Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

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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Selfies: Sharing is Caring

Recently it seems at least once a week there will be a selfie related story I will read on one news site or another. As selfies are highly connected, not only to criticism about my generation, but also representation of identity they are an area that fascinates me.

After reading another article about selfies and how self-centered young people are now days, blah blah blah, I began to reflect on the matter from a slightly different perspective. I started thinking about what purpose selfies serve. In my experience selfies are not as self serving as they might seem. Although it is easy to conclude that sharing them on social media sites is all for the greater glory of the self, there is often other purposes as well. Many times a selfie will be shared to show the photographer during a particular moment or event, they may also serve as a way of sharing a particular aesthetic element (good hair/ well done make-up) that the photographer wants to share with friends/ family. Is this self centered? To imagine that your friends and family care about you? Or is it simply embracing reality. After all I love seeing images of my friends and family on social media sites, whether it is because they had their hair done up nicely for a wedding, because they were at a party or on holiday. It gives me joy to see the ones I love so why should I not assume they get joy from seeing what I’m doing?

This train of thought then lead me to ask myself; are selfies egocentric/ selfish or are young people creating records for future generations?

I wish I could look at up-close and detailed images of my parents/ grandparents/ great-grandparents, especially ones taken from their youth. Unfortunately due to photographic technology not being so developed back then and the constant photography of ones self not being a big thing there are very few images I can look at. For my children/ grand child and hopefully great-great-great-great-grandchildren they will be able to have their selection of images of me at every stage of my life, especially since puberty. Is it selfish of me to hope my future relatives will be interested to know about me? I don’t think so. I’m currently trying to explore my maternal family tree, and I would love it if it could be made easier by more digital records, such as Facebook profiles, images, blogs etc.

Finally I think there are also practical elements to the prevalence of selfies. It is far more common for people to end up going to special events/ holiday etc in small groups (possible ones or twos) and so it is not always possible to ask someone else to take a picture of you. Therefore if you want a picture taken you must do so yourself. Even if there are other people with you, unless you know them very well it is unlikely you would want to give them your photographic device, most likely a mobile phone, as these portable device can be very easily stolen. The ease of use of these portable devices also makes them much easier and faster to take a photograph yourself rather than having to ask another person to do it.

In conclusion I do not think that all selfies are a reflection of the increasingly self-centered nature of younger generations. I think it is a reflection of both the advancement of photographic technologies, and the social nature of younger generations. This materialises as a desire to share every possible moment with those we love, as we would hope they share their lives with us.

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Dear users.

Over the course of this week I have had to send out a couple of emails to everyone who uses the virtual learning environment (VLE). Without too much thought I addressed them ‘Dear users’. This term has since caused some controversy with some arguing that it should be ‘Dear colleagues’. The arguments are that colleague is a more pleasant sounding term, and that user might have some other negative connotations as a derogatory term for drug addicts. Perhaps it just goes to show the extend to which I have a ‘techie’ brain, and live in a world of developers, testers, programmers and users.

I’m not suggesting that anyone things this is a particularly important point, but it has prompted me to think about the language that I use. Often I will assume that common terms such as ‘users’ are things that everyone will be familiar and comfortable with. Within Higher Education I have always found there to be a debate about how to refer to the individuals, or groups of individuals who utilise our e-learning services. The most contentious debate is still around the term ‘customers’, and this is both in the previously mentioned context and also as a way of referring to students. Perhaps colleagues is the best way to refer to the group of individuals who utilise our services, and perhaps I should even be thinking of the VLE platform as a ‘service’.

Perhaps this seems pernickety but I think language is important, and it is all to easy to claim ignorance when one deliberately makes another unconformable with their words. At the same  time I would like to contradict that by suggesting from time to time we do need to loosen up and focus on the real problems of language, such as casual discrimination that is part of most Western dialects. By this I mean things like unnecessarily feeling the need to gender language, when it is not required, or dismissive or offensive terms for people of different ages, abilities or cultures. Rose George discusses how we often jovially use terms such as ‘Deli belly’, and yet ignore the fact they refer to serious problems of unsafe drinking water and contaminated meats that lead to the death of children.  

It just goes to show how important and misused language can get.

 

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Tampons for men.

Tesco recently announced that they would be rolling out new advertising screens at the tills in their petrol stations. These new screens will include cameras with facial recognition technology to target adverts. Tesco claim these adverts will be targets on the base of gender and age, although I do have to question how you can target an add in such way without risking being insensitive. What if you target advert for baby care products to a woman in her early thirties (a common age for mothers of young babies) who is infertile? The firm has also admitted that it can make mistakes in identifying someones gender, so for example if a man has long hair he could be identified by the software as female. Might this lead to tampon adverts being targeted at male surfers and bikers?

Although Tesco insists none of the information gained by the new screens will be stored, it is hard to imagine that they wouldn’t use the data to tailor products sold in store. I also can see a future when they combine this information with tracking of your Club card. This would enable the supermarket conglomerate, and anyone else they share the information with to know all of your buying patterns and movements. Admittedly a lot of this information already exists, and it might be a bit late to get up in arms about it. Therefore I find myself asking the question, is the addition of facial recognition software a step too far or an inevitable progress?

Read the original BBC News article for more background information.

 

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