Lots of upheaval – including 3 house moves, manic workload, 2 new kittens and 6 chickens – has meant a leave of absence from research and now a serious relaunch in September.

So about to relaunch along 3 concurrent tracks of thought:

1. The research process itself:
From research questions and conceptual framework to research method, methodology, sampling, instrumentation, data collection, data processing, data analysis and finally conclusion drawing and verification.
Significantly, I have jumped into Data Analysis first. This is on the grounds that qualitative data analysis is much more loosely bounded than quantitative but stills needs to be contrained to a degree that will actually allow me to make a serious start.

2. My research area

– Social media to transform teaching and learning.
Need to consolidate everything I have on this.

3. My research project
– Have moved from focusing on TRIO (a successful work-related elearnign initiative I am trying to get funding to test its transferability from italiy to UK, Germany and Denmark) to a Social Media In Schools Pilot I am involved in at work.

An 8 Step/30 Minute Twitter Regimen To Boost Your Identity

(extract from above site with own notes in italics)

  • Go to search.twitter.com and check your @ messages.Your account also has an @ box but sometimes people refer to you without commenting to you directly, as in a retweet. If you have been retweeted, you should take note of what was retweeted and prepare an appropriate response.
  • Check your direct messages, unfortunately this may have less use than it used to because so many people auto DM after being followed. Nevertheless, if you are at a lower number of followers, this won’t take long and could reveal some additional information like:
    • From the username you may find out something about the person’s interests. If you set up your account correctly, they followed you based on your own stated interests. If those who have chosen to follow you are the ones you want, your bio/profile is working. Otherwise, you should add some key words or alter the text.
    • The message itself may be a comment addressed to you rather than an auto DM. They may have made a useful comment that can help your direction.
    • If it is an auto DM, it can still be very informative. It will show you how some others are trying to market on Twitter. If none of those messages appeal to you, you know what not to do. You can also have a look at how many follower some of these DM marketers have, this might help to gauge the effectiveness of a given technique.
    • Don’t be so quick to dismiss that auto DM marketing. Many of those people are sending out free e-books, some of which can be useful.
  • Send your first update, make it a good one, with a quality comment or link.
  • Look at your friends list and drop anyone you added several days ago who hasn’t followed you back, you’ll need the space since 2000 is your limit for awhile.
  • Find people to follow and follow them.
    • Use Twitter search to find people who are tweeting the keywords you are about.
    • Go the the accounts of these people, look at their timeline. If they are indeed in your niche, add them
    • Also look at this person’s followers as well. They are likely to have a similar interest
    • That’s for finding followers, but you should try to be more efficient. As you look at various tweeps, you can also get the mood of what is happening in your niche. This will give you ideas at a glance rather than having to scan through 20 blog posts. Sometimes, a quick scan is enough to remind you of something to write about or research.
  • Search the keywords in your niche and find out what people are talking about in this area. Tweet some comments on it, get into some conversations.
  • Find more followers by asking a question in your niche, people who answer are a) likely to follow you back b) Good resources c) are being followed by others in your niche
  • Do a twitter search for keyword and ‘?’. That’s someone asking a question with one of your keywords. Answer the question and get some social juice.
  • The 10 Types of Social Media Sites You Need to be on and Why (Microgeist.com) Pub. 27/04/09

    Extract from above site (my notes in italics)

    1. Microblogging

    Leader: Twitter – Everyone knows this service. It’s got such a lead in this space that it’s difficult to see anyone else taking over. This is partly due to the traction it already has but it’s biggest asset is the community of users. They are the ones giving the application it’s value and this crowd will not be easily herded into another platform without a very compelling reason

    Why microblogging? This article explains the value of microblogging more completely, but in summary microblogging is an ideal way to get a quick snapshot of the mood of the times on any given subject. It is also one of the first services to catch viral fire in the mobile space and shows a lot of growth potential there.

    Educational value? Instant snapshot for feedback, ideas sharing etc which forces participants to share without perfecting/rewriting/redrafting/over-producing. Eg: Teachers share good practice without pressure to improve or perfct a report/case study write-up.

    2. Bookmarking

    Leader: Digg – They are tops in social bookmarking and it would certainly behoove you to really have a look at them, not just click through on a link they host. Because of their position, they are better able to try out what might be considered riskier or more blatantly commercial models. In the case of the latter, them adding a bar at the top of pages others have added to Digg might be annoying, helpful or neither but watching how Digg works to monetize is a valuable education in itself. Monitoring the reactions of others would be a master class. It is very important to keep in mind that Digg, like Twitter and Youtube are not the only applications of a given type. Always keep a look out for others in the same space.

    Like microblogging, Social bookmarking adds a great deal of efficiency to your searches for useful information on the web. Not only are resources easier to find, but YOU are as well. This means additional promotional opportunities for you and your brand by being able to better target people who will be interested in what you are about.

    Educational value: critical – learn how to search, evaulate and when to bookmark; tag for flexible categorisation of content, leading to decision-making and prioritsing when choosing tags; MANAGE INFORMATION!

    3. Video

    Leader: Youtube – Youtube has the volume, there is an incredible amount of variety here and it is increasingly a source of education as well. I’ve picked up some tips from varioius videos here and find watching videos a nice change from scanning through assorted blog posts of various quality. Youtube videos do well on Google search, so videos you produce can help generate traffic as well.

    Online video is going to become a standard component in social media, there is no doubt about this. What differentiates online video from your network TV variety is that you can do very well with a low budget and high quality content. It is an equalizer for many small businesses and if done well can create trust very quickly, perhaps even quicker than text which can easily be copied or paraphrased from others.

    Educational value: low budget, high quality video for instant sharing if online. Instant impact over text version. Multisensory approach. Multiple intelligence learning. Visual and Auditory aspects of VAK (Visual/Auditory/Kinesthetic). Content creation by learners very accesssiblr and high instant reward, hence high degree of potential engagement.

    4. Photo sharing

    Leader: Flicker – Leaders for many of these types of sites are so well known, you might wonder what the point of listing them is. The answer to me is that it is important not to lose track of the service for the brand. Social media will evolve from technologies and less so from branding efforts, particularly when those big sites struggle to monetize and are finding themselves to be playing more and more of a utility role.

    Photo sharing gets good search results so you’d be unwise not to keep an album of photos labeled with keywords related to your site. It’s another traffic driver. Beyond that, it is a good way to research the graphic inspiration of competitors in your niche. This will help with design considerations.

    Educational value: Internet safety is most easily provided by a teacher-managed account.

    5. Search

    Leader: Google – You can personalize your searches, rate results and save sessions. This not only increases efficiency it also builds the service into a more powerful tool. Beyond that, Google is an innovator and you should be following their changes not via Technorati, as they interpret what important is, but directly with your own eyes as tuned to your own goals.

    Search is getting more and more powerful and granular. Part of it’s evolution will be to both measure social media sites and to incorporate their features. Both of these will be able to provide very valuable data.

    Educational value: searching skills develop higher order thinking skills as for tagging process: generalisation, analysis, prioritisation, … Good search skills = good information management,research and problem-solving.

    6. Professional

    Leader: Linked In- Like Twitter, the community is the asset and it is unlikely that people will abandon the connections they have built up over years to try the next cool thing. There is a lot of stability in this model and time put into it is a worthwhile investment

    How you choose to promote yourself may or may not include a social network as tight as Linked In, but you should absolutely have a look at and understand the appeal of a system that is more exclusive.

    6. Purely social

    Leader: Facebook – While huge, it also employs the ‘no monetization’ model. Connections can be made here, but what might be the most educational aspect of this application is the lesson it seems to be teaching us about massive scale not leading to massive money. Their efforts in this area should be closely watched because any success they have in making money may be easily transferrable to your own site.

    With all the technology out there it’s easy to forget that social media is about socializing. These sites are a great source of both inspiration and warning. Inspiring because of the number of creative applications found within and a warning for the same reason. Purely social sites don’t seem to have a particular purpose and so it is difficult to identify a potential customer and point them toward your value proposition without being ‘The Amway guy’

    8. Forums

    Leader: None – The leader depends on the niche and the number of communities around a given topic varies widely. You will have to do that research but there are great rewards to be had here

    Forums might be a static throwback to last century, but they are still a great knowledge resource if moderated with care. Well run forums come with built in trust because the users know that the moderator will drive conversations toward constructive usage. Therefore, when you do put in links to your site, and they stick, you are more likely to receive quality, well targeted traffic.

    9. City/Regional Weekly

    Leader: None – Like forums, there are no internet wide leaders. Individual cities and towns will certainly have them and you would be wise to make use of the marketing insight you can get from learning about smaller regional areas.

    Social media is going local, this couldn’t be more obvious when you see how many Tweeps are tweeting from smart phones. If you don’t get a more specific regional knowledge, you are unlikely to be able to see where conversations are headed and your targeting of visitors may end up coming across as a spammy saturation bombing effect.

    10. Gadget News and reviews

    Leader: Engadget – This one is more of an example, there are heaps of gadget blogs out there and they differ as to area of specialty. You may end up changing favorites as you investigate different types of devices.

    Social media is going to go where ever gadgets go. Instead of waiting for the next iPhone to become so popular that you will have started building the application 6 months too late to get easy attention you should plan ahead. Gadget blogs provide a sense of where hardware, software and social interaction will intersect. They don’t describe this explicitly, but the devices are part of the equation and essential to forecasting and preparing for future trends. (my emboldening – research note for RQ 2)

    Top Growth Areas On the Internet in the Next 5 Years (microgeist.com)

    Extract from above site (my notes in italics)

    1. Small Businesses In Niche Areas
    Previously businesses in niche areas had to struggle to find markets for their products. Today, sub-cultures and small communities with people who would be interested in a given niche product are easily searchable. This makes sourcing clients much easier. In terms of web and internet related services many new fields are likely to open up as the quality and variety of media continues to grow.

    2. Information Products
    Universities, attempting to maintain a comprehensive and holistic approach to learning will soon find themselves unable to keep up with the rate of change on the internet. It is simply not possible to weave a full course of humanities related studies into the core money making components of coding, design and new technology implementation.

    Educational impact: ditto for schools

    3. Better Peer Based Searching
    Google does a wonderful job of archiving the whole internet and using code to separate out legitimate sites from those that are trying to game the system. For more long tail niches, there is less incentive to use SEO to drive up rankings. In more competitive and profitable areas, however, SEO optimization drives out some really valuable finds. Social book marking alleviates some of this, but the bookmarks that surface at the top only do so after several days or even weeks. There is a real need for sites and resources that are immediate and highly relevant to a community. This is because when referenced by a group of people, a valuable resource can drive conversation and innovation. Conversation and innovation are the main value of social networks. If Google doesn’t work to fill this gap, someone else will. What is more likely to happen however, is that a loose infrastructure that joins various social networks will emerge. Opensocial comes to mind. If the infrastructure remains loose, and therefore flexible many opportunities for creative implementation will emerge.

    (Emboldening: my own.Implicarions for creatrive thinking in learning platforms and educaional VLEs.)

    4. Peer, Life and Work Partner Matching
    Anyone who has read even a few posts on how to use Facebook or LinkedIn for marketing and networking will understand the vast amount of time it takes to make things happen. In the non-internet space there have always been the Attention Deficit Disorder types who are good at making connections but not particularly good at focusing on a given task. Such people have always made a place for themselves by making deals happen and taking a commission. There is no reason this cannot happen on the Internet. In fact, the speed at which things move in cyberspace may actually be able to keep up with their racing minds.

    5. Auto-Customized Products
    It is already possible to order a small lot of mugs, shirts and caps with your own customized logo on it. This trend is likely to continue and manufacturing automation and outsourcing continue. As people become more accustomed to customization in their knowledge and information streams, they will also expect more customization is their clothes, music and lifestyles.

    6. Cottage Industries
    Cottage industries have such a name because they are small and generate enough income to live in a cottage. This will rapidly change as owners of these businesses either implement or outsource social media strategies to reach a wider audience. Many of these products have a subculture or hobbyist community around them. Any cottage business that can appeal to this need will be able to retain, educate and upsell customers with greater ease.

    7. Media Production
    At present, large companies are having a lot of fun with low tech production as a kind of play on Internet culture that lends an air of authenticity to the production. As they continue to lose market share, however, they will up production values once again in order to differentiate themselves. This will speed up as the bandwidth pipe expands to allow HD and things like surround sound. Smaller companies will be pushed to a) meet a certain standard in production quality or b) be ever more creative. Both efforts will most likely be outsourced since the complexity is likely to grow. This means a lot of work for smaller video/sound/interactive media studios.

    8. Internet Presenters/Actors
    As the above mentioned production values cause an increase in spending, acting talent will also be in high demand. Instead of less than 10 channels to choose from, every site will more than likely have a
    ‘public face’ that represents the company. Many times, this may be the business owner him or herself. On other occasions, they may want something a bit more produced. That’s hundreds of thousands of broadcast channels looking for actors. They pay may start marginally higher than that of the community theater, but the pay scale will be spread out more evenly and may actually employ a large number of people comfortably instead of just a few.

     What is a ‘good’ reader? The speeding surface skimmer or the slower, deep sea diver?  

     

    Of course, the toe-dipper gets the gist of the whole book but misses out on the fine detail, while the skinny-dipper dives in the deep end and gets to savour the meaning of every word.  And, traditionally, it’s the studious skinny-dippers that are seen as the higher achievers while the attention-deficient toe-dippers re perceived as average or below-average achievers.

     

    An interesting thing happened today, which flies in the face of this accepted wisdom: I skimmed through Becta’s 70 odd research publications and reports on Harnessing Technology – (good stuff, though!).  

     

    It seemed at good idea at the time, to:

    1) Skim read to organise under headings

    2) Read to pull out a plain English summary

    3) Share on this blog if useful to others.

     

    4)… and, finally, bask in a pink cloud of feel-good smugness.  (This says more about me than I’d like.)

     

    Dreary and sad as this may sound (it was; I am), I got stuck – the reports didn’t fit neatly into categories – I realised I should have tagged – a rookie mistake in the blogosphere. So I did.  (As you may know, this basically entails identifying keywords so you can search afterwards for all documents/posts/other with the same keyword. Flexible categorising, in effect.)

     

    Have you ever watched yourself as you tag?  I did.  I was using a key critical thinking skill: analysis (breaking down, comparing, classifying and prioritising).

     

    I suppose, to be fair, I wanted to avoid too many tags, and so had to choose the most relevant ones only. So I was being pretty analytical. Bottom line: the initial skim reading and tagging led to a higher order thinking skill.

     

    This was followed by plain, old-fashioned perusal indepth to build a summary = synthesis, another higher order thinking skill.

     

    So …

    -The need to tag through skim reading led to analysis.

    – The need to summarise through in-depth reading led to synthesis.

    – And analysis, synthesis and evaluation represent the highest order of thinking skills according to Bloom’s taxononomy.

     

    So, perhaps we need to change how we think about what is a good reader; they need to both skim and dive.  Next time you ask your pupils to create a blog post, encourage the tagging, and increase the chances of crticial thinking skills, for example, by:

    1. Setting some limits, such as 3 tags max (choose 6 tags and reduce to the 3 most relevant tags) …break down, compare, contrast, prioritise
    2. Pupils to say why … justify, point out, explain, prioritise
    3. Class to decide on best 3 tags … evaluate (summarise, assess, decide, convince, criticise, defend)

    Of course, sometimes you’ve just got to tag. But it’s encouraging to discover by accident that a basic social web tool skill, such as tagging, also supports the highest order thinking skills usually only ascribed to Grade A* to C candidates only, isn’t it?

    Inspirational meeting with folks from another local authority about learning platforms. Great interaction between all until they asked how we can get teachers to accept the new learning platform technology, if they feel they ‘have everything they need already’.  Stopped the flow like a well-aimed half-brick in the gritty cycle path of educational reform.

    Well of course teachers won’t if they think they don’t need it.  They have as much spare time and tolerance for ‘extras’ as the British public have for banking fat cats.

    So what’s the problem?  Well, I think it goes something like this …

    Isn’t it the transformed  learning that’s the big juicy carrot and the learning platform that’s just the giant tanker delivering it? Or should that be carrot juice and tanker?  This is a somewhat visually alarming metaphor, but you know what I mean. The learning platform is a rather substantial means to a potentially life-changing end for our pupils – transformed learning…

    … Which of course we all want, don’t we?

    … Because we all fully get what that means don’t we?

    … Unfortunately, when Becta did some extensive search they found a ‘scarcity of knowledge’ about how at least Web 2.0 can transform classroom learning.  So, if you do have the inside track on this one, please send your answers on a (very very large) postcard to this blog.