21 August, 2009

danah boyd: Some Thoughts on Technophilia

danah boyd has written a very accessible piece for the New Media Consortium's Symposium for the Future entitled 'Some Thoughts on Technophilia'. It aims to 'provoke conversation in preparation for the event', and I think it does a great job of simplifying some important issues that educators using new technologies need to consider.

I think we all know that "Dumping laptops into a classroom does no good if a teacher doesn't know how to leverage the technology for educational purposes...", and so on, but I think that it is also clear that it's tough for teachers to know how to use a specific technology in teaching and learning, let alone a wide variety of technologies. Learning 'deeply' how to use the technologies requires using them in different aspects of your life, thus it requires you changing the way you do things, and this is time consuming and disruptive. It doesn't fit neatly into managed staff development sessions.

I think educators should be encouraged by danah's statement that "Also there are no such things as 'Digital Natives' ... Most of you have a better sense of how to get information out of Google than the average youth." People of different generations, and perhaps even of different year groups, may have different online habits and subtly different online etiquette, but there's no need for educators to be intimidated by perceptions of young students' competence. You have a lot to teach them about information literacy for example.

The second to last paragraph challenges us to be careful with the online spaces that we choose to use in education. The argument here is not refering to the affordances of the technologies themselves, but instead demands some awareness of how students' various online identities are constructed and how their complex social world works online. This might mean not using Facebook and tools that students may already use in a different contexts for socialising.

By the way, danah boyd has studied extensively how American teenagers use the web socially, and some of her insights are relevant to anyone wanting to explore social aspects of learning and teaching online. The video of her interview with Discover magazine is a good overview, and then have a look at her published work.

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07 August, 2009

My Twitter Trends

twitter logoMicro-blogging tool Twitter has become increasingly popular over the last 12 months, with many people 'following' celebrities. Here in the UK, Stephen Fry and Chris Moyles (amongst others) have contributed to the 'outbreak' of such a seemingly strange activity - that is the sharing of what one may be doing at any particular time in just 140 characters. Nevertheless, such celebrities have ammassed huge following by fellow tweeters, and contributing to the development of today's craze. Today's addiction.

I have been using Twitter (properly) for about 18 months now, and have used it in a variety of ways;

  • personal/social communication with friends/colleagues

  • following some celebs (although this was short-lived)

  • share common interests and find links to new places/data/information

  • Live-tweet from conferences

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting on my use of twitter, and how it has changed and progressed through my different uses (above).
I think I enjoyed tweeting the most in the 'early days', before the mass frenzy of celeb tweeters. I had a selection of followers, all of whom I actually knew! On a personal level. And people I actually liked (unlike many of the 'friends' I have made on Facebook!)
I could ask a random question, aimed wildly and at nobody in particular, but yet it might be answered. Answered because my followers used the tool in a similar way to me. They followed people that they personally knew. And so they would see my question, and just might post a reply.

Then with my professional hat on, I decided to see who some of my 'friends' were following. Because I trusted colleagues in the elearning field, like @hallymk1, and @narcomarco, I thought i'd follow some of their friends. And this was good. From their tweets I found some new information, new sites and tools that I hadn't already come across. Another useful benefit of Twitter!

I was so excited with twitter, hooked one might say. I thought it would be a good idea to live-tweet from conferences and events, although in hind-sight, most of my followers who shared the same interest would likely have been there anyway. And for those that were unable to make it, how much of the experience would they glean from my 140 characters anyway???

As time went by, I watched the same TV shows and listened to the same radio stations as you, and your friend, colleague (and Grandmother's cat!). And for some strange and random reason, I thought it might be interesting to see what Stephen Fry might be up to. Despite the high regard in which I hold Stevey, I soon became bored with reading that he just had his hair cut by the 'Wonderful Phillip, who's been cutting hair in Ormond Yd, SW1 for 60 years'.

I suppose like many relationships I've had, this was all one-way. Stephen would do all the talking, and I was the passive recipient. Amongst his endless amounts of tweets (many of which I wasn't interested in), it would be physically impossible for him to reply to even a small percentage of his followers (he follows almost 55k people of his 700k followers). I actually asked him a question once. What might I expect in my phone bill from using my iPhone in New York and Miami. He didnt reply. I was hurt! My bill was an extra £300! And again, like the many relationships, I got over it quick. And moved on.

Follow me sign
I moved on to another strange phenomenon. One in which I was obliged to follow those people that wanted to follow me. Those people I didnt know. With interests in things different to me. I learned quickly that they just wanted to sell their services (professional and otherwise!). Click. Unfollow!!!!

And it has come to the point where when I open up Twitter just to find some new links/resources. I skim the tweets, perhaps stopping at the people I really like. The people that might have something interesting to say (for me anyway). I'll stop at @Everton_news to see some transfer rumours. I might stop at the friends I mentioned above, as well as some others in the field. But I do this with less enthusiasm as I once did.
And where is Twitter now? Recently we have seen football players (Darren Bent) in trouble for tweeting his desire to move from Tottenham to Sunderland. What this does show us though, is that the media are beginning to keep tracks on the celebrity lives. In fact, Twitter is becoming the new 'live news coverage desk', as people are live-tweeting news stories, as they happen (Hudson plane landing, Iran scandals and local fires). It's becoming a political tool! (Barack Obama's election campaign and the Iran elections).

Having gone through these stages, I have come to realise that I haven't used Twitter for the most obvious reasons - Teaching and Learning. So I was interested when c4lpt (elearning celebrity Jane Hart, who does actually reply to you!) shared links to 'Twitter uses for T&L'.
And now im thinking how this can be used at Edge Hill. And to be honest, im struggling. As I support the Faculty of Health, and CPD in particular, I wonder how (what might be classed as non-traditional) students might take the suggestion of using it as an everyday tool. A tool for learning. Furthermore, I wonder how academics might respond to the suggestion. In fact, I dont even know how many academics at Edge Hill are on Twitter. My guess for those in the Faculty of Health, would be few... Very few.

And now im shortly off to the TEDX event in Liverpool, where i'll be live-tweeting!!! Brace yourselves...