Browse Month by March 2010
Technologies

Collaboration tools – can we include virtual worlds and social networks?

Today I came across a question in one of the LinkedIn groups about whether we could classify virtual worlds and social networks as collaborative communication tools referring specifically to Second Life, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. It was an interesting discussion topic and one which I felt the need to respond. I would like to share my response with you here.

I would say the answer is – yes. Any place where individuals can join and network can be used for collaboration. It is WHAT we use these for and learning HOW they work that will determine their success in what we want to do.
Indeed, at the moment, we see the usual suspects being used by organisations for collaboration as Valerie mentions above; and they are brilliant tools for bringing colleagues together to discuss ideas, situations and projects. However, with the emerging social learning environments such as Elgg that can be hosted within an organisations firewall or others such as Ning where organisations can create their own social platform, these are excellent tools to encourage cross-organisation collaboration to share ideas and working practices.

Areas can be set up to discuss ‘hot’ topics and they can also be restricted to particular members. Facebook, on the other hand, initially seems like a fun place just to hang out, play silly games and ‘throw cows’ at each other. On first glance, it may seem there is little it can be used for seriously. However, if you look a little closer, there are many worthwhile groups already using Facebook to collaborate.

Take a look at Centre for Learning and Performance Technology and, just one more for now – Virtual Learning Community of Practice.

So, for instance, an account could be created whereby different conversations can be started up, ideas collated, awareness heightened and changes happening. Remember that security settings on these tools are there to help and members (or friends) may only join if the account holder approves.

Twitter is another underestimated social media tool that is increasingly being used for learning collaboration. If not in the formal sense, certainly for informal learning and there are plenty of experts out there with whom collaboration proves invaluable in pursuing a goal or interest.

As for LinkedIn – well, are they doing there, if not collaborating. A topic is posted and ideas, opinions and expertise shared.

If this was a collaborative exercise with a specific outcome, then I would expect to see an objective set for the exercise, a time limit, some ground rules / guidelines and a summary giving the findings of the exercise at the end. All of that should be set for any collaborative exercise for any collaborative tool chosen, whether it is in a more controlled situation like WebEx, within an organisations intranet form or a more open platform such as Twitter or Facebook. Therefore, it is the ground rules and activities set that dictate these tools’ use.

Of course, you will have to decide which would be most appropriate for your situation but beware of dismissing them out of hand. Research them, and think creatively. After all, I’m sure there were plenty of skeptics who couldn’t see how this new-fangled gadget could at all be useful in sharing ideas without having to meet in little groups. Now we can’t live without them and even take to carrying them around in our pockets so we’re always connected. What’s that you say ….. the telephone!

Well that was my response to the post in LinkedIn but I would also be interested in what creative ideas others may have in how these social tools have been used by you for learning and collaboration and how you might have overcome the ‘security’ barriers that are often associated with them.

Miscellaneous

Seeing Double? No – 3DTV

It looks like 3DTV is closer than we think. As soon as this month – according to news reports today. Samsung’s sets maybe a little out of reach to us everyday mortals at £1,300 for a 32” LED and as much as £5000 for a 65”. Now that’s big – and I thought our 42” flat-screen we bought a year ago was BIG.

I’m sure we would get used to 65” very quickly. At least, that’s what my husband will say as a persuasion tactic as he did for our 42”!!! The down side is that the expense doesn’t stop there. You will also require a special Blu-ray DVD player and at least one pair of very sophisticated electronic glasses. How easy will these be for those of us who already wear glasses? And how harmful will they be for our already dwindling eyesight due to constant staring at LCD laptops and close proximity to 42” LCD TV screens?

Despite claims of already seeing “a lot of demand” for these new TV sets, I think I would still prefer the all-round experience of 3D at a cinema, munching popcorn and coffee. In fact, I’m looking forward to Alice in Wonderland with the chameleonesque Johnny Depp and donning those 3D specs very soon. (I’m actually going with my husband – Johnny was busy!) We would eventually see 3DTV in our learning environments in the near future? If so, they are likely to be used to become immersed in some serious gaming scenario programmes. Time will tell.