Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Social Media: Reputation, risk and relationships

To share or not to share? Why? With/For Whom?

This post was written in in Porto at the 2ndEuropean Conference on Social Media, where I presented my work on professional online presence and learning networks, and publicised our CFP for the Twitter in Education special issue. Time to share a few key messages from the two-day conference, further details of which can be traced on Twitter via #ECSM2015

The conference opened with a keynote from Dr Luis Borges Gouveia relating to security issues and human relationships in social media. Among other matters, Luis invited us to consider FaceBook (FB) as a room in which all of our past and current acquaintances, family, close friends, romantic partners and professional colleagues meet and mix. How would we feel about this occurring in any other social setting?!

While some regard this as a time bomb and advocate establishing separate profiles for personal/professional use, others question the integrity of splitting identity online, and regard separate groups as a more authentic response to communicating with diverse parties. Whether we separate people into rooms or groups, key concerns are audience, privacy and purpose. This reflects the challenge students often face when shifting from socialising on FB to using a wider range of social media tools for learning and professional purposes.

Audience is also about influence and reach. A number of speakers at ECSM15 tackled the problem of measuring social media influence (de Marcellis-Warin, Alshawaf & Le Wen)In education, social media enables reach beyond the VLE to connect with an extended audience. For example, Hogg & Ritchie presented how they used course narratives via blogs and FB to inspire and encourage prospective students. 

Interestingly, recent research looks at disclosure and risk perception online. I had the privilege of chairing a session at ECSM, incorporating work by recent masters graduates in this field, and it is clear that the factors determining what and how much users of social media disclose online, correlated with their perceptions of the risks of disclosure, are areas of emerging research. The extent to which young people are risk aware and savvy about privacy issues appears to be a bone of contention. 

A further point made by Luis Borges Gouveia is that only the rich can afford privacy. However it seems to me that riches very often lead to fame that is incompatible with anonymity, and famous people are targets for those who hunt private detail and seek to breach security. If we are all in the same boat, do we sacrifice a degree of privacy in order to work with (rather than against) our reputations, by proactively cultivating, rather than leaving this to chance or in someone else’s hands? Fundamentally, this is about our identity and sovereignty in terms of control of our data, ownership and self-determination.

Of the shorter sessions to follow, I found Nicola Osborne’s presentation most relevant to my current preoccupations with professional online presence and learning networks, or in Osborne and Connelly’s terms "eProfessionalism". This concerns how students manage (or neglect to manage) their digital footprints, and how tertiary institutions might provide guidance in this area to build student competence.

A related and highly creative articulation of guides to social media netiquette (SMetiquette?) is Elaine Garcia’s wild west poster, proposing that cowboy codes centred on notions of hospitality, fair play, loyalty and respect, could well be applied to the wild frontier of social media.

More on this in another post, as I think Elaine and Nicola’s work will continue to inspire my teaching and research practices.

On day two of the conference, Batista on social media in higher education, looked at issues and challenges, all of which coalesced around:

  • privacy and security
  • institutional frontiers
  • copyright and authoring

Drilling down, all of these are about Reputation. Privacy is about guarding what you want to keep to yourself; security is similar, particularly about safety and data protection. Institutional frontiers involve protecting a university’s wares and this in turn  relate to intellectual property and then to copyright and authoring. Essentially, we are happy to share freely if this is in our interest and positively enhances our reputation without causing us harm or loss (our co-authored book Digital Smarts is a case in point).

Overall, the key messages here are about being thoughtful and intentional about what we share on social media, while maintaining integrity, managing risk and sustaining positive relationships with those who matter.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Digital Smarts: the book is out

Digital Smarts: Enhancing Teaching and Learning

For those of you interested in looking at the role digital technologies play in education contexts from early childhood to tertiary, this book is now out. Dianne and I have gathered together the research of colleagues into various facets of the education landscape in one region of New Zealand. And in the spirit of openness, have made this freely available via a Creative Commons Licence.

This book was also an opportunity to support colleagues' work and collect various interpretations and applications of the idea of 'digital smartness'. There are various ways of interpreting this phrase, and we wanted colleagues to be creative. We therefore have examples from early childhood, through to a variety of school settings and also in tertiary education contexts.

'Digital smartness' can be understood as being about opportunity, creativity, appropriation, investigation as well as frustration or pain (as in 'smarting'). Young children, adults learning to be teachers, and staff are part of this landscape, as the chapters explore examples of what digital smarts might look like in various educational contexts.

The gestation of this book included developing a quality assurance process. This consisted of Dianne and I reviewing each chapter, as well as getting each of the authors to peer review someone else's chapter. After that process,  an international array of academics who work in this field provided blind reviews of chapters. These international academics include Kevin Burden from the University of Hull, Alec Couros from the University of Regina and Caroline Daly from the Institute of Education, Gilly Salmon from The University of Western Australia, Richard Walker from The University of York and @timbuckteeth, aka Steve Wheeler from the Plymouth University. Each of these people provided feedback to authors and have enriched the quality of the book through these international perspectives.

Please feel free to read it. Shortly, an ebook version will be available as an alternative to the pdf. To read the ebook version, you need an ebook reader. We'd love to know what you think of our efforts. Curt Bonk has been the first to it review it, and his thoughts are on the book's site.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Part Four: More musings on classrooms using mobile digital technologies

As I've mentioned in previous blog posts (see for example: Part Three: visiting some more classrooms), I'm regularly visiting a number of teachers as they go about their work, quietly experimenting with digital tools. I've also talked about the music class (Part Two: Visiting some classrooms). I was back there today and had a chance to ask two girls what it was like learning music with the iPads and the various apps and sites they use.

I wasn't fast enough to record things verbatim, but essentially they said that they LOVE it! By doing some of the drills and quizzes, their confidence and musical knowledge has increased hugely. In probing this, they also told me that it was because the practice helped but so did the feedback so they knew what to do better next time. They also, without prompting, argued that learning the same things via pen and paper wouldn't have worked - digitally, they can try, redo, erase and keep going without having to mess up a lot of paper.

Perhaps this is why, when the teacher was explaining a point about some notation information, both of them moved their seats so they could see better. This is what you call engagement. And they were very happy to talk about their experiences, smiling the whole time!

So why am I telling you this? If we are wondering about impact on learning, here is a great example where it is positive and supports confidence, engagement, and a desire to learn more. What more can you ask?  Here are some images of these girls going through one set of tasks to refresh their knowledge about identifying notes on lines above and below the stave, as well as identifying key signatures. Note: I have deliberately not photographed them, just what they working on:
Identifying notes above and below the stave. Note the handy
pen and paper too
Getting a choice right! (She wanted me to capture that!)

So I guess the upshot is that while there has been a debate raging in Mirandanet on its forum about the banning mobile phones debate arising from a Guardian article, here we are beginning develop a body of knowledge about the value mobile devices can have for specifically targeted learning. The original article prompted a published response, which in turn, developed the debate further, so the kinds of learning we are observing and reporting on in brief here, is important. The key is ALWAYS about the design of the learning - clear purposes and learning structures to facilitate a student-centred, student-learning-need-driven focus.

As always, comments and other perspectives are welcome.