Tuesday, 16 December 2008

TEL Tales: stronger methods for understanding 2.0 Social Networks

not sure about this, but think I will be posting my TEL stuff on tell tales, and my running stuff on runningsu
wonder then what I should put on shirley knot...
just for today I think I will put tell tales here too, then maybe someone with wisdom could advise me on the best thing to do....

Towards stronger methods for understanding Social Networks - today and tomorrow

Been talking with one of my students about doing some facebook analytics as a part of a research project looking at social networking. One of the things which interests me is the appropriate research methodologies to actually get to the bottom of why and how people use these sorts of networks.

Two publications in the near past (Dec 2009) give clues to why we need to get our research methods sorted.
1) Peter Schwartz in the Huffington Post blogs on the proposed death of facebook (well I paraphrase)

2) a paper from Huberman et al on Social Networks that matter: Twitter under the microscope

so my student wants to do a bit of traversing of networks and mapping patterns of connections. and it would be good if we could identify any markers for behaviours - there have been a few posts on that stuff too - something like "ten types of twitter users" I seem to recall

And after we have collected our first set of data from the network traversal, we want to talk to different user types and get some backfill on their actual usage, motivations etc etc. The whole task would be monumental - or at least suitable for some extended study, but this is going to be short and to the point.

The issue I have with both the Schwartz blog, and Huberman et al, it that they leave dangling more questions that they actually answer.

Looking at what Schwartz offers in anecdotal evidence about user preferences, what Huberman et al suggest about evidence of real network (the little networks within networks that really matter - my phrase not theirs) reminds me that I also have anecdotal and personal ethnographic evidence of a more complex set of connections, and values.

and what I want is a method of exploring this sort of network, both by physically getting the evidence from the networks, and from identifying and gathering personal data from Representative selections of those users.

I 'know' from discussions with active users whose posts I value, that there is mileage in this area, the question for me (and my student) is how are we going to get to that precious data, and therefore, what can we do to get a bit further down the methodological minefield

Friday, 14 November 2008


Learners and Technology Affordances Group
I really like the perspective of technology affordances and always go back to Gaver’s paper to remind myself where the technology part of the affordances discussion originally came from.

So wayback I was involved in a project which produced some guidance of students using technolgy in learning. What I am trying to do is revisit that work and look at it with modern eyes.

Amongst the ideas which emerged then were an activity gradient - looking at different styles of interactions. I visited each area of the gradient and came up with lots of examples for each stage in the gradient. Not sure where it is now, but I do know that I don’t throw stuff away....

Also Hugh Davis and I produced a (rather clunky) slide show which looked at a day in a life of a student - and showed a few scenarios.

What I want to do now is to make a start on re-populating the stages in the gradient and add in the applications which have emerged since the work we originally did. I am planning to start by populating it myself, but then putting it up onto a wiki and getting people in workshops to elaborate it with me.

Since then too, I have got very much into the ideas of disciplinary differences and have been looking at how teaching and student learning varies across disciplines - and given my home area, of course I have quite a lot of stuff on Computer Science, engineering, technology and cognated disciplines.

These ideas link to work which we are doing on student experience following on from our campus benchmarking exercise in 2007-08. I took these ideas to COOP 2008 and they also link in to the proposal I have just put forward to the ALT2009 Programme Committee to run a student YouTube competition for short videos on the theme of their perceptions of learning.

I guess part of the idea for a YouTube competition came from the Guardian who are running something on this theme with a deadline for December 2008. Its also inspired by some of the whacky videos which our own students via the Student Union at Southampton have produced recently.

Maybe we could put a video-booth on campus which students could use, maybe we should involve the students union who ran the freshers TV stuff. Dave Tarrant is our ECS TV PhD person who may be worth talking to, Jason Allen is an undergrad in ECS who has done Freshers TV.

Not sure how this would work, but if could be an adjunct to the student voices work we are just getting off the ground.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Back in the loop - rant

back in the blogosphere, but not sure for how long
desperately grappling with my online identities
am I a runner?
am I an academic?
am I just plain eccentric?

what I do know is that I have not posted since September partly because I have been doing other things, but also partly because each time I tried to post, the text appeared in Hindi! this was not my intention, but its taken til now to spot the transliteration button at the bottom on the config page and work out that I needed to change it - not that I spent a great deal of time on it you understand, but still it was a barrier

  • And that is what I am interested in from a research point of view.
  • I came back to this blog because I have been editing my home page, and then thinking it would be better to do this via the blog.
  • And then that added another item on the todo list ( which I am currently ignoring) which is that I probably need to separate my online identities.
  • And then that made me think about the fact that I maybe want to register a few more domain names
  • And that reminded me that each domain will need a visual identity
  • and that made me think about a life online, and the fact that I only live it a bit, because I also have a life offline....
and did I mention the really good pages from British Columbia on digital tatoos?
But coming back to the life online, there are a few ideas....

If we are talking about using technology for education, we might need to think about the realities of people's lives.

Academic researchers who live online have a world view which is shaped by their experience, but it aint the world view of joe and joanna public.

I have a list of considerations:
  1. your students do not have the same priorities as you do
  2. it might be dangerous to base our models of how students prefer to learn of the leisure habits of an indeterminate number and proportion of young people
  3. early adopters and early majority have a different experience/perspective to the late majority
  4. educators need to take charge of how they go about educating
  5. the bandwidth of face to face communications can be incredibly high
  6. its a good idea to remove the barriers to learning
  7. learning can only be done a bit at a time
  8. the magic number seven plus or minus one was a good paper, but we might be happier with even less complexity
  9. the map is not the teritory
  10. academic evangelists do not have the same perspective as neophyte learner
Now of course, the technogazers have a valid argument that you should not focus on the implementation problems, but think about the big picture, however, if we are dealing with education here and now, then the human issues actually do matter. So as a future gazer I can say, discount the problems, but as a teacher using the technology I need to understand the problems in order to overcome them. That means, logically that the problems need to be categorised accoding to their impact - half life - will it go away in time if so, how does that change things? does the exisitence of the problem give us insight into something which is important - ie and insight into the learning process?

When I was going through my dilemma of am I a runner/academic/eccentric I was also thinking that its important that I am all of these things.

Talking to my running sisters reminds me that there are lots of people who are not online all the time, do not have routine access, and who have rather clunky models of how inter-webby thing might work. We could think of them affectionately as the world wide plebs
Plebs - definition from the free dictionary
common people, folk, folks - people in general (often used in the plural); "they're just country folk"; "folks around here drink moonshine"; "the common people determine the group character and preserve its customs from one generation to the next"

so here we are back in the life online
some of us have one, some of us don't... some of us who do, are not there all the time

and I am coming back to some old ideas - technology affordances, barriers to learning hmmm...

Friday, 3 October 2008

Tool of the Devil

tool of the devil
what is happening here?
this was a rant about the joys of blackboard - but Hindi got in the way, and its lost, lost, lost, but then that is also part of the life online....
my frustration was palpable, and I deserted the activity
I frequently want to post but things get in the way - the fabric has rips in it
lets have a list of those rips....
  1. I can't get online
  2. I can get online but then the line gets dropped
  3. I get online but feel that the post is stupid because its not very professional
  4. I get online but something goes weird with what I am doing, and because I work in zillions of different environments I don't get to sort out/work out how the problem has been caused...
- now I am thinking about learners

  1. they may or may not get online - if you lead an orderly life you may be online more than if your life is chaotic, the life of many students is chaotic.
  2. they want to get online, but find they are fighting for space, and having had that demoralising expience once or twice give up
  3. when they do their work they have emotions about it....
  4. they have places they hang out, virtually and actually, they like to hang out where they are comfortable
  • hightly motivated, rushed, don't understand it, angry because they don't understand it, demotivated because they don't understand it, frightened because they feel stupid
And now I am thinking about blackboard
  1. its the tool of the devil (evil vibes)
  2. it forces me to do things in ways which I don't feel comfortable with (bad mooder)
  3. it forces me to do things in ways which are just plain inefficient (time eater)
  4. I use many different environments and the cognitive load to master that on top of the others is not what I choose to exercise (load toad)
  5. it orders information in such a way that I cannot provide links to the information (links jinx)
  6. it costs the university vast amounts of money - which I would like to spend in other ways
  7. it costs the university vast amounts of money - when there are open source alternatives
  8. its embodied paradigm of 'learning' is constraining - and does not fit the model which I choose to use with my students
  9. it is culturally alien to our education system - vocabulary does not match ours
  10. sometimes it is not there (imagine a lecture theatre which disappeared from time to time!

Friday, 12 September 2008


time to take a grip, modus operandi has to be the answer, not an easy option for someone who is naturally spontaneous. but... going to try running the blog as a work in progress, lets see how it goes

ALT - its a community thing...
Just Back from ALTC2008 in Leeds
wonderful place to take the pulse of technologies and change in UK higher education.
Flow of consciousness... contacts, back in the loop, people, regret of photos I did not have the presence of mind to take, guilt at photos not yet on Flickr, brilliant keynote from Roth, other inevitable curate's eggs, great community of practice, secret gossip, visible evidenc of power of JISC to transform UK HE's take on technology, testimony to creativity, gap between EdTech specialists and jobbing academics, wonderful insight in the community, disarming naiivity amongst some outsiders (heavy irony and subtext here folks), ALT as an institution, the Fringe F-ALT as another different one, zillions of other interconnecting nets, stunning creativity, the wisdom of crowds, gangs and six gangs, Flickr for remembrance, the one's who are not there, in fact or in Flickr, 700 on the register, more than 400 on CrowdVine.
Special Thanks... Josie and Scott for F-ALT and all the others who made it too, Twitter for helping my virtual meet some sort of reality, Paul Bailey and Laurie for reminding me about my old work, and kickstarting me into LTAGs (coming real soon folks), John, Terry, Mark, Patrick, Malcolm, MarkII;-) and Vania for signing up as seminar speakers, my Hood2.0 discussants, James Clay for Hood2.0, microbloggers and edubloggers at F-ALT, Jill for helping us at the conference dinner, Victoria, Seb and the ALT admin for getting us into the conference dinner... in the end :-) Cape Town lady for reading my work on disciplinary differences and being enthusiastic, Jon Maber for being so admirably clever and inventive ( a breville toaster to make boards indeed!!), FrankyInsultingTom for his cheerfullness, Maggie and Paul for helping us hatch plans, the canal and running for networking with my mind, the college students for their fab meal, especially our own waiter, Hugh for companionship and general schmoozing... and this will be so embarrasing for all those that that I have forgotten just now, but I have you somewhere in my head. Next year its over to Tom and Gilly and our technology dreams....hmmm

Encountered terminal technology overload at one stage, videoing discussions good idea, post processing to blog, still not happened. Thanks to Emma, Clare and Phil who were in my discussion group during James Clay's Hood2.0 workshop. Seesmic was my undoing, although I did manage photobooth. Multiple personalities in blogger were a micro challenge.
Next up
I have planned a GirlGeek|BarCamp|PlugFest|DigiSlam|Hopper for CompSci women which will be fabulous....
LTAGs (the TA stands for technology affordances) am working on a community wiki to gather and develop.
CSFIC/WWWrong - workshops in the pipeline for all us folks interested in organisational change
Grand Challenges and Technology Enhanced Learning, LSL in Southampton will be joining it, expect Hugh Davis to lead and add to the grand work done so far by the likes of Tom Boyle and Josie Taylor

Recent delights...
the HEA-ICS subject centre have decided to mainstream fund the TOPS competition (teaching over performing students/teaching overtly precocious students) an inter university programming competition designed to motivate and reward some of our programming students who are already fairly skilled when they start their undergraduate studies. We need to look after all of our students and find smart ways of achieving this.

Software List
plugins today
firefox tinyurl creator
FFX free Flickr export from iPhoto
I am disappointed with the quality of the photos on my iPhone compared to the Nokia N95, but I'm getting the hang of posting straight to twitter during my runs, next on the list is to add geotagging.

I guess as far as the gaps are concerned, I guess I will have to wait til I am on my travels to catch up. Currently first priority is to get things sorted before the start of term.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Running on..

maybe worth mentioning that I do a bit of running, but I am trying to put my blogs for that on fetch everyone

Distorted views? A life online continues....

I am particularly interested in the application of web 2.0 in an educational context (education 2.0) I think there may be a paradigm change happening in education/society as a result of changing practices brought about by new technologies and in increasing understanding of the affordances of new technologies. However I do not think it is quite the same understanding as emerged from Frand, Oblinger and others. I do not think that students have changed radically, and I do not buy the digital natives, digital immigrants ideas (although I do recognise that as tags they are memorable, and can understand why they might catch on).

I have seen the press/media/marketing communities (in parts) becoming increasingly well educated about technology as it impacts on their work. There is strength in the argument that to comment on it they have to blog (and I have to go back and find that ref). But like the rest of us, their immersion in the technology serves to distort their understanding of its importance.

questions I am trying to answer right now...

  • What is the reality of a life online? 
  • How are students really changing their practice?
  • Is the apparent preponderance of technology in everyday life an illusion brought about by the distorted understanding of observers who themselves spend too much time online?
just consider...
...the number of new things I have come across in the last couple of days, or have been dealing with....
PLURK - apparently I can use that to microblog  (I think), that's if I have finished configuring Pownce ( and I still have not got everything done with 
then there are "lifestream thingies" www.lifestream.fm although apparently friendfeed is good
I have yet to try out twitpic
and while I am working my way through twitter there is also twitterpod, which got me stuck on deciding if I should use the universal version, or the mac tiger version (when I am on mac leopard) unfortunately my local consultant was not available at the decision point.
Go Run pissed me off because it had password rules, but I persisted because, 
  1. I like running, and I want all the bits of my life to be in this experiment. 
  2.  I want all the bits in this experiment
  3.  It might have been/become useful 

as an aside there seem to be a dearth of running twitterers, so now I am on a mission to recruit more - and you instantly see that I am beginning to distort what I am studying

the rant was going to go on much longer, but I discover that the rest of my twitters are no longer on my mobile, and if I go onto the web page I will have to wade through all the newsfeed twitters as well (although I may get to manage those soon by having more than one twitter identity)

Thursday, 29 May 2008

a life online: digital ethnography today

OK, now I am on Pownce, and when I have finished my todo list for today I will get round to using it with all my other web 2.0 feeds. It has bumped Plaxo off of the top of that particular todo list.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

IBWiki Innovation Base - a working semantic wiki

Excellent seminar all about FREMA which became a domain model for the community. I really like the fact that it is an example of a working CoP. The fact that the project is at the interface of two domains make the content of the seminar linguistically interesting as well. 

The ideas and output are the cumulation of a whole range of projects in our Lab here in Southampton, the latest of which come from work funded by the JISC. Yvonne Howard and Dave Millard are the drivers of this development. basically it has grown from our work and expertise in the assessment domain, but beefed up by the particular software engineering strengths which Dave and Yvonne have in spades. 

Interesting use of language during the seminar, software engineers talk about domains, and people working in the domain. Community of Practice belongs way away with the social scientists, even if we are talking about the same thing!

Part of the account revisits the paradox of reuse vs learning (people need to do to learn, but if someone else has already learnt it, do we need to go through all the pain yet again!!). This is a big factor for discussion in the critical success factors, and what went wrong communities. cf "stop people continuously re-inventing the wheel". 

One topic of discussion included the downsides of the semantic wiki compared to the knowledge base. Difficulties of implementing concept maps, lists, networks, it all seems to be about whether you organise before or after. 

Semantic Wikis are more likely to grow, but with the Knowledge Base you alienate the potential/existing Community of Practice; experts are needed to manage the structure. So the challenge is can we couple a KB with a wiki to get the best of both worlds.

Observations (definitions from the domain) inevitably come from different perspectives (think Korzybski here, the map is not the territory). Turns out that Hugh Glaser (also in ECS but in DSSE) has a seminar on work which he is doing in a similar area this very afternoon!

Facts on current work: IBWiki is at Southampton, IBMap is Manchester (modelling and mapping - Hilary Dexter and Tom Franklin) 

There is some considerable mileage in the recognition/analysis of how regular people interact with formal systems (in both senses of the word!!) 

Language notes: domain, artifacts, model, personas, scenarios, reference models ( and the fact that these are not tags, but could be)

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Attended really interesting workshop at COOP-08. My presentation is titled "Scanning the Horizon: Towards a Theory of Education 2.0

All a bit reflexive because its about academic 2.0, and I have been trying to immerse myself in the digital world in the spirit of a latter day Margaret Mead - coming of age in the ether ;-)

My twitter feed has been going full tilt, and I am trying to get to grips with Plaxo. I am using del.icio.us, blogger, emailing from my mobile phone (and browsing) but that's so expensive I won't be doing that long term.

I signed up for a blog to post from my mobile, and I have read that I can post to blogger from my mobile. Its practical for sharing pictures, but not sure about anything more than stubs.

I have a NetVibes account, will be running a workshop using CrowdVine, think that SimpleSpark to keep track of the growth of 2.0 applications. I have a picassa account (but have not put much on it yet), and a Flickr account although I am pissed off that I had to get (yet another) Yahoo Mail a/c because they lost my old one :-(

When I get into the office I find that my university has just established a ning group called sotoneducators (the title of which I keep misreading).

For quality assurance purposes we have a shared university repository for QA evidence and documents (no 2.0 aspects yet). For research outputs, we mandate that academics use a repository, and continue to add further Web 2.0 functionality with each revision.

In my free time I run with Southampton Running Sisters, and we use Google Groups and Facebook to keep in touch with each other. I use Fetch Everyone intermittently.

We have a project called EdShare which is based around tagging educational materials. Our project funders expect us to blog as well as write reports, our research group has its own set of blogs for external and internal purposes, and I find myself beginning to wonder when we will be able to do anything aside from writing.

My school has a media wiki for the students, uses a knowledge base for FAQs, and a repository for important and shared documentation which sits alongside our intranet where we have many pages which allow dynamic editing.

In writing this account I become aware that the term/perspective I prefer to 2.0 is "a life online"; the account of the role of 2.0 in any users' experience, I think, has to encompass all aspects of technology interactions (justification also for the seamless integration of my mobile experiences into this account)

So now I am realising that some of the tagging which takes place is actually just in my mind, and that the rest of the sharing and publishing is much more visible! So it must be for the rest of humanity - most of what people think is not on the web, it is in an ether, but its another ether!

I have been reading The Ghost Road by Pat Barker. Rivers who worked with many 'shell shocked' soldiers from the 1914-1918 war, had been an anthropologist in Melanasia.

The accounts of the Ghosts in the book, and the differences in perspectives between the various societies (south sea, western european, upper class, working class, milatarist, pacifist, soldier, civilian....) seem to be relevant to some insights on knowledge and understanding, and therefore, inevitably what we understand about 2.0 - what it means for the web, and what it means for academia.

COOP is a well established european CSCW community, this workshop has attracted a significantly wide range of participants which reminds me of the inevitability of inter-disciplinary approaches.

the act of writing makes me realise that my own processes of reaching conclusions is somewhat chaotic (but not to say that the perspectives which emerge are not valid)

Tech to do:
This is meant to track my journey, not sure what margaret would call it!
Get onto last FM
Get to grips with Plaxo
Get rss feeds into my web page
Put up the recent web page which I revised ages ago, but have not got round to doing

Tech gripes, notes (as above)

Been trying to paste material into the page, but it does not seem to work - hey ho, what do I know??

Internet is good here, but the recurrent issue is down to maintaining power - all grist to the mill of the current argument about how 2.0 technologies impact on academic and higher education. Another part of the ethnographic perspective. I observe that via twitter, some people are online big-time, and others are intermittent. Motivations will vary with time.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Problems with the class system: what's in a name?

Friday is EdShare day. EdShare is a website for storing and sharing educational resources. We are growing the collection and refining the interface at this moment. 

EdShare is a place which can be used to collaborate with fellow academics. It can also showcase educational materials which are used in teaching and the support of learning at the University of Southampton.

Today we are grappling with metadata - in particular the way in which deposits are categorised by topic/subject.

The issue is that all of the established codes are problematic, we started off using library of congress codes, and that is fun :-) we are looking at the JACS codes - but they are not quite right (too limited) conclusion: subject to further discussion.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Running Sisters do it in the Forest :-) Hampshire RR10s

Another fab run last night from Deerleap for the RR10 series. Southampton Running Sisters turned out in excellent numbers.  Its really good to see the established running sisters out and having a good time. Its an excellent complement to the SRS Beginners' Course which is now in its third week (and maybe 17th year). This year our numbers are holding up really well. We have 60 new runners, and the publicity for the course has prompted quite a few exisiting members to pull on their trainers and rather belatedly send off their membership forms.

We now have a web site, a set of google groups mailing lists, and a Running Sisters Facebook presence. 

Towards a Theory of Education 2.0

I'm very excited about the workshop at the COOP '08 conference I am attending late in May. I went along to the eduserv symposium because I thought it would help focus me on what's happening right now.

The symposium was quite wide ranging and it has helped me think about how I need to make some aspects of my argument more specific and associated with curriculum 

Wanting to pull some ideas together for towards a theory of education 2.0.

Think I will address it specifically from perspectives of situated learning, authentic learning, and informal learning.

Also need to take a view which comes from Gaver's classic perspective of technology affordances

Sort of ties up with the VLE is dead perspective from Martin Weller

Also takes some guidance from Dave Millard's work on 2.0 applications

Needs a few diagrams to map the space

Friday, 18 April 2008

Building our EdShare and Sharing educational resources

Went to our regular weekly EdShare  update and planning meeting today ( http://www.edshare.soton.ac.uk/ ) We are making amazing progress in developing the interface. The basic structure is designed around EPrints ( http://www.eprints.org/ ). Les Carr is leading on EPrints, and he's leading the team, along with Hugh Davis from our Learning Societies Lab.  The project is being funded by JISC as an institutional exemplar. 

We are working on the principle that academics will be familiar with using a shared space to store their research outputs. We already share educational materials on an informal and ad hoc basis. EdShare is a way of enabling such processes while storing them on a common place. Plus we will be adding tools like tagging to increase their visibility. Early targets are likely to be materials used in teaching which look at generic skills-based areas of the curriculum.  We also planning early sharing of slides used in interactive lectures which use with zappers (personal response systems).

SRS Women's Beginners' Running Course 2008

Hectic time planning beginners programme for Southampton Running Sisters. http://www.srs.org.uk/. We are a women's running club, based in Southampton UK. Looking forward to meeting the new recruits :-) We got a plug on Wave105 this morning, so have had a few enquiries. Luckily we have all the info on our website.  Have also got a post on http://www.activesouthampton.co.uk/ .