Sunday, February 26, 2006

Annotated Bibligraphies and Electronic Research Notebooks for Improved Research Papers


One of the most valuable assignments for an online course is the electronic research notebook. It can be used in any course, but is particularly useful in writing courses that prepare individuals for academic research and scholarly discourse production (essays, papers, capstones, essay tests, and a thesis). The electronic research notebook is, in essence, an annotated bibliography. The students can build and store an electronic notebook on a notebook computer, but this refers to something else. The electronic research notebook is the place where one records the results of research, and summarizes the important aspects of papers, books, and articles one has found as they relate to your research project.

What is the purpose? Keeping an electronic notebook in which one builds an annotated bibliography is an excellent way to take notes on research and keep the citations in their proper format. Moreover, going through this procedure allows one to read your articles in a focused manner. It allows an individual the chance to organize one's thoughts and make connections between the topic and what others have had to say. What follows below is an example of the assignment.

The Electronic Research Notebook Assignment:

Please write a one-paragraph summary for each of ten references you found in conjunction with exploring your research paper topic.

In your summary paragraph, please include the following:
--author name, title of article, where you found it
--citation following the style guide format you choose
--what is the main point of the paper?
--what is the author's position?
--what are some of the statistics that the author uses to support the claims he/she makes?
--describe a specific example or a scene that the author describes that you found to be very persuasive, or helpful to your understanding

So. The Electronic Research Notebook consists of annotated bibliographies.
What, exactly, is the annotated bibliograpy?

An annotated bibliography consists of a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

The annotated bibliography forms the foundation of a literature review, contexts and background of a research topic, or the history of ideas in a particular topic. It is a useful step in the preparation of a research paper, master’s thesis, or doctoral dissertation.


This could be the same as above. Or, one could change the questions slightly -- the key is to give the student sufficient flexibility to explore the topic that he or she wants to explore.

For each work you are describing:

Read the work carefully, and think about the purpose of your investigation and why you read it.
Questions while reading:

How does the work connect to what you are writing about?
Who wrote it?
What makes it credible?
What have others written about the same topic?
How is this work the same or different?

First, make a list of citations. Use the style you will use for a paper you may write. The most commonly used are MLA and APA. Briefly examine, read, and review the actual items. Then select works that help you build an argument, or analyze your research topic.

The following bullet list repeats what came before, but instead of writing a paragraph, it is perfectly acceptable to make a bullet list. Later, when writing the literature review, it will be necessary to develop a smoothly articulated paragraph:

--author name, title of article, where you found it
--citation following the style guide format you choose
--what is the main point of the paper?
--what is the author's position?
--what are some of the statistics that the author uses to support the claims he/she makes?
--describe a specific example or a scene that the author describes that you found to be very persuasive, or helpful to your understanding


MLA Style -


Matt Sundeen notes that drivers with cell phones place an estimated 98,000 emergency calls each day and that the phones "often reduce emergency response times and actually save lives" (Sundeen 2000).


Sundeen, Matt. "Cell Phones and Highway Safety: 2000 State
Legislative Update." National Conference of State
Legislatures. Dec. 2000. 9 pp. 27 Feb. 2001

APA style --

Rumbaugh (1995) reported that "Kanzi's comprehension of over 600 novel sentences of request was very comparable to Alia's; both complied with requests without assistance on approximately 70% of the sentences" (p. 722).

Rumbaugh, D. (1995) . Primate language and cognition: Common
ground. Social Research, 62, 711-730.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Smartphone Science Class


Taking a course on a smartphone? It's not as far-fetched as it may seem. In fact, K-12 schools have been utilizing mobile devices for several years now to take photos, collect information, and then instant-message classmates, or post to discussion boards. However, the practice can certainly be expanded to be incorporated in home school distance education courses, or college-level courses. Communication can take place through phone, e-mail, and instant messenger, as well as via the web. The smartphone's media player functionality can be used for movie clips and mp3s, while the photo capabilities can be used to collect, record, and share data. It even contains an FM radio, so students can listen to radio programs. Finally, photos and logs can be shared through blog or Flickr.

Smartphone courses can be launched with virtually no special programming, and without a learning management system. The instructional content would consist of the following:

1. Audio files to listen to.
2. Text. Basic learning objectives, guiding questions, information that is sent via e-mail, instant messenger, or posted to blog.
3. Instructor-generated image files to review and to serve as models.
4. Student images uploaded or e-mailed to each other, with tags. These could be assignments.
5. Student audio / voice files. These would be left on the instructor's voice mail. These could also be posted on audioblogger and shared by classmates.
6. Student e-mail / blog entries.

Typical Week's Work:

1. Instructor sends out e-mail. "This Week's Assignment." It arrives in e-mail. It contains a link to audio files. The student listens to the instructor describe the learning objectives and concepts.

2. Link to reading. Connect to text and/or websites, for course content.

3. Instructor sends sample image / photo. Students will be asked to take their own photos. For example, photograph a sedimentary rock. Identify it. Then, send it to classmates, or post it in a blog.

4. Instructor sends instructions for writing assignment. This can be in the form of a discussion board, or observations. For example, students are asked to find an example of erosion. They can photograph it, then describe it. How has erosion happened? What are the processes? The instructor could provide guiding questions.

5. Instructor sends audio file or link to an audio file (mp3). Students listen, then respond / post their own. One option is to use audioblogger. For example, students can describe the impact of torrential rain on a slope that has been deforested.

What has been presented here is a very basic idea, but it at least gives one the awareness that such methods are possible. It is even possible for home school instructors to implement lesson using smartphones, particularly if there is a network of other homeschoolers who are working on the same unit. Using the smartphone encourages interaction, community, and internalization of the course content.

Recommended smartphone: Nokia N70
It is around $500, which is pretty expensive, but it can serve as mp3 player, digital camera, telephone, and e-mail / browser. Given the multiple functionalities, the long-term cost could be a bit less than buying all the devices separately. Granted, one sacrifices functionality, but that it may be well worth it.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Affiliate Programs and E-Learning: How Can I Get Started?


Becoming a member of affiliate programs can lead to new revenue for e-learning programs, and getting started can be as simple or as complex as you choose. A well-planned approach will succeed, whether complicated or delightfully simple. New revenue occurs via increased traffic to your web site, deeper understanding of your programs, more effective student behaviors, enhanced student loyalty, better student performance, and the opportunity to establish productive alliances with currently enrolled students and alumni.

Step 1: Initial Planning. Develop a clear vision of what you are, who your clients are now and who they are likely to be in the future. List their goals, needs, and their desired outcomes. Start thinking of how your e-learning products and services may help them in more than one way. If your e-learning programs are not object-oriented, start thinking of ways to break down or "unbundle" your courses, e-products so that the images, text files, mp3s, mpegs, etc. are available separately. For example, you may have instructional materials as Powerpoint presentations which contain embedded jpegs, .wav files, and text. Unbundle the elements and create html files, jpegs, and mp3s.

Step 2: Identify the affiliate program that is right for you. I recommend starting with an easy-to-use affiliate program that functions as an aggregator. You'll earn commissions at a lower rate than if you affiliate directly with each individual entity, but your life will be simplified. After you test the waters and find which products and services perform best for you, you can explore embarking on a one-on-one relationship with an affiliate.

Step 3: Technology products needed for student success. Link to ideal configurations, and provide explanations of how each technology product can be used in conjunction with your e-learning product. The best idea here is to show how to play your unbundled content. By buying the most appropriate player, you'll be able to guide the student in aligning their real-life conditions with the content delivery system that works in an optimal way.

text files: simple browsers (for html files) can be read on laptops, smartphones (Nokia, Blackberry, Treo), PDAs

graphics: laptops, smartphones (Nokia, Motorola, RIM Blackberry, Treo, Nokia), PDAs (Dell, HP, Toshiba), desktops, Creative Zen media players, tablets, T-Mobile Sidekick

mp3 files: mp3 players (Rio, iPod, Creative Zen), smartphones with mp3 storage (Nokia, etc.), PDAs, XBox 360

media / mpeg files: laptops, media players (Creative Zen), XBox 360, iPod

Again, be sure to provide guidance and indicate how best to use the products.

Step 4: Information and Support Services. Databases, library resources, e-journals, texts, tutoring services, plagiarism software, etc. Think of how students will obtain the journal articles they need and then think of how you can save them a few steps, a few clicks, a few dollars. Be sure to thoroughly check out the products and services recommend.

Step 5. Career Planning and Placement. and other placement services are useful, but one must interject a word of warning. This could be quite disappointing for everyone involved if you do not accompany this with a number of supporting guides, such as links to writing resumes, engaging in an effective job search, etc.

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