I am having a coffee…

February 28, 2009

Yesterday I gave a few online presentations (conferences) for the MoLeNET programme.

One was on microblogging, entitled I am having a coffee…

The presentation covered blogging, RSS, Twitter, Jaiku, Moblog and even Flickr.

Advertisements

Social networking rots your brain

February 25, 2009

One of the reasons I am not a great fan of Facebook was the pelthora of zombies being thrown around. It would seem that according to a briefing from Susan Greenfield to the House of Lords that using social networking sites such as Facebook rots your brain. Does that that she thinks if you use Facebook you become a zombie?

Social networking rots your brain

Well what she said was and this quote was taken from the BBC News site:

Real-life conversations “require a sensitivity to voice tone, body language and perhaps even to pheromones – those sneaky molecules that we release and which others smell subconsciously.

“Moreover, according to the context and, indeed, the person with whom we are conversing, our own delivery will need to adapt. None of these skills are required when chatting on a social networking site,” she said.

“It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations.”

The story then ran in the Daily Mail and Susan was was interviewed and said

“We know how small babies need constant reassurance that they exist … My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.”

Okay, let’s take a step back.

Any one who does one thing for a long amount of time is going to have potential health problems. However that one thing doesn’t have to be social networking, it could be television, sports, dancing, piano playing, even reading books.

The thing is that for some social networking is a way of expanding their social non-online life, a way of enhancing and enriching their outside life.

If you spend your entire life on Facebook then yes, in my opinion you have a problem. However everyone I know on Facebook has a life outside Facebook, and Facebook has enhanced their social life and improved (and increased) interation in the real world.

Personally I have found that using this blog, using Twitter and Jaiku, has made my working life easier and better.

The web and social networking has enabled me to make new and better friendships in the real world. Now when I go to conferences I know people and they know me, we can focus on the conference and the content of the conference without having to go through the process of building relationships (as we have done that already online).

This was readily apparent at the recent LSIS eCPD event, where lots of people came to chat to me who I knew via my blog, mailing lists, Twitter, Jaiku and even Facebook. Without social networking those conversations probably wouldn’t have taken place.

It would seem I am not alone in thinking that what Susan is saying is bunk.

Dr Ben Goldacre who was on Newsnight on Tuesday night has published his reaction to the article on the Bad Science blog.

It is my view that Professor Greenfield has been abusing her position as a professor, and head of the Royal Institution, for many years now, using these roles to give weight to her speculations and prejudices in a way that is entirely inappropriate.

he goes on…

We are all free to have fanciful ideas. Professor Greenfield’s stated aim, however, is to improve the public’s understanding of science: and yet repeatedly she appears in the media making wild headline-grabbing claims, without evidence, all the while telling us repeatedly that she is a scientist. By doing this, the head of the RI grossly misrepresents what it is that scientists do, and indeed the whole notion of what it means to have empirical evidence for a claim.

Another good blog post on this is from Sue Thomas, she says:

The danger of scientists untempered by Humanities knowledge of history, anthropology, sociology and culture is once again rearing its head. Baroness, it’s not enough to measure brain activity, we must understand it in the wider context of human culture. Please, get some experts with a wider range of viewpoints on your team, including some who really know about education and social networking. You are in urgent need of a transliterate perspective. Without it you are a danger to society.

So what do I think apart from agreeing with Sue and Ben that Susan’s theories are a little bit cracked and bunk?

The main problem is that parents (and some learners) will only read the headlines, the scary articles in the newspapers. They won’t watch Newsnight, they won’t read the blog articles hitting back. No they will remember the headlines and certainly won’t check the science.

As a result educational institutions which want to enhance and enrich face to face learning experiences with Web 2.0 and social web tools may find they receive complaints and anger from concerned parents and students.

Finally the photo above of zombies meeting in the real world was organised on Facebook. So you could argue that Facebook has turned them into zombies, however I don’t think these kinds of social gatherings was what Susan Greenfield meant.


How can you use the PSP?

February 24, 2009

Alan Graham from Gloucestershire College talks about he is using the PSP to enhance and enrich the learning experience.

Download the iPod version.


Mobile Assessment

February 23, 2009

So how do you assess your learners? It’s a key question really. One that we don’t always answer.

All too often we fall back on traditional methods as it makes life easier for us as practitioners. You know, write an essay, complete an assignment, give a presentation,etc…

Of course this means when it comes to using mobile devices for assessment, you have a quandary over how to use them to assess learners. Despite improvements in text input, generally most learners will prefer not to enter large amounts of text into a mobile device.

I have talked on the blog before about text entry on mobile devices and how they are not ideal.

Back then I wrote:

Overall entering text on any mobile device is fraught with difficulty and complexity and the more you use a device the more familar you get with it, the easier it gets and quicker you become.

However if you are using mobile devices with a group who only use the device rarely, then you should consider alternatives to text entry directly onto the mobile device otherwise you may find that your learners start to hate the device rather than use the device for learning.

Use the device where it has strengths such as audio and video, and use other tools such as pen and paper or a computer with a full size keyboard when you want the learner to create a lot of text.

Mobile Assessment

This means that learning scenarios need to be designed to avoid excessive text entry onto a mobile device, and often that means that traditional learning scenarios will not translate easily and simply to a PSP for example.

Think about replacing text entry with an audio or a video recording – the UX1XN and Q1 Ultra both have cameras and microphones which can be used for that, you can also get a camera and microphone for the PSP as well.

It is not essential or necessary for the learner to complete a learning scenario solely on a mobile device, let them use other tools to complete the learning activity, the mobile device should be just the one component that helps build the activity.

When it comes to designing assessment models using mobile devices, the same advice applies. Think about how learners will need to be assessed. If it is multiple choice, or single word answers, than the mobile device alone should be sufficient. If it is short answer, essay or similar then text entry on a mobile device is probably not only not the best option it is probably not an option at all.

As I said before, think about replacing text entry with an audio or a video recordings, these can be done much more easily on a mobile device or a cameraphone.

Originally appeared on the Shiny Project Blog.


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #014: Half-Term Meanderings

February 22, 2009

James, Ron and Lilian just chat about a range of different stuff, basically they meander…

This is the fourteenth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Half-Term Meanderings.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Half-Term Meanderings

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

James is joined by Lilian Soon and Ron Mitchell.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #014: Half-Term Meanderings

Shownotes

  • Geoff Minshull runs DirectLearn and uses WebEx for running online conferences. At the last JISC Conference they also used Elluminate for live presentations.
  • Gabbly can be used to discuss a website.
  • Feedburner from Google allows you to create a better RSS feed.
  • Feeder allows you a lot more control over your RSS Feed.

4G

February 20, 2009

BBC reports on the battle for 4G.

A number of companies at the Mobile World Congress are demonstrating hardware they think will make up so-called fourth generation or 4G solutions to succeed the current 3G technology.

The explosion of interest in mobile broadband – and consumers’ insatiable craving for faster connections – means that this more forward-looking part of the industry is filled with contenders.

In the UK, the highest mobile broadband speed available is 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps), and Vodafone has successfully trialled a 3G network in Spain providing 20Mbps.

It makes for interesting reading, and also makes you realise how far we have come in the last five years and how far we will probably go in the next five years.

When I first used 3G back in 2004, it was a £100 a month and I got 0.3Mbps (as in 384Kbps). Today I pay £10 per month and get (rarely) 7.2Mbps, though on average it is about 3Mbps. Ten times the speed for one tenth of the price.

If we go back to 2001, I was then using GPRS and getting about 40Kbps.

Personally for me, having a 3G connection makes my life and my job so much easier. I can do things and stuff at events and conferences, on visits to other institutions, in coffee shops and on the train. It allows me to get information, entertainment and to communicate whilst I am mobile. If our learners have 3G this makes it even easier to allow their learning not just to take place anywhere, but with 3G they can communicate and collaborate with other learners without the constraints of geography and time.

So though LTE quotes 100Mbps, I do expect in five years to see 30Mbps mobile internet connections. The question you do have to ask though is will it cost only a £1 per month?

4G

Photo source.


In at number two…

February 19, 2009

Those of you who read the blog of a regular basis will know that as well as the blog I also (with a group of e-learning friends) record a podcast.

You can listen to the podcast on the blog, there is a simple Flash based player, so you don’t need to download it to listen to it.

You can download the mp3 file from the blog which then allows you to transfer it to a mp3 player, an iPod, burn it to CD, listen to it on your computer, or on your phone.

You can also subscribe to the podcast, either through the blog RSS feed (which incorporates all the blog postings and media files uploaded) or through the podcast RSS feed. You can subscribe via applications such as iTunes, Juice or your browser.

Finally you can subscribe to the podcast through the Apple iTunes Store. I submitted the podcast to the iTunes Store last October to the Educational Technology Podcasts section of the store.

It is proving reasonably popular and the podcast is generally always in the top twenty, quite pleased though today to see it is in at number two!

In at number two...

Now if you go and look I suspect we may have dropped a fair few places, the top podcasts list does change on a daily basis dependent on how many subscribers you have and how many new people subscribe.

I am working on a workflow document which describes the process I use for recording the podcast, it is currently a work in progress but you can view it here.

Apart from an (extra long) break over Christmas I am tying to post the podcast on a weekly basis, every Sunday. Always interested to hear about topics people would like us to talk about.