TWEET: attractive distractions

Joking aside, the pressure on learners is something I’m constantly aware of in my professional practice. ¬†While we try to promote a culture that is based on life-long learning and development, the reality is that the commercial need to look after our customers and patients will always take precedence. ¬† I believe that’s the reason the current trend toward ‘micro-learning’, ¬†spaced learning and video are gaining so much traction in the corporate environment.

TWEET: Open source versus commercially produced

I couldn’t agree more with this point raised in¬†Lister, M. ‚Ķ [et al.], (2009). ¬†I’m aware that many open source projects have governance and processes every bit as tight as commercial software developers, indeed there’s an argument for needing even tighter control to avoid the shortcomings that can be the product of anything ¬†‘designed by a committee’. ¬†But I also believe that the combined brain power of a, potentially, unlimited number of contributors must have some advantages.

Where open source really seems to come into its own though is in its responsiveness to the input of end users of the software.  Many open source projects have a nightly build system where everything that has been checked into source control is built and made available for download.   This can result in much shorter times between a bug report or new feature request being submitted and a fix or enhancement being made available.  The flip-side of this is technology giants such a Logitech who seem to take forever to respond to this input of their users.

So what can we take from this from a digital education perspective?  Collaborative / shared lesson plans and peer review spring to mind immediately.  Should we be precious about our way of doing things if a collective effort will provide resources that will better meet the needs of our students?


Lister, M. ‚Ķ [et al.], (2009) ‚ÄúChapter 3. Networks, users and economics‚ÄĚ from Martin Lister ‚Ķ [et al.], New media: a critical introduction pp.163-236, London: Routledge

Knox, J (2015) Mindmap

Knox, J Critical Education and Digital Cultures ‚Ä®
Knox, J Critical Education and Digital Cultures. Mindmap.  Click to open enlarged in a new browser tab.

This excerpt provides a good introduction into several important factors in the development of digital cultures in education. ¬†The community aspects particularly resonate with me. ¬† ¬†I’m keen to grow the social aspect of the learning community I manage and to realise some of the potential of “learning as the social construction of knowledge”. ¬†

One element that isn’t covered in this excerpt is fragmentation of communication in online communities. ¬†In my own professional practice communities are often loose associations of individuals and are held together by numerous communication¬†routes. ¬†A single individual may be in contact with their peers through WhatsApp groups (often several groups), by email, Facebook group(s), our learning academy’s forums, conference calls and occasional face to face encounters at meetings and other events.

This fragmentation can make any sustained engagement with a topic difficult and, just as meetings in person can disintegrate into several sub-conversations, a similar loss of  focus can all too easily result in community activity losing its momentum.  I think we saw some of this when students on this course were dividing their attention between

  • their chosen MOOC community,
  • the community we have established through¬†Twitter
  • the discussion forum on the Digital Education hub,
  • their day job and social circles.

This fragmentation does run contrary to the findings of Sillence, E. and Baber, C. (2003), whose study found having more than one means of contact aided community cohesion.  However, their study focused on integrating only two forms of communication and did not have the complexity of multiple community involvement.

This TED Talk by Amber Case highlights one of the issues that I believe is a contributing factor to the fragmentation of communication in digital communities.

Case introduces the idea of ‘Simultaneous time’ and puts forward the premise that we all have to cope with a ‘different type of time on every single device that we use’, such that we have to ‘dig around for our external memories’ to discover where we left them. ¬†This analogy makes absolute sense to me and is a fairly accurate description of the the sense of loss of control one can feel when trying to handle multiple communications channels simultaneously, some in real time and some asynchronously.

I believe my first experience as a Twitter user is a useful example here. ¬†Prior to joining this MSc I made little use of Twitter and I certainly didn’t recognise it as a tool that could support a learning community, primarily because my previous tweets had been very posted on something of a¬†‘fire and forget’¬†basis.

One of the first times I used Twitter¬†‘seriously’ was reading a paper with a number of other students in real time and tweeting our thoughts as we went along. ¬†It didn’t take long for me to become thoroughly confused as to who had ¬†made what point, when they had made it and where they were in the reading. ¬†Each of us read at different speeds and the added complications of external factors such as phone calls or a visitors arriving made the whole exercise a frustrating and, at times, humorous experience. ¬†By our next attempt we had discovered Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, both of which enable some semblance of order to be imposed on the storm of tweets that can emerge from this type of event.

As Kozinets, R. V. (2010) details, there are types of community participation¬†what prevent the loosely associated digital communities I refer to above from disintegrating completely. ¬† The ‘minglers’ and ‘makers’ are particularly important, as they are in almost any group I can think of, as Kozinet states¬†¬†“online gatherings follow many of the same basic rules as groups that gather in person.” ¬†


Knox, J. (2015). Community Cultures. Excerpt from Critical Education and Digital Cultures. In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. M. A. Peters (ed.). DOI 10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_124-1

Sillence, E. and Baber, C. (2003). Integrated digital communities: combining web-based interaction with text messaging to develop a system for encouraging group communication and competition, Interacting with Computers
Volume 16, Issue 1, February 2004, Pages 93‚Äď113

Kozinets, R. V. (2010) Chapter 2 ‚ÄėUnderstanding Culture Online‚Äô, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online. London: Sage. pp. 21-40.

TWEET: Got to love these spam comments

Tin of spam
“A can of spam. SPAM is made up of “Shoulder of Pork and Ham and was a World War 2 favourite, it’s also a¬†term used to describe irrelevant or unsolicited messages sent over the Internet, typically to a large number of users, for the purposes of advertising, phishing, spreading malware, etc. “

As the old saying goes “Flattery will get you everywhere” and that was clearly the tactic behind three of the latest ‘spam’ comments on my Lifestream blog.

I’m not going to approve them and no doubt others on the course have received the same or similar, but I thought I’d share today’s crop as they’re strangely life affirming…even though they’re spam!

“It‚Äôs nearly impossible to find well-informed people on this subject, but you seem like you know what you‚Äôre talking about! Thanks”

“No, thank you – and I wish I did!”

Hi, I do think this is an excellent website. I stumbled upon it ūüėČ I am going to come back once again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide others.

“Well I do have a lottery ticket for tonight…”

You ought to take part in a contest for one of the most useful websites online. I most certainly will highly recommend this site!

“One of the most useful websites online, wow, how about that, and it’s only my first attempt at blogging ¬†in public.”

Oh well, one can dream, now back to the serious content – my mindmap of Knox, J. (2015) coming up next.