My other book in press!

February 7, 2012

Yay! I wrote this one cos I needed it myself and I had lots of info in my head that I just needed to get out. It’ll be available later in the year, published by Sage.  Not too shabby.

Bits of the blurb/preface say something like this:

“The book aims to bring together the information you need to safely, knowledgeably, and creatively integrate social media into your teaching practice. It aims to provide novices with a place to start, those who are unsure with some confidence, and the already-adept with, potentially, a more nuanced and in-depth understanding of all that makes up successful social media use in education.

It covers everything from theory and pedagogy, to everyday practice; it describes the ‘big stuff’ of blogs, wikis, social networks, and podcasting – and how those things can support longer-term classroom projects – and it details the ‘small stuff’ that can give you quick classroom wins, such as instant messaging, clippings, Twitter, mindmapping, and document sharing. But, just as importantly, an entire set of chapters is devoted to discussing the socio-cultural contexts of social media: digital literacy, ‘digital natives’, digital participation, and the ‘digital divide’ are all explored in relation to you and your students. Finally, matters relating to online risk and in-class practicalities are presented, as a way of helping you through the intricate ground of copyright, privacy and confidentiality, Terms of Service, content distribution, bandwidth quotas, backups, data control and security, and more.”

It’s this last stuff that I think is particularly important — and it’s what makes this book a bit different, imo. I’ll let you know when it’s out.

My new book published!

October 19, 2011

Well, it’s not just mine — it’s co-authored with my excellent colleague Gail Craswell, but I got your attention, hey? So exciting!

So, if you’re a graduate student wanting to improve your writing and research, this is the book for you (sales pitch, there). The second edition (I had nothing to do with the first — it’s all Gail, and she’s excellent and knows heaps and heaps) provides a lot of new material about working in online contexts — setting up blogs, wikis, e-portfolios etc., and raising your online profile. The cover looks a bit like a Red Cross first aid manual, but I like it.

Here’s the blurb:

“Writing for Academic Success is a vital practical guide for any postgraduate student. If you seek to manage your writing effectively, reduce stress, and improve your confidence and efficiency, this book is for you. The authors show you how to acquire communicative rigor in research essays, reports, book and article reviews, exam papers, research proposals, and literature reviews, through to thesis writing, posters and papers for presentation and publication.

This second edition has been fully revised to reflect the online learning explosion. The authors provide insightful new material about how to work productively in different online contexts such as with blogs and wikis, setting up an e-portfolio, and raising an online profile. They also set out a focused guide to issues unique to digital communication, and working with and across different media and technologies.

The book includes advice on common writing concerns, cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary practices, a list of helpful words and phrases, and subject-specific examples of writing ranging from economics to philosophy to medicine. Writing for Academic Success is essential for graduate students both in taught courses and conducting research, and is also very useful for upper-level undergraduates.”

IT and ICT: same difference?

May 11, 2010

No, it’s not, and I think it’s about time these two things were separated out more clearly because the difference is neither subtle nor inconsequential, despite that fact that many people believe the two to be essentially the same thing.

The key is in the word ‘communication’ (as if that weren’t already a clue) and to ignore it is to demonstrate that you’ve missed the point about Web 2.0 entirely.

In this day and age, IT (Information Technology) should really be only used to describe the ‘inner’ workings of digital technologies — i.e., stuff that relates to Computer Science, hard coding, software development, hardware development, scripting, and all that. ICT (Information Communication Technology), on the other hand, should be used to refer to the social aspects of digital life, to Web 2.0, and to anything that funnels the flow of communications between people.

Thus, “I am an IT specialist” should be taken to mean “I have a functional knowledge of how the web works and I can write source code and run servers and do other awfully clever, technical things.” Whereas “I am an ICT guru” should mean, “I know how to find, evaluate, and effectively exploit for social ends the tools that other people have built.” Quite a different thing, really.

People tend to use the terms interchangeably, but that single word, ‘communication,’ makes all the difference because there’s quite a distinct skill set involved in successfully engaging with either. Just because you can write javascript doesn’t mean you know how to make the most of participatory culture.

The three tiers of digital literacy

May 7, 2010

I find that a lot of people get confused over what it means to be ‘digitally literate’. Many older users interpret younger people’s facility or confidence in using ICT as an indication that the latter know exactly what they’re doing in the online environment. After all, they’re pretty zippy in there, right? And gosh-darn aren’t they clever ‘cos they can program a VCR? (I can’t even begin to tell you what’s wrong with this notion.)

Of course, watching a 13 year-old flitt around MySpace can be intimidating for someone who doesn’t know where to click, but that doesn’t mean that the 13 year-old fully understands all they need to in order to be digitally literate. So, let’s break this down a bit. I’d offer three main strands to digital literacy in the current era:

  1. Functional digital literacy. In the age of Web 2.0, that doesn’t mean knowing how to hard code, or how to program, or how to write javascript — I don’t need to know what’s under the bonnet in order to drive the car. Instead, it means knowing how to sign up for a service and what happens after that; it means knowing how to find and add and invite friends; it means knowing how to upload a profile photo, etc., etc. Many kids have this kind of literacy, no doubt — the facility with the technology to know where to click.
  2. Network digital literacy. Understanding what it means to be a networked citizen. That means knowing how to manage your profiles and identities online; knowing what happens to the material you upload; knowing about data management and understanding boyd’s four properties of networked publics, i.e., 1) persistence, 2) searchability, 3) replicability, and 4) invisible audiences. It also means risk management and knowing how to read and interpret Terms of Service and Privacy policies. Do most people (young or old) know what it means when Facebook asks for a “transferable, sub-licensable” license to their IP? No.
  3. Critical digital literacy. This is perhaps the most crucial of the three, especially if we’re talking about how to use ICT to further cognition and to advance what Pierre Lévy refers to as collective intelligence. Critical digital literacy is about how to find, validate, interpret, communicate, analyse, critique, evaluate, synthesise, transform information and how to then use those skills in the participatory realm. It’s about higher-level thinking and engagement with cultural, social, political and intellectual life. In other words, it’s the big stuff.

What I’m saying is, don’t freak out when you think you’re being left behind because the kids are oh-so-clevva and teched up. Chances are you’ve already got the higher-order, intellectual skills you need to become a fully-rounded digital citizen. This in itself means that your network literacy should come along very quickly. And as for your functional literacy, well, just jump in there and play around a bit — you can’t break it ;)

EdCom: Wiki experiences in the classroom

December 7, 2009

In this podcast, I interview Patricia Abbot, lecturer and course co-ordinator of Theology, Psychology and Human Experience at the Canberra campus of the Australian Catholic University, about why she decided to use a wiki as an assessment item in her course.

For the assignment, students were asked to buddy-up and then develop a wikispace around a particular topic. Patricia describes her experiences with using wikis in class,  her students’ attitudes towards using the wiki and the types of skills that they needed to succeed in the task, and what she’d do differently next time. You can also see a previous blog post for more information about Patricia’s assignment.

File size: 16.9 MB
Running time: 21.51

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I’m hot on Twitter right now!

October 7, 2009

See? It says so on SlideShare! :D

MegOnTwitterThat’s my paper on digital literacy and human flourishing (pdf, 152 KB), btw. You can download it from SlideShare or access it on my papers and presentations page.

‘Doubt’ movie trailer remix by meg

October 4, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I watched the movie ‘Doubt,’ starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffmann. The IMDB summary for the film reads,

“Set in 1964, Doubt centers on a nun who confronts a priest after suspecting him of abusing a black student. He denies the charges, and much of the play’s quick-fire dialogue tackles themes of religion, morality, and authority.”

Great film, a proper morality play. What I also loved about it was the way it commented on new technologies and the changing times. So I thought I’d do a remix along the lines of a movie trailer, as seems to be all the rage (check out Scary Mary Poppins … it’s a cack!). Here’s the radio edit … I made a dance mix too, but I prefer the shorter version, myself :). Hope you like it. I think it’s kinda fun!

Lifeline: Essential information for students using Web 2.0 services

September 22, 2009


As a follow-up to my previous post about developing a risk analysis template for Web 2.0 services, I thought it would be useful to share a document (Word, 64 KB) I’ve developed for use with University-level students who are using ‘external’ services (such as WordPress, Wetpaint, Ning, etc.) as part of their course. This document provides what I consider to be essential information about the Terms of Service they are being asked to sign up for, as well as advice on how to manage the service for their class. It covers areas such as

  • the nature of the relationship students create when they sign up with a service
  • posting of offensive material
  • responsibility of work done under individual logons
  • copyright, privacy, and IP licensing
  • visibility of content
  • spam emails and notifications
  • turning off cookies and monitoring

If you are going to use an external service with students, I strongly suggest you develop a similar document to suit your own circumstances, that you go through it in class, make sure students understand it, and post it somewhere for students to easily access. It may be useful for school teachers, but I think you’d need to think more closely about the duty of care involved and how you might use such a document with parents or guardians.

Feel free to adapt/modify/reuse/improve/whatever you need for non-commerical purposes:

wordiconInformation for students on the use of an externally hosted web service provider (Word, 64 KB)

pdficon Information for students on the use of an externally hosted web service provider (pdf, 68 KB)

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Lifeline: Web 2.0 risk analysis template

September 22, 2009

LifelineLargeI have been doing a looooot of work recently on how to keep teachers and students safe when using ‘externally hosted’ (i.e., outside of your institution) web services, such as those we find in ‘Web 2.0’. Of course, Web 2.0 allows for clearly constructivist and connectivist pedagogies, which is all good for education … BUT … There can be problems when teachers ‘go rogue’ and use external services in inappropriate or uninformed ways, thus exposing their institution, its staff or students to risks to reputation, to legal liability and other such nasties that I’m sure we would all really rather avoid.

If we accept the educational rationale for staff and students wanting to use externally hosted services in class (as opposed, or in addition, to the dreaded LMS), then we must also find safe, responsible and sustainable ways for them to do so. The issue, then, is not whether or not we should prevent staff and students from using externally hosted web services, but, rather, what procedures, processes, guidelines and recommendations we need to put in places to avoid exposure to unnecessary risk.

Some of the risks you need to consider in any assessment of external services include:

  • breaches of privacy, confidentiality and data security
  • loss of service and loss of student work
  • loss of student work
  • breach of confidentiality
  • unauthorised access to data and loss of data
  • performance problems

This might seem like a whole lot of Terrible, but it’s not, really. If you conduct a proper analysis, you will be able to find ways of managing risk to acceptable levels. After all, that is very idea of risk management: that you manage risk!

Felling overwhelmed? Well, don’t! Thankfully, Meg has done a risk analysis for you and you are free to use it as you wish :).  I have based my risk analysis template (Word, 180 KB) on the University of Edinburgh’s excellent Guidelines for Using External Web 2.0 Services and JISC infoNet’s JISC risk management infokit, both of which are released under Creative Commons licences. I’ve beefed things up a bit, so go crazy: download it, adapt it, rework it, improve it, whatever — whatever you do, use it for the greater good of employing Web 2.0 technologies to good pedagogical effect!

wordiconRisk analysis template (Word, 180 KB)

pdficon Risk analysis template (pdf, 180 KB)

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Opinion: The merit of study

October 23, 2008

This morning, I attended (and briefly presented at) the start of the Australian National University’s ‘Festival of Teaching.’ The focus of the two-day gathering is explained in the program’s descriptive title: “Linking research and teaching to benefit student learning.”

OK, so the language is typical of inelegant edubabble everywhere, but, that aside, I want to take issue with how the trendy focus on ‘research-led teaching’ and ‘research-based learning’ (the latter of which includes the equally graceless terms ‘inquiry-based learning,’ ‘case-based learning,’ and ‘problem-based learning’) shifts our attention away from the merit of study. Plain, old-fashioned, sit-on-your-backside-and-attend-to-a-topic … study.

Of course, I understand why there’s all this hoo-ha about ‘research-led teaching’ — it’s no doubt a reaction to so-called ‘transmission teaching’ or the ‘banking concept’ of teaching, as Freire would have it. And I certainly understand and commend the pedagogical worth of using research (on this meaning, the collection, collation, interpretation and presentation of data) as a basis for teaching in the university setting. But I fear that, just as in the past we surely over-valued the ‘sit-down, shut up, and learn’ philosophy of education, we may now begin to over-value the role of student ‘research’ in university learning at the undergraduate level.*

For there is a lot to be said for apprehending study on its own terms and not just as a part of a broader research process. I know that, for myself, I cherish the few moments I get in my week to sit down and apply my mind to the close examination of a subject. Quiet study — study for its own sake, meaning for the sake of intellectual cultivation and enrichment — allows room for contemplation and consideration, reflection and reverie. In other words, study is more than an ancilliary of research. We need to slow down the train hurtling down the research-teaching and -learning track and gain a correct balance in our intelligent endeavours.

In my previous post, I called for a properly holistic appreciation of knowing. Here, I would like to suggest that we embrace a similarly holistic approach to the educational enterprise as it is undertaken within the Academy.


*Notice my deft qualification there? ;)

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