Notes and thoughts on communication and philosophy.

Blog by Elmine Wijnia.

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Martin stops billing for spam

Martin Roell removed the line from his blog that he will bill spammers for their comments. 
(image from Martin's site)
Read why he did this:  Die Kommentarspam Ich-AG (or in English at sliced lemons)
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When nature takes over

I'm glad Ton and I were at home in Enschede when nature decided it was time for a sugared cake. And I'm glad our power supply was left intact. And I'm glad that my camera shipped right on time to capture the magnificent amount of snow (from Flickr):

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Me and my Fuji

Me and my Fuji s9500
I've got it, I've got it, I've got it!

I'm jumping up and down all afternoon. A friendly guy sent me a package yesterday and then another guy delivered the package at my place today. Sinterklaas has come earlier to me than I expected this year (Too bad the second guy would only hand me over the package after I gave him some (considerable amount of) money that he in turn has to hand over to the first guy.)


It's the Fuji S9500 (or 9000 in other parts of the world). Man, what a machine! I've been playing with it all afternoon and boy, do I need to learn how to tame this beast. So now you know what I'll be doing the next few days. (If only the sun would show it's face this weekend ;-) )

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Blog in the classroom - final evaluation

A bit later than promised, but here is the summary of the final group interview with the students on my experiment 'Blog in the classroom'. About half a year ago the students filled in a second questionnaire. In that questionnaire they were asked about general computer behavior, likes and dislikes about using the blog, their attitude towards math's, etc. In the interview I asked questions related to the questionnaire, mainly to get a better explanation of their previous answers.
- Generally speaking the students liked the experiment, because they were using a computer for their homework, they could see what others answered and they were solving the problem with the whole group. I asked them whether they normally solve problems (whether for math's or other subjects) with others. They said that they only do so during the lessons with the people sitting nearby.
Remarkable in the response of the students is that although the students say they collaborated on the problem, the teacher says otherwise. Especially in the beginning the students sent in their solution (they worked alone or in couples), restating what was sent in before them. Later on in the process, we can see in the comments from the students that there is more interaction and more use of normal language (instead of just math formulas). (Take a look at the archived blog. Even without understanding Dutch you can see that their way of answering to the questions is different. Compare these comments, from the beginning, with these.)
- Most students liked the idea of using weblogs for other subjects as well. Those that didn't, were afraid that it would take too much extra time, adding up to their regular homework. If weblogs would be used instead of existing assignments, the students wouldn't have problems at all.
- I asked the students whether writing an essay together in a blog with the whole group would be a good assignment. They were not enthusiastic about the idea. Their main concern is that not everyone in the class will contribute evenly, spoiling it for the rest. However, it would be better when students could fail the assignment when they don't participate enough. Then it seems more fair to the students.
From this conversation and the answers in the questionnaire I get the impression that these students don't have a clear idea what kind of assignments through blogs they can expect. In this experiment, they say they needed to spend a lot of extra time doing homework for this class. That makes them a bit hesitant for using blogs for other classes. Another concern for the students is the grading process for group work. They only like group assignments when the grades represent the effort of the individual student.
Although this may seem obvious, I know exactly what these students refer to (I got my education at the same school). This school's culture is one of moderate results. Excellency is graded down, failure is graded up, especially when it comes down to more subjective measurements of the teachers. Sometimes that can lead to unsatisfactory results regarding those students that underachieve.

- In the second questionnaire the students suggested other classes that could benefit from the use of blogs for assignments. To my surprise most of them thought it would be useful for exact sciences (especially physics). In the previous interview they told me that it took a lot of time typing in formulas. I expected them to answer that blogs are more suitable for 'normal' language based subjects (e.g. history, Dutch, English, German). Why for science?
The blog made them do the assignment, normal homework is often skipped. Teachers don't check students' notebooks whether they've done their homework. However, on the blog it is visible whether you've contributed to the assignment. And doing the work, they realize, makes them understand things better. Exact sciences are difficult subjects and it's hard work to understand it. The blog made sure they did the work. Some of these students do their physics homework together anyway, because otherwise they don't understand the subject. Two of the students told me they talk to each other through MSN a lot in preparation for a physics test.
The students don't think it would be easier to do language assignments through blogs. Although typing in formulas takes time, typing a lot of text does too. These students don't see the value of exchanging ideas and opinions about a topic as an assignment. They expect it to take a lot of time and they would only like such an assignment if it's a substitute for another one.
Only after the interview was over I realized that the group consists of students with a focus on exact sciences. Generally speaking those students are not linguistically oriented. For these students it might be more of a hassle to produce larger amounts of text than for students that are more linguistic.
- Finally, I asked the students about preferred teaching styles. This year they take their math's classes from a different teacher. The two teachers have completely different teaching styles: last year, the teacher started at the end of a chapter in the book and only went backwards if the students didn't understand things. The teacher left more room for self-exploration by the students. This year, the teacher explains things one step at the time and asks the students to do more sums. The students prefer the latter form of teaching. They think last year's lessons where too difficult.
Last year the students were around the age of 16. The same method of last year's teacher worked well with the group that was one year older (the year of the Central Exams). Maybe the shift in teaching styles from third to fourth grade was a bit too big a step. For these students it was the first year to be confronted with self-exploratory learning and they gave up rather quickly when they didn't understand, according to the teacher. (FYI: Dutch secondary education is split into three levels: VMBO, HAVO, VWO. The first two levels are preparations for vocational training (VMBO is the lowest level, HAVO the highest), These take four respectively five years to complete. VWO is preparation for university and takes six years. The students in this experiment were in HAVO 4, the pre-exam year.)
There is more to tell, but that is more specific for Dutch context and doesn't make sense mentioning here. If you can read it turn to my Dutch summary. It's been fun running this experiment. The students gave me feedback about things I would never have thought of myself. If all goes well, I will be introducing blogs to more classrooms in the near future. Stay tuned!
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Next year

I know where I'll be 2 and 3 October next year.

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Small things

Last sunlight
A short window of blue sky this afternoon made me put on my boots and gloves (first time for this season), grab the camera and go for a walk. Very, very cold. And what a reward. Even the ugliest buildings shine gold in the last sunlight of the day (not that this one is ugly). This made my day!

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Blog in the classroom

I've finished my Dutch report of the final group interview for my experiment Blog in the classroom. So for all my Dutch readers: go to Skallagrigg (my Dutch blog) and read it. For everyone else:  I will translate it into English and hopefully have it published next Friday.

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Sharing stories

Last night, just before I went to sleep, I thought of new ways of sharing stories. So far I've been using text mainly for sharing stories. But since we own a digital camera I take so many pictures and although I have a photo blog and use Flickr, I don't share that much of them.
Thinking this I started to add some things up:
- I'm desperate to get my own digicam. I've been saving money for a while now and I'm nearly there.
- Over a month ago the kind people of 23 gave me a two year 'plus'-subscription with unlimited upload and storage.
- I haven't used 23 so far, but I do like their service. If only I could give my account a purpose.
So I figured that I would dedicate my 23 account to collect visual stories. It's quite easy to blog pictures from 23 (once you've got the settings right) and I can dedicate pictures to a story within my account as well (next to albums). I'm not sure whether I will post pictures to one of my existing blogs or set up a new one.
The story I will focus on for now is digital lifestyle. Often people forget the way their lives have changed with the integration of technology in their lives. I'll collect visual proof of how our lives change through time using new tools.

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Blog in the classroom - update

Last monday I had the last group interview with the class that participated in my experiment. Due to an organizational crisis at their school, this last interview was postponed for a while. The students needed to dig deep into their memory, especially after the answers they gave in the questionnaire they filled in about half a year ago. Nevertheless it was fun and interesting to hear what they had to say about the experiment now that they have a bit more psychological distance to their blogging experiment.
I'm eager to share the outcomes of the interview with you, but somehow my local apache server doesn't start. Consequence is that I can't access my local wiki where I keep my notes (don't worry, notes are save). As soon as this is fixed I'll publish more.
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The evolution of my blog

I'm struggling with blogging right now and I'm not quit sure why. About two years ago I started blogging with a clear focus: my Master thesis. Doing research on blogging should be blogged, shouldn't it? I had a clear focus on the things I should at least blog about. The literature I read, thinking out loud for others to comment on. Every now and then I blogged other stuff as well.
Beautiful clear rainbowEver since I finished my Master's and started meandering through the fields of what others would call the real world I lost my focus. After several years of convergence I am diverging, big time. And apparently I have more difficulty blogging in this divergent state of mind than I had before.
The thing is that I often mark things I would want to blog about, but then I'm distracted by something else (whatever that is), time passes and somehow I doesn't make sense to blog it anymore. And besides that, there is enough going on in my life that I could write about. To name some: I'm now a board member and secretary of the IFCCC, with IFCCC we're developing a new business model, research model and I've written a manual for our communication strategy in Ton's Patchwork Portal, I will be holding a final evaluation session of Blog in the classroom next week, I will be talking about a Blog in the classroom - part two. In the mean time I'm reading all kinds of interesting things and my to read list grows and grows. Oh, and I started blogging in Dutch under my company name. You see, so many things going on and somehow hardly anything shows up in this blog.
I never used a blog schedule. I posted things when I wrote something and wanted to post it. I'm not a daily writer (one of the reasons I decided not to become a journalist) and never will be probably. But the longitudinal waves I'm having now in my blog rhythm are bugging me. My blog is very important to me and I think it's very important to maintain it. It's my playground to reflect on the things I'm dealing with in real life and right now I'm not using it.
So  maybe it's time to start an experiment with myself and bring blogging into my weekly schedule. I will start to mark explicit blog time in my agenda from now on. Just to see whether this would work for me. I'll evaluate at the end of this year (would be a nice blog post for Dec 31 ;). So if all goes well, you'll be hearing from me more in the near future.

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