Sunday, 14 December 2008

Reflections of ELSS part 1

Top of the head phrases

- is there anybody there? said the traveller (in cyberspace)
- what if they gave a collaborative working exercise and nobody came?
- the natives (cf Prensky) are not nearly restless enough
- the sound of one blog blethering

This really started to emerge for me during week 3 when it seemed that the tumbleweed was blowing through the deserted alleyways of the VLE. Then, when I signed up to follow all the participants' blogs that I could find, I noticed that only Patsy was following anyone else's blog.

It's early days, I thought, and sure enough Marion found her way to mine, (welcome Marion! - a 100% increase in readership already), but other blogs remained unvisited.

This connected for me with a suspicious feeling I have about much of the Internet, that there are an awful lot of talkers and precious few listeners.

In the context of the course, and especially when getting ready to work collaboratively, it played right to my insecurities.

I'll say something positive in a later post, but I want to get this feeling in focus first, as it coloured my experience of the course considerably.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Playing Catchup

Well here we are at the end of Week 4 and I'm just getting to grips with part of Week 2, playing with Delicious. Most of what I've bookmarked has been folkie videos (simply because some friends I'm in touch with over Facebook keep sending me stuff that I wanted to keep... the problem with this internet business is how one thing leads to another...)

I can see the benefits of developing a group resource or reading list: one of the goals for the students I teach is to broaden their horizons, develop awareness of what's going on in the region and the world.

Also it would perhaps help with the ever-present problem of plagiarism, if students know that the resources they are using are already available to the instructors - although most of the plagiarism we have to deal with is not that sophisticated: a basic google search tends to come up with anything suspicious immediately.

Have also been doing some reading - the Franklin and van Harmelen piece was interesting.

Think I can see plenty of opportunities in students creating a Wiki... students often have to work as a team to research a topic and present their findings in report form - a wiki might be a good option.

One thing I have noticed as an English Language teacher with student writing is that, even with word processing, once things have been put into a given written form, they tend to stay that way... corrections and re-writes tend to focus on the rather superficial elements - "surface errors" rather than serious structural problems.

I wonder whether wikis would encourage more flexibility of approach to drafting and re-drafting? Also of course another way to create a shared reading/resource list.

Well... I hope to find out!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Facebook study group

I was dreaming last night about searching for people on the internet...

Have been getting a bit worried about this collaborative bit of Week 3 as it's already Wednesday and the only person I'd heard from left a message that they weren't going to be around...

But this morning I found I have another follower! Welcome Marion!

And a message about getting in touch via Facebook.

I have to invite someone to be a friend before I can invite them into the group. That means I have to find them first... and it isn't entirely easy unless you have friends in common, or know which networks they belong to.

I appreciate the difficulty, being one of several hundred Sarah Walkers with few distinguishing features.

Oddly, if someone is not on Facebook at all, I can invite them into the group - provided I know their email address.

Which for the most part I don't.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Week 3 Facebook discussion group

Well now I've created an Oxford Brookes ELSS discussion group on Facebook.

This was quite easy, but I was choosing options without a clear idea of what they would mean in practice - so it's a closed group (not open to the casual passerby), but I'm not quite sure how people can join it. I hope that makes sense!

I now have to find out if anyone else is on Facebook and whether I can invite them to join the group.

Any advice gratefully received!

Week 2 thoughts

Week 2 is over and I have only submitted 1/3rd of the assignments - the blog link. And I managed that at the beginning of the week. Oh dear.

However, I have managed to track down other participants' blogs and signed myself up to follow them - and very interesting they are too. It was quite easy to find them thanks to the ELSS tag (I see... so that's how tags work). Memo to self, check I've tagged my blog appropriately.

Otherwise, I've been creaking my way through the VLE to find comments and posts, but all that seems to have moved out onto the blogs.

Not surprisingly, as the blog interface seems (to me) much easier to use, and gives a better sense of communications as coming from a particular source - ie a sense of people discussing something. The VLE seems somehow to anonymise, if that's a word.

Partly it's just the non verbal stuff, like everyone's blog coming in in colours and layouts that the blogger has themselves chosen: a similar effect to the tones of someone's voice.

Blogs, purely as a means of self aggrandisement, are quite appealing. I'm afraid mine is mostly grumble so far.

Had a look at but not wildly inspired (and, as an English teacher, predictably by the skin rash of punctuation).

Will go back to it and have another bash.

On programming the video recorder

I did the BBC's 2005 online quiz about whether I was a digital citizen or not.

Well, the questions I knew the answers to, I knew.

And some of those I didn't know rather gave it away with their confusers - Christopher Wren has not been designing anything much recently - not since St Pauls and many beautiful churches, and Richard Rogers only does buildings (question 3).

Are we seriously expected not to have heard of them?

The other questions I had no clue about, but undoubtedly most of the information has been superseded over the last 3 years.

My score was 7 and the verdict was "probably still have problems programming the video recorder."

On the contrary.

I don't have a video recorder - or a TV - so I have no problems programming it.

It's not incapacity but lack of interest in almost everything that gets broadcast. (I do watch DVDs on the laptop).

I know the quiz was just a bit of frivolity, but why so insulting?

And, given that most of the information will by now be long out of date, what is it doing on this course anyway?

A classic confusion between the medium (the high tech equipment involved and the no doubt complex skills required to press the right keys on the remote control) and the message (in this case, the drivel that passes for 95% of TV output). Oh well, it's the Beeb so they're probably rather in favour of the drivel they broadcast...


Just call me an old fogey and have done with it - but it doesn't inspire.

Now, where did I put me cosy cardie?

Friday, 21 November 2008

A Question of Citizenship

The course materials include a 2001 article by Mark Perensky which talks about having "digital citizenship" or being a "digital immigrant".

A curious choice of metaphor (are no immigrants citizens?).

I wonder whether I could be described as a "digital refugee", or with a nod to the tabloid press, a "digital bogus asylum seeker."

If we have to play that game I would hope one day to consider myself a "dual nationality holder", with one passport from the digi-realm and the other from the world of what I'd like to call "heritage technology" - ie books, pens, paper, etc.

Well I suppose it was just a modish sort of terminology, but I prefer the driving license metaphor.

I don't actually hold a car driving license either, and only a fraction of an ICDL, but at least it clearly refers to skills which are either acquired or not acquired.

In the meantime, another aspect of illiteracy strikes me every time I open this blog. Because of where I am based, the front page always appears in Arabic first. I can read a couple of words of Arabic (generally when I already know what they mean: it's the same with Thai).

I've now located where the "change language on this page" point is. There is no icon but I can remember the place - which will be fine, until the site gets revamped.

This is part of the problem most users face, and I'm sure "cut off dates" (Perensky's sensitive euphemism for age) will not make any difference.

No matter where people come in on this thing, they will constantly have to be relearning and unlearning as things get changed, "upgraded", and generally superseded by other things.

Of course the older we are the harder it is to learn new stuff - but that applies to everything else as well.

A sixteen-year old relative of mine has been grumbling about the changes to the Facebook interface...

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

More thinking

Have done no more actual work on the topic but just a bit more thinking.

Part of what I teach here comes under the heading of "career preparation" - focussing on skills in English which will be useful when our Business and IT and Engineering students get jobs. The kinds of tasks we ask students to do include job applications, CV writing, etc.

For example an assignment was to find an advert for a job you really could do and write a letter of application for it. But naturally most of the jobs the students look for are advertised online and don't even give a land address - it would be odd to reply to an online ad with a letter unless it was specified.

Students tend to use email principally as a private-life means of communication, which means that they are not usually familiar with the norms of business-style email communication... sign offs like "I miss U" etc abound.

So it needs some thought and a bit of work...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Well there you are

I decided to start this blog when I googled myself and discovered I don't exist.

This was not an exercise in pure existential angst (well, not intended for that, anyway) but an assignment on a course I'm doing from Oxford Brookes University UK about using social software to enhance student learning.

It's only the start of Week 2 and I've already had to rethink my entire existence... or at least, the part of it that concerns my professional profile.