286 posts categorized "Weblogs"

September 29, 2009

Young and addicted to social networks: and they've never written so much

Mads Berg Illustration from Wired Magazine

Clive Thompson in Wired has summed up some definitive research that backs up what many of us have been saying from our guts for years: kids have never been reading and writing so much, and with the proliferation of social networks and mobile messaging this stat will only increase with time:

Andrea Lunsford is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University, where she has organized a mammoth project called the Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students' prose. From 2001 to 2006, she collected 14,672 student writing samples—everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions. Her conclusions are stirring.

"I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization," she says. For Lunsford, technology isn't killing our ability to write. It's reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That's because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

Not only that but the writing is of an excellent technical standard, with status updates training our youngsters in the kind of "haiku-like concision" that their verbose parents could only dream of.

It's the kind of research that would have proven handy 18 months or so ago, when I had helped colleagues design some of the most forward-thinking literacy policies in the world, where text messages, computer games and blogs were deemed suitable 'texts' to study alongside the great classics. I got a bit of a hard time for condoning this at the time, and still get a rocky ride in believing that iPhones and iPod Touches could be amongst the digital toolkits in which our most reluctant readers might find the reading bug.

But it still felt right, and feels more right than ever now. Go read, digest and share.

Pic by Mads Berg in Wired.

January 20, 2009

Change has come... online, too

Change has come Through Techcrunch, Arrington geeking out on websites while the rest of us were watching and twittering the inauguration of new President Obama, we discover that the White House website changed drastically, too. The home page's main feature is a blog, with feeds galore, a weekly video update and photo slideshows. In the same way that technology helped win the election for Obama, we can only hope that it will enable greater democracy during his next four years as President.

January 03, 2009

The national bard's letters... blogged

Robert Burns

This year is Homecoming 09, celebrating 250 years since we started reciting poetry we rarely understand on January 25th, the birthday of our national bard, Robert Burns. It is not, the Government are at pains to tell us, a poorly camouflaged cynical plan to get more tourists to come "back home" to Scotland.

My pal Craig McGill at Dada let me know about a new project that brings together all the letters Burns ever wrote to his many mistresses and followers, published on a blog on the day they were written. It's as simple as they come, but charming and insightful to the bard's many passions.


Robert Burns' Letters, being on a blog and RSS feed, would make the ideal daily posting on a student's personal learning page on a VLE, like Glow. It wouldn't take a designer or enthusiastic teacher more than twenty minutes to put together some nice artwork and the feed, and get some kind-hearted soul who thought it worthwhile to promote it and amplify it through the main LTS site for more to enjoy. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge... we shall see what happens over the next couple of weeks in the run-up to Burns' night festivities. For the rest of us living on the interweb, you can just head over to the site throughout this year.

December 23, 2008

Follow Rich's pain and heroics on the Vendée Globe Twitter

Rich Wilson  While still at Learning and Teaching Scotland I had hoped the national schools intranet, Glow, might help highlight an amazing story of heroism, and encourage Scotland's young people to follow, question and work around the adventures of solo skipper Rich Wilson as he battles alone around the world in his yacht in the Vendée Globe race. Alas, nothing seems to have arisen from the potential.

However, the social web being as simple to use as it is, even when you're balancing a sat phone to send text messages as you nurse a broken rib, Rich, on the recommendation of superb Boston-based teacher and BLC-buddy Lorraine Leo, has taken the initiative with his SitesAlive colleagues and is now Tweeting very regularly as he sails alone through the dark waters of the Southern seas this Christmas. His latest messages read:

Had an albatross crash land on the boat. Not sure which of us was more surprised. It struggled a bit to take off, but it finally flew away. from mobile web
Have 35-40 kt winds for foreseeable future. Making good time if boat & skipper can sustain tension of rocketing down waves. from web
Harrowing sea conditions. With just mainsail, boat is less stable directionally than if we had a jib up front. from web
Hammered yet again, big seas, breaking, barograph descended, then steadied as front came through with gradual windshift, not sudden. from web
Had albatross around the boat today. They are amazingly large and also serene birds. from web
Past the Heard Islands. Saw Iridium satellite fly fast overhead tonight among the bright stars, with its solar panels reflecting sunlight. from web
Had a nice chat with Jonny Malbon on the Iridium last night. Good to talk, especially with what happened to Yann yesterday. from web
Off the Kerguelen Plateau at last, seas much smoother. from mobile web
I am devastated to hear of Yann Elies broken leg. He's a great sailor and a kind man. from web


Contact with the 'outside world' during this time must mean so much, so I'd like to encourage you all to wish him well, add him as a contact for the duration of the final half of this race and be amazed at what a former maths teacher, close to retirement, is able to achieve.

August 21, 2008

Don't send out a press release to say you landed on the moon

Neil_armstrong Over the past three years at Learning and Teaching Scotland I've seen significant change in the way things have been done, largely thanks to the humble blog and the voices behind them. By pressing the need for authenticity in what's said, rather than some glossy, postcard format marcoms message ruling us all, we've seen the beginnings of a healthy little blogosphere in LTS Towers, both externally and, in true iceberg fashion, internally, under the glossy surface.

There are undoubtedly non-believers in all this authentic-voice-stuff that still remain (we're a Government body, this project is too big to allow the simple message we've created to leave people's minds, we need to make sure people use the correct acronym [is it CfE, aCfE or ACE?]) but, by and large, especially since this summer's Inspiration Sessions and Mike Coulter's work in-house, there is an ever increasing chance that if you want to find out more about the people behind the policy, the implementation, the ideas or the websites, that they have a blog. You can converse with - no offence intended - the horse's mouth. From professional development experts to web services, the magazine to the gaming guys, the geeks to the boss, it's covered. If you want to see behind the scenes at the Scottish Learning Festival, be our guest, and see the stand designs, the podcast preps and even take a look at how well (and not so well) the Festival is doing. LTS is well on its way to finding and sharing its voice.

And here's the crunch. People I know will object to this blog post, as they have objected to so many others. It makes them uncomfortable. They wonder if I'm talking about them in the para above. Or am I? Good. It's vital that the politic that got me a job with the education agency remains, for a month or two more at least, in people's heads: all anyone wants from a non-governmental body, a government, an organisation, a company is complete and utter authenticity. No compromises. No jargon. No marcoms crap that gets in the way of what really matters: "what are you doing to help me, and how can I help you?"

If you're still left thinking this is rubbish, and that traditional 20th Century corporate communications have a place in this connected world, then go read Seth Godin's superb rundown of NASA's best ever spokesperson, and then think about what watchlists need to be created, press releases junked and bloggers befriended. Happy blogging, folks.

Pic: Neil Armstrong

July 04, 2008

Shortlisted: Computer Weekly Public Sector IT blog

I didn't even know I had been nominated (who dunnit?) but you can now vote this blog as your favourite Public Sector IT blog over at ComputerWeekly. Good friend and round-the-gran-piana singer Ian Usher is also up in the same category. Not a bad rating for educayshun.

June 18, 2008

Balancing freedom of blogs with editorial responsibility: Arianna Huffington on the rise of the HuffPost

Arianna_huffington Jeff Jarvis and Arianna Huffington are sharing the blogger's wave in front of me now. We're on for "a love affair with the web", as Arianna describes her journey. You may want to read his account of this evening, to get it without the inadmissible errors etc etc. Or try Jemima; she types fast enough to get it all.

Were it not for the web Barak Obama wouldn't have been nominated. He would not, today, have got his 1,000,000th Facebook fan. The web, particularly bloggers, is shaping politics, is shaping our lives more than we sometimes care to appreciate. The Huffington Post, from Arianna Huffington, is part of the movement that has shaped this new force.

Years ago bloggers felt largely ignored, yet bloggers kept with it. Huffington was intrigued with the idea that despite the apparent 'geekiness' of the sport these guys just kept with it. But what she noticed was that the mainstream media suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder: they picked up a story and left it. The blogosphere suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: they picked up a story and couldn't let it go.

The blogosphere is the second chance a story gets: when the New York Times decides a story is dead, the blogosphere can decide that it lives. It really is all about the conversation, giving a platform to people who were too busy to have their own blog, some well known others not.

Aggregating news from the Huffington Post's point of view (i.e. Iraq was the biggest error in American foreign policy, it;s not a good idea to drive your company to the ground and drive your company to the ground with multimillion bond shares.

What used to be left-wing positions are not central 'normal' positions in the United States.

Huffington realised quickly after the birth of the blog, a month in fact, that they took issue with the New York Times. Conventional wisdom was challenged on a daily, and then an hourly basis. As readers of the NYT read the Huff they filed extra pieces of information to the Huffington Post.

Contributors on tap
The Huffington Post has about 2000 contributors who know the password, and they are kept under Ariana's thumb with a 24-hour "correct your errors" rule. Commenters generally find errors within 5 minutes. They mustn't write about conspiracy theories. The rule of "Comment is Free but Facts are Sacred" sticks firm on the other side of the pond, too. Other bloggers have cross-posting rights, when they have a reputable blog already and occasionally want to contribute.

Editorial control is exerted through this decision of who has a password, and, secondly, by who has a "front page" spot and for how long.

Moderated moderation
Pre-moderation of comments on the blogs, post-moderation on the news. Pre-moderation is carried out by 30 work-at-home paid moderators, alongside community-flagging of comments. She is troubled by anonymity, and impressed by people's courage when they stand behind what they're saying and take the consequences. To help out on the crusade to have excellent commenters, she's thinking about having a monthly 'star' commenter become a blogger, where their excellent viewpoint is given a forum, photo-byline and everything.

Launching an ambitious idea
They started off with "delivering opinion" on the web. Fed up, though, with delivering to the choir, she launched in 2007 multiple verticles on other topics, such as 'Green' (last week), living etc, with the original 'politics' on its own page.

Recently, Perez Hilton linked to the site, resulting in a huge surge in traffic from an unusual demographic. 87% never came back. Some went off for a wee while looking at other verticles. But 7% stayed. They went off and found their place in the HuffPoist family. The Huffington Post is, slowly, becoming a newspaper. Soon it will launch verticles that are more familiar to newspaper readers: sports, books... Local, starting in Chicago, is the piece de resistance - a HuffPost-branded page written by and for local communities, with young new writers mentored by hit writers from, for example, the New York Post. There will be no reporters on site, in Chicago. The community and social network will feed the HuffPost monster, managed by just one human aggregator.

Is this muddying a really clean concept? No. These new sites and subsites have been incredible traffic generators. It's not a case of either the one brand or a bunch of verticles or, indeed, of web papers and print papers. Arianna believes that there will be newspapers, even for the youngest people in this audience.

Managing the confusion of roles: the citizen journo
May Hill Fowler, a 61-year-old woman, joined "Off The Bus", a project created with Jay Rosen, which was designed to push citizen journalists to the fore. Thinking there would be young journalists who would strike through, the HuffPost team were surprised - that the hit was this 61-year-old. Recently she caught Bill Clinton in an unsavoury outburst, not letting on that she was a citizen journalist. However, she was an out-and-out Obama supporter, with her tape recorder, the same as many others were out with their own recording gear. Nobody said that x, y or z was off-the-record. This was not a private dinner. This was someone speaking in a public space. She did not, argues Arianna, have the need to declare herself as a "citizen journalist". So, agues Arianna, nobody had the right to complain.

This is the reality of modern-day communications - everyone is a recorder, a reporter, a filmmaker. Worse than any conservative fears about what "these evil machines" are doing to society, is that the former-President of the United States did not think he was having a conversation with a random citizen - he knew he was having a conversation with a blogger.

He just underestimated what that means.

June 16, 2008

20 Ideas For Local Authorities To Engage With Web 2.0

La_maps A week ago I spent a whole day leading a session on behalf of Socitm, the Society of Information Technology Management, where we were exploring the impact new media could have in Local Authorities and other public bodies. Most of those present were from the world of corporate IT and, as someone presenting a variety of tools they were likely to be blocking on their home patch, I was a tad nervous about taking them on this particular learning journey.

I needn't have been. Having explained in broad terms the main drivers of change thanks to this technology, I was able to explore some more specific examples of public sector engagement with the social web, from eduBuzz in the domain of education, to several health-related initiatives of the NHS. We saw how technology is taking politics towards the realm of direct democracy, and explored the potential for some of the mobile, ambient and participative media that citizens are increasingly using in their day-to-day (social) lives.

We worked through the afternoon seeking practical, do-able actions that these IT managers could take forward, without the need for engagement of the senior management teams or specialist outsourced expertise. They relished the task, and came up with some superb ideas they could implement in days, rather than months or years. Some of them have even put them into action already: take a peek at Stratford's homepage, complete with Twitter updates. Here are the rest, coming to a local council near you:
What are the biggest challenges in your organisation?

  1. Competitions for art work on Flickr
  2. Mental health blog
    1. Teachmeet-style therapy group
    2. Video diary of experiences
  3. Flickr/Google Earth mashups
    1. Things to do in the area, events, locations for recycling etc...
    2. Online estate agency for social housing
    3. Statistics in a glance mashup
    4. Graffiti tracking, crowdsourcing for finding the source of the 'tag'
    5. Mashups to reveal extent of disruption during strikes, accidents
  4. Crowdsourcing FAQs on a wiki
  5. Homeworkers can have real-time advice between 'virtual desks' (RSS feed to mobile)
  6. Twitter for mass-collaboration during crises and a blog to quickly publish information and provide an instant feedback loop
  7. Longitudinal e-consultation on complex issues
  8. Using Flickr to provide stock photography to local press and council workers (like this)
  9. Providing digital cameras to council gardeners to share the process and final result with enthusiasts and ciizens.
  10. Twitter private groups for quick intranet publishing
  11. Watchlist introduction for the PO, PR, Comms team
  12. Culture change through a "from-the-top" blog by the CEO
  13. Suggestion box for cost-effectiveness

June 09, 2008

Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens

Jimi said that. It kind of sums up why we need to read more blogs, listen to more podcasts, view more videos and converse with more people, than shout out the same old things on our blogs. 40 years before his time... It reminds me, too, of Russell T Davies' line: "The way to be interested is to be interested." The person making me think is BT's Customer Experience Futurologist Nicola Millard at Socitm's Social Networking event.

May 05, 2008

Ben Saunders' Purple Haze a real inspiration to young people

Ben_saunders_2008

In my final few hours in the tent, waiting for the helicopter and staring into the abyss of self-pity, I had a wonderfully apt text message on my satphone from a dear friend, Oli Barrett. “Stories about journeys”, he wrote, “are always better than ones about arrivals.” So this, then, is a story about a journey but not an arrival. At least not where I expected to end up, anway.

Ben Saunders came up against it in his high-speed attempt to cross to the North Pole. His journey, though, has not been in vain, not from his perspective of having tried to do something no-one had done quite as quickly yet, and not from the perspective of some students who picked up his trail after reading about the race against the clock on this blog.

Lorraine Leo, who I bumped into on a cruise around Boston Harbour last year, has been using real-life adventurers in her classroom for years, namely Skipper Rich Wilson, the solo global sailor. Having left a comment on Ben's blog, and emailed several others from students, each with their own inspired takeaway, Ben responded within ten minutes to them, with his own personal message of thanks.

The thing is, from both perspectives - Ben's, alone somewhere on the ice, and the students, inspired and amazed by this one man's nerve - the exchange was a winner. And nothing like this could have happened without the whole combination of technologies bringing text (the blog), photography (Flickr) and video.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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