Facebook ‘cuts student drop-outs’

October 13, 2009

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Gloucestershire College makes the news on its use of social networking websites to support teaching and learning.

Social networking websites such as Facebook are helping to reduce college drop-out rates, it is claimed.

Gloucestershire College says social networking is used to keep students informed and in touch with staff.

“There has been a significant improvement in retention,” says media curriculum manager, Perry Perrott.

This is not about encouraging use of Facebook, but taking advantage of the fact that our learners are using Facebook. There are issues that need to be thought about and we hope to cover that in a session as part of the Becta Technology Exemplar Network.

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ALT-C Reflections Part One

September 15, 2009

I really enjoyed ALT-C last week and not just because I won an award. It was an excellent conference and I found it a very rewarding experince from both a delegate’s perspective and as a presenter.

It was really nice to meet up with a lot of different people, some I knew, some I knew only from the web, some I had never met and those that knew me though I didn’t know them.

There was some great presentations, workshops, keynotes and debates and I felt I learnt a lot and was given a lot to think about.

I had a reasonable journey up to Manchester (no connectivity on the train) and having arrived, caught a taxi to the venue. I was relieved to see that my Glossy Poster had safely arrived though for some unknown reason at that time my flyers for my workshops and that symposium had failed to arrive.

I bumped into a few people I knew and then someone came up to me and said hello. I recognised him, but couldn’t name the face… I hate it when that happens, and after turning over their name badge (why do they always flip the wrong way at the wrong moments) I saw it was Richard Elliot from New Zealand. I am doing the keynote at ASCILITE 2009 conference so it was good to meet one of the organisers to chat and discuss the conference.

After the pre-conference buffet and chatting I headed up to the F-ALT event on post digital and managed to catch the last bit and added a little to the discussion.

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These fringe events add a lot to the conference, they’re not competing with the conference, but adding a social, informal side to the conference that allows delegates to add a social learning element to the conference. It also allows delegates to discuss and present issues on stuff and technologies which at the time of the abstract submission deadline maybe wasn’t available or didn’t even exist.

Tuesday morning, saw a bright and early start with the conference kicking off proper at 9.00am. After the conference introductions we moved onto the conference keynote from Michael Wesch.

It took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after humans spoke their first words. It took thousands more before the printing press and a few hundred again before the telegraph. Today a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new web application. A Flickr here, a Twitter there, and a new way of relating to others emerges. New types of conversation, argumentation, and collaboration are realized. Using examples from anthropological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, YouTube, classrooms, and “the future,” this presentation will demonstrate the profound yet often unnoticed ways in which media “mediate” our conversations, classrooms, and institutions. We will then apply these insights to an exploration of the implications for how we may need to rethink how we teach, what we teach, and who we think we are teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed his presentation and presentational approach, however I do wonder and still wonder if all our learners are like his students? Are all our learners using Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools and services on a regular basis and importantly are they using them for learning?

I don’t see a Google Generation or Digital Natives in the learners I work with. Some are using Facebook and other tools, many are not. Those that are, not all are using these tools for learning.

See what you think from the recording.

I enjoyed the short papers on staff skills, some of the work that Alan Cann is doing at Leicester is very illuminating and interesting.

Then lunch and I won’t dwell on the conference catering, all I will say how much I enjoyed the coffee from the Museum Cafe across the road from the conference venue.

After sustenance we had the big debate, you know, the one about how the VLE is Dead! The debate was a lot of fun and it would appear that the delegates who attended enjoyed the debate. In a room with space for eighty, we had nearly a hundred and fifty people, many sitting and standing. We also had about two hundred people online following the live stream.

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Photo source

The debate was based on the following proposition.

The future success of e-learning depends on appropriate selection of tools and services. This symposium will propose that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as an institutional tool is dead, no more, defunct, expired.

I know that most people realised that the debate (and especially the title) was provocative and that the aim was for a fun debate as well as looking at the issues. You are not going to be able to give serious academic consideration to the issues in an eighty minute debate.

I was pleased with the interest shown, not just at the conference, but also online on Twitter and on various blogs. Cloudworks has a list of the blogs that have discussed the issue. The “marketing” for the debate worked well (probably better than expected) with the trailer, the flyer and the numerous blog posts by me, Steve and many others…

As expected, I didn’t get to the next session, but did make Steve Wheeler’s Twitter session. A very popular session with lots of different people attending, some like me who are immersed in Twitter to people who had never used it.

After all that I missed the new ALT Members Reception, and as Gloucestershire College joined ALT this year I should have been attending. Ah well.

In the evening I went to a nice Tapas bar with Ron, Lilian and David.

More later…


60% of Twitter Users Quit Within the First Month

April 29, 2009

Mashable reports on an interesting statistic that 60% of new Twitter users quit after the first month.

But like many social networks, it seems many people lose steam with the service. Stat tracking firm Nielsen reports today that a full 60% of users who sign up fail to return the following month. And in the 12 months “pre-Oprah”, retention rates were even lower: only 30% returned the next month. That’s good news, to some degree: retention rates have increased over time.

I am sure that a lot of these quitter are people who don’t yet “get Twitter“, but I do wonder though how the factors I mentioned earlier this week may be causing the reported lower retention rate compared to Facebook and MySpace.

Compare it to the two heavily-touted behemoths of social networking when they were just starting out…we found that even when Facebook and MySpace were emerging networks like Twitter is now, their retention rates were twice as high.

Steve Wheeler in his blog also talks about the demise of Twitter and brings in the celebrity issues (one issue I didn’t cover in my original blog article). In that article he says he has closed his Bebo account and nearly closed his Facebook account. I never had a Bebo account, and here in my college, the use by students has fallen dramatically, most learners these days appear to be using Facebook. I now rarely use Facebook, generally as all I ever see in there are updates from peoples’ Twitter status updates.

Twitter is not the easiest social networking site to explain to people, looking at it, you can’t get it, even trying it out doesn’t mean you’ll get it either. Generally you need to try it for a fair while before you appreciate the benefits it brings in terms of networking, communication, the conversation and not forgetting the coffee.


Using Facebook

April 25, 2009

Unlike a lot of FE Colleges using Facebook is not blocked in my college. Why do we do this, well we don’t block social interaction in physical environments, actually we actively encourage it in the FE sectors which cafe and coffee places, dining rooms, student social areas, common rooms, etc…

I had an interesting conversation with students using Facebook in our Library recently which I would like to share with you.

I asked them if they were using Facebook to support their learning (well what I actually asked if they were using Facebook to communicate and collaborate on their assignments). Their answer was quite interesting, not only did they use the Facebook communication tools (the messaging and live chat) to talk about their learning, but they used them (in the Library) so they wouldn’t disturb others in the Library through talking and discussing.

Now we don’t ban talking and discussing in the Library, but we do like to create a quiet learning environment. So the learrners are using online communication tools to support their learning. The fact that the learners want to use the tools in Facebook rather than the tools we provide is not surprising to me, but may be surprising to others. Learners will often choose their own tools over the provided tools from the institution.


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #015: Social networking rots your brains

March 1, 2009

James, Lilian, Lisa and Ron discuss the recent publicity over Susan Greenfield’s comments in the Daily Mail on the “dangers” of social networking and young people’s brains. Does using social networking sites lead to loneliness and isolation? Do users of Facebook and Twitter feel excluded from society. In this podcast we discuss the furore and the issues.

This is the fifteenth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Social networking rots your brains.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Social networking rots your brains

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

James is joined by Lilian Soon, Lisa Valentine and Ron Mitchell.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #015: Social networking rots your brains

Shownotes

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.


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.


Is your boss on Facebook?

November 4, 2008

This article from the Guardian made me smile.

There are many good reasons for not having your boss as a Facebook friend, and Sydney call centre worker Kyle Doyle has just discovered the most convincing of them all.