Archive for September, 2009

Diversity in Learning Communities

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Yesterday Eva, my colleague in room C11, successfully defended her viva (with minor corrections) and will soon be leaving us to go back to China. We will all miss her and wish her every success. In the next few weeks, new PhD students will be taking the place of departing friends.
Although I regularly work at home, when I’m in University, I value the working environment of C11, particularly in the mix (in terms of stages of PhD, experience and fields of study) provided by my colleagues. One of the key roles of formal education is to promote diversity, and thereby expose students to different perspectives. Yet as our online learning activities become increasingly informal, self-directed and distributed, is there a tendency to choose like-minded people in our digital networks and online communities of interest / practice? How can we replicate the diversity which formal educational structures often impose?

Yesterday, Eva – my colleague in room C11 – successfully passed her viva (with minor corrections) and will soon be leaving us to go back to China. We will all miss her and wish her every success. In the next few weeks, new PhD students will be taking the place of departing friends.

Although I regularly work at home, when I’m in University, I value the social and working environment of C11, particularly in the mix (in terms of stages of PhD, experience and fields of study) that is provided by my colleagues. One of the key roles of formal education is to promote diversity, and thereby expose students to different perspectives. Yet as our online learning activities become increasingly informal, self-directed and distributed, is there a tendency to choose like-minded people in our digital networks and online communities of practice/interest? How can we replicate the diversity which formal educational structures often impose?

CCK09 Week One

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Reflecting on the first week of CCK09, I particularly enjoyed Thursday’s second live session which went some way to explaining some key differences in George Siemens’ and Stephen Downes’ epistemologies. I’m instinctively drawn more towards Siemens’ perspective, founded as it is in a range of predominantly socio-cultural and cognitive learning theories. Both described the importance of the network and introduced the notion of immersion (how does this differ from participation exactly?) Yet whilst I find Siemens’ comments on wayfinding, sensemaking and pattern formation promising (particularly from a visual learning perspective), I have a problem with how little these network perspectives have engaged with learning processes such as reflection and meta-cognition, and rich complexities which exist in each and every connection; factors such as authenticity, reciprocity, power relation, temporality and sustainability. It’s early days yet, and no doubt CCK09 discourses I have not accessed – Siemens and Downes have stressed it is impossible to follow all threads, feeds, tweets etc. – may have began addressing such issues. I look forward to engaging with these in the following weeks.

Social Media Etiquette

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Not that many years ago, when I first started using the Web as a participatory medium, there was such a thing as ‘netiquette’. Remember that? Funny how you don’t hear that phrase anymore (I always thought it was a bit naff anyway). I recall some very strict membership rules on some forums. These days, social media conventions and practices seem to be emergent and socially negotiated. Who was the first person to retweet using RT? How do these things form, develop and gain momentum?

etiquette

Lurking and Participation

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009
I missed attending the first CCK09 Elluminate session on Tuesday evening (past my bedtime here!) and only just caught up with it today.
I picked up on the short discussion on lurking, views on which hosts George Siemens and Stephen Downes seemed to differ slightly. As it appears this year’s students include a few self-confessed lurkers from CCK08 (who seem resolved to participate more this time), it might be interesting to hear their views. But when does a lurker stop becoming a lurker? Through participation it would seem, but how do we quantify participation and who measures it? George and Stephen? The individual student? Or is it collectively determined somehow by all the students within the course?
Lave and Wenger’s notion of a linear trajectory from the ‘periphery’ to the ‘centre’ of a community (of practice, if you like) through increased participation and identity formation is one way of conceptualizing this. My PhD is partly concerned with how increasingly distributed learner-centred networks may be challenging such community-based concepts of learning. Wenger recognizes most of us engage in (often overlapping) multi-membership, but when the networks of participation and discourse we create become so numerous, complex and disparate, do models such as communities of practice still hold true? Whilst encouraging individual tool selection and distributed communication, it strikes me that the proposed CCK09 processes of identity tagging and aggregation also reinforce Wenger’s community-based principles of mutual engagement, joint enterprise and shared repertoire.
The next seminar is at the more Eurozone-friendly time of 4pm CST on Thursday September 17.

I missed attending the first CCK09 Elluminate session on Tuesday evening (past my bedtime here!) and only just caught up with it today.

I picked up on the short discussion on lurking, views on which hosts George Siemens and Stephen Downes seemed to differ slightly. As it appears this year’s students include a few self-confessed lurkers from CCK08 (who seem resolved to participate more this time), it might be interesting to hear their views. But when does a lurker stop becoming a lurker? Through participation yes, but how do we quantify participation and who measures it? George and Stephen? The individual student? Or is it collectively determined somehow by all the students within the course?

Lave and Wenger’s notion of a linear trajectory from the ‘periphery’ to the ‘centre’ of a community (of practice, if you like) through increased participation and identity formation is one way of conceptualizing this. My PhD is partly concerned with how increasingly distributed learner-centred networks may be challenging such community-based concepts of learning. Wenger recognizes most of us engage in (often overlapping) multi-membership, but when the networks of participation and discourse we create become so numerous, complex and disparate, do models such as communities of practice still hold true?

Whilst encouraging individual tool selection and distributed communication, it strikes me that the proposed CCK09 processes of identity tagging and aggregation also reinforce Wenger’s community-based principles of mutual engagement, joint enterprise and shared repertoire.

The next seminar is at the more Eurozone-friendly time of 4pm CST on Thursday September 17.

References

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of Practice: Learning, meaning and identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

10 Hours 1 Minute

Friday, September 11th, 2009
…equals the record for the longest time it’s ever taken me to install a piece of software – NVIVO 8:
Downloading NVIVO 8 Installation File (30 minutes)
Attempting to install NVIVO and finding out what the problem was (1 hour)
Downloading and installing Microsoft Service Pack 1 (4 hours)
Downloading and installing Microsoft Service Pack 2 (3 hours)
Installing Microsoft SQL and Crystal Reports (90 minutes)
Entering cracked code (1 minute)
Hope it’s worth it!
* Admittedly, this is on my slightly old and slow laptop. Adjust times accordingly.

…is the record for the longest time it’s ever taken me to install a piece of software (NVivo 8):

  • Downloading NVivo Installation File (30 minutes)
  • Attempting to install NVivo and finding out what the problem was (1 hour)
  • Downloading and installing Windows Service Pack 1 (4 hours)
  • Downloading and installing Windows Service Pack 2 (3 hours)
  • Installing Microsoft SQL and Crystal Reports (90 minutes)
  • Entering cracked code (1 minute)

Hope it’s worth it.

Participatory Mapping

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
An interesting debate (among many) in yesterday’s AACE Global USocial Media Seminar around mind and concept mapping. Whilst Dave Cormier dismissed mapping as a personal and potentially isolating learning activity, George Siemens was keen to promote its potential for knowledge sharing. I support this perspective yet am somewhat confounded by the reality of its limitations. The ability to create a map and simply put it on the web as a PDF is not a particularly interactive process and whilst the growth of mapping web apps (such as MindMeister and Gliffy) proviide new opportunities for collaboration, they still fall way short in enabling the potential of mapping as a fully participatory medium. Current mapping technologies and practices are unfortunately just too immature,
Multiple mapping notations (mind and concept mapping have fundamentally different psychological and theoretical foundations), and the lack of a standard mapping format (numerous mapping softwares and web apps were suggested by the audience yesterday) mean online map-sharing resources tend to be software specific (such as Biggerplate or the forthcoming cMappers). I want to be able to search for content across integrated mapping resources, navigate easily through mapping levels and hierarchies, take sections from different maps to add my own etc. in other ways, use maps in the way I use textual content systems to navigate, annotate and access the Web. This is dependent not only on the technological standardization of formats and architectures, but in establishing common practices in the way we map, how we link things, and how we develop visual knowledge networks.
The next seminar in this excellent series is at 9pm (Eastern US time) on October 13th.

An interesting debate (among many) in yesterday’s AACE Global U Social Media Seminar around mind and concept mapping. Whilst Dave Cormier dismissed mapping as a personal and potentially isolating learning activity, George Siemens was keen to promote its potential for knowledge sharing. I support this perspective yet am somewhat deflated by the reality of its limitations. The ability to create a map and simply put it on the Web as a PDF or whatever is not a particularly interactive process and whilst the growth of mapping web apps (such as MindMeister and Gliffy) provide new opportunities for collaboration, they still fall way short in enabling the potential of mapping as a fully participatory medium. Current mapping technologies and practices are unfortunately just too immature.

Multiple mapping notations (mind and concept mapping have fundamentally different psychological and theoretical foundations), and the lack of a standard mapping format (numerous mapping softwares and web apps were suggested by the audience yesterday) mean online map-sharing resources tend to be disparate and software specific (such as Biggerplate or the forthcoming cMappers). I want to be able to search for content across integrated mapping resources, navigate easily through multiple mapping levels and hierarchies, select isolated sections from different maps to add to my own etc. – in other words; use maps in the way I use numerous text-based systems to navigate, annotate and contribute to the Web. This capability would not only depend on the standardization of formats and architectures, but in establishing common practices in the way we map, link things, and  develop visual knowledge networks.

The next seminar in this excellent series is at 9pm (Eastern US time) on October 13th.

My Blog Commenting Process

Monday, September 7th, 2009
The other day – when I should have been doing something more useful – I started thinking about how I get round to commenting on other blogs, and eventually came up with the following process:
I read blog posts through my Desktop RSS Aggregator – Vienna on my new Mac (I still use Feedreader on my PC)
I save any blog posts that are interesting in ‘Marked Articles.’
If I think I might comment on a post I might then bookmark it. This involves right clicking the post feed to open it in Safari / Firefox to then b able to bookmark it via the Delicious plug-in.
I have a system where I do not add tags to any bookmarks I only want in My Delicious site temporarily. That way they automatically go to ‘Unmarked bookmarks’ at the bottom of my tag list. I just write a quick memo in the Notes box (e.g. “comment on this”).
Sometimes later (if I have time, or remember a specific post, or think of something interesting to say), I’ll go to My Delicious, open up the blog post and finally…write a comment.
This seems ridiculously complex. OK, I could I use an online RSS aggregator, but the various tools involved integrate fairly seamlessly and it’s not a big deal to jump between them. Maybe a lot of ‘simple’ processes we develop are as complex as this when broken down?
So what’s my problem? Do other people just comment straight away on posts they read? What if there’s a load of them – perhaps they allocate time for replying to blogs. If a blog post is really interesting I often need to mull over it, let it sink in, consider its implications to me. Hence the ‘loading bay’ process. I might get back to it later that day or the next – often I’ll just forget about it.
Is developing quick and efficient blogging discourse is a skill – just one of many skills that make up digital / web literacies?

The other day – when I should have been doing something more useful – I started thinking about how I get round to commenting on other blogs, and eventually came up with the following process:

  • I read blog posts through my Desktop RSS Aggregator – Vienna on my new Mac (I still use Feedreader on my PC)
  • I save any blog posts that are interesting in ‘Marked Articles.’
  • If I think I might comment on a post I bookmark it. This involves right clicking the post feed to open it in Safari / Firefox to then be able to bookmark it via the Delicious plug-in.
  • I have a system where I do not add tags to any bookmarks I only want in My Delicious site temporarily. That way they automatically go to ‘Unmarked bookmarks’ at the bottom of my tag list. I just write a quick memo in the Notes box (e.g. “comment on this”).
  • Sometimes later (if I have time, or remember a specific post, or think of something interesting to say), I’ll go to My Delicious, open up the blog post and finally…write a comment.

This seems ridiculously complex. OK, I could I use a browser-based or online RSS aggregator to simplify the technology, but these tools integrate fairly seamlessly and it’s not a big deal to jump between them. Maybe a lot of the seemingly ‘simple’ processes we develop are as complex as this when broken down? So what’s my problem? Do other people just comment straight away on posts they read? What if there’s a load of them – perhaps they allocate time for replying to blogs. If a blog post is really interesting I often need to mull over it, let it sink in, consider its implications to my work. Hence the ‘loading bay’ process. I might get back to it later that day or the next – often I’ll just forget about it. My PhD study is concerned with such processes, and developing an efficient blogging discourse is one of the key skills that contributes to effective digital and web literacy.

Social Annotation with digress.it

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

digress.it is a WordPress plug-in for the social annotation of text, It’s an upgrade of CommentPress, originally developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book, enabling fine-grained annotation (i.e. by each paragraph of text). Projects can also be hosted at the digress.it site, such as this full text of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society.

Verify your blog with Google Webmaster Tools

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
To verify a WordPress blog with Google Webmaster Tools do the following:
Sign into Google Webmaster Tools with your Google Account
https://www.google.com/accounts/ServiceLogin?service=sitemaps&passive=true&nui=1&continue=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fwebmasters%2Ftools%2F&followup=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fwebmasters%2Ftools%2F&hl=en
In the Home Page click Add a site… and type the full URL of the site you want to add
Click Continue to go to the Site Verification page
In the Name box, type a name for your site (e.g. My Blog) (optional)
Select “Upload an HTML file” as the verification method and Google will provide you with a long code (such as googlec5a889453be1474d.html)
In a new browser window / tab go to your WordPress Dashboard and create a new page
Copy the Google code into the title bar and publish the page (no need to add content)
Go back to the Site Verification page and click “Verify’
If you are are using the page menu widget your new page will have appeared in the menu
To delete this from the menu, go to the Widgets page and open up the Pages drop down menu
In the Exclude bar type in the Page ID of the new page and click save (to find the Page ID go to edit the page and its the last 3 digits of the URL)

To verify a WordPress blog with Google Webmaster Tools do the following:

  • Sign into Google Webmaster Tools with your Google Account
  • In the Home Page click Add a site… and type the full URL of the site you want to add
  • Click Continue to go to the Site Verification page
  • In the Name box, type a name for your site (e.g. My Blog) (optional)
  • Select “Upload an HTML file” as the verification method
  • Google will provide you with a long code (for example: googlec5a889453be1474d.html)
  • In a new browser window / tab go to your WordPress Dashboard and create a new page
  • Copy the Google code into the title bar and publish the page (no need to add content)
  • Go back to the Site Verification page and click “Verify’

If you are are using the page menu widget your new page will have appeared in the menu. To delete this from the menu:

  • Go to the Widgets page and open up the Pages drop down menu
  • Type in the Page ID of the new page in the Exclude bar and click save
  • (To find the Page ID go to edit the page and copy the last 3 digits of the URL)

Please comment on this post… but hurry!

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Jane Knight provides a useful weekly round-up of her web output (blog posts and bookmarks). Her latest is here. I’m frequently surprised at the response rates on some blogs, and on occasions, I’ve been reluctant to submit a comment just because I happen to have taken several days getting round to reading a post. Is a reply devalued because it may be a few days ‘too late’? Do bloggers give up responding to comments after a given period? I have about 100 blogs I regularly read through RSS (with my recent switch to using a Mac, I now use Vienna). I try to view these every day, but hey, we all have other things to do in our lives.
Whilst I recognize the affordances of currency and informality which blogging provides over other forms of academic discourse, has the emphasis on immediacy gone too far?Jane Knight’s round-up merely emphasizes that many blogging architectures provide weekly, monthly and yearly summaries, whilst tagging systems enable effective archive retrieval through subject matter. I sometimes come across blog posts several years old that are still of profound interest and relevance. As blog posts are increasingly cited in formal academic literature, how do we best negotiate the vast cultural and temporal inconsistencies which exist between them?

I’m frequently surprised at the quick response rates on some blogs, and on occasions, I’ve been reluctant to submit a comment just because I happen to have taken several days getting round to reading a post. Is a comment devalued because it may be a few days or weeks ‘too late’? Do bloggers give up responding to comments after a given period? I regularly read about 100 blogs through RSS (with my recent switch to using a Mac, I now use Vienna). I try to do this every day, but hey, we all have other things to do in our lives.

Whilst I recognize the affordances of currency and informality which blogging provides over other forms of academic discourse, has the emphasis on immediacy gone too far? Jane Knight’s useful weekly round-up of blog posts and bookmarks (her latest is here) reminds me that, by default, many blogging architectures enable weekly, monthly and yearly summaries, whilst tagging systems provide effective archive retrieval through subject matter. I sometimes come across blog posts several years old that are still of profound interest and relevance. As blog posts are increasingly cited in formal academic literature, how do we best negotiate the vast cultural and temporal inconsistencies which exist between them?