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Blogging breached the guidelines a bunch of us followed in 2002 – now anything comes and goes on e-folded origami paper we call a blog

Fig. 1 Blogging brings like minds together – through their fingertips

I did a search in my own blog knowing that somewhere I cited an academic who described blogging as ‘whatever you can do on electronic paper’.

Chatting about this at dinner my 14 year old son trumped my conversation with his mother as I tried to define a blog and what can go into one with one word ‘anything’.

For me there has been a slow shift from text (the weblog-cum-dairy journal thingey), to adding pictures (which have become photo / image galleries, photostreams of Flickr and concept boards of Pinterest), to adding video … to adding ‘anything’ – apps, interactivity, grabs, mashups, music …

My starting place is here.

This ‘eportofolio, writers journal, aggregating, dumping ground, place for reflection and course work’.

You see, is it a blog at all? This platform, I’m glad, has its design roots in a Bulletin board.

The limitations of our OU Student Blog platform works in its favour.

I can only put in two search terms. In Google I might write a sentence and get a million links, in my wordpress blog it might offer have the contents.

Less is more.

Here I search ‘blog paper’ and get 112 posts that contain both words.

I’ll spin through these an add a unique tag. My starting place.

But to study blogging would be like researching the flotsam and jetsam that floats across our oceans – after a tsunami.

RESEARCH

Starting with a book published in 2006 ‘Use of Blogs’ I want to read a paper ‘Bloggers vs. Journalists’ published in 2005. A search finds richer, more up to date content. Do I even bother with this first paper? (ironic that we even call them papers).

I can’t read everything so how do I select?

  • Toggle through the abstract, check out the authors, see where else such and such a paper has been cited.
  • Prioritize.
  • Use RefWorks rather than my habit to date of downloading papers that MIGHT be of interest.

Whilst storage space is so inexpensive it is virtually free there is no need to clutter my hard drive, Dropbox or Google Docs space.

Which makes me think of one of my other favourite metaphors – kicking autumn leaves into the breeze. That or drowning in info overload, or as the Robert de Nero character in Brazil, Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle, who vanishes in a pile of discarded paper … my mind wanders. We do. It does.

I stumble in the OU Library as I find I am offered everything under the sun. I am used to being offered academic papers only. So far all I’m getting are scanned images of articles in newspapers on blogging. All feels very inside out.

Where’s the ‘turn off the printed stuff’ button?

I fear that just as I have never desired to be a journalist, preferring the free form of your own diary, letters, and of course blogging and forums online, I will struggle to write within the parameters of an academic paper. I’m managing assignment here, so I guess I’m learning to split the two. A useful lesson to have learnt.

Serendipity

Is this a research methodology?

I am looking at a book on blogging, ‘Use of Blogs’ (Bruns & Jacobs, 2006). I have it open on p.31 Notes (i.e. references) for the chapter Journalists and News Bloggers.

As I pick through these articles, papers and reviews written between 2002 and 2005 I find several of the authors, a decade on, are big names in the Journalism/Blogger debate. It’s as if I am looking at a tray of seedlings.

It strikes me as easier to start in 2006 with 27 starting points when the field of debate was narrow, rather than coming in from 2013 and finding myself parachuting into a mature Amazonian jungle of mixed up printed and digital, journalism and blog content.

Courtesy of the OU Library and RefWorks I have nailed this article after a decade of searching:

Druckerman, P (1999) Ellen Levy Has Got The Write Project For the Internet Age — It’s a Year of Scribbling Down Almost Everything; Ah, Yes, It Was a Raisin Bagel, New York, N.Y., United States, New York, N.Y.

Reading this around 23rd /24th September 1999 prompted me to start blogging

Then I’d been reading blogs for a few months but had a mental block with uploading HTML files and then along came the first ‘ready made’ DIY blogging platforms.

The last 12 years makes amusing reading – particularly the battle between journalists and bloggers. And who has won? Is there a difference anymore? Journalists blog and bloggers are journalists and entire newspapers are more blog-like from The Huffington Post to the FT … which within three years will close all its print operations.

To be used in learning and to be a genre to study blogging needs to be part of formative assessment

A blog therefore becomes ‘an active demonstration of learning’ with cumulative feedback. I’ve only received ONE Tutor comment in my OU blog and that was to say why was I blogging and not getting on with my TMA. This person had their head so stuffed inside primary school education of the 1960s it made me feel like tossing my cap in the air.

Why MAODE students blog (Kerawella et al, 2009) depends on their perceptions of, and for:

  1. an audience
  2. community
  3. the utility of and need for comments
  4. presentational style of the blog content
  5. overarching factors related to the technological context
  6. the pedagogical context of the course

Cited x30

REFERENCES

‘Bloggers vs. journalist: The next 100 year War?’ 2011, Public Relations Tactics, 18, 4, p. 17, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

Bruns, A. Jacobs, J. (2006) Use of Blogs.

Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G (2009) ‘An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education’, Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 1, pp. 31-42, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

Rosen, J. (2007) ‘Web Users Open the Gates’, Washington Post, The, n.d., UK & Ireland Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

A test for anyone who is about to speak in public is when the technology fails – do they know their stuff?

Themes trend, this week it is ‘curation’ which is why I drove 168 miles to a get–together of e–learning like minds in Bath.

Some contrast to the webinar I sat through the same morning and somewhat counter culture in the era of doing everything remotely. Social media far from killing off socialising, it encourages face–to–face social interaction.

It is one thing to read about curation, even to hear disjointed voices behind a presentation online or share thoughts in messages and quite another to follow a presentation face–to–face, to hear and see the discussion, to relate to the speaker and how they come over. Before, in breaks and afterwards the variety of thoughts, ideas and views is like tipping stuff into the compost bin of my brain – dribs and drabs work for me, even in a small group of people in preference sometimes to the sell–out and packed events hosted by other groups around the country.

A test for anyone who is about to speak is when the technology fails.

If they believe in their subject and know their stuff they are better off without a screen of text, diagrams or examples to play with on the Internet – they do that online. Without any hesitation both speakers presented ‘raw’ – reflecting on how well this works I wonder if a genre of presentations where speakers go without these visual props and prompts should be encouraged. What you are left with, and all you need, is someone who has some ideas, some experiences and suggestions and a passion for what they do.

Writers, thinkers and bloggers are constantly taking common terms, the meanings of which we feel we understand, and giving them fresh, broader or nuanced meanings.

My understanding of curation is embedded in museums – I overheard the curator of the current superhuman exhibition at the Wellcome Foundation Museum being interviewed by Aleks Krotovski on Tuesday. When I took a picture using my iPad I was approached and politely told that the ‘curator’ asked that people did not take pictures – curator as stage manager and executive producer of a collection of themed objects. The term ‘object’ itself embracing stills, artefacts, video clips and activities. You curate stuff in a space and set parameters so that an audience of visitors can get their head around what, in effect, has come the curator’s mind.

In the bizarre ways that these things happen I recall, age six at most, creating a fossil museum with ammonites found in the low rocky cliffs of Beadnell, Northumberland.

I was a curator, I brought together a themed collection of rocks, set them out in a room and invited people in – no doubt in the back of my mind imagining the glass cabinets and displays in the Hancock Museum, Newcastle.

Neil McGregor of the British Museum with his 100 objects is a curator.

And we now have, from the Quite Interesting team the radio show ‘The Museum of the curious’ and its host Jimmy Carr.

 ‘Curation’ for me already means many things.

I search that externalised part of my own mind, an extensive blog 13 years in the writing, for what I’ve said or StumbleUpon before regarding ‘curation’ and find three entries, one prompted by my intention to attend this session and feeding off a visit to the De le Warr and the other two excerpts from Martin Weller‘s book ‘The Digital Scholar’.

Design online is so important – isn’t this a beauty?

20121010-115221.jpg

What makes an e-learning forum tick?

What makes an e-learning forum tick?

This is the crux of social learning for me, what John Seely Brown calls ‘learning at the periphery’ or Cox calls ‘vicarious’ learning and I have dubbed ‘learning through serendipity’.

As a result of taking part you acquire knowledge, you develop your thinking and understanding.

It was no different for me learning French. The school way was hopeless, what I required was total immersion, which is what I got in my late teens turning up in France on an exchange, making friends and returning … then working a gap year as far from English speakers as possible. This is how I learn, many of us prefer this informal approach.

Is it something that corporate e-learning companies and corporate learning departments have yet to tap into?

Gilly Salmon introduced the idea of the e-moderator and e-tivities in 2002.

It still takes excellent moderation, what the French call an ‘animateur’ – someone to host the event and keep it bubbling along nicely.

The mix of attendees matters too. 100 minimum sound like a big number but observation, experience and research show that around 95%  observe, 4% take part and only 1% are more actively engaged.

Whilst this 1%, even the 5% are necessary what does this say about the contributions the other 95% could be making?

This is where events need to have a long tail, to be stored, aggregated, developed, talked over and blogged at greater length. What Grainne Conole calls ‘meaning making’.

Perhaps because it lacks measurement, that there appear to be no parameters.

There are many ways to get content noticed. All the traditional tricks of promotion are required here too.

Email databases, events, trade promotions, press advertising and business cards; online is not a panacea, neither is it replacement technology. It is part of the world we live in, a choice, something else, that complements other ways of doing things.

The ‘long tail’ refers to the way content has a life before, during and after being posted.

There is a story to tell in its creation and promotion; its release should factor in for a long shelf life, then there is this ‘after life’, how once posted content may then be picked up by others and developed into different, better and alternative things. Keep tabs on this and content online becomes more like street theatre, or talking from a soap box on Hyde Park Corner, it is an opportunity to engage with an audience.

I like to blog, use Linkedin and Twitter.

Better to be the master of some platforms than a jack of all  trades.

On the personalisation of e-learning

Repeatedly I have been talking to people about Stumbleupon, Zite and My Mercedes as examples of personalisation.

There is evidence to suggest value in “vicarious interaction,” in which non-active participants gain from observing and empathizing with active participants (Sutton, 2001; Fulford and Zhang, 1993), also Cox (2006)

For learning on the periphery you need John Seely- Brown, who gave a keynote speech on the subject here at The OU in October 2007.

The webcast:

My notes:

This is the transcript of that session:

REFERENCE

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Fulford, C. P., and Zhang, S. (1993). Perceptions of Interaction: The critical predictor in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 7(3), 8 – 21.

Sutton, L. (2001). The principles of vicarious interaction in computer-mediated communications. Journal of Interactive Educational Communications, 7(3), 223 – 242. Retrieved July 15, 2003 from: http://www.eas.asu.edu/elearn/research/suttonnew.pdf

Sage on the stage or guide on the side? Where is e-learning taking us? Somewhere or nowhere new?


Sage on the Stage or Guide on the side?

I don’t like the idea that somehow technology is diminishing the value of the educator by implying that they have gone from, and may be demoted to a ‘sage on the stage’.

The best teacher never did pontificate, their position on the stage may have been as a result of their expertise, surely in Higher Education, if not early.

But for the transference of knowledge to the ‘unknowing’ student to occur they’d have to be all kinds of things to all kinds of people; sometimes a sage on the stage, often a guide on the side. Bill Furniss who coaches Rebecca Adlington and other swimmers is literally the ‘guide on the side;’ this doesn’ t means he doesn’t know his subject.

Is a conductor a guide or sage?

What ICT allows is for individuals in the learning process to identify themselves by their role, so that the sage this morning can be your guide in the evening.

In any case, who says the role of guide is any less sacrosanct?

I find increasingly, the more that I use them, that Stumbleupon and Zite are my guide on the side.

What I crave therefore is a conversation with the sages on the stages.

Come forth Martin Weller, Grainne Conole snd Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, let’s be hearing from you Chris Pegler and Mary Thorpe, you too Denise Kirkpatrick.

(see comments in Linkedin forum)

Tutor as host – its your party and your responsibility to make it work

This from Mary Thorpe (2009)

If face-to-face is the answer, how do you  replicate the combination of informal and formal discourse opportunities that characterise the face-to-face campus. (Crook and Light, 2002)

The answer is in social networks such as Linkedin being alerted every time someone in your circle updates, or adds friends or writes something, though different, there is at least an inclining of this meeting serendipitously around the water-cooler, or passing in the corridor. Also the random offering up of ‘people you might know’, even if they haven’t instigated it.

This is beyond face-to-face, but designed to replicate the chance encounter that makes up human interactions.

In Diaryland (1999) a similar trait is offered as within a set number of 75 friends you always know who has updated i.e. who is active and therefore around and more inclined to engage. All that matters is this sense of sharing the same space. It matters therefore that you are present often enough to be someone in this environment and that the affordances of the platform alert others to your presence.

The debate over the differences between face-to-face are dry

Why hybrid?

What community?

As the two worlds are now so familiar to many people, this is like saying, what is the difference between the Rugby Club and the Bridge Club.

There is no other difference. The means of engagement are ultimately the same, between one person and another. Like everything as you become familiar with these platforms, and as your friends are online too, you accept their presence or otherwise as if you have bumped into them walking the dog or a conference.

This isn’t revolution, it is barely even evolution, it is us being people with a bunch of different tools as we crafty humans have done for millenia.

‘Technologies, such as social networking, can be used to construct personal learning environments designed by the learner precisely in relation to their interests and goals across a range of practice boundaries.(Anderson and Dron 2007)

Better still you start to allow tools like Stumbleupon and Zite to do this for you, by feeding in a specific, tailored profile you can get these aggregators to draw down who you are and feed back intelligence.

The day we don’t trust it we drop these tools like a hot-potato and go somewhere else.

They CANNOT afford to get it wrong.

I signed up in error to MY LIFE, I say this because I only wanted to trial it on a monthly basis. The moment I was on the phone was the moment I was reimbursed, which actually is a sound thing.

This expression, this test of ‘trust’ might be enough to take me back (except that I feel the entire idea was mine in 2001).

‘Technology self-evidently involves tools, understood as both the physical resources and practical skills required to make use of them, but to focus primarily on the tool or the virtual space would be to make a categorical error, mistaking a component part for the system as a whole (Jones and Eshault, 2004)

We still use pen and paper, we still talk to each other face to face, we may even share how we are getting on with our parents over Sunday Lunch.

This isn’t replacement technology, it is hyper complementary technology, it is as convenient as having a hanky on which to blow your nose, no more. You pull out your smartphone to share a thought. Or in my case at 3.10am I get up, doodle an idea for a video production and then stick up a discussion question to a number of Linkedin groups.

Serendipity

Thinking of my late grandfather’s garage with all its tools, the context would be the mix and combination of tools, some complimentary, some one offs, and the space (once he’d rolled the car out of the garage). Most importantly it would include him, both actively engaged in a task and from my point of view, someone who was always keen to pass on skills and insights.

Issues regarding identity -practice/familiarity

Trust and authenticity (checking/verification) ‘Students may not take up the opportunities offered, or may do so to little good effect.’ (Thorpe, 2008:122) ‘Asynchronous conferencing for example has fostered both utopic and dystopic views of its potential (Haythornthwaite 2006)

The importance of the beginning of the course the same as in face-to-face, you only have one chance to make a good first impression.

‘That particular aspect of getting everybody involved right at the very beginning really sets the scene for the rest of the course.’ (Thorpe 2008:123)

Tutor as host.

A good start is forgiving. A poor start is far harder to retrieve. The problem institutionally is if your are overwhelmed by students. Are there enough tutors? Are there even intermediaries to step in? ‘The design in effect performs a mix of compulsion and engineered interaction that combines formality with informality.’ (Crook and Light, 2002)

Too much of either is a killer. Overly familiar and talking about pets and holidays in the middle of a forum puts your off. So do course materials on the rare occasion with The OU when it is if your are interrupting the conversation between a couple of professors who have developed their own private language that only means something to each other. (This isn’t far from the truth). ‘The potential for expansive learning’ (Tuoni-Grohn and Engestrom, 2003)

We all want our heads cracked open like a part-boiled egg. ‘This is learning that crosses the boundaries of different activity systems, expanding involvement with others and developing both individual and collective learning’. (Cole and Engestrom 1993)

I call it Pixie dust over Object 3.

Object 3 must be the moment Dyson and his team come up with the airstream device. Innovation, inspiration and originality is there in front of us, like Macbeth’s dagger, tantilizingly before our hands.

So talk to Lady Macbeth and your colleagues, let it out, share your thoughts, make the dagger real, You may find it’s more of a tickling stick.

‘A context has to be reconstructed and participation invited through the use of activities, structured formats and textural genres operating at various levels.’ (Thorpe, 2008:130)

I no longer think this is the case. We aren’t creating false or mimicking landscapes or environments online, rather we know what these environments are and behave accordingly.

This comes with experience, it IS NOT, and has NEVER BEEN GENERATIONAL.

I am not the only forty something who despite my children being infront of a computer before they could walk have vastly more experience of the internet and computers than they do. I challenge them to keep up or catch up, indeed, I am quick to run after them if I think they are discovering something I too have not tried.

Ask me for evidence, research by educational institutions in the UK, US and Australia, that debunk Generation X and Digital Natives as utter TOSH.

Engestrom (2007) emphasizes the importance of learning across multiple activity systems where knowledge is being developed across many sites, from the formal academic context through practioner-focused websites and fora to the workplace.

Technologies, such as social networking, can be used to construct personal learning environments designed by the learner precisely in relation to their interests and goals across a range of practice boundaries (Anderson and Dron 2007)

True.

But like an allotment you might start as an idea, the worth comes from putting in some time and effort.

A hybrid mix of community and network. (Thorp, 2008:129)

Yes, like weeds in the allotment and a few cacti on a tray of sand in the shed.


Making meaning of complexity and change through metaphor

H800 wk23 a Activity 2

Stepping over the edge

‘A key characteristic of these new technologies is “learning by doing” – users need to be immersed in and “play with” the affordances that these new digital environments offer, and hence over time get a sense of how they can change practice.’ Conole (2011:403)

MY STUDENT BLOG AS A WORDLE

Whilst I may highlight and annotate, doing do on paper isn’t the easiest way to share; using a screen reader is worse because I find myself not enjoying having the obvious affordances, such as cut and paste, disabled.

I have an iPad to learn from it and to share what I discover.

It is both the angle and the devil on my shoulder.

Does it super-size my mind?

It thrills and engages it, indulges and expands, but also risks loosing me in its labarynthine tangles.

Saved for now by a To Do list that I refresh and follow.

But then I find an idea from Conole (see above) that is key.

The internet is a trip to the sea, it is somewhere to play and discover.

We may require Lifeguards and lane ropes but it remains largely an environment that can only be understood through engagement.

You will get you face wet,you may get bitten by a crab.

To share this thinking I must go online, and cannot help myself.  For the last three months I click through Linkedin, reading and responding.

For the next three it may be Stumbleupon, which through tricks and traits I find increasingly insightful, feeding me like a favourite aunt or uncle , the weirdness of the www.

Serendipity would be a better word for it.

I am rewarded by 25 minutes of browsing with ‘new finds’ that becomes stuff that I recommend which in turn obliges me to update my profile, might I even say ‘brand tag’ the finds as ‘mymindbursts’. (I need two days off to take stock and write up some ten on more blog entries.

Draft I know will do, from my experience as a diarist, just enough to trigger a more expansive and reflective entry)”.

To remind myself:

Monday 11th

Livestream on Social Media Metrics from IET. Five presenters. All to write up from my notes and screengrabs, cushioned or suffocated by the ‘official’ word and slides that have since gone up.

Tuesday 12th

Picklejar Social Media for HE in which Tracy Payle shares insights from a number of universities and through activities tips my thinking upside down and shakes it out onto the conference room table. I come away enlightened and as I had wanted, more confident if mot emboldened.

Thursday 20th

Faculty discussion on VLE and my experiences of The OU VLE to date. I take a look at the poster in the Post Room and discover a ‘common room’ I had been unaware of.

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