Grey Tales


Tales from an Instructional Technologist in the world of legal education and beyond…

Reflections on my love-hate-love experience with Twitter

I first joined Twitter a little over a year ago because, as an educational technologist, I wanted to understand why everyone was talking so much about it. I remember joining and looking up a few of my friends and began to “follow” them. Then, I started following a few suggested organizations. I tried very hard but I simply didn’t really “get it” at the time.  Why was everyone buzzing so much about this technology? I remember thinking to myself at the time that Twitter was nothing more than the status updates that are provided on Facebook. Why should I bother with both?

About a month later when I was at a conference and saw everyone tweeting away, I tried it out again. I saw the importance of hashtags. Hashtags are keywords preceded by a # sign, and seemed to work in like tagging is used within Del.ic.ous bookmarks and my WordPress blog posts. Brilliant! I liked this idea and found it very helpful filtering content. Finally, I saw a bit of why people were finding this tool so useful.

Shortly after that, I really started getting hooked on simply being a consumer of information on Twitter.  I felt strongly that I really didn’t have anything I wanted to say via Twitter on a regular basis (or that would/could be meaningful in 140 characters). In fact, I thought most of the content I was seeing was simply insipid. I didn’t care to know what someone was doing throughout the day but I did find that every once in a while, someone would post an article or a blog that I found very interesting. Twitter became a useful tool to aggregate content I wanted to digest.

Around that time, I remember having a conversation with my co-instructor Stacie about Twitter and remarked how it was working really well for me because I could sit at my desk all day and a Twitter aggregator fed me interesting content via my desktop. It was similar to my experience with Google Reader. Stacie stated that she didn’t find it so attractive at the time because she wasn’t tied to a desk and computer all day and didn’t have a mobile data plan. After that conversation, we concluded that Twitter could be useful for those stuck at a desk and/or those folks who subscribed to a good mobile data plan.

However, during the summer, my interest and use of Twitter waned and I eventually abandoned the Twitter ship altogether. I found it tedious to weed through the noise of tweets that went the “let me tell you what I am thinking/doing all day” route to those that delivered really good content.

Then, something remarkable happened this past fall.  I decided to give Twitter another “go” after reading all on the literature about Personal Learning Networks (PLN). I realized that I didn’t ever really “get” Twittering because I never understood its true affordances for professional learning. I weeded through my Twitter list and stopped following anyone that wasn’t providing good, thoughtful content. I also looked at who was following me and made sure that any spam-like accounts were blocked and removed. My next step was to search the Twitter accounts of really good tweeters and researched whom they were following. I started following “the pearls” on their lists (e.g., people who tweeted regularly, those folks that were talking about subject matter I cared about). I then looked up authors of books and articles I adore and started to follow them. In addition, I looked at the list of people they follow and selected pearls from their lists (and so on). I scoured the member lists of organizations I was a part of like (e.g.. Educause, CALI) to see if any of the educational technologists listed had twitter accounts.  Now that I am living in Saratoga Springs, NY, I researched the local universities to find the educational technologists in the area and looked to see if they are twittering.  I want to make connections here and my hope is that through Twitter, I have an avenue to do so.

Something “magical” has happened. The quality of posts I now receive are so much better and useful. There are real conversations going on and new professional relationships and connections are forming every day with new people all around the country/world! Questions are asked and answered. New conversations are starting all the time. Quality resources are unearthed and shared. I now, for the first time, want to be a part of the conversation and understand what I want to say and accomplish. It is not simply about writing 140 characters and launching it into cyberspace unilaterally. It is about a global conversation. It is about connecting with people—really smart people—who are thinking about and digesting the same topics I care and want to learn more about. It is all about growing  and nurturing my PLN.


Filed under: Educational Technology, My Teaching, web 2.0,

Thinking about motivation in instructional design

Daniel Pink has a new book out called Drive. After watching the following video, it got me thinking about how we, as educators, might be able to incorporate his ideas into instructional design to promote right-brain skills within learning goals that do not fall under the “strict set of rules” and “only one solution” umbrella. I like the idea of abandoning “carrot and stick” approaches to learning (e.g., traditional grading/testing models, bonus points, etc.) in favor of designing learning tasks that make students WANT to do assignments because that are engaging and help them think about solutions “on the periphery” (e.g., to get them thinking symphonically).  I like the concepts of “fed-ex days” (having to deliver something–it doesn’t matter what–overnight and present to the class), the 20% time model at Google (e.g., to work on anything that interests them 20% of the time), and, the ROWE (results only work environment–not having a schedule, do not have to show up but just have to get their work done). Can you envision reshaping curriculum in ways that empower students with autonomy, mastery and purpose in the way Daniel Pink describes? Obviously we still need to give students grades but can’t we, as educators, come up with a grading model that is less “carrot and stick” and more personally engaging/motivating to students? It reminds me of Randy Pauch’s last lecture where he designed curriculum for his Building Virtual Worlds course to tap into his students’s childhood dreams. He asked his 50 students to do 5 projects (in groups of four, randomly chosen for each 2 week project) during the semester where they had to “do something, make something, and/or show something” to the class.  When asked by his students, “what content should we produce,”  he said “I don’t know, make whatever you want, just no violence/pornography.” The results he got were better products than he has seen in his 10 years of teaching! He asked his mentor what to do, b/c his students had just delivered work in 2 weeks that if he had given them an entire semester to complete, he would have given them all A’s! His mentor said to go back into class and tell the students, “that work was okay but I know you can do better” b/c obviously “Randy didn’t know where to set the bar and to do anything else would be a disservice to his students.” I think that is a great line and is something all educators should consider. Do we really want to set limits on our students’ creativity?

Daniel Pink video

Randy Pauch

Filed under: Educational Technology, General, Instructional Technology



Tom Boone, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles


Jason Eiseman, Yale Law School

From the CALI conference session Web site:

Historically librarians have viewed themselves as information gatekeepers. But as users come to expect information ubiquity, librarians must learn to unleash, aggregate, and even create content and push it out by creating their own applications. Open source technologies offer the opportunity for librarians build useful web applications. Presenters will show real library applications created with open source technologies and the tools used to create them. You’ll see how complex web design problems, technological limitations, and economic realities were overcome to deliver useful and awesome web apps.

If you’d like access to the presentation materials, please visit the CALI conference Web site. You can obtain the presentation links at the presenter’s diigo site.

Filed under: General

Law office technology: Why it needs to be in your school’s curriculum and how to get it there

From the CALI conf. Web site:

The importance of information technology for the legal profession is beyond question. The panelists in this session will examine the history of technology in law to generate an argument for what students should know about technology in order to function well in today’s legal environment. Building on that argument, the panelists will present, on the basis of their own experiences, an idealized course as a set of modules that expose students to that set of information and those skills needed. There will be ample time for discussion. Co-presenters are Wayne Miller, Ken Hirsh and David Whelan.

You can download the materials from this presentation at the CALI conference Web site.

Filed under: General

Crowdsourcing and Open Access v2.0


Timothy K. Armstrong
Assistant Professor of Law
U. of Cincinnati

Improving access to scholarship and primary source materials.

Many open-access repositories exist:

  • single institution (Harvard, one day; Duke, OCU)
  • cross-institution (SSRN, Expresso, LexOpus)

Faculty adopting open-access mandates

  • Harvard (but John Palfrey says compliance is an issue)

Law reviews going open-access, too

The Durham Statement (2009)

Going Digital has four steps. First, scanning the documents–actually getting into some kind of digitized format into the computer. How, then do you get the text into a readable format? Then, you need to proofread and correct text. Finally, how do you distribute it in a way that is “findable” and “searchable.”

It is important that you do not try to do these four steps by yourself. Look outside of your institution for help. A lot of this work has already been done so why recreate the wheel? For example, the Google Books, Internet Archive, Library of Congress–places to go that have already cleared one of these hurdles. Once you have the scans there are various free Web sites that  offer services will ocr the text for you (Any2DjVu). Now we start get into tasks that scale. There are two

Distributed Proofreaders (affiliated with Project Gutenberg) and Wikisource (a sister site of Wikipedia). The pros of DP are they are very large and supportive and is fast, at least in the early rounds. The cons are that is it bureaucratic & hierarchical, new users cannot add texts and few texts of interest to the legal community. With Wikisource, the pros are that any user can add or edit any work, there is an easier user interface and many legal texts are already available. The cons are that they are much smaller than DP or Wikipedia and slower to complete proofreading projects.

You can collect his slides on his Google docs page.

Filed under: Educational Technology, General, Instructional Technology, Legal Education,

IT and Faculty as Partners in Education: Basic Tools For Change

Greg Clinton

James Beckwith


North Carolina Central University

From the CALI Web site session description:

NCCU School of Law has had tremendous success with the faculty adapting and embracing technology. Currently over 90% of the faculty uses technology for instructional purposes. This session will discuss the technology environment at NCCU and hear from faculty about their usage of technology to include, classroom capturing solutions, clickers, smart classrooms, group study rooms,etc. IT and faculty have become more like partners in the deployment and usuage of technolgy. This session will discuss this partnership as the basic tool for change.

You must know the benefit from the faculty member’s point of view.

See Raising the Bar.doc.

Filed under: Educational Technology, General, Instructional Technology, Legal Education, ,

Cool Gadgets, Software and Utilities Every Faculty Member Should Have

Sydney A. Beckman
Dean and Professor of Law

Duncan School of Law – Lincoln Memorial University

Syd Beckman

Syd Beckman

See the list of gadgets he discusses on my delicious page. You can also download his powerpoint from the CALI conference Web site.

Filed under: Educational Technology, Favorite Tech Sites, General, Instructional Technology, Legal Education, My Teaching, ,

Publish or Perish: Publish or Perish: Online Reformation to

Carl F. Berger, Emeritus, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor


provide tools for scholars

These tools may be reused in the future for things far more powerful. Can we support at the technical level (does it work) and support level for the millennial scholar (in use/practice)?

change recognition and reward structure

  1. Formally recognize the scholarly value of academic technology
  2. Create a body to evaluate the scholarly merit of academic technology efforts
  3. Revise policies concerning intellectual property rights as they relate to the creation of computer-based instructional tools and resources
  4. Facilitate the publication and/or distribution of computer-based instructional tools and resources

change in publishing

  • Supports research on intersections of content, pedagogy and edia
  • includes multimedia documents
  • peer reviewed by colleagues
  • publication interactive and multimedia
  • development of community

support a paradigm shift

  • share publication tools and sites
  • encourage intersections
  • encourage research on intersections
  • lobby administration
  • build in assessment
  • disseminate studies
  • share resources
  • completely reform publishing

Watch the session.

Filed under: General

Mobile Computing and Learning @ ELI

From session description: “Mobile and ubiquitous computing may support a social constructivist learning process by helping students engage in learning activities in diverse locations, access resources at the point of learning, and communicate with distant collaborators anywhere, anytime. This session will describe the transformation of learning-related activities brought about by the introduction of ubiquitous and mobile technologies in learning environments and the relationship among applications (for example, social tagging, social networking, and context-aware computing). It will also describe how these technologies affect the physical setting as well as the forms of social participation within those settings.”


Watch the full presentation online.

Filed under: Educational Technology, Instructional Technology,

From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able @ ELI

This presentation is given by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. The description states “It took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after speech, thousands more before the printing press was invented, and a few hundred more for the telegraph to arrive. Today, new ways of relating are constantly created and a new communication medium emerges every time someone creates a web application—a Flickr here, a Twitter there. How can we use new media to foster the kinds of communication and community we desire in education? This presentation will discuss both successful and unsuccessful attempts to integrate emerging technologies into the classroom to create a rich virtual learning environment.”


This kind of classroom of today is saying “to learn” is to acquire information, information is scarce and hard to find, trust authority for good information, authorized information is beyond discussion, and obey authority. Some of the people criticizing the  “back to basics” critique of new media literacy are saying we are pandering to students, neglecting basic literacy skills and it is difficult to implement. The response to this is that the critical folks of back to basics are the ones pandering to students, neglecting basic literacy skills (b/c basic skills are now including being digitally literate) and difficult to implement.

“Back to Basics” includes asking good questions (or one big question) instead of questions like, how many points is this worth?, how long does this paper need to be?, what do we need to know for this test?, etc. This new media scape all around us is challenging these assumptions. Information is everywhere, its not about authority its about good discussions, authority needs to be transparent, and learning is dependent upon participation and discussion (not just obeying authority). To learn is to share information, discussing, critiquing and ultimately creating new information. The old notion of your mind is container that needs to be “filled up”, it is creating meaningful connections of significance. So as educators, how do we create significance? How can we create students that can create meaningful connections?

  1. Engage real problems (that matter to students)
  2. Engage with students in this process

He is arguing that there is a lot of talk about Digital Natives, but there are no natives here. With the exception of Google, most of these new Web 2.0 technologies are less than 4 years old. So in essence, we (students & teachers) are all learning together. He suggests utilizing portals (looks like a combination of Wetpaint and Netvibes) with RSS feeds (from scholars all over the world engaging in the same subject matter), collaborative video (see his Youtube video for Library of Congress and his Twitter and World Simulation video), diigo (share links, highlight any page anywhere and add sticky notes), feed from wiki (logs edits, immediate feedback who is editing what, photos on left with pictures that get bigger with more participation), students share lecture notes, and discussion sections. His focus is on different ways of creating learning communities in his classroom through exploiting some of these technologies.

“Nobody is as smart as everybody”-Kevin Kelly

Filed under: Educational Technology, General, Instructional Technology, web 2.0

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