Monthly Archives: September 2008

Social Objects

Belgium Tapestry

Belgium Tapestry

The metaphor for social objects that I came up with was that of weaving tapestry. The actual social object is the loom. It is the framework on which to weave insights, observations, or questions.

The interaction among the weavers (users) are the threads. Each warp or weft thread provides color, sheen, texture, depth. Some threads glisten like gold. Others are grey as an alley cat. As users become master weavers, their threads enrich the pattern of the tapestry.

Question: Can educational content be a social object? Why or why not?
It depends. In thinking about Bloom’s Taxonomy, if educational content is based on the knowledge level, many time social interaction isn’t included in instructional strategies. Only when the content rises to the application, analysis, or synthesis level do instructional strategies more often include social interaction.

Question: Can assessments or assignments be social objects? Why or why not?
It depends. (Boy, aren’t I decisive. . .?) When the teacher gives a test or assignment, corrects it, hands it back with a grade sans feedback, there aren’t any qualities that would make it a social object. A teacher would need to have an iterative discussion with the student about the assignment/assessment. Or the teacher would need to provide students with opportunities to have discussions and interactions with other students before it could take on the life of a social object.

Question: How compatible does the idea of social objects appear to be with the notion of a learning management system?
Not much. IMHO, Blackboard is clunky at best for social interactions. It doesn’t have the ease nor the elegance that Facebook has. As a student in an online class, I’ve also used Lotus Notes which (eight years ago) seemed not too bad.

I’m wondering if LMS systems will ever become as “social” as things like Facebook, Delicious, or Diigo because they are connected to school and education rather than personal interests. Which leads me to a thought I had about LMS used at universities.

Most faculty are at the mercy of the powers that be at the university concerning the use of a LMS system. If the faculty are not very technologically astute, by default they have to use what is provide for them. Only when faculty are more technologically savvy and have time will they use something different. Because of this, social objects and social interactions might not be used to the level that they could be (or ought to be) used.

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Two Different Uses of Social Media

Before I share the two interesting uses of social media that I’ve read about today, I want to mention Google News.  For work, I was browsing the ‘More Google Products page. I thought I would take a moment to check out Google News.  (It searches 4,500 news sources that are updated continuously.)  It was pretty slick.  If you’re interested in searching just for news, Google News would be much better than just plain Google.

I typed in “social media” +education.  (The quote marks around the two words tell the search engine to find only web pages that have those two words next to each other.   Otherwise, it would return pages that had the word ‘social’ and pages that contained the word ‘media’ and not necessarily pages with the phrase ‘social media.’  The plus sign means also include pages that include the word education.)

Now for the interesting uses of social  media.

The Ad Council, the leading producer of public service announcements, is teaming up with Deep Focus, an interactive marketing agency, to create widgets for the Ad Council’s ads on Facebook or Myspace. (Read the article here.) The widget will track in real time Facebook or MySpace  users who support the the Ad Council’s causes.  The Ad Council hopes that those using their widgets will encourage their friends to use the widget who will in turn encourage their friends so everybody can literally watch the network of supporters grow.

The other news story told how Universities are using social media to recruit new students. The article claimed that high school graduates will be declining after this year and thus college enrollments will be declining, too, as a result.  To combat this, universities are using social media to compete for those prospective students.

Texas A&M has a Facebook page that allows people to become a fan.  Then, the university can ‘reach out’ to those prospective students  (The article didn’t specify what reaching out entailed.)

My definition of the use of social media in education had been focused mainly on what happened in the classroom.  These two articles expanded my view of how social media could be used.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Is this a case of administration giving up the battle against cell phones in a classroom?

But, from a student point of view, what’s wrong with cell phones in the classroom — if used in an accountable and acceptable manner.

The Salt Lake Tribune has an article about schools fighting this losing battle.  The article mentions an English teacher incorporating text messaging into her assignments and lessons.  Is this best practices? I think I’d have to learn more about what the teacher is doing . . .

Educational Uses for Wikis

My search about educational uses for wikis led me to this site:

http://wikisineducation.wetpaint.com/page/Higher-Ed+Wikis

Since this was specifically about wikis in higher education, my interest was piqued. It listed a couple of interesting uses that I hadn’t seen before:

  • organizing websites, articles, resources, videos for OTHER students
  • posting questions for students to brainstorm
  • giving parents a chance to be a part of the classroom and for staying up to date on classroom news and events (parents need this for their university-aged children??)
  • creating an online student newspaper

It also mentioned that wikis could be used as a study guide. At a conference I went to this summer, one of the session presenters indicated that she created a wiki for her students to use as a study guide for her course. Other than getting it set up, she didn’t do anything else with it. And she didn’t change anything else in her class. Yet, students received higher grades than students from previous semesters. In surveying her students, she discovered that the wiki was well used by the students.  Thus, the teacher credited the wiki as the reason for the improved grades.

There is a link to global wikis on this site which made me think of the book Three Cups of Tea that I am currently reading. I wonder what it would be like for the girls in America to participate in a global wiki with girls in a school that Greg Mortenson has set up . . .

One interesting global wiki was a collaborative art project between a group of schools in Birmingham, UK, a group of schools in Guangzhou, China, and a group of schools in Chicago, USA. It was interesting to note that they had a link to an alternate gallery so that the students in China could view it. Due to government restrictions, the Chinese students did not have access to the wiki.

There were also links to wikis for parent teacher organizations. These wikis had calendars of events, information about fund raising, meeting notes, volunteer information, membership forms, and photo galleries.

The most intriguing wiki (to me) was done for a class at the Singapore Management University whose goal was to create the first social media map of Asia. It had an interesting statistic. In 2007, 18.2% of the worldwide Internet users were in North America. Forty-one percent were in the Asia-Pacific area. By 2012, it was predicted that the Asia-Pacific use would be 47.7 % while North America usage would be 14.1%.

To me, these numbers reflect the difference in the populations in the two areas. There are far more people living in China than in America. And, even though the Asian folks do not have Internet access in their homes (many have to go to Internet cafes — so here again is the great access debate), Asia has over 500 million Internet users.

In China, they have the ‘The Great Firewall’ — Internet access restrictions set in place by the government.  Eighty-four percent of the population surveyed about the restrictions said it should be regulated by the government.  What else could they say . . . ???

It will be interesting to spend more time poking around this site to see what I can learn.

It’s Gone!

My addition to Wikipedia. Gone.

Of course I could go to the history and undo what the deleter did. But, the deleter would probably undo what I did.

His comment about what I wrote was ‘not really relevant.’ How can he (who is from Ohio and who probably never even visited Rupert) know what is relevant about Rupert? The homesteading on the Northside project was VERY relevant to Rupert’s history.

This has affected my willingness to add to Wikipedia . . .

My Contribution to Wikipedia

I couldn’t think of anything to add to the the Church’s page in Wikipedia so I decided to see if there was any information about the area where I grew up — Rupert, Idaho.

There was some information that came from the 2000 census but not much else. So I decided to add some information there. You can see my contribution at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert,_Idaho

My father (Shirley Richards) was one of the original homesteaders — a pioneer in his own right. I have lots of memories of the days before roads on the Northside were paved (or even graveled!). Of swimming in our well that would turn my skin ice cold blue within 3 minutes of jumping into the water. Of planting and harvesting potatoes and grain. Of hauling hay. Of milking cows. Of irrigating by setting siphon tubes. Of having a great life growing up on a farm.

I also included one name under the ‘Noted People’ section — that of Dr. Richard D. Hansen, archaeologist. Richard was my boyfriend in the 4th grade. We used to pass love notes in class or on the bus . . . I knew that he was an archaeologist but didn’t realize just how IMPORTANT until I did some research on him! I just recently learned that he is good friends with Mel Gibson and takes Mel to his farm in Idaho. Richard and his brothers bought my father’s farm when Dad sold it twenty years ago.

I really like the idea of group authorship — especially in areas similar to the one I posted in. Some people may have access to resources that others do not. Multiple authors can add depth and breadth (that is verifiable) to enrich what just one person might write.

I spent over 6 hours searching for information that I ‘knew’ because I lived it.  But since Wikipedia needs information to be verifiable, that verification is what was difficult for me to find.  I’ve decided that the information is probably more available from the county courthouse than from Internet resources.

NYC Gives Middle School Student Cell Phones

I just came from a very interesting web seminar on mobile learning.  In the seminar, the presenter mentioned that New York City is giving over a million cell phones to middle school students as a learning initiative.  Here is a link to that article.

Here are 3 (of the many) interesting points in this article:

  • Students can earn ‘talk time’ minutes or ring tones by completing homework, getting good grades, and participating in class.
  • Students will be set up with a successful professional mentor who will help model that a middle-class life is desirable.
  • Cell phones were banned in class in the NYC school system in 2006.  (This must mean that the cell phones will not be used as a learning device in class . . .)