Teaching and Learning with social software

November 14th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
Now I think Michael Idinopulos from Social Text is going a little over the top when he claims the approach below is unique. But he is right in saying that traditional approaches to training using social software don’t work and we need to develop new pedagogic approaches.
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Suppose you were trying to train someone who had never seen a telephone before. You could teach them how to dial, how to put someone on hold, how to work the mute button. But until they actually make a call and speak to another human being, they won’t get the point. And that’s exactly what happens when you use traditional training methods for social tools: they learn how to push the buttons, but they don’t get the point.

In traditional training, you interact with technology. In social training, you interact with other people by means of technology. The technology becomes a medium, like a telephone or a videoconference room, rather than the object of your interaction, like an MRI machine or a Boeing 777.

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Are we still in a pre-digital capitalist world?

September 19th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
there was an interesting discussion on twitter this morning. @patparslow said “I suspect we are so early on in the meteoric rise of digital technology, pre-digital would be a better description.” In the discussion that followed he cited the present confusion over copyright law as an example of how far we have to go before society adjust to the disruptions engendered by digital technologies. But i suspect it goes much further. Present financing of companies is ill suited to the needs of the creative and software industries as this quote from Jimmy Mulville, co-founder of Hat Trick Productions, makes clear.
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“I would never again sell to a purely financial institution. I don’t
believe it works when banks invest in volatile creative companies,” he
said. “There was nothing nefarious about [August’s expectations] but
the leverage involved in these deals is so punitive. It puts a tremendous
pressure on producers – look at Endemol, look at All3Media [both of which
have substantial debt]. It was very distracting to be embroiled in.”

Jimmy Mulville, who co-founded the business and was part of a management team
which sold a stake to August Equity in 2003 before wresting it back again in
2009, said there was an inherent mismatch between creative companies and the
relentless focus on growth demanded by financial investors.

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The perverse effects of governement policies (2)

September 9th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
From an editorial in Time Higher Education. The article explains how under the original government plan funding for the arts and humanities was slashed. In responding to protests they have announced for funds for these subjects but at the expense of expenditure on STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It is hard to see any real direction in government higher education policy – other than a desire to privatise universities. But the perverse effects of these policies may very soon have a considerable economic impact. Not for nothing are countries with a far lower GDP than the UK striving to expand education, especially in STEM subjects.
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Now we hear that international student numbers for taught postgraduate STEM courses have almost doubled in eight years whereas those for home students have risen by just 1 per cent, leaving departments vulnerable to fluctuations in the overseas market and the ludicrous vagaries of our visa system.

From 2012-13, science departments will find themselves with only £1,500 per new student on top of the increased tuition fee, despite STEM subjects being far more expensive to teach than classroom-based ones. The AAB policy has delivered a further blow: a number of science and engineering subjects have low proportions of AAB students, leaving departments that teach them open to greater competition.

Mr Willetts was at pains to reassure everyone that there was no cause for alarm as the arts would in fact get a good deal. What he failed to tell us was that this would come at the expense of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

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Its official – surfing the net is good for you and good for productivity

August 22nd, 2011 by Graham Attwell
A study on the “Impact of Cyberloafing on Psychological Engagement,” by Don J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G Lim of the National University of Singapore, presented last week in San Antonio, Texas, at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, an association of management scholars, claims that surfing the net can increase productivity.
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According to a new study, Web browsing can actually refresh tired workers and enhance their productivity, compared to other activities such as making personal calls, texts or emails, let alone working straight through with no rest at all.
Why is Web-surfing more restorative than, say, responding to a friend’s email? When browsing the Internet, people “usually choose to visit only the sites that they like—it’s like going for a coffee or snack break. Breaks of such nature are pleasurable, rejuvenating the Web surfer,” wrote Dr. Lim, in an email. By contrast, workers can’t control the kinds of email they receive, and reading and replying to each message is “cognitively more demanding, relative to Web surfing, as you need to pay attention to what is said on the email,” she added.
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Saqueos are contagious

August 17th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
The impact of last weeks riots in London will be long lasting. And after the outpouri9ng of reaction from the propertied and privileged classes slowly more sane voices are emerging.

This is an excerpt from an excellent column in today’s Guardian newspaper.

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Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing night-time robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered – a union job, a good affordable education – being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.

Cameron’s response to the riots is to make this locking-out literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.

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Developing mulimedia in history

July 26th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
I have been thinking a lot lately about how new technologies will change the practice of traditional disciplines such as history. And this new web site is showings some of the possibilities of using media in history.
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Hundreds of interviews with former activists from the 1968 revolutions which shook Europe have been analysed and put online by an international research team led by historians at Oxford University and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Nearly 500 activists from more than 100 activist networks in 14 European countries have been recorded discussing how they became involved in activism, their experiences in 1968 and what they now think about their activist past.

The interviews have been put into an online database called ‘Around 1968’: Activism, Networks, Trajectories’, which has been launched at Oxford University, thanks to funding from the AHRC and the Leverhulme Trust.

The website can be accessed at

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    Cyborg patented?

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    Racial bias in algorithms

    From the UK Open Data Institute’s Week in Data newsletter

    This week, Twitter apologised for racial bias within its image-cropping algorithm. The feature is designed to automatically crop images to highlight focal points – including faces. But, Twitter users discovered that, in practice, white faces were focused on, and black faces were cropped out. And, Twitter isn’t the only platform struggling with its algorithm – YouTube has also announced plans to bring back higher levels of human moderation for removing content, after its AI-centred approach resulted in over-censorship, with videos being removed at far higher rates than with human moderators.

    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

    The latest statistics show that 26.3% of pupils eligible for FSMs went on to university in 2018/19, compared with 45.1% of those who did not receive free meals. Only 12.7% of white British males who were eligible for FSMs went to university by the age of 19. The progression rate has fallen slightly for the first time since 2011/12, according to the DfE analysis.

    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.

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