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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Darren Mundy (Hull) gave us an introduction and his ideas of what differentiates web 2.0 from what has gone before, reminding us that Tim Berners-Lee always saw the web as a place to share but that perhaps this aspect is just greatly enhanced in a web 2.0 world. Observing that students may now possess the greater ability when it comes to technology in the classroom, what does that do to the position of the lecturer, how should they react? If students use the social web how can this be harnessed for teaching and learning?

Mark van Harmelen (Manchester) suggested that what defines web 2.0 is its emphasis on creating and sharing content. Nevertheless, the vast majority of web users would be passive with only a small percentage creating content or actively contributing towards it. He went on to talk about the fusing of the social and technical spheres within web 2.0 where the two could no longer be divided. Web 2.0 gives opportunities to work collaboratively and become more involved in their learning: ‘felt involved in a course for the first time’ was a telling student quote. A response to an audience question was that many web 2.0 tools were increasingly accessible to all practitioners, needing little or no technical expertise.

Science specific examples of web 2.0 use in higher education were provided by presentations from Nick Greeves of Liverpool and Clare Sansom of Birbeck.

Robert Consoli spoke about his HullUniLecturer project on YouTube. Of particular note was the institutional reaction to liability which acts as a cautionary tale for anyone contemplating similar work.

Steve Wheeler (Plymouth) challenged us with the idea that education needed to be transformed, examining the structure of post industrial revolution education and its need to fit children to their future in the world of work. Students today would not be entering the same world, yet the structure of education largely has not changed. The contrast was made between taxonomies and folksonomies, the blog and the wiki. Though students would use wikis within the classroom there was reluctance to use them outside; take-up required scaffolding and a critical mass of, but not too many, participants (lest cliques form).

Mark van Harmelen returned to give an overview of tips for using a range of web 2.0 tools including Delicious, GoogleDocs, GoogleReader, MediaWiki, Flickr, Skype and DimDim.

Darren Mundy returned to talk about the Wild Project, a initiative to network large groups through mobile technology.

Tweets associated with the event:

Event webpage (with the presentations that speakers have permitted the Centre to host):

This event was organised partly based on the success of a previous event on the use of technology in education. Yes, you see those comments you leave on feedback forms really do count!

At a project meeting I’d attended, the funders talked about reporting, how they would like funded projects to tell them what worked and what had not. Especially what had not. They didn’t get to hear much about that.

I wonder if they were surprized at the overwhelming positivity of the reports that were used to receiving. Probably not.

You have to be extremely confident to deliver a faults and all report to your funders or your peers. That you can without loss of face or risk of future funding demonstrates the maturity of your audience.

I count it a high compliment that other have shared their project failings in my presence. Not only do I not want to reinvent the wheel, I do not want to rediscover the pothole.

If funders find that they are not hearing the whole story they wish to look to how they create the kind of environment whereby projects can report fully with confidence.

I heard a news item on Radio 4 yesterday about the release of what would be the world’s largest thesaurus, drawing on entries from the Oxford English Dictionary. Seeing a message on Twitter linking to the news story ( I quickly RTed the good news; well, it is the sort of thing you would want to share isn’t it (humour me here).

I was delighted and somewhat surprised to receive a reply (from someone who’s blushes I shall spare) saying that they had misread the message and thought it was reporting the discovery of a new dinosaur.

Well, on hearing that an image of the creature popped into my head. The mighty and terrible Thesaurus Rex, running amok in the Glasgow Public Library heading for the reference section. Brave librarians try to fend him off with those wooden poles with the hooks on the end you use to open high windows, but to no avail. Now there’s nothing left of their Encyclopedia Britannica but  bits of chewed cover.

The story of the thesaurus is a gem. A project started in 1965 that grew on a diet of good ideas (“I know, why don’t we include this as well?” Ring any bells? Every been involved in a project like this?) At one point almost destroyed by a fire but saved from having being stored in a metal filing cabinet (and you can picture it can’t you, paint singed and blistered but defiant.) And now, after over forty years, it’s finally complete in all its blue cloth and gold-leaved glory. I’d actually quite like a copy but I’m afraid to even look at the price. Plus I don’t know if I can trust it in the same bookcase as my dictionary of physics.