Going viral

I published my digital essay on Storify on Sunday afternoon and publicised the fact on Twitter and through the subject forums. By Monday night Storify showed that it had had around 50 views. Like me, I imagined most of the other INF530 students were eagerly reading the work of their fellow students as it became available.

On Tuesday morning I found this tweet notification

Wow, Robin Good is like the content curation guru! Somehow he’d come across my essay and posted it onto his Scoop.it page along with a critique. He gave it 7/10 which I’ll take! I flicked to the essay and found it had been viewed more than 500 times.

More tweets followed:

Bec was prompted to send this tweet:

By this stage the number of views of my essay was approaching 2000. But still the tweets came:

Right now there have been 3455 views in about three days. That’s nearly as many views as my personal blog has had in three and a half years.

I sure hope it is favourably assessed when the time comes. I’d hate to think all those people were reading academically inferior work.

Viral. Who’d a thunk it!

Stigmergy, deep reading, and John “Pigsarse” Elliott

Over the past week or so of all-consuming work on my scholarly book review a few interesting thoughts and ideas came up that did not fit into the framework of such a writing task (or the word limit) but I thought I’d like to share them here.

My book was Mind amplifier: Can our digital tools make us smarter by Howard Rheingold. As part of background research I came across Wolf’s article (2010) where she poses the question “Will we lose the deep reading brain in a digital culture?” ALL the reading I did for the book review was online, mostly on PC or iPad but occasionally on my phone too. I don’t think I’ve read so deeply or thoughtfully in years. I found the highlighting, note-taking and search capacities in Kindle and Evernote enormously helpful for constructing and consolidating my thinking about the text. In fact, I suspect I would have found the task significantly more difficult without the affordances of of my digital tools. It was something of a relief to find that Wolf has now found it is possible to train the brain for deep reading of both digital and print texts, something she calls “bi-literacy”  Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say. Even more interesting for me at the time was that I was alerted to this article by a series of tweets from Rheingold himself:

 

 

As it happens I have been following “my author” for nearly as long as I’ve been on Twitter (over five years), it was one of the reasons I was drawn to his book. When I had a question that no amount of search seemed to be able to answer (who first called Rheingold “The first citizen of the internet” as the Amazon blurb for an earlier work proclaims?) the obvious next step was to tweet and ask him. Which I did and got an answer straight away!

 

A further tweet revealed the source: The Citizen.

Stigmergy is my new favourite word! Referring to a process where intelligence resides in group but not the individual (think about how ants find their way to a food source by leaving a trail of pheremones that other ants then follow) or where something is created without a central control. Mark Elliott (from Melbourne!) wrote his doctoral thesis about Stigmergic collaboration, specifically in wikis like Wikipedia. Reading about this reminded me of the Emergency 2.0 wiki which I learned about as part of the work I did with Red Cross last year; which then led me to some other emergency services related content that was relevant to my book. I never expected that to happen! And as an aside I edited Howard Rheingold’s Wikipedia entry to add Mind amplifier to his publications list.

John Elliott has more relevance than I thought. In my previous post I pondered on John Elliott’s attitude to the internet – “It’s secretary’s work”. Mind amplifier explains how important it is for the individual to be able to use a given tool so that he is enabled with the mind expanding abilities it provides. The power of word processing is in its ability to allow the writer room to think instead of having to type and re-type drafts (or have his secretary do so) – thus to fully take advantage the writer must have the capacity to use the tool, not just direct someone else to do so. Just in case you don’t know who John Elliott is:

Finally, the support and encouragement of others in the cohort, most notably Simon @aus_teach and Bec @MissB6_2, is outstanding. Simon and I read and commented on each others book reviews via Google docs, just one example of what is so good about this course, knowledge networks, digital technology…the whole thing! I had a fantastic catch-up with Simon at the State Library (most appropriately) on Thursday. It was terrific to have the chance to talk face to face and mull over some of the issues and ideas we’ve been learning about. I’ve begun to realise that I’m very interested in computational thinking, we found links to stigmergy in what Simon is doing in another subject, we agreed on how wrong we think exams are as useful assessment tools and wondered how on earth something like the book review could be done under exam conditions. The whole “everybody has to be treated identically” attitude drives me bonkers in lots of contexts but the idea that a three hour exam is the only fair way to assess a year’s learning is the worst. And of course it’s only natural that a certain amount of “teaching to the test” ends up going on… All too big for one coffee session but fantastic to have the opportunity for the discussion in real life.

Simon, Bec and I will be speaking about our experiences, so far, of doing this course at the next Melbourne TeachMeet on May 10 – if you’re in the area you might like to come along. Sign up here, including for the subsequent TeachEats if you can.

References

Rheingold, H. (2012a). Mind amplifier: Can our digital tools make us smarter? New York, NY: TED Books.

WOLF, M. (2010). Our ‘Deep Reading’ Brain: Its Digital Evolution Poses Questions. Nieman Reports64(2), 7-8.

Meanderings

Heartbleed. Retrieved from http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/04/09/heartbleed-reveals-a-big-hole-in-australias-cybersecurity-strategy/

As I’ve sat here today trying to get into my scholarly book review my mind has been meandering over a few topics of interest (sadly, not all related to the task at hand)…

1. Why do I find it so difficult to sound even vaguely intelligent when I summarise the main points of my book? Why do I struggle to put into words what I’m thinking in my head? Trying desperately not to simply copy I find I’m using the same tired words over and over. I know that using lots of quotes is not encouraged for a task like this but I’m conflicted about the value of badly-worded summation compared to a well-selected quote.

2. Pondering on the way technology has altered the brain thus allowing us to create new technologies and ways of doing I’m reminded of John Elliott on The Agony of Modern Manners last week when in response to a question about using the internet he said it was “secretary’s work” so he didn’t use it! I wonder how it is possible that any modern (ok a bit of a stretch regarding Mr Elliott who also has never cleaned a bathroom because it is “menial work”) businessman could possibly be keeping up without some form of online engagement. It reminds me too of a conversation I had with a mature teacher a couple of weeks ago. She knows that our early years teachers will soon have a bank of iPads available to use and has been sent into a spin because someone has told her she’ll have to use them. She hasn’t the first idea about what is possible with an iPad, hasn’t even touched one before. She can’t understand why we’d want preps and grade ones to use iPads when they can’t even write yet. I try to explain that the possibilities offered by the iPad don’t depend on being able to write, that that is one of their virtues but it falls on deaf ears. She’s looking for an easy answer but seems unwilling to make any personal changes or commitment to do so. She even says something along the lines of “we went to teacher’s college to learn how to teach, not to use technology”. I’m gobsmacked that someone only a few years older than me seemingly gave up on learning in her 20’s and don’t really know how to help. I can see that she’s scared and almost want to tell her not to bother, she’ll be retiring soon… but I don’t. I know that working with the middle ground, with teachers who CAN see the possibilities but just need some support to get there will reap the most rewards. Perhaps some of their successes will inspire her to try. I hope so.

3. Reports of the Heartbleed security threat, which potentially affects anyone who has used the internet in the last two years, are a little worrying (hmmm, maybe John Elliott isn’t so silly). I’ve been considering doing something with my passwords for a while. Yes, they are mostly different – a couple of site-specific identifying letters added to the same memorable word in most cases – but they are all made up of real words with numbers which apparently isn’t good enough. Just last Saturday a software-engineer friend was telling us that even pass-phrases aren’t strong enough, that the best passwords are gibberish. So with today’s news I’ve made a start and changed my IFTTT (the only website I’ve actually been contacted by) Twitter and Google passwords to randomly generated ones from Lastpass but gee, if you have a few devices (two iPads, and iPhone and a desktop PC) it ain’t that quick or easy to do. Great time-waster when you’re supposed to be studying though!

Some thoughts from week three

Bluebells at Dockey Wood (Explored)
Photo Credit: Brian Smithson via Compfight

So I’ve made it nearly to the end of week three and I think I’m still on track, if not the “right” one as such as there seems to be so many options. Compulsory blog task 1 was posted early and has been positively received.

I feel I should be doing more reflecting through non-compulsory blog posts like this but it doesn’t come easily to me. I do think about what I read and view but often it feels like they are such short unrelated snippets it would be too daunting to turn them into a cohesive whole. I have scraps of paper, notes in Evernote, Diigo saves with annotations and so many thoughts swirling through my mind…where to start?

Ok, here are some random jottings:

About search engines, the algorithms they use and how personal information is used

Lately have seen more and more evidence of search engines (Google) using previous searches and geographical location to target me. For example I recently searched for a book on the Bookdepository. For days later I kept seeing ads for that book on other sites. There is something in Facebook (which I’ve turned off) where your avatar will appear with an ad on your friends home page when you’ve liked a page giving an implicit personal recommendation which I certainly don’t want to bother my friends with.

I feel that Google has improved generally – I more quickly get what I’m after for SIMPLE queries. The knowledge graph information is often all that is needed to answer a quick question. I remember how good the search engine Ixquick was years ago, before Google became a verb. It described itself as meta-search engine because it collated the results of multiple search engines to find the best results and this was revolutionary to me at the time. I vaguely remember it claiming to be private but back then I had no idea what that really meant. I think it would be worth doing parallel searches on Google and Ixquick to see the differences in results.

I might be very naive but I’m not particularly concerned about my search history being saved. I don’t think I search for anything that anyone other than advertisers might find remotely interesting (certainly not anything incriminating) and I’m very skilled at tuning out from advertising. As for favouring results geographically close to me – well, by and large that is a good thing, especially when I’m out and about or travelling. In a different political environment of course this could be very different. I do like knowing that search engines like Duck duck go and ixquick are available.

Technology and youth: 5 competencies

I’m interested in the 5 competencies listed by Helen Haste that she says all students need and teachers should be teaching. I’d love to chat with teachers about how competent they think they are for each. If teachers can’t model the competencies themselves then teaching them is a challenge.

It would be good to see some sort of self-assessment tool for teachers. For example I think I’m fairly competent in Agency and Responsibility; Finding and Sustaining Community, and Managing Technological Change, but only ok with Managing Ambiguity and Managing Emotion. Maybe something like the ePotential survey Victorian government teachers complete each year (when not engaged in union bans over a pay dispute) to place you on a continuum and guide you to resources to help you further develop.

Connected learning

This infographic is a terrific summary of what Connected Learning can and should be. I think it would be great to stick up in the staffroom as a conversation starter.

Connected Learning

Connected Learning Infographic http://connectedlearning.tv/infographic

Google Glass

The interview with Margaret Power was interesting. Google Glass is still not available to buy here in Australia but I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to get my hands on some glass! I found it interesting that while she uses the glass extensively within her classroom for global collaboration and communicating with parents, she doesn’t see so much potential for it as a tool for use by students. I wonder also at the interviewer’s comment (quoting another interviewee) that he didn’t think Glass would change humanity, that in a few years it would be completely normal for everyone to be wearing it. Seemed like a bit of a contradiction to me.

On a personal note, Google Glass is one of the few recent technological development that my husband has shown interest in. He’s not exactly a Luddite but he’s a long way from an early adopter and really does not get my excitement over shiny things. However, as a powered parachute pilot, he can see immediate value in wearable technology that can incorporate a GPS, altimeter and camera.

Scholarly book review

I’m starting to feel more confident about the book review. I think I’ve settled on a book and have edited the Google doc to that effect although I have a second title in reserve. What’s been gratifying is that since starting to read it I’ve come across quite a few articles and sites that have relevance to the issues raised. These have come up in the module one readings as well as more generally through links on Twitter, blog posts accessed through Feedly and links from various Diigo groups. I’ve started collecting them in a not too haphazard style and hopefully they’ll serve me well when the time comes (not too far away!).

Technology issues

Finally, as I posted on Twitter this afternoon, I’m continuing to be frustrated by various technological failings and I can’t figure out whether it’s to do with my browser, my PC or if it’s just personal. In the first week I couldn’t post to the forum but that has fixed itself up. Last week when on the subject site each time I tried to navigate to a new page I’d get this message:

Failed to load

but when I reloaded the page loaded without problem, again this issue has sorted itself out. But now today I can’t access any of the Thinkspace blog sites directly although I can view the posts through Feedly on Chrome or directly on Internet Explorer. However I can’t log in to my dashboard through either browser. Which means this blog post isn’t going to get posted at all (right now I’m typing in Evernote). Perhaps I’ll try my iPad.

Postscript

So I did try my iPad but it isn’t the best for using the blog editing tools. I assume I could use the Edublogs app (which I’ve successfully done before on another blog) but the downside of that is that drafts are not synced. So what has happened is that I finally got the 15 year old off the PC and after trying again to access Thinkspace, including installing another browser, I did what I probably should have done at the beginning – restarted the computer! Yes the good old Spiteri theory (named for an IT Technician at my previous school) has proved it’s value once again! I guess it’s no coincidence that at my new school the IT Technician’s office door has a huge sign saying “Have you turned it off and on again?”

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn2FB1P_Mn8 

So there you have it, some random, rambling thoughts. I hope I get better at this.