Reflecting on learning and seeing the world in exciting new ways.

Posts tagged ‘web 2.0’

A changing alphabet

A colleague sent me these graphics this morning; I see they have been doing the rounds via Twitpic this week. They cleverly highlight the key differences between the traditional education most of us would have experienced and the kind of education children growing up in our digital world are experiencing now.

It got me wondering … what will these graphics look like in ten years’ time? Five? Or even next year?Alphabet most of us got to learn ...

Alphabet taught to kids today


Ask Twitter

Yesterday, I was marking a student’s assessment about the use of online tools to support e-learning. She was discussing the merits of social bookmarking and in particular delicious. Now, this is a topic dear to my heart. I have had a delicious account since 2004 and used it extensively over the years to access my favourite websites anywhere I had internet access. In recent times, I switched to Diigo and love the additional functionality it offers.

I followed the link to this particular student’s delicious account and noticed a few changes in the interface. Tags have now morphed into stacks, something which I’m not entirely convinced about and think bears more than a passing resemblance to Pinterest. However, logging in to my own delicious account, I was shocked to discover that my user name no longer existed, nor any of its variations!

Social media to the rescue

I decided to get to the heart of the matter and turned to Twitter. I found a Twitter account for delicious and within minutes of posting my query, I received the following reply from @Delicious_help:

Delicious help responseGosh! While I didn’t particularly like the response to my question, I was super impressed with the speed it arrived in my timeline. I relayed the news to my colleagues, both of whom were almost dumbfounded about how I had turned to social media rather than Google in the first instance and how quickly I’d used one social software tool to investigate another. One informed me that her 15 year old son would be impressed!

speeding bullet imageTo be honest, I didn’t give the process much thought at all. Yes, I could have searched for static information on the topic via a search engine, but what I really wanted was a quick response without all the guff. To me, that’s the beauty of Twitter; my professional learning network (PLN) is often my first port of call for issues relating to education and e-learning and today it proved faster and more effective than Superman himself!

Takeaway points

A couple of takeaway points from yesterday’s experience:

  • Google is not the first answer to every question. In fact, YouTube is continuously moving up the scale of search engine domination particularly in younger demographics and is even surpassing Yahoo.
  • Twitter in itself is not a learning tool but the professional learning network I have developed over the years via Twitter and other social media is one of the most valuable educational resources I have – and it’s all at my fingertips.
  • Don’t get left behind! Apparently the whole world knew about delicious’s plans to migrate to its new form. (Yes, I probably had several messages about it somewhere.) Some tools and services disappear altogether. Luckily, my eggs were also kept safely in another basket as a backup (Diigo).

Backing up in the cloud

If there’s one thing the Christchurch earthquakes have taught us, it’s the importance of current backups for all digital data. When was the last time you backed up your desktop computer, laptop or phone? I recently bought a 1TB external hard drive for my laptop at home but am the first to admit that, other than serving as a really large holding space for my music files, I have little faith in its ability to restore everything up in a disaster. Firstly, I’m not as organised at systematically backing up files as I’d like to be and, secondly, there’s no guarantee that a falling object will crush my laptop but miraculously miss my external hard drive located somewhere else in the house.

Derek Wenmoth’s post earlier this year about clouds and silver linings highlighted the value of storing digital data offsite. There are a plethora of cloud-based synchronising services available, many with a substantial amount of free storage as well as options for professional subscriptions. The concept is great: back up important content by sending it into the cloud, or synchronise various digital devices (computers, laptops, mobiles) in one central location. It can also be a good way to share folders and files with others. But what about security and bandwidth issues? Is cloud syncing more of a short or long term solution?

I have been playing with a couple of online synching tools recently. I have long had a partially utilised Dropbox account and have recently come across SugarSync. Here are my general impressions of both.


Dropbox logoDropbox has been around since 2007 and this review gives you a quick glance at its services. The basic plan gives you 2GB of free storage with options to upgrade to pro versions. It works well for Windows, Mac and Linux but has limited mobile functionality, even though it has applications for iPhone, Android and Blackberry. The web interface is simple to use although it only allows you to sync one folder of content. Be aware that their privacy policy was modified in April 2011 to read: “We may disclose to parties outside Dropbox files stored in your Dropbox and information about you that we collect when we have a good faith believe that disclose is reasonably necessary.” That’s not to say that everything you store is automatically shared with the masses, but I’d take a cautious approach, as I would with any cloud-based storage system.


SugarSync logoI have only recently ‘discovered’ SugarSync. So far, it’s looking pretty good to me. The basic, personal service is free and allows around 5GB of storage but with a 25MB limit for public file sharing. That’s important if you’re wanting to share videos. It offers services across a range of platforms and its mobile applications seem more stable than Dropbox. There are multiple ways to increase the free storage limit, including various types of referrals allowing another 500MB each, but I found many of them to be quite gimmicky. It is easy to synchronise multiple folders and files via the Magic Briefcase icon on your desktop (which takes you to the web interface). Security appears to be similar to Dropbox; nothing in the cloud is ever 100% secure.

A more comprehensive comparison between Dropbox and SugarSync can be found here.

Social media: helping or hindering a message?

Ban social media imageI read with interest an article in The Dominion Post this morning entitled Online is offside, All Blacks warned. Stuff has linked to the article World Cup Twitter ban for All Blacks. The upshot of the story is that the All Blacks, in response to a drive from senior players, will not be allowed to engage in social media for the duration of the Rugby World Cup. In particular, Twitter, personal Facebook pages, blogs and newspaper columns are deemed out of bounds and described as a “distraction”. Official All Blacks Twitter and Facebook accounts, along with the mainstream media, will be the primary means for interacting with the public. But what about telephones, email, tv or radio interviews (often live)? To me, there is little difference between social media and other forms of communication in this scenario.

As an organisation, we have been exploring ways to build our brand via social media and the issues associated with this. We have a social media policy which is accompanied by a set of guidelines for staff. Comments made via personal accounts must be clearly stated as our own and not necessarily shared by our employer. ‘Official’ accounts must be authorised by senior management and social media best practice and protocols apply. This pretty much goes without saying and prudence is expected.

I wonder whether developing a policy with clear guidelines about the appropriate use of social media would be more suitable for a business or public body such as the All Blacks, rather than implementing a blanket ban? Obviously anything that could reflect badly upon an employer, or information that is commercially sensitive, is automatically a no go area. But how about using social media to enhance and harness the power of a brand in a positive way? To me, careful and strategic use of social media can have positive and wide-reaching effects that far outweigh the lost opportunities we risk when imposing a blanket ban.

Mashable had a blog post today talking about 10 people who lost jobs over social media mistakes. My question is: is it the social media at fault, or is it user error? To me, these are behavioural issues in which social media was simply the vehicle. I agree that the behaviours were not appropriate, but by placing the blame on social media is somewhat misleading, even sensationalist. Some time and effort spent on exploring and defining the lines of separation between personal and professional online behaviour could be a valuable solution here.

Social media revolution

Further to my previous post about building a brand with Twitter, I had the pleasure of attending a session this afternoon hosted by Leanne Rate from our Marketing and Communications team. She gave attendees an overview of how our organisation is dipping our collective toes into the water that is social media in relation to developing our reputation and establishing online relationships with students, staff and other educational institutions.

One thing is obvious: it’s no longer a matter of should we use social media to develop our brand, but how should we use social media to develop our brand? Leanne showed us multiple examples of how our students are already interacting about their learning within the online social networks they have established independently of us. Regardless of whether organisations feel ready to join in, students are seeking and creating online relationships and engaging in conversations based around shared experiences, both positive and negative. Some of these conversations are ongoing but many are short lived, perhaps for the duration of a course or until the resolution of an issue. What does this mean for us, not only as an organisation, but as educators?

I really enjoyed the video Leanne showed about the social media revolution. It is an updated version from the original but is still a year old. I wonder how much the statistics have changed in that time? What will they look like next year? In five years’ time?

Building a brand with Twitter

Twitter logoThere is something about Twitter that polarises the masses. Actually, it goes further than that, especially in a business sense. From my observations, Twitter seems to divide people unevenly into three discrete camps: those who love it, those who hate it, and those who haven’t heard of it.

As an organisation, we have begun looking at our online presence including media such as Facebook and Twitter. There are many examples of companies using social media very well. There are probably more examples of companies who are not. The trick is, there is no rule book or definitive way to do it right; this is as frustrating for some individuals as it is liberating for others.

How to guides for Twitter

Tweet This Book coverAs part of our discussions and explorations, a group of us have come across and shared some resources exploring marketing conventions and etiquette for Twitter. Highly recommended by a colleague is the ebook Tweet This Book, which looks at building business and personal brands through social media.  It’s free to download – the author, Vaughn Davis, simply asks that you ‘pay’ him by tweeting the link or posting it on Facebook. It talks about how social media can be a window on the wall that is advertising, allowing users into what he describes as the social landscape. Davis stresses that the best way to learn how to do this is to jump on in; developing a brand through social media is not something you can thoroughly prepare for in advance, like heart surgery, for example.

Having said that, surely there have got to be some better ways to go about it than others? I found this blog post about social media principles helpful, with good explanations behind some of the techniques which can be used. On the other hand, 7 Twitter rules you must ignore busts some of the myths surrounding Twitter in light of traditional marketing. In essence, I see the success of any strategy is down to planning: what is our purpose, what do we want to achieve, who image to do we want to project, who is going to be the face for our approach (this could be more than one person), and how will we make this happen.

Business cards

I recently had some business cards printed. Rather than use up a line reciting a redundant fax number when I’m not even sure about the location of said machine in our office, I have included my Twitter handle, @ageja. As someone who works predominantly online, it makes sense for me to include details about the best ways to contact me. And, of course, I considered the idea of replacing the fax line with my Twitter handle after someone I follow on Twitter talked about doing it herself. I tweeted the idea and got feedback from several others encouraging me to go ahead. How’s that for a great example of a personal learning network in action?

Upon distributing my new cards at a recent educators’ forum, the result was instantaneously unanimous: “Oh, I hate Twitter.” OK … we got to talking about the points mentioned above, as well as me explaining how I have used Twitter as a tool for developing my own personal learning network while also providing timely access to topical news, research and information. There were many nods of agreement but the bottom line remained: “it’s not for me”. Fair enough. Maybe their perceptions will change in time?

What do you see the role of social media such as Twitter playing in terms of building an organisation’s brand? Can you think of any organisations which you feel are already doing this particularly well? What might be the secrets to their success?

Moving from delicious to Diigo

Delicious logoI have long been a big fan of delicious or, more specifically, online social bookmarking. Years of travelling or working between various sites and on different computers very quickly allowed me to see the benefit of saving my collection of links in the cloud (backed up, of course) rather than on a local machine. I recently gave a presentation for staff about using online bookmarking. Although it was set in the context of delicious, hopefully the message would be transferable to any other platform. Since 2003, delicious has been my preferred tool of choice but, admittedly, very little seems to have changed or developed within it over the years.

This morning, the Twitterverse was aflutter with news that Yahoo may be shutting down Delicious. Tweeters were aghast; how could Yahoo do this? What would we do now? A quick search for online bookmarking tools turned up this blog post about the five best online bookmarking services. I’ve got to say that this video has made Diigo look incredibly appealing, particularly its ability to highlight and annotate passages of text, rather than whole sites.

Diigo logoI’ve decided to jump on board the Diigo train, probably later than many but hopefully in time to allow me to successfully make the transition from delicious. I’m hoping that my network of users from delicious will also come on board so I can reconnect with them. Apart from joining in with the initial collective outrage at the possibility of delicious being ditched, I’m surprised how quickly I’ve change allegiance to a new platform. I realise there are many others to choose from, and that many people have been using online bookmarking sites other than delicious for a long time, but I’m hoping that Diigo will work for me.

I have begun by exporting my delicious bookmarks into html format. A few weeks ago I decided to split my existing delicious account in two and have one each for personal and professional use. I hadn’t actually begun populating my new account – probably just as well given that I’ll be moving platforms now. However, once I’m up and running, you’ll be able to find me here.