Saturday, 28 May 2011

Unnamed (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Day In My Social Media Life


An Evaluation of Web-based Tools and Technologies

Here are my comcluding thoughts in relation to everything that I have learned about on UCPDWEP's Module Two. The rest of this post taked the form of a summative essay.

This essay will critically evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of the web-based tools and technologies that I have utilised in my own workplace, or as part of my learning on this module for personal interest. I will review my use of social media and social networking tools and assess the significance of the most beneficial features and functions. Reflecting on the context of interactive and collaborative technologies explored in this module, I will evaluate the significance of the most beneficial features and functions of these technologies. The essay will seek to demonstrate the ways that I have applied the knowledge and skills that I have gained. I will include a summary of my learning experience over the duration of the module, highlighting valuable learning points and learning methods along with my intentions to ensure the continuation of my personal development beyond the module.

Experimenting and investigating the web-based tools and technologies explored in this module has been a rewarding and experiential process. I have become immersed into the world of social media and social networking, embracing Twitter, blogging, wikis, Facebook, social bookmarking and multimedia tools, to name just a few from the plethora of tools available.

New and easy-to-use web-based tools and technologies have created numerous opportunities for professional and personal development. Businesses, learning providers, and other groups have the opportunity to increase productivity through strategic use of these freely available tools. Social media can be used for a number of purposes for example, internal and external communication, marketing and public relations and learning and development. For businesses marketing their services and products, social media and social networking opportunities provide highly viral environments to build customer trust and brand loyalty.

Technology enhanced learning means that there is no longer the need to rely on traditional methods of training and education to learn. Independent learning and Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) provide an alternative to courses based around formal curriculum and qualifications. Web based tools and online networks can offer learners an education that can be informal, social, open and even free. Collaborative culture has changed the power relationship between teachers and learners with learning becoming more of a shared and democratic process. Online information needed to fulfil a personalised curriculum of choice can be easily gathered, filtered, tagged and organised to co-create easily retrievable knowledge. Synchronous and asynchronous communication tools, along with networking platforms, make it easy to enter into collaborative conversations, sharing information and best practice across disciplines. Web based filters and aggregators enable users to keep a virtual finger on a digital pulse by gathering current and immerging information. Who would not take advantage of all opportunities offered by social media and these new technologies?

Co-existing alongside the benefits and opportunities that Web2.0 tools offer are a number of drawbacks or what could be defined as Web2.0 cultural risks. The mainstream media notoriously feature social networking sites in stories of slander and defamation. Certainly there are legal issues around safety, security and the preservation of personal or professional reputation to consider when adopting any social networking tools. However, despite these risks, the opportunities that social media present remain highly desirable. I have reflected on these considerations of risk in my blog post “Online Reputation – Some Initial Thoughts”, Saturday, 12 February 2011 and in my video blog post, “YouTube Video - Online Privacy, Security and Reputation “, Wednesday, 23 February 2011.

Identifying and defining Web2.0 at the beginning of the module provided a good overview of the context and the significance of web-based tools and collaborative technologies. We looked at how web-based tools have grown alongside the significant development of Web2.0, with many platforms turning their focus to purveying networks of participation and cultures of collaboration. The shifting emphasis from traditionally static Web1.0 to interactive Web2.0, changed web users from passive consumers of traditional web content into creators and co-creators of content and collective intelligence.

Having the opportunity to experiment with web-based tools and technologies in a variety of real-life scenarios and workplace settings has provided an invaluable evidence base for analysing both the benefits and drawbacks of the tools and technologies. It is clear that the combination of a good understanding of the features and functions of specific tools, alongside a considered matching of tool to situation can have a beneficially transformative effect on the ways that we operate within the workplace. Drawbacks of individual tools should be looked at in context, as the reason for use is as valid as the tool itself. By choosing the most appropriate tool, or combination of tools, for the specific task the desired outcome can be achieved.

The tools that I have chosen to examine in more detail are: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, RSS reader, social bookmarking, and wikis, as these are the tools that I feel that I have successfully implemented into my work situation and also the tools that I find most engaging.

Facebook has the benefit of being a very popular platform, with the potential to guarantee an instant audience who network in a highly viral online environment. As a versatile and engaging tool it can be used for a variety of purposes, such as marketing, campaigning, learning, and interaction on a personal level. Facebook is an engaging forum that provides an easy way to share links, multimedia, discussions and comments with ‘friends’. Facebook fan pages and groups can also provide a forum for building a community around a subject or topic, supporting the development of interest groups. Facebook therefore has the potential to provide a new tool to support the development of social capital, connecting individuals and developing networks.

Through my participation in the UCPDWEP Facebook group I have experienced the capability of using this forum as a way of providing mutual support and consolidating intersession learning. The UCPDWEP Group made full use of Facebook functions and features by posting course announcements, articles of interest, sharing links, using multi media, sharing resources, taking part in asynchronous discussions and posting reference material. Reflecting on the drawbacks of Facebook as a tool for learning, I conclude that it is too informal an environment to be used to post critical information, such as assessment criteria posted as a comment. It can be difficult to keep up with comment paths and vital information could easily be missed. However these issues could be overcome by using Facebook in conjunction with more stable methods of communicating teaching and learning, such as Blackboard or course email groups.

I created the ‘IFIT Helpdesk’ Facebook fan page as a way of disseminating information about keeping active at work to a disparate community of staff colleagues. Whilst searching for content for IFIT, I set up YouTube RSS feeds to use for planned daily updates on the IFIT fan page. This was an invaluable resource and time saver for this project. It was interesting to monitor and evaluate levels of engagement around this topic. I noticed how a strong sense of ownership developed with contributors posting content in the form of uploading their own videos, asking questions, giving demonstrations, advertising their own events and by making comments or using the “like” endorsement. The fan page took on a life of it’s own and my role of directing the content became unnecessary. This demonstrates the sense of empowerment that can be generated through a collaborative process. Facebook fan pages and groups are an ideal method of supporting short-term project or courses.

The micro blogging service Twitter is a fast, responsive and invaluable networking tool. Allowing immediate interaction with others, it helps to ensure that collaborations form in a free and fluid way. It has an agile way of pulling people together and developing networks from a wider sphere of people who would not normally interact. Communication in Twitter develops in the form of endorsements through re-tweets, favourites, citations and mentions. It is my experience that, over time, network associations become stronger through regular reciprocation and exchange. Hash tags are a useful search feature of Twitter enabling users to start up specific conversations. Following Twitter topics and trends has helped me to find and add like-minded people to my network.
I have found Twitter to be the most engaging social media platform and it will play an integral part in the development of my personal learning network.

There are a number of third party applications that can enhance the use of Twitter. I have been experimenting with TweetDeck, which enables me to see all tweets in a dashboard format. Setting up specific columns in TweetDeck has assisted me to manage and organise the flow of information through search topics, trends and hash tag searches.

Real time talks on Twitter, for example #lrnchat, offer synchronous access to live stream participation in conversations around teaching and learning. I have observed #lrnchat sessions and have found it a fascinating and exciting forum for sharing information and networking. I found the moderator’s role of intermittently posting instructions or posing questions and keeping time during the live stream very interesting. I will be using my observations here to apply to moderating the live chats that I will be organising in the future. This particular live chat is fast moving and it can often be difficult to keep up with the questions posed. I solve the problem of processing large numbers of tweets, in this situation, by making use of the “favourites” function during these sessions to mark interesting tweets to refer to later.

Twitter is an experiential platform and it is common for new users to feel nervous, overwhelmed with information, lost and unsure about participating. The mainstream media has positioned Twitter as a forum for communicating triviality but like conversations in general, Twitter has a broad range of voices with differing styles and content. Skill is needed to find people to follow who share similar interests and add value to online networks. I have discovered that following #edtech and #elearning is particularly helpful in finding Twitterers to follow and to contribute to the growth of my network.

For my work-based project in module three, I plan to integrate the use of Twitter into the academic side of the Masters course in Creative Technologies by designing a programme of intersession learning exercises, pre-session assessments and live Twitter chats around the course content. The project will also include some elements of using twitter as a marketing and public relations tool to promote the course and build networks. I have recently experimented by creating a hash tag for the Masters course Showcase event (#IOCTSHOW11) and tweeted throughout the two-day event. I would like to replicate and expand upon this kind of live streaming of tweets for other events.
I have since reflected that the success of hash tagging and trending really depends on an active network and the nurturing of connections. This is again something to take forward into module three.

I also plan to use Twitter to encourage students, academics and researchers to co-create knowledge and contribute to an academic social bookmarking group. Building a collaborative knowledge base may assist academics, student and researchers to develop a robust understanding of creative technologies and transdisciplinarity. The knowledge collected in Diigo and organised through a defined folksonomy, can then be endorsed or peer reviewed by making use of the commenting function on Diigo. It will be interesting to see if co-creating shared knowledge in this way will resolve the long standing problem of building a strong community of disparate researchers working across disciplines.

Blogging provides a quick, easy and free way to publish information online. As versatile tools, blogs provide an outlet for self-expression, reflection or subject specific publishing. The ability to enhance the look and readability of a blog by embedding multimedia content is a significant feature of this tool.

Used as tool to support an organisation’s internal and external communication strategy blogs provide a different format to spread the message about the company’s vision, products or services. Blogs are an effective way of engaging with stakeholders and building relationships with customers, whilst providing opportunities to give direct feedback.

What a blog provides for me is a more stable platform and a grounded space that I can use for expressing and storing thoughts, ideas and findings around UCPDWEP topics and contextual material. I view it as a useful base for other social media activity that has a faster pace and ever changing narratives. I have utilised the blog feature that aggregates my favourite tweets and social bookmarks and publishes them as a post. This automation ensures that I gather and archive all of the information and content that interests me in one place. I have also set up Google Analytics on my blog. I will use this to analyse data as my blog develops over time.

Other blogs that I have experimented with are: the mini blogging site Posterous that makes blogging as easy as sending an email, and Tumblr, a visually biased blog that is simple, stripped down and easy to use. Amplify is an interesting blogging platform that makes use of clipping articles from other sources for sharing and discussion. The syndication features provides a useful and easy to distribute posts. I like the way it focuses on the social curation of information with insight and contextual meaning added through the comments of a community of Amplify bloggers.

Participating in blogging is an opportunity to become part of the wide ecology of blogs and the blogging community. I would like to explore the idea of sharing a blog space with others who share the same interests. This seems to me to be a beneficial way to generate a collaborative contribution, maximise the regularity of posts and at the same time offer mutual support between bloggers. Commenting on others people’s blogs is a function that demonstrate interest and adds something constructive to the conversations taking place.

I believe that blogging, as a way of contributing and self-publishing is socially, politically and culturally important. The voice of social Web2.0 needs to be a representative one, with a wide range of people contributing and taking part in online discussion and debate. Publishing content that contains the independent views and voices of women, minority groups and oppressed groups of people for example, creates an opportunity to publicly address imbalances of equality and democracy. The development of participatory tools and technologies opens up powerful opportunities and possibilities for expression.

I have found blogging a useful way of pulling together aspects of learning and reasoning. Blogs that I used for this course have helped me to reflect on my learning and my posts have developed into a personal record of my development. Blogging has allowed me to develop critical thinking and provided opportunities to interact with other students/teachers through commenting.

It can be both difficult and time consuming to maintain a blog. Sometimes a lack of ideas and procrastination that this causes can make it difficult to post. Being overly concerned about pleasing an audience can also cause inactivity. Receiving few comments or low levels of blog traffic can be de-motivating. However, the options of utilising a less “content thirsty” blog, like Amplify, can resolve some of these problems.

A particularly versatile and dynamic collaborative tool is the wiki.
Wikis features provide easy to use/edit facility for the co-authoring of material and data compilation. Wiki technology provides an interactive webpage that accommodates the addition of reference material, links and resources, multimedia, and files. The ability to create links from the wiki home page to other wiki pages provides all the benefits of the familiarity and functionality of a regular website. Basic wiki subscription is free and anyone with permission can edit. Wikis can also be usefully made public, private or protected, with access given via password. Wikis are limited in visual design terms although basic templates are available and allow some form of customisation.

I really like the way that it is possible to build the wiki frame with consideration to scaffolding learning (Bruner 1960) and supporting the collaborative process. This can be achieved by splitting the frame into the content areas, including instructions on pages, giving directions or prompts on pages using tables, defining the purpose, providing questions to be addressed by collaborators, creation of a page for experimentation, sometimes called a sandbox (West and West 2009).

In “Using Wikis for Online Collaboration” James and Margaret West (2009) break down the use of wikis into four broad categories: - collaborative learning, knowledge construction, critical thinking, and contextual application.

Collaboration skills are necessary for successful wikis. Non-participation, through fear of editing others’ work is a common issue. The 1% internet culture rule illustrates the percentage of contribution relating to user generated content: - Only 1% of people create content, 9% of people edit that content in some way and 90% of people will remain lurking and will not make any contribution (ref)

Another disadvantage of a wiki is also the main advantage - anyone can edit and so, wikis can become messy, disorganised and can have an unfinished quality. WikiTrolls and WikiVandals can also deliberately sabotage collaborative work in a wiki. (As occurred with the IOCT and Penguin Books collaborative wiki novel “A Million Penguins”)

I created the wiki shell for the UCPDWEP group to work collaboratively on the Demon FM project. Pages were set up to accommodate the project brief, reference documents, working areas for team collaboration and multimedia items.

This tool really demonstrated its capability when we used the wiki to co-author a recommendation report. It was interesting to analyse the differing contributions and the different roles that occurred through the collaboration process. Group roles and behaviours developed, with participants proposing ideas, negotiating content, clarifying and elaborating, adding and refining, designing, editing and making language consistent for the report. I think that this project was successful in examining and fulfilling the constructive editing potential of a wiki.

A particularly significant set of tools and technologies that I have integrated into the way I work are the tools that enhance data gathering, evaluation and management. Syndication through RSS feeds and readers, used in conjunction with social bookmarking and redistribution tools provide an effective resource for information and knowledge management.
I have experimented with some useful tools, searches and services for data mining, such as Quora, Google Alerts, Social Mention, Cite U like, Scribd, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook searches. RSS feeds and RSS readers offer all the benefits of easily automating the aggregation and distribution of information. Any content with an RSS feed can be automatically sent to any one who subscribes to the RSS feed. I use Google Reader in conjunction with social networking site searches and other subscriptions to gather content into the reader. From this timely bank of knowledge I can then tag the content to make it more meaningful, bookmark it through the social bookmarking site Diigo and redistribute it to my networks. See my blog post Data Gathering, Evaluation and Management - Searching, Social Bookmarking and RSS feeds

This intensive and relentless acquisition of data through subscriptions, searches, daily email alerts, does have its drawbacks. Information overload can be overwhelming and can impact on productivity. It is common to feel pressured to keep up with the fast pace of information these resources deliver directly to our personal portals. These difficulties can be overcome by giving careful consideration to the evaluation and filtering of the information subscribed to.

Examining and utilising the tools and technologies for data-mining and data organisation is one of the most valuable things that I have learned on this module. I was previously unaware of the range of sources that can be used for locating, filtering and aggregating information. I plan to fully investigate and further the integration of syndication into my work.

I have found experimenting with multimedia tools and technologies a valuable experience. I have enjoyed working with a full range of multimedia and presentation tools. Using multimedia to explain each topic has helped to consolidate my learning, analysing the key learning points and designing a way to present them to others in a clear and comprehensive way. I have gained confidence to create multimedia as a way of presenting ideas in an engaging manner.

I have really enjoyed the challenges of the wide-ranging practical tasks. Learning by doing in this instance, was an effective way of encouraging me to thoroughly embrace and explore the wide range of tools and technologies in an immersive way. The reading and research aspects of the module gave me the opportunity to build on my knowledge base on each topic and provided me with a good understanding of the significance of the themes, tools and technologies in context. This overview has helped the acceleration of my learning.

I have also enjoyed participating in the collaborative aspects of the course particularly wikiing, and through the Facebook group. I find online collaboration a fascinating process and I plan to work on collaborative projects in the future.

Probably my least favourite method of learning used was the synchronous Webex online meetings. Although I acknowledge that this was a useful way to regularly “meet up” online, I found communication during these sessions restrictive and somewhat contrived, due to the nature of the technology.

Acting on all that I have learned on this course, I have already started to construct a supportive online network to facilitate my continuing learning and development. In preparing my blog post “Growing My Networks”, 13 March 2011 I considered a strategy to develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN). I see a PLN as a valuable asset and I want to continue to participate, contribute and create content. I am excited by the idea of using collaboration and knowledge sharing to grow networks and create a culture of co-creation. I plan to take part in organised open learning such as MOOCS. I would like to take part in #lrnchat and other live conversations.

What has emerged from an assessment of my exploratory activity and reflection is the striking importance of, not only the tools and technologies themselves, but of the synergy between them. It is the dove tailing of the tools and technologies that make the sum of their collective features and functions so incredibly powerful. I have also become aware of the dynamic process of “becoming” a networked individual, adopting tools, gleaning new skills and new approaches through experiential learning.

Social media and social networking tools demonstrate a potential to transform the way we work, teach and learn, as well as the way we function in the world. It could also be suggested that participatory and collaborative technologies will continue to have a profound effect on education, commerce and culture. New and emerging tools and technologies will no doubt continue to expand the capacity to function effectively in a collaborative work culture and complex world.


Bozarth, J. (2010) Social Media For Trainers. United States of America: Pfeiffer.

Bruner, J. (1960) The Process of Education. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

McNicoll, L. (2011) Defining and Identifying Web2.0 - Prezi Presentation. Lisa McNicoll. Weblog [Online] Monday, 7th February. Available from [Accessed 22/05/11].

McNicoll, L. (2011) IFIT Helpdesk. [Facebook] Available from: [Accessed 22/05/11].

McNicoll, L. (2011) Online Reputation – Some Initial Thoughts. Lisa McNicoll. Weblog [Online]12th February 2011. Available from [Accessed 22/05/11].

McNicoll, L. (2011) YouTube Video - Online Privacy, Security and Reputation. Lisa McNicoll. Weblog [Online] 23rd February. Available from [Accessed 22/05/11].

Rettberg, J.W. (2008) Blogging. 2nd ed. United States of America: Polity Press.

Safko, L. (2010) The Social Media Bible. United States of America: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Thomas, S. and Mason, B. (2008) A Million Penguins Research Report [WWW] Available from: [Accessed 22/05/11].

Wikipedia. (2011) Internet Culture. [Online]. Available from culture). [Accessed 22/05/11]

West, J.A. and West, M.L. (2009) Using Wikis for Online Collaboration. United States of America: Jossey-Bass.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Unnamed (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.