Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hic ups.. how to start?

I left with a bad feeling from the last workshop.. mainly because I always struggle with where to start!? It usually becomes easier when I get a sense of what people want to do, but at the same time - how are people meant to know what they want to do when they don't know what is possible?

Usually I start a workshop with an overview of social media. But I stutted, ummed and arghed, and probably left new comers feeling a bit bewilded and wondering about what they're doing here.

It seemed people were anxious to get in and "do some learning", but we're back to the first problem.. try what and why? Perhaps a workshop on "social media" is too broad.. and I need to simply focus.. Tonight's workshop is on Twitter for example - make of it what you will? But as Beverly said, social media is not a linear thing, and engaging with it like this risks a very disjointed understanding of it. My approach has been to try and look at it as much as possible first, and see if a light turns on. But this has just as many problems, not the least over whelming people with new information.

For some people, the non linear approach of looking at things and seeing where questions and comments lead us seems to work to a point. It really depends on how willing people are to engage. We focused a lot on the makings of Wikipedia.. and that lead to a deeper understanding on how we can assess its accuracy and authenticity. But over all, many people are so new to it all, that it is hard to question or comment or engage generally - its just a task in concentration alone!

Eventually I bit the bullet and realised non linear is just as difficult as linear. So we knuckled down to setting up an RSS news reader, using Google Reader. Those new to the course all successfully set up an account and subscribed to at least 2 feeds. Here's a video by GoogleReaderHelp to get you thinking about how to use your reader effectively:

If video is a good way for you to understand things, check out GoogleReaderHelp's other videos.

One new person (sorry, names!) discovered a wonderfully quick way to search for feeds! Simply click the "subscribe button" and type in a subject search, such as "gardening with native new zealand plants". Google reader will search for social media (that being media created largely by people like you and I) and return information that includes: The title of the media item it has found, a snippet of the content, the website address that the item comes from, and how many people are subscribed to the feed. From this we have just enough information to decide whether to subscribe to the feed or not. I think this is a very quick way to find feeds that may (or may not) lead us to new and interesting information in the future. Think of feeds as pathways to future information, rather than static and already available information. You're looking for feeds that appear like they will provide you with information around your interest generally.

The Google Reader is hard for people to comprehend I find. A lot of people struggle to use it well, such as finding good feeds, and regularly checking it for updates. But it is fundamental for entering the social media scape. If you can work this tool out, it will help you access interesting media, and help you manage all that you find in an efficient time saving way. With all this stimulation will likely come inspiration and new ideas, which will hopefully lead you to want to create your own media, and that will see you becoming connected to people who eventually subscribe to your feeds. In time and careful management, you will draw yourself into deeper understandings, direct contact with experts, and you will start to feel the "social" side of the Internet.

Next week, I think we'll go linear again and look at Twitter. I think Twitter is useful in helping us understand how blogging and reading fit together.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The next workshop 28 April

Social Media workshops.

Come and learn! You are invited to attend the second running of our FREE social media workshops on Tuesday evenings at the Princes Street Community Learning Centre.
  • Making sense of social media, what is it and how can I use it?
  • How to blog. Develop an online presence, network with others, and create your own websitein under 10 minutes!
  • Getting fancy with Youtube, podcasting, Flickr photos and online slide presentations!
  • Wikis! They're quick and a great way to learn new stuff.
  • Free software - save yourself a couple of thousand dollars hey!
  • The mash up! Bringing it all together, rounding it all off nicely, its up to you to make the most of it.
Tuesday nights at 6-8pm sharp

The Princes Street Community Learning Centre

Cnr Princes Street & Moray Place Dunedin

Commencing Tuesday 28th April 2009

Contact: EDCEnquiries@tekotago.ac.nz


Txt 021 736 539

Workshop 5, podcasting and then bringing it all together

Jean has requested a look at podcasting.. I think that would be good to check out for an hour before we tie the whole workshop off with a review of this distribution re centralisation method of using the Internet.

  • So on Tuesday night, lets start by opening up our GoogleReader and seeing what everyone has been up to.
  • Then open your blog from your reader and write a quite post that links out to things that other's in the group have done that inspires you.
  • We'll spend about 30 minutes on that before taking a look at podcasting. I'll explain what it is and do a demo, then its over to you for an hour.
  • Finally, in our last 30 minutes we'll try and get our heads around the idea of distributed networking, or "bringing it all together".

Basically - when you starting thinking of the Internet as one platform - like your Office software is one platform, then you know you are well on your way to developing solid network literacy.You have your videos over there, and there, you have your images here and there, you have your audio there, and your documents there and there, and it all ties together on your blog. It doesn't have to be your blog, but a blog rounds off all that you are learning nicely. Some people use Delicious to bring it all together, others use Facebook, or iGoogle - these are different tools that can be used for teh same purpose dependingon your preference. Tools to bring it all together.

The point is that you should be starting to think of the Internet as one big platform that you spread out all over.. and once you are spread out, or distributed over it, you set up a tool like a blog to manage it.

So this Tuesday night we will take a look at podcasting. Try to bring a headset with you for that, so we can record audio with the microphone. Podcasting doesn't have to be only audio.. maybe you want to podcast with video? In that case bring a web cam.

Oh, and another thing.. check out Phil Kerr's blog.. he's back blogging - sort of :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Workshop 4: Reviewing RSS and multi media, then looking at free software

You know, I get this funny feeling that we've forgotten that one thing I said to remember.. the Google Reader. Last week I asked a few people if they were checking their Google Reader and the responses where on the whole questioning what the RSS reader is for. So I think we need to review some of week 1.

As Sarah Stewart said once, blogging has more to do with reading then it does writing.. or something like that.. and I couldn't agree more. Beverly echoes the sentiment in her blog post recently. I spend most of my blogging time keeping on top of the 200 or so feeds I am subscribed to. (It sure beats the Sunday papers!) And from time to time, the reading, looking, viewing and listening I do when I go through my reader is the stuff that triggers me to want to write a blog post about something. It might be a comment about something, a shout out to a great idea, or a more academic deconstruction of some publication, what ever it is, it is usually always inspired by reading.

When I do post about what others have done, those others notice that and sometimes they respond. This is the networking bit, and when done well is what leads to what many call networked learning. When we manage to build a professional relationship with others through this sort of expressing and ourselves and connecting with others, that's when all this blogging stuff starts to make sense. That's when we start to get a deeper understanding of the value of social media to personalised learning and collaborative productivity. But it takes time and investment, 2 things we teachers are poor on.

So I think we should review RSS. Have a look who and what we are subscribed to, leave comments on those blogs, and maybe even write about what we have read on our own blogs. Depending on who and how you do it, this practice can lead to great things.

Then for some enriching fun, we should have another look at adding multi media to our blogs. Its easy, you know that, but it goes beyond embedding youtube movies that's for sure. We can do audio, maps, readings, charts, pretty much anything these days can be embedded in a blog. Its fun and makes us look like media experts.

Finally, if we have time, lets take a look at free and open source software - if only to become aware of what it is, how it works and how it relates to social media. In fact, I would go as far to say that free and open source software is the grand daddy movement that brought us the social media we have today.

Hope to see you tonight :)