Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Social Media in Education, Disorganizations and the Lifecycle of Emergence

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

5 years ago a small group including me and Teemu Leinonen formed the Finnish Association of Free, Libre and Open Source Software in Education (FLOSSE). Although we did some great things the effort didn’t last because the people involved were not that interested in running a traditional association. As in Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital, internet enables individualization of leisure time via the Internet and as a result, participation in traditional formal associations is in a decline.

As Clay Shirky outlines in his book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, as the transaction costs (in reference to British guru on economics Ronald Coase) for cooperative work drops as a consequence of internet enabled mass collaboration, things tend to happen in a decentralized way without the need for centralized formal organizations. There are many examples of such forces at play, e.g. Wikitravel or OhMyNews.

In Finland we have witnessed the emergence of a decentralized virtual organization called Sometu (sosiaalinen media oppimisen tukena – social media in support of learning). This (dis)organization consists of over 3000 teachers, researchers and other people interested in social media in education. Sometu was formed in the end of 2007 and has grown rapidly since. Their main tool is Ning, but they use a wide variety of other social media tools to carry out educational experiments.

Now that Ning is going more commercial and social media conversation is becoming more overheated and tiring on the educational sector, people like Teemu Leinonen (at ITK-conference) and Tarmo Toikkanen have started to question the aim of Sometu and its mission. Sometu has started to live a life of its own as an echo chamber for educational social media fanatics with their own little experiments with a questionable degree of impact. With a more clear purpose such a (dis)organization could become much stronger and meaningful force in transforming the educational sector. Will it be capable for this?

With great interest I read Dave Pollard’s post on the Lifecycle of Emergence. He talks how intrigued he is of “flow” models depicting the dynamics and cyclic nature of complex systems. He talks about the details of his discovery of Meg Wheatley and Debbie Frieze’s (Berkana Institute) model of Lifecycles of Emergence and explains the model with the following picture:

lifecycleofemergence1 Social Media in Education, Disorganizations and the Lifecycle of Emergence

The Lifecycle of Emergence. Illustration: Dave Pollard, original by Chris Corrigan

When I saw this picture Sometu network immediately came to my mind. As I see it, it was set up by pioneers who named the network. Then it started rapidly evolving as a network as other enthusiasts joined, eventually emerging as a community of practice for using social media in educational practice. A lot of attention and success stories were built, illuminating the (dis)organization’s activities. As more newcomers joined and as the activity and transparency of the group’s activities grew, it became a major system of influence for educational transformation – until someone said that the emperor wears no clothes.

As with anything, technology is like a chair without two legs if the cultural transformation underlying it is missing or unclear for the user. If things get technologically driven – as Sometu seems to be too much so for some people – the question then becomes what is the cultural innovation behind the scenes. This could be concentrated as a mantra, mission or vision for such an organization, but such statements may become empty in meaning.

Influencing real change in education is exceptionally hard. Networks like Sometu need to carefully examine the real competencies they have and focus on those to avoid decline and jump to a new cycle of opportunities. This will be hard, especially if even the originating founders don’t know themselves what would be the forces that will keep their vague network together in the future – simple interest in tools for education is not enough.

Just as Bruce Sterling said to mobile developers at the Mobile Monday Amsterdam:

“I want you to think real hard about the values you are going to save and stop worrying about the plastic”.

Social Media and the Volcano: an Overview

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

I had to skip a flight to Lapland for giving a presentation due to the volcano eruption in Iceland – first force majeure for me. Due to curiosity, I’ve been keeping an eye on the phenomena from the social media point of view. It is obvious that once again social media is playing an important role here for disaster recovery.

Especially real-time reporting and data has become increasingly important. Twitter and real-time mashups turn out to be most useful on the real-time web side. Various online communities on Facebook and elsewhere are providing solutions and support for those who are still out there. Events like this could be tremendous opportunities for companies customer support departments to listen and react accordingly and provide some relief to crowded phone support lines.

ishot 34 Social Media and the Volcano: an Overview

Most important tags for following the volcano related information on Twitter are #volcano, #ashtag, #getmehome and #roadsharing. Here is a chart that shows that the conversation is still going strong with #ashtag (started by twitter user Angry Britain at approximately 7:31am on Thursday 15th) and #getmehome rising as of sunday:

ishot 35 Social Media and the Volcano: an Overview
Twitter tag trends for the volcano discussion (stats: Trendistic 2010)

Volcano-stranded travelers have turned to social media for alternative transportation, accommodation and other support.

On Facebook, writer Tod Brilliant organized his own Facebook group “When Volcanoes Erupt: A Survival Guide for Stranded Travelers” (531 members as of writing) a moment after he and his wife Andrea Barrett – who is 31 weeks pregnant – found themselves unable to fly home to California from London’s Heathrow airport after a wedding. The group features country specific advice.

Carpool Europe (1575 members as of writing) on Facebook helps people to find a ride in Europe.

ishot 37 Social Media and the Volcano: an Overview

Stuck in Helsinki – accommodation during the ash cloud (250 members as of writing) is providing a channel for those stranded in Finland. travel search site organized an interactive Google map mashup of the ash plume showing aiport status.

On the real-time data side, shows airplane traffic and the ash cloud on a real-time map.

TED quickly approved a group to organize TEDxVolcano in London after a whole group of people participating at the Skoll World Forum got stranded.

Someone even set up a Twitter account for the ash cloud and gained over 2000 followers in a short time. Another volcano pretender here. and websites designed for sharing rides and accommodation just became more popular, not to mention image pools on for volcanic eruptions.

Various Airlines are helping their customers on Facebook and Twitter regarding the issue. Good job so far by airBaltic (33 300 members as of writing) with ongoing updates on the issue. The finnish arline Finnair is not doing as well, with only some official updates on Facebook (7500 members as of writing) and no real support. Finnair’s  Twitter account is also completely silent.

Experiential Learning Cycle & Social Technologies

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

In this video I will talk about David Kolb’s experiential learning cycle and how to consider the role of wikis, blogs and other tools in social reflective practices.

I would love to hear what you think about it. Should I do more of these?

Newsmastering Architecture for News Radars

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Newsmastering is about multiple people (e.g. your employees) pointing to interesting resources from various sources (e.g. social media, industry reports and news sites) and then a newsmaster selecting, editing and publishing high quality content to other users (e.g. your customers) to aggregate.

Newsmastering is about being an information DJ: as an expert, you select highly valuable resources as a News Radar for your readers. If this radar is on your company website, it enables more dynamic content and thus a good reason for your readers to return to your site periodically. As an added benefit, search engines are going to reward your activities.

Here is our Newsmastering Architecture me and Ville Orkas from Dicole implemented for these purposes:

4359962483 b039c1d6bb Newsmastering Architecture for News Radars

Dicole Newsmastering Architecture

What we essentially have is:

  1. Our employees and partners link to interesting resources or publish their own content online.
  2. The sources get picked up by a fully automated news hub, that analyzes the sources. Our hub discovers the original URLs, makes automatic summaries of articles, discovers original sources, creates links for link tracking and fetches website screenshots and/or first image from the news item for publishing purposes.
  3. The sources get synced with a newsmastering database, in this case we are talking about a small news database application built with Zoho Creator.
  4. The newsmater uses the news database to rewrite a) titles b) descriptions c) sources d) authors and other relevant information. Also the newsmaster picks a relevant picture for the news item, e.g. a website screenshot or an image from the news item itself.
  5. Once the newsmaster is happy with the refined item, it is marked for publication.
  6. Dicole Radar on website picks up the published items and generates a News Radar available here.
  7. Yahoo Pipes takes the published articles and generates a proper RSS feed out of the news database.
  8. Google FeedBurner provides additional features for the RSS feed.
  9. The hand picked news items in the RSS feed are published through APIs (empowered with Twitterfeed) to Facebook, Twitter and other relevant services.
  10. A Social Media Listening Architecture is used for following reactions to hand picked news radar items online.

Basically our implementation is a very elegant Web 2.0 mashup, using the latest technologies to build an application with the least ammount of effort. Here is the final result on our website:

ishot 210 300x205 Newsmastering Architecture for News Radars

Dicole Radar at

Newsmastering is something that is fully enabled by RSS and powerful middleware technologies. Newsmastering is something wire editors should do at every publisher wanting to be effective online.

Newsmastering once well implemented, is quick and doesn’t require much additional resources. You are harnessing the power of your network to discover the most relevant resources anyway.

Bloggers and specialized explorers on various topics should provide a service like this to their readers. Simply linking to resources through Twitter and etc. is not enough: specialists know what their readers need and can describe in a concise way why a certain resource is useful. Sometimes the titles of original posts are not very good and thus rewriting the titles is important for additional value.

There are multiple different ways for implementing news radars. If you are interested, Dicole is now providing consulting for publishers who are looking for implementing their own News Radars to increase the speed, relevance and impact of their content online.

Tools for Learning: Trends and Implications to Language Education

Friday, December 18th, 2009

I’m here at CCN Arctic Think Tank – Talking the Future: Languages in Education, a two day conference in Levi, Lapland. The weather is well below freezing and the landscape from the conference window looks pretty awesome. It was great to think about ideas with a horizon like this.

levi snow Tools for Learning: Trends and Implications to Language Education

Here are some notes I just produced with Emily Rosser from Macmillan Education, UK and Oliver Meyer from Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany regarding the future of online tools in language education.

Tools for Learning: Trends and Implications

Everything that can become digital, will rapidly become digital. Everything that could be automated by computers, will be automated. The amount of information in explicit form is increasing exponentially. We are moving towards an age of transparency: people produce user-generated content in the form of status updates in social networks, videos, interactive content, podcasts, blog posts, links and commentary.

The dynamic web fueled by social media is affecting content in real-time. New approaches to information visualization and categorization (e.g. with bottom-up categorization methods like tagging) are needed. Approaches like commons-based peer production enabled by technical architectures of participation in combination with open content licensing schemes (e.g. Creative Commons) changes the role of consumers into active participants – or prosumers.

The hardware capabilities, internet access, content production, content distribution and underlying educational methodologies are constantly improving and changing. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift regarding online learning. Traditional books are becoming non-linear, embedded in the very fabric of the network architecture. Paid content alone is no longer relevant enough. Publishers need to come up with added value services, extending their offering and role beyond traditional realms.

Technology takes content out of the classroom to the very context where learning happens. Smart internet enabled technologies will be embedded in our environment on e.g. walls and tabletops. Portable devices like e-book readers, tablets and next generation mobile computers make content available and integrated to the environment everywhere and anytime.

Opportunities for Language Education

Digital content and delivery will help enrich the pillars of language learning:

1. Enrich input

Content that should be made available to teachers and learners needs to make full use of the multi-sensory potential that digital formats and digital delivery offer to facilitate language intake. It also allows to deal with different learning styles.

2. Enhance interaction

New forms of communication allow instant cooperation between teams within a class and beyond.

3. Provide opportunities for dynamic output

Microblogging, tweeting, social networking and other Web 2.0 applications provide an authentic setting for output and communicative tasks in real-time.

4. Tailor scaffolding to individual needs

Non-linear learning environments allow for various kinds of scaffolding with respect to different learning styles and individual preferences.

5. Provide continuous and end-of-task assessment to give individualized feedback and offer individual learning pathways

Teacher qualification and new literaricies:

The increasing amount of available information will make it paramount for teachers to know how to select quality materials in the appropriate format. Teachers and/or material writers will need to design scaffolding and communicatively and cognitively challenging tasks around any available content. Teachers have to become literate in digital technologies.

Ideas for facilitating the above:

  • Development of a hub for teachers to link them to quality resources, planning and assessment tools online (e.g. to join an interconnected web of learners online).
  • Development of a hub for students which gives them access to resources and tips on how to make best use of new communication tools (e.g. to build a personal learning environment).
  • Personalized, flexible and delocalized online training services.