Today Colin Warren and I were very pleased to be invited by the colleagues who run the Graduate Certificate of Higher Education at Deakin, to come and share our thoughts on the evolving concept of networked academics. As it was a late afternoon session, after a day of student presentations, we wanted to keep it simple and just share some practical tips. Keep it applied. We focused on the habits we’ve seen exhibited by networked academics that can be adopted by newcomers and included some quick activities. SO this is by no means comprehensive. We also emphasized that networking habits are a matter of choice, everyone should decide what’s right for them and where to start. No one should feel pressured to do everything.
See on Scoop.it – Digital Curation for Teachers Tweet I have written and spoken extensively about the use of Twitter in education: as one social network tool to connect, collaborate and amplify (Seven Degrees of Connectedness, Upgrade & Ampl… See on langwitches.org
I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. That is:
I love my iPhone.
I hate my office phone.
My office phone lurks on the corner of my desk, where it is tethered by cables. It sits there and collects messages for me, so that when I come back to my office a notification (a little red light) will tell me there are messages. Not how many, not who from, no headlines I can quickly scan, not when it was sent. It’s notification is binary – either there are or aren’t messages for me.
To personalise how I interact with other people and its information stream (voicemail) through this tool, I have to use voice menus and numbered buttons. The menus are read out in a language that also uses English words, but which has randomly assigned meanings to those words, eg robot voice: “For personal options…”
To aggravate matters, the menus are read out very slowly. Each menu seems to have 4-5 options. But seeing as the “human brain can only hold about seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds”thank you, Dr John Medina, and I usually already have 3 things in there, I’m a little short on space. The phone doesn’t give me the ability to visually scan the options, and so I often need to sit through them 4x. The first two go’s I try to decipher its code (is “personal messaging options” the function that will let me record my outgoing voicemail message?). The last two go’s are to confirm my choice, as I know that pressing the wrong option, usually means go back to Start.
Curate & Remix?
Information curation from this tool’s information stream is also awkward. I can’t forward its information to Evernote or my calendar. I can’t copy & paste it to another tool. I need to transfer the information one handed to a post-it, from which I will then later type it in my calendar or Evernote. Or more usually it will join a pile of other data transcribed in this manner. The tool’s in-built archive expunges records after an undetermined but limited time.
On those rare occasions that I do sit through this process to actually listen to messages, I find that the system precedes each message with a lot of preamble: date, time, read out phone number – digit – pause – by – pause – digit! -before giving me the main act. And then the actual messages have a very low hit rate of usefulness for various reasons:
- too much background noise
- someone speaks too fast/high/low/soft/
- “Oh I thought you’d be there. I’ll get you on your mobile/email/Twitter/Facebook/at next meeting.”
- “I’ve also sent you an email about this…”
- “Hi this is Victor from UberAwesome. We are an eLearning production company…”
So basically, I’ve come to see my office voicemail as a very poor information & communication tool. It is infinitely less usable than other tools that provide me with information streams and artefacts I can remix: email, Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, Skype chat, Google chat, etc etc. And infinitely less portable and customisable than my iPhone.
It’s definitely you…
Because of our strained working relationship due to different working styles, I have been displaying avoidance behaviour towards my phone. It accusingly blinks its light at me but I ignore it. And unfortunately this means that on occasion, I have missed messages from people who do use this communication tool. This is not good.
How to manage this stream?
There are several solutions to this problem.
I could set it up to forward all calls to my iPhone. But my iPhone is my personal number, with my personal account. Also I don’t tend to answer calls from unknown numbers, choosing to let my iPhone voicemail be my hurdle requirement for unknown callers – usually sales people from banks/ insurance companies. All my social contacts and many colleagues are in my Contacts list and would be recognised, promptly answered and warmly greeted. But work phone numbers would not.
I could build a habit (it only takes 21 days right?) to check my voicemail every morning first thing when I walk into my office. But I won’t. Because it simply is an inferior communication tool where the amount of effort required to retrieve, use and manage its information, is disproportional to that information’s value. And I “hates” it. (Yes, petulance.)
Netsmart & mindful
So as I was preparing my workspace for next year this week, I decided to take a leaf out of Howard Rheingold’s book, Netsmart, and practise mindfulness. I am giving up on my office voicemail, and I’m telling people about it. I am cutting it out of my life. I’ve begun gently – changed my outgoing message to say I can’t answer the phone, and the best way to reach me is to send me an email (all work contacts have my email and for external people I spell it out in the message) or to text me on my mobile. but next year I will change that to something more emphatic.
So you can text me, email me, tweet me, Facebook me, Google+ me, Yammer me, Skype me, iMessage me, iPhone me, Whatsapp me, Viber me but don’t call me maybe?
Which information stream will you cut out of your life?
I thought I would share the “infographic” I created for the #DNLE MOOC at Stanford’s Venture Lab. It is an unsophisticated effort to plot functions of a curation tool I think would be needed to support social content curation by a learning community. For this exercise I chose 6 functions (though it could have been 45 and Bayeux Tapestry proportions):
community rights to share,
ability to reshare to community or PLN
and availability of the collection.
I then did an assessment of a standard LMS as it might be used in higher education, and also curation tools Scoop.It and Pinterest.
The resulting infographic is limited in space, time and research. But it has been fun to do, and has also distilled some thoughts for further “actual” research for my ever present Digital Curation PhD.
“When it comes to interacting with the world of always-on information, the fundamental skill, on which other essential skills depend, is the ability to deal with distraction without filtering out opportunity.” -Howard Rheingold
As knowledge workers, our social (or learning) networks are like oxygen. We need the information streams they provide, to survive. As Dr Inger Mewburn, aka Thesiswhisperer, recently said in her #PLEConf keynote and blog post, these practices are “the work you do in order to do the work you do.” That applies whatever your learning and information environment of choice is; Twitter, Yammer, Facebook, LinkedIn, email or any combination of those. They are indispensable.
However, being dependent on those enticing, rich, abundant, omnipresent, (can we even say addictive?) information streams, does indeed mean that the ability to deal with distraction, as Howard Rheingold says, becomes a key skill.
I find that I am good at one facet of this skill: setting up appropriate filters so I don’t miss out on the opportunities provided. However, I would like to be better at another part: attention or “time on task”.Continue reading »
We agreed that, in line with my PhD topic, I would focus not on Moodle, but on the new digital curation skills being required of all teachers. So it began as an introduction to digital curation and then looked at how educators can curate inside or outside of an LMS. Thanks to those Croatian Moodlers in the Twitter stream for engaging with me afterwards. More feedback is welcome. I look forward to developing my ideas further…
Most education technologists will argue that our work is not about the tools, but about what the tools will allow educators and learners to do. Social media tools in particular, are so versatile they can be used for almost any purpose, from sharing your PhD experiences to learning about Maths or hearing a Nobel Peace prize winner speak.
However, very often it is the tool that becomes the obstacle. Yet another account to set up. Yet more functions to figure out. And there’s always more tools after that…It can be discouraging.
But there’s a cheat. You don’t always have to start from scratch. Most social media tools have some basic functions in common, that you are already familiar with and can always look for. Knowing those basic functions, and identifying them quickly, can speed up your ability to assess a social media tool for your practice. Once you’ve isolated the basic functions of a new tool, you can focus on exploring its special functions.
Providing cheat sheets is an essential part of my work with academic staff (see the Moodle Tool Guide evidence) . I like to make learning easier, for educators and learners. I created a diagram a few years ago on those basic functions, to aid me and I’ve updated it now with examples from Facebook and Twitter, and posted it on Flickr. I hope you find it useful too.