I just spent Saturday and half of Sunday at WordCamp Edinburgh 2017. This is only my third WordCamp, but I though it might be worth typing up a few impressions.

The camp was very nicely organised, ran to time, had good food, the venue was great. Minimal friction for attendees.

The vibe was quite like a TeachMeet although most of the presentations were an hour long and a bit more formal. I guess Wordcamp like TM has its roots in Bar Camp? Compared to a TeachMeet the sponsored were more visible and more part of the community. This felt fine as I guess most of the attendees were professional working alongside the sponsors. (I am not a fan of the over sponsorship of TeachMeets)

The talks were very varied, some technical, some business related. All the ones I went to were informative and enjoyable. There seemed to be a strong strand about using WordPress for the good, democracy and social change.

Social Good

Two of the keynotes were to do with this idea of social good. The opening one on day one was by Leah Lockhart, who talked about helping community groups and local politicians to communicate. I felt there were a lot in common with eduction. Schools have embraced online communication in the same sort of way, veering towards twitter ( probably less Facebook that community groups) as an easy way to get messages out. In the same way they lose control of their information and its organisation. Leah spoke of the way WordPress could give you a better long term result.

Leah also explained that it is hard for community groups to be able to design how their information gets out. I think we are at the point where WordPress is easy enough to use the difficulty comes in using it in a strategic way that maximises its potential. I’ve got a fair bit of experience in helping schools use WordPress in a practical sense and there is plenty of online help for that. There is a gap to be filled in the preparation and planning. If this is solved for community groups it might be easy to repurpose the information and processes for education.

Bridget Hamilton spoke of Using WordPress to create social change. Her story of her site Verbal Remedy was inspirational. A blog provide effective communication without much in the way of backing.

Technical

I went to a few of the more technical talks.

Mark Wilkinson spoke of ‘a deep understanding of actions and filters’. Since I mess around with code in WordPress at a very basic level this was a really useful talk for me. It was just pitched at the right level. I’ve used these with only a basic understanding. I think Mark got me to the point I could being to understand things a lot better the next time I dip in. Mark’s Slides

Tom Nowell spoke about the WordPress Rest API for beginners, he meant beginners with the API not generally. I held on by the skin of my teeth. Luckily I follow Tom Woodward and had played with the API in a much simpler way than either Tom documented. Yesterday I added a wee bit to my homepage to pull in the last status from my blog! Tom’s Slides

Twitter vs Blogs

Franz Vitulli talked about aspects of the pull between Social media and blogging it was good to hear another view of the area I’ve been reading and thinking about from an indieweb point of view.

Progressive Enhancement

Ben Usher Smith gave this talk, at first I thought it was a bit out of my wheelhouse, but it became apparent that the process of progressive enhancement can be applied to any sort of enterprise. I hope to be more aware of this when planning for my class next session. Ben’s post Progressive enhancement — More than just works without JavaScript on medium.

Even More…

I went to a few other talks all of which I enjoyed. Even the ones I though I was choosing almost at random had something interesting to them. Often it was in thinking about how the ideas or principles fitted into my world.

I took notes during the talks using Little Outliner 2, this meant I could publish as I went along: Notes from #wcedin. I am really liking using an outliner for this process, although I don’t think an iPad was as good as a laptop would have been. There are a few different links and thoughts there.

After I got back I feed the twitter hash tag into Tags, Martin Hawksey’s tool. This gives me TAGSExplorer: Interactive archive of twitter conversations from a Google Spreadsheet for #wcedin .

I probably missed a few opportunities to talk to folk, I found myself feeling a bit less social than I do in my TeachMeet comfort zone. But the atmosphere was very relaxed and inclusive. I’d recommend educators with an interest in blogging to join in if there is a Wordcamp near them.

Last week after our DS106 Good Spell broadcast Mariana told me about 23 Things. This looks like an interesting course for Edinburgh University students, staff and anyone with access to the internet.

I had a quick look at the list of things covered in the course 23 Things List – 23 Things. These look interesting enough to sign up.

The idea is to try out a couple of things each week and blog about them. So here we go

Week One: Introduction and Blogging – 23 Things

Write a blog post and tag it 23ThingsEdUni. (When you tag a blog post with 23ThingsEdUni, so long as your blog has been registered, that post will be pulled into our 23 Things Community Blog. This way you can share your thoughts and experiences with others on the programme.)
Use your blog to write a short post about:
A) what you hope to gain out of the 23 Things programme.
B) were you aware of the University’s Social Media Guidelines for Staff and Researchers or the student Social Media Student Handbook? What do you think of the guidelines/handbook?

A. I hope to rethink the sort of things I’ve been doing online for a while. Take the opportunity to dig in to some things I think I know about in a little depth. Some of my ideas have not been revisited for quite a few years.

I am also interested in taking another open online course, I’ve been hanging round ds106 for a while and ran a couple of small course for primary schools last year. I’ve a real belief that these types of course can be pretty powerful.

B. I was aware of North Lanarkshire’s Social Media policy. One of thing I really like about it is that they recognise that schools can use social media in useful ways and need to have a deal of freedom in doing so.

The council uses third-party software to manage its social media networks. Any new official page/site will be required to be managed using this software. There is an exception for Learning & Leisure services staff in schools where social media is used as part of a teaching and learning environment or as a communication tool.

My Emphasis.

I’ve a twitter list of NLC Schools which is quite vibrant.

*Featured image: Flickr Photo: Bobbi Newman – CC BY-NC-SA

A classroom, like any other social group will have popular pupils, the ones who get heard most by other pupils. I guess a teachers job is to encourage participation for all learners.

We have to think if software companies are the best people to curate our information.

A While back I turned off the setting in twitter to show me the ‘best tweets’ first. I noted that I hadn’t noticed this being turned on.

Yesterday I found a new setting, not sure when it happened, and tweeted turning it off with a gif:

quality-filter
I don’t want Twitter being a quality filter.

This got a couple of interesting replies and I put in a few more pence worth:

 

I don’t really do Facebook 1 but it is even further done the algorithmic path.

I presume the algorithms will be designed with the end goal of getting more ad views, not for what is ‘best’ for the user or community. They may also have negative effects on a learning community see: Participant association and emergent curriculum in a MOOC: can the community be the curriculum? | Bell | Research in Learning Technology, which I’ve read too quickly a couple of times now.

I don’t suppose there is much to do about this in the short term other than turning off settings when we can. Longer term it might be wise to think about the IndieWeb.

Featured Image: A screenshot…

PS. This post is mostly a few tweets, I’ve been thinking that interesting things often get lost in the stream, and pulling out a bunch might be useful.

  1. I did take part in a very useful mini-mooc and have heard of great educational examples but I tend to steer clear.

Yesterday I tweeted a link to a great post, the transcript of a talk about some social aspects of technology and how allowing technologist to lead our progress might have negative impacts on our privacy and lives, here is a quote.

Those who benefit from the death of privacy attempt to frame our subjugation in terms of freedom, just like early factory owners talked about the sanctity of contract law. They insisted that a worker should have the right to agree to anything, from sixteen-hour days to unsafe working conditions, as if factory owners and workers were on an equal footing.

Companies that perform surveillance are attempting the same mental trick. They assert that we freely share our data in return for valuable services. But opting out of surveillance capitalism is like opting out of electricity, or cooked foods—you are free to do it in theory. In practice, it will upend your life.

Remarks at the SASE Panel On The Moral Economy of Tech

This spoke very much to some thoughts I’ve been having about our relationship to technology companies. Some of these were sparked  by Dean Groom, Why not to buy Minecraft Education Edition.  Some more idaea were discussed at the Always on (them) event at the University of the West of Scotland and I am in the midst of exploring those in a few microcasts, tagged DigitalUWS & microcast (one down a few more to go).

I’ve not come to any great conclusions but I do think it is something we should be thinking a lot harder about.

More grist arrived today from Stephen Downes:

I can see how the presentation would engage school leaders looking for a way to address current trends in learning, but they need to look beyond the single-vendor approach proposed here, and they should be clear that technology companies are service providers who are held accountable for delivery, not partners taking a hand in pedagogical and educational decisions.

Looking back to move forward: A process for whole-school transformation ~ Stephen Downes

I know myself enough to recognise that I am somewhat enthralled by technology and software. I certainly need to think about my relationship, on so many levels, with the technology I use. Should we be addressing this in the classroom with our pupils?

featured image is probably walking a copyright tightrope, but seems appropriate

On Thursday I attended the Always on (them): Digital and Social Media use in Education event at the University of the West of Scotland. This was organised by Professor David McGillivary.

I only stayed for the morning as I had to get back to run a twilight course. Very disappointed to have to leave early as the morning set up some great questions for discussion in the afternoon. I was speaking just before lunch and as I listened to other speakers I had to update my talk on the sly.

I recorded the audio for all morning speakers for edutalk, I’ve now posted them with a DigitalUWS tag.

In my presentations I briefly described my own history of blogging and podcasting at Sandaig, Glow Blogs and ended with some questions. Preparing for the talk allowed me to think sound some ideas that have been buzzing in my mind for a while. I hope to tease them out in a few subsequent posts or microcasts.

My rather rough slides at: Always On

Audio, from Edutalk:

And the questions I ended with:

ARE THESE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS?

  • Are we getting the best out of Social Media?
  • Should pupils be more involved in posting?
  • Do we read others productions or are we using SM as a broadcast?
  • Are we aware of the costs & implications of using free commercial software?
  • Do we need to teach, copyright, ownership, where is my stuff?
  • Long form via short form, where is your attention at?
    Media, 140 chars vs Video vs Audio vs Long Form?
  • As professionals do we have enough understand the tools and their affordances?
  • Do we know any more about Internet Princes than youngsters?

I think these are important questions and the answers to some are simple but others are very complex indeed.

I referred and pointed to a post I read on the way to the event:
Stereotype Threat and Police Recruitment | Hapgood
Where it said:

We get hung up on “ease-of-use” in software, as if that was the only dimension to judge it. But social software architectures must be judged not on ease of use, but on the communities and behaviors they create, from the invite email to the labels on the buttons. If one sentence can make this much difference, imagine what damage your UI choices might be doing to your community.

I believe we need to think a lot more about the software we use and the effect it has on communication and on us. Hopefully I’ll think a bit more about this in some subsequent posts/microcasts.

If you didn’t make the event I’d recommend listening to the audio and the Twitter stream #DigitalUWS has some good stuff too.

Featured image, my own photo, I though my lock screen image is relevant to some of the things I was trying to talk about.


Bridgy lets you post to social networks – and comment, like, reshare, and
more – from your own web site. It also pulls other people’s comments, likes, and
reshares of your posts back to your site. In
IndieWeb lingo, Bridgy lets you
POSSE to
the silos easily and
backfeed the responses
automatically.
Check
out this example
, or see the docs for more details.

from: Bridgy

This looks like a really exciting development in social media. Recently most of the commentary on blog posts has moved to twitter, g+ or facebook. This looks like it could link that up and push out posts and then pull comments made on other sites back to your blog.

Instagram

Last week I was in a primary seven class lending a hand to set up e-portfolios.

As a distraction to leading 30 pupils through the many steps it takes to setup a glow blog as an eportfolio and as a way of introducing them, I usually talk about the pupils existing online presence.

“How many folk are on facebook?” got an affirmative response from half a dozen or so pupils. Not what I expected for other visits to other classes. I wondered aloud if they were kidding.

I then moved on to a brief survey of YouTube: a few channels, one pupil had an origami channel of 30 odd videos and another was part of a scooter group. This seems more ‘normal’ and we continued to setting up the eportfolios

Later on a pupil asked me if I wanted to know why no one used Facebook, of course I did: “We are all on Instagram.” And they were. Most posting from iPads, iPods, a few tablets, a couple of galaxies and one iPhone 4S.

I had a quick chat with the class, but didn't realty get a good overview of what they were posting. Only a few admitted posting selfies, maybe that comes later? Some post, 'what they are doing', some 'funny pictures'.

It leaves me wondering if a stream of photos (do they comment, use hashtags?), give the same benefits as Facebook. Are we becoming more visual communicators. It is obviously a different Instagram would that the one I inhabit troutcolor on Instagram.

This week another class, a different town, primary six, most everyone on Facebook, puzzled looks when I mentioned Instagram. Perhaps social media has arrived but is not evenly distributed.

On Thursday there was a fair bit of tweeting about delicious shutting down. TechCrunch blogged Is Yahoo Shutting Down Del.icio.us? (this post is now updated).

The first thing I did was backup my delicious links.

I’ve got several years worth of delicious links so was a wee bit worried. I also prefer delicious to any other system for saving links I’d seen. It is simple, the interface is clean, the network is useful without turning into another social thing and the API and scripts are useful. I have also used the delicious tools to display sets of links on various webpages (quite a lot in glow) which I don’t want to hunt down and change.

There have been a lot of suggestions for delicious replacements Diigo seems to be a favourite. I looked at this a while ago and, for reasons I can quite recall (probably lack of simplicity), I didn’t stick with it, although a lot of education folk use it. I downloaded Scuttle again and though about setting this opensource delicious like site up but I’ve not done so yet.

Delicious Pinboard

Yesterday I signed up for pinboard this cost about £5 to signup which I hope will mean the service will not go away. I imported my exported delicious link.

I choose pinboard mainly for its delicious like simplicity and the fact it supports the delicious API.

Today things look a little brighter for delicious: delicious blog » What’s Next for Delicious? but I am quite happy to have paid my fiver. I’ve set pinboard to add any new links I post to delicious and set up an email address to post links from my phone. There looks like there are a few more useful features to explore later. I’ll keep using delicious at the moment and see how things go. It is, I feel, a good thing to get occasional reminders about our reliance on free services and to get the opportunity to pay for ones we really need.