Notes from a Laptop

April 14, 2008

Twitter

Filed under: General comment,Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 4:52 pm

After attending a recent conference, which had a lot to say about web 2.0, I decided to investigate Twitter and find out what other web 2.0 tools I might employ as a TL.

Twitter is an application which enables you to make quick and sometimes quirky links with a whole range of different people, worldwide, as often as you want. By signing in at: http://twitter.com, you are able to make comments or ask questions within a small post of 140 characters. These are then responded to by people in your network (followers) whom you have selected yourself.

What I found

  • Getting started is both challenging and easy at the same time.
  • Begin with people you know who use Twitter (‘following’ them) or search for a known person.
  • This allows you to peruse their followers and locate people with similar interests/needs.
  • Use other groups to find Twitterers (e.g. listservs such as OZTL_NET) – this helps you to link with people who have obvious connections already. Thus your network develops.
  • Check out the followers of others by visiting their web site links (in their Twitter information).
  • Ask questions – this leads to responses to help you learn how-to Twitter.

The value of Twitter

There are many devotees of Twitter. It is an easy way to get a quick answer to a question – if your network is big enough. In her comprehensive post, Are you Twittering?, Sue Waters provides extensive details on what Twitter has to offer, and indeed how to get started.

My own early experience with Twitter was that it was a fast way to get information from lots of different people and locations. Within a very short time, (through a Twitterer with lots of connections – thanks, Sue), I had lots of input to a query I raised. I have also found lots of educators’ web sites with great examples of best practice with students using Web 2.0, which I may never have found otherwise.

The other side of the coin is revealed in a post by Scott Karp titled Why I stopped using Twitter. He found “Twitter to be mesmerizing, which partly reflects the brilliance of the design and partly that I was following really interesting, insight, enjoyable people, whose random musings were worth following”… but time consuming. And it can be.

So, is it worth signing up?

I think yes, providing you have a purpose, a network, or an idea of what you want it to do for you.

Perhaps, we need to consider ways in which to harness the tool rather than the tool controlling us. At the same time then, we can enjoy the harmless and often frivolous chatter that might come our way – if only reminds us there are real people, just like you and I,  behind all those 140 character posts!

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April 3, 2008

A blog is not an online diary!

Filed under: Blogs,dangers — Lindajay @ 10:45 am

diary.jpgQuite often people describe a blog as an online diary, and while to some extent and in some instances this could be true, I think it can be a misguided answer.

Think about what a diary has been to most people – a place to write their secret thoughts, an account of their love life maybe, and probably something kept locked away from prying eyes. On the other hand, a blog (though it can be a private stream of thoughts) is most often a place to be shared with a wide audience.

I make this comment after seeing entries made by students on different blogs – entries without proper grammar, little, if any, puncuation and sometimes questionable statements for online discussion. The use of text/SMS language is also occasionally used. With moderation, this can be discussed with students, and adjusted if necessary. (There could be appropriate places and blogs on which to diverge from conventional grammar and spelling, of course.)

Overly revealing comments are probably of more concern. We need to have a conversation about what is and isn’t appropriate to place on blogs and social networking sites, since many students have their own Facebook, Meebo or MySpace pages – even if access at school is banned.

Examples of the possible risks of overexposure and need for privacy considerations have been highlighted recently in the media. Already facing troubles with respect to his night club activities, Nick D’Arcy (potential Olympics swimmer) has had photos from Facebook plastered over the newspapers. Team-mate, Stephanie Rice, has also had personal photos revealed in the media. The consequences of this is unknown, but I sure sure his family is feeling very exposed at the moment.

While not directly linked to blogging, this is a useful example to discuss with our students about online posting – a great warning to be careful what you post. An oft quoted rule could be useful here: if you wouldn’t want your grandmother/parents/ boss to read it/see it, then don’t post it. A useful video on YouTube to illustrate this is ‘Think before you post’, It’s also provides a good reason to talk about blogs in broader terms than ‘online diaries’. They are so much more than that!

April 2, 2008

Obstacles to adopting Web 2.0

Filed under: obstacles,Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 2:27 pm

obstacle.jpgWeb 2.0 tool were big on the agenda of School Libraries Leading Learning, the conference of ASLA NSW, held at the King’s School last weekend. Several comments were made about the slow adoption of these wonderful tools, but unfortunately in many schools there are often obstacles. Here are just a few observations on possible hitches which come when adapting Web 2.0 tools to school situations, for which we need to find solutions (or at least be aware of):

  • access to sites blocked at server (departmental) level – e.g. schools unable to access webmail products like Gmail, or viewing of Youtube blocked for protection issues
  • inability to download plugins to school computers – sometimes only the administrators can allow this (try and find them and pin them down to do it!) – e.g. problem accessing tools such as del.icio.us toolbars
  • reading of, and access to, blogs may be blocked by school filters – e.g. filters using word blocking
  • different levels of online access may surprise teachers – e.g. teacher access to some sites that are blocked for students – YouTube – lesson prepared on teacher’s login but to run on students’ logins
  • peak periods of demand on school networks, leading to slow access e.g. slow and faultering display of videos which are being streamed (or in fact, low bandwidth of school networks)
  • time needed to learn new tools, and then decide which is the most valuable to adapt and use, so that it is integrated validly into classroom use – not just as a fancy add-on
  • cost – in time, training, and updating of hardware and networks to manage new demands

Still, in spite of all (or some of these) obstacles, we as teachers and teacher-librarians should endeavour to try at least some of these tools, (no need to be phased by the vast numbers, just pick a few) and share our successes with others – in training, guiding and encouraging through the difficulties and frustrations. Perhaps we need a place online to regularly share our successes and point others in a positive direction in adaptation of Web 2.0.? As Ross Todd said: “Just do it!” But I add: “Let’s share it!”

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