Mar 162009

I’ve just picked-up on George Siemens and Peter Tittenbergers’ “Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning“. I like its focus on balance in eduction and the reality that the relationships between learners and tutors are being re-formed and re-shaped. It also highlights how tools are interacting with a changing environment to frame a”not yet clearly defined future”.

Whilst I recognise that it is a handbook and not a treatise on emergent technologies, it is very thin on areas like PLEs. It also prioritises connectivism above other epistemologies and pedagogies, and fails to engage with problem-based curricua or strategies for managing and enhancing the impact of learning technologies on curriculum design.

That said I will be using the handbook as a framework for engagement with postgraduate students, on a taught Masters and a University Certificate in Professional Development and with new Ph.D. students.

Mar 132009

Posted by Suki Kaur

BBC Radio radio ‘


Why does the internet distract our attention and abilty to absorb detail in the information presented? Is it because being connected we have a single access point to well everything – friends, work and hobbies and well the world – picking up a book its just me the sofa and the book – you have my undivided attention! (when the kids have gone to bed!). Could it be these are the same distractions but now presented in other ways – yup but a crucial change is the experience in time and space .  Surely balance, responsibilty  and purpose to fit is the key for young digital natives.  We are in a transitional stage but I don’t see cause for concern of a  massive shift and ‘dumbing down’ – if our teaching assessment of core skills have not been changed should there be cause for concern?

Mar 102009

by Mohamed

Just read that the government intends to allow more online powers to rate public services like e-bay and Amazon.

Imagine; “Streetlight still not working even after several compalints” .  Wow, I already seem to like the idea!

However, I think that the government or watchdogs should keep their eyes out for fake positive reviews, such as what a “business development representative” from Belkin tried and got eventually caught out.

Mar 092009

Posted by Suki Kaur

Not sure how I feel about anonymous marking. I’d thought I’d blog my thoughts.  As individuals we have our style of writing which reflects our form of expression and yes our education. For me, to understand more about the writer you need to know the writers background. In a long term course tutors come to recognise different student writing styles  and through providing feedback  help students develop their  writing skills (analysis, evaluation and basic good practice). In this way student’s progress can be tracked. I remember during my A-levels I owed a lot to my Sociology teacher on improving how I presented my arguments in my written work (I have to say I wish attention was also payed to oral presentation – this is a skill in itself and should definently be more part of the learning curriculum (heated debates are always remembered!); as to be able to express ones ideas and views can in any debate/meeting profoundly effect the portrayal of the strength of ones point).  Anyway backway back to the point! – Would having anonymous marking  detract improvements in students  work?  Tutors  find it easy to recognise intentional plagiarism  in written work as they style of writing has changed in the students written piece, especially if the work is ‘choppy’and the style changes abruptly throughout.  Would not knowing the author of the written work take away progress tracking? cause more work? I personally would like to know the author behind a piece of work that I was marking (I would feel blind without it) – it tells me more about the person.  Though maybe there is something about not knowing about the author? I think with first years anonymous marking would be a good excercise and provides a method of allowing to see beyond any ‘isms’ – it could be an eye opener! It could also be an eye-opener for the tutor who can self-reflect on their marking practices. What do you think?

Mar 092009

Twitterfall is barely two months old, but it already has thousands of users who swear by it. This clever website allows Twitter nuts to track the major “trending topics”, presenting tweets in a waterfall-like cascade that tumbles down the page. Better still, it allows users to filter tweets by keyword or topic, enabling them to track the things that matter to them. There’s even a geolocation tool built in to the site, so that you can narrow tweets on a particular topic to within a set radius of your home or office.

Twitterfall, then, is rather like a Google for the Twitterverse.

Read more …

Mar 062009

A swedish web 2.0 music streaming service has had it systems hacked with an undisclosed number of customers personal details stolen.  There was approximately 250,000 Britons signed up to the service.

Although I hadn’t signed up, a question comes to my mind how this breach was possible.  Did Spotify (the company in question) have the neccessary security protocols in place?  Isn’t it high time that web 2.0 service vendors comply to a security regulation standard (bit like verisign) to assure their customers that their personal data is protected.

Read more about the story

posted by Mohamed

Mar 032009

In a thought-provoking post entitled “Twipocalypse Now: Warnings of a Twitter Bubble“, Neal Wiser wonders about the impact of Twitter’s amorphous, distributed, open [e.g. lack of a] busness model, on your [and my] data and services, and the third-party applications that “feed” off it.

I like Neal’s focus on bubbles as drivers of growth. He argues that:

  • Bubbles drive Innovation generating new technologies and processes
  • Bubbles add value to existing products
  • Bubbles put people to work in good jobs (if the enterprise is funded)
  • Bubbles give people the opportunity to hone and develop new skills

He also argues that a Twitter bubble gets 100s of developers to extend the service through user-apps, which may well add value to the service.

However, Neal also counters that a bubble carries risks.

  • Drive risky and irrational speculation by unqualified investors
  • Cause prices to rise to unsustainable levels
  • Expose companies and individuals to considerable and unnecessary risk
  • Provide fertile ground for swindlers and other predators

Twitter’s large, recent growth and increased media coverage, its potential link-up/buy-out by Facebook based on valuations in a fluctuating market, a growing number of third-party services that are undergoing market predation, each prompt Neal to highlight possible irrational exuberance that will lead to speculation and a desparate search for capitalisation/profit.

I think that we perhaps need more thought on the impact of social rather than financial capital on the development of social media, or at least the balance and tensions between the two, in the development of social media. I am particlarly interested in the impact of [in no real order]:

  1. the impact on the development 3rd party apps of a friable development model;
  2. the [positive?] lack of a Twitter business model. Did YouTube or MySpace have one before they were bought out? I don’t know. What were the implications of a buy-out for service users? Aren’t these effectively monopolies that have maintained a “public service” rationale/utility?
  3. the open source/standards ethos of many users and their search for meaningful social networks;
  4. an influx of “Twitter marketeers” or those trying to advertise their e-business throughTwitter. How will that affect any [no] business model?
  5. the development of social capital and social justice through Twitter. It is the use of social media for social justice [c.f.] and educational gain that drives me.

These issues are more pertinent for me because current economic models in the western world are broken. How social media like Twitter can be used to lever social gains in a time of crisis mean that I will probably not do the first of Neal’s recommendations and back up my Tweets. I’m not sure that much that I say is relevant or useful. However, the follows I have made are – so I need to do the second thing he recommends and back-up my networks, or aggregate the feeds from their blogs

Perhaps the key is to distribute yourself across personal networks that you have mapped cognitively, so that your identity, and traces of your place in certain networks can be recaptured or secured. Or so that where services disappear, traces of your networks can be recaptured. It is the risk of the fragility of these networks rather than my content that I want to reduce, because so much of my social capital is based in them. Securing knowledge about, and then mapping, the locations of  these nascent networks will certainly lead savvy social media types to manage Neal’s third recommendation, namely paying attention to developments in the Twitterverse, as a matter of course.

For me, the Twitter bubble offers social positives up to the point at which we talk about capitalisation. At that point I want to run.

Mar 022009

Foxmarks enable you to  manage resources across computers by syncing your Firefox bookmarks. The most interesting development, as it moves to Xmarks, is that it will start offering browsing suggestions – nice.

Feb 272009

Simon Mills here in Humanities left a weighty comment on my post about Susan Greenfield’s take on young people’ s minds and social networks. I think it bears posting in full. So her you go…

How the media (and academics) love a good media effects argument. The Greenfield debate recalls previous disagreements around the deleterious use of technologies such as Books, Radio, TV, Gas Lamps and Telephones. Despite Mcluhan’s lengthy exile from British Media Studies it is hoped that we are now able to freely discuss the fact that technologies do indeed have effects. That is that they are physical and enter into the causal world of which we are also a part. However to make the leap from this rather mundane observation to the claim that a singular media technology is responsible for only negative or positive outcomes which are endangering a whole society demonstrates an inability to construct an argument.

For those interested in these discussions then 2 texts that I try to get students to read are Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid and Katherine Hayles’ Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes. Both texts admit that media effect us and that new media usage is probably having some sort of effect on our ability to concentrate.

For example Carr argues: “Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. ‘We are not only what we read,’ says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. ‘We are how we read.’”

This isn’t so far from what Greenfield argues although she draws some rather spurious conclusions such as that there is “a risk of loss of empathy as children read novels less”.

Hayles’ article begins, “Networked and programmable media are part of a rapidly developing mediascape transforming how citizens of developed countries do business, conduct their social lives, communicate with each other, and perhaps most significantly, how they think. This essay explores the hypothesis we are in the midst of a generational shift in cognitive styles that poses significant challenges to education at all levels, including colleges and universities”. She then goes on to point to studies which support these claims. The interesting thing to note is that unlike Greenfield she does not make a claim for the superiority of one style of attention over another. Although she does point to the fact that if this shift is occurring then it has implications for teaching. Certainly some of my recent experience (and what I’ve heard from other academics) would not be in contradiction to this hypothesis but also not prove it.

This is not to say, as Greenfield does, that these technologies are dangerous, Just that they have effects which may change the way we do things and that we have to develop new etiquette’s and protocols for how we use them. But this is hardly news, is it? Surely over a decade of cybercultural studies has told us this already.

One of the effects that hasn’t been mentioned so much is how this technology seems to be able to create fervent evangelists out of middle-aged academics who should know better! There must be a research proposal in there somewhere.