Reinventing lurking as working #socmedHE16

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Last week I attended The Empowered Learner; the 2016 Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference (#socmedHE16) at Sheffield Hallam University.

The Keynote for last year’s conference was Eric Stoller with his amazing Star Wars effect opening.  You can make your own this Christmas.  Eric was always going to be a hard act to follow and the conference organisers didn’t try. They offered a Key-Not instead.

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A Key-Not translated as an activity. We were divided into four groups depending on the colour cup we’d chosen. Sneaky – I didn’t see that coming! The task was to use a social medial tool(s) and collaboratively build a resource for the ’empowered’ learner. My group – the Yellow Custard Stirrers – used Adobe Spark to show how to set up a Facebook Group and invite participants. We won! Well done fellow Stirrers – may your custard never go lumpy!

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The Key-Not was followed by two traditional style presentations. After the frenetic activity of the previous hour, it felt strange to be back in passive audience mode. The mobile devices came out and people slipped back into isolation from each other while remaining connected to the virtual. What saved it – for me – was these were two of the best presentations of the day.

I want to blog about Andrew Middleton’s presentation separately. ‘Social Media as a Critical Future Learning Space’ resonated on lots of different levels.

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I blogged about space earlier this year in a post titled Simultaneous Existence and want to go back to the subject, in particular the ssignificance of interstitial space.

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The first presentation by Sarah Honeychurch was about lurking. Now I lurk, you lurk, we all lurk but the word has negative connotations. Traditional definitions include sinister, threatening and unpleasant while its latest linguistic incarnation in relation to discussion forums suggests to lurk is an incorrect or inappropriate thing to do.

I want to re-imagine lurking as working.

In these days of information overload through TEL, email, cloud computing and social media, we are mostly not waving but drowning I would suggest just being there online – long enough to register what’s happening before moving on to the next task – is about as much as anyone can manage.  If we re-invent lurking as less something negative, more a positive affirmation and recognition that we managed to get there in the first place, we could then change attitudes to ‘didn’t we do well!’

There’s lots of ways learning and teaching in HE use social media e.g.#lthechatTLC webinars#creativeHE community – and I’m sure these are all places where lurkers lurk, simply to keep up to date and check they’re not missing anything useful. Social Media is the single most valuable network of curated content which can be customised by choosing who to follow and which events to attend – even if it is in a lurking capacity. To lurk is better than not being there at all. It really is time for a linguistic turn.

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Language matters. I don’t like to hear training or skills being used in relation to my TEL work and try to avoid the words lecture capture. Words like these carry connotations which don’t sit well with the objectives of enhancement and innovation which sit within my own interpretation of TEL.

So here’s to lurking as working. Remember – I lurk, you lurk, we all lurk. To lurk is a coping mechanism. It means we care enough to make the time to log on and check what’s happening in our own spheres of interest while also – apart from anything else – not everyone wants to be in the digital spotlight. Lurkers should be proud of their background activity and online bloggers, tweeters, and activity creators be pleased to have them there. A silent audience is better than no audience at all. Remember – as the email goes quiet and the festivities begin – it’s good to lurk and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


postscript

On the BBC News today people are advised to take a break from social media over the Christmas period as lurking may make them miserable and depressed <sigh>


 

Lurking as valid learning

Lurking can be a valid form of learning. During @openeducationweek the #creativeHE team have been busy. As well as facilitate the #creativeHE google community I wanted to do all the activities. I took the ideas away to ponder on but that was as far as it went. I’m not sure if I’m a creative failure but I learned a lot from just being there.

Creativity uses all the senses. It can be cognitive like poetry and music or kinaesthetic like making and modelling. The C Word is often associated with producing something tangible. #creativeHE used jam jars and shared activities like ‘paperclips and rubber bands’. A simple idea with great results and non-messy so minimal clearing up was required afterwards!

A conversation developed around the role of messiness as an integral part of the creative process. Many crafts are messy occupations. Painting, potting, sculpting, cookery all involve splashes and spills. I don’t like mess and hate tidying up. One of the lessons I learned this week was how goal orientated I am. The concept of play with a specific output is fine. I’d be the first to advocate a different approach, to experiment and try something different – but am less likely to take on a free style activity myself.

Digital creativity is ok though!  For example Pic-collage  (App) and Photo-collage (Desktop) make it easy to be creative with photographs. Bitstrips is a cartoon strip maker  with enough options to make a recognisable avatar for yourself. Toondoo and Pixton also offer free cartoon constructions. It’s worth adding Powtoon to the list as well. I could play for hours with these (theory v practice!) and have recently been exploring the concept of Lego Serious Play, in particular the transfer of problem solving from head to hands. Thinking with your fingers is a lateral approach which appeals to me. I need to learn more.

I’ve taken a lot from the #creativeHE week. As a facilitator I read and commented but as a creative activity maker I lurked. The definition of lurk is two-fold; to wait, hidden, in order to ambush or as a ‘profitable stratagem’. With regard to online discussion forums, the word has developed negative connotations yet lurking can be a valuable on many levels.

The invisibility of online participation is something to accept as a valid learning mechanism, like the quiet student at the back of the class who produces 1st class assignments. Not everyone is comfortable with being centre stage. It’s no different online, where the permanence of digital contributions can be a deterrent stronger than the advantages of taking time to craft a thoughtful and meaningful response. Like face to face seminars, participation needs to be encouraged but reluctance can be justified.

Like the late laggard in Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Model, the lurker has been unfairly maligned. Learning should not be defined by presence and there may be many good reasons motivating lurking and laggarding behaviours.

It may be  better to be there quietly or arrive late than not be involved at all.