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Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Brian Kelly: 5,000 tweets on

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Brian Kelly (Community and Outreach Team Leader at UKOLN, the University of Bath) has a post on his blog reviewing his use of Twitter. In it he summarises how Twitter has contributed to funding bids, participation at a distance, promoting and amplifying his own and others’ work, peer-reviewing draft work and, perhaps most importantly, his professional grapevine.

As you can gather from the tag cloud illustration in his post, Brian Kelly is a professional online networker. As such, he is drawn to Twitter as Twitter, examines its potential purposefully, tweets and blogs about being online, and has a community of practice with similar interests. Of all the academic disciplines, you would expect people in disciplines like Brian’s to be the pioneers – and I’ve learnt a great deal from Brian so I’m glad he is. What his experience illustrates, though, is that Twitter becomes an attractive proposition for academics who have people they want to hear from, or communicate with, there. For many disciplines, Twitter is still a bit empty.

I think what that suggests in turn is that, in academic disciplines without an academic interest in online networking Twitter will have to broaden through multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary channels, or through an individual’s non-professional tweeting identity fusing with their professional identity (as can easily happen on social networks – although various studies of online networking for learning e.g. Great Expectations indicate that learning in social environments tends to be haphazard). This broadening will probably go unnoticed until it is picked up by established organs like journals or disciplinary conferences, after which I think it will probably take flight.

So (for the very small proportion of my working time I have to dedicate to such things) I continue to wonder, what would pique interest for an academic who is intrepid with technologies but whose community of practice isn’t on Twitter?

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Written by Mira Vogel

August 10, 2010 at 10:18

Collaborative online note-taking

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Wirelessly-connected audience members collaboratively take notes on presentations, using Google Wave.

I’m still wondering what this divided attention implies for the way presenters structure their presentation. Should it become less dense? Should there be pauses to allow the note-takers to catch up? I seem to remember a post by Howard Rheingold in which he and his students negotiated periods of listening and periods of online networking during his sessions, but I can’t find it…

(I have some Google Wave invitations going if anybody want one.)

HT Steven Downes.

Written by Mira Vogel

November 24, 2009 at 12:01

The VLE is Dead debate at ALT-C 2009

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ALT-C (the Association of Learning Technologists Conference 2009) is ongoing at the moment. They’ve been streaming the invited speakers on the Elluminate video conferencing platform. I’m not there but I just logged onto what I understand was an unofficial stream set up by the presenters independently of the organisers, to look at a debate titled The VLE is Dead.

I really enjoyed watching, listening and reading the asides in the Chat pane (and adding my own 2ps). You have to work hard to follow the speaker and do that, but in fact I (speaking personally and anecdotally) find this quite helpful. Otherwise sometimes I emerge from a micro-daydream having missed a crucial clause of an argument. Passive listening – just hearing, really – is my bete noir. What I do get quite anxious about is not being able to take notes, but to tell the truth, I’m not sure how my notes help me anyway. If it’s a matter of process, maybe the act of participating in a side discussion – on Twitter, say, which in this context is a bit like whispering in a lecture – fulfils the same function as tapping out notes and consequent questions. My track record on revisiting notes tells me that they rapidly become fossils after the event, anyway.

I felt surprisingly dislocated and desolate when the sound feed died. But while it lasted I thought it was a great arrangement – the camera was close to the speakers and at a good angle given the constraints, the pacey and slightly breathless debate format was very engaging, and there was a lot of humour. John and I were laughing out loud – I even clapped at one point, I was so sucked in.

To respond to the bit of the debate I heard (and a Chat participant tells us the whole thing has been recorded and will be made available in due course – update: it is now; scroll down for the vid) the panellists who object to a VLE do so, in my view, on shaky grounds. I don’t subscribe to the argument that VLE is merely an expression of our current era of institutional managerialism and commodification. The first speaker’s analogy between the users of third party social software and Agincourt’s nimble, unencumbered and ultimately triumphant British archers left me wondering who the analogous enemy is, and concluding that it must be not French students but our institutions. Certainly, institutions are deeply frustrating places, if you take the good things about them for granted. But unless we expect academic teachers of the future to be freelance, and academic pursuits to become something very different indeed, then academic institutions are something to defend.

And, given that those of us who are not radical constructivists accept a substantial difference in roles between teachers and learners which mainly resides in experience, insight and expertise (a sort of ignorance-wisdom continuum), if our support for Personal Learning Environments is so unequivocal (which it should be) then shouldn’t we also give some consideration to Personal Teaching Environments? When I think about what they might look like, they begin to take on the form of a VLE.  The ‘Learning’ part of the term ‘Virtual Learning Environment’ was always PR – that’s not news.

Unrelatedly, the alternative to an institutionalised, supported environment is (most readily, anyway) free-at-the-point-of-use, commercially-financed social software. But doesn’t advertising exascerbate climate change? And doesn’t it represent the sort of instrusion of market forces into Higher Education matters which we would like to avoid?

Accountability, data protection, intellectual property, obscene or taboo subject matters – not sure if these were addressed by the contra-VLE speakers.

Lastly, isn’t this debate about the VLE being dead still hung up with the technology rather than the ideas and creations which animate it? There’s a built-in assumption that the VLE is a shackle, linked to another assumption that the VLE is a (conservative) expression of a bad approach. But although VLEs are certainly not pedagogically neutral, nor can they be pinned down and limited to a set of values. They can be subverted, or simply used creatively – that depends on their inhabitants (this much I know from researching designing for learning in VLEs for JISC). So I think a better question to ask is why those islands of vibrant VLE / technology-use which do exist, succeed, and (to avoid bias) also search out precedents for cooption of social software within the VLE, or abandonment of the VLE in favour of freer environments beyond the institution (although you may have to undertake to disguise their identities to get them to speak to you). Is it the case that academic teachers who are not using the VLE today have leap-frogged over it in favour of third party social software – PLEs? I’m kind of thinking that rumours of the VLE’s death should start from these kinds of findings, rather than from an ideological standpoint. One pro-VLE speaker said as much.

Time to stop. I missed a lot of what was said, so I avoided naming any speakers. But these arguments against VLEs aren’t unfamiliar, so it’s probably OK to address them in themselves.

There’s a bunch of links and a vid trailer for the debate on Cloudworks, the Open University’s social environment for discussing ideas.

Update: via James Clay’s blog, here’s the recording of the debate.

Written by Mira Vogel

September 8, 2009 at 15:04

Twitter and the ayatollahs

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All eyes on Andrew Sullivan, un-pigeon-hole-able author and activist, reporting the Iranian and election and its aftermath via his Twitter account, DailyDish.

He’s collected his tweets (up till June 16) at his spot on The Atlantic website, including from early:

“Mssg from Twitter: Our…partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.”

Use of the #nomaintenance tag persuaded Twitter not to shut down for maintenance yesterday. They are running Twitter for the Iranian democrats.

The scales have fallen from Sullivan’s eyes:

“I have to say my skepticism about this new medium has now disappeared. Without it, one wonders if all this could have happened. A reader notes a few facts:

Ahmadinejad’s and Khamenei’s websites were taken down yesterday – I saw the latter go down within a couple of minutes because of a DDOS attack organised via Twitter. @StopAhmadi is a good source for tweets on this. The other important use of Twitter has been distribution of proxy addresses via Twitter. This would be how most video and pictures of today’s rally have gotten out.

Technology has not just made the world more dangerous; it has also enabled freedom to keep one small step in front of tyranny and lies.”

Will the ayatollahs now close Twitter in Iran?

Note to self:

“Please remember that this is about the future of the Iranian people. While it might be exciting to get caught up in the flow of participating in a new meme, do not lose sight of what this is really about.”

How to support Iranian twitterers.

Update: scholars of the Iranian and Arabic blogospheres write in the Washington Post – Reading Twitter in Tehran? Why the real revolution is on the streets – and offline.

“Paradoxically, the “freedom to scream” online may actually assist authoritarian regimes by serving as a political release valve of sorts. If dissent is channeled into cyberspace, it can keep protesters off the streets and help state security forces track political activism and new online voices. As Egyptian democracy activist Saad Ibrahim said last week during a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, this appears to be part of a long tradition for governments in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, where dissent is channeled into universities and allowed to thrive there, as long as it does not escape the university walls.

With so many individuals overcoming government efforts to block online communication, particularly via Twitter, it is notable that the Iranian government has not shut down Internet access completely. Similarly, as we discovered in our recent study of the Arabic blogosphere, the Egyptian government tolerates extensive blogging by the Muslim Brotherhood while outlawing its other activities. The Chinese often ease the harshest of their Internet regulations over time. And the military junta in Burma didn’t keep the Net down for long. Ultimately, almost all such regimes choose to leave the Internet more open than closed, then move to regulate specific activities that they deem worrisome.

After all, it appears that people living under authoritarian regimes such as the one in Iran are as addicted to the Internet as the rest of us are. Even though states push back, they can’t keep the Internet down for long without serious blowback from their citizens. Iranian officials have the power to shutter the Internet just as they once clamped down on reformist newspapers, but they may be more concerned now about any move that pushes those watching — or blogging or tweeting — from the sidelines into the throngs of protesters already in the streets”

See also this from the Berkman Institute of Internet and Society on shutting the blogosphere.

And Patrick Meier, also at Harvard, who understands this stuff and is updating his piece on how to communicate securely in repressive environments.

I hope colleagues understand now that ‘techies’ are not to be maligned – well, not simply for being techies, anyway.

Reading Twitter in Tehran?

Why the real revolution is on the streets — and offline.

Written by Mira Vogel

June 16, 2009 at 09:58