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Miscellaneous, Technologies

A look back on my 2010

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A Happy New Year to one and all. For my first post of 2011 I thought I’d look back on my 2010.

2010 was a year of firsts for me:

1. I started Tweeting
2. I started blogging
3. I got my first iPhone
4. I delivered my first presentation to a room full of strangers

It won’t come as any surprise to you all then to hear what my top tools for 2010 were!

One that has to be near the top of the list is Twitter which has proved to be an invaluable professional development tool. It’s been nearly a year since I began my Twitter journey and I will review my first year at another time.

The others, in no particular order are:

WordPress which I use for my blog
Evernote – very useful for collating my research articles and planning my blog posts
Hootsuite – helps me manage my social media posts
Google calendar – to share with friends and colleagues
Feedly and Google Reader to help collate my blog subscriptions
PowerPoint 2007 (not yet got 2010)

The overall number one tool for me in 2010 though has got to be my iPhone (although other smart phones are available) which has helped me use my beloved Twitter at more convenient times. Snatches in between sessions, waiting for a train, sat in the dentist’s waiting room – always connected. Before my iPhone, it was often inconvenient and frustrating to use Twitter. Although I could access it from my normal mobile phone via text, it was cumbersome and using it on my laptop meant I was probably interrupting some other piece of work I should have been concentrating on.

My smart phone gives me easy access not only to Twitter but to my top tools as listed above and:

    • e-mails (all accounts)
    • my contacts and calendars
    • all blogs I subscribe to
    • my Amazon account
    • video snippets on YouTube
    • podcasts
    • my Skype account
    • a collection of online newspapers
  •  
      my Kindle collection

In fact, I will go as far as to say, my iPhone has become my mobile office.

What are my predictions for top tools in 2011? Well, I’m guessing my new Kindle I had for Christmas might be playing a big part in 2011 for me. My iPhone, of course will still be there as the contract doesn’t come to an end until 2012. It is debatable whether I will stay with the iPhone – but smartphones are here to stay.

Technologies

Behind the mask of cyberspace

Image by Serge WOLFGANG from Pixabay

The need for education not eradication

 I had a conversation today about the dangers of the internet and why a lot of sites are frequently banned from access in some organisations. The concerns raised were about how easy it is for people to take what is written on websites at face value. Because it’s been published on web pages it must be true. It’s all very well encouraging us to access anything we need by a quick search on Google but people can be anyone they want to be in cyberspace, they said. Sites are blocked in case people get the wrong information. Even students in our schools and colleges are copying and pasting what they believe is valid into their course work and believing everything in blind faith.

It is true that anyone can pretend to be anyone with bogus qualifications and exaggerated expertise. But has it increased or just become more visible? Can you believe everything you read in the newspapers? For centuries we have used tools to help us carry out tasks easier and quicker. Fire is dangerous, destructive and indiscriminate in its devastation but we learned to work with it, tame it, harness it and use it for our benefit. With inconsiderate behaviour it will rage out of control again.

Admittedly we have seen many examples of fraudulent acts using the power of the internet. You should see my junk folder – it’s full strangers offering me hundreds of thousands of pounds for just doing them a little monetary favour!. Did they appear all of a sudden because of the internet? No, they just used more traditional methods of delivery before. There were scam letters, chain letters, bogus ‘cowboy’ companies offering deals via flyers posted through your letterbox. The bad guys no longer wear black hats to help you recognise them quickly but there are clues if you look closely. Dastardly people will always be around – and they will always find new ways of continuing their dastardly deeds. Of course not everyone offers misinformation on purpose it just may be inaccurate or biased. This doesn’t mean we should stop using the same tools, banning their use …. just in case! That’s like cutting our noses off to spite our faces. It’s like depriving ourselves of holidays in the sun in case we get burned.

Once upon a time, I worked in an NHS library services. We taught junior doctors about critically appraising written journal articles because even though they appeared in reputable journals, it didn’t mean that the reports were as accurate as they seemed. The introduction of the internet meant we needed to educate users on heightened risks. We taught our medical staff not only to critically appraise official journal articles but also how to use the internet appropriately, provided them with guidelines, a list of reputable sites and the dangers of pure acceptance.

What we need is a little education. We need to help our staff and learners use these tools safely and responsibly – help them learn and work smarter, more effectively and more efficiently. Instead of throwing your arms up in horror and banning these powerful tools, let’s educate and manage staff and watch your productivity grow and their engagement increase.

Technologies

Novel uses for Twitter – a different kind of book club

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

For those of you out there who still think Twitter is a banal social networking site good enough only to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ or Steven Fry’s latest gastronomic delights, I have some news for you.

I recently came across a book club run entirely online with discussions taking place on Twitter. The book club is LrnBk Chat, a brainchild of the social media guru Jane Bozarth. The book club runs like this:

A new discussion topic is announced on the dedicated blog (LrnBk Chat) giving details of the book to be read. An agreed number of chapters was agreed at 2 being manageable and series of dates are listed for each. On the morning of each discussion period, a series of questions are published on the blog to consider when reading the set chapters. The conversation starts and so it continues.

So people can follow the conversation, a dedicated hashtag is used – in this case #lrnbkpull for the latest topic being discussed.

Although the conversation is designed to be carried out on Twitter, Jane decides to use Hootcourse (“an online classroom …instead of cumbersome forums or complicated lesson-plan formats, HootCourse uses a combination of the most popular social networks and blogging platforms to provide a new type of online classroom”). Hootcourse allows bookworms to sign in using their Twitter or Facebook account.  Hootcourse can post comments publicly to Twitter or kept private but I’ll go into this another time.

‘It’s a book club, Jim, but not as we know it!’

It just goes to show that with a little creative thinking and shaking off of those blinkers which are narrowing our views and create some really engaging alternative activities to be run online.

So what if you can’t use Twitter or Facebook? What if your organisation blocks these sites. Well, let’s see what you have already that can be used just as effectively. Take a look at the online tools you currently have in your organisation for communication. They may not be used for learning at the moment but we can always high-jack them. We did it with PowerPoint after all.

You may well have a VLE/LMS (virtual learning environment/learning management system) such as Moodle to run your online courses. These provide communication tools in one place including forums and blogs as well as a live chat facility that could be used along the same lines as Twitter. So, for instance, you could create your own book club (or work on a case study in stages) and arrange a time to meet for the live chat or just continue using an asynchronous discussion if this is more appropriate.

What creative ideas can you think of?