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December 11, 2008

It’s amusing and edifying to revisit the last “Curious David” blog I wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (JSOnline) before they discontinued (terminated) their educational community bloggers.

Pioneering Web 2.0 Learning Tools
By David Simpson

Monday, Sep 1, 2008, 09:32 AM

I’m nervous and excited. Time to take off my invisibility cloak. Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 2, 2008, at 8:00 a.m.) I meet in person for the first time with my 20 first-year students. What an immense responsibility to be their first professor!
We’re going to explore 21rst century learning tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks, virtual worlds, and Youtube. The idea for this course emerged from my experiences writing this Curious David blog column. Last year’s opportunity to write for JSonline was transformative for me as I learned from elementary and secondary school teachers, high school students, virtual school advocates, retired faculty and readers about innovations,
challenges and successes they faced promoting learning. In this first-year seminar, we shall focus on some of the 25 free learning tools described by educator Jane Hart. As we examine these learning tools we hope toanswer questions such as these:

1. To what degree can these web tools truly enhance student learning?

2. To what degree are they just cool tools?

3. Could they be used to develop critical thinking?

4. Do they improve or degrade communication skills?

5. Might they be applied to fostering cross-cultural or international understanding?

6. Might they strengthen or weaken writing skills?

7. What are their weaknesses or dangers?

8. Should they complement or replace 20th-century learning skills/tools?

9. How can one evaluate their effectiveness?

We shall read two books—Little Brother, a work of fiction (maybe it is fiction) and a work of nonfiction Dispatches from Blogistan. My intent is to assist students in the transition from high school to college—and to investigate Web 2.0 learning tools which might be useful across classes and in the workplace. I want to involve them in educational experiences that will develop and enhance abilities in reading, writing, reflecting, presenting, thinking, and producing. Writing exercises will include papers, journals, blogs/wikis, and exams. Presentations will be both formal and informal; individual and in small groups.
The collaboration will be both with fellow students and with me.

I welcome reader feedback about this course. I’d gladly share a course syllabus in .pdf format which has many hypertext links. (Indeed, I’d welcome reassurance that I still have readers after a two-month hiatus from blogging)!

Still Curious,


From 2009:

It’s been a semester now since I blogged for JSOnline as “Curious David.” Much has happened since then. Carroll College has been renamed Carroll University (I still fail to find compelling reasons why the change was made). I’ve taught Web 2.0 Tools in a Freshman Seminar, and I’m giving serious consideration to retiring from College teaching. I’ve given a lot of thought to which blog authoring tool I want to use. I’ve heard good things about WordPress (endorsed by Jane Hart) and Blogger (which I taught my freshmen)—both of which are free. However, partly out of the high respect I hold Jane Hart in I’ve decided to freelance using the basic version of the software she uses, Typepad. I like the “look” of it and its ease of use.
It is very important that I be able to blog easily across operating systems. Tonight I am writing this on my Mac. When next I sit down I’ll try writing something from my PC. I also was attracted to the ease with which TypePad “ports” blogs to Facebook since an increasing number of alumni are using that social network—sometimes to monitor their children!

[Interesting to reflect upon how software has changed and to find the right balance between being at the cutting edge of technology use and finding and using the tool that suits one’s needs. RIP Typepad and Wikis:]