29 November 2006

Are we still in teacher-driven mode?

One impression forming from feedback so far is that we are continuing to perpetuate a teacher-driven rather than student-centred mode of delivery by using social software. With the excitement of using new technologies is it an assumption that students (particularly young students) and staff really want to use them for learning and knowledge sharing? What evidence have you got that suggests this is really what our clients want?

We're really interested to get some additional feedback on this one so have your say by commenting.

19 November 2006

Where does Virtual Conferencing fit?

In analysing some of the responses to our recently released social software for learning survey, I noticed a comment questioning the inclusion of virtual conferencing under the umbrella of social software. Interestingly, this had been an initial concern of mine when I began this research project, mostly because I understood social software to be 'free' and available so that communities could be built bottom-up.

At that time, I referred my concerns to Michael Coghlan, who is recognised in Australia for his knowledge of and expertise with virtual conferencing, and Michael referred me to the wikipedia definition of social software:

"Social software enables people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication and to form online communities. ..."

Certainly, with that part of the definition, virtual conferencing fits under the umbrella of 'social software'.

However, Michael pointed out that Wikipedia's definition continues with "...Common to most definitions is the observation that some types of software seem to facilitate "bottom-up" community development, in which membership is voluntary."

Well, perhaps it is questionable whether virtual conferencing fits that part of the definition, although perhaps I could now argue that it does. There are free virtual conferencing tools coming onto the market (check out 'Dim Dim' (http://www.dimdim.com/), and what is stopping anyone from having open meetings, voluntary memberships etc using these tools. In fact, I believe I participate in just that at the moment through the Connected Community Network - membership is voluntary and it has evolved to become very "bottom-up".

So, acknowledging that not everyone will agree, for the purpose of our research we have chosen to include virtual conferencing under the umbrella of social software.

What do you think?

06 November 2006

How ready are we to change our practice?

Okay, I'm pondering again! I mentioned in a forum the other day that I like blogs that offer FeedBlitz or similar tool so that I can get updates to blogs in my email. That's because I can't get into the habit of going to bloglines to check updates - it seems another chore - but I read my email almost every day - not all in my professional and personal networks are bloggers. I also subscribe to Stephen Downes' OLDaily and to George Siemens' weekly blog summary email, and I get Nancy White's FeedBlitz update and they all come to my email.

I was checking FeedBlitz yesterday and it seemed to be saying what I have been thinking - email is ubiquitous. Everyone has email and everyone is familiar with it (well almost everyone - my 82 yr old mother doesn't want to know about it!). I know FeedBlitz is marketing a product but I connected with the words.

So, I'm not ready to change my practice - I can't see the point! It was mentioned to me that blogs are more personal - you can see what people look like, their interests etc. Mmmmm - you won't find that on my blog although you will find the blogs and links I'm interested in professionally.

And what about interaction. Web 2.0 technologies are meant to be about 'connecting' and 'networking' but a blog seems to me to be a one-way conversation. You blog it and invite comments - sometimes you get some, sometimes you don't (boo hoo - see the lack of comments on this blog!). I agree with the networking - you can find all sorts of contacts out there through blogs and wikis, but I see most interaction happening on listservs and forums, eg teachAndLearnOnline and edNA Framework Community Forum. So, if I want to interact, to enter into dialogue, discuss and debate issues, I'm going to probably choose a forum where people are going to respond and I can respond to their response. I could use a wiki forum of course!

So, how ready are VTE practitioners and other professionals to make the shift and what motivated those who have?