Social media has no deadline

Really interesting post about using social media in assessments by SSU & LTU alumni Domi! Domi and I worked together on creating a blogging assignment for lecturers here, which later evolved into an activity that I covered for an academic project I was doing.

My ideal solution in most cases would be to remove the lion’s share of assessment from the live environments – for example, have a blogging activity worth around 40% of the grade, and a traditional hand-in that’s derived from the blogging activity worth 60%.
The blog would be treated as development – “show your calculations” style stuff – and marked on a week-by-week basis, with weighting given for relatively quick to work out metrics like engagement, consistency of posting etc – but the real scrutiny would be reserved for the hand-in.

I’m pulling this together on the fly, so it may be a bit clunky. It would involve a little more involvement on a persistent basis from the course team, but not as much as one might think – I should have given the caveat that my personal belief is that an academic developing an activity involving social tools should have at least a cultural understanding or familiarity with those tools – they don’t need to be a technician, but they should know the tool well enough to know how they want their students to use it, how to explain that to their students, and what exact value, in what context, the tool will bring to the activity.

With all that in mind, a simple set of metrics, that allow for shallow & regular “quality assurance” tests, laid out in a table, should be within reasonable parameters.

Digi Domi

As part of my job as a Learning Technologist I often have to deal with online assessments, whether they be submission via the VLE (using either in innate tools or Turnitin) or on our Mahara e-portfolio platform. Every now and then I am faced with the challenge of a member of staff wishing to use a social media platform (external blog for example) to run and assessment and how can we lock this down at the deadline? There is normally some uncomfortable work-around I can come up with such as taking screenshots, or downloading a version of the content to submit an non-live version. I call these workaround uncomfortable because for me they do not address the core issue.

The real discussion for me is about the conflict of using ‘slicker’ external tools and being able to lock the student’s work for assessment. We should consider whether ‘locking’ and ‘deadlines’ are…

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Protesting Too Much About Getty Images

The Getty Images scheme to make 35 million of their images free-to-embed has been more controversial than I’d have ever guessed it would be.

I’ve written a little bit on my personal blog about Getty’s change in the way they handle image sharing, and the reaction:

I embraced it because to me, it’s a pretty good thing when a corporation or organisation works out a way to navigate through the cultural sense of entitlement users of the contemporary web have, without resorting to fear tactics, litigation, or DRM that breaks the content that we’re trying to use…

…All of those methods are corporate ways of dealing with a cultural problem, and they don’t really help anyone. And all the while, the social internet has been moving further and further into the wild west of sharing stuff with abandon, and without attribution.

“Protesting Too Much About Getty Images”

I lied, of course. I didn’t write a little bit. I actually wrote a lot. But it may be helpful, so I hope you read it.

“On Teaching” by Dr Caroline Magennis

The Times Higher Education twitter account asked academics to tweet about their worst student.

Dr Caroline Magennis had a few wise things to say about this:

“…jokes should never ever be directed at our students. Ever. They should never have their exam or essay errors made fun of in public and, particularly, nothing said in a classroom should ever be tweeted for smug amusement.

….the first reason not to slag off your students in public is basic human decency and the recognition that we all say silly things and make mistakes, without the fear it will be made public. Imagine if someone tweeted that thing you said in academic council last Spring… Exactly.”

Read the full article here.

Universities Must Celebrate Uncertainty To Survive

Interesting rumination at The Conversation on changes in university culture, and how they may negatively impact HE, specifically in the context of being where knowledge is formed, rather than just distributed.

You can read the whole post here.

This section seems important:

But if we value knowledge – and we should – we need to ask ourselves careful questions about how it is formed.

In all the discussion about the “knowledge economy”, it is easy to forget that the condition for knowing is not-knowing. If universities are places dedicated to knowledge, then they are also – by necessity – places devoted to uncertainty.

Any academic worth their salt will admit to this. They will tell you their expertise is the product of a lifelong struggle with incomprehension, and that every thing they claim to know is contingent upon a host of things they don’t. To the extent that universities are places where knowledge is made, then they are places where people learn to ask difficult questions, wrestle with previous approaches and test untried ideas. And they are places where this process is undertaken collectively: in conversation with colleagues, with students, and with past scholars.

Yet the new market-driven world of higher education seems to have little place for uncertainty. Uncertainty costs a lot of money, its usefulness can’t be predicted, and few people see the value of owning it. It’s not very easy to sell and it’s very hard to measure.

Tamson Pietsch
Lecturer in Imperial & Colonial History at Brunel University

Thanks to Daran for sharing this.

These Pages Fall Like Ash

These Pages Fall Like Ash

Bristol is currently home to this intriguing project, and will be until the 8th of May:

…if you try to siphon off some Wi-Fi while walking around Bristol in the next few days, you might find yourself accessing not your own email, but a whole alternative universe.

The city is currently home to an experiment in digital storytelling called These Pages Fall Like Ash.

Participants download portions of narrative to their smartphones from Raspberry Pi terminals concealed in various locations. Of course, you’ll need a guide to find and understand these, and that comes in the form of a beautiful wood-bound notebook that you receive when you purchase your ticket.

Sarah Ditum – Fantasy fiction project brings new worlds to your smartphone – techradar.com

Art collective Circumstance have worked on other projects that meld environment with technology to narrative effect, and this time collaborate with academic Tom Abba, and authors Nick Harkaway and Neil Gaiman.

Tickets have sold out, but the organisers plan to bring similar events to other cities. The project’s official site is here.

(Edit: Read Ditum’s review of the pr0ject for The New Statesman here.)

UK Government Making Sweeping Copyright Reform

The Register has a story today which suggests that the UK government just passed an Act making all uncredited content posted online forfeit to exploitation by other organisations:

The Act contains changes to UK copyright law which permit the commercial exploitation of images where information identifying the owner is missing, so-called “orphan works”, by placing the work into what’s known as “extended collective licensing” schemes. Since most digital images on the internet today are orphans – the metadata is missing or has been stripped by a large organisation – millions of photographs and illustrations are swept into such schemes.

For the first time anywhere in the world, the Act will permit the widespread commercial exploitation of unidentified work – the user only needs to perform a “diligent search”. But since this is likely to come up with a blank, they can proceed with impunity. The Act states that a user of a work can act as if they are the owner of the work (which should be you) if they’re given permission to do so by the Secretary of State and are acting as a regulated body.

If their interpretation of these changes are accurate, it may be worth rethinking how we use/have used services such as Flickr, Instagram or Facebook completely.

Given Tablets But No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves

For a few years, Sugata Mitra has been working with children in India and England on his Hole In The Wall project, which is absolutely worth finding out about. There are lessons to be learned from it about self-propelled education and motivation that are truly enlightening for anybody in education, or who has kids.

The more recent One Laptop Per Child project – which Mitra is apparently also involved in – builds on the same principles. By air-dropping technology with even less guidance, to children in towns with even less access to technology, education or literacy, the OLPC project gathered even more startling results:

We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.

Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC founder

These projects illuminate some fascinating ideas about how children can learn, but might also point us toward an understanding of why adults find it harder to. You should definitely read more about it at the MIT Technology Review – click here.