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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media: An Opinionated Digest by George Siemens - Feb. 16 08

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Getting to understand, appreciate and follow all that happens in the online world takes more attention and energy than any normal individual can ever have. This is why, increasingly we need newsmasters, curators, and opinionated digest editors who can explore, scan, select and report on what is truly relevant as well as on what should deserve more of our attention. Without them we would be drowning in a flood of indiscriminate info or surviving in blissful ignorance.

Photo credit: Chlo68

Brought to you by education, technology and media expert George Siemens, this weekly "Making Sense" digest provides exactly this very service. A selection of relevant news and stories which have been personally selected to provide a glance overview of key media and technology issues that are worthwhile following.

This week:

a) Seesmic, the "Twitter of video," already with an active and engaged user base.

b) Crowd-sourced peer reviews, made possible by social media, may unlock current limitations on getting feedback to improve published works.

c) Advertising revenues continue to move online, and Google aims to use YouTube to extract even more of that paycheck for itself.

d) Privacy as a deciding factor in social media choices, as Facebook loses points for less than ethical uses of your data.

e) Stories and experiences are becoming more personal with immediate publishing streams bringing heart felt tales of corporate layoffs to the forefront.

f) Social bookmarking offers more than just a place to store your favorites, giving you the opportunity to link up with other people with interests similar to yours.

g) Use of some social media sites has declined steeply, with ads and boredom as the likely culprits.

h) An unlikely pair, Xerox and Athabasca University, bring hope of reviving Canada's cutting edge status in education.

i) A recent paper by George Siemens details how new technology is changing education.

j) Recent presentations by Stephen Downes takes a look at virtual worlds, knowledge construction, and groups vs. networks as they relate to education.

k) Education bloggers bring new light to old topics, as one expert gives his never before heard presentation on reinventing education via web 2.0.

The Internet may move too fast for some, but George Siemens aims to help you keep up with his up-to-date perspectives on today's newest online technologies. Here are his insights for this week:


Sense-Making of Technology and Media: a George Siemens Weekly Digest

by George Siemens



As if the world currently does not have enough software tools that we can use to waste time (and create deep meaningful connections (in 140 characters)), I was most pleased to encounter Seesmic today.

It is described as the "Twitter of video". After I posted my first few videos, I had several "threaded" video responses in about 3 minutes.

There is always a unique feeling as new tools come online. They have that "new book" smell/feel. Then, after a few short years, they become more like, well, Twitter.

Soft Peer Review?

Photo credit: Sanja Gjenero

Somehow, one link led to another, and I found myself on this site: Soft peer review?

"Traditional peer review has been criticized on various grounds but possibly the major limitation it currently faces is scalability, i.e. the ability to cope with an increasingly large number of submissions, which -- given the limited number of available reviewers and time constraints on the publication cycle -- results in a relative small acceptance rate for high quality journals.

Although I don't think social software will ever replace hard evaluation processes such as traditional peer review, I suspect that soft evaluation systems(as those made possible by social software) will soon take over in terms of efficiency and scalability."

Immediacy is one of the greatest factors of soft peer review.

Traditional journals assume that an article is complete when it's published. Posting an article online with options for feedback and interaction, assumes that an article is the starting point for additional development.

I find this immediate idea dissemination process valuable - one blogger posts an idea/article and the concept is quickly distributed / disseminated / extended through various forums (blogs, twitter, added to a wiki, etc.).


Photo credit: Georgios M.W.

Google continues to explore ways to extract revenue from advertising (and in the process make the final transition into a media company with technology as a secondary concern - at list if you view a company's roots as being in the industry from which it derives its revenue).

YouTube held an advertising coming-out party recently:

"But the event was clearly centered on getting advertisers to spend more money on YouTube and convincing them that the site has more than just homemade clips."

With advertising dollars continuing to shift from traditional media to the online market, Google is nicely positioned to take a significant share of the flow.

Facebook Workshop


As part of a series of workshops on emerging technologies at University of Manitoba, I delivered a session on Facebook. The supporting wiki is available.

Facebook has an increasing Greek tragedy feel. On the one hand, due to its popularity, I would love to use it for communicating. Or to experiment with its use as a teaching and learning tool. On the other hand, they've destroyed any visage of trust with my data.

Living in an Immediate World

Photo credit: Tomasz SzkopiƱski

Yahoo announced layoffs this week.

We often hear of layoffs, downsizing, and such fun stuff. What is unique about this round of layoffs is the immediacy and personal perspectives generally lacking in press releases.

Consider the twitter history from one individual impacted by Yahoo's decision. While everything may be miscellaneous today, stories and experiences are becoming more immediate and more personal.

Getting More Value: Social Bookmarking

Photo credit: Sanja Gjenero

When trying to expose faculty at University of Manitoba to the concept of networked learning, I find social bookmarking tools (such as are a great starting point. Why?

Most people can relate to having a mess of bookmarked pages in their browser and are periodically motivated to make sense of it. And most people work from more than one computer (home and work, desktop and laptop). While social bookmarking addresses both of these concerns, its real value is discovered only once faculty start using it.

In addition to helping organize personal information, social bookmarking connects people who have shared interests. Each tag is a potential portal to a relationship. If someone tags resources in a similar manner or has similar interests, I learn from following them.

Thomas Vander Wal presents this experience from the perspective of the enterprise:

"Every organization needs to know itself better then they currently do. The employees and members of the organization are all trying to do their job better and smarter. The need to connect people inside an organization with others with similar interest, contexts, and perceptions is really needed."

Generation MySpace Fed Up?


A good example of how so much of our understanding of technology use is largely anecdotal and why we need more formal research to gain a better understanding of what is really happening with learner views of technology (the article cites statistics about declining rates of interest, inability to convert social network sites ads into revenue... but fails to address why... and what it means): Generation MySpace Is Getting Fed Up:

"The MySpace generation may be getting annoyed with ads and a bit bored with profile pages. The average amount of time each user spends on social networking sites has fallen by 14% over the last four months, according to market researcher ComScore."

Athabasca and Xerox


Athabasca University is known as "Canada's Open University." They lay claim to offering the world's first online MBA program. AU also serves (for me at least) as a reminder of the promise of elearning in Canada - and how unfulfilled that promise is today.

In late 90's, early 2000, Canada was clearly a world leader in exploring educational uses of technology. And it only made sense - we are a large country with a geographically dispersed population (especially in many remote communities).

Since then, it appears that country after country has exceeded Canada's role as innovators (CCL has acknowledged Canada's declining role in elearning in their last several annual reports on the "state of learning in Canada").

We lack a national strategy (well, that's what CCL says, I think we lack a national conversation - strategy is only valuable to the degree that it influences policy and funding. I'm much more interested in conversations about how learning technologies can improve quality of and access to learning).

In spite of these short comings, I did find this announcement from Xerox to be encouraging:

"Xerox Canada has partnered with Athabasca University to develop a research program focused on advancing mobile learning and e-learning for students living in remote or rural areas of Canada."

Now, if we can just get that national conversation going, perhaps we can catch up with UK, AU, and others.

Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing Roles for Educators and Designers

Photo credit: Vicky S

I spent much of this week presenting and discussing a paper that I submitted to ITFORUM... here's the paper if you're interested - Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers:

"Current developments with technology and social software are significantly altering:
(a) how learners access information and knowledge, and

(b) how learners dialogue with the instructor and each other.

Both of these domains (access and interaction) have previously been largely under the control of the teacher or instructor."

Downes: Recent Presentations

Photo credit: Stephen Downes

After spending last week traveling, and this week presenting a paper, I finally had some time to listen to several recent presentations by Stephen Downes.

The first - Reality of Virtual Learning - starts with a discussion of reality and learning (the recording is not the best quality, so you'll have to crank up the audio to hear it), leading into an exploration of virtual worlds.

One point that I've valued with Stephen's recent work is the emphasis on pattern recognition and rethinking the concept of knowledge construction.

In this presentation he makes the (vital) distinction between meaning making as something that is grown, not constructed. He also provides an accessible description of AJAX.

The second presentation - Web 2.0, E-learning 2.0, and the New Learning - is a shorter version of the above listed presentation and concludes with a return to the groups vs. network discussion.

Web 2.0: Helping Reinvent Education

Photo credit: Steve Woods

One of the most valuable features of the edublog space is its leading edge innovation, creativity, and quality of discussion. I find many conferences and "experts" discussing concepts several years after they were dissected with bloggers.

So I found this article on a presentation by Chris Dede on reinventing education via web 2.0 to be a review of what has been discussed extensively in podcasts and blogs... several years ago.

I was also intrigued by the assertion that his talk had never been given before - I know many presenters find a topic and fine tune the presentation over a period of several months/years. I don't understand that.

Maybe I just don't have the discipline and perseverance, but each talk I give, while sometimes incorporating previous elements, starts with a clean slate. That way I'm learning through the planning process, rather than fine tuning a message.


Originally written by George Siemens and published as weekly email digest on eLearning Resources and News. First published on February 15th 2008.


To learn more about George Siemens and to access extensive information and resources on elearning check out Explore also George Siemens connectivism site for resources on the changing nature of learning and check out his new book "Knowing Knowledge".

George Siemens -
Reference: eLearnSpace
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posted by Patricia Mayo on Saturday, February 16 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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