Sunday, 30 December 2012

What is your favourite Twitter story? #edcmooc

I wrote this in response to a post by a fellow #edcmooc'er, Nigel Thomas. I originally wrote a reply on his blog, and then realised more than half an hour had passed and I'd written and re-written about five paragraphs. So it was obviously something that I wanted to get down myself! Here is the original post from Nigel and my rambling reply.
I would like to know what your favourite use of Twitter is, and invite you to add this in the comments below. 

Hi Nigel, that was a good post and always good to hear a different opinion from people; I think social media can have a habit of self-affirming itself all the time (like in the very funny video you shared). Myself, I see Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform as being just like any other real life social space - you're presenting yourself & interacting with others.

I think they are superb tools. Imagine 25 years ago saying you could (in theory) connect with anyone else in the world instantly and at no cost, you would be amazed. They are all blank canvases, and so how they are used is a reflection of the people using them. Or indeed the social groups & crowd behaviour that people fall into (eg "if my friends are all tweeting what they ate for dinner maybe I should do too?"). So maybe Twitter makes you squirm because it feels like you're hanging out with people who need to let the rest of the world know when they have found a parking space or stubbed their toe?

But there are also innumerable creative & practical ways that you could use Twitter. Try using hashtags (eg #edtech) to get a tailored flow of information on a particular topic. See here how teachers in Northern Ireland gathered tips and advice via their #NIdchat hashtag. That useful conference you went to - it's like having that all the time. People have Tweeted under the guise of historical figures. What a novel way of imagining what was going through Napoleon or Nero's mind on famous historical days. Poets can use Twitter - it's a challenge to construct a poem using just 140 characters. The Swedish government handed the @sweden Twitter account over to a citizen per week this year and let them tweet about whatever. It didn't always work, but it was an original idea to try promote tourism, or just to see how normal citizens would go about representing their country. Has a company ever done that? And would you respect them more for taking a risk rather than towing the predictable "branded" line? And is that a good or bad feature of digital, or human, life that you can assume a different persona than you might present elsewhere?

I thought Angela's points were also interesting about how her shyer students have used Twitter to open up & express themselves. You could spend your entire life on Twitter, and I am sure there have been papers & journals written on it. On the other hand, consider the vast swathes of the world's population who don't use Twitter at all. Are they really missing anything?

It will be interesting to see where these social media platforms are in 10, 50, or 100 years time. Or what will have replaced it? Instead of physically tweeting or posting a status update, you might just mentally do it. All that time you take trying to express yourself in a certain way, language, or form, will be gone - that vague, cloudy thought you have swirling around your head will just pop out clear as you like. All those silly misunderstandings & memory lapses - "I thought you meant this?", "I meant to say that", "I couldn't find the word to express it", "That's not what I was thinking at all!", "What was that thing called again?!?" - will be gone. Everyone will know what each other is really thinking, we will all be happier, and we can spend our time actually solving problems rather than trying simply to articulate them. Well, OK, not really, but isn't that what technology is doing for us now anyway? From GPS & calculators, to pacemakers & x-rays. Saving labour, human error, and helping us see what we'd previously been guessing at (and could you include "a Google search" in that list?). But maybe that's where the fine line between utopia and dystopia lies? (this was mentioned in the EDCMOOC course introduction video remember?) And perhaps how we use Twitter now is a sign of how we might use technology in the future - to better or belittle ourselves? There are some good stories here

Finally, just a different perspective. Have a think where any of your good ideas have ever come from? From Twitter or Facebook? Or is it actually lying in the bath, scribbling on the back of a napkin, or doing the ironing? To some degree, no matter how much technology develops, I don't think there will ever be any substitute for idly gazing off into the distance now and then and thinking about nothing in particular.

Pictures courtesy of Roger Hargreaves and Mr Men

More stories:

Friday, 21 December 2012

Just a thought....

This is a very loose & woolly suggestion, but is it reasonable to compare the rise of the internet with the rise of fast food?
Fast food chains opened up a whole new way of eating food. You could get a McDonalds cheaply & in loads of different locations. Satisfying hunger in quite a novel & entrepreneurial way. Then they became a hang out. At the drive through, movies, and sports grounds. Copy cat chains cropped up. KFC's, Burger King, supermarkets. They opened in Europe & the rest of the world. Have the meal that you love, for the same price, same style, anywhere that you happen to be. Quick, cheap, convenient, satisfying our basic need for salt, sugar & fat. Except now it's caused an obesity problem, and rich, powerful & bloated corporations, and there is a bit of a backlash against it. Some people are using local produce now, supporting farmers, eating healthily, being individualistic, and cooking themselves.

Is the same thing going to happen to the internet in years to come? Access your friends, social networks any time you want, anywhere you are, any way you like. Satisfying our basic need for social connections in quite a novel & entrepreneurial way. Then they became a hang out. At work, home, shops, cinema, everywhere. They opened in Asia, Africa & every corner of the world. Do anything you want online, anywhere you happen to be. Watch, share, and listen to anything you want. Get anyone's opinion on everything, not just now but from the huge archives as well. Except now it's causing a health problem. Poor posture, eyesight, and lack of awareness of the natural pace of life & things happening immediately in front of us. Loss of basic skills & crafts. Inequality between those who can access & those who can't

Will we see a backlash against the internet in the future? A return to using hand crafted tools, supporting local communities, living healthily & minimally, and saving our eyesight? 
What about TV & the radio? There was never a backlash against them. They just evolved. If it's a creative medium, and it's in the hands of people then it has to be good. Maybe the backlash is against the big corporations & the blind uniformity they impose? 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

#edcmooc has a school! Where are we now pre-course?

What is this "School"??
A lot has happened so far before the course has even begun. The Facebook and Twitter groups have been tremendous at really opening up connections and collaboration. We have shared blog posts, Pinterest accounts, favourite links, articles, and so on. But, it still feels a vast amount of info to digest, and what have we really learnt so far?

So, I had an idea. What if this was a real school? Where would everyone be? Where would we put everything? It seemed obvious (weblinks to the library, Twitter chats to the common room), and sounded fun to try and visualise it. So I made a mock ground plan of "the school" and here it is. There is a link beneath the picture to the plan on Google Docs with all the live links. You may also edit it or add comments here if you wish
Link to the school plan

How did I do it?
I actually did it on trusty old PowerPoint. Then I uploaded it to Google Docs and made it public. This way. anyone in the course group can access and edit it. There must be a tool or app out there that does this better. Do you know of one? Please share in the comments below.

What's this school all about?
Well, firstly it was a bit of fun. But I had a serious point and that was to try and organise all the info I've come across, and see if we can't work smarter as a group. I divided the plan it into school rooms. Each room has links to the various online spaces we have created. So, if nothing else it will be a handy reference point, and a helpful guide for newbies to the course.
Entrance Hall - Welcome
Cloak Room - Hang your coat up, and find your way round. There is a Google Map on the wall. Have a look at where all your classmates are and add yourself to the map so we can see where you are from. Have you joined the Google Plus group as well? And added your blog to the blog list? Remember to be courteous and read the rules too.
Quiet Study Room - Here's where we work away quietly on our own projects. We keep Pinterest, Evernote, Flickr & YouTube accounts. We like to share them but are happy beavering away on them in the background. We also started some study groups. You can join a QuadBlog and work in little groups together, follow the link to find out more. Or, if you are feeling overwhelmed, have a vent on the WallWisher page.
Library - there have been so many links posted via Twitter & Facebook, but I thought it was a bit unorganised, and we could be a bit smarter about this. So rather than always post to Twitter or Facebook, add a link to our shared Diigo group instead. Tag it "edcmooc" and we will soon have created an online library. It's much easier to search for things this way, and means Facebook & Twitter don't just get clogged up with endless links to articles. You can also add comments to your Diigo links. You could add why you shared a certain article for example, or pick out your favourite line and ask others to choose theirs. It is much more engaging than just pasting a link. If you have a nugget you really want to share, why not write a summary of the video or article yourself. and post it on your blog? It is sometimes more interesting for people to read your take on it, and you might think more about something if you write about it rather than just post the link.
Common Room - this is where most of us are hanging out. Links here to all the social media groups where you can join in on the conversations
Kitchen - Er, not sure about this one. Something to do with the creative area where we make things.  Links here go to test pages or groups that people are trying out.
Teacher Room - info about the course itself. There is also a link to a trial tutor group which Eric Clark set up. So, if you are a tutor yourself in real life, please join in.
Classroom - the most important bit - but look how empty it is! OK, so the course hasn't begun so it will start to fill up. For now, there is a question on the whiteboard which Steve posed.

Alright, so there's my school plan. What do you think? Did I miss any rooms out? Doing it on PowerPoint seemed so antiquated, especially given the subject matter of this course. There must be a better way to do this using a nifty website or app. Do you know of one? Or if you are clever web person, write to me and let's design one. This could be a great application to use in clasrooms. Get the pupils to design their own dream school and add web 2.0 things to each room. Make a timetable, what would be your dream day, or what do you want to study and what would the classroom look like? It would get pupils' creativity going, and teachers might learn a thing or two as well. Someone must have done this already so grateful if you can share any stories with me.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

#edcmooc #edmooc @rozoua makes it 100 pale blue dots. Where are you....?

Today,  from Alexandroupolis in Northern Greece became the 100th person to join our map - καλωσόρισμα Rosalia! If you have not see then map, you can take a look here. If you haven't added yourself, you can do this now. There are some instructions here.

It has been a great way to visualise the diverse locations of people on the course. From Laura all the way in Nanaimo, Canada on the very west coast of North America, "yet feeling so connected to the rest of the world", to Cathy in Christchurch, New Zealand, "not beautiful on the surface - you need to dig deep and see the people, the spirit and the future." Well, a Google map can do both; you can feel connected by seeing the bigger picture, but you can also zoom in, dig deep, and see the details. Have a look around the map if you have time. And let's not forget our brave "pioneers". Isabel in Caracas, Venezuela, and Elena in Western Siberia - standing out like lone islands, but only a click away.

Did you also know that you can visualise the map in Google Earth? There is a little button on the left of the map you need to look for. Click on this, and you can open Google Earth. If you haven't got Google Earth installed on your computer, you can download it for free here.

You can fly around from location to location and get a 3D effect of the spherical Earth floating in space. It's fascinating.

When you are in Google Earth, look out for a couple of things. Firstly, you should be able to see the "eLearning & Digital Cultures" map in "My Places" on the left hand side. Click on it, or expand the selection, to view all 100 pins. Click on any of the pins to "fly" to the destination. Tip: if you press the "night and day" button on the top row you can play around with how the pins appear. If you also turn off all the other "Layers" (bottom left corner) you will see just a map of the people on the course. On night setting, they appear just like small pale blue dots floating in space. Remember that we also had a poster image from the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" on the course sign up page, and here we are looking at ourselves from space.

The good thing with Google Earth is that you can spin the globe around. Have a play and explore. It can be surprising, as you can see things from a different perspective to a flat map. Try North America "upside down" and see how large Canada appears. Look "up" towards South America from Antarctica. Or pop yourself in the middle of the Atlantic or Indian Oceans and see Europe & America, and South Asia & Australasia spread out as you might not have thought about them before.  Apart from pretty pictures though, what else can we do with a Google map? Please add your suggestions in the comments below. 

Finally, to think back to our latest pinner from Alexandroupolis in Greece, did anyyone else think of Alexander the Great? Well imagine if he had had access to Google Maps? Or imagine Columbus or Napoleon's reaction if they could see Google Earth? Or what if Phileas Fogg and Passepartout could have mapped their 80 days around the world onto it? There have been thousands of stories told across the globe over the centuries - but what can our digital narratives tell us? How can they help us view our lives, and shape and change the world we live in?

Here's a photo gallery of some more screenshots from Google Earth. 
Link to Flickr

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


Why do we leave a task until the very last minute even though it causes anxiety, nausea, panic, stress & dread and we have decades of experience of saying "never again" - but we always do. There was a good radio programme exploring this and here are some notes I took from it, as I've always wanted to answer this question.
Note - the radio show was from September and I'm only just writing this up. And I only listened to 3/4 of it. I never got round to finishing up. You make your own conclusions on that


  • Problem - deciding to do one thing will prompt you to do another thing. You are in a game of “mental judo”
  • Is it fear that stops people doing things? A psychological hang up? Or a state of being? An anxiety disorder?
  • Writers who have writer’s block. Is it procrastination or perfectionism? Well, you don’t have “plumber’s block”, or “doctor’s block” do you?
  • Regret, self loathing and recrimination, depression all follow bouts of procrastination. Do we actually want to bring on these feelings in ourselves? People with ADHD or depression are huge procrastinators
  • Do you get to a certain stage, or age, of saying, “life is too short. I can’t delay any more”

  • Stop seeing a task as a big forest you have to get through. Even passing a tree will do, or a branch; a twig even. The important thing is to start because a body in motion stays in motion. Once you start it gets easier, things happen.
  • Give a third party a sum of money, If you don’t do it, they give the money to a charity.
  • Bear in mind that the idea of doing a task is always worse than actually doing it.
  • Procrastination comes with in-built self defence mechanisms. If you really want to change, 1.) be flamboyant, 2.) do it as soon as possible, 3.) no deviation from rules 1 & 2

Real life stories:
  • Writers block has been around for ages. The Ancient Greeks recognised and wrote about it. Aristotle had a word “ak-ra-sia”. Either means unable to master yourself, or you are not properly mixed or in harmony. Aristotle said that with procrastination you are attacking your future self. It is self sabotage. Hamlet was a procrastinator “to be or not to be”
  • Victor Hugo would write naked so he would not be tempted to leave his study
  •  “I love deadlines, I love the whooshing sound they make as they go buy” Douglas Adams. His publisher moved in to a hotel room with him to make him finish the book.

Another point of view:
  • Has procrastination got a bad name? The financial crisis was caused by snap decisions, they didn’t focus on long term risks or even think about them
There was a good podcast from Freakonomics which covered similar material. In particular, it was "how to save you from yourself", and the tactics people use to give up bad habits. It's fascinating the lengths people go to (eg commitment devices) and it's like a huge psychological war you are raging against your strongest enemy - yourself.

There is also a good article here which says that you do not identify with your future self and that is why you procrastinate - you think of this future you as a completely different person. 
This is similar to that idea of self sabotage. Maybe you are secretly willing that future person to step up and do a great job to resolve the mess the current you has made. It's like you are trying to make yourself the best you can be by making your future problems all the harder to solve. 

This article, with the Instant Gratification Monkey, Panic Monster, Dark Woods etc pretty much nailed it on the head!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

5 thoughts from some MOOC'ers #edcmooc

I watched this video on MOOC’s this evening, kindly tweeted by Ary Aranguiz @trendingteacher
The 3 partiicpants are Martin Weller, Dave Cormier and George Siemens, all experienced practitioners in running MOOC’s. They talk about the history of MOOC’s, the nature of the learning and pedagogy in them, and a little of the MOOC's future within academic life. I jotted down some key points, plus my reflections relating to our EDC MOOC (photo credit: Leo Reynolds)

The early MOOC’s (2007) took advantage of the available technologies and the idea was just to “see what happens”.  Reduced role of content = increased role of connection. When you increase “Mass” you amplify these– but where is the tipping point?
So, is a MOOC all about connections, rather than content? What, as students, then will we actually learn? Or is it all about the disperse connections that are made, and how this fires our imaginations and learning?

Multiple ways of learning, varieties of expression, openness & transparency are important.
This could be a key to it, especially on a course on eLearning where the medium is the message. Maybe we will all learn how to express ourselves better and more confidently online? Or in different ways we hadn’t considered. Or maybe a long, rambling blog post will be much more successfully communicated in a 30 second film, or a photo.

To just arrange something means people think they are part of something that is happening. And to be able to even access a course, and be part of this, is a huge opportunity and motivation for some people.
I concur with that so far. My mind is prepped and ready to learn because I do feel part of something, and that is exciting. I want to take time to study and be part of the experience. “Learning is not about content, it's about experience”.

What does it mean to “participate” though? If you read the odd e-mail are you learning, as compared to someone doing all the assignments and blogging? Also, in a MOOC, what is the value of expertise? ie the ones who do the most online are the ones who are heard, but not necessarily the ones with the expertise.
Will the buzz of having so many people detract from the actual learning? Could we pick up, say, 10 key points from people’s blog posts each week and invite people to comment on these issues? To avoid things spiralling out of control, summarise, and give some markers to what we have learnt as a group. Is there a clever app or way of doing this online?

Burn out potential from a MOOC is much higher. You don’t have 10 e-mails you reply to you have 100. Would having 20 on a MOOC be better than 20,000? You need to rely on peer to peer interaction amongst participants. This is an example of how the pedagogy changes in a MOOC course.  But you always need to make sure this is being linked to the learning outcomes.
I am interested in how the course leaders will find the course. How will they assess what has been learnt, how successful the course has been, whether the learning outcomes have been achieved etc

One week in to the life of a MOOC....

The eLearning course hasn't begun, but I already feel like it's progressed quite far. Here's what I learnt:

1. If you use Google's Blogger service, you can change the design by going into "Templates" and selecting from the Dynamic Views. I chose "magazine" and it gives your blog a whole new professional looking design
2. You can check your Twitter activity in the @Connect bit in the top left corner. I've mainly been using Twitter as a news feed since I joined a few years ago, but since the course began I've been using it a lot more and this helps you keep track of activity. I also find lots of useful info in Tweets. Adding them as a Favourite is a good way to quickly reference back, or save for checking out more fully later. Also remember to tag your blog posts   so they appear in the group feed
3. You can use TweetReach to check on Twitter activity. I actually found this really useful in my job as it helped me pick a good case study for our next newsletter. Thanks @lizcable for the link
4. You can express yourself in many ways. Kyle Bettley did a great video here.
5. "Community & contact drive good online learning". This quote came from the MSc eLearning tutors at the University of Edinburgh who are running our course. They designed a manifesto, which includes lots of statements. This is the one stuck with me this week. See the rest here

Well, there has been a lot of contact amongst course members so far. It's been really positive. As Christine one of the course leaders at Ed Uni says,like opening a bottle of champagne. Links, blogs, groups, map, challenges, enthusiasm. Still sparkling after three days!" That was a nice way of putting it. The image above is done via It's the EDC MOOC Google+ page as a word cloud, with the most common words being the largest (what shapes can you make with your blog URL?).

Thanks to everyone who has posted a pin or commented on the Google map. I've been amazed at how much this took off. It was genuinely exciting when I was sat there on Thursday night and had one person add a pin almost straight away! Then I checked again - another! In one hour of refreshing my page there were seven people. That instant, shared contact was a real thrill, and was really motivating. I've just checked the map again and there is something like 70 people on there. It's really helped visualise the range of participants, and it might be an interesting document in itself (why is Europe mostly Northern Europe? How come more East Coast than West in the USA? No-one - yet - from India, Japan, or the whole of Africa or the Middle East).

I've been trying to follow as many blogs as possible, and check the Twitter feed at #edmooc (careful - my Twitter account got temporarily suspended for posting too many messages to people). There is some interesting material being posted. Thanks to all who have Tweeted or commented on my own posts so far. I really encourage everyone in the course to participate and help each other. We are all mostly new to it and so a little comment, retweet, or link is encouraging. (just like Sally did on her blog here).
There was a quote I saw this week on @rkiker Twitter page from Clark Quinn, "Learning is not about content, it's about experience". So far this has been a really positive experience of MOOC and online learning, and I hope there is more to come in the months ahead

Thursday, 15 November 2012

#edcmooc Saludos - nice to see you!

I made a shared map last night that people on the course can add their location to. In 30 mins, there were 7 posts! Here is the link so you can add your own location. To add a pin you need a Google account. When you have this, you can click on the red "edit" button to the left of the map. Then a blue pin should appear in the top left corner of the map. You can then click on this and drag it around to your location. Add some info and save.

It will be nice to visualise the range of locations of people on the course. If you read "I'm from Buenos Aries" or "from Melbourne" it doesn't have the same impact as seeing it on a map. When you see the pins spread out, it suddenly becomes much more interesting and dynamic. When I zoomed into Susan in Florida for example, I could see the pin was on what looked like a little island. I zoomed back a bit, and there was Cape Canaveral. I've heard of that, and now I made the connection. There is a Melbourne, Florida too - small world. In my pin, I added a link to a Flickr slideshare of pictures from Edinburgh to give everyone a chance to see what it looks like.

What else could you link to? A website with facts about your town? A current news story? A historical timeline? A poem or short story set there? A clip from a movie shot there? Or why not go out, take a picture of something you like about your local area, and upload to Flickr? Then we'd have your own personal impression of where you live. Or choose a theme "my last meal", "where I buy my food", "local shop" etc etc. Add any ideas in comments below

Here's a link to the map, with a screenshot image below

PS - I just checked back. We have person number 8 - Gabriella from Round Rock, Texas! Look at the distribution of the pins - what does it tell us about time zones? No-one from Europe, Africa, Middle East, South Asia. They will all be tucked up in my bed.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

#edcmooc Some first thoughts

What will we learn today? (photo credit: Ryan Kilpatrick)
I have signed up for a free online course on eLearning & Digital Cultures.
I'll use my blog to keep a learning journal, and here are some first thoughts before the course begins. 

What do I hope to achieve?
1. See an online community from a different point of view. In my job here and here I help school teachers in Scotland and the UK find partner schools around the world, and help them develop their partnership. A lot of this is done online via blogs, VLE's etc so I am keen to be having a go at something myself, and be a student in a class which is worldwide. One of the most exciting things will be to study with and hear people's perspectives from countries all over the world. I hope this will help me see things from a different point of view, and perhaps also help me in my job.

2. Have more structure. I blog, use Flickr, and Tweet in my spare time here and there so it will be nice to spend 5 weeks doing this in a more structured way. I look forward to seeing the tasks we will be given as part of the course, and getting stuck in.

3. Learn from other people. The opportunity to study in a group of global learners is very exciting. Hopefully there will be plenty of connections to make, and tips & tricks to learn about along the way. If I can grasp what “multimodal literacies” means that will be good!

What am I concerned about?
1. Too many people? I don’t think this will be a problem, but I wonder how learning online in a big group will actually work? Say, compared to a small class of a dozen people where you know everyone in the class. Might we all end up doing our own stuff, and not really learning from each other?

2. Repeat what I’m comfortable with. I already blog, tweet etc so I hope I don’t fall back on what I already know, or just take the easy option.

3. Time. Actually putting in some proper time to learn & reflect. As above, I hope I don’t slip into easy habits because I don’t have time.  

What I am going to do
1. Time manage. Set aside time each week to sit down and complete the tasks. One of the pieces of advice we give to teachers is that a link with a school in another country is not going to be extra work, and it can fit seamlessly into the classroom work they are already doing. I'm going to try apply the same principle to this course, and put this advice into practice. Maybe set aside one hour in an evening and just do as much as I can in that hour. Don’t go over it, don’t fall short of it. See what happens.

2. Join in. The opportunity to have an audience for any work or study is hugely motivating. So, I will make sure I take time to read and comment on other people’s stuff. I think this will be a key element to a successful online course, rather than everyone just off doing their own thing. Getting involved, helping & sharing in this way is really important in digital communities.

3. Keep with it. Try and apply the learning to every day things as much as I can. Continue with the learning after the course. It’s an online community so why not?