Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Improving USU's Instructional Technology Department

So far the USU Instructional Technology department has done a poor job convincing me that I matter as a PhD student within the department. (No, this has nothing to do with COSL or my choice of program chair.) I've been at it for a couple years, and I'm not even in the student directory on the INST web page. Other departments I have seen have walls with photos of their students, including their names, where they are from, and when they started the program. We have an online version, and it is completely outdated and boring. But I have a suggestion.

When I visit other departments I see photos of their grad students on their walls. It's cool to look at, and it sends a message. "Our students matter." Something like would help us put names with faces. I see the need for both an offline and an online version. And with our online version we could do much better. Why not add rich student profiles to the department's web page? Like personal blogs, LinkedIn profiles, flickr or Google image accounts, and other things we want to share as part of our online identity? Do you think this would be hard to build? It's already done. It's called Ozmozr, and it was built right here in the USU Instructional Technology department. But I bet not many people in the department even know about it.

Don't get me wrong, I will succeed at my goals regardless of my "headless" department. This is not about students wanting to see their own photos in the hall in front of the Instructional Technology office. It's about interacting with faculty and grad students and sharing ideas. So an important question for any new department chair should be, "How do we convince students that they are a major focus of this department?" Start with a major overhaul of the INST website. Make the new site compelling and interactive for current students as well as alumni, with rich member profiles that leverage existing (free) online services and encourage sharing and interacting. And, just for old time's sake, put some student pictures up in the hall as well.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Obey the Google Bot

I wish I had a screenshot to prove it, but not long after I copied a recent geofacts article I wrote over to this blog my Google pagerank dropped from 6 to 2!

Lesson from Wise and All Powerful Google Bot: Never self-plagiarize!

Geocoding Family History

For those of you who have been faithfully following my blog (both of you), I am now also posting stuff to techconsumer.com and geofacts.org. Here is a recent post on geofacts that I am also posting here, just to see what the Google bot does to my pagerank when I self-plagiarize...

This week I started using a site called MyFamily2.0 beta after a recently family get together. The site is free, and describes itself as “a place where you can share photos and narrated photo stories with your family and friends.” I am quite impressed with it so far, particularly the “stories” section of the site. It allows users to add audio stories to their part of the site. This is done using a regular telephone to record the story (they provide you with a unique PIN number when you call). You can also tie photos to the recorded story. All that is missing is a geocoding feature to allow users to tie these stories to specific locations.

I see great potential with this site, so I used their feedback link to make this plug for geocoding:

One suggestion I would make that could really bring the photos, videos, and audio stories to the next level would be to “geocode” or “geotag” these memories. By this I mean allowing users who add media to browse to a specific map location using a Google map or something similar and link them to a physical location. You could tie all this wonderful media to specific locations, such as a cemetery site or a childhood home. Panoramio.com is doing this with photos, but I don’t know of anyone else who allows users to geotag audio and video media. It won’t be long until we all carry GPS-enabled mobile devices that can search by location. The sooner we can tie media files to physical locations, the more likely MyFamily.com will lead the way in “on-site” family history.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I'm ready to move back to France

I watched SiCKO online tonight, and I am ready to move back to France. There's a part in the middle of the movie where Michael Moore has a hard time understanding why the media hates the French so much. They have better health care (along with the rest of the planet), more vacation time, and a shorter work week. But it's more than that. It's just a better quality of life. And people actually care about other people -- not just their family and friends. It's hard to explain. Most Americans wouldn't understand.