Archive for December, 2008

Besides Google Base, blist is another collaborative, Web-based database application.  blist is a visually rich, social online database.  It requires no software installation and comes with a very slick Flash interface running against a SQL backend.  You do not need to know any SQL in order to use blist.  blist offers an array of templates that can be selected for a variety of purposes, from common to-do lists to fantasy football stats.  It is very easy to create a database in blist and collaborate with your friends or colleagues.  You can simply drag field types onto a spreadsheet-like grid.  Data types include names, phones, URLs, and images.  blist allows you to easily share their databases with other blist users through the standard interface or widgets. Also, you can incorporate multimedia items like photos or videos into the databases.

I think blist has an intuitive interface that provides non-technical users the easy-to-use tools to create and manage databases online.  blist is functional and is free.  I think blist is a great tool for teachers and students.   You can give blist a try.

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I have recently read an interesting report, ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2008, published by ECAR (EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research).  The study investigated the use of technology by undergraduate students in American colleges and universities. The report includes the key findings from a web based survey of over 23,000 students at nearly 100 American higher education institutions, which are supplemented by focus group findings and comparative data from surveys in previous years.  It covers areas such as technology ownership, the amount of time spent online, the type of activities undertaken by students, student IT skills and information literacy, IT content in courses and how students view the role of technology in their learning.  In addition, it includes a range of questions on the use of social networking websites, such as Facebook.

Here are the key findings based on the short summary in October 27, 2008 issue of  OCLC Abstracts:

  • More than 80 percent of respondents own laptops, 53.8 percent own desktops, and one-third own both a laptop and a desktop.
  • Laptop ownership increased from 65.9 percent in 2006 to 82.2 percent in 2008. Freshmen respondents are entering college with new laptops in hand-this year 71.1 percent have a laptop less than one year old.
  • Ownership of Internet-capable cell phones is also on the rise, now owned by 66.1 percent of respondents. Most respondents, however, do not yet take advantage of the Internet capability, citing high cost, slow response and difficulty of use as primary reasons.
  • Despite barriers to use, almost one-fourth of respondents access the Internet from a cell phone or PDA at least monthly, and 17.5 percent do so weekly or more often.
  • Respondents report spending an average 19.6 hours per week actively doing online activities for work, school or recreation, and 7.4 percent spend more than 40 hours per week doing so.
  • Almost all students surveyed use the college or university library Web site (93.4 percent) and presentation software (91.9 percent). Also used by most students are spreadsheets (85.9 percent), social networking sites (85.2 percent), text messaging (83.6 percent) and course management systems (82.3 percent).
  • About one-third of respondents report using audio-creation or video-creation software and 73.9 percent use graphics software (Photoshop, Flash, etc.).
  • Almost one-third engage in online multiuser computer games (World of Warcraft, EverQuest, poker, etc.) and about 1 in 11 respondents (8.8 percent) report using online virtual worlds (Second Life, etc.).
  • Students are interactive on the Web, with more than one-third contributing content to blogs, wikis, and photo and video Web sites.
  • Over 85 percent of respondents report using social networking sites. The striking change over the last two years was in how many respondents now use social networking sites on a daily basis, from 32.8 percent in 2006 to 58.8 percent in 2008.

To view the full report, you can access the table of contents (in HTML format) on Educause site.  Also, the complete report (122 pages) can be downloaded at http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ers0808/rs/ers0808w.pdf

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I recently came across the Young People and Social Networking Services report published earlier this year by the Childnet International.  The report was written from a UK schools and Further Education perspective, although much of the information will be useful to people working outside of these two contexts. The report is informative and provides useful information concerning social networking services with young people.  The report contains the following main sections:

1.  What are social networking services? This section examines the definitions of social networking services.  Also, it provides a comprehensive review of six main categories of current social networking services:  Profile-based services (e.g., Bebo, Facebook, MySpace), Content-focused services (e.g., Flickr, YouTube), White-label networks (e.g., FPeopleAggregator, Ning), Multi-User Virtual Environments (e.g., Second Life, World of Warcraft), Mobile services  (e.g., Twitter), and Microblogging/Presence update services (e.g., Jaiku, Twitter).

2.  Evaluating Social Networking Services. This section describes how to use a social networking evaluation chart and covers many significant relevant issues including profile privacy, moderation, customization, security and access issues, data management tools, and interoperability.

3. Benefits & Opportunities.  This section evaluates the potential positives for young people and organizations of using social networking services.

4.  Barriers & Risks. This section examines issues preventing educators from exploring social networking services as well as some of the e-safety issues involved.

5. Ideas and Examples.  The section showcases innovative practice, and provides examples where social networking services have been successfully used in education.

The complete report is available to download and redistribute under a Creative Commons license from Childnet’s digital literacy and citizenship site, Digizen, at http://www.digizen.org/downloads/fullReport.pdf.

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