Archive for the ‘socialmedia’ Category

The problem with free social software

May 7th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Over the last few years, we have been doing some great things with free social software. All too often teachers and trainers do not have a budget for buying software or online services. Secondly, free social software allows users to experiment with different applications without having to commit limited funds.

Bur there is no such thing as a free lunch. And that is becoming ever more problematic. Firstly many services are maintained through advertising revenue. These adverts are not necessarily appropriate in an educational setting! Of course ad blockers will deal with many of those (but not all – for instance where the advert is superimposed on a video clip). And companies like Facebook and Google provide free services and applications because they want our data.Ignoring ethical consideration around data mining and the use of our data, there is a further problem with free social software.

If enterprises decide services are not generating enough income, or if business models change, software providers can just close services down. And they do often. In the last year three applications that we have used frequently in Pontydysgu have disappeared. the first, which most people will know about, was Google Reader. At least because of all the fuss, we were alerted to its coming demise and able to download our feeds. The second which caused us serious grief was Blip TV which we had been using at one time for hosting videos. At the time YouTube quality was poor and Vimeo was yet to be launched. Therefore when we produced a number of commissioned videos for the European Conference for Educational Research we put them up on Blip, using embed codes to play them in the ECER web site. A month ago we had an emeail from ECER saying the videos had disappeared. We went to Blip and sure enough there was a notice saying they had changed policy (and I guess business model) and were no longer hosting videos. They had sent me an email going me notice but this was lost in the deluge of emails from social software providers. Fortunetely we had kept copies of the videos and were able to restore the embeds, this time using Youtube.

The latest service to disappear is Slidecasts. Slidecasts were built on top of Slideshare, using a night online tool to sync audio to slides.We spent quite a lot of time making a series of slide casts. OK Slideshare gave us notice and allowed us to download the audio and slide files. But now of course they will have to be synced agin using I guess something like iMovie.

I am getting to the point of not trusting anything to free social software services. Or certainly nothing which I do no0t have a local backup for. But this leaves a big gap in creative tools and services for education.

REFLECT: Community-Driven Scaffolding for Voice-enabled Reflection on the Go

August 16th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Together with my colleagues, Christine Kunzmann, Andreas P. Schmidt, Graham Attwell1, Elizabeth Chan2, Marius Heinemann-Grüder, Jenny Hughes, Wenlin Lan2, Andreas Vratny and Andreas Heberle, we have produced a short paper for the forthcoming ARTEL workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Technology-Enhanced Learning at the ECTEL conference.

The paper explains the thinking behind the Reflect App which we hope to launch as a Beta next week.

Abstract

REFLECT is a mobile app that promotes a regular reflective routine. It is voice-based so that it can be used, e.g., while driving a car or in similar situations. The reflection session is scaffolded through decks of questions that can be configured by the other and shared with others, who in turn can reuse the questions.

Introduction

Reflective learning is seen as one of the key activity for workplace learning that is most neglected because of time pressure in everyday business. This particularly ap- plies to General Practitioners (GPs) who are on a tight schedule between slots for consultation and home visits. From the need to make learning activities traceable for re-certification, there is, however, an interest from doctors to reflect on learning experiences and to follow-up on learning opportunities arising from everyday practice. Key approach is to create reflection opportunities by utilizing time slots like when driving in the car from/to a home visit, or commuting.

Concept

The key idea behind REFLECT is that reflection support is based on voice interactions, which allows for hands-free operation. Users can record their reflection sessions, and the system transcribes it and sends it to them via e-mail for further processing, e.g., for including in a personal note-taking or task management tool, or a personal portfolio for future reference.

But reflection also needs scaffolding, particularly if it is supposed to take place embedded into working processes like in between home visits. This is achieved through recording the reflection session in the form of a structured interview along a deck of questions. The app reads the question (via text-to- speech) and then records the user’s responses. Via special voice commands (e.g., “next question”), the user can skip questions.

Useful questions for reflection cannot be pre- defined by the app designer, as they are situation- dependent (reflecting on the day/last patient, reflection on a longer period of time, reflecting after a training session) and there is no general knowledge about (i) which situations are relevant, and (ii) which questions are useful for which type of user. Therefore the app is complemented by a web-based interface that allows for choosing decks of questions that have been shared by others, for rating their usefulness, and – as soon as the learning becomes more confident and experienced in reflective practice to define own new questions and to share them with others.

This results in a lightweight and community-driven approach to scaffolding reflection, which also provides the opportunity for maturing the collective knowledge how to best structure such reflection sessions.

System

The system consists of an app to be installed on a smartphone or tablet (the current version requires Android 4.1 or higher – other systems are planned), and a web-based backend. The app allows for choosing a deck of questions, reads the questions to the user and transcribes the responses of the user and reacts voice commands. Towards that end, the Google Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text APIs are used. While this voice recognition does not deliver 100% accuracy, first tests have shown that under realistic conditions (e.g., in a car) the system produces a sufficient of quality of the resulting transcript to be useful for the user.

The backend is based on PHP, and users the Bootstrap framework. It gives the user the possibility to configure decks of questions, share them with others, use shared questions from others and rate them.

The app will be available from the Google Play Store and from the Pontydysgu website.

Outlook

As part of the Learning Layers project, this app is planned to be evaluated with a larger number of users as part of General Practitioners’ everyday work practice. Further- more, it is planned to complement the Android app with an iOS solution to cover the different types of smartphones used by the target group.

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

August 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The ever resourceful Leon Cynch has announced that L4LTV will be  launching at end of Sept 2013. he says it will be an online niche TV Channel broadcasting fortnightly for six months in the first instance. There are plans to fund the channel through KickStarter campaign coming soon!

Linkedin Endorsements

October 15th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There have been many discussions in the educational technology community about recommender systems. And there have been a number of projects attempting to develop systems to allow people to recommend or verify the skills and competences of other people.

Now Linkedin has jumped big time into this area. In fact Linkedin has long had a system for allowing people to provide a reference or recommendation for others. I wrote a recommendation for Josie Fraser for her work for Jisc as a ‘community architect’. But whilst some people – like Josie – have been fairly diligent in seeking recommendations, I suspect most people have never bothered. And the old recommendation system required some effort on the part of the person writing the reference. Writing more than 148 characters has long gone out of fashion in the days of Twitter and the Facebook like button.

So Linkedin have launched a new system to allow you to ‘endorse’ people. As far as I know, they have not published how it works. But it seems to be based on matching your self claimed skills and competences to others in your network and then asking them to endorse you.

It is an interesting development but I have serious doubts about its credibility. Will employers take such a one click system seriously, especially given that there is no requirement for you to actually know the prso0n you are endorsi9ng or to have any real expertise for whatever you are endorsing them? Or will we all end up trying to game the system to make our endorsements look more impressive?

Some years ago, the UK government decided that one way to increase peoples’ employability was to send unemployed people on a CV writing course and to help them produce a professional looking CV. The result of course was CV inflation with everyone havi8ng a great CV regardless of their real abilities to do a job. And I suspect that is what will happen with Linkedin endorsements. We will all end up endorsing each other and end up where we started.

Anyway I’m off now to endorse some of my friends.

The great music license mess is stifling creativity

August 1st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

RadioActive Europe project which will work with different groups of young people and adults to develop internet radio and set up a European Internet Radio hub kicks off in November. But we are already working on a RadioActive project in London, funded by the Nominet Trust and I am in contact with a number of projects and initiatives around Europe using using radio and video channels with young people and adults.

One of the biggest problems for these project is music. Well it isn’t music as such that is the problem. Access to music has never been easier. I am nostalgic  for those long hours I spent browsing in record shops, and taking hard choices as to which album to spend my hard earned pennies on. Now my phone has more music than was ever contained in my much loved collection of LPs.

The problem is the licensing of commercial music for streaming over the radio or for use in downloads of radio programmes. And of course many young people want to play their favourite music. It is a form of curation and self expression. From talking to many musicians, they too want their music to be played on internet radio. It is a way of reaching new audiences who might buy their music.

But the licensing, controlled essentially by the music industry (and certainly not the musicians) is a total mess. I ploughed through the UK licensing documents last week to try to make some sense out of what we can and can’t do through RadioActive. And this is what I came up with.

“1. For broadcasts that include non Creative Commons licensed material

a) requires a sign off by whoever owns the music – e.g. a friends band

OR

b) A PRS For Music licence and a PPL licence.

In the case of (b)

1. We cannot offer the download of programmes or files containing any part of any Sound Recordings. This includes Podcasting.

2. We cannot loop the (streamed) replay within a 3 hour time period.

3. No more than

- 3 Sound Recordings from a particular album

-  2 Sound Recordings from a particular album

- 4 Sound Recordings by one particular artist

- 3 Sound Recordings by one particular artist consecutively

Assuming – reasonably I think – that we do not go over 270000 performances per year the 2012 licence fee for PPL’s Small Webcaster Licence is £189.41 (plus VAT).

If we played say 8 recordings per hour this would provide us with 649 listener hours per week.

We would have to provide quarterly a Webcasting Report detailing the total number of Listener Hours (i.e. the aggregate duration that all users have streamed the service), and the average number of Sound Recordings played per hour for the quarter and (if they ask for it) -  a Programme Report detailing all of the Sound Recordings used during a given day’s programming.
We also need to know which countries listeners come  from (via web analytics).

The PRS license is far less restrictive costing £118  for 118000 streams. it also allows downloading.

How could that work? For instance cover versions of copyrighted music can be downloaded but commercial recordings cannot.

So in summary (assuming we purchase both licenses) broadcasters have three options

a) To play friends original music with permissions (obtained on paper or by electronic media)

b) To play cover versions of versions by friends with permission

c) To play music covered by a creative commons license

In these three cases we can offer unlimited streaming and downloads

2. To include commercial music in which case we cannot offer for download but can offer on looped streaming subject to conditions detailed above

I think we should purchase the licenses and then explain conditions to broadcasters to make their decision.”

It is all a bit of a nightmare. Jamendo.com is an increasingly rich source of Creative Commons licensed music (although I am told even this is contested in Portugal). And I hope through the RadioActive projects that we can start recording original music. But themess of licensing is stigling creativity and preventing many musicians from getting their music held. All this in the name of an industry which has spectacularly failed to keep pace with changing technologies and changes in the social ways in which we listen to and share music.

Innovation not adverts

May 16th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

A geeky article in GeekWire notes that Facebook has downplayed the possibilities of future income from their mobile app. the reason being suggested in that users don’t like mobile apps. I think they are right. I have installed several apps because of the advertising.

And although I have pop ups blocked, I use search engines everyday on my desktop computer which provide advertising. The truth is I never see it. But on a mobile it is pretty hard to avoid. This has some pretty big implications, considering that the whole Web 2 and social software thing has been largely been financed by advertising.

A move back to paid for software and services could be a good thing. It is near to impossible for start up companies or small enterprises with a smart idea to develop a business plan. Indeed, most developers I have talked to just hope that their idea will catch on and one of the big companions will buy them. This doesn’t do much for innovation. Indeed big companies have a generally poor record when it comes to taking over innovatory start ups. Yahoo have managed somehow to run Flickr, perhaps the first really social application, into the ground. Google ended up closing down microblogging service Jaiku and I don’t hold any great hopes for the future of Posterous under Google stewardship.

Not only would a return to paid for applications and services allow a better chance for innovative start-ups to compete and to develop business models which allowed them to remain independent but it could allow the development of better privacy controls and quality. The argument that because a service if free, users have no rights is insidious, but without proper regulation is hard to counter.

And finally, it might get rid of all the advertising spam which pollutes the web.

Learning not brands

December 13th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Amy Gahran has written an interesting article on the slow take off of QR codes. She quotes research by Archrival, a research group that focuses on youth marketing, which surveyed 500 students at 24 colleges and universities across the United States who “found that although about 80% of students owned a smartphone and had previously seen a QR code, only about 20% were able to successfully scan the example QR code they were shown.

Furthermore, about 75% said they were unlikely to scan a QR code in the future.”

One of the reasons advanced for the findings was that the process of accessing QR codes is too clunky and time consuming. So far I agree. Firing up the app and getting it to scan can be a pain.

But I would disagree with another of their conclusions. Archival suggest that QR codes need to provide “content that engenders a more meaningful connection to the brand or product.”

On the contrary I suspect it is just because QR codes are becoming associated with brands and products that we are reluctant to use them. In this respect context is critical. I will not use a QR code just to access some random brand or product web site. On the other hand if the code does something useful (and I know it is going to do something useful) like tell me the time of the next rain or bus or allow me to check in for my flight then I will and do use QR codes. And even if QR codes are thought to be an interim technology towards augmented reality and near field communication the same issues arise.

These findings reflect a growing tension between the development of social networks and services designed for us (the 99 per cent) and those for the one per cent or less of companies wanting to use social networks and advanced technologies for selling brands and products. The problem is that social network and service providers are more concerned with the one per cent than the 99. This has led to Facebook’s constant attempts to erode privacy in order to provide more data for advertisers. Even Twitter, which has perhaps been the most brand free of the networks has launched a re-design which seems primarily intended to facilitate brand advertising.

Such tensions will not go away. Web 2.0 was launched on the back of free service paid for by real (or hoped for) advertising revenue. Yet such revenues are finite. Ultimately we need to develop new and more robust business models which better reflect the nature and purpose of the services provided.

This does not mean there is no future for QR codes and other augmented mobile applications. There are a number of very convincing experiments of their use in education. But where they do work, in a social sense, the context and purpose is clear. And that is for learning, for interaction for creativity, not for pushing brands and products we do not want.

Amplifing ECER 2011

September 19th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Last week the Pontydysgu crew were at the Freie Universitat, Berlin for the European Conference on Educational Research. As last year we were working with ECER on amplifying the conference. This included video streaming the three keynote sessions, filming interviews with 11 of the ECER network conveners and broadcasting three live radio shows. The radio hows are already online on this site and will soon be available on the ECER web pages. We will also be updating the programme information to provide more transparent access to the contents! The videos will take a little longer for editing and post processing.

We also experimented this year with using AudioBoo as a semi live audio stream. I have to admit this was inspired by AltC who had announced a live video station from their 2011 co0nference. i was jealous but also aware that we did not have the resources to emulate this. But AudioBoo requires little in the way of resources, other than an iPod, an internet connecti9on, some imagination and of course, great people to talk to. And we found plenty of people at ECER. There were something like 2300 participants enrolled at the conference from all over the world. And although we only managed to talk to a very few of the delegates, I think the AudiBoos work well in conveying the atmosphere and feel of the conference to a remote audience.

However where the Boos work best is where delegates are explaining their research interests, the things that they are passionate about. Listen for example to Benedicte Gendron from Montpelier University in France talking about emotional capital. In the past we have often seemed to have a split between papers and books being seen as media for serious research with audio being reserved for more popularist versions fo the same. I am not sure this divide is necessary. Indeed it could be fun to try using audio for the hard stuff, with easier electronic versions of papers being provided alongside. Video can be an intrusive media and to do it well needs some considerable resources. Audio is not in any way so intrusive and can be recorded on mobile devices. And I think in future conferences, it could be interesting just to arrange turn up at the end of a session and interview one of the presenters about their ideas.

Anyway thanks to all of our crew – to Jo, Jake, Judith, Klaus, Raymond and Dirk. many thanks also to Angelika, to Herr Goldenbaum and the ECER staff who were so helpful to us and of course to everyone who participated in our media fest.

Another blogpost coming up about content and ideas from the conference.

The future of social media

July 31st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Although Google+ has been generally welcomed the advent of yet another social networking site has given rise to some thoughts on just exactly what value such sites are.

In a perceptive blog post George Siemens writes:

I’ve concluded that most of the hype around social media is nonsense and that people, particularly the self-proclaimed social media elite are clothing-less……What has social media actually done? Very, very little. The reason? Social media is about flow, not substance…….Twitter/Facebook/G+ are secondary media. They are a means to connect in crisis situations and to quickly disseminate rapidly evolving information. They are also great for staying connected with others on similar interests (Stanley Cup, Olympics). Social media is good for event-based activities. But terrible when people try to make it do more – such as, for example, nonsensically proclaiming that a hashtag is a movement. The substance needs to exist somewhere else (an academic profile, journal articles, blogs, online courses).

It is difficult not to agree. Even on twitter – to date my preferred social network – the ratio of conversation to proclamation – or information sharing – seems to be decreasing. Or is this a reverse power  effect – is it that the more people you follow the less the social interactions?

I think the problem is context. Social media work well in a particular context – be it talking with close friends and family – keeping people up to date on your movement or planning holidays – or around conferences and events, planning projects or seeking jobs. However social media is far less strong in the context of everyday life flows. Indeed the only aspect of context that social media seems good at is geo-awareness with all the privacy issues that brings.

It may be important though to distinguish between social media ‘in the wild’ – Facebook, Twitter and Google+ web sites – and the integration of social media within more specific and contextually defined web tools to support activities, learning or communities. Twitters success may be down to its relatively open development environment making it easy to embed twitter flows into blogs or community web sites.

Not withstanding the debate over the use of real names in Google+ and acknowledging the interest in the playful use of alternative identities, the issue of linking real life worlds and social media worlds seems an important one. As George says “substance needs to exist somewhere else”. But whilst George is posting that substance in the academic world, such substance may lie in different facets of our lives – within work, play or the community.

Yet I suspect those corporations developing social media applications have little interest in such substance. The substance for them is in the advertising and commercial world which produces them profit, the ultimate arbiter of success for social media companies. I have written before that the future of social media may lie in more focused and niche networks and communities – communities which can link our online and off line activities and enrich both. But such communities will have to be developed from  the bottom up. And in this context the issue of design will involve much more than cool tools and applications – or indeed encouraging us to follow ever more ‘friends’.

Measuring impact

June 17th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

This toolkit from Jisc has been released for measuring the impact of resources. However it could also be very useful for those seeking to measure project impact, an increasing demand from funding bodies.

The Jisc press release says “Measuring the impact of a resource you’ve put online can be difficult – but a newly updated JISC toolkit will help content creators, publishers and other information professionals understand the reach of their digital assets.

They can use the kit to help guide them through different aspects of measuring impact, both qualitative, such as focus groups, and quantitative, such as web metrics.”

The toolkit can be accessed here.

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    News Bites

    Consultation

    Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.

    The deadline for contributions is 23 June at http://goo.gl/LwR65t.


    Social Tech Guide

    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”


    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.


    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

  • Twitter

  • RT @socialtheoryapp The self as pedagogical: On Wittgenstein and education | Social Theory Applied fb.me/6YPkHx3qy

    About 57 minutes ago from Cristina Costa's Twitter via Twitter for iPhone

  • Sounds of the Bazaar AudioBoo

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Upcoming Events

      There are no events.
  • Categories