Social Media as Marketing Tool (Yuck)

I’m tired of puff pieces about using Social Media as marketing for higher education. While this article/interview isn’t bad, in fact it’s pretty good, it exposes a glaring flaw in a lot of the logic of marketers. Hardly anyone in higher education is doing anything remotely clever with social media, certainly not on the scale of what some mass media advertising has done, so why are we even talking about it? Because it’s a fad? A talking point full of me-toos? Who cares? Maybe this is a side effect of technology envy, where the newest and greatest gadget needs to be used in some fake way to ensure we’re cutting edge. I, and most other students would, prefer to see these social media tools in action – maybe in say the classroom? Isn’t using social media in a introductory way without having any classroom presence disingenuous and misleading? Hell yeah it is.

Extending Your Reach

Extending Your Reach: Using Web 2.0 Tools in Your Classroom is a presentation I gave earlier today about integrating some Web 2.0 tools into the Desire2Learn LMS. I put up the presentation on SlideShare, although I don’t know how much sense it will make without me talking with it. Let me know what you think of it without the context. Thanks to Barry Dahl (specifically for the help with the wiki, but  also the excellent Desire2Blog) and Kyle Mackie for the source material, and Alan Levine for Feed2JS, without your work it would not be possible to have done this.

I hate that I spent half a day picking out the right font (Communist, if you must know) and at least that amount of time laying out the presentation in PowerPoint, which has to be among the worst product for design, and Slideshare screws it all up via the upload. Here’s a preview, mind the odd formatting of my boxes, font, and at times incongruent fonts. There must be a way to get it right?

If you download it, you’ll get it with the proper layout; you’ll also get the notes, which has the sources of the photographs (all licensed by Creative Commons, labelled for reuse, except the one taken by my wife, who allowed me to use it in exchange for the $20 Tim Horton’s gift card I got at work).

State of Web Development (and Learning Online)

So the State of Web Development 2010 is out and a few results are surprising. The one result for the sector one works in was interesting: in 2008 10% of responses indicated they were involved in education, while 7.7% for the 2010 results. Are there less web designing/development going on? Or have those previously been involved in web design now moved over to e-learning?

The Google Chrome browser use has grown over 15% over the year. When developers and designers start using a browser, this usually means the results will filter down to end users. Maybe this is the vanguard of browser change?

Only a third of designers/developers optimize for mobile devices. I interpret that as mobile devices are not a priority to develop for because either they aren’t seen as “mission critical” or that Mobile Safari or Mobile Opera browsers do a good enough job of interpreting website for the mobile platform.

The interesting thing is the early adoption of HTML 5 and CSS3 – which works surprisingly well out of the box on modern browsers. What’s disappointing about this series of results is how far behind LMS developers are from the useful tools in HTML5 (hello, canvas element!) and the usability of CSS3 (it’d be wonderful if we could write a CSS template to apply to learning space areas). I guess it comes down to the closed box system – if you’re paying for a closed box you shouldn’t be surprised when they close the lid too. I think the first LMS that jumps on the HTML 5 bandwagon will be a big winner – the canvas element alone will allow for easier ways to be creative and new ways to work on the web. Canvas Demos is a site that’s showcasing different uses of the canvas element – a lot of games are being drawn on the canvas it seems – but I’m sure you can see the ways that you could use this as a new method of getting input. Or perhaps, eliminating expensive web conferencing tools and brewing something a little more open source. Can you say interactive whiteboard?

Salinger’s Death

“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.” – Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye.

It’s strangely comforting knowing that Salinger got our future so right. The quote from Salinger might explain a lot about the motivations behind the usage of a lot of web 2.0 tools. Perhaps it’s not the connection but the promotion that people get out of it. Certainly, connections are important, vital even, to life. But is that what we want when we tweet, or update our facebook? Do we want a connection, or do we want our fifteen minutes of fame? Are there times where we might want one and not the other? Does the near limitless connections we make create fame? We’ve seen that in blogger-land, where certain blogs have enough followers that the person behind them become celebrities of sorts. In that case, is Perez Hilton really making connections or just making statements?

What I Learned This Week (Part 3)

Tokbox is a new-ish online video conferencing system that doesn’t require plug-ins or downloads. There’s some interesting applications that Tokbox could have for international education, where a guest speaker could present from a distance. While it only would be a talking head, that might be useful enough for some content. This certainly could be a Skype killer. Nice that contacts can be added through a myriad of e-mails and IM providers.

In a presentation, the Pew Internet declared that Online Social Media is democratizing, meaning that the numbers and demographics are not as skewed as they were in 2005. The problem I  see is that it’s comparing Social Media use to Internet usage. As Social Media becomes more prevalent, of course more people using the Internet will be using Social Media. The real democratization will be when people start comparing online to offline and those numbers are equal. We’re still seeing overall usage skewing towards mainstream cultural groups, when a real variety of voices have access to the Internet, never mind Social Media, we’ll then be able to talk about real democratization.

Social Media: Trends and Implications for Learning

I was going to blog last night and didn’t end up doing that because I spent an hour, a very worthwhile hour with 150 other folks in the August session of the AACE “Conference” on Social Media: Trends and Implications for Learning.

Towards the end of the discussion veered towards the tool having no influence on what you’re teaching, rather the tool is influenced by your personal philosophy of teaching. It’s a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario – does your philosophy influence what tools you use or does the tool influence your philosophy? I tend to think that tools are neutral, until you use them. The tools you then use, and how you use them, inform others of your worldview and philosophy.

For instance, you are teaching at a distance, and have some choices as to the tools you use. Of course, this all presupposes that you have a choice.You weigh the value of a distributed set of social networking resources (twitter, google docs, blogs etc) against the value of putting everything in an LMS (D2L, Blechboard, WebCT, Moodle). On the one hand, you might want your students to have a central point of entry is convenient, useful, simple. You can give PowerPoints, additional notes, and other resources that you find in the LMS and be relatively certain that students will find them and maybe even look at them. From a pedagogical standpoint, this is more of a Behaviourist standpoint with a nuturing element. Most LMS’s model this sort of instruction – sure there’s workarounds to allow more collaborative tools, but if you want students to mark each other, you as the instructor still have to enter marks. The instructor role puts you in a role of power over students, which is not a really new concept.

By distributing learning, you allow for serendipity to drive your course content somewhat, but you can guide learning by participating in the distributed nodes wherever they exist. By choosing a less centralized mode you are revealing that you are more of a constructivist, or will to engage in constructivism at least.

The argument is that it’s pedagogy that’s driving those decisions. I tend to agree… but then the question arose “Is a teacher who uses Moodle more open than one that uses Blackboard?”  To which I responded “I suspect so, but one tool does not inform about us fully.” (If you want the full context, click the link above and zoom to the 55 minute mark, I’m Jon K.) I wanted to take a bit to expand on that, my thinking was not clear enough to say what I should’ve said – “No.” Comparing Moodle to Blackboard is like comparing Firefox to Internet Explorer. They are both LMSs and serve the same function – as a central repository of information – which implies that any other information about your course is secondary, or less useful.  Sure, one is a better tool to use than the other (politically?) and one may have features that you value over the other. They in the end serve the same purpose.

On another note, if I’m going to keep sticking my foot in this hole, I’m going to have to brush up on my McLuhan. Maybe some McGoohan too, just to put me right round the bend.