Saturday, 29 December 2007

Google Calendar

Among the many useful products that Google now offer i have just found the Google Calendar.

Colleagues may find this useful on a personal level. But also it would seem to have many benefits for use with students, staff in your department, external contacts, research teams etc etc.

With email, screen pop-up and SMS mobile notifications you can ensure you are constantly prompted of important events throughout the working and non-working day.

Friday, 21 December 2007

The most influential blog of the year - Edublog Awards 2007

Is It Okay To Be A Technologically Illiterate Teacher?

An excerpt from the blog:

If a teacher today is not technologically literate - and is unwilling to make the effort to learn more - it's equivalent to a teacher 30 years ago who didn't know how to read and write.

Extreme? Maybe. Your thoughts?

Thursday, 20 December 2007

social bookmarking: how to exercise quality control?

Last week one of our library staff emailed me the following message about "Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting strives to identify serious academic blog posts about peer-reviewed research by offering an icon and an aggregation site where others can look to find the best academic blogging on the Net.

Thinking that this might be something pathfinder colleagues would be interested in, I emailed the rest of the team. An interesting discussion followed, focusing upon issues of student credulity, evaluation of resources and quality control.

On the one hand, there was a view that:

"This would appear to come under the heading of 'elite social bookmarking' which to those of us who get frustrated by students' acceptance of all things internet as being of equal worth sounds like a really good idea.The site however is specifically about research. Has anyone done anything/does anyone know of anything in any subject area which attempts to use social bookmarking with some kind of gatekeeping/quality control?"

On the other, it was noted that :

"Have you considered getting the students to review each others bookmarks. If guidelines were issued as to what constitutes ‘good sources’ and each student was given a particular area to review, perhaps this would foster deeper consideration and a ‘finalised’ quality set of bookmarks. Discussion about the categorisation, the quality of source and the subject could ensue."

"The Web2.0 approach that accepts the wisdom of crowds would suggest that the key mechanism for quality control is the value placed on a bookmark by the students, in order to do/achieve something. This in turn is a function of the criteria that students are applying based upon tasks that are set or the use of bookmarks from trusted bookmarkers, or staff creating the bookmarks."

This led to the riposte that:

"Unfortunately the crowds put Galileo in a prison (or at least under house arrest).
I guess I am an old fashioned elitist and have the added disadvantage of coming from a subject background where there are right and wrong answers."

To which, our resident pragmatist noted:

"I have sympathy with both sides of this debate! I’m thinking of getting students to use social bookmarking to identify, categorise and critique online resources that relate to my module. So the idea is to get them to think critically about the info they find, its usefulness as evidence to support an argument, whether it’s likely to be biased in some way, whether any conclusions are based squarely on the data, etc…etc… So I hope to find a middle ground where I can harness the usefulness of the tool while retaining my right to say ‘That is unscientific nonsense’ ;-) (Although the hope is that the students might point that out themselves where it applies!)"

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

90 days free use of online Survey Software

I use surveyshare to quickly create online questionnaires and surveys. I find it very easy to quickly create and administer. If you would like a free 90 day Trial then all you need to do is take this survey.

YouTube and iPhone Survey

I have not brought this to your attention for this reason, but if you enter my email address in the first question i might get a free 90 days use of surveyshare ( As i am already an annual subscriber and will continue to be i don't know whether it will apply for me.

cheers Steve

DIY Education

Nick spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought we should see it...

The shape of things to come: Around the world, an elite band of trend-spotters spend their days providing businesses with glimpses of the future. So what do these 'futurologists' predict for 2008? By James Harkin, Tuesday December 18 2007, The Guardian.

I was especially taken by the section on DIY education, and the "burgeoning demand among people to learn new skills, not from professional educators but from their peers." For me this is the true power of the read-write web - its ability to mix things up - to transform social frameworks and structures by giving people space for praxis and informal learning (c.f. Paolo Friere), that is not necessarily controlled by professionals (c.f. Ivan Illich) and where the democratising nature of education can be brought forward (c.f. John Dewey).

I think the point made by Sue T below also connects here, especially in that quote about "a constellation of functions and roles" in education. Such a constellation can be seen more generally across the boundaries of formal and informal learning, where the spaces and technologies that are demarcated for the "purpose" of education are no longer clear and separate.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The power of Facebook

The BBC News website carried this report on the power of Facebook to change events ( and in this case legislation - in Canada. Not only is this an interesting short case study but it resonates with our own situation - Richard may yet save The Pump and Tap!

Reasons to use Ning

A useful article, that outlines some advantages to using a Ning network for teaching and learning. similar advantages are available for organizations who wish to create a 'learning' network.

social-network-instead-of a VLE

Friday, 14 December 2007

Putting it simply...

An introduction to E-learning and web 2.0 - see articulate presentation link below
I have to admit I love the way they have created it, it's engaging, funny and simple to understand. The creator's site says it all they "..use simple format and real world stories to make sense of complex ideas". By relating to the 'real world' - their representation of concepts make it more meaningful and hence understood.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Future forces affecting jobs in education

A while ago Richard invited me to guest blog here and I apologise that it’s taken me some time to decide what to do. I hope the following is of interest.

In November I was invited to the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto to talk about transliteracy, which they see as a 'disruptive innovation' coming out of DMU. The IFTF is an independent thinktank which reports on future trends (they work very closely with Howard Rheingold, which is how I got to know them) and in 2006 they did some very interesting research for the KnowledgeWorks Foundation on the forces likely to affect education in the future. The IFTF gave me a print copy of the map they produced and I was especially interested in the section on Educators and Learning, particularly the kinds of jobs people like ourselves might be doing in the future.

Interestingly for me in relation to transliteracy, they say that mobile geocoded technologies mean that learning will get increasingly physical, and this digital-physical fusion will enable the community to truly become the classroom, very much echoing my own belief that the separation of learning from life that happened in the late 19th century can now be remedied via technology.

They anticipate that learning will change massively. Urban communities will be become VUCA focal points (VUCA = Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) and that in VUCA communities young people will become the mentors for older members in new methods of urban survival such as urban computing, urban agriculture, and new literacies for building cooperative strategies (this last is their work with Rheingold). Public places will become personal spaces, which of course we are already seeing, and educational content will become context-specific, aligning personal learning needs with physical spaces. We can expect new forms of networks supporting the aggregation and remixing of knowledge and they are quite insistent, rightly I think, that brain research will soon be very instrumental in designing learning experiences based on individual needs.

And who will facilitate all of this in the education environment? Where will the e-learning jobs be?

IFTF say that the new approaches derived from these changes will challenge many teachers because they require ‘unlearning’. This process will cause disruption at all levels including trade unions, who will have to decide whether or not to support the diversification of educational roles. They write:

“As education is unbundled into a constellation of functions and roles to meet the needs of the emerging learning economy, the teaching profession will experience a creative breakout. New administrative, classroom and community roles will differentiate educational careers (providing new jobs) such as content experts, learning coaches, network navigators, cognitive specialists, resource managers and community liaisons”.

I’m curious to know how much of this is already recognizable at DMU, and whether the new roles described above are already happening here or in other HE institutions. Everyone reading this is involved in e-learning, a role that didn’t exist 10 years ago, but what kinds of ‘e-learning’ jobs do you expect to see at DMU in 10 years time, or even in 5?

Something to ponder on as you transit through the winter solstice this year.

Season's Greetings!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Ruth Page on Transliteracy

Yesterday, Dr Ruth Page, (School of English, Birmingham City University) gave a presentation in the Faculty of Humanities, in which she discussed her research and practice into the exploration of transliteracy in the classroom. The title of her talk was “Transliterate discussions: Using wikis to support small group work within English studies”. Transliteracy is “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.” (PART 2007).

The growing importance of integrating new media literacies is now recognised in many areas of educational strategy and vision (see Ruth’s presentation). From a pedagogical perspective, transliteracy is less focused on technology as a way to disseminate information and more on innovative combinations of tools and methods of peer interaction. As Ruth pointed out, the notion of ‘transliteracy’ brings together the experience of crossing many boundaries, types of environment, tools and ways of interacting. Her aim is to incorporate a range of literacies and to build pedagogic bridges into the learning experience. She discussed her use of wikis in English Studies. I particularly liked the way in which mind-maps and other written artefacts developed in class were later 'transposed' to the online environment; these are so often lost at the end of an interactive session. The students were asked to follow up by converting mind maps to coherent sentences and paragraphs, bound together with hyperlinks identified by the students. The students were able to become part of both the process and the ‘transformation’ of products through their interaction with the wiki and with peers and their teacher. Unlike many sessions where we hear of the near-perfect combination of technology and pedagogy, Ruth discussed how, after reflection, she was considering modifications and enhancements for future implementation. Although the case was in linguistics, it is highly relevant to our teaching in all disciplines, allowing students to be active participants, and as Ruth pointed out – deeper learners.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Social Bookmarking - Are you doing it, if not why not?

Some views on the benefits of social bookmarking that may be of interest. Specifically of interest may be reasons why teachers and students should join a social bookmarking site and a discussion of strategies for managing Social Bookmarking learning activities

Social Bookmarking - Reasons and Strategies for use

Let us know what you think!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Blogs and Social Networks

Further on the current run of posts about Facebook, social networking and privacy, are some issues raised at the UKOLN workshop entitled Exploiting the potential of Blogs and Social Networks , which I attended earlier this week (the workshop wiki is worth a look, especially if you’re interested in the current variety of institutional approaches and attitudes towards these technologies). Whereas there appeared to be general all-round enthusiasm about the benefits of Blogging in learning and teaching - as well as its undoubted usefulness in facilitating staff communications and encouraging prospective research networks - the outward-facing, external use of social networking seemed to pose more questions for discussion, particularly from an institutional perspective. For instance: should we have a set of guidelines for social networking or a university approach..and if so, what should it entail? What is the best way to manage the institutional reputation?

Commercial networking sites seem to be trusted by students (apparently more hands-off than educational sites) but can be challenging to align with typical IT and technology strategies. Even so, it was impressive to hear the ways that colleagues in different universities are embracing their potential in initiatives to widen the variety and reach of their communications. We heard of examples of Facebook and other social networking sites being used to disseminate information and to keep in touch with potential students and alumni.

Different arrangements fit with different lifestyles. If prospective and current students are checking Facebook 3 times a day, it seems sensible to use these channels – at least to consider providing the option. Despite the often real hazards of commercial social networking sites (issues of privacy/ institutional reputation management etc), they clearly have some value, particularly for those who do not have access to our internal networks. One thing that occurred to me was the way in which effective collaborative arrangements are developed across departments working together; for example, promotions, recruitment, Web developers and a central role for student unions. One thing I’m still pondering is whether there are particular departments or roles, student union apart, that may be best suited for facilitating communication along the often blurred boundaries between the social and educational aspects of the typical student’s life – any views?
Brian Kelly (UK Web focus) haswritten a summary of the workshop.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Facebook Users Complain Of Tracking

Some users of the online hangout Facebook are complaining that its two-week-old marketing program is publicizing their purchases for friends to see.


Searching Video Lectures

MIT is offering a video search tool that can pinpoint keywords in audio and video lectures.


Friday, 23 November 2007

Facebook Research

Some Research on Facebook for your reading:


Boomers in thrall to a wiki universe

In an article which appeared in the THES on 16th November 2007 (Boomers in thrall to a wiki universe pg 14 if you want to check it out) Tara Brabazon argues that there is a threat to the university library from Web 2.0 initiatives because Google is the new library catalogue and the web is almost a library anyway. Brabazon, a Professor of Media at Brighton, see Librarians as the new Jedi (her allusion, not mine) fighting against the evil empire which constantly reduces funding for knowledge and stops people having the space to think - not sure Obi Wan had that in his job description. Web 2.0 is seen as the empire's new death star (OK that is my allusion) which is being used to batter the librarian/jedi. Perhaps the most telling idea in the article is the argument that spaces such as Wikipedia, Myspace, Facebook etc have democratised information but in the process reduced the role of the expert so that there is now confusion between "finding information and building knowledge". Brabazon argues that if everything is available, instant, downloadable, able to be viewed again at any time, then there is no time to think about things deeply - it is all too easy and too shallow.
what do you think?


Thursday, 22 November 2007

Food for thought - don't talk with your mouth full!

A conversation at work got me thinking, it was about 'food and children' - how children/young teens are increasingly eating finger foods and packed lunches (sandwiches) and most children don't fully have the opportunity to use cutlery (knife & fork) at all meal times and thus don't know how to use them properly or need to be corrected at a skill which should have been attained at a young age. I know we have to go with the times ...but this got me thinking about how our younger generation is shaping up in other areas which do have an influence in how they interact with others - their communication skills. (Without trying to sound like a minister) as we are getting increasingly digital in most aspects of communication (mobile phones, gaming, personal and social and in education) it concerns me that the essential value of face-to-face interaction is not undermined.

It's great that we have these avenues of communication which allow those who prefer to express themselves in this way can, but I feel in a learning environment in particular that we do not undervalue face-to-face real time interactions which are vital so that core essential communication skills are developed and reinforced.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Do small firms really need a website?

OK so this article is about small-businesses and not HE, however it indicates to some valuable points about having some sort of web presence for any luddites that may be lurking in DMU! ;-) Mohamed
As far as web-literate consumers are concerned, internet search engines generally offer the best way to track down a local plumber or find out where the local pet shop is based.

Martha Lane Fox and co-founder of Brent Hoberman pose to promote the website. The boundaries of internet and traditional start-ups have blurred. After all, a reputable company will have its own website, right?


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Facebook faces UK data probe Why can't we delete accounts?

Facebook is facing investigation by UK data protection watchdogs after a complaint from a British user who tried, and failed, to delete his account.

Facebook accounts can be "deactivated" but not actually deleted. Your profile remains in the Facebook servers but cannot be accessed by anyone else.


Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Legal Warning to Abusive Bloggers

The Directors of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club have won a high court ruling against a website to reveal the identity of anonymous bloggers who made serious allegations of greed and dishonesty against the club's chairman, directors and shareholders. Indeed exposing the identity of those who post defamatory comments on a website has become a growth area for lawyers. FE and HE institutions are cautiously reminded of the legal sanctions that may well be imposed in relation to defamatory content posted on their websites.


Excerpt taken from JISC Legal newsletter October 2007.

Pirate Website Shut Down

One of the world's leading pirate film websites has been closed and a man arrested following raids by Gloucestershire Police. The website was providing links to illegal film content that had been recorded by camcorders at the cinema. The links provided access to illegal material hosted by other websites.
FE and HE institutions should be aware of the legal risks associated with video piracy and their need to adopt an anti-piracy policy. Read More...

Excerpt taken from JISC Legal newsletter October 2007.

Monday, 12 November 2007

When the Patient Is a Googler

When the Patient Is a Googler
By Scott Haig

We had never met, but as we talked on the phone I knew she was Googling me. The way she drew out her conjunctions, just a little, that was the tip off — stalling for time as new pages loaded. It was barely audible, but the soft click-click of the keyboard in the background confirmed it. Oh, well, it's the information age. Normally, she'd have to go through my staff first, but I gave her an appointment.


Scrabulous anyone?

I'm in my sick-bed reading the Guardian and happening upon this article on Facebook. I heard a 50-something businessman chuntering on about social networking without a shred of understanding on 5Live business a few weeks ago.

The section that most caught my attention was:
"Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, said that managers should be realistic. "Britain has some of the longest working hours in the developed world. Employers have created this culture. It is natural for people to have to use work computers for organising their personal life." Social networking has boomed over the past 12 months. Facebook alone now has more than 5 million regular users in the UK."

Perhaps this is just the meshing of work and social life. Or simply that "life" cannot be demarcated between personal, work and other. The technologies that empower each area of a life would support that. However, we still have that JISC evidence that suggests students do not want academic life impinging upon social networking...

Social networkers warned of risk

Users are being warned not to post personal details on their profiles
A quarter of the 11 million Britons who use social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook may be leaving themselves open to identity fraud.


Friday, 9 November 2007

BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme

I don't know whether anybody listened to the latest edition of Analysis last night but I found it to be of interest. The programme looked at social networking, particularly the rise of Facebook and Myspace. It probably didn't uncover any new ground but did manage to sum up the current state of play fairly well I thought.
You can download the programme as a podcast or use the BBC's "Listen again" facility. All relevant links are on this webpage as is a transcript of the programme which might prove useful:


Thursday, 8 November 2007

Give me a 'learning' network anyday

A few of the following thoughts crossed my mind as a title for this blog. What is the point of this blog? (not in a sarcastic way), what is the purpose of this blog? I ask these questions because i am wondering whether another vehicle i.e a ning social networking site would be a far far better option to better foster debate and discussion on the many interesting blog entries that are posted.

My assumption is that a lot of the blog posts are initiated to stimulate interest, discussion and maybe illicit a response. The comment feature i believe is inadequate to encourage debate and don't think it has really designed for that purpose.

If this blog is just about relaying information then this can be done just as easily on a ning social network environment with all the added benefits of further developing arguments and discussions.

I don't know what the dynamics or the chemistry involved are but these easily created personalized ning social networking sites have an interface that seems to encourage interaction and collaboration amongst its participants.

If as part of the project this blog is a stipulated part of the disseminating of information then my view is that with the advent of social networking the blogging approach has been superseded by a much more flexible, usable and multifunctional option - the personalized 'learning' network.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Learner experiences

So the Guardian education section appears to have picked up on the JISC's learner experiences report. Under the banner of trendy academics get out of MySpace the report focuses upon the separation of the academic and social life of students.

Part of our project will involve evaluating the student experiences of particular Web2.0 software, in particular to enhance retention and progression, and to attemptto understand how specific technologies, like podcasting, can integrate with the student's technological expectations.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Web2.0: Security, Privacy, Safety & Legalities

This is a mini response to Richard's "The great Blackboard Facebook mash-up: part two". The issues that Richard refers to in his post have been occupying my thoughts to recently.

I must admit i find myself being a bit blaze about the situation because the massive educational advantages are so strong that it seems criminal not to leverage these fantastic tools to best advantage. With all the talk of security, safety & legalities it's got the whole 'health and safety legislation' feel to it where for either honest or obstructive reasons the most important aspect of education the learning is stifled and creativity nullified.

That said, we at DMU just like any other organisations need to stop skirting around the issue and really identify what the problems are. Are there issues - well let's nail it down one way or the other and start developing some policies - i think i working group needs to look into this.

So where is the security threat coming from? is it from Hackers or from the organizations that are providing the service. I am just about to post messages in various learning networks i am involved with along the lines of "have you ever experienced i case of hacking into your social networking site, wiki or blog". This threat is often spouted, but i have not heard of this being a big problem at all.

So with regard personal data, contributions, data tracking of activity, my question is who is the real danger from? Strikes me that if my first theory is not a big problem then the threat comes from the organizations offering the web 2.0 services.

So institutions like ourselves need to scrutinize privacy policies of sites like blogger, facebook or maybe just google and yahoo! We might find an unpalatable truth that there is not a great deal that can be done, and then choices have to be made.

One choice is creating your own social network with a trusted partner or in house, which can achieve a lot and be effective, but this will not get away from the isolationist approach that will deny access to the world and vice versa.

wrapped up in all of this are personal privacy, security and safety of individual students and the many legal issues that will be faced by institutions and individuals. So do we blaze on ahead with no regard, shy away from the educational advantages or develop a policy that can address any concerns?

ps: on the specific point about retrospectively deleting comments - if you withdraw from a site. If you make a comment, then that's it part of history done - it's part of the conversation - would be a bit strange to me to retrospectively keep stripping comments out when people leave a site. This is one of the issues that students need to be aware of - it is difficult to take things back, comments, photos, videos etc - so be careful about what you are doing?

Monday, 5 November 2007

The great Blackboard Facebook mash-up: part two

The European Network and Information Security Agency has produced an interesting position paper on social networking. Some of the key issues in this particular paper focus upon the following issues.
  • Who do you trust? We share our data very easily in social networking sites like Bebo and Facebook. Do we really know how information is being used and who is accessing it? Do we really know how our information is being shared? Or how it is being stored?
  • The impact of secondary data. How transparent social networking sites in their management and monitoring of your data? Who gets to see this data? Who gets to see how many times you have accessed a particular friend's profile? Who gets to see your individual transactions in the form of links that you have made on a particular social networking site? A key recommendation of the paper is that the European Union should look at the data protection issues surrounding secondary data on social networking sites.
  • With the economic value of social networking sites rising, how do we know which advertisers and which marketers are targeting, which specific cohorts of users.
  • How do we control the digital dossiers which are held about us by third parties? How do we maintain control of our own identity? How do we prevent profile squatting and reputation slander? How do we prevent threatening behaviour, like stalking and bullying?
  • We are seeing an increase in Web services mash-ups, akin to that between Blackboard and Class Top. These mash-ups may also include face recognition, with the platform of data being held about a person, and being used to track interactions. this can also lead to information-leakage from within particular trust networks.
  • An individual's control of their own data. For instance, how do we know, when we have deleted our own personal data from a site like Facebook the interactions or comments that we have made with other people's profiles are also deleted?
  • Spam, viruses and worms can all be scripted, and can all lead to unsolicited problems for users.
It is critical that users are educated, in order that they understand the possible threats to their data. For instance, students should not give details about the courses that they are attending, and the times of their lectures to people, whose interests they cannot validate.

Perhaps as important is the fact that social networking sites are social. They involve networks of individuals. As such, where access is granted to a network by a particular individual, that network needs to be assured that it interests are being secured and maintained. The key to this are trust and the appropriate management of data. therefore, educational awareness raising must be encouraged by institutions.

This paper is a highly important addition to the growing evaluation of social networking sites. institutions need to take account of its recommendations and look to develop appropriate policies and awareness raising activities with both staff and students. Partnership with a range of central services, and student unions is critical.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Silver surfers get Facebook-style website

The over-50s now have their own internet social networking site. Users can create personal profiles complete with pictures, message each other and join discussion groups.

Silver surfers get Facebook-style website
Saga Zone includes web forums on subjects ranging from gardening tips to relationship advice

Called Saga Zone, the Facebook-style site's national launch today follows data released by Ofcom in August which showed "silver surfers" spend increasing amounts of time online.


Sunday, 28 October 2007

Learnadoodledastic: Community Building, Learning Networks and all thatJazz

I meant to publish here in the first place, please see link below: A few interesting links on community building, social networks, the power of web 2.0 and my views on DMU and the creation of a learning network.

Learnadoodledastic: Community Building, Learning Networks and all thatJazz

Friday, 26 October 2007

Using wikis to promote colloborative learning - Seminar

I’m reporting back from a seminar presented by Steve Wheeler (University of Plymouth) – ‘Using Wikis to promote collaborative learning’ at Leicester University. This was a two hour seminar and I feel after going is intended for those who are ‘new’ to the coined concept Web 2.0 - I think were stuck with the term as it’s a way of defining how we can and are engaging with the internet as participants as opposed to merely being passive recipients of information (in Web 1.0!). In his introduction we had the brief about ‘new technology’ (ipods and the social collaborative tools available); and an attendee noted that these technologies are not really that new, people have been sharing photos, videos and views on the web, what is ‘new’ is that today these technologies are more accessible to us. The question for us (involved in higher education) and I’m sure will be evident soon in our ‘projects’ – Do these new technologies create new opportunities in education? Is this a passing trend? Or is there genuine potential to improve the quality of the educational experience and learning outcomes? These are not easy questions to answer, to the first I can say ‘yes’ on the grounds that these technologies enable us to ‘reach’ a much wider audience and allow us to deploy a range of tools in doing so to enhance the learning experience - I do think there is genuine potential in that these ‘new tools or social platforms’ (as well as our existing ones!) are only as valuable if used in a practical manner targeted toward specific goals/pedagogy. If they're used without rhyme or reason, their value - educational or otherwise - is null.

I found the following description of ‘web 2.0’ useful in what these new technologies encapsulate “we are the web, we teach the machine, we render the internet as a living organism. Rather than searching for information by a pre-determined algorithm, we give meaning and order to the multitude of websites by arranging and organizing it in a way that better suits us and can better serve us. That is web 2.0. By that rational the website and service mash-ups for example are web 2.0 because we found new and better ways to organize the information and platforms, in a way that makes more (human) sense” (Source ‘Shay’ – a contributor to the debate of web 2.0 “ .
[Back to wikis in the educational context]. Steve reported on his experience with using wikis with his students (we were informed that we will be given the link to his presentation which I will add once they have put it up!). Steve’s wiki findings:

‘The good’
· Encouraged critical awareness
· Encouraged more accurate referencing and ‘focus’ of study (i.e. instead of making say a premature judgment in a class environment, more time was given to reflect on views and preparing (for some) on their own comments).
· Deliberating complex ideas

The ‘not so good’
· Assessment of individual work in a collaborative wiki
· Some students do not ‘like’ editing contents of friends, and do not warm so much to idea that ‘others’ can change their work
· Motivating students for continued engagement, someone mentioned the term ‘assessment’!

Steve views wikis as ‘ephemeral’ – the possibility of having the wiki archived as a repository for other students ‘may not have the same impact (heat!) for the ‘learner’. My hot/cold analogy - the more involvement (warm) you have rather than simply passive receiver (cold) the more likely it is to be meaningful and therefore retained. On the otherhand if the passive receiver (cold) does something with the information - the more of value it will be to them. To get the benefits of an aerobic excercise video - you have to particpate , simply watching from your couch won't reap the same rewards.

What is the difference between the wiki and the discussion board?

A Discussion board: read by everybody (within context), written by everybody, only own contributions can be edited.
A Wiki: read by everybody (within context), written by everybody, edited by everybody.

The seminar was going to cover Second Life - 3D wiki! but we ran out of time!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

BBC - Facebook

...and as if by magic here are 15 reasons why Facebook is worth $15 billion (apparently).

Blackboard-Facebook mash-up

So there is a Bb-Facebook mash-up available from ClassTop, called CourseFeed. ClassTop declare that the Facebook app enables students to "Browse your courses, post messages to the class, share notes – all without ever leaving Facebook. CourseFeed also alerts you when your professor posts announcements, tests, or content to Blackboard®. And you’ll get alerts when classmates post to the course wall and share notes." []

On the Facebook wall for this application one Ian Stiles notes that "The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is designed to protect students, not deny them the right to share educational information for certain benefits."

Whilst on the surface this may have the appearances of a killer-app, mashing-up institutional and non-institutional spaces, there are two issues that come to mind. Firstly, do students want this type of mash-up or would they rather a clear distinction between "work" or "College" and their social spaces? Secondly, the ClassTop Privacy policy raises questions.

  1. Our Turnitin UK mash-up with Blackboard is licensed and is thereby governed by a strict commercial and legally-binding contract. This covers and safeguards the use of personal data, denoting that whilst iParadigms in the US is the data processor, our University is the data owner. The ClassTop Privacy Policy is very clear that it intends to collect "personal information" and that "When you register with CourseFeed and sign-in to our services, you are not anonymous to us." Moreover, they collect data so that they can offer "personalised features", which include advertising.
  2. They also state that "When you update information, we usually keep a back-up copy of the prior version for a reasonable period of time to enable reversion to the prior version". There is no indication of what reasonable means, or for whom they need to revert this information.
  3. "You post content on the site at your own risk." Clearly we can track interactions on Blackboard but not on this Facebook app. The validity of those interactions and their nature, alongside the verification of other users who may be able to see and use that information, including course content that is the IPR of the institution or a third-party, is a huge issue.
  4. They are up-front about tracking usage of the site by individual users, and link this to advertising and anonymous reporting.
  5. ClassTop intimate that "By providing CourseFeed with login information to courses on your school's learning management system, such as Blackboard(r), you grant CourseFeed permission to notify your classmates of availability of CourseFeed on Facebook and retrieve all course related information and content such as but not limited to files, folders, assignments, announcements, personal contact information, course roster information, grades, and calendar entries for the purpose of displaying and notifying you and classmates of online course activity through the CourseFeed interface and/or email." This appears to threaten the integrity of other classmate's data, and the institution's content. Whilst they note that "We recognize the sensitive nature of course related information and content and will maintain the same level of privacy and separation currently implemented by your school's learning management system. For example, just like in your current learning management system only you will be able to see your grades", do students have the right to share data that isn't their ow? Shouldn't ClassTop have an agreement to safeguard IPR, copyright and personal data with the institution?
  6. Finally. the policy talks about allowing ClassTop staff to come into contact with user's personal data to facilitate their work, and that they have safeguards to protect information. However, other than basic information about a secure server and a firewall, the policy is silent on what these safeguards actually are.
So there are big issues here for the management and security of institutional and personal data and content. As the interface between institutional and non-institutional technologies blurs it throws these issues into stark relief, and HEIs will need to develop their own technological and human procedures to safeguard the integrity of their own information.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Project Board: 23 October 2007

The Project Board met yesterday. The key messages were as follows.

  1. Evaluation is critical. We have to be able to show the impact of the interventions that we have made. We need, therefore, to be collating evidence for the claims that we make and that includes baseline data. Baseline data should evidence the current state-of-play (i.e. pre-intervention).
  2. On WP1: both engagement and non-engagement with the PGCert wikis need to be captured. So we need to know what action plans were produced by users and how were they implemented. But given that we currently have around 25 participants not engaging we need to know why (e.g. technophobia, lack of time/interest).
  3. On WP2: on the work with Design Management Programme Leaders, in developing a marketing plan for prospective students, we need to capture what works and what doesn’t and track this through with students who arrive on the programme next session (after the project ends). There is a spin-off in this work in AAD as staff who were previously less engaged with e-learning are pushing forward with the development of multi-media. Note 1: we are also working with HR on evaluating their approach to coaching as a leadership activity. Note 2: we are working with a sub-set of Teacher Fellows on using social networking and bookmarking tools to lead pedagogic research development across DMU.
  4. On WP3: the developments in Registry, ISAS, Library, SPS and HLS Faculty Office need to be grounded so that they are relevant rather than abstract. For instance, Library users need developmental sessions that enable the to produce a knowledge base in the form of a wiki that helps them achieve their aims.
  5. On WP4: podcasts and webcasts need to be evaluated in the context of the curriculum. How are they helping student learning and enhancing face-to-face experiences? How do they signpost debates or developments?
  6. On WP5: the critical issue is mapping the gaps in provision for students when the come into DMU. So work with English in the Workplace students on providing guides for students and with Abi Moriarty’s Transitions project needs to ascertain what those gaps are and then measure the impact of what we put in place in the faculties/Library. Capturing the student voice is critical here, but it was felt that students need something to engage with first, before they add to or develop it. This deeper engagement with the student voice might be another spin off for the project.
  7. On WP6: Steve Mackenzie’s Web2.0 collaborative learning sessions with staff will support the work that we are doing in Second Life with staff development. So we need to ensure that these sessions are evaluated for impact. We also need to transfer those sessions into SL, to evaluate the impact for staff of coming together to explore social networking and bookmarking technologies collaboratively. This might include linking SL to or or for use in SL, but where the outputs were saved in a defined space in or or This would enable staff to get-to-grips with SL, but also to learn about social networking and bookmarking.
  8. WP7/dissemination: it was felt that there would be scope for a publication, perhaps with NIACE, with our CAMEL, for a cross-institutional evaluation. The HEA Research Observatory may also be interested in this approach. Once he CAMEL had met, a HEA briefing would be useful, possibly as an entry on the Pathfinder blog. We need to think about best dates for the symposium.
  9. The Board highlighted that we would need to grapple with the issues around the interface between institutional and non-institutional technologies. E.g. archiving from or access to technologies that we do not own and cannot control.
  10. Sustainability is key – how do we ensure that the project’s outputs are embedded or built upon once the project ends? Kathryn Arnold and I will develop a series of briefing papers for SMG, ULTC, FLTCs and OMG, highlighting the value of this project to DMU. It might also be worthwhile discussing how best to get this information disseminated from ULTC into the faculties.
  11. Evaluation: did I mention that already?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

This blog explores the use of Web2.0 in various educational contexts.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Libraries in the Digital Age - conference visit

Libraries in the Digital Age: What if..?
Europa Congress Centre, Budapest, 21st October 2007.

Summary statement:
DMU should review the use of scenario planning as a tool for planning for the impact of future federalisation, globalisation and regionalisation. Review how learning spaces can be developed to accommodate students, allowing the integration of virtual and physical to provide a comprehensive learning environment. Where possible the university should encourage greater collaboration between the support departments and academic faculties to help bring about a vision for the 21st Century.

1. Outputs and outcomes: the main outcomes were

· Awareness of scenario planning.
· Considered how to integrate virtual and physical environments into a coherent and supportive learning space.
· Gave thought to how students now operate as independent, self motivated, self regulated and collaborative individuals.
· Awareness of JISC’s “Digital Libraries in the Classroom” (

2. Issues and challenges: the main issues are for us

· This requires the development of a more personalised system allowing the students to play to their strengths. One size no longer fits all!
· Close collaboration between academic staff and support colleagues will be more crucial to develop useful and innovative methods of delivery that move the university forward.
· Need for us to maintain a holistic approach to integration and a vision for the 21st Century.
· The University must monitor the impact of regionalisation, federalisation and globalisation and prepare as a change in the direction of any of these will affect the services we offer and may wish to provide.

Web 2.0 and Policy : JISC

The study provides a set of recommendations for JISC, institutions, and
teachers on the effective use of Web 2.0 technologies for sharing content
for teaching and learning. This was achieved by desk research
building on JISC-funded and other work already undertaken, and widespread
consultation across the community through an online workshop. The desk
research looked at both existing practice and institutional policies, which
can facilitate or inhibit the use of Web 2.0 technologies to share content.
To provide a focus for the workshop, we published the results of our desk
research together with any interim conclusions and the issues that we
believed the workshop needed to address. The workshop had
a specific focus each day to ensure that all the important issues were


Friday, 12 October 2007

Britt Watwood's Posts - College 2.0

Book Review of Palloff and Pratt's Building Online Learning Communities. I think this is a sweet review with pertinent analysis and comment. What do you think?

Britt Watwood's Posts - College 2.0

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Facebook versus Ning

We have a discussion running on our Facebook group about Facebook versus Ning. In essence this boils down to "the use of the social networking tools for short bursts of learning, where participants are expecting [and expected] to contribute and debate" [Steve Mackenzie] This is an interesting way of getting our staff to think about synchronous and asynchronous conferencing. We would like them to think about task-driven, time-limited activities, where it is the task that shapes the use of a tool, rather than the tool becoming omnipresent.

Ning enables you to manage videos, break-out groups, photos, discussions for specific communities, as well as for oneself. Facebook has a cleaner interface and is more fun. I wonder whether we will see a growth in Ning for "task-driven, time-limited academic activities"?

JISC podcasts

I decided to try to catch up with some of the JISC podcasts on new technologies,during a "quiet" moment. The Web2.0-related podcasts and their key points include:

#6 - Techwatch and Web2.0: the Techwatch Web2.0 report is a must read. This podcast is not really a must listen unless you are interested in how Techwatch works. The podcast covers the report's identification of the difference betwen first and second-generation social software, issues around standards and the web as platform, and the 6 big ideas (user-generated content, network effects, data on an epic scale, the wisdom of crowds, open standards and participation). It talks about the lack of data on student expectations for the assumptions around Web2.0.

#7 - Web2.0 and education: this podcast covers the implications of new applications for education. Lawie Phipps highlights the characteristics of the read-write web for interaction and participation. Community is flagged by in terms of bookmarking, sharing and networking by David White. In education the impact of self-selecting, tribal social networking spaces with a shared immediacy is noted. Interestingly Lawrie figures that it is the impact of the technologies on the social, emotive side of life that engages us. The key question is do students feel that education is invading a distinctly non-academic, social space? Can teaching be interwoven in to these spaces? Do we harness Facebook or build our own? Or both?

#14 - IPR and Web2.0: the impact of repurposing original material; rights in collaborative working; how to share someone else's digital material; the impact of the open culture of Web2.0 on IPR, and the blur between the personal and the corporate; "ticketing" material for re-use; risk assessment for HEIs and staff; publishing to Web2.0 is publishing - do you have the rights to do so; think through the question "if I were the owner of this material how would I feel about its publication?"; if you create a identity on Web2.0 who owns or controls that identity? Can Facebook tailor advertising to your interests? Do you mind?

Monday, 1 October 2007

Student podcast experience

I have just released an anonymous online questionnaire on podcasting for my Yr 2 Pharmacy students (re: WP4) - prior to using podcasts in my lectures - and am surprised to learn from the 37 replies I have had to date, that 73% of them have never watched/listened to a podcast.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Mdels and taxonomies


the last post was really meant for the PGCertHE blog but you'll see how I'm trying to set short tasks pre face-to-face sessions whereby they are using the blog to access some prior reading and, hopefully, reflecting and commenting on it.

Models and Taxonomies:How useful are they?

See this post from the PgCertHE blog about models and taxonomies for new staff:

10 Future Web Trends

We're well into the current era of the Web, commonly referred to as Web 2.0. Features of this phase of the Web include search, social networks, online media (music, video, etc), content aggregation and syndication (RSS), mashups (APIs), and much more. Currently the Web is still mostly accessed via a PC, but we're starting to see more Web excitement from mobile devices (e.g. iPhone) and television sets (e.g. XBox Live 360).

What then can we expect from the next 10 or so years on the Web?

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Project meeting: 25 September 2007

So we met yesterday to let the teams catch-up on each others' work-packages. The progress reports have now all been posted on our Blackboard-based Wiki. Team members who weren't there should read the reports. We are also using the Wiki for conference reports and to flag relevant project outcomes and issues.

Work-package headlines from yesterday are as follows:
1. WP1: There are issues of maintaining momentum with PG Cert HE staff who are planning to teach and actually teaching. The assessment for the PG Cert students has been revamped to include e-learning. The June group are editing action plans and we need now to offer them follow-up sessions. [Action: HC and RH]

2. WP1/WP6: Steve Mackenzie is delivering some synchronous development sessions on pedagogical and technological issues with members of the PG Cert HE and Faculty of HLS. We will evaluate this approach to test its sustainability. Library front-desk staff may also benefit from this approach, as their shift-work impacts upon access to professional development. [Action: SM and AB]

3. WP3: There are issues of maintaining momentum with Library staff who are thinking about using Web 2.0 approaches in their work. We intend to offer developmental sessions, linked to staff development reviews. [Action: AB] We also intend to review the ISAS approach to using Wikis as knowledge bases [Action: RH] The team also intend to review the non-technical issues around the conversion of extant support and training materials for a Web 2.0 age. [Action: JT, MYK and AB]

4. WP4: the iTunes issue for catching and feeding Blackboard-hosted podcasts t users has been resolved, so that the podcast tool now works with iTunes
. A key issue is the apparent reticence of users to be recorded for the production of webcasts. We have feedback to suggest that some users do not like hearing or seeing themselves on-line, or committing to this type of “publication”. This is a potential issue that will require intervention with specific teaching teams in order to build effective local, coping strategies. Initial evidence suggests that few students use or subscribe to podcasts, so there may be a cultural issue for staff teams. The third issue arising is the support we can offer staff in answering the question of streaming vs podcasting.

5. WP5: case studies will be produced for AAD, BAL, Hums and Library in the use of tools to support first-years in student-student communication. [Action: HC to talk to Jo Leese in DSU re: student reps' experiences of tools like Facebook]

6. WP6: Our Second Life Island has been purchased and activated, and staff who registered an interest have been invited in. Twelve staff are registered so far, and a user group has been formed. A building party is being held on 15 October. Subsequent staff development events will be planned and delivered by the user-group. A meeting was held with Howard Rheingold in the IOCT in September to discuss ways forward with SL. We intend to use his videos to prime some of our developments. Steve Mackenzie is delivering some synchronous development sessions. We will evaluate this approach to test its sustainability. The DMU e-Learning Pathfinder team have a Facebook group. There is no protocol for its use, but its development will be mapped as a project management and dissemination tool.

7. WP7: RH has been in contact with NIACE about the publication of the project’s findings. [Action: RH to meet with JC re: conference]

See also:

Matters arising:
  • headsets and webcams for all team members;
  • monies to be re-charged this week with covering letters to budget holders; and
  • access to iTunes for all team members.

Burnout: key messages

What an interesing article about humanity that Steve Mac has posted this morning. In particular the article picksup on theimpact of technologies on DL tutors, but it has resonance for us all in environments that are "always on" and where the expectations of those who cannot look you in the eye and connect with you may be out-of-step with what you can deliver.

The article focuses upon:
1) emotional exhaustion;
2) depersonalization; and
3) personal accomplishment.

It goes on to highlight that institutional managers must:
"1. Consult with online faculty on matters directly impacting their learning environment (i.e., curriculum development);
2. Provide adequate resources to support online instructors (i.e., technology support resources);
3. Provide detailed job descriptions and faculty expectations to reduce role ambiguity;
4. Create and maintain clear lines of communication between online faculty and administrators by providing
performance feedback;
5. Facilitate professional development activities (i.e., mentoring, advanced training using online technology); and
6. Reduce teaching load and number of students per online course."

Given the impact of new technologies and approaches these human issues have a real resonance for staff.


An issue that is of importance, especially if online learning is not given due respect and consideration in any faculty or institution delivery strategy

Exploring burnout among university online instructors: An initial investigation

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Facebook is UK's biggest networking site

Facebook has overtaken MySpace as the UK's most popular social networking site.

Despite privacy concerns over the personal information of its members, around 6.5 million people in Britain visited the site during August - up 541 per cent since last December.


Web 2.0 and me: a sordid tale of attraction and fear.

Now I don’t want to appear like one of those retired colonels sitting in his leather wingback chair snorting with derision into his Daily Telegraph but I am beginning to feel that the brave new world of my students and my own children is just plain incomprehensible. Just like your Grandad wearing jeans and white trainers, I feel that I ought to keep up and know what’s going on but I know I will probably look rather ridiculous in the process. I am never going to be “down with the kids” but I ought to try…hadn’t I?

So, I have been reading quite a lot recently about Web 2.0 and social networking. I am interested in the way that a new generation of users is taking the technology and bending it to their own needs rather than using a pre-packaged product that Bill Gates provides for us. It strikes a chord with me; it is a new high-tech version of do-it-yourself – a reminder of the freedom and anarchy of punk. Yet it also raises interesting pedagogic questions for us as teachers and educationalists: what can our students already do as they sit before us on day one of a new academic year? What are they used to regarding access to technology? What do they expect us to provide and use? Importantly these questions raise challenges for us: How are we to respond to these expectations? Indeed should we respond at all?

Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University is a cultural anthropologist and media ecologist who, according to his website (, has been “exploring the impacts of new media on human interaction”. He has posted an interesting and thought-provoking video on YouTube called The Machine is Us/ing Us
( which illustrates the power of Web 2.0 technologies and the way that it is different from the previous incarnations of the WWW. What is equally interesting is the response that there has been to this posting. It is, according to his webpage, “the most popular video in the blogosphere”. It is true that the postings on Youtube are many and various but there are also an increasing number of video responses – fellow enthusiasts or detractors using the technology as a vehicle for talking creatively about the technology; all very post-modern I am sure.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) has produced a range of publications on the way in which technology impinges on education in general and schools in particular. Their 2006 report Emerging Technologies for Learning ( uses a series of case studies to illustrate the ways in which Web 2.0 technologies are starting to impinge on the learning environment. In one case study Geoff Stead describes a near future in which advances in the hardware allow students to have wider access to mobile technology and where, as a consequence, there will be a greater pressure on those in education to use this facility in the delivery of provision. In another Leon Cych discusses the growth of social networking, a development which Web 2.0 technologies easily facilitate. This second idea is taken up and discussed at greater length in a 2006 JISC funded report by Paul Anderson, What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education (

Now I can see that such advances will allow those students who are traditionally hard to reach or for whom physically attending college or university is not always possible or appropriate more easily access to educational provision and their fellow students and that has to be a good thing. But I also worry about two things: for the student there appears to be an opportunity to replace the face-to-face experience with a remote, isolating experience and I am not sure that is always the best way to learn; and for the tutor there appears to be an unspoken pressure to use the new technologies just because they are there rather than because they are appropriate.
For me this new technology should be regarded in the same way that the biro was or even laptops and data projectors – they should be used when they prove to be better than what went before. I fear that we may be caught in the same trap that resulted in the classic disease, Death by PowerPoint: a pressure to use something just because everyone else does. Not to use it seems to imply incompetence whereas poor or inappropriate use publicly shows the very thing we are trying to avoid! So I heartily recommend the three sources mentioned briefly here, they provide a stimulus for an interesting debate. For me though it is the debate that is of primary importance, for out of that will hopefully come a conscious decision to use the technology or not because it is appropriate for the subject matter and the students involved; in other words it will be a decision based on pedagogy – now that does sound old-fashioned, even reactionary!

Nick Allsopp

Monday, 24 September 2007

'$100 laptop' to sell to public

Students at a school in Nigeria

Computer enthusiasts in the developed world will soon be able to get their hands on the so-called "$100 laptop".

The organisation behind the project has launched the "give one, get one" scheme that will allow US residents to purchase two laptops for $399 (£198).


Job losses over eBay 'addiction'

Three council workers have lost their jobs for spending too long on the internet auction site eBay.

One was sacked and two resigned after managers at Neath Port Talbot Council found some staff were spending up to two hours a day on the website.

Union officials have blamed bosses for "putting temptation in their way" - by allowing access to the internet.

The council said it carried out an investigation after officials spent a "significant time" on the internet.

It said another two cases were being investigated while another member of staff had been given a warning.

Union officials said in all, over an 18 month period, up to six council staff had lost their jobs.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Folksonomy II: the wisdom of crowds

I love social bookmarking and tagging. It's a wonderful way to refind old stuff, share new stuff and discover things or people that you would never have found any other way. Yesterday's folksonomy sessions hosted by the IOCT nailed these issues for me. The key outcomes from the sessions focus upon:

  1. new tools that may build the social networking experience by enhancing recommendations to users, connecting users to each other, to websites and to web objects, including: StumbleUpon; FURL;; and Magnolia;
  2. the impact upon a user's identity, through participation with others in various groups, and the meaning that those users generate from participating;
  3. the user's perceptions of the value of specific interactions (with web sites, individual taggers, tags and groups);
  4. the politics of Web 2.0, the control of vocabularies and the means of production;
  5. the impact on the user of the context of specific tags, based upon taxonomies, individual need and another individual's identity, in order to create personal meaning;
  6. Rashmi Sinha's view that "the beauty of tagging is that it taps into an existing cognitive process without adding much cognitive cost";
  7. the relationship between objects to be tagged, individuals who are tagging, the tags or metadata assigned and the communities that are created;
  8. the differences between folksonomy and taxonomy, around the limits on or lack of: structure; control; resources; participation; democratic processes; and the nature of emergent and validated behaviour;
  9. analysis of tags through a clean-up process that merges some (e.g. e-learning and elearning) or controls stems (are tags, tagging and tagger the same for analysis?) or evaluates synonyms;
  10. the value for refindability; team-work; understanding context; storing resources; working across silos; and networking - I'm really interested in these as possible areas for development for support staff, as well as academic teams and student groups, and maybe in combination with other applications like Facebook for wider networking;
  11. the user's ability to use tools for saving, refinding, exploring, searching and interacting, and the belief that granularity has value and that algorithms for searching can make life more efficient;
  12. selective sharing, and building or evaluating trust in individual taggers, tags or web objects; and
  13. the portability of tags, descriptions, identities and communities across applications over time.

In simple terms tagging and group folksonomies can impact upon work processes, and that will be a fruitful avenue for WP1 and WP2, as well as WP7. We need to focus upon the power for refindability of information, team-work, understanding context, storing resources, working across silos and networking.

However, the sessions got me thinking about control and power and politics, and the work of Ivan Illich. De-schooling and the impact on the role of the professional, in order to broaden a social democratic agenda, is definitely an area for more exploration. As is the merging of work and non-work identities where tools are used in both arenas (if such a dichotemy actually exists).

Monday, 17 September 2007


"Folksonomy" was recently voted one of the new terms most likely to make you "wince, shudder or want to bang your head on the keyboard." Our Institute for Creative Technologies is hosting a talk by the inventor of the term – Thomas Vander Wal - tomorrow from 2 -3.30pm in Clephan 0.01. The talk is open to all and will not require any specialist knowledge on behalf of the audience.

A Folksonomy can be created when users of "web2.0" sites such as YouTube, Flickr, LastFM and add keywords ("tags") to the items they view in order to add information about these items. As more and more users tags such items more information is created about the items. Unlike library catalogues which are created by experts, folksonomies are like catalogues created by everyday people. For some, this heralds a brave new era of democratic information management, for others it heralds the death of expertise.

Thomas Vander Wal lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and this is a rare opportunity to hear him in the UK. He coined the term "folksonomy" in 2004 and is a popular speaker on tagging and folksonomy, social web, and web applications around well-structured information. He is principal, and senior consultant at InfoCloud Solutions, a social web consulting firm. Thomas has been working professionally on the web since 1995 (with a professional IT background beginning in 1988) and has breadth and depth across many roles and disciplines around web design, social web development & research and general web development. He is a member of the Web Standards Project Steering Committee and helped found the Information Architecture Institute and Boxes & Arrows web magazine. See his web site to find out more:

The lecture is presented as part of the AHRC-funded research project Tags Networks Narratives, examining the interdisciplinary application of experimental social software to the study of narrative in digital contexts. It is a unique speculative project assessing the potential for collaborative social-software techniques such as folksonomy in narrative research.

There will also be a morning seminar. You can find out more at:

Monday, 10 September 2007

Betty Collis Seminar - "Wikis: Flavour of the month or the tool that can change learning.

Heather and i attended this seminar which was organised by Leicester University as they come to the end of their first year of the Phase 1 Academy e-learning pathfinder HEI's.

Betty explained the build up to the seminar by recapping her two previous seminars related to the subject matter. These were I) the identification of a pedagogical approach that could be classified as a "Contributing Pedagogy" (which was not necessarily about any specific technology) and ii) six different surges of technology which all had claims to be the surge (technology) to 'make a fundamental change' to the way we learn. Betty explained how she has over the years used the 4E model to predict whether these new technologies would have a significant impact.

This lead to the main purpose of the seminar, which was to use the 4e Model to predict whether wiki's could make a significant impact. Using the 4E Model Betty was optimistic that wikis could play a significant part in the way people learned. The 'rider' however is that it all depends on the context and she suggests applying the 4e model to your own situation and organisation will have a bearing on how successful wiki implementation can be.

The thrust of the model is that the practitioner should rate the new technology ( in this case) the wiki, for it's educational effectiveness, ease of use and user engagement ( no rating scheme was suggested). If the sum total has a high rating this is a good start, but the next factor is whether the environmental factors, such as technical support, institutional enthusiasm, innovative culture, leadership etc etc also have a high rating to facilitate the successful introduction of wiki technology.

She cited as a very good example was the wiki at 'Shell' the petroleum company, which has over 40,000 workers/users that contribute enthusiastically and voluntary in a number of different ways to make effective use of the wiki resource. Betty also run through many different examples of successful wiki implementations in a teaching and learning context.


For me the seminar highlighted two main points.

  1. Academic Staff are getting advice and encouragement to use wikis for teaching and learning activities, which is fine, but there is great value in the wiki as a professional development tool. This probably needs a lead from the top and a cultural change in the way things are done - If an academic group has the opportunity to step back and re-assess the way they could share work, share knowledge and share tasks in a collaborative, contributing, learning ethos there may be an opportunity to benefit from the power of the group.
  2. Apart from the value of any learning that takes place in a wiki learning task, for students the use of wiki's could well be an important transferable skill for use in their own professional development and future work collaborations.

Leaving the learning aspect aside another point to ponder and was reinforced from some of Betty's examples is that:

  • Wiki's are a good organisational/ administrative tool.