Teaching and Learning Philosophy with Technology

By | Teaching Related, Technology, The Long Road | No Comments

My friend and colleague, Rick Lee (@rickleephilos), asked me to speak with his graduate teaching seminar at DePaul University about using technology to teach philosophy.

Rick and I have a long history of conversations extending back to our days as graduate students ourselves in the Philosophy Department of the Graduate Faculty at the New School for Social Research, so I jumped at the opportunity to engage him and his students on an issue that is of central interest to both of us.

In order to provide a bit of structure to that conversation, I have gathered here some resources about teaching philosophy with technology that I have curated and developed over time.

My basic approach is informed by a vision of education as a cooperative endeavor. I wrote about that back in 2010 when I was working on Aristotle on the Nature of Truth and thinking a lot about the work of Frederick Woodbridge.

There I wrote:

Cooperative education, then, must cultivate certain excellences in those faculty and students committed to it. It will need to teach and learn openness, comfort with ambiguity, generosity and equity. It will need to affirm the value of difference, embrace diversity and seek common ground. It will need to be animated by mutual respect for the experience of students and for the wisdom of teachers. It will need to empower students to take ownership of their education and faculty to move from imposition to collaboration.

I stand by that articulation of the nature of cooperative education and mention it here as a kind of orienting principle of teaching philosophy with technology.

As an endeavor, the attempt to integrate technology into the learning process has always been more about the pedagogy than the technology. Still, it would be naïve not to consider what it is possible to do with technology and what technology is doing to us in the process.

I tried to articulate the connection between technology and the practice of philosophy here:

In order to cultivate a culture of cooperation in the classroom, it is important for the faculty member to relinquish some control in order to empower students to take a more active role in the learning endeavor.

This was the strategy in my PHIL200 course in which I had students do all of their writing for the course in public on a co-authored course blog.

The pedagogical value (and risk) of public writing is that it brings the weight of appearing in public to bear on the learning experience.

Here some questions emerge:

  • What are the pedagogical affordances and limitations of having students write in a publicly accessible space?
  • How does making the boundaries of the classroom more porous enrich and impoverish the learning experience?
  • What learning objectives might be served by public writing?

Blogging in my courses is assessed by a robust scoring rubric designed to cultivate ongoing writing throughout the semester.

You are welcome to view, adopt, and adapt the scoring rubric here.

I have developed these ideas more fully in my article on Cultivating Communities of Learning with Digital Media public in Teaching Philosophy:

Aside from blogging, what technologies might be deployed to cultivate a culture of collaboration in the classroom?

  • Zotero can be used to share notes and pdfs associated with secondary sources so students can learn the art of collaborative research.
  • Diigo is a good way to curate and annotate the web with students.
  • Tumblr or Known are good ways for students to share content from around the web related to a specific course.
  • Then, of course, there is Twitter, a great way to engage students throughout the semester by crediting a hashtag for your course and sharing content along the way. You might think about using Storify to create and curate posts from Twitter and across the web.

Digital Dialogue 66: Sustainable Scholarship

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast, Technology | One Comment

Almost immediately upon being awarded a $236K Mellon Grant to develop the Public Philosophy Journal, Mark Fisher, Dean Rehberger and I found ourselves in New York at the 2013 Ithaka Sustainable Scholarship conference to learn more about how to identify a path by which scholarly projects like the @PubPhilJ can be sustained after their period of funding.

In the 66th episode of the Digital Dialogue, we discuss the journal, the technology behind it, the interface, and the future of scholarly publishing. At Ithaka, we learned more about the current state of scholarly publishing, the challenges it faces and the possibilities open to it in a digital age. In this podcast, we think together out loud about where we are and where we hope to go with the Public Philosophy Journal.

The Art of Live-Tweeting

By | Presentation: Interactive, Technology, The Long Road | 27 Comments

Last year, there was some controversy over the question of live-tweeting at academic conferences and in academic settings more generally. The hashtag that emerged then, on Twitter of course, was #Twittergate.

In this post, I try to articulate the art of live-tweeting an academic lecture by suggesting that it is a kind of collaborative public note taking and by articulating various kinds of tweets one can write to cultivate a generous community of scholarship in relation to the lecture.

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Twitter Owl by Codiew

The Tweeting Graduate Student

By | Technology, The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 10 Comments

They will tell you it is too dangerous, that you’ll say something stupid and never be hired.

They’ll say it is too fast, too superficial, too full of snark to be of any value to anyone who aspires to serious scholarship.

They’ll say it’s a waste of time, that it’s noise that will distract you from your research and dissertation.

But don’t listen to the naysayers who steer you away from Twitter and other modes of social media communication.

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Research and the Penn State Vision

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road | 2 Comments

The Long Road at the BWVision

On Saturday, January 19, 2013, I joined administrators, staff and members of the Penn State Board of Trustees for the Blue and White Vision Council Seminar at the Nittany Lion Inn. The goal of the seminar was to provide the Blue and White Vision Council a broad perspective to develop a strategic direction for teaching and technology at Penn State.

The seminar included two morning lectures, one by Michael Horn, co-founder and executive director of Innosight Institute, the other by Clay Shirky, Partner for Technology and Product Strategy at the Accelerator Group. Horn highlighted a white paper on Disrupting College in which he established an analogy between the demise of the steel industry and the current crisis in Higher Education. Shirky, on the other hand, offered a different analogy, suggesting that MOOCs unbundle courses from curricula in the way Napster and iTunes unbundled songs from albums. The suggestion in both analogies was that Higher Education is an enterprise ripe for disruptive transformation that would likely lead to the demise of many universities unable to respond effectively to the revolution in technology we are experiencing.

The afternoon was focused more on the innovations we at Penn State have already undertaken with the growth and expansion of the World Campus and the integration of strategies of teaching with technology into our residence curriculum.

The day was full and I continue to reflect upon it, but I left with an unsettled feeling that the heart of Penn State was somehow missing from the discussion. That feeling was surely rooted in the absence of the voice of faculty in general, and our research faculty in particular. The seminar focused on teaching and technology, so it would have made sense for our faculty to have been more centrally included. They were, with a few exceptions, largely absent.

This absence signals something of deeper concern, for it suggests that there may be a failure to appreciate the deep connection between scholarly research and teaching.

As I have argued previously, the most effective way for Penn State to defend and strengthen its position in Higher Education is through the research mission that has long sustained and enriched the education we offer students. Only by infusing rigorous academic scholarship into all aspects of the educational endeavor–from general education at the undergraduate level, to our online offerings on the World Campus, to our professional and academic graduate programs–will we be able to offer a more compelling and transformative education than those who seek to deliver courses more efficiently and inexpensively.

To be sure, rigorous scholarship will mean different things in each of these contexts, but the education we deliver in the future will be neither competitive nor compelling unless we empower our research faculty to infuse rigorous scholarship into all levels of the curriculum and to inspire a new generation of students to take up and appreciate the research endeavor in which knowledge is not merely passed down, but discovered.

This is not, of course, to say that we ought not be innovative, or that we ought to reject opportunities to improve efficiencies and cut costs. Nor is it to deny the economic challenges facing our educational enterprise.

But our innovation must be fueled by rigorous academic research, our curriculum made relevant and compelling by engaged and engaging public scholarship, and our attempts to reach out beyond the physical campuses of the university ought to be animated by a vision of education rooted in a commitment to the transformative power of academic research.

If Saturday was designed in part to articulate for the Board a vision of the future of education at Penn State, I fear they may have left without a deep understanding of what ought to drive that future: excellent academic scholarship.

Initial Reflections on MOOCs and the College Curriculum

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road | 11 Comments

As the debate over Massively Open Online Courses, also known by their unfortunate acronym: MOOC, rages on, I thought I would begin by curating a few articles here:


The impetus for this little Diigo collection is the recent appearance of two articles, one skeptical of MOOCs, the other more sanguine about their transformative power.

In their December 17, 2012 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “For Whom Is College Being Reinvented?,” Scott Carlson and Goldie Blumenstyk gather the skeptical voices who insist, as Peter Stokes of Northeastern University, puts it:

“The whole MOOC thing is mass psychosis,” a case of people “just throwing spaghetti against the wall” to see what sticks…

Of course, if the MOOC is psychosis, it is born of a deeper pathology; for as Robert Archibald of the College of William and Mary is quoted there as saying:

“At most institutions, students are in mostly large classes, listening to second-rate lecturers, with very little meaningful faculty student interaction. …Students are getting a fairly distant education even in a face-to-face setting.”

It is a response to this deeper pathology of contemporary Higher Education that seems to be at the root of Clay Shirky’s analogy between the MOOC and the MP3 file format.

Shirky’s Higher Education: Our MP3 is the MOOC is the second article to which I’d like to point as a way to begin thinking through the implications of the MOOC for higher education. Shirky’s argument is based on this analogy: 

mp3 : album : music industry :: MOOC : curriculum : higher education

Just as the mp3 file format, by making music accessible and sharing simple, unbundled individual songs from albums and transformed the music industry, so too will the MOOC, by making education accessible and massively open, unbundle courses from curricula and transform higher education.

Shirky presses the analogy further: just as the mp3 unbundled individual songs from the albums the record companies forced us to purchase, so too will the MOOC unbundle specific courses from the degrees for which institutions of higher education force students into debt.

Shirky emphasizes that the promise of MOOCs is that “the educational parts of education can be unbundled.” 

But that, of course, is a packed suggestion itself not so easily unbundled. For there is a difference between taking a course or series of them and being educated. 

Just as one swallow does not make a spring (Aristotle, Nic. Ethics, 1098a19), neither does a course divorced from a course of study make an education. The educational parts of education cannot be unbundled like a single from an album, for the education is both in the curriculum and the manner in which that curriculum is delivered.

The challenge the MOOC posses to institutions of higher education is that they will force us to re-imagine the curriculum into which we have placed our individual courses. And institutions of higher education have not historically been particularly nimble when it comes to creating and implementing innovative curricula responsive to new forms of literacy and public communication.

If our courses are not to be unbundled from the curriculum without perverting the education they together offer, then we in higher education will need to articulate and develop new, more coherent, well crafted, and, yes, even efficient curricula capable of enriching student lives and preparing them in a relevant way for a world in which many will have been taught, but fewer well educated.

Twitter, Community and the First Year Experience

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road, The Undergraduate Experience | 10 Comments

Words do things. What they do, depends on the manner in which they are said, written and received.

What they did, and failed to do, last night is something that requires some reflection.

That is the purpose of this post on my visit to the Catholic University of America to deliver a keynote address to the 2012 freshman class.

When I was invited, I was encouraged to do something innovative and unconventional with technology, so I invited students to use twitter to participate in a shared experience designed to perform the central idea for which I advocated in the lecture:

The real value of a liberal arts education is political because it teaches us how to speak, act and respond to one another in ways that enable us, if we are willing and graceful enough, to create enriching public communities that are the conditions under which a fulfilling human life is possible.

The lecture was designed as a performance in which students would be empowered to actively and publicly engage with the question of the liberal arts and politics so that we might directly experience our shared ability (and inability) to create an enriching public space of community and communication.

The Design

The lecture was designed on three levels.

First, the written text was rather traditional. It was organized around Athena’s encounter with the Furies in Aeschylus’s Eumenides. I argued that the story illustrated how our ability to imagine our way into the position of others, particularly those with whom we disagree, is the central virtue of a liberal arts education and the key to establishing healthy and flourishing communities.

Second, I used Keynote to create slides with images and quotations that supported and augmented the points the written text made. These slides were not merely designed to reinforce the written text, but were themselves meant to add value to the lecture by exposing students to a rich history of artwork and imagery about Athena, the Furies, and the judgment of Orestes.

Third, through my keynote slides, I was able to live tweet my own lecture: when a slide appeared, I had pre-written a tweet to go with it. These tweets, like the slides themselves, were designed to add another layer of meaning and texture to the lecture.

To give you a sense of how the images and the tweets were designed, I created a specific Storify just with my tweets and some of the artwork included in the lecture.

A Good Plan and a Calculated Audible

Because I had experience using twitter in front of a large audience of first year students at Penn State that deteriorated quickly once students realized they could tweet snarky comments to a screen that everyone would immediately see, I knew I would need a way to moderate the tweets before they appeared on screen. We used the #cuafye hashtag (Catholic University of America, First Year Experience) to curate the tweets, but we needed a way to filter out those that were immature, overly snarky or otherwise impoverishing of the community we wanted to cultivate.

The plan was to have Taylor Fayle use the @MyCUA_FYE twitter account to retweet only those tweets he felt added value to the conversation. The idea was not to censor students–they would still be able to see anything posted to the #cuafye hashtag on their personal devices. Rather, we wanted to add a layer of review to ensure the level of the conversation reinforced the points the lecture articulated.

We thought we had it worked out too, but about 20 minutes before we started, we realized that the way it was set up would not update and scroll quickly enough to accommodate the tweets we were by then already receiving.

So I called an audible and told Todd to allow the raw hashtag feed to run, knowing full well that the dynamics of the entire lecture would thereby be altered.

It was … and not for the better.

And yet, strangely enough, I think the shared experience was educationally richer, if intellectually and emotionally more taxing.

Here is the Storify of the event with tweets from the students to give you a sense of what happened.

But this doesn’t really capture what was happening in the room. That is partly because students went back and deleted some of the more vulgar and disrespectful tweets (about Penn State, Sandusky, and other immature rudeness). But it is also because the twitter feed did not capture the overwhelming sense of respect and maturity I felt from a majority of students in the room itself. That respect and maturity was felt more palpably in the question and answer period, when we had the chance to reflect upon what we had together experienced.

What we experienced, however, was a failure to use words to create an enriching community. The twitter stream deteriorated quickly into immature snark, and students were not able to pull themselves out of that cycle of immaturity, despite some valiant attempts by some to convince their colleagues to imagine their way into another possibility.

Now, for my part, I knew exactly what was happening, though I could not follow all the posts as they were coming so quickly and I was, after all, trying to speak and tweet my lecture. Still, by calming the students down at specific points, speaking extemporaneously to refocus their attention and by emphasizing the things I had written into the text to invite their generosity and grace, we were able to proceed … for a while.

Then someone of the faculty decided the twitter feed needed to be shut down.

When it was, you could feel the frustration of the students, but you could also feel their attention turned more fully to me, and I was able to finish the lecture in a much more traditional way – with more passively receptive students for the words I was articulating. Of course, students still had access to the live stream on their devices, but not having the feed up on the “big screen” robbed them of a shared experience and thus diminished the allure of the snarky tweet.

Shared Reflection

The most rewarding aspect of the lecture for me was the question and answer period, because we were able to reflect together on the experience we’d just had. A central point of the lecture was that a well cultivated ethical imagination is required if an enriching community is to be created.

What we experienced, among other things, was a collective failure of ethical imagination. But it is not only that the students failed to imagine their way into the position of a visitor who had travelled a distance to speak with them and who had put a lot of thought and energy into the design of an interactive lecture. Rather, more fundamentally, we failed together to imagine another possibility for ourselves as a community.

Perhaps once I called the audible to allow the raw feed to roll, the die was cast and we were destined to descend to the shallowest expressions of ourselves.

But even so, there was something redemptive about that failure and the opportunity we had to reflect upon it together afterwards. During the question and answer period, we tried to come to terms with what we had experienced: was it right to have the feed pulled? Did that go against the very points I was trying not simply to argue, but also to perform? Were the students treated fairly by requiring that they attend a lecture in which they would be expected to participate freely and in good faith?

And what about the content of the lecture itself? There were excellent questions in this regard; questions that demonstrated without a doubt that many students were not too distracted by the experience to understand at a deep level what I was trying to accomplish.

One does not often have the privilege to reflect so candidly and insightfully with one’s audience about the very dynamics that emerged between us during the performance of the lecture itself … perhaps that elusive, more enriching community began to take root during those shared reflections reflections at the end. Perhaps those roots are continuing to grow as faculty teach into the experience in their classes.

Here, in fact, is an example of what can happen when faculty do just that:

As I think further about it, and as I continue to engage in ongoing conversations with students via twitter about what we experienced, I have come to recognize that the performance of the lecture itself had all the beauty, and all the ugliness, all the hopefulness, and all the disappointment, all the complexity and nuance and texture of all our attempts to enter into public communication with one another in order to establish a more fulfilling community together.

Words do things; and what they are capable of doing depends on our capacity to imagine an enriching life for ourselves and our ability to put that shared vision into words.

An education in the liberal arts is schooling in the beautiful life.

On Live-Tweeting Your Own Lecture

By | Academic, Technology, The Long Road | 6 Comments

On Thursday, October 25th, at 4:30 PDT, I will read a paper entitled, Plato and the Politics of Reading at the University of San Francisco. One of the main points of the paper is that reading is fundamentally a collaborative endeavor.

Here is the blog post with more information about the content of the lecture itself.

Traditionally, when one delivers a paper in the discipline of philosophy, one simply reads, that is, one “lectures” (from the Latin legere, to read). But it would be ironic to read a paper on the collaborative nature of reading without inviting those listening to become actively engaged in the reading.

So, I intend to invite those attending the lecture and anyone following along on twitter, to join in an ongoing discussion of the lecture during the lecture itself.

The idea is not only to talk about collaborative reading, but to perform it as well.

Now, there are certain influential voices in the discipline who say anyone who tweets a lecture on philosophy should be ejected from the lecture post-haste, so I surmise that my attempt to use twitter to enrich and expand the reach of the philosophical ideas I am presenting will meet with more than a little skepticism, if not dismissive derision. There is, however, at the root of this skepticism the valid concern that a technology like twitter is unable to offer anything more than a truncated, impoverished and fragmented account of the lecture’s content.

Given that the skepticism is not unfounded, let me articulate how I intend to use twitter and, through it, other digital technologies to address each concern in turn.

From Truncated to Extended

Anyone who actually uses twitter knows that its 140-character constraint forces each tweet to extend somehow beyond itself. This occurs most effectively by means of shortened links to more substantive resources.

In order to point my listeners to those resources, I have set up the Keynote presentation I will use during the reading of my paper to tweet for me.  For those of you interested in how, precisely, one might do that, take a look at this video:

So, during the lecture, I will have populated certain Keynote slides with tweets that will extend the discussion in at least three ways:

  1. I will post phrases and formulations I think are important for the listeners in the room and beyond to reflect upon and remember. This will allow them to favorite the tweets to return to them later or to retweet them in order extend the discussion to their followers.
  2. I will link to references to important secondary sources to which I appeal during the lecture so listeners can follow up on specific passages I discuss in more detail.
  3. I will tweet links to my own published work on the nature of Socratic and Platonic politics, so listeners can deepen their understanding of the wider project into which this lecture fits.

From Impoverished to Enriched

Anyone who actually uses twitter recognizes that its power comes not from what one pushes out, but from what one receives. This is felt most palpably when one invites those with whom one tweets to share the wisdom they bring to the issue under discussion.

To facilitate this sort of sharing, I will explicitly invite those present at the lecture to actively tweet during the lecture itself. The hope is that the questions and suggestions posted will cultivate a vibrant back-channel discussion that will add insight and value to the reading itself. At the end of the lecture, questions and ideas raised on the back-channel can be brought into the discussion and other voices from outside the room can be integrated into the discussion we have there. As an author, I hope to encourage robust and lively engagement with the ideas I present in the lecture so that I too might learn something in the process that I can, in turn, integrate into my ongoing scholarship.

From Fragmented to Integrated

Anyone who actually uses twitter knows that the deployment of hashtags is the best way to mitigate against the fragmentary nature of a conversation on twitter.

In order to curate the tweets related to the lecture, I will append the hashtag #bacpa (one of the sponsors of the talk is the Bay Area Continental Philosophy Association) to my tweets and invite others to use that hashtag as well. To further integrate the tweets related to the lecture, I will curate them using Storify.

This will allow me to add other digital artifacts related to the lecture and to weave a story around the tweets I receive from those participating. This will afford me the opportunity, after the lecture, to consider in a more reflective way the things others have added to the lecture.

The Storify story will be embedded into the blog post on my Digital Vita I will have written outlining the basic argument of the lecture, a post that will, I hope, be a platform for further discussion.

To that end, I would like to invite anyone who has been interested enough in this endeavor to read to this point to join the lecture on twitter (following me @cplong or the #bacpa hashtag) or to come in person on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 4:30 PDT in MC 252 on the campus of the University of San Francisco.

Here is the Storify:


Multiplayer Introduction Game

By | Academic, Education, Technology, The Long Road | 2 Comments

Jane McGonigal

Originally uploaded by Joi

At the 2012 Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium at Penn State, I had the honor of introducing Jane McGonigal, Creative Director of Social Chocolate, and game designer extraordinaire.

In his book, The Grasshopper, Bernard Suits writes: 

“Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”
Jane McGonigal quotes this in her own book, the name of which I am omitting for reasons that will become clear presently. She then goes on to say: 
“Compared with games, reality is too easy.” 
Now, I feel the same way about giving introductions, it is too easy; so I thought we could make a massively multiplayer game of it. 
The game has 7 quests and 5 minutes to complete them:
  1. The title of her New York Times best selling book.
  2. Three games she has developed to help people tackle real world problems.
  3. The title of her TED talk. Bonus: How many times has it been viewed?
  4. What is her current job title?
  5. Where did she get her PhD?
  6. Tweet the link to her webpage with her twitter handle, the TLT Symposium hash tag and one of my twitter handles.
  7. Tell us something we didn’t know, something I would not have come up with in a traditional introduction.
I am very happy to report that we successfully completed this game in 3 minutes and 38 seconds. I brought the introduction as a whole in under 10 minutes, so it all worked out well.
The introduction itself was designed to perform some of the ideas that Jane went on to present in such a compelling way.

New Media Habits

By | Technology, The Long Road | 14 Comments


Originally uploaded by laikolosse

A number of recent changes to the social media technologies I use daily force me again to reflect on the habits design decisions cultivate in us. The decisions made by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple are, of course, design decisions with a decidedly commercial interest.  Even so, their willingness to make substantive changes to the way we interact with one another through their sites is teaching us all something about the habits we need to cultivate in the digital age.

Facebook, of course, just implemented some fairly radical changes to its user interface, adding a twitter like timeline on the right side of the screen, integrating Spotify, adding a timeline, and curating more content from friends it thinks will be of interest to you. They have followed Google in making it easier to direct a specific post to a group of friends right from the status update text box. And they have implemented, among many other things, a subscribe feature that allows anyone to subscribe to your FB page.

Google, for its part, continues to roll out changes to its new Google Plus platform, recently adding the ability to share circles with others. What seems on the surface to be a simple design decision has wide ranging implications for the number of people following you and for your ability to follow new people.

Apple has just rolled out its iCloud service, rendering its previous Mobile Me service obsolete. In so doing, they announced to anyone with content on Mobile Me, that it would no longer be supported after June 2012.

Make no mistake, these changes are designed to increase the revenue each of these companies is able to generate for itself.  But what interests me about this in particular is the manner in which these changes are forcing us all to be more flexible, open and, hopefully, inquisitive about the technologies with which we are engaged.
We are not used to having the medium through which we communicate with one another change so radically so frequently.
It is disconcerting.
But perhaps there is something important to learn from that sense of vertigo that comes with such changes. We are required to learn anew the things we thought we knew. We are forced to ask ourselves new questions about how we post and to whom; we are made to think again about what is public and how we want ourselves to be seen and heard online.
These changes, whatever the value or lack thereof they have, force us again and again into a mode of play so that we might learn what we can do with these technologies and what they are doing to us.
If we are to engage one another with a modicum of responsibility in and through these technologies, we will need to cultivate in ourselves the habits of playful exploration and curiosity; we will need to be willing, again and again, to reconsider the things we thought we had finished considering, to rethink those habits of interaction that have become thoughtless and rote.
Whatever the value of the changes these companies have foisted upon us, our ability to navigate in a new, more dynamic digital world, will depend on our ability to cultivate in ourselves, our friends, our students, and our children an openness to change, a willingness to reconsider, an ability to playfully explore and the courage to act with integrity in the flux of things.

Liberal Arts Voices Hanging Out on Google

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road, The Undergraduate Experience | 11 Comments

Student Panel at LASTS11

Originally uploaded by LAUSatPSU

On Wednesday, September 28th at 4pm eastern, we in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies office will take another step out into the great technological unknown by recording an episode of our Liberal Arts Voices Podcast live on a Google Plus hangout.

I hope that anyone interested in what we are doing in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies office will join us. Here is a link to my Google Plus profile where you will find the Hangout when it is available.

The official guests on the episode will be leaders from the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Council, a dynamic group of student leaders who have always been willing to engage with new technologies with me in interesting and enriching ways. That they will be with us for this experiment is only proper since they have helped us grow our community through Twitter and Facebook.

The impetus behind this experiment is first to perform what we preach about the importance of practice in learning about new technologies. We will see what Google Plus adds to our discussions on the Liberal Arts Voices podcast, and we will experience directly what it takes away.

The second reason for this use of a Google Plus Hangout is that I think the ease by which this technology makes face to face conversations public is very compelling. It is a simple broadcasting platform that can be used to raise the level of discussion online by adding the ethical dimension of the face. In our attempts to use technology to enrich the undergraduate experience in the College, it seemed timely to try to put Google Plus to work in this way. 
Finally, we now have a number of members of our community out in the “real world’ – as if we in Happy Valley don’t live in the real world. But I digress… In any case, these friends who were so engaged when they were physically here as students or staff members remain engaged in various ways. It will be interesting to see if that distance can be traversed by the G+ technology and we will once again be face to face, talking about the importance of the liberal arts.
I am looking forward to what this little experiment will bring. 

The Press Enterprise

By | Living, Technology, The Long Road | 7 Comments

West End of Bloomsburg, PA
Originally uploaded by colecamp

I have long had the vague idea that newspapers need to recognize that the core of their business is the business of their communities.

Sometimes the experiences of your friends have a way of making vague ideas poignant and concrete.

Such is the case for me with my friend, Cole Camplese, and his experience with the Press Enterprise of Bloomsburg, PA.

The Press Enterprise is the local paper in Bloomsburg, a town that was hit last week with a devastating flood.

Have you read much about it? No? Well, I would point you to the paper so you could learn more about the lives of those impacted by the flood, but if I did that, you would quickly come face to face with this:

Press Enterprise.jpg
No, to learn about the flood from this paper allegedly dedicated to “Serving Bloomsburg,” you would need either to subscribe or visit their Facebook Page, where you would find comments from Facebook users and the occasional link to the Press Enterprise itself; and if you would like to read the articles to which these links point …  well, then you would need to subscribe.

Of course, you could also look at the images and stories gathered by individuals like Cole.

These images and stories articulate well the business of Bloomsburg at the moment. And it seems to me that the business of a newspaper designed to serve this community should really revolve around the business of the community itself. While the newspaper did unlock its content during the flood and in its immediate aftermath; it has now closed itself off again from the wider community of communication that is the internet.

Cole has written an eloquent post about this on his blog, a post that should move the Press Enterprise to reconsider its business strategy

But it is the strange tension in the name of the paper that I find rich with ambiguous meaning. At a time when the culture of printing is giving way to a new, more dynamic digital culture the very enterprise of the press has been called into question.

When we speak of the “enterprise” in business terms, we understand, as Dictionary.com says, “a company organized for commercial purposes.”  But the most common meaning of the term is “a project undertaken or to be undertaken, especially one that is important or difficult or that requires boldness or energy.” I like that one. But it does not seem to be the meaning at play in the Press Enterprise.

Of course, we have been living since the invention of the printing press around 1440 in a print culture that has long been characterized by what might be called a logic of compression, impression and even repression. The printing press itself is an impressive machine designed to press information upon us, imprinting mass culture with the ideas, thoughts and values that have the imprimatur of the those with authority.

The enterprise of pressing has been lucrative indeed.

But what might the press enterprise look like if we took seriously the common meaning of ‘enterprise’ as an important, difficult and bold endeavor?

It would need to become something less depressing than the business of printing. It would need to be more attuned to the business of the community as the community engages in activities that make lives meaningful. It would need to become a curator, a collector, an open space of gathering, sharing, re-mixing and responding.

It would need to relinquish its tendencies to impress, compress and contain. In short, the Press Enterprise needs to become a shared, community enterprise.

And if the newspaper business truly becomes the business of communities, I am confident it will continue to be lucrative as well; for people will come not to be told or imprinted upon, but because they find a place in which they can engage in a common enterprise about the business of their community.

Making Google Smarter

By | Technology, The Long Road | 3 Comments

The Wind is Beautiful

Originally uploaded by cplong11

Nicolas Carr’s article in The Atlantic, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, considers the impact new media technologies are having on human cognition. Although he recognizes the reciprocal nature of the human-technology relationship, he focuses primarily in that article on what technology is doing to our abilities to read, concentrate and comprehend.

But the human relationship with technology is fluid, reciprocal and dynamic, and the boundaries between human-beings and our technologies are porous, as Freud already recognized in speaking about humans as “prothetic gods.”
Technology does things to us as we do things with it, but we also do things to it as it does things with us.  
Issues related to the dynamic interaction between us and our technologies have been rendered poignant for me again as I begin to play with Google+. What strikes me most at this point, however, is how the Google culture of engineering has taken a decidedly humanistic turn, and in a potentially powerful way.
The rhetoric Google used to introduce Google+ reflects this humanistic approach. Vic Gundotra, Senior VP of Social at Google, told TechCrunch that Google+ was created to respond to the “basic human need” to connect with other people in a way that is less “awkward.” 
There are a number of features and design decisions that recognize that human insight and understanding enrich the technology.  Circles, to take the central example, is beautifully designed in a way that makes it fun and aesthetically pleasing to create different audiences of people with whom one might want to communicate. The design, however, is important because it invites us to teach our Google profile about the sorts of communities about which we care. In so doing, our profiles become more flexible in communicating diverse ideas to diverse groups.  Facebook groups offers this possibility as well, though in a less compelling and playful way.  By making circles central to Google+ and by making it fun, Google has recognized that it will get smarter only if it invites humans to teach it.
This recognition seems also to be at the heart of the +1 button which adds a social component to search in a way that is designed to take your personal views and ideas into consideration.  There are, of course, dangers in this insofar as it can serve to reinforce existing prejudices and positions; but used effectively, it can also serve to open new horizons of insight.
The Hangout feature of Google+ is rooted in a metaphor taken from the world of concrete human interactivity. The Hangout is set up like a kind of front porch on which one can sit and wait for others to join. The conversation is inherently dynamic, because the Hangout need not be “about” something specific nor is it even owned by the person who began it: it is simply an invitation to a circle of people saying I am here if you would like to talk and it can continue long after the initiator has left. 
It is striking, however, that Bradely Horowitz, Google VP for Product Management, has been using Hangouts to open discussions with anyone following him on Google+ as a way to receive feedback on the product or, presumably, to participate diverse conversations, the direction of which remains open.  This in and of itself is testimony to the fact that Google has recognized that the only way it will get smarter is by attending and responding to human insight and experience in a dynamic and reciprocal way.

Summer Research in Digital

By | Digital Research, Technology, The Long Road | 2 Comments

This summer John Dolan, Director of Digital Media and Pedagogy, and I are heading up a summer digital research project in the College of the Liberal Arts.

For a description of the project, check out John’s post on our Digital Research in the Liberal Arts blog about the iPad Summer Research Project.

The iPad project is part of a larger initiative designed to put technologies in the hands of faculty to empower them to do scholarly research. What excites me most about this project specifically and the Digital Research Initiative more generally, is that it is driven by the idea that if we put technologies in the hands of faculty to pursue scholarly research, they will not only produce excellent new scholarship, but also they will learn the affordances and limitations of the technologies as they think about how to integrate them into their teaching.

By inviting faculty to use the technology for research they are already doing and asking them to reflect a bit in writing on a public blog, we hope to cultivate a community of digitally literate scholars who are doing excellent academic work.  The measure of success from my perspective as a scholar and an Associate Dean will not be the number of posts we write or the various aspects of the technologies we uncover, but the quality of the research we do, the articles and book chapters written, submitted and published, the manuscript and dissertation reviews we write, and the conference papers we submit.

With that in mind, I have posted a short reflection on using the iPad to review a manuscript without requiring a single piece of paper.

I hope you all will follow the Digital Research in the Liberal Arts blog and contribute when you are so moved.

Evolving Digital Research Ecosystem

By | Academic, Digital Research, Technology, The Long Road | 8 Comments

Final Edits

Originally uploaded by cplong11

In the months since my last posts on using Mendeley, Zotero and the iPad for academic research, my experience has been more fully informed by practice. This fall I was able to research, develop and write an essay on Plato’s Apology for a talk and seminar I will be giving in Bogata, Columbia at the Universidad de los Andes.

The practice of doing research under extreme time constraints as I taught a 400-level course on Critical Theory and served as Associate Dean brought a number of important affordances and limitations of digital research into sharper relief for me.
For those who are uninterested in the details, my general experience is that while the iPad, Mendeley and Zotero continue to evolve in the right direction, there remains as yet no simple solution that will close the research circle of which I spoke last spring. And yet, the evolution of these tools – particularly improvements to the iPad’s ability to handle pdf files stored in Dropbox and Mendeley‘s strong move toward mobile computing – has brought me closer to that vision.
For those of you who would like to hear some of the details about how I am using digital media to do academic research more efficiently and effectively, here they are:

Desktop Literacies

Originally uploaded by cplong11
First, sharing reference collections on both Mendeley and Zotero has become integral to my work. My research assistant, Sabrina Aggelton, is able to locate, identify and organize articles and books related to my work into our shared collection where the texts themselves are immediately accessible to me. This allows me to make the most effective use of the often very limited research time I have. When I do have time blocked off, I can focus immediately on the texts most relevant to my project. Because Mendeley organizes pdf files so well into files on Dropbox for me, I have used the shared collections on Mendeley rather than Zotero for this purpose.
Second, integration of pdf files with the iPad is much improved over the past few months.  Although Mendeley itself has an iPad/iPhone app, the application remains rather limited with respect to annotation, file transfer and even reading files on the iPad. I prefer to use Mendeley to organize my pdf files onto Dropbox, and then GoodReader with Dropbox integration to annotate and Evernote to take notes on the text. I often find myself reading via GoodReader on the iPad and taking notes on my laptop via Evernote.  I have even been known to use Evernote on the iPhone when reading articles on the iPad, if I am on the go. This is not an integrated solution, but I find that having all my notes accessible and searchable in Evernote works fairly well.
Third, Mendeley is unable yet to compete with Zotero in terms of its integration with Word processors for citation styles. Mendeley does not yet support footnote citations in the Chicago Manual Style (my preferred method), so I return to Zotero when writing. This means that I need to continue to make sure that references added to Mendeley are entered in Zotero.  Mendeley is able to read Zotero databases and display and organize pdf files from Zotero, but Zotero does not yet play with Mendeley in the opposite direction. Happily, it is extremely easy to add references to Zotero from the web, but still, this is an extra step when entering references. 
I would like to consolidate all my references into a single program if possible. A few months ago, I thought that program would be Mendeley, but the announcement of Zotero Everywhere makes me think that Zotero might yet win that battle. Mendeley is ahead of Zotero in iPhone/iPad development and pdf file organization, Zotero ahead in terms of citation integration with Word processing. The future of Zotero depends upon its development of a stand alone desktop app and integration into web browsers beyond Firefox. It will also need to develop a software solution for mobile devices. I am not sure, however, that it sees itself as a pdf organizing program, so in this regard Mendeley may have the advantage.
As I reflect upon the state of my digital research ecosystem, I am encouraged by the increasing ease by which scholarship can be accessed and organized online. Not only do I have access to a huge number of digital resources through Penn State’s excellent library, I also use Google Books and Amazon.com to access and gather references from hundreds of thousands of books. Happily, as I move further into my own administrative work, the resources that facilitate the academic research that remains of central importance to me continue to improve. They have, however, yet to mature to their full potential. 

Prosthetic Gods

By | Living, Technology, The Long Road | 7 Comments

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud writes:

With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensory, or is removing the limits to their functioning (43).

The passage touches on something I have been thinking about ever more intensely as I consider how the technology I have integrated so completely into my life has changed the way I interact with the world and those I encounter in it.

To illustrate his point, in this section of Civilization Freud points to the motor, which extends the power of human muscles to move the body, and the telescope, which extends the power to see; and he mentions the camera and the gramaphone as fundamentally designed to amplify the power of recollection and memory.

As I have emphasized in a post entitled Brief Reflection on the Essence of Technology, the dialectical relationship between the technologies we create and our human creative capacities is complex.

Freud articulates something of this complexity when he writes:

Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trouble at times (44).

As I think about how I use those technological tools that have become adjunct to my body – my iPhone and increasingly now, my iPad – and I consider the extent to which I rely on an application like Evernote or even Things, my advanced ToDo app, I realize the degree to which these devices and applications allow me to focus on what is important to me because they augment the power of my memory – or should I say they deteriorate the power of my memory by taking over the very task of memorization for me? 

The difference seems to be diminishing….

And yet, Freud’s reminder that “present-day man does not feel happy in his Godlike character” (45) gestures to the core of the issue: what is it for a prothetic god to be happy? This is, of course, the age old question of human happiness in the robust, Greek sense of a life well lived.

How can we use the technologies that use us to live a fulfilling human life? How do prosthetic gods become blessed?

My hope is that posing the question and turning attentively to it is itself the beginning of a way of responding that is able to set us on a path toward a life well lived.


Freud S, Strachey J, Gay P. Civilization and its discontents. W.W. Norton; 1989. Available at: http://books.google.com/books?id=DOGQDHo8ihIC&pgis=1.

Mendeley on the iPhone

By | Digital Research, Education, Technology, The Long Road | 10 Comments

Mendeley on the iPhone

Originally uploaded by cplong11

I am happy to report that Mendeley has developed an iPhone app that brings us a step closer to the digital research model I hope to implement in the months to come.

Before I mention a few of the limitations of the application, I want to celebrate its very appearance. This is a huge step forward in mobile bibliographic and reference computing.

About three years ago, I had a phone conversation with a person in the sales department at Thomson Reuters, the company that makes Endnote. The purpose of my call was to see if they were developing a version of Endnote for the recently released iPhone. They told me that they did have plans, once Apple released the Software Development Kit, to develop a mobile version of Endnote. Already at that point, I could see the value of having my references so easily accessible.

Although that application has yet to materialize, I shifted, in the meantime, to Zotero because it facilitated the sort of collaborative research I hoped to put into practice with my students. As I mentioned in my previous posts on digital research more generally and on the way I use of Zotero in particular, a significant limitation to all the bibliographic software was the inability to use anything other than the web browser to interface with my reference libraries when using my iPhone and iPad.

I turned to Mendeley in the hope that I would find an application that would have all the collaborative functionality I required even as it allowed me to organize, read and annotate pdf files in a way that would integrate with my word processing software. I am very happy with Mendeley when I am sitting in front of a desktop computer. However, it is critical to the model of digital research I am trying to establish that all my references be accessible to me on all my devices wherever I am.

This is where the new iPhone application, even if it is tantalizingly labeled ‘Lite’, adds substantive value to my research workflow. The application syncs with my Mendeley libraries beautifully and allows me to read any of the pdf files I have posted to it. In the photo on the right, you can see the collections exactly as they appear in the Mendeley Desktop application and on the web.

If you have pdf files included in those collections, you can access them via the mobile device, assuming you are connected to the internet, by downloading them individually. This allows you to effectively carry your entire reference library in your pocket, putting thousands of pages of scholarship at your fingertips wherever you are.
For all of this, however, the application’s features remain rudimentary. You cannot annotate pdf files via the application nor can you edit any of the tags or bibliographic information associated with the references. The first iteration of the application is clearly designed to establish Mendeley in the mobile space – a place it basically has all to itself at the moment. But is also gives us a taste of possibilities to come.

PDF via Mendeley on the iPhone

Originally uploaded by cplong11
As for some of those possibilities, I would hope that this is the first stage in a series of upgrades on the road to a single integrated iPhone/iPad application. 
Porting such an application to the iPad has enormous potential for scholarship. If it allows for annotation, we will have a powerful new research tool on which to actively read texts related to our scholarly work. Building on solid web and desktop applications, Mendeley for the iPhone and iPad would offer us an integrated way to do serious productive research wherever we find ourselves. This will allow us to move more quickly from the research gathering to the productive writing phase of the process.
In the end, I am very happy to see the first iteration of this mobile reference resource. I look forward to the updates and to the “Pro” version, if indeed, that is the direction toward which the label “Lite” is gesturing. 
Despite some reticence at first, the appearance of the iPhone app tips the balance for me and I am now moving all of my references over the Mendeley in anticipation of upgrades to come.

Integrating Mendeley into the Research Circle

By | Academic, Digital Research, Technology, The Long Road | 12 Comments

It seems that my quest to close the digital research circle has been joined by a few fellow researchers. The idea is compelling and would not only save both time and paper, but would offer new opportunities for collaborative research.  

In my post, Closing the Digital Research Circle, I outlined the basic structure by which we could download PDF files into a reference management system that would handle bibliographic data and manage the PDF files themselves.

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Some Initial Thoughts on the iPad

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road, The Undergraduate Experience | 5 Comments

It is already clear to me that the iPad does not replicate the experience of the iPhone even though many of the apps serve the same functionality.

The iPad is much less intrusive in collaborative contexts than either a laptop, which tends to come between members of the group, or an iPhone, which isolates individuals, severing each from the dynamics of the whole.

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Academic Transformation

By | Academic, Education, Technology, The Long Road | One Comment

Over the past few days I have been thinking more intensely about the meaning and nature of academic transformation.

In the wake of the TLT Symposium at Penn State last weekend, I traveled to Orlando to participate in the National Center for Academic Transformation’s Redesign Alliance conference.
I have been struck by a contrast that disappoints me from a national perspective even as it  encourages me at local level.

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Embracing Different Voices

By | Academic, Education, LwCH, Technology, The Long Road | No Comments

After talking to trusted people, thinking things over and otherwise working through the transition I am making to Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at the College of the Liberal Arts, I have decided to embrace the model that Dean Chris Brady uses over at the Schreyer Honors College at PSU and tweet in two voices. So, you can now find me at: http://twitter.com/LAUSDeanLong And, as always, you can still follow me at: http:/twitter.com/cplong

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Re-designing the Long Road

By | Academic, Education, Technology, The Long Road | One Comment

One of the great privileges of my summer faculty fellowship has been the opportunity to work with creative and thoughtful educators and designers who were able to help me think more holistically about my identity on the web.

I have been blogging here on the Long Road since June 10, 2007, attempting to give voice to certain dimensions of my personal, political, academic and teaching life. Over time, however, it has become clear that my attempt to “blog the philosophical life” involves multiple dimensions that are somewhat separate even if fundamentally integrated. 

Perhaps this is simply the digital articulation of the deeper, existential question of personal identity.

In any case, the redesign of the website that we have rolled out in the course of the last few weeks grows out of an ongoing dialogue with all the great educational designers and IT managers at Education Technology Services, but in particular with two who deserve special mention and thanks here: Brad Kozlek and George Webster.

George has patiently and expertly worked with me to design the font, colors, look and feel of the site.  He was always willing to change things I found problematic and willing too, to change them back when I realized that the way we had it first was best.

Antique_Map_Mercator_Arctic.jpgThe design itself is based on this image of an antique map of the arctic I found online as I was searching for an inspiration for the colors and feel of the site. The map captured the spirit of the central metaphor around which the long road is organized: the attempt to chart in words the course of a life.

The long road is now composed of three blogs feeding a main home page, which serves as a pathway into the larger site. George worked with me to design the icons that go with each dimension of the site.

LRlogo.gifthe long road is the site on which you will find my attempt to put things personal, political, remarkable and mundane into words.

CpLlogo.gifdigital vita is the site that gives voice to my academic life, including information and resources related to the various presentations I make.

DDlogo.gifsocratic politics in digital dialogue is the site related to my research and teaching regarding the nature and practice of Socratic politics. It hosts the Digital Dialogue.

One of the main purposes of redesigning the site was to host the Digital Dialogue, the podcast I developed during my faculty fellowship. The Digital Dialogue is designed to generate discussion around questions concerning but not limited to the nature of digital dialogue, its political possibilities, the excellences associated with it and the impact it might have on our pedagogical practices.

Brad added the Yahoo! player to the site so that people could easily listen to episodes of the Digital Dialogue right from their browser.  Everyone can also subscribe to the podcast through iTunesU by clicking this link which opens iTunes on your local computer.

I hope everyone enjoys the new look of the site and continues to return frequently. You are, as always, warmly invited to comment on anything that appears here should you be so moved.

Many thanks to George and Brad for their great work on the site.

Stumbling Upon New Sites

By | Technology, The Long Road | No Comments

Although I fancy myself someone who takes advantage of the web, I must admit that I find myself repeatedly going to the same sites all the time: the New York Times, Slate.com, the Centre Daily Times, Google Reader, Truthdig.com, etc.

I mentioned this at dinner the other night and recently minted Dr. Michael Brownstein, suggested that I needed StumbleUpon.com. When I returned home, I checked it out and have found it thus far to be quite refreshing.

I signed up for a free account, was asked about some of my interests and then was able, on a click of a button, to plumb the vast recesses of the internet. StumbleUpon.com serves up websites based on your interests and you can teach it what you like and don’t like, share with friends and email sites you find interesting.  There is even a way to limit it to University sites if you want.  I uploaded the StumbleUpon Firefox toolbar, and now when I have a moment, I just click the Stumble! button and see what happens.

Here is a link to my public profile on StumbleUpon.com if you want to see the sites I have said I liked.  If you join, feel free to make me a friend on it so I can see what you have discovered.

Narrative on the Social Web

By | Academic, Technology, The Long Road | One Comment

3505526583_b38d1d7d82.jpgYesterday Alan Levine, aka cogdog, gave a presentation on 50+ Ways to Tell a Story using Web 2.0 technologies. The presentation was excellent as it introduced us to a variety of tools available online for telling stories. The power of Levine’s presentation was the way he told and retold the same story about losing and then finding his dog, Dominoe, using the different tools.

Alan himself wonders about what people walk away with after the presentation other than a long list of tools. He emphasizes that it is not about the tools and in the course of the presentation, it became increasingly clear that if you don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by the shear number of possibilities out there, something important shows itself as the same story is told and retold: you begin to see that the medium in which a story is told determines the content of the story; the story itself changes by virtue of the form through which it is expressed.
This is a significant and important insight. It not only forces us to attend to the myriad Web 2.0 modes of digital expression that are open to us, but also, and more significantly, to ask how these modes impact the content we create, engage, critique and experience. 
I could imagine an assignment for a class that points students to the 50+ Ways wiki and asks them to choose a mode of digital expression that most effectively and powerfully presents their content and then requires them to reflect upon the choices they made. This would encourage a critical engagement of the question concerning how form impacts content and content, form. One would need to emphasize that to divorce the question of form from content is impossible; that the more attentive one is to the intimate, complex and reciprocal relationship between form and content, the more effective, powerful and meaningful one’s expression becomes.
After the presentation, we had a panel discussion (see picture above) that touched only the surface of the issues raised.
Check out Cole Camplese’s post on the event: http://www.colecamplese.com/2009/05/cogdog-visits-psu/

Grassroots Video

By | Education, Technology, The Long Road | One Comment

Over the last few months, I participated on an Educational Technology Services “hot team” that focused on researching the educational significance of grassroots video. If you don’t know what grassroots video is, check out our white paper, which gives a good summary. 

You can also watch the embedded YouTube video below. The grassroots video hot team produced a grassroots video designed to share its findings.

More iPod Touch Ups

By | Technology, The Long Road | 2 Comments

I hesitate to write this after what has been such a difficult roll out for Apple of MobileMe, the Application store, firmware upgrades for the iPhone and iPod Touch and, of course, the introduction of the 3G iPhone.  Time will tell if these new dimensions of the Apple empire will be successful, but I thought I would update my ongoing evaluation of the iPod Touch.

Incrementally, things are getting better, but the process remains slow and frustrating.  I am very hopeful that with the introduction of the application store and the SDK for the iPhone and iPod Touch, some progress will be made on the Cisco VPN situation.  Once this functionality is available, I am convinced that my iPod Touch will be transformed for me into the best PDA devices I have ever had.  Thus far, however, there is no solution for the Cisco VPN issue and this leaves me with an unconnected device during my hours on the University Park campus of Penn State where I work.  (I have steadfastly resisted – with the help of my wife who always keeps me grounded in such matters – paying the outrageaous costs of an AT&T plan for an iPhone.)  If the VPN situation is worked out, I think I have a device just as good at a fraction of the cost.

As for the other issues about which I wrote previously, let me summarize:

  1. MobileMe, if it starts working, promises to solve my calendar issues.  I actually prefer to use the web version of iCalendar in MobileMe when it is operational, but this has been rare this weekend.  If Apple intends this to be “Exchange for the rest of us,” they will have to make it more reliable. Apple has addressed one of the issues I had with the calendar application: you can now determine the specific calendar to which you want to assign an event.
  2. ToDo problems.  Still, there is no integration of the ToDo list in Mail/iCal from my MacBook Pro to my iPod Touch.  Why?  I should be able to view and edit a single ToDo list from my Mail and iCal applications on any of my devices.  Change something on the iPod (if it had ToDo functionality) and it should sync with the MBP and vice versa.  I am still using dedicated entries in my address book to write ToDo notes to myself – pathetic. Although I think the free Remote app that Apple developed for the new Application store is useful and techonolgically innovative, they should have spent less time developing that and more time perfecting the existing applications on the iPhone and iPod Touch. [Update: Apple seems to have integrated ToDo list functionality through MobileMe IF you set up the me.com mail account on the iPod Touch.  A new folder appears called Apple Mail To Do, but it does not seem to sync with the Mail ToDo list yet. I tried adding a To Do item in Mobile Me through my calendar, it did not immediately show up in my Apple Mail To Do folder on the iPod. On the other hand, I have taken to Zenbe’s List app for the iPod Touch/iPhone.  This works well, syncs with the web version and is accessible through iGoogle.  Not the integrated option I wanted, but it is nice in any case.]
  3. Here I will just restate, verbatim, what I wrote about descriptions of podcasts: There remains no ability to access descriptions of podcasts on the iPod
    Touch.  This is an issue of continued frustration for me as I sort
    through podcasts that have collected over a few days and would like a
    simple way to view their content without listening to the introductions
    of each one. [This was a feature of earlier generations of iPods which has been lost.]

I have tried some of the free new applications from the Application store and they show a lot of potential.  The Weatherbug application already is far better than the Weather app that came with the first software upgrade.  Now I just wish I could remove that older one.  The application store and the SDK promises to bring much innovation to the device, but as it now stands, almost a year after it was introduced, there remain too many frustrating inadequacies.

These are so much the more difficult to live with as we begin to see the real power of the device and platform unfold.  All I can say is that I hope independent developers will succeed where Apple has failed with respect to integrating Mail, iCal, etc. into a more coherent and functional system.  And I hope that Apple will succeed, where is has so far this weekend failed, in making MobileMe a truly seamless experience in cloud computing where all the information related to my daily life and schedule is available to me anywhere I can get online.

Podcasting and Blogging the Liberal Arts

By | Academic, Education, Technology, The Long Road | No Comments

A Liberal Arts Education is committed to cultivating habits of thinking and acting capable of responding to the world in ways that open new possibilities for human community.  It is oriented in part by what may be called the reading life and the writing life.

The reading life is animated by an attempt to enter into dialogue with the ideas, thoughts and actions of the past and present.  
The writing life is animated by an attempt to contribute to the dialogue by synthesizing, criticizing and publicizing ideas, thoughts and actions capable of transforming the future.
Technology can play a powerful role in a Liberal Arts education by cultivating the skills associated with the reading and writing life.  Here are some examples of how I have sought to mobilize technology to support the Liberal Arts education.
Podcasting the Reading Life
The Assignment
  • Locate an academic secondary source that presents an interpretation of the assigned section of Plato’s Gorgias. Produce a podcast that summarizes the interpretation.
An Example
  • Stephanie Marek’s podcast on the Gorgias with Casey Cox.
Expanding the Reading Life
  • Find a picture on the web or take a picture that grows out of your experience reading the Oedipous trilogy.
    Post the picture to your blog and write a post that explains how the picture relates to your experience with these texts. Present then a “reading” of the picture.

An Example

Blogging the Writing Life
Students in my PHIL204: 20th Century Philosophy course were required to blog each week about the readings we had done.  The criteria for assessment I provided set out that these posts must:
Demonstrate familiarity with the readings

  1. Be well organized from beginning to end
  2. Be well written and edited
  3. Articulate original ideas
  4. Reflect thoughtfully and critically on the texts

An Example

Expanding the Writing Life
One of the goals in using blogs in my philosophy courses was to provide a forum by which philosophical ideas could be brought into more intimate contact with the wider world of politics and culture.
David Klatt did this with his excellent final paper project, An Immigrant Songwriter and Dewey on Language and Citizenship, in which he critically engages a Spanish translation and performance of Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” to ask questions about the meaning and nature of citizenship.
I managed to do this in Myth, Tragedy, Politics with posts on Hesiod’s Theogony and how it related to the protests by Monks in Burma; in 20th Century Philosophy, I was able to present Merleau-Ponty and Dewey’s philosophy of art to bear upon works by a variety of artists like Cézanne, Klee and others.
For more information on my use of technology in the classroom, see my story on the TLT Website.

iPod Touch Ups

By | Technology, The Long Road | 2 Comments

Last October I wrote with some frustration about the limitations of my iPod Touch, three months later, it is perhaps fair to revisit the list of issues I had with the device to see what has been addressed and what remains to be done.  

  1. The ability to add events to the calendar was added by a firmware upgrade late last year and it has made a very big difference in the way I use the Touch.  The addition of this functionality, which should never have been missing in the first place, has moved the device forcefully into the realm of a fully functional PDA.  More on this in a moment.
  2. There still remains no support for the Cisco VPN we have in place here at the University Park campus of Penn State.  So, I am unable to connect to the internet with the device during extended periods of the day when I am on campus.  I understand that a fix for this may be coming with the release of a Software Development Kit for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but the delay on this has been frustrating.
  3. The Google calendar interface for the iPhone was made to work with the iPod Touch late in the year last year and the interface is very nice.  However, without continuous internet access on campus, I have opted to use only the Calendar app on that sits locally on the device.
  4. There remains no ability to access descriptions of podcasts on the iPod Touch.  This is an issue of continued frustration for me as I sort through podcasts that have collected over a few days and would like a simple way to view their content without listening to the introductions of each one.  

Having touched again upon the above points, it is clear that much remains to be done to realize more of the potential of this machine.  With the release of the January update which includes five applications that Apple should have offered free to iPod Touch users, but for which it instead decided to charged us $20, some progress was made.  Even so, significant problems remain:

  1. The Mail app is very nice in many respects, but it does not include a way to easily delete all of the emails in a given mailbox.  Specifically, there should be an easy what to empty the trash can in Mail on the iPod Touch.  
  2. A more significant failure is that the Mail app does not include the ToDo list functionality Apple just built into the Mail app in Leopard.  There is no reason that Mail on the Touch/iPhone should not sync seamlessly with Leopard’s Mail app, and specifically with its Notes and ToDo features.  This would make the Touch into one of the best PDA’s out there and Apple could do this so simply in a few elegant strokes.  I can’t help but wonder if the impetus behind moving Notes and ToDo’s to the Mail app in Leopard is an intention to move in this direction.  If so, why is it taking so long?
  3. The Google Maps app is very cool and will be useful on trips even without an internet connection if my initial tests are correct which indicate that basic driving directions remain cached in the machine even when it is not online.
  4. The Weather app is weak.  The web apps for weather are much better than the app that now resides locally on the Touch.  It gives basic information about current weather, temps and the upcoming week, but there is no way to get more detailed information like radar maps or wind chill factors or even sever weather information.  This information could be accessed when the device is connected to the internet and cached when not.
  5. The Stock app is fine, although it is hard to look at these days.  I don’t know why it does not sync with the widget built into Leopard which is identical.

In all, there are a lot of little things that need to be done to make this a truly excellent device.  I remain, even after three months, very impressed with the user interface and continue to enjoy interacting with the machine.  The iPod Touch now needs a few touch-ups, most having to do with integration with existing Leopard apps and functionality.  Once these are accomplished, the pleasure of using the device will finally eclipse the frustration of being confronted daily with such unrealized potential. 

Web 3.0

By | Technology, The Long Road | 3 Comments

After hearing the Education Technology Services (ETS) Talk, number 35 in which issues were raised about the limits of Facebook and other aspects of Web 2.0 social networking that were feeling a bit cumbersome, I have been thinking about what Web 3.0 will be like and what we might anticipate for its impact on pedagogy.

My sense is that the sort of control over content that the next version of Moveable Type will offer to the Blogs @ PSU program points in the direction of Web 3.0. I imagine that Web 3.0 will bring an increased capacity for us to have complete control over our own on-line identity and digital expression regardless of whether we belong to a proprietary social network like Facebook or del.icio.us or Flickr. Rather, I will be able to develop and customize a digital space accessible to anyone willing to subscribe to the feeds — Twitters, Pictures, Blog Posts, etc. — that I am publishing about myself, my work, my life. My students, family, friends will have access to my information on a variety of platforms, again, regardless of whether or not they belong to a common social network. They will engage with my content both passively and actively using cell phones, laptops, desktops and new devices like the Kindle throughout the course of their day, not limited by wires or walls. It seems to me that a number of interesting pedagogical possibilities would open up in such a world.

I imagine too that I am vastly underestimating the new creative possibilities that the technologies on the horizon will bring to us. I probably have described something that belongs more to Web 2.1 than Web 3.0. But, it would be very interesting to hear any speculation you might have about what Web 3.0 will look like. In three years, say, what new pedagogical possibilities will be open to me as a faculty member committed to weaving technology into my courses in order to teach students how to articulate themselves and critically engage the world in and through the digital medium?

My New iPod Touch

By | Technology, The Long Road | 4 Comments

I received my new iPod Touch the other day and have had a few days to play with it. On the whole, I would say that it is very close to being one of the best handheld devices I have ever owned. At this point, however, there are significant drawbacks that are extremely frustrating. Let me mention a few issues:

  • There is no ability to add events to the calendar. This is particularly galling because the iPhone has this functionality and someone at Apple decided to disable it on the iPoT. I can’t think of a rationale for this, and it is extremely frustrating, particularly because of a second point:
  • There is no support of Cisco’s VPN software which is required to get on the wireless network at Penn State, where I teach. So, I have a beautiful new device with a calendar and WiFi capability, but I cannot get access to WiFi on campus where I spend much of my time, and I can’t add calendar events locally on the device without WiFi access.
  • To add to the calendar woes, even if I have WiFi access, Google Calendar as optimized for the iPhone does not yet work with the iPoT. (I can’t help but hope this is just a matter of time.)
  • There is no ability to access descriptions of podcasts on the iPoT (or the iPhone). I find this ridiculous. It is as if they designed the device without having a human use it in real life.

OK, having unloaded some of that frustration, I should mention that I have never owned a handheld device with the beauty and functionality of the iPoT’s interface. The pinching, the flicking, etc. makes browsing the internet (when I have access) a real joy. I have even taken to reading Slate and the NYTimes on it as my preferred mode of interacting with these sites at home.

This interface and the device itself has enormous potential for teaching and learning. It would give students an easy way to edit, add and comment on blog posts from anywhere on campus (if the VPN issue is addressed). It allows for the viewing of enhanced podcasts, which look beautiful on the relatively large screen. My blog sites (The Long Road, CpL ePortfolio, my First-Year Seminar and my 20th Century Philosophy course) look wonderful on the machine and I anticipate that with MovableType 4.0, if you are to believe the boys at ETS Talk, my blogs and those of my students will be yet more accessible on the iPhone and iPot.

In all, I very much want to love this machine, but I can’t until some of the basic flaws are addressed. My hope is that they all can be handled via firmware or even software upgrades in the very near future.

Teaching with Google Tools

By | Technology, The Long Road | No Comments

I am beginning to think about the significance of RSS feeds and how they might be used in teaching. Google has a number of tools of potential importance for teaching. For example, the Google Reader allows me to aggregate blog posts from my students. The advantage of the Google Reader is that I can post feeds directly to a website. So, for example, if I want students to look as a specific story, I can add it to my shared feeds and add the code to my blog, website or even ANGEL. It would look like this:

The nice thing about this is that I can alter the content by sharing and unsharing items in the Google reader. I can imagine using it to call students’ attention to specific issues, and to have them call my attention to things of importance to them.