Monthly Archive for January, 2007

Today’s Links: On Pear pies, web 2.0 and P2P in Singapore

Carol's Pear Pie
Life ain’t that bad when your student makes you a pie… a pear pie to be exact! Yum.

“Overworked” doesn’t even begin to describe me right now…

Medals for COM125 student bloggers
Designer Chris Barr and I put together these “student blog medals” I’ve been dreaming about…

Two weeks have past since I started teaching in the SIM/UB program.
Two weeks of emotional roller-coasting as a teacher & disciplinarian.
Two weeks ever since I had a weekend free to do anything but grade.
Two weeks of wondering if I love teaching enough to do it for life.
Two weeks… and in a few hours more, I’ll be into my third.

I haven’t been blogging much this past week and now I feel like my head’s about to explode from the experiences I have to share. As you’ve clearly seen, I’ve just shared video captures from my COM125 Intro to Internet, as well as COM242 Mass Media Effects classes. Judging from the response I’ve gotten from my first lecture video, some of you might find these useful (e.g. learning from my mistakes).

Interestingly, I’ve put this pressure upon myself to being a responsible teacher (and a hip scholar) by spending every waking hour preparing for a good performance / lecture (that’s if I’m not busy grading). I’d typically start grading blogs from Friday evening till Sunday afternoon, dropping comments and suggestions on all 76 of their individual blogs. As my doctoral buddy MrBig has warned me, that’s too much time grading on a weekly basis, so I’ll have to figure out a better way of doing this.

While passion is a powerful motivator for me, the downside of this is that teaching becomes one huge emotional investment. I get especially saddened when a few students participate in the most negative sense of the word, by mocking me in class for my simplest mistakes. Such students make up just two out of seventy-six students in a class. Ironically, I am aware that these cats are smart, but lack the open-minded attitude required to appreciate my lessons. Perhaps for them, value comes in the form of an Ang-Moh or Caucasian lecturer, rather than a Singaporean one. Though this is rather disappointing, I’ve learned to appreciate the experience of difficult students, since it teaches me the value of resilience. I try not to let it get to me so that the better students can still enjoy the class, which fortunately, they apparently do when I read their blogs.

Speaking about reading student blogs, depending on how open they are, you really get a lot of valuable feedback as a lecturer. Though I wouldn’t recommend reading more than 50+ blogs at a time (beyond which you’ll feel like puking from overload), it’s a bit like mind-reading which is really neat. From what I understand, one problem about the teacher/student relationship is that we often do not know what each other is thinking. By reading what they have to say and dropping a teacher’s comment, both sides can understand one another better, yet maintain the respect we have for one another. You do need to be open to good and bad news though, and to know when to stay from getting too involved with your students.

About those medals you see above…
It’s something I’ve been trying to do ever since I knew I could run my own blog-enabled classes. For the past weeks, I’ve made it a point to highlight exceptional student blog posts in class. While this would help them gain a sense of recognition and pride in their work, it also serves to exemplify to other students the kind of work I expect. I would have to rotate student highlights though, otherwise the showcase might get too insular, resulting in a literal “class divide”.

I’ve just finalized the medal design as seen above, and will be awarding it to the best blog posts I’ve read this week, which is on the History of the Internet. These students demonstrate the ability to write meaningfully, instead of simply summarizing class readings.

  1. Kenny’s “Evolution of MMORPGs
  2. Yepp’s “Is The World Still Round?
  3. Melissa’s “Just How Interconnected Are We?
  4. Amanda’s “Evolution of MUD (to IRC and IM)
  5. Liyana’s “Pros and Cons of E-mail

We’ll see how this medals business goes… it might work for or against the class, so I’ll keep you posted. Meantime, there is one more element I might try with my colleague Derek Lackaff, who is teaching the COM125 course concurrently in Buffalo. We’ve synced our classes right down to the blog assignments, so the plan is to try and see if we can have an intercontinental competition among our student bloggers (any sponsors for prizes?). By the end of the course, we’ll see which of our prominent student bloggers gains the most Technorati authority, Google ranking, etc. In a grand inter-cultural and pedagogical experiment, we’ll see which side naturally fairs better in the blogosphere. See my COM125 aggregator (Singapore) and Derek’s COM125 aggregator (New York) for all our student blogs.

I’m hoping to submit a paper documenting all this, including how we turn class blogs into a gaming platform. Using game mechanics highlighted by Amy Jo Kim, the point is to create friendly competition among students, which hopefully helps them learn better, and have fun at the same time.

Video: COM242 – The Scientific Approach (Chapter 1)

Following chapter 1 of our Sparks’ textbook, COM242: The Effects of Mass Media starts off proper with a video clip about the Columbine shooting incident, as well as a clip about a video game produced about it. I then proceed to explain the different motivations between news media vs. social scientists in examining case studies such as these. While the goal of news media is to get ratings and to find convenient answers to complex issues, social scientists like ourselves have to look at the broader picture to determine if such an incident bears anything useful for understanding human behavior.

Video: COM125 – Blogging 101 (Day 4)

On the second day of the Blogging 101 week for COM125: Intro to Internet, I gave out a pop quiz and went through the answers in class. I then finished up on the interface, shared a how-to on using Google Reader and finally ended off with a quickie on

Too bad the video cut off before you could see how my students spotted my tagcloud and asked about the links tagged “porn”. While the usual oooohs and aaaahs went about, I pretended to be worried at first, but later clicked on it to show my documented cases of sex in the social web, such as the increased use of cleavage to sell items in eBay auctions. No, there weren’t any nudity in my links, but it’s stuff like that that get my blog linked from actual porn blogs, driving crazy traffic over to me. :)

Video: COM125 – Blogging 101 (Day 3)

Starting off the Blogging 101 week for COM125, I highlight interesting student blogs during class (recognition / idolization). Most of the students here enjoy blogging and take to it naturally, taking full ownership of their online space by personalizing it in various ways. Some get visual with their templates, some play music in the background (alike, some use IM widgets such as a Shoutbox, while others simply showcase their flair for writing. This somewhat confirms my notion that Asians place more emphasis on personalization / customization more than our American counterparts.

After spending the first entire weekend reading their blogs (my gawd, cerebral overload!), I also find that Asian students tend to view blogs as simply online personal diaries. Though it’s hard to break that mindset, I’m trying to have them keep an open-mind towards the potential of blogs (e.g. for citizen journalism).

Video: COM125 – The Rise of Us “Redux” (Day 2)

Continuing the first week’s COM125: Intro to Internet, I show current social uses of the web. I talk about collective intelligence, smartmobs, citizen journalism, what “Web 2.0″ is about and how it’s an overused term (erm, Web 3.0 anyone?). I also cover related components of the social web and talk about the significance of blogs in light of today’s mainstream media.

Video: COM125 Behind the Scenes @ SIM (Day 1)

Here’s a quick behind-the-scenes look at the typical lecture room at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM). For lecturers, SIM has you covered with all the right laptop inputs, wireless mics as well as bottles of water. For students, all I can say is that SIM really feeds them well…

Today’s Links: WikiLeaks, Stanford Prison Experiment, and more…

WikiLeaks: anonymous whistle-blowing was down when I blogged about it. Click to see a bigger screenshot I had taken earlier. You can also read more here…

SIM commercial: Info-visual porn styling…

Recently, my visionary professor Alex Halavais mentioned how he loved info-visual porn… stuff like maps, signs and so on where complex information is represented extraordinarily well in a clever aesthetic manner.

Note too long ago, EbOY, a group of four designers from Berlin did a pixel-by-pixel rendition of the Web 2.0 scene which obviously caught on pretty well in the blogosphere. The group essentially creates re-usable pixel objects and takes them to build complex and extensible artwork.

Now here’s the kicker…
At SIM where I currently teach, I spotted a series of eBoy-like posters throughout campus (sorry, didn’t have my camera!). At first, I thought it was a blatant ripoff of the group’s work, but I soon realized that it was actually part of a major marketing campaign by the advertising agency M&C Saatchi, Singapore. eBoy also acknowledged being hired for this production which extended from eBoy-styled posters, launch web site as well as the television commercial you see above. Must have been pretty expensive…

Aside: If you’re obsessed about these visual-information forms, do check out Edward Tufte, who is really huge in this field. He’s has written seven books, including Visual Explanations, Envisioning Information, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, and Data Analysis for Politics and Policy.

Yes, YOU can take my Mass Media Effects class…

Effects of Mass Media @ SIM (Spring '07)
Here’s a rough panorama of our first day at COM242: Mass Media Effects. I just realized that my photos are being used in several places already

I’m making both my COM125 (Internet) and COM242 (Mass Media Effects) classes open for public participation. Do feel free to drop comments on our students’ blogs!

With all this talk about social media in COM125, it’s only fair if I share some of the excitement over at my COM242 class which is about the effects of mass media. As communication researchers, it’s important to first understand the lineage of mass media theories, over the course of our modern history.

For this week, I had them experience the “witch” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as well as the original 1938 radio screenplay for “The War of the Worlds”.

How do these related to mass media theories?
See what they had to say…