My web 2.0 activity (as in self publishing) seems to have diminished; one week I’m blogging, twittering and yammering with anyone who is likewise bitten by the bug and the next week, apart from some occasional facebook activity, it’s all stopped. I’ve waited to get re-bitten but it hasnt happened.
Being a reflective sort of person I’ve been wondering what’s changed and my conclusion is…… nothing.
And therein lies the answer. I haven’t blogged, twittered or yammered and it hasn’t made any difference.
I’m still over-working, under-studying, spending my weekends walking, seeing family and friends; my life is just as busy, just as much fun – nothing has changed. I haven’t lost or gained. Whether I divulge innanities online or keep the daily minutae to myself, I’m still living exactly the same life. It doesn’t seem to have made any difference at all.
Within 24 hours I’ve had not one but two encounters with accessibility issues. Both demonstrated negativity towards the concepts of reasonable adjustment and alternative versions in relation to teaching and learning resources. This is my resulting rant and reflection – please check out the links at the end. You just never know, one day the thread of your reality may be cut without warning!
Some background: ten years ago I worked in community education and set up a number of computer training rooms for people with disabilities; the work was funded with short term project grants – which is indicative of the reality for the socially disabled – where support and training is dependent on charities and the kindness of strangers. I am continually reminded that the situation with regard to respect and consideration cannot be said to have significantly improved over the past decade.
Over a year ago the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) was subsumed into the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). There is growing debate over whether this has been in the best interests of people who struggle with seeing, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7643844.stm)
Why is this relevant here? Well, as a public institution, the University of Lincoln has a duty to ensure it can demonstrate proactivity in anticipating barriers to access. However, a recognised need to be inclusive is not enough to ensure institutional change. Across the HE sector, disability support units are rarely integrated into teaching and learning units and the locus of disability awareness continues to exist on the periphery. For me accessibility is about removing barriers to participation and engagement. That means a holistic attitude towards the creation of accessible content. It’s not something that can be bolted on either as an afterthought or because someone has had to request an alternative version.
Staff should also visit Accessibility in Learning produced by JISC and TechDis in conjuction with the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA). This new online resource looks at eight categories of users; those who have difficulty seeing, hearing, understanding, concentrating, manipulating things, communicating with others, accessing text and who are dyslexic – and provides practical guidelines practical guidelines for making learning materials more accessible.
The information is out there; the responsiblity for acting on it is down to the individual.
If you still need convincing read some of these accounts from students accessing higher education. Go to ALERT (University of Bournemouth) and DART (Loughborough University) and the most recent JISC funded research at LExDis(University of Southampton) to sample the student experience first hand.
The defection from Twitter to Yammer has been interesting; a few weeks ago we were twittering away then along came Yammer. It not only attracted a greater number of UL employees but those with dual status seem to have gradually moved across and deserted Twitter in favour of Yammer. There’s a noticeable decline in Facebook contributions too. It seems that one is enough. Two is too many. Is this the nature of Web 2.0 tools? The flavour of the month is easily replaced by a new taste. What will take over from Yammer? There must be something equally new and addictive just waiting in the wings.
Is the Facebook bubble bursting? Or does social software always contain its end in its beginning (to paraphrase T S Eliot). Designed for ‘social’ purposes, a hidden agenda is being identified. Among all the hype and the proliferation of ‘friends’ it’s refreshing to hear the other side of the Facebook story from those who no longer use it – and some of the reasons why.
I like the word cloud effect at Wordle. It’s great fun and useful for highlighting key issues in a document. But beware – the back browser button will take you to the home page and the forward button the create page. If you see a word cloud you like then save it quickly – or do a screen grab like I did here (click onto the image for a closer view). These are my Delicious tags – as you can see, I use You Tube quite a lot!
The message I took from Rethinking the Digital Divide is that the divide is increasing rather than getting smaller. It’s no longer just about access to the technology, its about what you do with it when it’s in your hands. Research may show that the majority of learners own mobile phones – but that their owners are confident with using them is still largely an assumption. Also some of the sessions I attended showed that access to education remains problematic for many, including people with disabilities, those in prison, in the workplace, in communities. In prison the technology disables rather than enables; the OU now delivers content via the internet. The majority of prisoners do not have the internet; education is the bedrock of rehabilitation and they are denied access.
The debate over accessibility of online resources and the use of assistive technology continues – yet there were no exhibitors at ALT-C from any screen reading or text to speech software companies, or organisations such as Ability Net or the British Dyslexia Association. I was disappointed that a conference on digital divisions appeared to have so little on inclusive design or holistic approaches to accessibility and the debate around alternative versions of multimedia and animation. It would have been good to have daily workshops on practicalities such as adding captions to video, demonstrations of assistive technology or what the open source movement is doing to support accessibility.
I wonder how much the learning technologists themselves are responsible for creating a digital divide; do we forget that those whose learning we believe we are enhancing are in a different place. They may not share the same level of access to the technical gadgets and wizardry, or the skills to use them to their full potential. Again, having the technology is not the same as being confident and skilled with using it and I do sometimes wonder if herein lies the roots of our digital divisions.
In 6 August I attended the Stepping into Literature conference in Second Life (see blog entry here) I’ve now written this experience up and the report is now available as a pdf Stepping into Literature
Eduserv’s latest Snapshot (May 2008) gives an insight into current HE activity in Second Life. For a short cut check out these slurls for the University of Leicester’s Media Zoo, and the University of Coventry home of the PREVIEW project which is using virtual problem based learning tutorials for medical training.
If you are going to be net savvy you need to get organised. Bookmarking and RSS feeds are the key. Choose a feed reader you can access from any computer such as Netvibes or Google Feed Reader. Make your feed reader your home page; it’s the best way of engaging with your updates on a regular basis. I like the drag and drop functionality of Netvibes. For bookmarking sites I use delicious. Adding the delicious extension to Firefox means I can bookmark, tag and access my delicious folders within my browser. I then feed my delicious account into netvibes; ditto with Facebook, Twitter and any other social networking sites plus my favourite blogs and news webs. Everything is all in one place making Netvibes my one stop internet shop and a valuable life raft which keeps me afloat in the Internet ocean.
I attended the Stepping into Literature conference in Second Life, organised by Learning Times. This was an all day event designed to investigate the effectiveness of immersive environments as teaching and learning tools. Do 3D sims have affordances for disinterested students? How ‘sticky’ is Second Life?
The JISC report Learning in Immersive worlds prepared by Sara de Freitas suggests that the game and simulation based learning has the potential to transform the way teaching and learning is developed. After the Stepping conference I felt I had ‘learned’ on so many different levels. What ever your discipline; student, teacher, technologist, designer, librarian – I think it would be hard to deny that virtual immersion can be a powerful tool in the learning process.
How long does it take to produce one hour of online content.Bryan Chapman has come up with some ratios which make interesting reading and Clark Aldrich takes this one step further. For everyone who thinks uploading their 50 minute lecture notes creates an online learning resource this may be a shock. As a general guideline it will always take longer than you anticipated and generally cost more than you budgeted for. But there’s no direct trade off between the amount of time/cost and the value of the result. In terms of teaching and learning sometimes it is the simplest idea which is the most effective. Those which cost the most in both time and expense may lay unvisited or unclicked.
Online learning is less about content and more about what students do. Reading text online rarely stimulates. The key to online learning is interaction. One answer is the deveopment of reusable learning objects; especialy those you can customise with a minimum of technical skills. I’m currently involved in a project to produce templates for customisable inter-activities. Watch this space…
Twitter tells other people what you are doing – in 140 characters or less – in the moment in which you are doing it. Quite Zen really.
I’m not sure about its value. It seems to do far less than other social networking tools; a case where less isn’t necessarily more. Maybe it’s more about harnessing Surowiecki’s wisdom of the crowd – or O’Reilly’s ethos of the more you use it the better it gets; the ‘harvesting of collective intelligence’. But even if I used it more, with a greater number of people, I’m still not convinced I would find any intrinsic value.
I’m interested in synchronicity and whether or not – as Jung maintained – it is meaningful – or it is pure coincidence. I think that the Internet enables synchronicity – the greater the amount of available information then the greater the chance of finding links you can impose meaning on. I’m cynical. Belief is personal – we believe in what has resonance; universal truths are hard to quantify. But here is a trail that nevertheless intrigued me.
I hear about the tv series The Wire. I don’t know anything about it but it sounds good. I check my daily rss feeds. I follow a link about learning new skills in elearning technology. I notice an Edublog Winner logo so I revisit the Winners 2007 page. I scan over the 14 blog links; I’m drawn to best new blog winner and it’s title dy/dan – there is no additional information – I’m intrigued by what it doesn’t tell me – I find an interesting alternative blog mixture of video and podcast – I scan down looking for text (I’m in a rush – I don’t want to watch or listen) and I see a link called The Truest Thing I’ve Ever Watched Or Written. Again, I’m intrigued – and this link it takes me to a post all about – The Wire!
I thought I was the first to use the word but I’ve now come across ‘bloggage’ several times. @iandelaney uses it on Twitter. bloggage.me.uk is a blog title from Jimbo in Shoreham. The domain name http://www.bloggage.com is live but lacks content; is a website for bloggage verging on oxymoronic?
Do I do bloggage or do I produce it? It feels a bit like luggage – containers of personal artifacts – which can then be disconnected through the links of strangers and sent to far flung places. bloggage.me.uk has ended up here at learninglab.lincoln.ac.uk. I’m following @iandelaney on Twitter (although it feels uncomfortable, like virtual stalking). Or maybe bloggage is more like traffic. Where the blogs are the cars and bloggage is a conglomeration of them; a multi storey car park, or a traffic jam, or even a scrap heap of rusted unwanted vehicles; after all there are more unread blogs than read ones, more blogs are dead than alive. Blog rot is endemic. But however you interpret it, bloggage is a phenomena; indicative of Web 2.0 technology which gives individual voices the opportunity to be heard. To me, bloggage is the Internet in action; real people engaged in virtual communications – even it they are mostly talking into a digital void.
It is a fact universally acknowledged that every learning experience will somewhere include reference to a blog. If you are new to blogging and wondering what all the fuss is about, try the Guardian article The world’s 50 most powerful blogs(2008) and see Edublog awards for examples of educational bloggage.
Blogging tools are easily available; free software includes WordPress and Blogger. If you have an internet connection then you too can blog. Blogs are Web 2.0 tools for self publishing – free of quality controls and censorship. They’re an example of the power of the internet to link virtual identities and personal life stories, to build virtual networks which may or may not translate into off-line relationships.
So why do we blog? Is it because we can? Or we’ve been asked to? Or we’re being assessed and the marks count towards the end of year exams? Or is it evidence of CPD? Behind every behaviour there lies a motivation.
This blog is a mirror that reflects my role in the Centre for Educational Research and Development at the University of Lincoln, UK. It’s not a reflective blog. I’m unconvinced that reflection should be located in a public arena. Nor is it a diary – for the same reasons. It’s meant to be functional; a Web 2.0 toolbox; a repository of bits and pieces of technologies; postcards of my virtual travels across the Internet. Although reflection has gone into this statement; it’s all behind the scenes; the blog is the end result not the process of getting there. To me, that’s what blogging is about.
So why do you blog?
Project Gutenberg is a free collection of e-books which everyone can take part in producing. Volunteers are invited to scan or key in pages from books printed prior to 1923, or proofread scanned pages. Anyone can become a volunteer to help preserve history one page at a time. This is an excellent example of how the Internet enables virtual cooperation on an international scale. Distributed Proofreaders coordinate the project and offer a pre-registration online Walk Through demonstrating how it all works.
70 signs of Intelligent life at You Tube This link may be useful for anyone wanting to look at examples of educational videos on You Tube. The link comes from the Open Culture website which is also worth a visit if you are interested in audio and video on the net.
Tim Berners Lee talks about the Semantic Web on BBC 4’s Today programme, 9 July 08.
- Listen to a podcast of the interview here. (9 minutes, mp3)
- Read the Semantic Web article by Berners-Lee, Hendler and Lassila here
My intention was to blog my return to the virtual world of Second Life but apart from checking it will run on a new laptop I’ve haven’t logged back in yet. Which supports the notion that unless you have a need you are unlikely to take the action. This applies to the majority of the tools in the Web 2.0 toolbox. They have to have an affordance otherwise they can’t stick.
Until I return to Second Life, I’ve added these links which demonstrate how some universities are developing their virtual identity in an alternative world.
- Ohio University Second Life (2.34 mins)
- New Media Consortium Campus in Second Life (5.38)
- Educational Uses of Second Life (7 mins)
- San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science (3.29)
(All links open in a separate window. Close the window to return to this page).
We start with good intentions re the organisation of digital images but inevitably end up with pictures scattered across folders and directories. Picasa is free software from the Google factory which scans your computer and brings all your images together into one place – retaining the original categories – and displaying them as thumbnails – in date order – you can browse through and delete the ones you no longer need – those you’d forgotten you had – or all the duplicates you didn’t realise you’d made – all lurking and taking up valuable space. Watch out for the check box when you first launch Picasa – if you don’t uncheck it then Google will become your default search engine – that’s sneaky!
You have to join facebook to use it and it’s the best way to get an insight into social networking. You’ll find me there – and a range of other people from the University of Lincoln. www.facebook.com/
Research from JISC shows ‘Social networking sites are still being widely used and more frequently, mainly for personal or social reasons.’ and ‘Students make wide use of social networking but struggle to see how it could be used in learning’
There is tension between the social nature of the software and potential exploitation of student’s online ‘space’. There have also been issues around the exposure of disparaging and derogatory remarks made within the social network environment.
- Find me on Facebook – so long as you are not a Faculty member or Administrator
- Students tell universities to get out of My space
- Threads that twist and tangle
The University of Leicester is currently researching into the possibility that social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace can help first year students integrate into university life. Preregistration and induction times are middle ground areas where the boundaries between social and institutional may merge more successfully. But there is a real danger in assuming that everyone has access to the technology….
Not a web tool as such but still indicative of a Web 2.0 environment eg featuring user generated content and based on the philosophy that the more it’s used then the better it gets – this is BookCrossing.
Described as the world’s biggest book club, this is an way of not only swapping books but also tracking where they go and who is reading them. It’s easy.
- Sign up for an BookCrossing account at http://www.bookcrossing.com/
- Find the nearest BookCrossing zone
- Register the book you’re going to give away
- Download a free label, fill in the details and stick it in the book
- Send the book out into the wild
- Sit back and wait….
I’ve been thinking about the best way to approach the issue of Web 2.0 tools – a chunk of text didn’t feel like the answer – so I’ve opted for letting YouTube do the talking in this post (all the links below open in a new window)
The real value of networking events is the wider picture; the chance to compare progress and ideas, find solutions and get confirmation that you’re doing ok. I came back from the regional Bb event with a list of software to investigate – they all contained the same issues – accessibility. Echo 360 is a lecture recording/videoing system – not so different to Boxmind – but I’m not convinced that tranferring the traditional mode of delivery to an online environment is the answer. It seems fraught with potential download issues and there were no obvious transcripts – even on the example from Galloudet – a university for the deaf where only one of the speakers signed. Video lectures are only as good as the lecturer and the demonstrations didn’t convince me this was the way forward.
The key to learning online is interaction so I was interested to hear about Engage. Part of the Articulate software package it claims to create ‘dazzling interactions’ but is fundamentally a watch and listen experience. The Quizmaker looked good but being Flash based it rang warning bells. The blurb says it is accessible to virtually anyone. Mmm…. bit of a get out clause there. Apart from being able to customise the appearance with some jazzy buttons and backgrounds, it didn’t seem to offer a great deal more than the Blackboard assessment tools – which reinforces my philosophy of look at alternative ways of using what you already have.
There were some fans of Wimba software; Course Genieconverts Word documents into websites. I have a copy and it was reassuring to hear that the code it produces is functional.It also plugs into Bb – we should be investigating this further – in the scheme of VLE skills the next step on from uploading a Word Document is to convert it into web pages and incorporate the activities features.
It’s less about how you present the content – it’s what you ask the students to do with it. Creating online resources is time consuming because existing f2f materials need to be dismembered and restructured. So for me the event helped reinforce my ideas and investigating the software didn’t do a great deal to change my mind – I always thought Course Genie had value anyway!
Too much can be as bad as not enough – and the internet is the epitome of excess – too much to read – too many people – all posting, commenting, collaborating. Virtual working is fine in theory but the amount to do and the time you allocate never quite match up.
I’m increasingly uncomfortable with notions I used to support – such as Surowiecki’s ‘wisdom of crowds’ and O’Reilly’s ‘the more you use it the better it gets‘ advocacy of Web 2.0. Berner’s Lee vision of the internet was an ‘interactive’ community but did he underestimate the sheer volume of information ‘out there’ and the need for appropriate tools to manage it – and personal coping strategies for keeping abreast of the digital world while still having an analogue life.
Information overload is only ever a click away and here I am – adding to the proliferation with yet another blog – even more links…
I’m going to use this blog to investigate tools for managing my virtual life. As they used to say – watch this space – only now its more likely to be digg me or subscribe to my feed.
Welcome to my area – I’m Sue Watling and this is where I’m going to look at Web 2.0 tools and the virtual world of Second Life.
I also have pages for some of my other projects. Check the links under Pages on the top right of the screen for details. Feel free to add comments to any posts you are interested in. Or contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you