Posts Tagged ‘Web 2.0’

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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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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EdCom: Engaging 21st century students

August 4, 2008

PodulesLogoBlackwood High School Principal Susan Hyde is my guest this month on EdCom and she talks to us about how to engage 21st century students through the curriculum. Susan is a self-confessed theory junkie and her current passion is exploring the notion of connectivism and how ICTs in education can help students to make sense of the content that is so easily available to them on the Web. Susan talks about the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and how to work teaching and learning across the disciplines, as well as the effects of Web 2.0 on education and the Net Generation. She despises what she calls ‘ideas assassins’ and encourages all teachers to explore the intellectual landscape of theory and thinking.

For more information, keep listening to EdCom and visit

File size: 22.2 MB
Running time: 27.42

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Lifeline: 7 things you should know about …

July 11, 2008

If you’re having trouble keeping up with what Second Life, Google Apps, Skype and Ning might actually be, let alone how they could be relevant to education, then you really should take a look at Educause’s 7 things you should know about … series.

7 things you should know about … provides hit-and-run information sheets about emerging Web 2.0 technologies and their implications for teaching and learning. So, if you don’t know what Twitter is, or if you’ve never investigated Skype, visit Educause to learn about how these things work, the upsides and downsides of emerging technologies, and where it’s all going.

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Opinion: Web Two Wowsers

March 14, 2008

In the course of my work as an online education designer and as an educational consultant, I come up against some Pretty Daft Arguments as to why teachers and managers shouldn’t use free, online applications, such as wikis or blogs, in our classes and for our work practices. Those making the Pretty Daft Arguments are what I would call ‘Web Two Wowsers’ — people who want to spoil it all for the rest of us: they are Web One people stuck in a fast-changing world, and they haven’t done any research or investigation into (let alone thinking about) how the new systems work. Thus, you’d think it would be safe to say that their opinions are un- and ill-informed and thus really should carry no weight in decision-making.

Sadly, though, they do. In fact, these people seem to make up a large chunk of the leadership that is making decisions about what’s best for the rest of us. Rarely are they current teachers with on-the-ground, day-to-day experience of 1) how effective wikis and blogs can be as learning and management tools, and 2) how crappy LMSs such as MyClasses and BlackBoard are to work with in the classroom.

So, for your own edification and delight, here are some of the real doozies I’ve heard recently from Web Two Wowsers, and my responses to them:

  • “Free, online services are not secure”. Yes, they are. Do your research.
  • “Free, online services are not private”. Yes, they can be. Do your research.
  • “Free, online services are not reliable; their infrastructure might go down.” Yes, and so might Telstra’s, which is probably where your LMS is hosted. But how often does this happen with a reputable company? It is usually not the software company that owns the infrastructure. It is the telco. Same: your educational institution does not own the infrastructure, it is owned by the telco. The control you think you have over the infrastructure is an illusion — hosting something on your own site just makes you feel better, is all.
  • “They might sell your info to a Third Party.” Meh. Maybe. But that’s why you need to check out the Terms of Service when you register and you need to go with a company with a reputation. I’m not taking my car to Dodgy Brothers when it needs a tune-up. I’m taking it to Ultra-Tune or to an operator I trust. The Terms of Service and Privacy Policies of companies such as WordPress and WetPaint state unequivocally that they will disclose your info only to those who need it in order to work on the system (such as employees and contractors, who must sign non-disclosure agreements, anyway) and only if the law requires it. Do your research.
  • “This is changing the work practices of the entire organisation. You need permission from Those Up On High to do that”. (Frankly, I don’t know where in Hades this one came from, but I have heard it …) Two answers: 1) No it’s not changing the work practices of the entire organisation — just this class or project group. We want to work more efficiently and produce better-quality learning. 2) Why do we need permission to work better? The answer is ‘because Those Up On High signed a contract with this particular LMS company — a company that is making big bucks out of rorting already under-funded educational institutions by supplying poor-quality, ill-conceived, difficult-to-use products’. Mobs like WordPress, WetPaint, Google, WikiSpaces aren’t rorting the education system. You can at least say that much for them.
  • “I know nothing about this company”. So learn. You might find that you like their business model, ethics and mission. You might find that they have a published commitment to using your data in an ethical way — does your mechanic?, for example, promises to adhere by Attention Trust principles (don’t know what that means? Then learn …). Other mobs such as MyMindshare, and Wesabe, are up-front about their commitment to your rights to your information, and Open Social Web is working on A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web. Do your research.
  • “They might go bust.” If the product is poor, then so they should go bust. If the product is good, then they won’t. The reason that companies such as WetPaint, WordPress, WikiSpaces, Google, Yahoo! etc., etc. have survived is because they care about their reputations and they know that if they make poor products, then their customers will be out of there like a shot. I ain’t sticking with a mechanic who can’t set the gap properly on me points. I’m going elsewhere. Web Two Wowsers seem to think that business on the Web is somehow ephemeral and that there is no such thing as reputation. Trust and reputation are the same concepts, regardless of where they occur.
  • “This company might get bought out by someone else … like … like … like Google!” Well, BlackBoard bought WebCT, didn’t it? Besides, if Google buys something, then it’s gotta be good. Who owns Arnott’s these days? Does it stop you from eating Scotch Finger Biscuits? Web Two Wowsers seem to think that the online world somehow is different from the ‘real’ world — that business models and practices that characterise the ‘real’ world suddenly change online. In fact, it seems to me that Web Two Wowsers don’t really have much idea about how business works at all.

So, leaders, get educated. Inform yourselves about how these companies and their tools work. And then think of creative solutions (as a TAFE college in WA did) as to how to integrate these things into your institutional framework. Once you have investigated these things properly, you will be in a position to make intelligent and legitimate calls about how the technology can and should be used in your workplace.

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Opinion: Why LMSs are old skool

February 16, 2008

Loudhailer imageIn the early days of the Web, schools and universities realised that teachers needed to have some kind of online presence for their classes. So, we invested in expensive, clunky, ‘uploady-downloady’, Web 1.0 systems such as Blackboard/WebCT and My Classes. The problem is that the world has moved on, and now, thanks to the many free and nimble and frequently updated beta Web 2.0 applications, LMSs have become obsolete. Further, with something like Blackboard/WebCT or My Classes, it is the teacher who has to do everything from setting up discussion categories in forums, to creating ‘blogs’ (what a joke that function is in most LMSs!), to setting up chat.

Even though most classroom management and online assessment can be achieved through free, online blog and wiki software such as Blogger, WordPress, WikiSpaces, WetPaint and PBWiki, schools and universities continue to insist that staff use old-fashioned systems that offer very little (if any) customisation or flexibility when it comes to student learning. And the only reason I can discern for this is that ‘we’ve paid for it so we’d better stick to it.’ This is not an educational argument, it is an economic argument, and a very poor economic argument at that: why would you continue to use something that is out-of-date and doesn’t give you what you need and that actually (in many cases) impedes your work? Why would you drive a coach and six horses when you’ve got a Model T Ford in the shed?

With imagination, creativity and leadership, we can allow academics choice in how they want to set up their courses online. With foresight, consideration and care we can introduce more reticent staff to how easy it is to use free, online software to manage their courses. And with trust, we can allow students to complete their assignments using free stuff, too. We don’t have to ditch BlackBoard or MyClasses and we should certainly be clear about what the institution expects of its community members in terms online presence … but this doesn’t stop us from showing academics, teachers and students the alternatives and then let them use what suits them best.

If that hasn’t got you thinking, then check out Alan Cann’s What the heck is a PLE and why would I want one. More on PLEs (‘Personalised Learning Environments’) and why they are essential to good online student learning in a later post.

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Opinion: Educators are ready

January 8, 2008

Loudhailer imageEducators are ready. Ready to wiki, blog and podcast. That’s what struck me when I gave a presentation at the recent NAGCAS (National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) conference in Wollongong. I’ve referred to the talk in an earlier blog post, but here I’ll just say that what was really evident in terms of audience was their receptability to learning how to use wikis, blogs and podcasts in their daily advising practice.

That’s not to say that they’ll all go out and start setting up blogs for their students straight away — but it is to say that the delegates at the presentation were ready to hear how these things work and how they might be applied in the careers context. This is very exciting! I don’t reckon the talk I gave would have worked even just three or four months ago … but what I was getting from the floor was a real feeling of ‘now is the time’. I think we’re seeing a real shift in people’s willingness to use these excellent tools in their teaching. Hurrah!

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Generation MySpace: seminar with danah boyd

January 8, 2008

In August 2007, I attended danah boyd’s Generation MySpace — Social Networking and its impact on students seminar, hosted by Although it was a while ago, I still want to share with you some of the insights that danah gave us into how young people are being social on the web these days. You know what I mean: MySpace and Facebookdanah’s thang is ‘networked publics’ and she traced for us the history of these publics from the old-style mailing lists to the current ‘ego-centric’ (but not necessarily in a bad way!) Web 2.0 presences that many young people have these days. There are four key characteristics of these publics that make them different from other publics, says danah:

  1. Persistence: what you say sticks around
  2. Searchability: by parents, teachers, employers — people who often have power over young people
  3. Replicability: copying and pasting, linking
  4. Invisible audiences: you don’t know who is listening, although you might try to know who you are speaking to.

These are the default properties of public life for youth these days, and the big issues surrounding these properties are things like figuring out, How do you want to be seen in this context? What are the different rules for the different types of public spaces? How do you deal with unknown audiences?

danah’s point is that this generation is dealing with a public life that does not resemble our own. My point is that we need to recognise this — that young people’s ways of being social are different from ours — and we need to account for it in our teaching.

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Web trend map

January 8, 2008

Now here’s something that’s very cool. It’s a ‘web trend’ map, laid out like a metro map. Check it out at Information Architects. This is version 2: an earlier version was released about six months ago (from what I can tell).

It’s interesting to compare the two, especially the increases in influence and importance for mobs such as Google and YouTube, and corresponding decreases for Microsoft and Yahoo.

Thanks to Kerry Johnson of for putting me on to this site.

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