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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Authors: Katie Hafner
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
A True Cybernaut can't NOT read this!

Though this book could have used some more information on the amazing expansion of the net, this book is well done and a must read for any true netizen. It's hard to believe that the net was little more than an idea in someone's head at one time.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Adobe Photoshop CS for Photographers : Professional Image Editor's Guide to the Creative Use of Photoshop for the Mac and PC
Publisher: Focal Press
Authors: Martin Evening
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Very good -- covers a lot of ground

From setting up your system and configuring Photoshop to digital printing, this book covers a lot of ground, but with enough depth and clarity to be useful. I find myself coming back to it for tips, and useful Photoshop techniques. As with any book that covers this broad a topic, there will be some gaps, but generally it is well-written and a valuable resource.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Security Warrior
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Cyrus Peikari, Anton Chuvakin
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Very good, very technical

This is a very, very good book by two excellent authors.

But if it also very technical. If you are not a deep expert, you may not get 75% of the book. But even so, the other 25% are surely worth it.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace : Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom (The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series)
Publisher: Jossey-Bass
Authors: Rena M. Palloff, Keith Pratt
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Pedagogically sound online learning

If you are looking for a great book to engage you, a bible of sorts for the online classroom, and a well-written, pedagogically sound reading to enable you to design an online course, look no further. If you need something concrete to show your administration "best practice" applications of online learning, you've found it here.
For anyone contemplating distance learning, or even simply supplementing a traditional course with online activities, this book is a must. Clearly written with a focus on the pedagogical rather than the technological aspects of online learning, this teaching guide offers specific advice for any number of situations and practical applications of online activities applicable to any course. The focus is constructivist in nature - "learner centered" - and there are numerous suggestions for incorporating collaborative learning in distance education, hence the title choice. The authors even define dialogue and discussion, stressing why both are necessities in collaborative learning environments. Dialogue focuses more on learners being open to "restructuring their mental models" while discussion seems more like a game of ping pong, a "volley of views between people."
The authors stress how both are necessary for collaborative learning, and there are many examples showing how online learning can be used to focus on issues of Bloom's Taxonomy, something often missing from lecture-based courses. This is the kind of book you'll read and reread often.
The authors share their extensive background in online education, both as educators and students, in the beginning of the book. Their extensive research prior to their writing is clearly evident from the references included throughout the text and the examples from various courses besides their own.
They set the tone and purpose by providing a brief glimpse of the origins of online learning in their own lives. Having been students as well as educators, these two draw on considerable experiences to establish their authority in this field. Throughout the book, Drs. Palloff and Pratt bring in specific examples from their own classes to illustrate what has worked and how they structured classes, as well as student responses/reactions.
There are specific examples of syllabi which readers can adopt in part or whole. Graphics illustrate how the online courses look, and the brief mention of course management applications clearly shows the authors are less concerned with the technical applications than with the learning resulting from the course. Online learning, as noted by Drs. Palloff & Pratt, is about learning, not technology. This is unquestionably written for educators.
If anyone believes online learning creates dysfunctional communication or eliminates meaningful interactions between instructors and students, these authors show how easily discussion groups can be created, pointing out that online learning enhances rather than deters from good communication within groups, as well as between instructors and students. Practical applications, concrete examples of student dialogue, and suggestions of how problems can be best handled help the reader see how this could work in any course.
The section devoted to "netiquette," the rules for proper online communication, will be borrowed for my fall syllabi. These guidelines are necessary for instructors and students to ensure meaning is clear in all written communication. As an English teacher, I found this discussion extremely beneficial as a way of reinforcing with my own students the need for writing's meaning to be clear for readers. Concrete ideas for online responses - quote pieces to connect ideas, respond frequently, follow grammar guidelines - help instructors new to online learning create a positive atmosphere for learners. There are even helpful hints and a discussion on how to "chunk" material to avoid having students scroll through and miss points in lengthy passages.
Another idea I'll borrow is the "Cyber Café," a place for students to meet and mingle online to avoid off-topic discussion in course forums. Having taken an online class as a student, I would have enjoyed this feature myself. Many times some of us came very close to straying from the topic in order to discuss things happening in our own classrooms, and we knew better! Added to this is the idea of a "FAQ" (frequently asked questions) area in order to save instructors time and encourage students to help each other.
Worried that online learning will take too much time? These authors suggest ways to involve students in course development. One idea is to require students to find and post readings for everyone in class; another is using online forums to share papers and research ideas.
Collaboration is a major focus of the book and the authors have countless ideas for creating opportunities for students to interact. There is the suggestion for creating two parts for group work grades: individual and group effort. Using their individual responses to a question, students work together to synthesize the material and arrive at a group consensus to submit as the final answer. Group participation can only happen once individuals have done their part.
These authors show you how to take attendance online. Instructors need to be very specific about how attendance in their courses is determined since "lurking" - simply reading what has been posted by someone else - is not measurable. The authors suggest going even further, discussing just what counts as a proper response or participation, thus evading the "I agree" or "sounds good" answers. Palloff & Pratt share ways to define acceptable online participation in addition to what constitutes a response: how often should students go online and the fact that active participation in course forums is necessary to pass the class. Clearly delineating student expectations and how grades are determined for the course using specific language reduces grade concerns at the end of the course.
I highly recommend this book.