Posts Tagged ‘online’

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?

face to face?

Monday, April 14th, 2008

I met with some people from South Africa last week who were doing a benchmarking exercise on the use and development of multimedia materials for distance education (only). They were keen to hear how we did this sort of thing but the scale was so different (and we do teach face to face) that our conversation/experience only intersected a couple of times. Having students on-campus makes it much easier for us to be responsive and contemporary (to the day/week rather than semester/year) with the ability to provide students with commentary (recorded audio/podcasts) and even other digital objects (newspaper, TV, scans, and broadcasts etc) to support and enhance learning. While we do have off-campus students, the mix of materials we need to develop and the way we (often) integrate both modes into the online environment, mean we do things quite differently. They did want to know how to support students at a distance through online communication and it was good to be able to tell them a little about our experiences with a large corporate learning management system and our recent excursions into using open source social software (more on that in later posts).

It was interesting to hear their story and aspects of the logistics when delivering courses (and relevant material) to over three hundred thousand students (yep, 300,000)! Make a mistake with stock control and the extra mail-out will eat into the profit quick smart. There would certainly be some economies of scale with regard to return on investment for course development by selling it to so many students, but some of the logistics issues sounded scary. They did seem to have a nice model for course/material development which reminded me of we used to do it … ahhh, the good old days.

I also attended a seminar where someone shared their experience of a visit to the UK and meeting an academic from the Ultraversity. He had been quite taken with their model of offering one degree only (BA (Hons) Learning, Technology and Research) and wholly online. It does seem like it fills a market niche with three exit points and is full fee, with those living in the EU getting a good discount. Many of the students are encouraged to ‘earn while they learn’, there seems to be a focus on ‘action to improve your own workplace’ and the study is asynchronous to allow for flexibility and self-paced learning. The curriculum model is action research and involves personalised learning (negotiated with the student), inquiry/project based learning, online units of inquiry (with expert witnesses), and the assessment of learning is by e-portfolio and an exhibition for dissemination. This is sharing the inquiry finding with stake-holders and evaluated for input which all provides for real, authentic and potentially valuable learning/contribution. I like it!

Anyway both experiences were useful in exposing me to a couple of other models for doing education and learning and provided a bit of litmus test to help me see what we are doing. Looking through a different lens is always useful and you never know who you’ll meet.