Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Twelve tech triumphs of 2009....

tools, conferences, connections.... what have been my virtual highlights of 2009? I have decided to make awards in my own very special categories. Many of these are Twitter related as it remains up there as my number one social networking and informal learning tool. End of.

So here's an award for each of the 12 days of Christmas

1. Best online conference: Digifolios - a Ning based community looking at digital identity and the development of e-portfolios

2. Best real life conference: ALT-C 2009 Manchester especially @jamesclay

3. Best Tweet-up opportunity: again - ALT-C 2009 Manchester - met LOADS of Twitter friends in real life for the first time (@sarahhorrigan, @adamread to name but two)

4. Best International Tweet-up (on home ground): @torresk (BCN) Flores restaurant, Leicester - a friendship that continues through Blip FM, Ning, blogs, facebook and of course tweets: can't have too much of a good thing!

5. Best International Tweet-up in a foreign language : @felipemorales (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) Cafe Mozart on the Paseo Canteras. Actually this was far more than a tweet up. In response to a DM asking for help on finding salsa venues in the City, Felipe (who I had never really "spoken to" before - only followed on Twitter) went out of his way to provide the information I needed . Both he and his family turned out to be funny, charming and generous people who I hope will continue to be friends! I also hope to return the favour some day!

6. The Tweet-up that didn't quite happen : @psweetman and I were metres away from each other at Holyrood in Sept - @Markhawker was trying to direct us towards each other but I didn't get the message until too late. Doh!

7. And the Tweet-up I had looked forward to longest: @cristinacost - Exchange Theatre, ALT-C 2009 Fringe meeting

8. Last of the Tweet-up related awards - to all the lovely Leicester people I finally got to meet for real in 2009: @ajcann, @lizzielib, @3quarks, @jobadge, @craig52uk and @caffeinebomb. (In 2010 WLTM @ffolliet and @mitchley....)

8. Most hyped damp squib of the year - Googlewave. I think it has amazing potential but I have yet to unlock it and am frustrated by the lack of interaction. Or is every one else having fun at the party and I am still in the kitchen, or in a different house maybe?

9. Most really useful asynchronous collaboration tool - I have been seduced away from Wetpaint into the arms of Googledocs this year and have managed to persuade our office staff to use it too. Recently I used Google spreadsheet to create an online survey and collaborated with a colleague on a presentation. I am also looking carefully at Huddle - especially as an application in Ning: potential for a great community collaboration tool here.

10. Best synchronous collaboration, learning and communication tool - has to be Skype: the latest version has screen sharing. It has become the tool of preference for me and my daughter to chat and share work/photos etc whilst she is away at University, and has thus made the pain of separation bearable! I have also used it for my own learning (Spanish conversation practice), for discussions with work colleagues when one or more of us is out of the office and of course for tutorials with my students.

11. Flip camera+ Camstudio + Moviemaker and Youtube ; Jing or Screenr - altogether a great set of free tools (except the Flipcamera which set me back a modest £60) for making short videos or screencasts - for friends and family, for learning, for recreation. I have filmed salsa classes, created holiday movies, made short welcome videos for distance learning students and provided instructional screencasts on using web 2.0 tools.

12. Best present I ever bought myself: my i-phone! Apps too numerous to mention but three I use constantly are: Collins Spanish dictionary - worth every penny, Tweetie is of course essential for a Twitter addict and Evernote provides me with my virtual memory!

Phew - that's it, my review of 2009. Can't wait to see what 2010 has to offer.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Why people don't use Web 2.0 - Tristram Hooley

it's often the case that students and fellow academics get scared off the idea of using Web 2.0 tools in their teaching and learning.  This post made sense to me and caused me to wonder how we could be presenting these tools differently to get people more engaged?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Wetpaint to damp squib

a typical page with ads top, bottom and side

I started out this year as something of an evangelist when it comes to Wetpaint wikis. I have used them in my teaching in various ways and even adapted one as a website/induction module for new distance learning students. I have recommended them to academic colleagues and supported others in setting up a wiki for research and collaboration.

I have to say though that I am bitterly disappointed by Wetpaint's decision to end the removal of ads (for free) on educational sites.

I can understand that this may not have been a particularly attractive busness model and I realise that we shouldn't perhaps expect much for free nowadays, but it isn't just that ads are back - its the nature of them. The billboard style, flashing/animated banners advertising vampire films across the top, snap link ads at the bottom, google ads up the side.... I mean, come on guys! This is way over the top.

On a related note, though, I wonder whether I will continue to have a use for wikis.

I am currently preferring Googledocs for document sharing and Huddle looks potentially even more powerful and attractive with its links to discussions and clear version control/approval mechanisms. The fact that Huddle now comes embedded in Ning has made that platform a better option for communities, collaboration & learning groups (yes, I know - it also has ads: but they are fairly discreet compared to Wetpaint).

I have hopes for Googlewave as a collaborative tool too, though currently it is hard to find committed wavers willing to join in the experiment: I wonder what this will look like in twelve months time?

If I have learned one thing in 2009, it is that web 2.0 media come and go, they transmute and they transform the world around them. And for 2010 - well I think I know better than to attempt any predictions....I am pretty sure I will be using some new tools and letting go of others.

The five worst tech products of 2009 : Number One GoogleWave

Despite the rather negative tone of this article, it does paradoxically give a thumbs up to GoogleWave as a tool of preference for dispersed teams....

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

BBC Radio 4 You and Yours 8th December 2009

Teleworking, virtual teams, home working contracts. portfolio jobs - all being discussed today on BBC Radio 4's lunchtime consumer programme, You and Yours.

Some of the interesting view points being expressed:

is working from home making some people a slave to the technology that connects them to work?

What is the future for Trade Unions?

Teleworking is environmentally woman reduced her annual mileage from 25,000 to just 5,000

Successful home working arrangements depend on clear measurements of productivity (outputs) rather than hours of attendance, and requires enlightened employers!

Homeworkers suffer the "petty jealousy" of office-bound colleagues;

This sort of flexible arrangement cannot apply to farm workers, facory operatives, hotel receptionists etc who need to be in the workplace - so are they being disadvantaged?

There is a noble history of people working from their garden sheds - including Dylan Thomas!

Teleworking only applies to highly skilled knowledge workers.....?

Flexibility can also mean a blurring of boundaries - extending work beyond 5pm and beyond conventional retirement age

I am encouraged that this subject is being debated on a popular programme.

I have recently come across one Human Resources department for whom the concept of home working challenges current organisational policies - resulting in long drawn out "discussions" and delays in staff being paid.

The very notion that a member of staff was not turning up daily to a specified place of work to do their job was simply unthinkable to the HR professionals involved - and as the organisation in question is envisaging a future where delivering their services via technology is the norm, this mismatch between business strategy and employment policy needs to be addressed urgently!

Gina Trapani on “Making Sense of Google Wave” | Craig Deakin

continuing the exploration of Googlewave........

Friday, 4 December 2009

Google Wave

Recently been exploring Google Wave - a new platform that combines instant messaging with Discussion Board/email and has something of the wiki about it as multiple editors are also allowed.

Access is by invitation only - and I have a few spare invites if anyone wants one - so I was not an early adopter but there is still an air of "what do we do now?" about many "Waves" as the message threads are named.

I have made a concerted effort this week to invite a number of work colleagues to get on board as I can see potential here for collaboration on projects. It also occurs to me that it presents a great opportunity for people to keep in touch when working in virtual teams.

Here is a link to the Introductory Video which goes some way to explaining what it is/does. And here is a blog post about a really exciting use of a Wave involving a thousand or more young people across the globe.

Currently I am involved in one discussion about the use of Twitter in education but most of the Waves that come my way seem to be of the "what do we USE this for???" variety. Pretty much like Twitter in the beginning I guess.

It definitely needs people to be involved and active - and there needs to be a specific purpose to the Wave before people will get involved and start to use I am still exploring and will no doubt write more about my adventures on the Wave as they unfold.