April 07, 2006

 

Reflections Post for my EDIT 535 class...

Once you have the Blog URL and group members added send Dwayne a brief email with your Blog topic and URL and your members list. Your final Blog posting must sum up the impact, benefit ( or lack of benefit) blogging has in your discipline and area of specialty You must include a link to your Blog your Portfolio and reflect on how this communication tool effects your discipline and area and area of specialty.

NOTE: This reflection takes quotes from Schiano, D.J. Nardi, B.A. Gumbrecht, M. & Swartz, L. "Blogging by the Rest of Us." CHI 2004 Late Breaking Results Paper. (Vienna: 2004) p.1143-1146.

Well, this was my first blogging experience, and I found that it can be a very effective way to express oneself to the world. Cyberspace is best characterized by a wall of anonymity that always shields the true identities of its users from everyone else. This anonymous identity that people assume while using the Internet often allows them to become more frank and forward with their evaluations of the world and the events that change it. However, this feature can be counterproductive as the Internet (and by extension: blogs) is a medium that seems to routinely produce incidents of immature name-calling and bickering, as opposed to constructive and meaningful debate. Just look at how some blog entries had a tremendous impact on January’s federal election. Despite this unfortunate effect, many people out there can still observe proper Netiquette procedures, and continue to be frank, open, and even brutally honest without allowing themselves to degenerate into bitter personal attacks on other people. For my own blogging experience, I found that I brought two different approaches when participating in these new online “journals.” I used a political-themed blog on one hand to demonstrate just how blogs can be used not only for a multitude of voices to be heard far and wide, but also how new ideas can be spread around the globe, and how they can be used to allow democracy to flourish in the modern age. In that particular context, I found that my personal convictions can sometimes stretch Netiquette rules when I make my arguments. However, because I did not have the benefit of full cyber-anonymity, (in order for the instructor to be able to determine my identity for marking purposes) I know that I must be careful and think about what I say, because it can always come back to haunt people sometimes. Despite all of that, I was still able to speak as openly as possible about those topics that interest me, and I do realize that blatant rudeness adds nothing to the collective academic consciousness. Therefore, I have found that blogs can be sort of a double-edged sword, on one hand they allow for the frank and open exchange of one’s ideas, beliefs, and values in a public forum, but on the other hand it also holds the potential to quickly disintegrate into chaos, where people don’t use logic or reason to express their views, but rather emotion and spite.

I also created a second Technology in Education blog to emphasize another important use for this novel Internet tool. Not only can blogs just be used to store personal musings or record-keeping, but they can encourage discussion and debate, and also be used to objectively spread knowledge and understanding as well. The Technology in Education blog allowed me to present ideas and information objectively, and by being able to convey that useful and important information to professional colleagues, it was done without letting personal feelings or biases cloud the message that I was conveying. Hence, I approached the two different blogs almost as two completely different people; one blog brings out my fierce and deeply held beliefs that are moulded to my personality and unlikely to change very easily. That Socio-political blog was almost like a podium rather than a conference room, and I find it unlikely that the use of that blog would allow me to remain objective towards someone else’s point of view (or for that matter, allow anyone else to objectively evaluate my point of view). On the other hand, the Technology in Education blog was designed to distance itself from personal opinions and reactions, instead it was able to present information and resources to others in a way that encourages people to keep an open mind about what they are reading. In the end, the two blogs brought forth two very different experiences, and really emphasized the versatility that blogs can have for educators. Blogging has plenty of potential for teaching and learning, in part because it presents a unique and easy way to present information, musings, and records to the world over the Internet, also because it provides an effective way for one to chronicle the impact that they personally have on the world around them. Through the encouragement that blogs are equally capable of disseminating both fact and opinion, teachers can use blogs to transmit not only your basic low-taxonomy knowledge, but they can also use the blogging process to instill the ability for students to get exposed to those higher-level analysis and evaluations of that knowledge by looking at how it affects them personally in the world around them.

Teachers of the Humanities and Social Sciences can easily make use of these growing and popular blogs, and integrate them into their professional work. Studies have reported that blogging is not just “interactive,” but that it is also “apparent that the vast majority of blogs are written by ordinary people with much smaller audiences in mind.” [Schiano, Nardi, Gumbrecht, and Swartz; 2004; 1143] There are personal blogs, topical blogs, individual-centred blogs, and community-oriented blogs. Another major phenomenon that was reported about blogging is that it also seems to be replacing the old “dear diary” form of personal-written journals, as “many blogs seem to function in the age-old tradition of diaries and personal record keeping. While the blogger is aware that his or her journal is on the Internet, the primary audience seems to be oneself, and perhaps a very few occasional readers.” [Schiano, Nardi, Gumbrecht, and Swartz; 2004; 1145] This shows that blogs are becoming significant through developing personal meaning to some people, as well as allowing public involvement. Blogs could very well become like E-mail accounts, where everyone seems to have one that provides their own little place on the Web to store their pictures, thoughts, feelings, ideas, and as some bloggers put it, a place to store a “verification” of one’s life. [Schiano, Nardi, Gumbrecht, and Swartz; 2004] As such, blogs are likely to become much more prevalent as time goes on, and if teachers can stay ahead of the curve, they can easily access another piece of simple, yet effective technology to make use of in the classroom, and enhance their professional development. Blogs are still a relatively new phenomenon, and we’re not sure yet just how far they are going to extend into our lives, but they have the potential to become very significant, and not just for teachers, but for everyone.


April 04, 2006

 

Ralph gets kicked out of his World...

Wow, and I mean wow, what a week it has been in Alberta politics. Ralph Klein and his "two-years-and-out" retirement plan got the thumbs-down from the grassroots, and now everything in Alberta seems to have fallen into a cesspool of uncertainty. I don't deny that Ralph's dragged-out farewell was not a good thing for the rest of us, but no one foresaw that he would be so plainly and clearly compelled to pass the reigns of power sooner rather than later. I secretly had a feeling that this might happen, and I predicted a 54%-46% No vote for a leadership review the night before (final tally 55.4% No 44.6% Oh-Hell-Yes), so I am not completely surprised. Still though, you really have to feel bad for poor ol' Ralph, here he goes and pours his heart out to justify one more kick at the can, most significantly after helping to turn Alberta from basketcase to powerhouse (and oil has nothing to do with it, there has always been oil in Alberta, it's how you manage the economy that has made the impact. The NDP would have us in worse financial shape had they won in 1993. Count on that...), yet here goes Ralph getting the political equivalent of a bitch-slap with a "see ya, thanks for coming out" to boot. Geez, just imagine what the Tory electorate is going to do to a failed premier.

I do find it amusing that the province's minority lefties are spouting their platitudes of triumph because of what has occurred, high-fiving and hooting as if their influence had done anything even remotely close to formenting this. Well, I suppose I can relate to that sentiment seeing as I had to endure the federal Liberals forming government after government despite their, let's just call them, shortcomings. So go ahead, rejoice o' great protectors of "public medicare," and "affordable housing," and peace, and vegan diets, and so on, revel in the moment, even if it is just a moment, and keep hoping for the possibility of a right-wing collapse in this province, because the right is about to make a commanding return to Alberta governance. It is no secret that many Tory and other right-leaning voters in the province are not happy with the spend and spend bureaucratic image that has characterized Ralph's World lately. It was that, as much as anything else, that affected the vote results. Many right wingers are starting to feel that the province is betraying its conservative philosophy, and are looking to see a more principled government in Edmonton just like they have fought for years to get one in Ottawa. There are now just few possibilties for the next premier: Jim Dinning, Mark Norris, Ted Morton, or the Alberta Alliance Party, all of which make Ralph Klein look like the Liberal Party sympathizer that he was. Preston Manning would be an interesting choice because he is generally respected across the entire political spectrum, but he is still a longshot at this time. If the lefties are happy to see Ralph's demise because their views were not being respectfully considered during the King's reign, they are going to start feeling damn nostalgic for him once a truly right-wing premier comes to office. If the left feels that Ralph's World didn't take their "progressive" thinking seriously they are going to be in for a very rude awakening after the next Tory leader is annointed. Let's not kid ourselves here, the only party that will (eventually) end the Tory dynasty is the Alberta Alliance, as our politics do not allow perennial opposition parties to escape their branded status. When change comes in Alberta, it comes like a tsunami, hurricane, earthquake, tornado, and blizzard all put together.

Someday the Alliance party will get its day in the sun, but for now the more likely scenario involves seeing Premier Dinning, Norris, Morton, or maybe Manning for a while. Dinning is Calgary's man, Norris is backed by forever-overlooked-and-frustrated Edmonton. Ted Morton fits in as the "conservative's conservative" candidate, and I am aware of a good number of Tory party members who are throwing their support behind him simply because he is the most dedicated right-wing candidate. Seeing as King Ralph will no longer retire on his own terms a la Jean Chretien, the voice of the people still reigns and democracy works. Now, the next few months are going to be the most important in Alberta politics since the last great Edmonton/Calgary debate in 1993 between Klein and Decore. So go on, laugh and revel in the moment left-wingers, because Ralph's near-defeat only makes you the true losers. Keep hanging in there baby...

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