Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

defining the digital divide by connectivity rather than age

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

I’ve thinking about difference and the challenges we have in encouraging the adoption of digital and learning technologies for learning and teaching.

The original idea of Marc Prensky’s digital natives and immigrants and more recently Dave White’s suggestion that it’s more about digital residents and visitors has kept me thinking about the best ways for me (as an early adopter) to engage those who aren’t keen on things digital.

I was chatting with my 15 year old nephew a while ago and he suggested he was a digital native and that I was an immigrant. I challenged him as to what he meant, and we had a good chat about using technology, being digital, and growing up with the Internet. Intitially he was probably basing his judgement on age rather than knowledge, expertise, and understanding. Carl Berger presented some research at the Apple University Consortium Conference in 2007 and mentioned a student (‘digital native’) who spoke about his knowledge of technology ‘being a mile wide but only an inch deep’. What the student meant, was that he had a broad experience, but a shallow understanding, of digital technology.

I’d suggest (as discussed in earlier posts in this forum) that we don’t really know to what extent students (let alone staff) know and engage with technology, it makes it difficult for us to develop policy and implement technology use to support learning and teaching. I came across Kate Carruther’s blog post, The Real Generation Gap, where she suggests that the difference between those who know technology and engage with “is about the individual’s relationship to technology and their willingness or desire to become and to remain connected.” Kate refers to Mark McCrindle’s report, ‘Seriously Cool: Marketing, Communicating and Engaging With Diverse Generations’ (.pdf). Is it really more about (as Kate suggests) being connected (having the willingness, desire and inclination) rather than age, that divides us?

This all resonates with me. I’m as engaged with social networking as my kids but I use it professionally as well as socially. I’m interested in the use of what I’ll call Web2.0 applications in education, but now asking questions about how willing others might be in taking up these ideas on communication, collaboration, and connection.

Does this mean that the adoption of social media and encouraging social networks in education (let alone anywhere else), may only work for those who are interested in using it. What does that mean for all those who aren’t? What does it mean for the curriculum? Do we understand that we may be disenfranchising both students and staff as we adopt more and different technologies?

I believe we need to think carefully about how we proceed and ensure that care be taken to ensure that any implementation be scaffolded in such a way that no one is disadvantaged or dismissed as a laggard for being negative or hesitant. We have a responsibility to understand and cater for the interests and limitations of our cohorts (of students and staff). What kind of support and activities could we provide to help narrow the gap – is professional development (in whatever form that might take) a solution?

a month is a long time between posts

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

I’ve convinced myself that I need to write a blog post today, or I’ll feel bad for the rest of the year. My last post was a month ago, which to me seems far too long! I’ve jotted down a few ideas for posts over that time and I’ll get to them soon – but for now it’s just a matter of getting some words and thoughts down so I can sleep tonight. In between weekend chores, watching the Olympics, and catching up with what’s happening to my friends via Twitter, I haven’t spent any time preparing or thinking about this post so, here we go (might have to rely of some ‘stream of consciousness’?, or how’s this for an idea? As this blog is about my observations and reflections, I think I might write about some of the more significant aspects of my work that I’ve experienced over the last month. Hope you find it interesting and maybe even useful…

I attended a workshop on e-Assessment by Geoffrey Crisp who presented as a part of his ALTC fellowship project. We were given a good overview of assessment and how you might create new possibilities for immersion and activity using e-assessment as well as enhancing social interaction (through using a wiki) and even adding value to learning by doing something other assessment can’t do. You can visit his website, register as a user, and check out the resources available.

The university where I work has three campuses and I regularly travel between the one I’m based on (Geelong @ Waurn Ponds) to our main campus in Melbourne. This is usually a 75 to 90 minute commute and I try to hitch a ride with someone who’s driving a university vehicle (to keep one extra car off the road and for the opportunity to talk on the way). Because there’s quite a few people traveling on a daily basis, the university has undertaken a trial for three months of running a bus (12 seater) between the two campuses. I’ve used it a couple of times since inception, and I think that it might catch on. There’s always the opportunity to meet and chat with people from other areas of the university, but the IT people have installed a mobile wireless internet connection on board (this is the cool part). There’s a wireless router (connected to 7.2 NextG card) so everyone with a wireless laptop connection can connect into the uni network while zipping up the highway. There were four of us checking email (me also keeping an eye on my Twitter friends) earlier this week, and after a day of meetings it’s nice to get some of that correspondence out of the way before getting home. There are plans to also provide a couple of laptops on the bus for those who don’t have them, and they are also going to provide a couple of IP telephone handsets so we can call the office over the network instead of using mobile phones. Apparently the cost of maintaining this mobile wireless connection annually (excluding the card and router) would only be around $600 as part of our telco contract. Cheap! All we need now is an AC power supply to plug in the laptops in case batteries run out – and maybe even an espresso machine. 😉

I also managed (with a couple of colleagues) to get a paper written and submitted (by the end of July) for peer review for the ASCILITE Conference at the end of the year. Don’t understand why there’s such a long lead time but I understand that there will probably be well over 200 papers submitted.

I partcipated in the The Knowledge Bank online conference 2008 which was focused on Web 2.0 in education: what it is, how it’s being used today and its potential to radically change education. The event was facilitated through Elluminate (sessions were recorded and available from the website), featured live blogging and is supported by a wiki. It was a great (learning) experience to be part of a group of nearly 200 people from all over the world listening to a range of speakers/presenters. The event was well managed and with a few moderators and presenters (with their slides) went more smoothly than I thought it might. It was fun to hear school bells ringing in the background as teachers participated live (and included their students!). Nice to experience what’s possible.

I’m also on a group providing feedback and support to the implementation project for a learning repository for the university. We’ve been discussing project scope and milestones, metadata, workflow, digital objects, permissions, and training etc. Will be nice to have this available by the end of the year.

I also attended a training session/workshop on using our new powerlink for Blackboard/Vista that enables us to create a Drupal/SMF and/or a Mediawiki installation in our units/courses that integrates within the system. This will be a good enhancement to the LMS ad provide opportunities for some authentic collaboration between students, particularly those studying off-campus/remotely.

I also attended a couple (brown bag) lunch time seminars; ‘multiple choice questions – cultural, linguistic and item writing factors’, and ‘designing, facilitating and assessing group assignments’.

Well, that’s most of the exciting stuff (I’ve probably missed a few things) and looking back reasonably interesting. As second semester settles down I’ll be writing more reflectively on these experiences.

social networking (online) – does what for me?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

My blogging experience is limited and, having only recently started to interact with the blogosphere and become involved in the Comment Challenge, I’ve found lots of value in the community of people I’ve started to interact with. It’s still early days, but one thing I’m interested in is the size of the community that I’m exploring (mostly educators interested in web 2.0 and social software/e-learning) and the one that I might make for myself as time goes by. I’ve recently started Twittering and I’m currently following 89 people and guess I will probably look for/ stumble upon/ find a few more. I’ve noticed some people are following over 1500! How do they keep up with this? Just what is the optimum number of people to follow? Will I be able to keep up with all the tweets? Will I want to? What value do I get from it?

I think my interest is more professional than anything else, in how these technologies can support learning. I have tinkered with the personal side of all this and it is a bit of fun – but I’m not getting the same ‘reward’ (as from the professional aspect) as what I’m finding are mostly inane activities that do nothing for me – I’d even dare to call a lot of it spam… You might like to read Jon Husbands piece, Social Networking Stunts Your Growth which features a great video that provides a nice reflection on the ‘Social Networking Wars’.

Facebook, MySpace etc. have their uses, but I can only see value for myself in some of their functionality (let alone the myriad plugin applications available) – maybe I need to explore further and even ask for advice before I make judgement. But people (like Danah Boyd) who are better qualified than me have written about this… I am aware that some colleagues are using Facebook and setting up groups to supplement their teaching (even though all our units are in BlackBoard Vista) and I’ll need to investigate further to see how they, and their students, are generating value and building relationships.

I suppose I’m sitting around the leading edge of the bell curve with regard to using social software/networking. Not at the pointy end, but closer to the mainstream (what/where/ever that might be) which is probably at the geeky end of things for someone of my vintage. So, I’ve started to think about the time and energy I’m investing in this social networking and social software. I liked the question Sue Waters asked recently in a Tweet, “How does Twitter support your learning”? I didn’t respond as I’ve only recently begun to tweetThinking about that, I can probably mention a few things, that’s for a later post.

But, I want to get to my question(s): How big will my social networking community get? How many relationships can I sustain? I’ve heard that we can deal with up to 150 acquaintances before our capacity to have a meaningful relationship starts to run a bit thin. I wonder how many ‘close’ friends will I be able to have? 15? Maybe it will be about finding the right mix of people with whom I can engage, people who might challenge and nourish me. I suppose it’s all part of the Comment Challenge and the development of networks and finding those who will support my growth as an educator/learner both professionally and personally, in both the online and face to face contexts. I suppose that over time things will become clearer and the number of meaningful ‘connections’ will settle at some happy medium where I can be part of a network of like minded souls like me.

What do you think? How many is too many friends in Facebook, or people to follow in Twitter? How many blogs/rss feeds can/should you subscribe to? Anyone have a comment to share?

taking it up

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

The commenting challenge (for the month of May) hasn’t just encouraged me to interact more with what I read, it’s led me to read more! Not sure how sustainable this will be (it is the weekend and I’m cruising a bit), but today it has encouraged me to subscribe to 6 new blogs that I’ve discovered/stumbled on/been led too… They look like they will provide me with some more inspiration, challenges, ideas, and the motivation to continue the challenge and develop my learning.

Having to provide a considered response to what someone has written requires some thinking, and through that, some cognitive shift that supports/reinforces what I think, or helps move my thinking in/onto a new level/dimension. I suppose that’s how learning works…

How cool is that!

The challenge that faces me now is to share this with others and to point out the value afforded by the social networks and communities of practice that exist online.

the challenge

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

I’ve decided to participate in the 2008 Comment Challenge! which is about challenging bloggers to become better blog citizens. I can see that this will need some energy and commitment but it’s something I’m prepared to invest in. I see it as personal and professional development.

I would class myself as a novice with regard to blogging and I’m only just beginning to understand the networking potential/possibilities that are afforded by responding to what I read on other blogs. I suppose I’ve been grazing for a while, dipping into a few places to read what I find interesting and informative. I see the value of doing the comment challenge in engaging with what I read (other people’s ideas/opinions/rants etc.) and having to think about how I respond to them. If I think I’ve got something to contribute, I’ll write a comment.

I’m hoping that after the month I’ll have a much deeper understanding of how the blogosphere works and where I may fit in this connected community. I hope to meet people and make authentic connections with those of like mind and having similar interests. These potential new relationships will be the BIG pay off. Proverbs 27:17 comes to mind when I think of how we need to interact with each other and bounce ideas around to come to deeper understanding of each other, ourselves and the world around us.

One of the other aspects of the blog/ger/ing learning curve is the need to choose from a range of application/technologies to maintain the connections – keep the lines of communication open if you will. I’m still discovering lots of things (as well as realising how much I don’t know) that will support and enhance my blogging and look forward to trying things out to see how well they work and how they might be put to use in an educational setting. I do subscribe to RSS feeds (using NetNewsWire for Mac) and have worked out that it’s important to also subscribe to comment feeds as well as the post feeds. If you’re not up to speed with RSS check out the and you may even find this video useful RSS in Plain English. [* note to self – must find out how to embed videos (I’m writing my blog posts in MacJournal) so I can post to the blog with having to edit the post there.]

I’ve also dived into Twitter and have had wonderful support from Sue Waters to get going (I’m using Twhirl to aggregate my Twitter ‘tweets’). This ‘instant message’ platform/technology/service is also starting to make sense in that we’re able to ‘keep connected’, and ‘in touch’.

How connected you keep is all up to you (and me).