse sources of information and analysis about the world's news, then Facebook, albeit a little awkward as a news-reading platform today, may be your best hope.

On Monday we argued that Facebook's call to users to subscribe to news outlets on the social network could soon make it the world's leading news-reading platform. Hitwise picked up on that story and ran some numbers today. Their conclusion: Facebook already drives 350 times as much traffic to other websites in the "news and media" category (3.5%) as Google Reader does (.01%). Perhaps more importantly, though, Facebook, Google News (1.4%). and Google Reader together account for less than 5% of news sites' total traffic. The #1, 2 and 3 drivers of traffic to news sites? Google, Yahoo and MSN - portals and search engines where the editorial judgement is made by centralized algorithms and powerful front-page editors.

So Facebook is the web's most popular subscription-enabled place to read news; be it from links shared by friends or by becoming a Fan of news organizations like Facebook is now encouraging. That doesn't mean that Facebook is yet a better news-reading service than dedicated RSS readers are. But it has certainly caught on as a way to read news far better than dedicated news-reading software has. In fact, it may offer the only meaningful chance that the technologies of online self-publishing and simple subscription are going to change the world like they ought to.

According to Hitwise's Heather Hopkins tonight:
Last week, Google Reader accounted for .01% of upstream visits to News and Media websites, about the same level as a year ago. Google News accounted for 1.39% of visits and Facebook 3.52%. Facebook was the #4 source of visits to News and Media sites last week, after Google, Yahoo! and msn. News and Media is the #11 downstream industry after Facebook, receiving 3.69% of the social networking site's traffic. To offer a comparison, 6% of downstream traffic from Facebook went to Shopping and Classifieds last week and 6% to Business and Finance and 15% went to Entertainment websites (YouTube in particular).

We detailed on Monday a number of ways in which Facebook was already the best place for millions of people to read and share news, but when looking at these Hitwise stats it's important to realize that it's traffic that's being counted. So full feeds inside Google Reader deliver the whole story, whereas Facebook snippets require that readers click all the way through to the source site. None the less, a multiple of 350 is a multiple of 350.
Google News, the 2nd leading news reader according to Hitwise, made some nice changes this week around starring stories to track over time. That could increase its marketshare. But Do-It-Yourself subscription to diverse selections of news sources may be contrary to the contemporary human condition, as desirable as it may be. As web standards guru Jeffrey Zeldman said in an unrelated post this week about the closed nature of the iPad: "The bulk of humanity doesn't want a computing experience it can tinker with; it wants a computing experience that works." The same could probably be said for news about the world, and look where it's gotten us.

I'm not saying Facebook is a better way to read news than through an RSS reader. I'm saying no one uses RSS readers, even after years of their being as obviously life-changing as many of us know they are. Instead, people are beginning to use Facebook to read news. That's good, because platforms that encourage independent subscription instead of just consumption of pre-selected news are very important.

Facebook Could Be Our Only Hope (Online)

The big story is of course that the vast, vast majority (like 95%) of traffic to news sites doesn't come from news readers like Google Reader, Google News or Facebook at all. It comes from search engines and portals. Google, Yahoo and MSN. That's what these numbers appear to indicate. Sure there's a long tail of other sites like Twitter, Digg, HuffingtonPost etc. but it's hard to imagine all those other sources at less than 1% each are adding up to much in aggregate. (We've asked Hitwise and await their response.)

Hitwise reported in September that of traffic leaving Twitter, for example, only 3.4% of it went to News and Media sites.

In other words, consumption of online news may not really have changed much for almost anyone in the last 10 years. You, dear reader who probably came here from Twitter or Google Reader or Facebook (maybe Digg if we're lucky), appear to remain part of a freakishly small minority.

That minority may be disproportionately powerful, driving market trends (maybe) and running circles around information streams online (definitely), but the experience of finding out news about what's going on in the world may not be a structurally different thing for almost anyone else, as it is for us.

This is your news on portals

That doesn't bode well for the long-tail of publishers, small voices given volume by easy publishing tools online. The subscription tools to make those long-tail voices a regular part of our news life have arrived - but no one is using them. Except Facebook, in growing numbers.

Above: News outlets post to Twitter using RSS, manually or with applications like Networked Blogs

Facebook is the player to watch. Facebook - the dreaded privacy-violating, Farmville-drenched, closed-data, social networking megalith (which is also fun to use and great in many ways) - could be the web's best hope for transforming the world through the power of online syndication and subscription.

So what are you going to do, Facebook? Are you going to move news about the world to an honored and important place on the site, are you going to reverse your December move pushing Fan-page subscriptions irrevocably public (a hostile environment for subscription) or are you just going to post an occasional post to the company's blog about how you can use Facebook to subscribe to news feeds - through a tedious process?

I'm hoping Facebook will take this opportunity and encourage its giant nation of users to add subscriptions to diverse news sources to their news feeds of updates from friends and family. That could deliver a tangible improvement to the world's information landscape, like the internet was always supposed to do.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Indeed, almost a month between posts, of listening and reading more than "speaking" (CCK11 on Facebook excepted). There's a lesson there. There's always a lesson somewhere, everywhere ~ up to us to make connections, analyze the information, draw and apply conclusions, taking note but not worrying overmuch when conclusions don't match those of cohorts or even guides. Information, however, should not ramble too far off the reservation. Presumably, we are all working with the same or at least similar information. Conclusions will vary but, adjusted for purpose, perspective and other parameters, should not be wildly inconsistent.

Translated that means (among other things), briefly, not all of us are here for the same purposes and hence will not take away same resources, not use MOOC, analytics and connectivism lessons or data for the same purposes. My interests are not the same as administrators or IT managers. Theirs are not the same as mine. They may not even the be same as most teaching co-participants. None of the preceding takes listening to, following coversations, reading, sifting ideas and sharing resources off the table.

image from a connectivism wiki

Remember the admonition: follow according to your focus/interests and take what you can use. Share and collaborate with all, regardless of their focus. It's a network, not a group; networked, not hierarchical.


So where have I been coming from (not to mention where headed)? I am not an administrator, manager, IT designer. Retired, I am not even a full time educator any more. I remain a learner with PLN, a volunteer, an activist, a community networker and interested in both education and online learning as they applies to all of the preceding. 

And what am I doing with, how do I hope/intend/plan to use, all this? Can't say for sure just yet but creating public self-regulated learning programs for open community access is part of it. This grows out of community blogging and volunteer teaching ESL online. It is as nourished by IRL experiences and networks as it is by the online. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

GeoTrio: another tool for your PLN

GeoTrio lets you create a virtual tour of just about anyplace on a map. You type in addresses or locations and easily create multiple “stops” that show the Google Street View snapshots of the area. You can also upload your own images.

But that’s not all.

What really makes GeoTrio stand out is the ability to easily make an audio recording for each stop on the map.

In many ways its similar to Tripline, which you can read about on The Best Sites Where Students Can Plan Virtual Trips (I’m adding GeoTrio to that list, too). Tripline is “slicker” and lets you grab images off the Web. However, it does not have the ability to provide audio narration.

Assignment for students:

Use this to plan a trip to someplace you've always wanted to visit or create a presentation to show your online friends about your home town or some place special to you.

Other: teaching, presentation, marketing, even site development tool

Posted via email from Meanderings

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