Category Archives: facebook

Top Ten Web Tools of 2010

This is the third time I have posted my top ten web tools, I did the same in 2008 and 2009.

So what else did I use, but didn’t make the list.

Feedburner is a great tool for keeping track of my podcast feed, but that’s all I use it for and not much else.

Twitterfeed is another good service for taking RSS feeds and feeding them into Twitter and Facebook, reliable and effective, once configured you rarely need to touch it again.

I do look into Facebook and LinkedIn, but don’t really engage with them, so they aren’t in the list either. I still like Prezi, but still haven’t used it for a live presentation yet….

Though I used Cloudworks a lot in 2009, I actually used it less in 2010 so that didn’t make the top ten again this year.

I am still unsure about the value of Foursquare (and other similar services) so likewise though I am “checking in” a fair bit on Foursquare it isn’t in my top ten.

I use to have strong reservations about Wikipedia, until I realised I used it on almost daily basis. No it’s not my only source, nor is it really an authoritative source, however it is a useful, quick and easy source of information.

Some key services that were in my 2009 list didn’t make the list this year.

I did use Ning a lot in 2010, on an almost daily basis and found it an extremely useful service. Since the summer, when the free version disappeared, I have hardly even noticed it been used and haven’t used it myself at all.

Ustream was another service in the 2009 list, however due to sheer quantity of advertising on the free service, I have stopped using it. I can understand the need for advertising on a free service, but not to the point where people stop using it!

Audioboo would probably have been in the list if I had used it as I planned to for 2010, however I didn’t. Most of my Audioboo recordings were about what Audioboo was and how it could be used. Maybe something to think about for 2011 perhaps?

Shozu was number five in 2008 and number eight in 2009, and it’s not in this year’s list, in the main as I “replaced” my Nokia N95 with a Google Nexus One.

Etherpad is not in this year’s list either, despite the original site going offline, I haven’t again used it that much in comparison to the other tools and services in the list. The fact that Google Docs now encompasses live collaborative editing, also means I am using Etherpad less.

This is an e-learning blog and I should really mention Moodle, I use Moodle everyday as part of my day job, however I see this more as an institutional service rather than a web tool.

Anyway onto the top ten for 2010.

10. Slideshare

I did use Slideshare a lot more in 2010, not just for uploading my own presentations, but also for viewing other people’s. It was this dual purpose that took Slideshare into my top ten tools.

9. Delicious

Though I have used Delicious for years, in 2010 I used it a lot more for both storing and sharing links.

One of the reasons for using it more was integrating the feed into my GCILT Twitter account via Twitterfeed. As a result not only was I saving my bookmarks I was also sharing them via Twitter. I did consider adding one of the many Twitter tools that allow you to share links you find on Twitter automatically to Delicious, but as yet have not made that leap.

Despite the possibility that Delicious will be no more in 2011, the export function has allowed me to both back up my links but also import them into Diijo.

8. TinyGrab

For sharing screengrabs on Twitter or Facebook, I have found TinyGrab to be a great tool. Press a couple of keypresses and the app captures and uploads the screengrab to a server before passing over the URL to your clipboard. I have found this a great app for sharing what I am seeing, dialogue boxes, etc…

7. Evernote

Despite using Google Docs a lot, I still find a need and room to use Evernote. The reasons are varied, but the main ones I can think of are the mobile applications on the iPhone and the iPad and the organisation of my notes on the Evernote platform. I like the fact I can take photographs and make audio recordings as notes too.

6. Instagram

I did wonder about Instagram when I first used it, though the more I use it the more I like it. This interesting iPhone App and service allows you to take photographs with your iPhone (or use a photo in your library), apply a filter and then upload them to a website. It can also post links to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare and other sites..

Unlike other photo apps on the iPhone though, Instagram is also a kind of photo social network too. Within the app you can follow other people and see their photos, you can be followed. You can view a feed of photographs, you can comment and “like” photographs. There is a feed of popular photographs and some of these are really good.

The fact that is an iPhone centric social network has both its upsides and downsides.

5. Posterous

Though WordPress is my main blogging platform, there is something I do like about Posterous. The fact that I can just e-mail updates andall the hard work is done by Posterous is so nice.

I can attach images, audio recordings or video files and Posterous will very nicely encode and add them as Flash playable objects in my blog posts.

Posterous also added some really nice new themes this year making my blog much more personalised and individual.

From a learning perspective it has a lot of potential and everyone I demonstrated it too, could also see that potential.

If I wasn’t using WordPress I would use Posterous.

4. Google Docs

The main way I use Google Docs is to write a document that I know I will be working from on multiple computers. Now I know I could use a USB stick, but it assumes I have the same application on all machines, which is not always the case. For example my work machines have Office 2003, fine, but my Mac has Office 2008 (the newer version), my home Mac only has Pages, my Samsung Q1 only has Open Office as does the Asus EeePC. Sometimes the PC is running Office 2007. Using Google Docs allows me to have a single copy of a document, share that document and export or print in variety of formats. For example I can download my document as a PDF. I have used Google Docs many times throughout 2010 to work on documents with other people from across the world and that has proved how useful this service is to me. This collaborative way of working with documents is so much better and easier than sending multiple versions of Word documents about by e-mail.

Learners will find that using Google Docs as the service to use in writing their assignments (especially group assignments) will avoid the headaches of different versions of Word, losing USB sticks, inability to access network drives from outside college, etc, etc…

3. Flickr

I have over 3500 photographs on Flickr covering a range of topics and events. From an events perspective I think Flickr adds so much more to an event. It can capture the event in ways that can’t be caught in any other way. Flickr is not only a great way of storing photographs, also a great place to find photographs, and many images on this blog are from photos from Flickr which are creative commons licensed to allow me to use them on the blog.

2. WordPress

This blog is powered by WordPress and this year I moved from WordPress.com to a self-hosted version of WordPress. However I still have a WordPress account that I pay for ugprades for allowing me to use video on Videopress and domain mapping so links on the old blog map to the new one.

I like Videopress for the ease of use, ability to use HD, unlimited length (within upload limit) and the quality of encoding. The VLE is Dead is one such movie, I don’t think could have worked on any other video hosting service without incurring either lots of costs or lots of adverts.

For blogging there is a combination of familiarity and ease of use that makes WordPress my number two web tool of 2010.

1. Twitter

For the second year running, Twitter is my number one top web tool.

I usually access Twitter via Osfoora on the iPhone and the HD version of Osfoora for the iPad. On my computer I will generally use the web interface.

I am not really a Facebook user even though I do have an account, the same can be said for LinkedIn. These two social networks are very popular with people in my community, however I find Twitter is my preferred tool for engaging with them.

So what do I get from Twitter?

Well the key thing is a community of practice from which I can get curated and useful information from. I can ask them questions and offer points of discussion to see what they think. I also find it a useful source of news and links, much easier in some respects than RSS feeds, a more personalised approach.

So why do I use Twitter?

I post lots of stuff to Twitter, yes I do feed into Twitter posts from my blog, photos from Instagram and other stuff. This is stuff I do want to share with my community and my view is that if you don’t like this then don’t follow me. However I do try and keep my posting of links to my stuff to a minimum, I try whenever possible to only post links to my blog only once to my Twitter stream. I know that this means people may miss that link, but I also know that clicking on links to blog posts I have already read are annoying. One of the key points

I made this year was that it isn’t necessary to read all the tweets I post, nor everyone else’s. It’s the same with RSS feeds.

But Twitter is not just a broadcast medium, a key part of Twitter is the conversation and I have discussed this many times before, I do think Twitter is about the coffee.

Twitter is a key tool for me with the conversations I have with my fellow learning technologists, e-learning specialists and library professionals.

So that’s my top ten tools of 2010. Are your favourite tools in my top ten? What am I missing?

Friendship Issues

On the BBC News Magazine is a an interesting article on “friendship” between parents and their children.

When Facebook was entirely dominated by people under the age of 25, things were simple. But now an important social question has arisen – should you “friend” your child, or accept a parent as a “friend”?

The article discusses the nature of Facebook friendship and that most young people would prefer not to be Facebook “friends” with thier parents.

Lindsay Stewart, 15, completely understands why you’d refuse a parent’s friend request. Her household have agreed on not becoming Facebook friends. “Mum said that she was going to get on Facebook,” Lindsay says. “She said she wasn’t going to ask to be friends. Me and my brother were relieved.”

“It’s a community,” she explains. “Our parents aren’t there in our groups in school.”

“I primarily joined Facebook to have conversations with my friends. My mum is my mum. I like her, but she’s not necessarily what I’d call my friend.”

This attitude and reasoning is actually in my opinion quite sensible and also demonstrates why that teachers should never be friends with their learners. It’s not just about having separate accounts, one for home and one for work when working with learners, it’s about how the learner and his or her community use Facebook and the role a teacher plays in that community. If a learners doesn’t want to be “friends” with their parents, then do they really want to or even should they be “friends” with their teachers?

I usually recommend to practitioners in my college that they would be better off creating a page or group that their learners can subscribe to, so that the issue of friendship doesn’t come up. Some would say in a post 16 college environment that this is different to a school. However I would also argue that the issue of friendship on Facebook is something that should be avoided at an FE College and even at a University.

I see Facebook not as a learning network, but a social network that learners can use for learning or for communication and collaboration. As practitioners we should be streaming content and information into that network, but shouldn’t be a part of that network. Learners need to be able to choose how and where they access this content from practitioners and forcing “friendship” to achieve this is in my opinion wrong and open to future problems. This is also reflected in many of the learner surveys which indicate that learners do not want institutions “invading” their social space. This is not the same thing though as learners not wanting to learn in their social spaces. This they often do and have been doing for ever in physical social spaces, it is only logical that this will happen in online social spaces.

Services such as Facebook and for many blurred the lines between social and professional, if institutions provide clear guidelines to staff and learners on usage, it allows the advantages of such systems to be utilised., whilst minimising potential risks.

Facebook ‘cuts student drop-outs’

facebookbbcnews

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.

ALT-C Reflections Part One

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.

altc09001

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.

vleideadterrywassal

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

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

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

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

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.

So are we seeing the death throes of blogging?

So is blogging dead, is it no more?

Will Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku mean that people will no longer blog.

A Wired article says

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.

Following on from the article in Wired on the death of blogging, there has been much discussion on Twitter about the article and the subsequent piece on the Today programme on Radio 4 and Rory Cellan-Jones’ blog entry.

So here I am blogging about the death of blogging?

What do you think?

Personally I think that Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku and other services have in many ways supplanted and replaced the personal blog, you know the kind that talk about family gatherings, taking the dog for a walk, going to the pub, what I did on my holiday kind of thing.

Where I think there is still room for blogging is the more in-depth articles, technical, reflective, opinion pieces.

In the same way that radio did not kill newspapers, and television did not kill radio, and the internet did not kill television. Blogging will not be killed by Twitter, Twitter won’t kill blogging in the same way it won’t kill e-mail or instant messaging.

It’s just another tool that allows you to communicate and learn in ways in which it isn’t possible via blogging and e-mail.

I see e-mail as one to one communication, blogging as one to many, whilst Twitter and Jaiku is much more a many to many form of communication.

I still read newspapers, I still listen to the Today programme on Radio 4, I watch BBC News on the TV, I look at the websites of traditional broadcast media for news, I read and subscribe to blogs, and I also find out about news via Twitter.

Twitter is just an additional tool or medium in which to communicate, share, collaborate and learn. Twitter hasn’t killed blogging it’s just another way of doing things.

What do you think?