Archive for April, 2008

Collaborative Reading with Book Glutton

I just saw a post on TeleRead that mentioned that Book Glutton is up for a Webby award. I’d heard of Book Glutton before, but I haven’t checked it out until now. It’s a really cool idea for a community website.

The idea is that you create an account on the site and then access public domain works or user contributed texts using a slick little browser-based book reader, called The Unbound Reader. The twist is that you can open a pane on either side of The Unbound Reader that lets you chat with other readers of the current book in real-time or make annotations that are stored for your own access or shared with other users. In addition, the community aspect of the site includes reading groups that share interest in particular topics or authors. You can join already existing groups or create your own group, which might include your friends or colleagues.

The idea reminds me of the WordPress theme called CommentPress. These tools are really exciting from an instructional technology point of view. They really allow people to work together in close collaboration on a shared text. And they both provide a mechanism that brings together the strengths of wikis with the close reading of a shared document. There’s some great potential here from an educational perspective. It’s hard to beat this kind of active engagement.

NMC Symposium on Mashups

I’m attending another excellent New Media Consortium online symposium. This time the topic is educational uses of mashups. As with any subject covered by academics, there’s been significant effort and time spent in the symposium on defining the topic of the symposium itself. Several of the presenters have spent time trying to put a finger on just what a mashup is.

For the most part, the focus is on new tools and structures that combine data from multiple and sometimes disparate sources in novel ways. Often the product is a visually interesting website or Internet-based tool. But, in its broadest sense, almost any cultural artifact can be seen as a mashup. In a real sense, everything that is a cultural product takes the current cultural landscape as a given upon which it can then build, borrowing more or less from previous cultural artifacts. The movement of mashing up and remixing is transforming how we experience culture and its products. And because educational institutions are situated in culture, it is unsurprising that this movement is being embraced by educators. The topic is fascinating from a technological as well as philosophical point of view.

So far, one of my favorite presentations has been “Confessions of a Mashup Un-Artist” by Brian Lamb of the University of British Columbia. Brian’s presentation was itself a masterful mashup, more a live performance employing images, video, music and text than a traditional presentation. In addition, the NMC folks did something really excellent by having Brian perform in Second Life and then streaming the performance out to the web using Adobe Connect. That setup allowed the performance to be recorded, which is how I was able to experience it because I had a class during the actual time the performance was given. Take a peek at what it looked like:

It was absolutely fantastic. Some of the symposium participants really had no idea what to make of it. And many others really got into and started dancing in the amphitheater. Really great stuff.