Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

Your face is mine, sweetheart.

This is an issue I have been contemplating for a while, as I often wonder how I will tackle it. Posting images of your children.

I am not going into a rant about how annoying it is, because lets be honest, if someone is going to post lots of pictures of their kids that is their right. I also happen to personally think it is adorable and not annoying.  As an audience for their posts you can easily remove them from your timeline or de-friend them entirely. There is also the very real possibility that they will also talk about their kids a lot in person as well as online. If you also find this annoying it is possible you and they have simply reached a cross roads in your relationship and are heading in different directions, it might be time to shut up and move on, or shut up and accept that it is only because they love their kid(s) so much, that is not a social faux pas but is in fact just called being a parent.

As usual, I digress. What I have been thinking about is actually from a wanna-be parents perspective whether I should post pictures of my future children at all. Do I own the right to their face, their body, their image? Would I otherwise run around their entire nursery, primary, secondary, college, university or office with pictures of them from their past? Do I wan to be the reason some kid they don’t get on with has a photo of them in nappies? On the other hand, as this is not an issue I alone face their is the possibility everyone in their class will face a similar problem and so perhaps baby photos will no longer be viewed as embarrassing but as cute. Parents of the future may well need to find new ways to embarrass their kids in front of potential love interests.

With this issue it is not just future children and the potential change in how baby photos are viewed that come into play with this subject. Even if I were to decide not to post images of my future children, at least until they were old enough to consent (whenever that might be), I am not the only person with a camera. Much like many idealistic goal parents set out with family and friends can often stomp all over them. My father had the ambition of not allowing me sweets, as he thought if I was never allowed them I would never crave them and that would be better for my overall health. If only that plan had worked, but unsurprisingly it lasted until I was about 2 years old when a little old lady in the boulangerie near the campsite we were staying at in France decided that as we had become regulars over the trip, and I was rather adorable as a baby she would give me some sweets. My Father could hardly tell the kindly old boulangerie owner off, and once they were in my hand it couldn’t take them away from his little princess either. And that is why an old french lady is to blame for me not being a model. Long story short, other people are likely to post photos of my kids as well. I am not suggesting they would do this out of malice, but rather because they too will think my kids are super awesome and want to share that with the world. I can of course firmly, but kindly tell everyone not send photos to me via text or private message and to not post them online, but that can’t guarantee they will listen or adhere. If they do post stuff I would then be faced with the difficult decision of either abandoning yet another ideal (I’m sure my family and friends will foil other perfect plans as well) or asking them to remove the image. The latter shouldn’t be an issue but there is the very real risk of alienating or insulting one of the people I hold closest and want most to be involved with the future kids.

Say instead I decided that I do want to post images of my future children. After all I just have to show how cute they are, or visualise the impressive feats they have accomplished. Social media was designed to share important things like this with those closest to you, and I’m sure my family and friends would welcome the break between news, PETA and Greenpeace posts. Lets also assume that I am no longer worried about the future as I realise that social media will alter how future generations view themselves, others and photographs in general. Then I still have the rest of the world to contend with, and the potential that what I see  as an innocent beach snap or potty training moment could be seen as sinister. Before you suggest I am being far-fetched let me share this article from the Huffington Post about two examples of mother’s having images they had taken of their children removed because they were considered pornographic.

If those images were posted privately perhaps there wouldn’t have been an issue, but there is still the potential and I have read many other stories of breastfeeding pictures, shared privately, that have been removed due to complaints. Perhaps this highlights another issue we face with social media, and learning how to narrow down our target audiences better. After all, we would carefully filter who we share such information with in person, but online immediate family, distant family,  close friends, old friends, new friends, co-workers and friends of friends are all mixed in for what we share with ‘friends’. Some social tools do allow this type of filtering, but as a general population we are not great at using it yet, I predict this is something that will change as time moves on. After all not everything is for general public consumption.

So I have yet to decide how I will deal with these issue. A lot of it depends on what has happened between now and when I do eventually have children, and of course I wouldn’t make any decision until I was at least pregnant (which I am not). I further predict that I wouldn’t even make a call on this issue until [push came to shove.  It is also possible I will change my mind on the subject, which could prove problematic once images have been posted. I think this perhaps further supports the need to be forget, as who of us would be happy if our parents all took to social media tomorrow to post pictures of us before were kids.

We all want to be in control of our own image, whether that is present, future or past – the question is will our future children share this concern, or will ones image mean something different by the time they are old enough to consent?

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Social media has no deadline

As part of my job as a Learning Technologist I often have to deal with online assessments, whether they be submission via the VLE (using either in innate tools or Turnitin) or on our Mahara e-portfolio platform. Every now and then I am faced with the challenge of a member of staff wishing to use a social media platform (external blog for example) to run and assessment and how can we lock this down at the deadline? There is normally some uncomfortable work-around I can come up with such as taking screenshots, or downloading a version of the content to submit an non-live version. I call these workaround uncomfortable because for me they do not address the core issue.

The real discussion for me is about the conflict of using ‘slicker’ external tools and being able to lock the student’s work for assessment. We should consider whether ‘locking’ and ‘deadlines’ are compatible with creating an online multimedia site, especially using social media. Although professionals using social tools may have deadlines (e.g. a deadline by which to set up the campaigns Facebook account or by when to have developed the blog/ website) they do not expect the sites to be locked down at this stage. Quite the opposite in fact, they expect the pages/ sites to be live at the deadline. To have been launched into the public sphere and to be received external engagement. It is this conflict of external social tools being designed to be open, and traditional assessments being designed to be closed and lock that means we often tend to try and persuade staff members to base their assessment son internal tools, which may offer features similar to social media, such as those found in Mahara. Using these internal tools means, everything is backed up on institutional servers, we can (better) control down-time for the system and we can ensure assessment are locked at the deadline.

It is no secret I am a fan of Mahara, despite its flaws, but I do think there is room for the exploration of other tools as well. The problem, as I previously mentioned, is that many external tools are more advanced than the policy and practices involved in Higher Education. Is it time we considered moving past the concept of deadlines? I realise that their purpose is to ensure fairness by making sure no-one person gets more time because their work was marked last. A possible solution for this could be to have presentation day, where all of the students must come together in a hall or computer cluster and load up their sites. An assessor or assessors can then mingle around the room, looking at the sites and talking to the students about what they did and didn’t manage in the time frame, why they choose to do x or y etc. If you do not wish for students to be their to explain themselves then perhaps the sites must be loaded and then the students leave the room and enter a holding room where they cannot make any changes and have their technology removed from them. Maybe they could be made to do an exam during this time.

Whatever the solution may be I certainly think that social media is challenging our traditional assessment structures, it is very difficult to use a tool designed for openness in a closed environments. The easy answer is to ban them, but we are disadvantaging our students if we do not at least consider all of the possible tools available to assist their learning and development.

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Capturing tweets

I received a question at work about how to capture tweets for review at a later date. I thought I would share the advise I gave on here for two reasons:

1) It might be useful to someone who reads this blog (unlikely but you never know).

2) It might make it easier for me to find if I ever need to give the same advise again (more likely)

So here it is – how to capture tweets:

It is easiest to capture tweets if there is a common thread connecting them, like a hashtag.

For collecting tweets from a conference, I would normally use something like Storify: https://storify.com/ which will let you collect and arrange tweets.

Alternatively if you set up a hashtag you can always register it with a service like Twubs: http://twubs.com/ which will allow you to collect all of your tweets for use later (and goes back longer than Twitter’s interface).

I hope this is helpful.

If anyone has any other tips they’d like to add please leave them as a comment :)

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Social Media addiction, from Newsnight

A colleague shared this segment from Monday’s Newsnight, about potential social media addiction. I watching it and was pleasantly surprised to find a fairly well rounded, reasonable and well balanced piece about addiction. It was not the usual millennial bashing or scaremongering nonsense you get from many media outlets.

I would recommend giving it a viewing for yourselves:

Newsnight: Social Media Addiction

http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b04004mw/?t=29m46s

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MUGSE – Initial meeting

Monday saw the first MUGSE meeting (Mahara User Group for Southern England). Although this meeting was fairly last minute and the location was…interesting…it was reasonably well attended. There was a mix of Mahara veterans and some newbies, looking to find out more about what the system is and what it can offer.

For this reason the conversation was rather varied, which I thought was actually quite useful.

The meeting started with introductions and then went on to Don Christie (Catalyst IT) talking about the upcoming Mahara 1.9 upgrade. Don mentioned this upgrade will not be as huge as the leap from 1.7 – 1.8 (yay for rows!) but would offer improvement to accessibility. He mentioned that extensive user testing had done on this front, and how the system would be up to a high standard. Don also touched briefly on the 1.10 upgrade, and mentioned that this particular release was likely to incorporate a number of social feature being developed by Totara. These included things like sharing files (without a page), voting up content – such as questions and answers or ‘ideas’. The 1.10 release should also be where we see the addition of Mozilla Open badges, allowing Mahara to act as a back-pack. Another possible feature on the social side could be real time chat. Don advised contacting Yuliya Bozhko (@YuliyaBozhko) for more information about the social tools they’re looking to develop.

The meeting then opened up to more general conversation, and one of the topics raised was graduate or alumni access to Mahara. The usual issues or storage space, and costing were raised. As this is an area I am currently exploring I mentioned the USB portable version offered by Kenji Lamb from Soffed. Munib of JISC RSC South-East suggested I look at MAXOS, which offers Mahara on a stick.

After realising how new some of the members of the meeting were, we then did some show and tells about our Mahara instances, as an introduction for those unfamiliar with the system. I showed the UCL Mahara install, known as MyPortfolio, and talked about the popularity and functionality of groups at UCL.

The wonderful Sam Taylor then talked about student usage of Mahara at Southampton Solent University (also referred to as MyPortfolio) using the slides from here presentation at the German Moodle Moot, available online at mycourse.solent.ac.uk/mootde. Sam showed us some impressive looking student portfolios from a variety of subjects, many of which are publicly accessible.

Irene Bailey of Southampton City College continued the show and tell session by giving us a glimpse at their Mahara install, known as MyBit. In particular Irene showed off their work experience plugin, which includes pre-filled fields – for limiting mistakes on a standard form, and automatic reporting outside Mahara – to negate the cumbersome process of having to share the logs on a page. The work experience logs plugin is based on the CPD tool for Mahara, but with some code changes.

During the lunch break Don Christie mentioned a Mahara analytic tool to me, called Piwik. This tool works much like Google Analytics allowing you to see traffic to your site, include from where, how (what browsers/ devices) and when. This information can of course help with many things, including planning upgrades and targeting testing. Don later tweeted me a link to the Piwik presentation from the recent Mahara Hui in New Zealand.

After lunch we continued the general conversation before looking forward to the Mahara UK conference. The event is being hosted this year in Brighton on the 17th-18th July, and is titled Sea of Change. There is no particular theme for the conference, of proposals can cover a range of topics, the title is simply a pretty and clever pun based on the location. Meredith Henson (Catalyst IT Europe) encouraged us to send in proposals and spread the word about the conference, which I will be doing so ready your Twitter feeds! She gave away some top secret details, so unfortunately if you missed it you have missed out as I am not at liberty to disclose them here, but I think I am allowed to say the conference sounds even more exciting now! As if Brighton, the summer and Mahara weren’t already excitement enough!

The day rounded off with a discussion of the future of the User Group, prompted by the possible scenarios I blogged late last week.  On this we decided that those present would like to make the group inclusive of the South of England, rather than specifying the south East. It was also agreed that due to the relatively unrepresentative collection of users present at the initial meeting, some time would be set aside at the Mahara UK conference for a fuller discussion.

If you would like to be involved with, attend or host any future events please get in contact with myself or Catalyst IT Europe. We hope this group can grow and become a useful community resource.

Here is a selection of Tweets from the day:

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Potential scenarios for MUGSE

Monday will see the first rough meeting of MUGSE,  a new Mahara User Group. During this meeting there are many things to be discussed, one of which is the scope of the group both in terms of topics and geographical locations covered.

In my eyes the first decision is what does the ‘SE’ of MUGSE stand for? Is it Southern England or South East? If it is the latter then I think the name should be abbreviated to MUGSEE, meaning Mahara User Group for South East England – to avoid any confusion with potential future groups.

Once we have decided the areas to be included in the group (although whatever geographical lines are drawn I’m sure those outside would be welcome any time), we would need to discuss the format and location of meetings. To that end I have come up with some possible scenarios and presented them as Prezis. Please bare in mind these are just a rough idea. The boundary lines could be re-drawn and the schedule is open for discussion. I just thought this might be a way to start the conversation.

Potential scenario for MUGSE – Mahara User Group Southern England

Potential scenario for MUGSEE – Mahara User Group South East England

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S is for System, not Sorcery

Complaints. We’ve all had to deal with them, ‘the system is too slow’, ‘why doesn’t it do [this] or [that]?’ Most of the time we are forced to simply apologise about the technology, and possibly even nod and agree that it isn’t good enough for a university, and that we should expect more. This morning I found myself once again wondering, should we really be asking more?

Of course we should always expect more from technology, that is how it evolves and improves rather than becoming stagnant (and we all love new toys to play with)! When it comes to what we currently have though, is it possible we sometimes expect too much from it? Perhaps we need to get better at setting expectation for our users so that they are not disappointed when a piece of software can’t magically reduce their workload and let them spend more time researching. I can confess, I have enjoyed from time to time when academic I’ve helped in using the VLE treat me like I’m a wizard! After all, we all like to feel special, important and being magic would be cool! But perhaps in allowing this vision of us we have created the illusion that we use sorcery, rather than systems? It might well be time to take off our cloaks and explain that while, the technology we are showing them can do a number of things, it is prone to failure. Just like the tech used by big companies such as, everyone’s favourite the BBC, or less favourable Microsoft.

When stuff goes wrong it is not always a sign of bad infrastructure, inadequate systems or untrained staff – sometimes its just a case of technology being technology…it fails, get over it. After all, technology was created by ‘mankind’ and to err is human…

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As an quick aside when I was thinking of ‘S is for System, not Sorcery’ I came up with a few others so I’ll just share them here, otherwise my brain might explode!

A is for application, not for abracadabra

B is for beta, not for bewitchment

I is for internet, not for incantation

M is for machine, not for magic

S is for software, not for spell

V is for virtual, not for voodoo

W is for Windows, not for wizardry

 

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Feedback is a process, not an activity

As education professionals we are constantly faced with the questions of how to give effective, meaningful feedback to students. It is a particular hot topic at the moment, as it is one of the key areas for improvement highlighted by the NSS results in recent years. It has meant many of us have started to look at feedback differently. We recognise that feedback is a process and not a single activity that can be carried out. Feedback works best when it is cumulative, over a number of formative and summative assessment, as it can track and reflect on progress made from one piece of work to the next. This in turn aides the students ability to reflect and develop based on past mistakes and achievements.

But more than that in my opinion, feedback should have a mini-cycle for each individual piece of work, as it is best delivered over a staged process. Technology can assist in this process beautifully, by allowing feedback to be given remotely and consumed in the student’s own time. The student should then be given an opportunity to digest that feedback, reflect on what it means and any questions they may have about it. Next the student should have an opportunity, either via a face-to-face tutorial, or if this is not possible a video-chat (Skype or Google Hangout for example), to discuss the feedback and how improvements can be made in the future.

Feedback works best when it is not delivered as though it is a single task, but as part of an on going discussion that requires active engagement from both the student and tutor. Personally I also think it is important feedback not only highlight mistakes made, but also successes. We can learn by understanding what we did right, as we can by what we did wrong. I often felt as a student that although it was clear what I did wrong, it was not always clear if the aspects of my work not mentioned were successful, adequate or just not as bad and the rest. It might also be the case that success is not always achieved deliberately, and so reflecting on it can insure it is not a one of occurrence.

As education professionals we are learning a lot about what makes for good feedback, and that quantity is not always the best option. Technology enables us the play with different feedback options, from context specific text (such as Turnitin’s QuickMarks) or longer whole assignment reflections to voice and audio feedback. It is a developing and changing area of education, which may mean we never get it entirely right, but if we work with students perhaps we can get close.

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Pseudonym or anon?

Anonymity and the social web are almost synonyms. The question of whether this is right or wrong often comes up in relation to bullying, protesting, whistle-blowing and even education. Reflecting on this topic one morning I asked myself a question; are people more likely to interact (nice or mean) using a pseudonym than anonymity? A study by Disqus suggests that while 35% of commentors in it’s study remained anonymous, 61% chose instead to use a pseudonym. Based on the finding of Disqus we can consider that this might suggest people are not hiding behind a lack of identity (anonymity) but rather creating a new identity. It is possible they are doing this express valuable but controversial opinions they may not other wise feel comfortable doing so, or to attack people.

Already studies show people setting up fake accounts to abuse themselves, so why not do the same to abuse someone you know? Even a loved one? People might enjoy letting out their anger on others under a new identity? Perhaps this would then allow you to act the hero, standing up for the other person under your real identity. There can be many very complex reasons for people wanting to use a new identity for bad reasons – but as I’m not a psychologist I am just speculating here.

Of course pseudonyms don’t always have to be used for dark reasons. It can be used by those in censored areas of the world to express positive ideas, or even just by people who might feel they can’t express idea because of their gender, culture or background. Just like Mary Ann Evans used the pen-named (pseudonym) George Elliot to get her works published, others might still they are taken more seriously under a separate identity. So far I haven’t even touched on the much more simple concept of escapism. Sometimes people just don;t want to be themselves any more, they may not be in an extreme situation, but just need a break for 30 minutes to be another person.

This idea of anonymous and pseudonymous use of technology is also a thought I’ve had recently in regards to assessment. We have all sorts of policies and issues around anonymous assessments, but perhaps part of the problem is that we need assessment to be pseudonymous – so we know who to give the marks to- rather than totally anonymous. Therefore all endeavours to hide the students entity from ourselves entirely are in vain. It is also important to consider that prolonged anonymity can be detrimental to the ability to give feedback as part of an ongoing discussion, which better reflects the learners journey. 

Identity has always been a complex issue, and the advances of technology only serve to put it under a microscope. The line between online and offline is both distinct and blurred, with people able to leave comments that are untraceable or carry their alternate identity into real life. Personally I think most people prefer to be someone when communicating with others, even if that someone is not their usual self.

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Mean Tweets – Jimmy Kimmel

Recently, whilst enjoying some casual internet browsing I stumbled upon the Jimmy Kimmel – Mean Tweets series on YouTube. This series is taken from a segment on the American talk show hosts show and features celebrities reading out mean tweets that have been posted about them. I think this is interesting as it highlights that you are talking to actual people when you at-tag a celebrity or public figure. Many of the tweets are things people would not say if they were face-to-face with either the celebrity or in fact anyone, if did then they’d probably face legal action resulting in either a fine or jail time.

The celebs reactions are interesting, even the ones who laugh it off, sometimes looks like they are trying to use humour to make it okay. Of course some of the tweets are things many of us have thought about those individuals, saying celeb x is a useless dick for example. Seeing that person reading it about, somehow reminds you that they are still a person and it is still wrong to say hurtful things about them. I guess what I am trying to articulate is that, getting to watch a celebrity, someone we often think of as a commodity, reading out the tweets re-humanises them. It makes you realise that they are not simply a brand name, but an organic and sentient being who we should treat as we would anyone else.

I do wonder though, is this series harmful by glorifying the mean tweets? By using them for entertainment does it send a message that, these tweets can be amusing? If you send one you might even get a mention on Jimmy Kimmel, that is a pretty good incentive to send more abuse (some of the guests do appear in multiple episodes).

It is now time for you to judge for yourself, watch the clips and make up your own mind.

YouTube clips of the various editions of Mean Tweets:

Celebrity Mean Tweets #1

Celebrity Mean Tweets #2

Celebrity Mean Tweets #3

Celebrity Mean Tweets #4

Celebrity Mean Tweets #5

Celebrity Mean Tweets #6

Celebrity Mean Tweets – Music edition

Celebrity Mean Tweets – NBA edition

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