Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Thursday, December 30, 2004
Disaster Aid Linking
Both Apple and Microsoft home pages have links for donations for tsunami disaster relief.

Tsunami Relief
Google has a good reference page on tsunami aid with links to many of the major aid groups. I am going to give to Oxfam. (Oxfam has a US page too.)

I urge everyone to give something even if you think you can't afford it. We can all find a consumable pleasure to give up (a movie, a meal out) and give that money to help ease the suffering in Asia.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004
NY Times article on blogging the tsunami.

Photos and videos of the tsunami and its aftermath.

Thanks to Will Richardson's weblogg-ed post that started me on my browsing journey.

The Disaster
The total energy released by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake exceeds the total amount of energy consumed in the United States in one month, or the energy released by the wind of a hurricane like Hurricane Isabel over a period of 70 days.
from Wikipedia: 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake
Wikipedia also has links to sites accepting donations for earthquake/tsunami victims or you can visit Amazon where they have created a space for accepting Red Cross donations.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Bio of Paulo Friere
Friere is a fascinating man and a bold educational theorist. His theories on teaching adult literacy are used in the US and other countries.

I wrote a short bio about him for my instructional design class last semester.

A Short Biography of Paulo Freire

iTunes Downloads
Single of the Week (free) is by the group Paris Texas from Madison, Wisconsin. It's in the 'alternative' genre but it rocks, yes it rocks nicely. Worth a listen for the price.

No discovery downloads this week.

(Question: Does Apple ever put Discovery Downloads online on days besides Tuesdays?)

December Vanishing

My main blog page should now have all of December but it's getting archived to the December archive page (available from the left navigation area). I don't know why and I've sent a note to blogger tech support. It might have to do with connecting to haloscan for trackback services.
Paris Review Interviews
Welcome to the DNA of literature—over 50 years of literary wisdom rolled up in 300+ Writers-at-Work interviews, now available online—free.
The Paris Review has long been known for its interviews with writers and the US National Endowment for the Arts has provided the monies to move these interviews to the Web, a decade per month, starting with the 1950's (online now) and ending with the 90's in May 2005.

The 50's group brings interviews with Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Graham Greene, Dorothy Parker, Robert Penn Warren, William Faulkner, Nelson Algren, Joyce Cary, Isak Dinesen, Lawrence Durrell, T. S. Elliot, Ralph Ellison, E. M. Forster, Henry Green, Francois Mauriac, Alberto Moravia, Frank O'Connor, Francoise Sagan, Irwin Shaw, Georges Simenon, William Styron, James Thurber, Thornton Wilder, and Angus Wilson.

The NY Times has a nice essay and introduction (login possibly required).

Monday, December 27, 2004
RSS as Disruptor
from The Role of RSS in Science Publishing by Tony Hammond, Timo Hannay, and Ben Lund.
The bastion of online publishing is under threat as never before. RSS is the very antithesis of the website. It is not a 'home page' for visitors to call at, but rather it provides a synopsis, or snapshot, of the current state of a website with simple titles and links.

Sunday, December 26, 2004
Justin Pfister & His Web Site
I discovered Justin's site by stumbling upon his Google News RSS Feed Generator, where he states: "I welcome anyone in the world to use it in an effort to become a more informed public." Definitely worth checking out if you frequent Google news and also are becoming an RSS addict.

Today I wondered over to his home page (very nice design) where I discovered a fictional creation of his, Googleonia.

Justin has an interesting blog described as "The inner reaches of my outer space." It's hard to categorize but if you're looking for things of an educational variety, you'll find some here (like the Degree Confluence Project).

Also found at Justin's site in his blogroll: Google Blogoscoped, a weblog about things googley, and the text and a link to the article The Internet is Shit, a reactionary piece about the Internet that's actually is thought provoking.

Thursday, December 23, 2004
Weather Food
I woke up this morning in frigid Minneapolis, MN US wondering how cold it was outside. We have a thermometer on a window (big circle thing that sticks there) so it isn't hard to look but doggone it, I thought that it should be easy to check on the Net.

I have some bookmarks to weather sites. Most have ads and it takes a couple of seconds to load and IT SHOULD BE EASIER. The blog/rss universe must have an easier way!

Here it is:

What You Need

A browser that handles the feed: Firefox does nicely.

That's it. Go to rssweather and search on your zip code to bring up the weather report for your area.

Check lower right area of the Firefox status bar and you should see the orange RSS feed indicator. It's a pop-up menu that lists the feeds for the page.

Subscribe to the last feed in the list. That corresponds to the page you're looking at (which contains the weather for your city).

You're done. Here's what you'll see in Firefox.

menu screenshot of rssweather feed for Minneapolis

You get the temperature in Fahrenheit plus some conditions plus links to more details.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
ITunes Free Stuff
Discovery Download
Genre: Blues
Chicago Blues by Sidney Maiden and K. C. Douglas
"After relocating to Oakland, CA from the rural south in the 1940s Sidney Maiden and K. C. Douglas began making names for themselves around the San Francisco Bay Area as down-home bluesmen."

Free single of the week: Don't Stop by Lateef and the Chief

Monday, December 20, 2004
Blogosphere Numbers
The Blogosphere By the Numbers has some interesting figures like a new weblog is created every 5.8 seconds and there are 55,500 blogs created by 10 to 12-year-olds.

The 50-59 age group creates only 18,500 blogs.

Moon Over Duluth Bay
Moon Over Duluth Bay
Moon Over Duluth Bay
Originally uploaded by pfhyper.
I rediscovered this picture last night and made a nice print of it. I think it deserves to join my blog also.

We stayed on the 16th floor of the Holiday Inn and I brought my tripod. I wanted to catch the moon and the bridge. I got a star in the middle too.

Originally uploaded by pfhyper.
It seems most bloggers have looked and posted about Flickr. I have very slowly approached the site -- mostly because of lack of time -- and today -- when I should have been xmas shopping but stayed home because of an ice storm -- I finally dove in. I like it and exceeded the bandwidth of the free account and upgraded for $41.77. A xmas gift to myself.

I haven't made many photos public yet but here's one I like and another may follow shortly. No idea how it will lay out as I'm composing this at the Flickr site.

Autistics Activism
December 20 article at New York Times site (subscription) reports on autistics questioning whether they can be "cured."

I did some googling and found some of the research and commentaries mentioned in the articles.

Michelle Dawson wrote "The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists: Ethical Challenges to the Autism-ABA Industry." This is a very interesting critique of historical and current autistism treatments and how we got to where we are today. Dawson is an autistic.

Kit Weintraub responded to Dawson in "Guest Voice: A Mother's Perspective." She is a mother of two autistic children that have been successfully treated with behaviourist methods. She does not seem very open to alternative ideas regarding autism.

"Don't Mourn For Us" by Jim Sinclair (an autistic) argues that autistic children are just different and parents should learn how to communicate with them as they are and not try to change the.

Sunday, December 19, 2004
Those of Modest Needs...
William Gibson posts about Modest Needs, a charity for people with, well, modest needs:
If you've ever had your bacon saved by a someone giving you a few hundred dollars when it looked like nobody else would, and not making a big deal of it, you'll understand the concept behind Modest Needs.
Been there. Both sides. Things happen and you just don't have enough money and sometimes hope is scarce. A few hundred dollars -- no strings attached -- can help on a couple of levels. Financially, of course, but then there's the compassion and caring level. This cultivates hope. And generousity to others. This is planting good seeds in the garden of life.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Blogger Fixed
Blogger had a misconfigured router. It was listed today on their status page (the problem surfaced at least last night). They got back to me this morning, first with an auto reply, then a real reply. Not bad. Thank you blogger.

Blogless in Minneapolis
I'm officially blogless for now. Publishing isn't working although other blogs at blogger seemed to be updating. This may have something to do with hosting my blog off blogger at my own server space (an option when you set it up). Hosting off blogger adds another dimension to the problem, of course. Is it them or us? Will blogger just blame the other guy until proven wrong?

This is the third unpublished post (unless it publishes by some miracle when I click the button). So I have no audience at the moment and it's possible that this writing will never blossom into full daylight. It's weird.

OK then. I am going to publish NOW.

STILL BROKEN. Check the ftp config, I think.

Publishing a test
We are having technical difficulties. Please bear with us.

I'm having problems with publishing my blog posts. I've contacted Blogger help. I'm trying this to try to figure out if there is something with the last post (that won't publish) or something with my configuration.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Constructive Odysseus
Will Richardson at weblogg-ed has some nice blogging (+ other) examples for studying Odysseus and using the read/write web.

iTunes This Week
iTunes Discovery Download
Synergy by Fingathing
Genre: Electronic

"Pair a classically-trained bassist with a penchant for hip-hop with a wickedly talented bedroom turntablist/DJ and you have a UK duo Fingathing."

You need an account.

Free single this week is Stumblin' by Powerderfinger.

Sunday, December 12, 2004
Trackbacks 2
My trackback education got sidetracked as I considered Technorati as a trackback tool. According to the Technorati FAQ: "If you are a blogger, Technorati can tell you which other bloggers are linking to you, and what people are saying about you and your blog." This is the idea behind the trackback. With Technorati, you enter the permalink to your post and find out if anyone else is linking to it. I added a Technorati link to my Trackback 1 post.

The problem with the Technorati method of trackback is that I would have to generate the links manually for each post or start searching for an automated system to do it for me. (Since Tim Bray at Ongoing seems to use this Technorati system, I'm sure there is a way.)

I tracked back my Trackback 1 post to A Beginner's Guide to Trackback and it already has appeared at the bottom of the page. This was via my Haloscan account. It is labor intensive with several text boxes to type or paste to. I read the Haloscan help documentation and they have a link to their forum where there is some autodiscovery text that you can paste to your blog template. Then I found this post by Phil Ringnalda that argues against autodiscovery.

You see autodiscovery, goes through your blog post to see if there is a trackback url for each and every external link and then does the trackback ping if it finds one. Ringnalda thinks that this defeats the purpose of the trackback which is supposed to be an intentional linking to someone's post because I think the reader of the original post should read my post too. My Jara post qualifies (but Tim Bray doesn't enable any trackbacks). So does my first Trackbacks post. But I won't trackback to Ringnalda from this post as I'm just repeating what he said and if you made it to his post you probably won't be too interested in my ramblings on the trackback system. (Ringnalda could use Technorati to find my link to his blog however.)

Ringnalda says that autodiscovery for pingbacks makes sense. "Pingback is a method for Web authors to request notification when somebody links to one of their documents. This enables authors to keep track of who is linking to, or referring to their articles." (Wikipedia)

I like the philosophy here. So for now, I'll trackback with intention and consider whether the trackback is necessary. (If I simply refer the reader to the original blog post off my site, does it make sense to trackback? I don't think so. The reader would read the original, trackback to my blog, then see only that I refer them back. I would only track back if I added original content.)

Jara's Music
Victor Jara's music is available for free for download (and legal).

Chile, Death Squads, and US
Tim Bray at Ongoing writes of the indictment in Chile of Col. Mario Manriquez for the execution of the singer Victor Jara. and adds this historical tidbit about US involvement in Chile:
The U.S. spent millions, first to try to defeat Allende at the polls, then to fund a gang of military murderers who staged a bloody coup on September 11th 1973, in the process of cementing which they killed a number of Chilean citizens just slightly higher than the total September 11, 2001 body count.
So the citizens of Chile likely have a very different view of 9/11 than we in the States. Of course, our 9/11 was a vile terrorist act while the killing of 3,197 Chilean citizens was state-sponsored with US backing so doesn't qualify as terrorism even though I would suppose if you lived in Chile during Pinochet's rule (1973-1990), you may have suffered a bit of terror wondering if you or a member of your family might be detained, tortured, and killed.

But this is old history and Chile should be happy that the US did not stage a preemptive strike in the 70s as we worried about Allende's socialism creeping northward to our borders. (Can political movements qualify as WMDs? See Vietnam War.)

Saturday, December 11, 2004
New Dunn Brothers
There is a new Dunn Brothers in Minneapolis on E. Lake Street, right before you cross the Lake Street Bridge. Great light, free wifi (relatively fast) and, of course, Dunn Brothers coffee.

For our foreign guests, Dunn Bros is the best coffee in the area and it's a local business (although I think there's one in Texas now. weird).

Parking is on the west side.

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog. [What is this?]

Trackbacks 1
adding a technorati link for trackbacks

I am studying trackback. All good bloggers should.

In a nutshell, TrackBack was designed to provide a method of notification between websites: it is a method of person A saying to person B, "This is something you may be interested in." To do that, person A sends a TrackBack ping to person B.

That's from Mena and Ben Trott's A Beginner's Guide to Trackback. They also explain 'ping': "a small message sent from one webserver to another." It's a good intro for the non-technical on trackback. Although it explains some things that are Movable Type-specific, it also explains how to do a manual type of trackback that works with any blogging tool. Much of the following is based in their article. (Movable Type is the tool which Mena and Ben developed.)

Why trackback? Well, if I read something on your blog that I want to comment on in my blog (rather than just comment in your comment area), I can trackback to your blog. The trackback uri is NOT the published uri of the blog itself, it's a special uri that can receive that ping message that my trackback will send along. Then, in your comments area, it will also list my blog as a trackback.

Trackback is a two-way street: my blog has to be able to ping (send that message) and your blog has to be able to accept the ping.

Great. Except that (my blog host) doesn't allow for this cool trackback stuff. (Come on, blogger, let's get this going and make it really easy for me. Please.)

So help refers you to Haloscan, a service for adding fast-and-easy commenting (including trackbacks) to blogs (and others). I just finished the process (requires creating an account at Haloscan) and it was very easy, including an actual Wizard for us bloggers. The Wizard works whether you are hosting your blog at or whether you are hosting on your own server (like me). That's because it's adding html to your blog template which is housed at Included with adding the necessary code, is a backup of your old template, just in case. Wow. You will note an automatic Haloscan post in my blog.

Does it work? Will the PF Hyper Blog now be able to TRACKBACK. And will it be EASY!

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004
iTunes This Week
Free single from home page is Jus Anotha Shorty by O'Ryan. R&B.

And the Discovery Download of the week is:

Beth Waters singing Sweaters

Genre: Vocal

"San Francisco's Beth Waters marries her dark and robust piano style with intimate lyrics and understated, compelling vocal delivery."

Turning Away From Iraq
William Gibson links to a Boston Globe piece by James Carrol on Iraq and it's worth starting at his blog as he has printed a W.S. Merwin poem from 1967-- Asians Dying. Then you can go to the James Carrol link at the Boston Globe.

Things are in really bad shape in Iraq. It's hard to imagine how we can stabilize the situation. We are wreaking as much damage as the insurgents but that's OK because we are obeying the rules of engagement. I'm not sure how you explain that to a corpse.

Monday, December 06, 2004
The Paper on Blogging
[It only seemed appropriate that I post this paper here in my blog. I was shy about it at first but then realized that by posting, I will be able to retrieve it easily if for some reason I want to read it again or check one of the references.

I think it's OK. I would like to develop some of the ideas more. I really enjoyed the researching.

I didn't spend much time with the online format or clean up. I think all the links work but I didn't check them. If you find a broken one, let me know via a comment and I'll fix it.

To get the Word document here, I saved as text from word, then cleaned up a bit in BBEdit (best text editor in the world and available only on the Mac). Direct copy and paste did not work well.]

Can Weblogs Be Used Effectively as a Course Management System?
Peter Fleck
Dec. 6, 2004
CI 5331


Online learning, especially at the academic level, is relying more and more on course management systems (CMS). Most of these systems are proprietary, very expensive, and take a "gated community" approach to the online community: they allow only the instructor and the students to participate. The University of Minnesota uses the WebCT system as its CMS.

Weblogs, or blogs, share many of the features of the proprietary CMS's and are free or low-cost. Teachers and researchers are beginning to use weblogs in place of (or in conjunction with) the private CMS's.

In this paper, I will look at what a weblog is and how it is being used on the Web and specifically in education. I will consider how weblogs can replace CMS's for managing courses. Finally, I will look at how weblogs promote communities of inquiry.

Some of my observations concern the course I am enrolled in, Introduction to Instructional Systems and Technology (CI 5331, College of Education, University of Minnesota, Fall 2004).

What is a weblog?

Dave Winer (2001) has a four-part definition for weblogs. First, a weblog is personal- "you see a personality." Second, it's on the Web, not printed, making it easy to update, cheap to produce, and accessible via a web browser. Third, the weblog is published via technology, a process, in which, "the writer and designer are elevated" due to this formal process of presentation. Finally, the weblog is part of communities. "No weblog stands alone, they are relative to each other and to the world." A political weblog is part of the weblog community and also part of the political community. Weblogs link people of common interests.

The basic unit of the weblog is the post. The post usually has three basic attributes: title, link, and description (Winer, 2003). A post may be a sentence, a paragraph or several pages long. The most recent post comes first in a weblog. Usually weblogs allow visitors to comment on posts.

A defining trait of the weblog compared to a typical web home page is ease of publication. Rebecca Blood (2004) talks of the early "promise of the web" in providing a personal publishing space for anyone but "the truth was that only those people who knew how to code a web page could make their voices heard." With a weblog, creating and posting requires no special technical background or familiarity with HTML. A weblog is also very easy to update.

Weblog publishing is usually free. There are several sites on the Internet where a weblog can be created and hosted at no cost such as Blogger ( The University of Minnesota has its own weblog server for staff, students, and faculty called UThink ( As of this writing, there are 788 weblogs at the University of Minnesota site.

The growth of blogging since 2000 is extraordinary. At the beginning of 1999, twenty-three weblogs were known to be in existence (Blood). In 2002, Technorati, a weblog search service, was tracking 100,000 weblogs. (source: Today, Technorati is tracks over three million.

Most weblogs use a new technology called RSS (RDF Site Summary) to generate a content feed that allows for subscribing to the weblog via software called an aggregator. RSS is a general-purpose language for representing information in the Web (Harrsch 2003).

The aggregator software collects all the feeds in one place so that individual weblogs do not have to be checked for new content. You can view summaries of the new weblog posts before deciding to read the entire article. Bloglines is an example of a web-based aggregator (

According to Blood, weblogs can be divided into two main categories. The first category is the filter-style weblog where "editors present links both to little-known corners of the web and to current news articles they feel are worthy of note." These links usually include the editor's commentary. This was the original weblog style.

The second type of weblog is the short-form journal. Often updated several times a day, they are "a record of the blogger's thoughts: something noticed on the way to work, notes about the weekend, a quick reflection on some subject or another." (Blood). This has become the most popular style of blogging with communities of conversation springing up around multiple weblogs referencing each other.

Weblogs in Education

In his Crooked Timber weblog, Henry Farrell (2003) outlines five major uses of weblogs in a classroom.

First is weblog as standard class web pages. The weblog pages take the place of the old class web site. This is a fairly static use of blogging but easy for the instructor to create and maintain.

Second are the professor-written weblogs comprised of interesting developments in the class subject and with links to related Web pages.

Third, using the weblog as class discussion organizer. The professor can post a question and students are asked to debate the question via the comments section of the weblog. Farrell states that the conversation may be a bit more stilted than classroom discussion but will likely be on a higher level as students are able to reflect more before adding to the conversation.

Farrell's fourth use is for "Organization of intensive seminars where students have to provide weekly summaries of the readings." He recommends a group weblog where all the students post their summaries. The group weblog scenario would make it easy for the professor and students to access the writings.

Fifth is require students to publish their own weblogs as part of their grade.

What is a Course Management System (CMS)?

In their 2003 report, Course Management Systems, the Educause Evolving Technologies Committee stated:

At its simplest a course management system is a tool that allows an instructor to post information on the web without that instructor having to know or understand HTML or other computer languages. A more complete definition of a CMS is that it provides an instructor with a set of tools and a framework that allows the relatively easy creation of online course content and the subsequently teaching and management of that course including various interactions with students taking the course. (Meerts)

The " various interactions with students" could include managing student enrollment and tracking student performance.

Weblog as CMS

Let's evaluate weblog attributes and see how well the weblog can meet the defining traits for a CMS.

1) a tool that allows an instructor to post information on the web without that instructor having to know or understand HTML or other computer languages;

As noted, most weblog publishing tools do not require any HTML knowledge and are hardly more difficult to use than a word processor.

2) a set of tools and a framework that allows the relatively easy creation of online course content;

Weblogs allow for the display of text, images, media objects and data. That should allow for just about any type of content necessary for a course. The instructor can also create links for downloading files.

3) allows for "teaching" the course;

This will depend on the course. Use of a weblog as a teaching method would have to be determined on a course-by-course basis.

4) course management;

Managing a course, especially administrative tasks like tracking enrollment, is not a weblog strength. This is where true CMS systems excel.

Facilitating Communities of Inquiry

The process of reading online, engaging a community, and reflecting it online is a process of bringing life into learning. (Downes 2004)

The mix is eclectic and results in a course site very different from the rigid hierarchy to be found in the typical LMS class. Blackboard and WebCT use a top-down approach; weblogs tend to go the other direction. They offer a great deal of flexibility and the potential for creativity in the construction of the site, yet still feature the ease of use of a template-based system. (Godwin-Jones 2003)

For this paper, I will define online community using Garrison's, Anderson's and Archer's (2000) definition for a "community of inquiry." They state that "a worthwhile educational experience is embedded within a Community of Inquiry that is composed of teachers and students-the key participants in the educational process." The model for this community consists of three core elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence.

Cognitive presence means "the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication." Cognitive presence is essential to the success of the community as it is a vital element in critical thinking. (Garrison et al.)

Social presence is "the ability of participants in the Community of Inquiry to project their personal characteristics into the community, thereby presenting themselves to the other participants as 'real people.'" Social presence supports cognitive presence (Garrison et al.).

Teaching presence encompasses two function, the design and the facilitation of the environment. These functions are taken care of by the teacher but anyone in the community of inquiry could be responsible (Garrison et al.).

James Farmer uses Garrison's (et al) definition to evaluate CMS software like WebCT. (Farmer uses the acronym OLE-Online Learning Environment- for a CMS.) Farmer considers "to what degree the environment itself, and any inherent principles contained within its design, facilitates or obstructs the development of social, cognitive and teaching presence" and states that "the degree to which each of these can be achieved is dependent to a large degree on the communication tools within an OLE."

WebCT (and other proprietary CMS's) use the discussion board as a principal communication instrument. The functionality of the discussion board allows users to "post messages to a shared area or reply to existing messages in order to form a thread" and both of these functions are "limited to their current environment and do not provide email, messaging or syndicated updates to users...." (Farmer).

Farmer sees this as problematic in establishing a social presence offering:

... little opportunity for users to "project themselves socially and emotionally, as 'real' people" as the opportunity for projection is limited and when and if it is achieved, the ability of the projector to project and appear as a "real" person is also severely limited. ... A contribution can be viewed and read by one person, the whole group or nobody and because how a writer understands the intended audience of their work dramatically impacts on their entire approach to the task of writing this uncertainty impacts considerably on the ability of the individual to project themselves.

This lack of a defined audience severely hampers cognitive presence affecting "not only... the nature of the way in which an individual writes, but also the discourse possible and in this the ability of a writer to reflect on their thoughts and 'construct and confirm' meaning" (Farmer). Farmer further discusses the communication process in a CMS discussion board stating that it is not unlike:

entering a room that may or may not be frequented by the people you wish to communicate with (who will, in either case, be invisible to the user), leaving a message on the table and then returning each day to see if someone has responded to the communication. Likewise, any person responding to the message would have to visit the room each day to see if the writer or anyone else has replied to it. The room may be one of many rooms (there are frequently numerous discussion boards used in a single course) and there may be little or no reason other than to check for messages or responses that a person may have to visit it. After several days of this kind of discussion it is likely in many cases that a user will visit the room less, if at all.

This is an excellent description of the process of working with the WebCT discussion board and fits with personal observations for the current class.

Farmer (2004) argues that weblogs offer "a significant opportunity for users to project themselves as 'real' people... the blogger is writing to their own area and context, designed to their liking... and developing on their previous postings from the online persona they have developed." This satisfies Garrison's concept of social presence to a far greater degree than the lack of presence of the CMS discussion board. In addition, the blogger retains ownership of the writing beyond the end of the course and can "edit at will, refer to previous items and ideas, and control in its entirety the space and manner in which the weblog is published." This type of ownership and control is not available in WebCT. Once the course ends, the collected writings of the discussion boards are no longer available to the students.

My experience as a blogger confirms this. When I write to my weblog, I am very aware that my audience could be very large and is unknown. Anyone could find my weblog. I hope that my post is interesting and I assume that the more interesting it is, the larger my audience will be. I become responsible to posting to the unknown community. It's not the same when posting to the WebCT discussion board. The audience is limited by the size of the class and by the temporality of the post itself-it will disappear when the class ends. I'm not free to write but must stumble through the interface, from board to board, responding to prior posts. Given the time limits of my life, I am unable to pursue discussion of a particular threads of interest because I am required to post to them all.

The crucial concept from Garrison's definition of community of inquiry is the development of a cognitive presence, " the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication." How well do weblogs support this concept?

Farmer states "Weblogs undoubtedly support sustained discourse as evidenced by the development and spread of memes [a developing conversation consisting of weblog comments and weblog posts referring to another blogger's posts-also known as trackbacks] and the ever developing nature of the blogosphere" but is this discourse "reflective, critical and purposeful."

Farmer infers that there is not yet enough research to prove the development of the cognitive presence but he convincingly argues that weblogs do facilitate cognitive presence. First, there is research that indicates the "possibility that weblogs encourage significantly more in-depth and extended writing than communication by email or through discussion board environments."

Second, he admits that weblogs make it difficult for development of Garrison's (et al) third concept, teacher presence, in relation to discussion boards. Teacher and student weblogs are separate and the learner "under no compulsion to read the teachers weblog." Outside of providing guidelines, the teacher has little design control over the student's weblog presence.

But Farmer sees this lack of control as a potential key to cognitive presence as it allows for a learner-driven experience where students can explore "their context in ways independent of the original designers intentions." He uses a term, "incorporated subversion"- coined by David Squires-for this practice and quotes Squires:

Rather than design with constraint in mind, design with freedom and flexibility in mind ... this emphasises the active and purposeful role of learners in configuring learning environments to resonate with their own needs, echoing the notions of learning with technology through "mindful engagement" (Squires, 1999)


Compared to asynchronous discussion forums such as newsgroups and bulletin boards, Ferdig & Trammel (2004) contend that weblogs are more successful in promoting interactivity that is conversational; a mode of interaction more conducive to improved student and teacher relationships, active learning, higher order thinking, and greater flexibility in teaching and learning more generally. (Williams & Jacobs 2004)

On the other hand, a virtual classroom using Blackboard or WebCT emphasizes control within in a gated community space over interaction with the rest of the Internet. There is the sense of leaving the Web when entering a proprietary courseware site. It's not the information super highway, but rather a one way street that only pulls from the World Wide Web without giving back. (Lowe 2003)

Teachers seeking to build a true community of inquiry in the new age of computer mediated communication would do well to experiment with weblogs in their classes. The dynamic of the weblog, especially in terms of social presence and ownership and leading to cognitive presence, is more conducive for creating not just an online community of inquiry but a true learning environment as well.

Of course, with the shift to blogging, the teacher must move to the side as the students start to truly reflect and guide the class. Barbara Ganley (2004) makes the point well:

For the weblog to work as a facilitator of efficacious learning, it is essential that everyone has an authentic voice and an authentic role on it, that everyone has a hand in creating the medium as well as the message in an environment in which the reader becomes the writer, the student the teacher, the teacher the learner as we traverse boundaries of classroom and real world, our communities forming, shifting and reforming. The teacher has to do precisely what is most difficult and most essential: create a system of shared control, of checks and balances between teacher, student and technology. In a sense, technology mediates the teacher-advocate student exchange, fulfilling the promise of a Socratic education so important a hallmark of a liberal arts education. The teacher must have faith in the process of collaborative learning and in the students to assume their roles in reciprocal apprenticeships.


Blood, Rebecca. "Weblogs: A History and Perspective," Rebecca's Pocket. September 7, 2000. [] (Retrieved: November 22, 2004).

Downes, Stephen. "Educational Blogging". EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 39, no. 5 (September/October 2004): 14-26. [] (Retrieved: November 22, 2004).

Farmer, James. "Communication dynamics: Discussion boards, weblogs and the development of communities of inquiry in online learning environments". October 11, 2004. [] (Retrieved December 4, 2004).

Farrell, Henry. "The street finds its own use for things," Crooked Timber Blog. September 15, 2003. [] (Retrieved December 4, 2004).

Ganley, Barbara. "Blogging as a Dynamic, Transformative Medium in an American Liberal Arts Classroom". 2004. [] (Retrieved December 4, 2004).

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. "Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education." 2000. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. [] (Retrieved December 4, 2004).
Godwin-Jones, Bob. "Blogs and Wikis: Environments for On-line Collaboration." May 2003. Language Learning & Technology, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 12-16. [] (Retrieved December 2, 2004).

Harrsch, Mary. "RSS: The Next Killer App For Education." July/August 2003. [] (Retrieved November 22, 2004).

Lowe, Charlie. "Open Source Weblog CMS's: An Alternative to Blackboard." May 21, 2003. [] (Retrieved December 4, 2004).

Meerts, John. "Course Management Systems (CMS)". Educause Evolving Technologies white paper. October 20, 2003. [] (Retrieved November 20, 2004).

Squires, D. (1999) "Educational Software and Learning: Subversive use and Volatile Design." 1999. [] (Retrieved December 4, 2004).

Williams, J. B. and Jacobs, J. "Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector." 2004. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247. [] (Retrieved December 5, 2004).

Winer, Dave. "What are weblogs." November 16, 2001. [] (Retrieved December 4, 2004).

Winer, Dave. "What makes a weblog a weblog?." March 23, 2003. [] (Retrieved November 18, 2004).

Saturday, December 04, 2004
Trying to focus
I am trying to disgorge a first complete draft for the paper on blogging. Of course, there is research material to look over and I get lost in it and stray from the topic.

Today I found A City is Not a Tree by Christopher Alexander referenced by James Farmer in his excellent article Communication dynamics: Discussion boards, weblogs and the development of communities of inquiry in online learning environments.

I don't really need the Farmer piece (or any other pieces, for that matter) to complete the paper (which is only 7 pages at most, double-spaced). But I'm finding some great material comparing course managment systems to weblogs, as far as discussion areas go.

I want to read and research and don't want so much to write. The writing is an assignment, homework, an onerous task required by a teacher. But I also see that the task guides my research and provides a way of reflecting on the research.

Favorite Wife Mary should also be studying as she has an ASL-related written test to prepare for (and pass) in preparing for her protoge/apprenticeship in January. She just called to tell me that she is taking grandson 1 to a Lego demo put on by some grade schoolers. She will learn at this event as will my grandson.

Life really should be about learning and educating and not about earning and consuming.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
World AIDS Day
Today is World AIDS day. Google has a good link for information.

ITunes Discovery Download
Looks like there is no Discovery Download this week.

Single of the Week (free) is Sway by The Perishers.

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