Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve given a couple of presentations to library groups – which in and off itself is interesting – but one of them seems to stick out in my head as something that is worthy of more exposure, so I’m doing a bit of a dump on this idea. When talking about tools for collaboration, I suggested there are three shells, defined by scope, that one would collaborate within.
The first shell, the innermost, is document based. This is where people would collaborate on a document using a wiki like tool, or an idea using a blog. This can be limited to certain people, so it is ideal for a targeted project. The second shell is independent of a document or idea, but it is bound to the moment. For this middle layer, I suggested the use of a device independent service like Twitter. Using this instant messaging styled communication, people can collaborate contextually. Something that is certainly useful for those groups that have a range of ‘net accessibility but still have to work together. This is an interesting middle layer as you can branch this group beyond the original collaborators and bring in other individuals as to enable the group to escape their own echo chamber – something that has been put to good use as twitter seems to be acting as a unique filter on many world events. The final, outer layer is completely independent of device and group. Based on tagging, this is a way to collaborate with anyone who chooses to use the same tags that you choose to add to your online data (eg. Flickr and Facebook).
This is all rather simple to organize, but then what happens when you add location based social networking? And so begins the brain dump… using either one of the newer Twitter mashups like twisney or dedicated services like BrightKite, Trackut, Myrimis and Gypsii are either a glue between levels… you can find out where your document collaborators are, seeing when they are in the same building – or you can wander the world to find like minded individuals making this a cloud like layer that would float about the tag shell. How does location based social networking work in the collaboration meme that we have come understand in the web2.0 world?
The Learning Technologies Center at the U of Manitoba has an interesting post on the use of wikis at their institution and it deals with a topic that I just navigated this morning.
It does seem that instructors want control of material – as much to protect positions of privilege, but perhaps to avoid having to be outed in some manner for what or how they do things in class. Teaching as many instructors will tell you is the loneliest thing that you can do with more than one person in the room. These two elements likely combine to create some feels within many new users to these collaborative technologies that they can be replaced… that people will think they are slacking as students take over and do all the wrong things.
Well, not to say that this is what happened this morning, but it did a few months ago and the advice that I gave then still applies. We can’t drop in a new tool and expect there to be a perfect fit with old methods. If we want to use a tool like a wiki, we have to find out what the instructor is comfortable with and then determine how it is to be supported and integrated. After that, we just have to tell the students that it is there and it will as likely as not take off. If it doens’t work, students will often let you know why and offer suggestions. But all this does mean a little bit of work for already over taxed and under appreciated/compensated instructors.
That last point in the end may be why instructors are reluctant… they don’t want to put in that little extra work and make it look to the uneducated (admins?) that they are doing less.
Thanks to Andy Carvin for clarifying the Wikia situation – it is indeed a plugin for MediaWiki. It allows users to communicate with each other and post profile information.
It looks like the commercial team behind MediaWiki is adding some elements of Social Networking to their product to create Wikia. It is a hosted solution (what’s with the developments for hosted wikis this weekend?) so I don’t know how easy it will be for plugins to go to MediaWiki and a quick Google search reveals nothing, though PBS’s learning.now suggests that it might be possible. Being hosted, I also don’t know how much traction it will get outside of the US – for those who wish to avoid the Patriot Act (though hopefully that will change).
There is beta of PBWiki 2.0 that is accepting applicants. You can see the features here and if they all work out, this could become quite the powerful content management system as it will be able to control access down to the page.
I’m not sure how this will relate to SharePoint or similar systems, but it is certainly an interesting set of features.
You’ve gotta respect the people who walk the walk and talk the talk. One of these groups is the New Media Consortium (at least at first blush). They have taken their Horizon 2008 report and dumped it into Comment Press to make it a living and interactive document.
They see collaboration technologies as one of the first on the horizon and Comment Press and Wikis are certainly a way to do that. Furthest out – many years away are social technologies. But I think that is reasonable. If we can get the main stream educator to start to think about how to collaborate online, eventually “group thinking” or the use of some collective intelligence ideas might follow – that should hopefully get kids up to speed with what many workplaces are doing already.
This is one of the few last posts of the year as I take a bit of a break and as has become tradition, here are my predictions for the coming year and a review from what I said last year. So here we go.
- Social Systems
I think that this coming year we are going to see a more rounded implementation of social networking and we’ll find it in more than one part of our lives. Facebook’s Beacon program showed where the line was as they assumed that personal information actually was their’s to do with totally as they pleased. Granted, it’s in the fine print when you sign up, but between the range of privacy laws and common sense, one would assume that Facebook and others would not take their most valuable resource for granted. That resource is of course the mass of volunteered metadata that users attach to their user name. If this isn’t respected, people are going to stop providing it. Many people already have. People will hopefully also start asking real questions about what apps do with your personal data, what happens to that data when you remove an app and what is with being able to receive messages from apps that you haven’t installed and then find that there are messages waiting for you there (eg. Superwall).
I think there is also going to be a buyout of some of the smaller networks, or those networks will simply wither because there isn’t a critical mass of individuals subscribed. My guess is that Google, MS, Yahoo, Facebook and MySpace will suck up other systems like Ning and Spock. Since MS and FB already have a relationship, I think this will get closer, or FB will be a common ground where the search engines battle for advertising. Fox owning MySpace certainly helps it stick around, so I don’t have an idea how the search engines will approach it, or if MySpace will even look to the engines for clicks.
Speaking of search, social searching systems will likely become much more common. Del.icio.us and other social content sharing systems will likely become more important as the companies that want to take your money online start looking for ways to ensure their add dollars hit the eyes of only those who have a hope of caring about their product.
- Technology integration failingJust as there has been a massive push to integrate technology into the K-12 curriculum, it seems that isn’t going to work out as politicians have planned. There are an enormous number of kids coming up into the university system who are not actually computer literate – in being able to use the computer as a whole – but only application literate (Word, PPT, IE/FF). Seeing this, there should be an examination of what really needs to be taught as computer skills. Are we trying to teach everything overly generally?
- Fractionation of technology useJust as all the advances in technology have made it easier to get all manner of content created, creating this content well however has become a challenge as the tools don’t just make things magically. It takes some skill, effort and patience, something that many people aren’t willing to invest. So this is going to fractionate the use of technology again as to make really good content, the tools are getting ever more complicated.
- HD WarsIn the theme of the fractionation of technology, the HD wars are going to leave heaping mounds of spent coin and plastic. People are not willing to go through the VHS/Beta thing again. If there is going to be a winner, I’ll predict it’s going to be Blu-Ray. PS3 will slowly come down in price to be only slightly higher than a stand alone player, at which point, the second wave of early adopters will start to pick it up as a player first and a console second. Without a “vector”, I don’t think HD DVD will have as good a chance. I also know that combo discs are not going to get anywhere as it’s going to cost whoever makes them a fortune just to get both logos on one disc (assuming that is even allowed by the legal teams).
- Net neutralityThis is certainly going to heat up as there are more ways than ever to get online and the ability to “control the pipes” is such an abhorrent idea to users that many would likely rebel. But wait, the free bastion that is the ‘net is no longer free and all the democratization that came from blogging and other technologies in terms of being able to put forward your own voice will be in jeopardy if ISPs and the like are allowed to shape traffic and modify content “in stream”. Well then, encrypt the data you say? Well they will just block that as well? What about the banks? Well, I think that is where the ISPs will be forced to show their hand. I doubt that many banks would be willing to lose their online banking services because customers can’t use encrypted connections. Of course, this is just an idea and I have no idea if it is actually something that would ever come to pass should the neutrality of the net be compromised.
- BloggingOn the topic of free speech, I think we’ll certainly see blogs in the news again with another US election, an election in Alberta and perhaps nationally as well. But I think there will be a shift in the type of blogs that are considered relevant. Everyone has a blog now because they are cool, so there are going to be many to choose from. The trick will be to find the wheat. This will be an exercise that will also reveal any neutrality issues as there will be rather obvious changes to a message if traffic is being shaped or content is being modified. Now, on the NN side, it might end up just being traffic, but the free nature of commenting and participation online will keep showing why it is important to keep all data equal.
- Canadian mobility ratesIt’s a pipe dream, but between the stronger dollar and the spectrum auction, I can certainly see there being significant changes to the wireless landscape in Canada. Not anything that will make it cost effective to use in schools (darn last year), but enough to make mobile computing something that is “average joe” stuff.
- Casual gaming and alternative interface explosionThe Wii is still selling out, that tells you something. People are getting the new interface and I think that these alternative interface games are just going to take off and with them, the casual game – the ones that are on phones and other ultra portable devices. We’ve already seen this happen, but I think it’s going to move into the public eye more this year and not just in the eyes of teens and phone geeks. – and yes, I finally have a Wii and GH3
Now from last year, what happened in terms of what I said?
- The Wii is the top console
- Living room computing is getting closer (the Apple TV almost ran and Media Center with the PS3 are starts again)
- Mobile computing has boomed, but not ultramobile. The price of laptops has crashed and with the arrival of the XO, they are at commodity prices.
- There was a boom in web based apps
- Dirt cheap cell service did not arrive
- The spec race seems to have died in computers at least – you don’t hear the processor specs as loudly in ads anymore, noe it’s all about how big the hard drive is. Cameras are still having a bit of a race, but not in MP as much as color depth.
- The semantic web hasn’t arrived, but there is some inkling of it with the creation of mountains of metadata with the boom of social networking.
That’s all for this year deep post wise. The last post of the year will be the picture of the week
For the past few weeks, I’ve been looking into wikis for a presentation that I have coming up this week and as I’ve read about them, I kept seeing the WikiSpaces drive to get k-12 teachers to use wikis. I always thought that this would be a great idea, but I didn’t know how great until I was talking to a prof yesterday who wanted to find some way to get his largely overhead/copy based course that is constantly evolving (it has elements of exploration and he updates the course often according to what has happened on various “missions”) organized in some manner that he could cull the chaff and keep only the wheat.
At first I was thinking something like WebCT or Moodle, but then I thought about what he really would want to do to get everything organized. He wanted to be able to hide extra detail, but have it available if needed and he wanted to be able to do all this in a way that he could understand the process. So I figured that using content files or a course wiki in Moodle would not be the idea way to go about what essentially amounts to document management. So, enter the wiki.
My plan is to help him scaffold and organize his lectures and based on what the talking points of the lecture is, spawn off additional pages in the wiki. This way the cost of entry is rather low and the change in workflow is minimal as much of what he has is already in some manner of electronic file (the class is presented with overheads and copies). With any luck, this should work out well.
Just a thought, I think rather than encourage the presentation side to be more tech heavy, we encourage the prep side, we can get better results faster.
If you want to try to get better results from Wikipedia – try this out.
A colleague in another part of the vastness that is the Uni, sent me this link wwwTools for Teachers: Wikis. There are some good links there.