Tag Archives: college

Thank you bus girl, happy holidays

Sometimes something in your daily routine can remind you of how connected we can be.

This semester I’ve caught the bus to campus on monday afternoons, on my way to my Human Computer Interaction class. When you catch the bus on a regular basis at a regular time, you’re quite often joined by a few others who have the same schedule.

And so I was joined on Mondays by a beautiful young girl – I’m guessing she was about 10 or 11. She was always on the bus already when I got on, and rode past my stop. But every time she was there, she made me smile.

This wonderful young lady was equipped with a CD player. And big headphones. She had a penchant for the Spice Girls.

How do I know?

She sang at the top of her lungs, along with the CD that nobody else could hear. Some people pretended not to hear her. Others grinned and went on with their newspapers. But most people really enjoyed listening to this singing that had absolutely no tune, and no back beat to drum out the bum notes. Everyone was grinning. With her, not at her.

On my last Monday of class, our nightingale was there. And this time the bus driver (who wasn’t the same person every time), kept turning his head to look at the young girl. I wasn’t sure if he was going to ask her to stop – she was really making quite a bit of noise. I couldn’t read his expression when he turned his head.

But after a couple of miles, he turned, looked at her, and began to click his fingers along with the beat.

We couldn’t hear the same music as the girl. But we all left the bus with her song, and were reminded to feel free in finding our own.

Happy Holidays.

Disrupting the barriers of media in the 21st Century

This pre-internet installation was and remains a vital consideration in the future of media. It has been supposed for a long time that communication and media technologies allowed people who already knew each other to improve existing relationships. Alternatively, broadcast media were used to send corporate-owned messages to the ‘masses’. There has been very little in the understanding of communities and how they are built and morph through media. To date, due to the expense of entry to creating content for media communication technology, most middle class people have been limited to the telephone – and that form is one-to-one rather than the one-to-many formats offered by social media. This installation’s first day shows how people who did not know each other were able to create conversations and relationships – even for a short time.

People in the video respond a certain way because they realize people in the other location can actually see them. This created an ‘event’. In the 21st Century, when everything that happens in public locations could readily and easily be posted to the web, are we seeing a change in everyday public behaviors due to the fact that we are aware, more than ever before, that someone might be posting our actions? From music concerts to classrooms, from traffic accidents to natural environments, people are creating ‘events’. The greater questions are how have we as a community become the public entity we are creating, and what impact does this have on how we relate to each other. What has made people immediately reach for their cell phone to take a picture when something happens? This is a stage of history we’ve never faced before.

While we have come through an era where “the medium is the message,” we have moved on from this. The medium is still the technology. The message today is found in the resonance of community. One is not the other. In fact, the irony as stated by Steve Harrison in his essay on this particular video (found in HCI Remixed), is key. Separation does in fact, invite a connection. If we believe that human beings seek resonance with each other, eliminating some of the barriers to finding that resonance through disrupting the accepted norms of relationships and community will in fact deliver us to new ways of ‘seeing’ each other. Through these new ways of discovering resonance we will be able to grow an international array of communities. The international would relate not just to geographical space, but also class space. We have a media which will offer everyone an opportunity to find resonance of community with the homeless, the traditional-media famous, and their neighbor.

Do online communities pretend to care?

I am fortunate enough to have been invited to attend IMSI, the Invitational Masters Student Invitational, to be held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, the weekend of October 16-18. Given Rutgers received over 100 applications, to be one of the 25 students invited to discuss their current research and proposed dissertation topic with Rutgers faculty, existing doctoral candidates, and other invitees is a privelege and real highlight of my academic career.

In my application I had to submit an existing paper to demonstrate my research. The paper I chose to submit was on identity work performed on twitter through the use of language and sentence structure. This paper looked at how people create and present an identity of themselves on Twitter, primarily through the use of @ replies, hashtags and retweets. While it’s a decent paper, for Rutgers I’d like to extend it to look at this identity work, and how the Twitter community sees its need to create an identity of concern in crisis and tragedy. This is where I’m headed.

Online communities and crisis

We’ve all seen media stories of tragic events, and how people are affected by them – and how they’ve gathered together online as a result. While sites exist to create online memorials, sometimes it crosses over and a personal fun page is morphed into a place for others to gather when they’ve passed on. On Twitter, I have personally witnessed multiple occasions where someone has ended up tweeting their own tragic events. The death of a wife. The death of a child. I wonder what would have happened if Twitter had been so commonplace during larger tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shootings.

I have watched the online community gather to provide concern and support to individuals directly affected by tragedy. It is this kind of resonance that led me to undertake a small content analysis on the tweets associated with the Australian bushfires last year. I wanted to find out who was tweeting about it? How were they involved? What were they saying and why?

The paper was a very small, very specific analysis in which I was surprised to discover that two thirds of people who twittered during the high point of the bushfire-related tweets were located nowhere near the tragedy. In fact, they were overseas. None of them knew people directly affected. And what were they saying?

Apart from retweeting basic information, the majority of people wanted to know how could they help?

Seeking triangulation? I’m not quite there yet…

Last week I attended the presentation of Leysia Palen’s to-date work in crisis informatics at CU. And the data appears to be reflected in her unit’s research (in particular, on the American-located Red River floods) as well. Exactly the same percentage – two thirds of people tweeting during a disaster are not directly involved.

So, is this real?

I hear a lot of people who doubt the friendships experienced in online communities. They say “how do you know they’re real?”

Now, of course they’re not doubting that the person tweeting is human (sometimes now, however, that presents an entirely different issue), but they are definitely doubting their authenticity. How do you know someone is really concerned about you if you’ve never met them face to face before? And it’s a really good question.

The Karen Walker factor

Karen Walker was a special character who found life, and resonance with many in the hit sitcom, Will and Grace.  While the show has had its day, there are many Walker moments that still hit the nail on the head.It is what is swimming in my head as I plan my paper for the Rutgers Invitational.will and grace

One of these is in an episode when Will and Grace are not talking (after a massive argument in which Will tells Grace to move out, which I swear was one of the strongest bits of acting on television I’ve seen). In chatting with Jack about how to get Will and Grace to talk again, she firstly says, “pretend to think, pretend to think.” She then follows it with “Pretend to care, pretend to care.” Of course Karen does care. She’s just conscious of the need to appear to care as well. Plus it’s funny.

So here I am:

* Are people who offer support in online communities ‘pretending to care’?

* Is the expressed concern a demonstration of identity work that gains them favour and positions them as caring individuals you’d want to have as a friend?

* How does the caring from the community affect the person experiencing tragedy?

Do you have any experience of this? Would you be willing to undergo an interview for my research? What do you believe is true?

My sincere thanks goes to the SJMC at CU, without the support of which I wouldn’t be able to conduct any of my research and also in particular to Dean Paul Voakes who saw fit to support my application with a letter of recommendation that I never saw, but am convinced was highly influential in my acceptance.

Using social media in education

Spending the last two days at the Colorado Learning and Teaching with Technology Conference was a wonderful, enriching experience. As you’d expect from a conference that has a wealth of great sessions, I’ve come away invigorated and inspired to analyse, assess and further integrate additional teaching and assessment strategies – even though I was a co-presenter at the conference too!

I believe these conferences are vital. To get educators, particularly at tertiary level, to consider the way they deliver both content and assessment, really look at whether it’s working well or not and how they can improve, is a real focus of what I want to achieve both personally and professionally.

It was such a great experience to be able to focus in a workshop on how to use Twitter, in particular, in a tertiary education environment.

Step One

Before considering the technology, step back and think about your desired learning outcomes and competencies you need to deliver in your course.

Step Two

Consider how you deliver those things now. What works, what doesn’t? What learning styles are being addressed? I really think in a classroom environment we’re so used to seeing all the students enter and sit at the back of the room, and the same 5 people participate in discussions, that we’ve stopped realising that it’s problematic. Stopped looking at ways to improve it. Disconnect and think of what your ideal is.

Step Three

Think of things you can change to meet those different inadequacies. To improve your practice. Some of these may well include using social media to foster inclusive and participatory discussions, the elimination of people thinking they’re asking ‘dumb questions’ and resonance between students and educators.

Step Four

Gently lead your students into associating social media with an education environment. You’re going to be nervous in trying something new. They are going to be nervous that you’ll encroach their ‘personal’ domain. (Damn it, what’s next, friending them on Facebook?) While for many students, you accept there’s a number of people who will just not get involved, for the students, there are a number of them who are just expecting to fail. Simple. Think back to the most effective educators in your lives. These are the people who made a real impact. And typically, they’re the ones who tried something a little different. Who cared just that bit more. Why not be that educator to these students?

Step Five

When you’ve identified the areas of practice and efficiencies you’d like to change, focus on the tools that will help that happen. And then test it out. Invite students to take a journey with you. I bet that if you’re honest and let them know you’re testing something out for the first time, to try and get the content more engaging and interactive and anything else you’ve identified as problematic, most of them will willingly take the journey with you from the very start.


A. Every semester is a new beginning. You don’t have to let the legacy of the previous one linger. But you should celebrate the improvements you made.

B. Every semester allows you to learn as an educator, and be even better.

C. Every student wants to learn. They’re in your class for a reason. Some don’t know what they’re going to learn. Maybe it’s just that they can. And that’s okay.

D. Get honest: Believe you can be better. Believe alternative strategies can actually work. Recognise your teaching practice wasn’t perfect to begin with.

E. Get ready to be important to your students. An educator that they remember for the rest of their lives.

Good luck this semester!

Getting beyond “Do you want fries with that?”

So now the can of worms is opened. As expected, newspapers are closing. Many print journalists are inexplicably in shock. Their next paid employment may well include the words, “do you want fries with that?”

And that, truly, is devastating.

But we still have new people entering schools, wanting to be journalists. Play with me here:

Let’s say we have a new intake this year. They’ll be trusting us for the next four years to prepare them for employment. Beyond fast food. And so the question for educators is specific. What are the best journalism schools teaching now? What should they be teaching?

Be specific! I’m not interested in opinions that simply state “they need to be prepared for the web.”

Here’s a few of my views. We need to:

a. Teach the very real and vital aspects of the role of journalism, its values and role.

b. Equip students with these values as paramount, above and beyond the role of the media they work in. We need them to see the media they work within never compromises or changes their values as journalists.

c. Move away from teaching print media with a concentration on newspapers as the standard, and instead move towards the web as the standard media format.

d. Continue to teach content creation for broadcast and radio, and print magazines. And equip every student for a start in any of those formats.

e. In their first semester, teach students about the real possibilities of independent blogging, microblogging, podcasting and vlogging and insist they do all of them.

f. Instill in them all an awareness and practice of newsgathering and research in a new media environment.

What do you disagree with? What is missing?

The massive difference between A and B

I am swimming in the B pool and I’m not happy. (Don’t try telling me getting a B is okay. It’s not.)

I have some kick-ass papers to write. I have a great brain and a wealth of experience. But I’m not getting the grades I want.

Graduate school is difficult. This week I had what I’d describe as a ‘crash and burn 24 hours’. There were lots of reasons to just go back to work. Lots. But in talking with my husband and friends I realised these ‘reasons’ were things that could be changed if I wanted to find a way to make that happen.

So I’ve made a plan to fix things. A better approach. I will be far more efficient at note-taking, writing (so that includes drafting, revising and final drafts… not just one draft), and research. I will talk to people I respect, and tie myself to my professors. I am not going to study myself to death. I am not going to be so fearful of writing the wrong thing that I leave it and end up writing it without checking. I’m going to write it anyway, and then check it up and rewrite it instead. 

All this seems obvious. And it is. Unless you’re living it.

So that’s basically it. Oh, and the capstone is the kids and I have a deal. When I do pull myself out of the B pool, we are having a family party – complete with glow sticks from Dollar Tree, disco music and junk food.