Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Private or Public? Has Facebook changed the privacy game?

As Facebook starts to become more and more a part of people's online lives there seems to be a growing number of commentators who have decided to deactivate or delete their accounts.

Usually concerned about privacy issues, some people are opting out of Facebook and choosing not to take part in the social media revolution.  

There are others, however, who have now started questioning this. Here's one that's worth a visit: 'Is Deleting Your Facebook Account Really a Good Idea?

Two points are made here that are particularly worthy of discussion:

1) As Facebook becomes more and more useful as a source of public data, and as it becomes a greater part of the Web, do you think it's a wise decision to abandon Facebook? 

2) The whole idea of privacy is changing, being re-written by anyone who has a life online. Isn't it better to consider everything you do online to be public?  

As a teacher, like it or not, at sometime you're going to have photos of you taken in class which will end up on Facebook /elsewhere on the Web.

This happened to me recently when a Tourism student of mine used her mobile phone to take a snapshot of me as I stood on a chair for comic effect (see left - thanks Sol for permission to use the photo). It was a surprise when I saw I'd been tagged, as I had no idea she'd taken the photograph, but I really don't mind it being shared here.

I think this is because I have got so used to living my online life in a very public way. I know it was difficult at first, and these questions of what I should and shouldn't share with people came up when I started blogging in 2003. I also have to say that, give or take a few minor feuds, nothing bad has yet happened to me sharing online (that I know about!). I have, though, heard some horror stories concerning other teachers and students and am sure that if any of this had happened to me I'd feel differently.

Another related blog post worth a read is the 'Concerned about Facebook? You're probably getting old'. Here, the author makes the point that privacy concerns are being voiced by people aged 35+ and wonders if it's because young people using these social networks are naive. I really don't think so - I think it's because new generations are growing up with this new idea of privacy (or lack of privacy) online.

Finally, the ability to easily reach other people using the web is creating a new kind of 'fame' (although 'fame' is the wrong word here - probably better to say many of us are now becoming 'not unknown') because of our web presence (we turn up on Google searches, etc). I am enjoying this and think it's related to Andy Warhol's idea of fifteen minutes of fame, when he said "In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.". 

I think Warhol's idea has changed. In the present day, it's more like 'everyone is famous in the eyes of fifteen people.' 

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Looking for students for AVALON Learning pilot courses

If anyone knows students who are interested, there are two free courses for English students starting in Second Life later this month, organised through the AVALON EU funded project.

  • The first is a Speaking Skills course for B1 students preparing for the Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) . The details are in the document below.
AVALON FCE Speaking Skills May 2010

  • The second is a Business English course for B1 (upper intermediate) and above students (see document below for details)

AVALON Business English May 2010

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Reflections on recent conferences (part one) : ISTEK

I know this is very late, but I want to add my two pennies worth to the growing number of blog posts about the extraordinary ISTEK conference that was held on 27-28 March 2010 at Yeditepe University in Istanbul.

I'm not sure I know of an ELT conference that has generated so much online discussion. ISTEK the conference (and post-conference) has been the one everyone has been talking about. I started this post shortly after attending and then hesitated in posting as a fierce blog-storm brewed. Now that the hurricane seems to have passed,I thought I'd pick up where I left off, and write my account of the event as a record for me if nothing else. Here's a list of the posts I know have been written about ISTEK (apologies in advance to those I've missed off). Two other blog posts and their many comments have now been deleted, but anyone who is curious enough can follow the digital footprints to see what the fuss was all about:

Now I'm going to concentrate on the experience of the actual conference. How it was for me. Much has already been written above, and was said just after the conference bu many about just how fabulous this conference was, with many of us who presented or attended saying it was the best conference they'd ever been to. All-in-all, I have to say that this was true for me too. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and was impressed at how smoothly everything ran. That's not to say that it was a perfect ELT conference. Here are a few of my reflections on what was and what could have been different.

  • Organisation. Second to none. Jeremy Harmer has already mentioned this in his post, but much of the success of the conference was due to the tireless efforts of the omnipresent Burcu Akyol . Without her sterling efforts and the team she assembled to help and support the event, I'm sure the ISTEK conference would have been just another conference. Whenever I've spoken at a conference in the past, I've learned not to expect to see much of the organisers. It's similar to attending a wedding. With so many guests, you shouldn't expect to see much of or spend much time with the bride and groom. At conferences, the organisers can be spotted quite easily. They are usually the people flitting past at breakneck speed on their way to or back from sorting out some potential organisational hiccup. That didn't seem to be true of Burcu. One of the first things I saw when I arrived at the venue was Burcu's presence, asking me if everything was OK, if I needed anything, etc. That seemed to be the case throughout the conference. She dedicated a lot of time to mingling with people and seemed to be very present throughout the conference.

  • Numbers. One thousand participants registered. This is a very nice number of people for a conference. Not too many, not too few. I wonder about next year, though. With the amount of attention the ISTEK conference has been getting, I'd expect to see a lot more people want to attend.

  • Plenary speakers. I have to say that one criticism of the ISTEK conference that I have is that it was plenary-heavy. There were more plenary sessions than other slots each day. There were three plenary sessions and two concurrent sessions and I'd have preferred it to have been the other way around. However, this aspect of the conference may well have resulted in the sensation that was felt by all present that I spoke to that we were all at 'the same conference', a feeling which doesn't usually happen at conferences, where you may not see some people all day long. I also have to say that the plenary sessions were all excellent in this conference, a factor which is unusual in my experience. So, I'm undecided. It worked at this conference.

  • Concurrent sessions. There were two slots a day and presenters were asked to repeat their session so that those who missed the morning slot could attend the afternoon one. As a speaker, I found this very interesting, but it was a shame that I couldn't attend any of the sessions that were on at the same time as mine. As a result, apart from the plenary speakers, I got to see only two other people speak.

  • Timetable. Something that is always a problem at conferences is how much time to leave between sessions. At ISTEK there was a fifteen minute gap, which was enough time for everyone to get from one place to another without rushing. So long as the speakers finished on time (but as is the norm, many didn't). I have been guilty of this in the past, but the more conferences I go to the more I realise that it's important that everyone presenting at a conference does not overrun. because it does cause problems for people. Some people in the audience are too embarrassed to stand up and walk out of a session and become anxious and therefore are no longer concentrating on what the speaker has to say anyway. And this could be the thing they remember about the session. I think a great talk therefore can be spoiled by taking too long. It's something that plenary speakers in particular should be careful not to do. If a plenary speaker overruns, then he or she holds up a lot of people, and bites into the time of the other speakers. At ISTEK, the time allotted to concurrent sessions was 45 minutes, but some of the sessions were shorter due to time delays. Going back to the time between sessions, I was pleasantly surprised at TESOL Spain this year that thirty minutes was allotted between sessions. On paper this seemed like a long time at first, but in reality, it allowed for the sessions to overrun and for people to network a lot more in the breaks.

  • PLN. I mentioned in a previous post on this blog that I thought this year was going to be the year of the PLN (personal learning network) and ISTEK was an indication of this. I met so many people face-to-face for the first time that I was connected to online. Twitter here was the key. I know it was a vital tool in the run-up of the conference (used extensively for the conference organisation and for getting news out about the event) . But it was also incredible just how warmly people responded to each other face-to-face because they'd been tweeting to each other. I'd met other people I've been connected to online before, but this was different; it was special. There's something about being connected to other people in this way that means when you meet them in person, you feel as if you know them very well.

  • Social Events. That a Pecha Kucha evening is quickly becoming a staple event at ELT conferences around the world is down to Lindsay Clandfield's enthusiasm and organisation. The ISTEK pecha kucha was another success, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the presentations. If I have any criticism of it, it's that the ELT pecha kucha is becoming a competitive event. I could see this in the run-up, with those presenting (most of whom are very seasoned speakers) saying how nervous they were, and tweeting about how much time they were spending on getting it right. I think this was also played up to this during the event. I think pecha kucha events are much better when not staged as competitions between speakers trying to outdo each other. Speaking to Luke Prodromou during the event was enlightening too. “Does a pecha kucha have to be humorous?” he asked me. And he's right, it doesn't have to be, but there seems to be a pressure now on ELT pecha kucha for people to try to get laughs. Storytelling event. Scheduled for the same evening, straight after the pecha kucha, I had my doubts that this was going to work, especially given the number of girating bodies on the dancefloor singing along to “I will survive”, etc. I obviously hadn't accounted for the mastery of Andrew Wright, who had us quietly hanging on his every word as he told an absorbing tale which was the perfect end to a fabulous evening. What could have been better? A bedtime story before we got into the buses and headed off home or to our hotels.
I could write more about ISTEK, but I'm going to stop here. To sum up, I think it was a model example of an ELT conference and I'm sure it'll become an important date for many on the calendar from now on.

Monday, May 03, 2010

It's worth taking a look at this blog - mobile learning

I've just been tagged by Sheetal Makhan (be sure to check out her great blog btw) and this is as good an excuse as any to jump back into blogging again after a long absence. I've actually got a backlog of posts I've started (about the ISTEK conference, IATEFL and more), but rather than try to keep this chronological, I thought I'd just jump in with this.

The idea is for every blogger tagged to list ten blogs worth looking at, and for those who are tagged to do the same. That way, we'll be able to point people to blogs that would otherwise be overlooked and increase the community aspect of the blogosphere.

After staying clear of Mobile Learning (or M-Learning) for a long time (mostly from lack of time I suppose) I'm currently trying to catch up on what I've missed and what better way of doing this is there than checking on the blogosphere and what people are writing there about the subject.

So, my list contains bloggers who are all covering mobile learning :

1. Nicky Hockly's eModeration Station  has some wonderful posts about emoderating in general, but she's also just started writing a series on mobile learning. Check out  Mobile Learning #1 The Big Picture and Mobile Learning #2 The Issues -  Nicky will be continuing this very informative series, which I'm really looking forward to.

2. Thanks to Nicky's posts, I found David Read's Mobile ESL blog, which is dedicated to m-learning. David's blog is an invaluable guide to the subject and his own enthusiastic efforts in introducing m-learning makes fascinating reading. Be sure to follow David (@dreadnought001) on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information and to join in the m-learning conversation.

3. For a more general picture (not just ESL) about m-learning, check out Leonard Low's reflective journal on mobile learning practice

4. E-blah-blah , Sandra Pires is another commentator involved in ESL who blogs about m-learning among other aspects of digital learning. 

5. Of course, there are lots of different ways of introducing m-learning. If it's the ipod Touch you're interested in, then Lindsay Thompson has a great blog about Personalising Learning with the iPod Touch

6. Mobile learning is not just about smartphones either. It is said that m-learning has the potential to bridge the digital divide as mobile phones are being bought by people all over the globe. check out M-learning Africa for information, research and projects in this continent. 

7. Want to read more? Rob de Lorenzo has a great list of further reading on his blog Mobile Learning that makes a great place to start.

8. Peter Tobey's M-Learning is Good is a blog worth keeping an eye on.

9. Another ELT blogger who is starting to write a lot about mobile learning is Nik Peachey - Check out his practical ideas for learners on Nik's Learning Technology Blog

10. Digital Play. This is cheating I suppose as I blog here with my friend and colleague Kyle Mawer, but we've just written a post about games and other fun apps for the iphone/ipod touch

Know any more that I've missed? Please let me know in the comments section.

So, there you have it - if you've been tagged, then you can continue the wave in three easy steps:

1.  Insert the picture/logo at the top of this blog to your post.
2.  Compile your own list of ten blogs that you feel are worth reading.
3.  Tell the bloggers that they have been tagged.