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.