Using social software innovatively in the classroom

Early expectations that computers would revolutionise schools have not come to pass, notwithstanding billions spent installing computers and ancillary equipment in schools. This is not to say that computers are not used. They are, but much of the use tends to support old ways of ‘doing’ education, rather than new things which digital technologies enable. In essence, the potential for innovative practices afforded by digital technologies, is seldom embraced.

This debate is not a new one. Speaking about school’s resistance to change in in the 1980’s, both Cuban (1986) and Cohen (1988) argued that this would mean that computers would only be used to the extent that they could be manipulated to fit existing practice, rather than in new ways to do new things. Tyack and Tobin’s  (1994) seminal study on the grammar of schooling highlights aspects of schooling which tend to be regarded as fixed and unchangeable, ‘‘regular structures and rules that organize the work of instruction…   standardised organisational practices in dividing time and space, classifying students, allocating them to classrooms, and splintering knowledge into ‘subjects’ ” (p. 454). As a result, innovations which have “challenged the structures and rules that constitute the grammar of schooling,  . . . have not lasted for long” (p. 455).

The New computing curriculum offers opportunities for teachers to break away from these restrictions, as part of the so-called ‘digital literacy’ strand, which emphasises the need for digital citizens to become creators of content, rather than simple consumers. The diagram below, based on the work of Wheeler (2012), highlights content creation, content sharing and social networking. Other issues include the need to understand and use a wide range of digital platforms, knowing how to remain safe online, managing different online identities, effective search skills and the ability to remix and reuse content of different kinds for different purposes.


Graphic – Paul, M. (2014)

A number of platforms offer opportunities to hone these skills, the easiest to use being blogs and wikis, which provide the opportunity to create and share a range of narratives – print, photographs, video and audio. A blog like this one hosted by WordPress can accommodate these, but specialist ‘blogs’ providing  hosting of photos, video and audio, have more to offer.

Blogs and blogging

The  ‘blog’ or ‘weblog’, enables journaling or ‘logging’ data online. Posts are chronological with the most recent at the top. They support hyperlinking and are multimedia capable, enabling authors to provide narratives consisting of text, images, video and audio. Blogs were one of the first instances of socially or user generated content applications to go mainstream.  They cover a wide variety of  topics and have been been used in schools for at least a decade.  Most school blogs are class blogs, showing examples of good work, reporting on visits, sports matches and so on. Others have used them more widely, communicating with schools across the country and the EU.  However, children also have their own blogs.  Martha Payne  achieved a level of notoriety when her NeverSeconds blog was closed down by the Argyll and Bute council. There are a good number of educators who blog about technology.

One of the strengths of blogs as educational tools is as reflective journals.  Another aspect of blogging is the ‘kudos’ of being a member of the blogosphere, a space reasonably free of judgement based on grounds of  colour, gender, nationality and disability. In their book on the use of new web tools in primary classrooms, Barber and Cooper (2012) describe blogs as empowering “in activities that require interaction, by removing physical, social or environmental inhibitors (page 13).” Thus, issues that constrain children in classroom situations, such as negative labeling, perceived views of peers and other factors impacting negatively on self-esteem and personal issues like shyness” can be rendered less intrusive” (page 14). Barber and Cooper make a strong case for blogging as a platform which supports authentic writing (engaging an audience)  and that is extendable (connected to a wider community of readers and collaborators). They also see blogs as highly adaptable, supporting individual or group endeavours and highlight the easy with which they can be published online, without the need to understand the underlying internet protocols.

Rettberg (2009) discusses Dysthe’s (2000) work on the difference between “thinking writing” and “presentation writing”. The former is the ‘process’ writing we do when we attempt when we wrestle with problems and ideas as we try to make sense of the world around us. It is largely personal, a kind of ‘lone scientist’ activity which Piaget highlighted as important for developing understanding.  Presentation writing is aimed at an audience, involving a message. As such, there is always a reader in mind when writing. Rettberg suggests that blogging combines aspects of both thinking and presentation writing. This would seem to make sense, given that blogs are public spaces where readers can comment on the content suits this practice, leading bloggers take care to ensure that their posts are carefully constructed.

The Blogging Platform

Blogs are fully multimedia Web 2.0 platforms, accessible from anywhere at any time as long as one has an internet ready device. A wide range of attractive templates or themes, as well as widgets and other add-ons, are available, enabling a level of personalisation not possible with platforms like word processors. Widgets can provide links to one’s Twitter and Flickr sites, tag and category clouds.  Perhaps most important is their ease of use. Editing is as simple as wordprocessing, with the option to save drafts until the post is ready for publishing, which makes it available online. The post can, if required, be taken off-line for further development.

Specialist blogs

As multimedia platforms, blogs lend themselves to specialist use as can seen from the examples of commercial blogs as platforms for showcasing art and other artifacts for sale. However, there are a number of specialist blogs, dedicated to showcasing things like photographs, of which  Flickr, and Exposure are examples. Another aspect of digital literacy creeps in here, given the important issue of copyright. Sites like Flickr make it easy for copyright owners to share their work in more flexible and creative ways than provided by ‘analogue’ mindsets on copyright issues. The copyright model best suited for the social online world is that of Creative Commons. This enables the owner to stipulate the exact conditions under which his or her work can be shared. Six basic models are provided, ranging from full copyright (all rights reserved) , through some rights reserved to an open ‘all rights granted’ licence. The range of licences can be seen here.

Those who prefer video to still photography will produce and share video blogs. Here is a guide to video blogging from Mashable.

What we see from this is that there is a wide range of blog categories on the web in  terms of the specific media that they specialise in and, within these, special areas of interest. However, most blogs provide a mix of mediums. Photos on Flickr will often be described using text, and include comments from followers. Travel blogs will often use photos together with text and audio to provide a record of each day of a holiday or other such trip. These provide a multimedia record events, which can be shared across the web.

The discussion above covers a wider range of opportunities than is perhaps possible in schools, given current beliefs about online safety and keeping children safe. However, it is suggested that sites like Flickr can be used to demonstrate issues surrounding copyright and to demonstrate how developing technologies change the way we look at concepts like copyright. Classroom blogging within a walled garden is probably the most popular way to use blogs in primary schools. However, children and families can branch out with their own blogs. Travel blogs are probably the easiest to get started with, providing a record of places visited, supported by photographs, video and audio content.


Wikis are similar to blogs  being  user generated multimedia capable social platforms. The main difference between them is that while blogs are mainly personal, wikis are designed specifically as collaborative platforms. As such, they lend themselves well to project work and other collaborative endeavours and to situations where diverse data needs to be collated and coordinated in one place. Well known wikis include Wikipedia, WikiHow   and Wictionary. Like blogs, wikis are used by a variety of individuals and organisations.  The well known ‘social’ wikis are open, allowing anyone to register and post online. This involves editing existing posts to correct information or to update by removing out of date content or providing newer information. However, wikis can also be closed, ensuring that only  registered users can update information, and even that they are the only people who can see it. This makes wikis especially useful for schools and other organisations where privacy is important.

Wikis have other important characteristics, the most important one being the rollback feature. A ‘history’ of every edit of each page is kept on a wiki, enabling the administrator to roll back to previous versions of the page should a user inadvertently delete it or make inappropriate comments or changes. Furthermore, the administrator and each user can request notifications of each and every update. Most users turn this feature off, but it is useful for administrators who need to keep track of activity on the site. Wikis lend themselves well to use in education. They are ideal platforms for any kind of collaborative activity, such as project work. Users can create and edit their own pages, using the wiki for group planning, discussion, rough posts and the final submission. They provide full support for multimedia, enabling the inclusion of text, images, video and audio files. Wikis have no boundaries, enabling them to be used for projects across the school, across schools, countries and continents, allowing cross-cultural exchanges and sharing. They are also good platforms for collating information, such as teaching resources, lesson plans and lesson ideas.  As such, they are efficient platforms for supporting communities of practice, making it easy for teachers anywhere (within a school year group, across schools and across countries).

Some ideas for using wikis in primary school.

Project work

History, geography and science projects, where groups develop relevant pages their own section of the wiki.  The wiki then becomes the project, with the contributions of groups (or even individuals) easy to find, assess and share. Pages provide opportunities to comment, enabling easy feedback by the teacher and others in the class.

Wikis can go beyond curriculum. Cultural exchange wikis allow schools from different countries and continents to share information about themselves, their interests and their culture, as long as they share a common language. Many countries have English as an official language and many others teach it as a second or third language. This provides good opportunities for foreign children to practice their English skills, and for local children to learn about foreign cultures.

This diagram provides an outline for a community history wiki of a town in England. The overview highlights children being involved in interviewing, filming and reporting on their interactions with community members – the local Mayor, ex-servicemen talking about their war experiences ,or business leaders. Doing this involves developing and using multimedia creation skills which would include photography, audio and video recording and – more importantly – the editing of these digital resources to produce digital narratives that are clear, coherent and cohesive.   Software which supports such creation and editing includes iMovie (Mac) and Movie Maker (Windows) and Audacity (audio). Other useful tools include presentation software like Powtoon.

photo of wiki use

Graphic – Paul, M. (2015)

English wiki

Wikis support shared writing in any form and for collating information and writing across genres. An English wiki could thus be the platform which collates work recorded on individual or class blogs, resources including favourite poems, e-books, artistic endeavours, audio interviews and video of group performances.

Year Group Wiki

This is useful for teachers, who need to create, find and share information. This could include lesson plans, self-developed and online resources. The wiki provides a convenient platform to collate this kind of information. Lesson plans can be altered to suit different groups and saved under a different name to keep original planning intact.


Graphic – Paul, M. (2016)

Other learning opportunities

Mobile devices have many features, one of which is a camera capable of capturing both still and video. This provides the opportunity for children to develop further skills by developing their ability to create and edit digital narratives. Photographs can be used to tell stories, as can video. There are many skills which need to be mastered here – framing, shooting angles, composition and editing. Most phones come with a rudimentary editing suite, but more powerful ones are available on app stores. Editing is the  key to creativity, providing the tools to provide a range of moods relatively easily. Video editing is especially important to provide a tight, neat, and succinct story.  Living in a digital world requires us to understand the many digital narratives that we are bombarded with. Creating and editing these narratives ourselves provides this.

List of References

Barber, Cooper & Meeson (2007) Learning and Teaching with Interactive Whiteboards. Learning Matters, Exeter.

Cohen, D.K. (1988). Teaching practice: Plus ça change…. In P. Jackson (Ed.), Contributing to educational change: Perspectives on research and practice. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.

Cuban, L. (1986). Teachers and machines. New York: Teachers College Press.

Rettberg, J. Blogging as a Tool for Reflection and Learning.

Tyack, D. & Tobin, W. (1993) The ‘grammar’ of schooling: why has it been so difficult to change? American Education Research Journal, 312(3) pages 453-479.

Wheeler, S. (2012) Digital Literacies for Engagement in Emerging Online Cultures.







Communities of Practice

The notion of Communities of Practice (CoPs) is one which has attracted a good deal of attention over the past few years. Eckert (2006, p1), defines CoPs as consisting of groups of people who are “engaged on an ongoing basis in some common endeavour”. They come about as a result of people having a common interest or goal. These “play an important role in forming their members’ participation in, and orientation to, the world around them” (Eckert, 2006, p1).  Furthermore, there is a clear level of accountability between individual members and the group and their place “in the broader social order” (Eckert, 2006, p1). There are also important shared aspects in terms of ‘language’, extending beyond national tongues to the language of the common interest or ‘practice’ which binds it.The social view of learning, developed by theorists like Vygotsky, suggests that a large proportion of our learning develops from our experiences as co-participants in the learning process. Smith (2009) cites Lave and Wenger (1991) as seeing this as an occurrence in communities of common practice. A example of such a community would be on-the-job learning such as an apprenticeship (blacksmithing, for example), where apprentices are ‘situated with’ and ‘scaffolded’ by a master blacksmith and the blacksmithing community, who share theory, practice and expertise to guide learning. For Lave and Wenger (1991), this social relationship, a situation of co-participation, is more relevant than the view of learning as the acquisition of knowledge – a model which still tends to dominate in formal education settings.

While there are clear links between the work of Wenger and Vygotsky,  the idea of specific communities of practice go further. Wenger (2007), highlights three elements as crucial in distinguishing communities of practice from informal groups like clubs.  These are the domain, the community and the practice.

  • The Domain – Communities of practice have a clearly defined domains of interest to which members are committed and a shared competence which distinguish them from others
  • The Community – In developing their understanding of this domain, members build communal relationships, discussing issues and sharing information, which enable them to learn from one another
  • The Practice – Members are practitioners who develop and share a wide range of resources – tools,  stories, solutions to recurring problems. This ‘shared practice’ required sustained interaction and time.  (Smith, 2009).

More recently, Wenger (2004) has looked at the business world and explored the idea of communities of practice as knowledge management bodies. This is based on the idea that knowledge requires careful management in order to make best use of it. It is important to clarify Wenger’s definition of ‘knowledge’ and ‘management’ for the purposes of this discussion. Firstly, knowledge is distinct  from ‘information’ and other organisational assets and management refers to caring for, growing and making more useful. In terms of knowledge management, a proper organisational context, with processes to coordinate the management and integration of knowledge into business processes need to be in place. The tools required include technology gathering, storing and collating information, “interpersonal connections… document repositories, as well as institutional and cultural norms of paying attention to knowledge”. (Wenger, 2004, p 1).

cop1However, ‘practitioners’, involved actively in the management process, are the most important tool for knowledge management, without whom the organisation’s ability to manage knowledge would be seriously limited.  These ‘practitioners’, who have developed and are therefore thoroughly conversant with the knowledge, are seen as communities of practice –  “the social fabric of knowledge”  (Wenger, 2004, p1).

Wenger’s management of knowledge model is circular, involving the performance of domains, communities and practices being used to develop strategies for learning, sharing and stewarding. These inform future performance. (Source: Wenger, E. (2004) Knowledge management as a doughnut: Shaping your knowledge strategy through communities of practice.)

donutCommunities of practice have been around for a long while. Medieval guilds operated as communities of practice, developing skills and strategies which enabled them to maintain control over their domains of expertise. Professional communities today are much the same, be they cutting edge scientific research groups or members of secret hacking communities, where knowledge is developed, tested and shared in a common cause. However, this does not mean that communities of practice are limited to highly focused interests and those with dubious intentions. They are open to all and operate in a number of guises over a range of platforms – academic, scientific, political and business. It is worthwhile looking at the way in which technology can support communities of practice in education.

One of the main strengths of digital technologies is their ability to facilitate access to, and the interrogation, sharing, storing and updating of information. Using effective search strategies means that most information is only a few clicks away. Easy-to-use software provides the capacity to analyse information, to develop visual representations which make it easier to understand, to edit, mash reinterpret and re-present information. These process, highlighted in the literature on digital literacies,  add to our understanding and our overall store of knowledge, which is easy to share using computer mediated communication systems. These include e-mail, messages, video conferencing and multimedia applications such as blogs, wikis, Twitter and You Tube. The strength of these tools is that they make sharing easy using tags, provide two way communication via comments and also in terms of their openness, as in the case of wikis. Wikis are particularly good as collaborative tools for communities of practice, given that they allow practitioners to work collaboratively on a single platform, sharing ideas and honing understanding.

The power of Web 2.0 technologies is well recognised. As early as 2004, Siemens (cited in Gunawardena et al. 2005) raised the need to consider new theoretical frameworks which would provide a better understanding of the impact of Web 2.0 tools. Gunawardena et al. (2009, p5) have commented on the radical changes in learning that Web 2.0 applications are driving. A reason for this is that participatory technologies are “challenging existing learning theories, primarily because the theories were developed when wide-ranging online communication between people of different races, locations, and viewpoints was not possible.” Kukulska-Hulme and Traxler (2013) are calling for us to consider a new theory of learning which will enable us to better understand the impact of new mobile technologies on learning.

What is clear is that modern technologies provide the potential to extend learning well beyond traditional boundaries. Social software like blogs, Delicious, Twitter, Flickr and Pintrest make sharing information and ideas much easier. Working collaboratively across borders and continents is now a reality and the potential to connect with others with similar interests has never been greater. However, wikis are especially suited to supporting CoPs, given their nature as collaborative tools.

Recent moves towards MOOCs enable free access to academic course material, as social and technological developments change our understanding of community and the way in which we build and share knowledge. Traditional notions of copyright are being challenged, as owners of data find easier ways to control the use of their artefacts. Services like Spotify and Google Play are simplifying the process of listening to music while ensuring that artists are paid for their work. In essence, the potential for setting up communities of practice has never been greater, as our world becomes increasingly connected.

The links below are a few of many available on this topic.

Situated Learning and Communities of Practice – Alkydale.

What is a Community of Practice?  Brantlee Underhill talks to Etienne Wenger.

The Situated Learning Theory. Heidi Digby on Jean Lave’s theory of Situated Learning.

Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow – Bruce Knox.

Communities of Practice Using Wiki – Dr. Brand Niemann. 

Communities of Practice – A Brief Introduction. Wengner, E. & Traynor, B. Beat Workshops, 2014.

Rio Tinto – using CoPs to solve problems.


Cox, A. (2005) Communities of Practice, A critical review of four seminal works. Published in Journal of Information Science.

Eckert, P. (2006) Communities of Practice. Accessed December 21, 2013.

Gunawardena, C., Hermans. M., Sanches, D., Bohley, M. & Tuttle, R. (2009) A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools. Educational Media International, 46(1), pages 3-16. Accessed December 22, 2013.

Kukulska-Hulme, A. and Traxler, J. (2013) Design Principles for Mobile Learning. In Beetham, H. and Sharpe R. (2013) (Eds). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age. Designing for 21st century learning. (2nd ed.)

Lave, J, & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation – Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press.

Smith, M. (1999)  The social/situational orientation to learning. Infed. Accessed December 21, 2013

Smith, M. (2009) Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice. Infed. Accessed December 21, 2013

Wenger, E. (1996) Communiites of Practice – the social fabric of a learning organisation. The Healthcare Forum Journal; Jul/Aug 1996; 39,(4). 20-26. Accessed 21 December 2013.

Wenger, E. (2004)  Knowledge management as a doughnut. Shaping your knowledge strategy through communities of practice. Ivey Business Journal. Improving the Practice of Management. Accessed 22 December, 2013.


The Networked Student – Drexler  :: Connectivism – Burke  :: Connectivism – Siemens  ::  Wikipedia  ::  New South Wales Health

Digital Literacy, Social Networking, Blogs, Wikis, Social Bookmarking

Digital Literacy and Digital Literacies.

Perceptions of Digital Literacy vary. Some are broad, others narrow, some make a clear distinction between ‘digital literacy’ and ‘digital literacies’ while others see the difference simply in terms of their grammatical context. For the purposes of this session, I would like to look at the idea of digital literacy as an overarching understanding or ‘literacy’ for the skills,  competences, aptitudes and attitudes which make up the more specific  ‘digital literacies’ we use to engage effectively online. In doing this, I hope to provide a broad context for what I have been asked to talk about today – the use of blogs and wikis and other social media as educational platforms.

From this perspective, digital literacy is a critical understanding of the impact of digital technologies on our society, its institutions and ourselves as individuals. These technologies have  resulted in major changes in the way our society operates and the way we do things. For many, they are emancipatory, enabling us to do things more effectively (better), efficiently (quicker) and most importantly, to do things that we have not been able to do before. Living in a digital society means that a wide range of  information is easily available to us, largely at any time and from any place. Current innovation revolves around increasing mobility, with smart phones, tablets and ever lighter laptop computers enabling us to remain in contact wherever we might be.  However, as with all technologies, these advantages are balanced by disadvantages. The ‘dark side’ of the web is fraught with dangers. Cybercrime, perpetrated by faceless criminals in remote locations, identity theft, on-line bullyingtroll attacks, hacking, phishing, grooming and viruses. Relatively new is the  disturbing perception of governments around the world that leveraging the ability of these technologies to surveil not only their own populations, but also those of other countries, is an acceptable and perhaps even desirable practice. An important issue is raised here – the ability to do things that could not be done before does not mean that they are immune from day to day legal and ethical values. There is a need for innovations and the capabilities they provide to be given serious consideration in terms of ethical standards of use.

A person who is digitally literate would be expected to have a critical appreciation of both the advantages and disadvantages which arise in our rapidly developing digital world. This involves bringing critical cognitive capacities to bear when working in the digital domain so as to make effective use of the advantages offered while avoiding the dangers. In essence, a digitally literate person understands the nuances of the increasingly digital world we live in and is able to thrive in it, rather than simply survive.

In terms of digital literacies, we will look at the ideas of Wheeler (2012), Summey (2013), Belshaw (2012) and Rheingold (2012). In essence, these ‘literacies’ are the  conceptual and digital tools  and competencies  that we use to interact effectively as citizens of a digital society.

Wheeler (2012) suggests that the following seven issues are important.

  • social networking (ability to participating online, in formal and non-formal contexts)
  • transliteracy (ability to operate across a wide range of digital platforms)
  • maintaining privacy (staying safe online)
  • managing identity (using multiple online identities in appropriate ways)
  • creating content (eg – blogs, participating on wikis, discussion groups, forums, social networking, social bookmarking)
  • organising and sharing content (posting to different platforms, saving and collating information online)
  • reusing/re-purposing content (mashing, mixing)
  • filtering and selecting content (finding, saving content in ways which enable us to find it easily)
  • self broadcasting (establishing a recognisable online presence and sharing one’s own content with others across different platforms).


Rheingold (2012) has a simpler five point  structure.

  • Attention! The Fundamental Literacy
  • Calibrating Your Crap Detector: What You Pay Attention to After You Pay Attention to Attention (critical awareness)
  • What It Takes to Participate in Participatory Culture—and What You Get Out of It
  • Clueing in to Collaboration: Making Virtual Communities, Collective Intelligence, and Knowledge Networks Work for You (and Us)
  • What You Need to Know about Network Smarts—from Small Worlds to Privacy Settings, from Weak Ties to Social Capital.

Summey (2013:5) also provides five digital literacies:

  • locating and filtering
  • sharing and collaborating
  • organising and curating
  •  creating and generating
  •  reusing and re-purposing.

Summey (2013, p 15) provides a diagrammatic representation of these.


Belshaw (2012) also emphasises the plurality of the digital literacies, providing eight ‘essential elements’ in which ‘skills, attitudes and aptitudes’  need to be developed (p 42). These eight broad elements are:

  •  cultural
  • cognitive
  • constructive
  • communicative
  • confident
  • creative
  • critical
  • civic.


While there are differences between the way these authors see digital literacy, many of the ideas, be they expressed differently, have much in common.

Other diagrammatic representations of digital literacy include those below, from Futurelab (2010)

digital literact futurelab


Definitions of Digital literacy from the futurelab Digital Literacy across the Curriculum handbook (2010: p.19)

What is clear from all these definitions is that digital literacy is closely tied to the idea of the participatory web and communication, where we are are not simple consumers of information but active participants and contributors to the richness of content available online. However, it is important to note that digital literacy is not necessarily confined to digital resources. Bawden (2008), commenting on Paul Gilster’s early work (1997) on digital literacy makes the point that the term is inclusive of of former technologies (such as print), given that new technologies live comfortably side by side with earlier ones and often exist in both formats.  Thus,  digital literacy can be seen as “an ability to understand and to use information from a variety of digital sources and regard it simply as literacy in the digital age. It is therefore the current form of the traditional idea of literacy per se – the ability to read, write, and otherwise deal with information using the technologies and formats of the time – and an essential life skill.” (p 18).  Furthermore, “digital literacy involves the understanding of how to complement digital resources with such things as reference works in libraries, printed newspapers and magazines, radio and television, and printed works of literature” (p 19).

Web 1 and Web 2.0

Early use of the www involved looking for information online, reading and copying it. It is often called the ‘read’ web, given that most people interacted with it in this way.  In about 2003, the way we saw and used the web began to change, given the proliferation of ways for ordinary people (people without specific web design skills) to contribute to the web. We talk of this as Web 2.0 or the ‘read/write’ web. Typical examples of web 2.0 include blogs, wikis, a wide range of social networking sites and forums.

Blogs and blogging

The word ‘blog’ is short for ‘weblog’, suggesting a way of journaling or ‘logging’ data online. The basic structure of a blog supports this, given that they provide a chronological record of posts, with the most recent at the top. Looked at from a more technical aspect,  blogs are web-based multimedia platforms.  As such, they enable authors to provide narratives consisting of text, images, video and audio. Blogs were one of the first instances of socially or user generated content applications to go mainstream. Blogs cover an extremely wide variety of  topics. Some which have become newsworthy recently included that of policemen Richard Horton,  sex worker Belle de Joer and  schoolgirl Martha Payne, whose NeverSeconds blog was closed down by the Argyll and Bute council. The British Army has an official blog, as do many businesses and other organisations. There are a good number of teachers who blog about their  workplaces, students who blog about university life, political blogs presenting a range of opinions and blogs used for presenting educational content of different kinds. Other blogs are used for commercial purposes, marketing  photographsart, ceramics and other goods. In the early days off blogging, blogs tended to be personal, making use of the essential ‘journal’ or ‘diary’ design for personal journalling. However, blogs have gone mainstream, with many newspaper reporters running blogs which provide a more ‘personal’ approach for their stories. This is a list of blogs from The Times.  This page from provides a number of reasons for blogging, together with ways that they can be used.

Blogging has been used widely in higher education. Beale (2007)carried out a mixed quantitative/qualitative analysis of 30 blogs used by final year HCI (Human computer interface) students. Their findings were that blogs were effective tools for supporting reflective practice, for connecting the classroom to the outside world and facilitating a greater level of collegial feedback than would usually be the case. Beale recommends the use of  blogs as effective and engaging approaches for supporting other educational practices. Rourke and Coleman (2009, 888) also see blogs as effective teaching and learning tools “for engaging students proactively in a collaborative learning space”. Their work was carried out with post graduate (M level, n=10) students at a college of fine art in New South Wales.

Blogging can be controversial, especially when bloggers post about their workplace. A number of employees have been dismissed for blogging, including Ellen Simonetti, an air hostess working for Delta, Joe Gordon who allegedly brought his company (Waterstones) into disrepute and Catherine Sanderson, a British worker in Paris, again for allegedly bringing her company into disrepute. Sanderson was awarded £30,000 for unfair dismissal.

What emerges from this is that blogging about one’s workplace is not a good idea, even when a pseudonym is used. Interestingly, pseudonyms are common in blogs, providing some level of anonymity, although as we have seen, this can be broken given enough small clues within posts which can provide a crumb trail to one’s true identity.

One of the best understood strengths of blogs as educational tools is as reflective journals.  Rourke and Coleman (2009, 895), used Bartlett-Bragg’s  (2003) 5 stage Blogging Process model to analysis of the blogging process with the postgraduate College of Fine Arts students. They were able to identify introspection, reflective monologues and reflective dialogue as features of student blogging. Rettburg (2009) regards blogging as a good opportunity for students to experience writing in the real world.  A growing number of university courses are requiring students to reflect in depth on their practice on a regular basis. While blogs are personal, the fact that they are public spaces where one’s work is  open to scrutiny and comment by members of the blogosphere suits this practice, ensuring that bloggers take care to ensure that their posts are carefully constructed. Another strength of blogs is that they provide a wide range of attractive templates themes, widgets and other add-ons, allowing a high level of personalisation which is not possible with writing platforms like word processors. Blog platforms provide these as part of the service, with some specific themes and add ons available at a cost. Many also provide the option to personalise  web address – for instance, or as opposed to  See The impact of multimedia on the gathering and dissemination of news  for information on how blogging has changed news gathering and reporting and  Blogs as reflective writing tools on the use of  blogs in education.

See this post from The Next Web for 15 recommended blogging platforms.

Technorati’s top 100 Blogs for 2013 are listed here.

Blogs in Plain English – Lee Lefever, Commoncraft

Microblogging – Twitter (and sms)

One needs to at least mention micro-blogging in any discussion of blogging. There are a number of these, of which Twitter is best known. These consist of  short posts not exceed 140 characters. However, the limitations in length are overcome by the ability to post frequently.  These platforms are popular, notwithstanding the fact that they do not take advantage of the ‘rich’ multimedia affordances (images, audio, video) that other digital platforms offer. Twitter offers the potential to be an effective community of practice, given that the underpinning architecture enables it  to identify people with similar interests and provide recommendations with regard to who to follow.

Hafner and Jones (2012) contest the oft held belief that text based digital communications are an ‘imperfect replica’ of transitional modes of communication and that claims that they lack richness are based on a false deficit model of analysis. People do very different things with text based digital communication than in normal written or verbal conversations, Additionally, simple sms type digital communication has resulted in a wide range of new interactions which were not possible up till now.

The developer of Blogger, Evan Williams, tried to ‘add value’ to the blogging experience by developing audio blogging, by which bloggers could make their posts ‘more expressive’ by embedding recordings of their own voices. There are a number of apps which enable one to do this easily, including Audio Boo. However, the idea of audio blogging has never really taken off. Nor have other ‘rich’ media approaches. Hafner and Jones (73), point out that even though computers come standard with webcams and most IM clients, and that video chat is supported by many social networking clients, “very few people actually engage in this form of interaction.” However, another development by Williams, the micro-blogging platform Twitter with it limit of 140 characters per post, has proved extremely successful in spite of it providing little in the way of richness that other digital media provide.

The reason for the success of Twitter and other so-called ‘impoverished’ mediums like sms is that of low transactional costs – essentially, the effort and hassle involved in transacting or sharing information. The richer the medium, the higher the transactional costs involved, given that we have to attend to more modes while engaging with others. A face to face conversation involves a wide range of niceties – small talk, showing interest and attention, ensuring that our gestures, facial expressions and voice quality are appropriate and that our responses are delivered within the time frame expected by the person we are talking to. A text based communication, be it a message (sms) or a tweet, cuts across these demands, enabling us to concentrate of the essential message (which could include taking more time to consider how replies or questions are framed) and enables us to do other things (multitasking) at the same time.

There are other reasons for the popularity of tweeting and sms. For young people, it provides a way of communicating with friends without their parents listening in. Low cost interaction via sms and Twitter also provide new affordances – “increased opportunities for monomodal communications using only text” (Hafner and Jones, 2012:74) which support the ability to communicate and maintain relationships more regularly but in less detailed ways. Low transaction cost mechanisms support sharing of thoughts, feelings and ideas. They suggest that what people are mostly doing when they share is less a matter of transacting information as maintaining connections with friends – doing friendship.

18h40 Cheesecake: hihi

19h08 Snowbread: wowo

21:33 Cheesecake: kaka~~~

23h05 Snowbread: ~^.^~

This series of interchanges between two friends, according to Hafner and Jones (74), is not a real conversation but a process of maintaining a virtual connection, as suggested by earlier work by Berg, Taylor and Harper (2005), in which they identified young people’s text messages to one another not so much as an exchange information but rather as the exchange of tokens of friendship.

In others ways, low cost texting is also instrumental and efficient – asking a partner to pick up a packet of sugar, informing a friend that one will be late, telling the boss that a report has been completed. Before texting, doing these interactions involved long and complicated phone conversations and a trip down the corridor and knocking on the boss’s door.

The limitations of getting a message across in 140 or so characters has already been seen to force users to be creative and imaginative in terms of using emoticons, short forms and newly created words. In an innovative experiment by the University of Iowa, applicants for the School of Business were told to submit admissions essays in tweet form, with the promise of a scholarship for the most creative effort. The winner submitted a haiku, “creatively combining one of the newest forms of communication with one of the oldest forms” (Snee, 2011 – in  Hafner and Jones, 78).

It is important to understand that these different platforms are used in different ways, for different purposes and with different audiences.  The way we communicate using text is very different to the way we communicate using a blog, or even e-mail and Twitter. The levels of formality are different, given different audiences and the kind of topics discussed by them. Wheeler talks about transliteracy, the ability to work confidently across a range of mediums, understanding their different contexts. Belshaw (2013) also talks about the ability to move quickly and seamlessly between digital environments when talking about the cultural aspect of digital literacies.

Specialist blogs

We looked earlier at blogs as multimedia platforms. This lends them to specialist use as we have seen from the examples of commercial blogs as platforms for showcasing art and other artefacts for sale. However, there are a number of specialist blogs, dedicated to showcasing things like photographs, of which  Flickr, Instagram and Blip Photo are examples. Those who prefer video  produce and share video blogs. The term ‘vlogging‘ is used.  YouTube is perhaps the best known video sharing site. Here is a guide to video blogging from Mashable.

All of these sites are open to the public.  However, the content available on them is not necessarily so, except in terms of the viewer having the right to  look at, watch, recommend to others and bookmark for later watching.  Essentially, copyright applies. However, the ease with which anything online can be downloaded makes a mockery of copyright. This is an important issue for those who like to share their work with a view to selling it, such as photographers, musicians and actors. In reality, copyright as artists and writers have enjoyed it in the analogue world, is no longer fit for purpose and  creators have moved forward, with more flexible models of copyright which make it easy for owners to share their work in more  creative way. The copyright model best suited for the social online world is that of Creative Commons. This enables the owner to stipulate the exact conditions under which his or her work can be shared. Six basic models are provided, ranging from full copyright (all rights reserved) , through some rights reserved to an open ‘all rights granted’ licence. The range of licences can be seen here.

What we see from this is that there is a wide range of blog categories on the web in  terms of the specific media that they specialise in and, within these, special areas of interest. However, most blogs provide a mix of mediums. Photos (and video) on Flickr will often be described using text, and include comments from followers. Travel blogs will often use photos together with text,  audio and sometimes video to provide a record of each day of a holiday or other such trip. These provide a multimedia record of events, which can be shared across the web.


Wikis are similar to blogs  being  user generated multimedia capable social media. The main difference between them is that while blogs are mainly personal,  wikis are designed specifically as collaborative platforms. As such, they lend themselves well to project and other collaborative endeavours and to situations where diverse data needs to be collated and coordinated in one place. Well known wikis include Wikipedia, WikiHow,  Wictionary and Urban Dictionary. Like blogs, wikis are used by a variety of individuals and organisations.  The well known ‘social’ wikis are open, allowing anyone to register and post online. This involves editing existing posts to correct information or to update by removing out of date content or providing newer information. However, wikis can also be closed, ensuring that only  registered users can update information, and even that they are the only people who can see it. This makes wikis especially useful for schools and other organisations where privacy is important.

Both blogs and wikis provide the facility for readers to comment on posts. They also enable writers to create tags – usually words which ‘identify’ the nature or features of the post, enabling  any posts with that identifier to be located using a search. This post, for instance, has eleven tags, including ‘blogs’, ‘wikis’ and ‘digital literacy’. I have also used a ‘widget’ which adds a tag cloud on the right hand side. Clicking on any of these lists all the the posts on the blog which have that tag. Tags provide a new way to ‘file’ information, without having to create folders. Tags are informal and personal.  There is no fixed convention for tag names. They provide a common sense way of identifying and enabling quick searches for a topic, based on folksonomies.   The word folksonomy is a combination of ‘folk’ and ‘taxonomy’ and was coined by Thomas Vander Wel, an information design specialist. Tagging is used widely on the web and features largely on applications which value social networking and social bookmarking. Social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Diigo use tags to identify digital artefacts so as to simplify the task or organising and creating large bodies of information. This link takes you to my Delicious site, and shows all the web pages and other digital artefacts that I have bookmarked for this particular session, using the tags ‘blogs’ and ‘wikis’. You will notice that there is a range of tags for each, including other cources that I teach on, such as the M.Sc Learning and Digital Literacies course (LDL), the PGCE course (pgce) and the B.Sc Education course (bsced). Other tags provide further identifiers to make the articles easy to find. Searches can be narrowed by using more than a  single tags, as shown here where the # sign is used to identify only artefacts which have army, pgce , ldl and bsced tags. Using social bookmarking sites like Delicious is invaluable for anyone who needs to collect, organise, curate, collate and share digital information. These can be shared directly with others, and are searchable by anyone using the bookmarking service. Any kind of digital artefact can be bookmarked, including web pages, academic articles from journals, photographs and videos.  Many electronic artefacts make bookmarking easy by providing links to popular bookmarking services. These are usually at the bottom of the article. See graphic below, which comes from the BBC News site.

Social Bookmarking

However, not all sites provide this courtesy. This being the case, when setting up your social bookmarking service, drag the provided ‘button’ onto the favourites bar of your browser. The graphic below shows a link to Delicious on my favourites bar.

bookmarks bar2

Social bookmarking in plain English.

 Wikis have other important characteristics, the most important one being the rollback feature. A ‘history’ of every edit of each page is kept on a wiki, enabling the administrator to roll back to previous versions of the page should a user inadvertently delete it or make inappropriate comments or changes. Furthermore, the administrator and each user can request notifications of each and every update. Most users turn this feature off, but it is useful for administrators who need to keep track of activity on the site. Wikis lend themselves well to use in education. They are ideal platforms for any kind of collaborative activity, such as project work. Users can create and edit their own pages, using the wiki for group planning, discussion, rough posts and the final submission. They provide full support for multimedia, enabling the inclusion of text, images, video and audio files. Wikis have no boundaries, enabling them to be used for projects across the school, across schools, countries and continents, allowing cross-cultural exchanges and sharing. They are also good platforms for collating information, such as teaching resources, lesson plans and lesson ideas.

Wikis in Plain English. Lee Lefever, Commoncraft.

Web 2.0 (the ‘social’ or ‘participatory’ web) provides a secure platform for open discussion (blogs) and collaboration (wikis).  This offers opportunities for both teachers and students to work in new ways which extend and enrich learning. Blogs offer unique opportunities to write for a world wide audience. At the same time they provide opportunities for others, be they fellow students, teachers or people interested in the same area of endeavour, to provide feedback.  Wikis offer opportunities to collaborate with others across the world, developing resources which others can use, edit and augment. The emergence of MOOCs indicates  that open sharing of high grade resources is the way forward. The use of social media in the form of blogs and wikis supports this, providing a way for small players with unique and useful insights to make a contribution. Social networking provides opportunities for the development of Communities of Practices, be they formal or informal and active and responsible participation in these servers to develop our understanding of the important digital literacies which are essential for us to thrive in a rapidly changing and increasingly networked world.


List of references

Bawden, D. (2008) Origins and Concepts of Digital Literacy. In Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008) Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices.
Belshaw, D. (2013) The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies.
Hafner, C. & Jones, R. (2012) Understanding Digital Literacies. A practical introduction.

Paul, J. (2012) New Literacies and Their Affordances. Primary Blog.
Paul, J. (2009) Using wikis as learning tools. Primary Blog.
Rettburg, J. (2009) Blogging as a Tool for Reflection on Learning.
Rourke, J. & Coleman, K. (2009) An emancipating space: Reflective and collaborative blogging.
Summey, D. (2013) Developing Digital Literacies. A Framework for Professional Learning.
Wheeler, S. (2010) What are digital literacies?
Wheeler, S. (2012) Digital Literacies for Engagement in Emerging Online Cultures.

Other useful resources

Beetham, H., McGill, L. & Littlejohn, A. (2009) Thriving in the 21st Century: Learning Literacies for the Digital Age.
Belshaw, D.  (2012) What is ‘digital literacy’? A Pragmatic investigation. Durham theses, Durham University. Available at Durham E-Theses online:
Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008) Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices.
Erstad, O.  (2011) Citizens Navigating in Literate Worlds. The Case of Digital Literacy. In Thomas, M. (2011) (Ed.) Deconstructing Digital Natives. Young People, Technology and the New Literacies.
Wan, N. (2012) Can we teach digital natives digital literacy? Computers & EducationVolume 59(3) 1065-1078.
Buckingham. D. (2008) Defining Digital Literacy. What do Young People Need to Know About Digital Media? (Also in Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008) Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices, page 73).
Hague, C. & Payton, S. (2010) 
Digital Literacies across the Curriculum. Futurelab.
Jisc (2011) Developing Digital Literacies: Briefing Paper in support of JISC Grant Funding 4/11
Jisc (2013) Developing Digital Literacies.
Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.
Utrecht, J. (2009) Digital Literacy vs Networked Literacy. The Thinking Stick blog.
Utrecht, J. (2009)  See this diagram from the post entitled The age of Composition.
Wheeler, S. (2013) 
Can we teach digital literacies?  Blog


Web n’ Circle Blog – more diagramatic representations of digital literacy.
Digital Futures in Teacher Education (DfTE)

Journal articles on the Educational use of wikis.

Boulos, M. & Wheeler, S. (2007) The emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies in health and health care education.
Cole, M. (2009) Using wiki technology to support student engagement: Lessons from the trenches.
Désilets, A., Paquet, S., and Vinson, N.G.  (2005)  Are wikis useable?  International Symposium on Wikis. October 17-18, 2005. San Diego, California, USA. NRC 48272.
Godwin-Jones, R. (2003) Emerging Technologies.Blogs and Wikis: Environments for On-line Collaborartion. Language Learning and Technology, 7(2), 12-16.
Grant, L. (2006) Using Wikis in Schools. A Case Study.  Futurelab.
Guth, S.  (2007). Wiki in Education: Is Public Better? WikiSym 07 Converence, Montreal, October 2007.
Haldane, M.  (2007)  Interactivity and the digital whiteboard: weaving the fabric of learning. Learning, Media and Technology 32(3) 257-270.
Birka Jaksch, Saskia-Janina Kepp, and Christa Womser-Hacker.(2008) Integration of a wiki for collaborative knowledge development in an elearning context for university teaching. Lecture notes in Computer Science, Vol. 5298.
Lamb, B. (2004) Wide open spaces: Wikis, ready or not.
Moskaliuk, J. (2009) Wiki supported learning and knowledge building: effects of incongruity bertween knowledge and information.
Nuutinen, J. (2010) From mindtools to social mindtools: Colaborative writing and woven stories
Neumann, David L. & Hood, Michelle. (2009) The effects of using a wiki on student engagement and learning of report writing skills in a university statistics course. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(3). 382-398.
Parker, K. & Chao, J. (2007) Wiki as a teaching tool.
Wang, C. & Turner D. (2004) Extending the wiki paradigm for use in the classroom.
 Wen-Chung Shih et al. (2008)  Wiki-based rapid prototyping for teaching-material design in e-Learning grids
Wheeler, S. & Wheeler, D. (2007) Evaluating Wiki as a tool to promote quality academic writing skills.
Wheeler, S. (2008) All Changing: The Social Web and the Future of Higher Education (a tale of two keynotes).
Wheeler, S., Yeomans, P. & Wheeler, D. (2008) The good, the bad and the wiki: Evaluating student-generated content for collaborative learning.
Wheeler, S.  & Boulos, K. (2008) Mashing, Burning, Mixing and the Destructive Creativity of Web 2.0: Applications for Medical Education.
Wheeler, S. & Wheeler, D. (2009) Using wikis to promote quality learning in teacher training.

Journal articles on Blogs and Blogging

Beale, R. (2007) Blogs, reflective practice and student-centered learning.
Boulos, M & Wheeler, S. (2007) The emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite.
Brescia, W. & Miller, M. (2005) What’s it Worth? The Perceived Benefits of Instructional Blogging.  Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, Vol. 5
Chan, K-K. & Ridgeway, J. (2005?) Blog: a tool for reflective practice in teacher education?Chandra, V. & Lloyd, M. (2008) The methodological nettle: ICT and student achievement. British Journal of Educational Technology, V 39 (6), 1087–1098.
Downes, S. (2004) Educational Blogging.
Drezner, D. & Farrell, H. (2008). Blogs, politics and power: a special issue of Public Choice. Public Choice 134: 1–13.
Ebner, M., Lienhardt, C., Rohs, M. & Meyer, I. (2010) Microblogs in Higher Education – A chance to facilitate informart and process-oriented learning? Computers and Education. 55, 92-100.
Gill, K. (2004) How can we measure the influence of the blogosphere?
Harris, H. & Park, S. Educational useages of podcasting.
Hernández-Ramos, P. (2004) Web Logs and Online Discussions as Tools to Promote Reflective Practice. The Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 3 (1).
Huffaker, D. (2005) Let them Blog: Using weblogs to promote Literacy in K-12 Education.
Kamel Boulos, M., Inocencio Maramba, I. & and Wheeler, S. (2006) Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:41
Karger, D.R. & Quanb, D. (2005) What would it mean to blog on the semantic web? Journal of Web Semantics, 3 (2-3), 147-157.
Kennedy, R. (2004) Weblogs, Social Software, and New Interactivity on the Web. Psychiatric Services, 55(3).
Lee, M., McLoughan, C. & Chan, A. Talk the Talk: Learner generated podcasts as catalysts for knowledge creation.
Nataatmadja, I & Dyson, L. E. The Role of Podcasts in Students’ Learning.
Mortensen, T. & Walker, J.(2004) Blogging thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool.
Parker, C. & Pfeiffer, S. (2005) Videoblogging: Content to the max. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia. IEEE Multimedia, April-June.
Probert, E. (2009) Information Literacy Skills: Teacher understandings and practice. Computers and Education 53, 24-33.
Wheeler, S & Lambert-Heggs, W. (2008) The MentorBlog Project: Connecting student teachers and their mentors through social software
Wheeler, S. (2008) All Changing: The Social Web and the Future of Higher Education (a tale of two keynotes).
Wheeler, S. (2013) Blogging as literacy. Learning with ‘e’s Blog.
Williams, J. & Jacobs, J. (2004) Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.

Useful background reading

Buckingham, D. (2007) Beyond Technology: Children’s learning in the age of digital culture. Polity Press

Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B. (2012) Literacies

Mobile Multimedia

Mobile Technologies

“This isn’t the next computer, this is the next home for the mind. Computers have had a nice long run, and laptops will always play at least some role. But the center of gravity is now slowly shifting from the desk to the device in your pocket.”
Silicon Valley technology forecaster Paul Saffo, speaking about the iPhone (1.12.2007)

Breaking news: Twitter and the China earthquake : UK police to receive handheld computers

This is a rapidly growing sector, taking advantage of a growing market which feels the need to be connected and networked no matter what the time or the location – what some call the iPod or the hyper-connected generation.

‘Mobile’ computing started with the first ‘portable’ computers. Early models include the Osborne (1981) and the Compaq (1982). The first IBM portable was released in 1984. Today laptop or notebook sales are expanding rapidly as people use them increasingly to remain productive while on the move. Notebooks continue to shrink in size while increasing in power and wireless access is increasingly available – in hotels, coffee shops, airports and even busses. Cities like Norwich and Manchester have experimented with limited free wireless access. Mobile workers are now connecting their computers to mobile telephone networks via dongles when outside the range of wireless hotspots, or using mobile devices like the iPhone which automatically switches between mobile and wireless broadband, depending on the availability of signals. Consumers hope that these technologies will make the wireless market more competitive.

Amongst the first real handheld computers or PDAs were the Apple Newton and Palm Pilot. However, PDAs have just about been replaced by new internet ready mobiles like the iPhone, Blackberry and a variety of mobiles powered by Google’s Android operating system. Other popular mobile devices include tablets like the iPad and similar offerings from RIM, Samsung and other manufacturers, and lightweight netbooks. Of mobile devices, internet ready mobile phones are having the greatest impact and it is this area which is of most interest to those who value the power of mobile computing. Mobile phones, for all the features they offer (talk, text, e-mail, multimedia messaging, diary, notepad, bluetooth, IR, digital still and video cameras) cannot yet compete with conventional computers when it comes to speed, ease of use or quality. However, the balance is set to change as the technology matures. New cloud computing technologies could free mobile users from desktops and laptops which are currently required to synch mobile applications.

Web based applications for mobile phones are the main driving force of mobile multimedia. Thus we see applications like Facebook, and Flickr, Photobucket and other social networking sites providing mobile interfaces. Mobile multimedia applications provided the capability to share a wide range of information, to upload and download information on the move, the ability to surf the web, listen to music, podcasts and video while on the move.

An important aspect of the market is the open source market, providing talented programmers with the ability to write imaginative applications for a growing number of devices. Applications like Twitter are becoming increasingly flexible as are those like Shozu and ZuCasts. Shozu allows one to upload digital pictures directly to Flickr, BBC News and other services and to blog directly from one’s phone and then upload to hosts like Blogger. Zucasts allows one to download a variety of content (pics, music, video) to one’s mobile and listen to or watch it there.

Mobile technologies and learning

The potential of mobile computing for teaching and learning is generally recognised. Ofsted head Christine Gilbert (2006:11), in her 2020 Vision report for government, states that:

“the pace of technological change will continue to increase exponentially. Increases in bandwidth will lead to a rise in internet-based services, particularly access to video and television. Costs associated with hardware, software, and data storage will decrease further. This is likely to result in near-universal access to personal, multi-functional devices, smarter software integrated with global standards and increasing amounts of information being available to search on line… Using ICT will be natural for most pupils and for an increasing number of teachers.”

Much of the group’s report deals with the issue of personalising learning and it is clear that ICT is seen as a tool for providing this, in various ways, including the use of mobile technologies.

To date, educational use of computers has been limited by limited accessibility, amongst other things. It could be that ‘cheap’ but effective internet ready mobile technologies can make the ideal of a computer for each pupil a reality. But in spite of limitations with respect to “screen size, computational power, battery capacity, input interfaces and network bandwidth … too restricted to develop acceptable functionality for the entire learning process…” (Chen, Chang & Wang 2008:77) higher education institutions are taking advantage of this technology to deliver learning to students, using both video and audio podcasts. (Evans, C. 2008.)

High schools, too, are using mobile communications technology. A study by Rau, Gao and Wu (2008) showed that instant messaging helps bonding the roles of student and instructor effectively in the instruction process.

However, there are concerns about full internet access on mobiles for younger users. Unfortunately, many schools discourage or even prevent pupils bringing mobiles to school because of the ‘disruption’ they feel they cause, without thinking of the potential for learning that these tools bring with them.

This notwithstanding, young people are the leading users of mobile technologies, utilising mobile phones, iPods and other portable multimedia gadgets on an ongoing basis. Young people enjoy using technology, with mobile phones a favourite device. Texting is particularly popular amongst young mobile phone users. Texters have developed a new language with interesting contractions to get around the limitations of message length and to speed up writing. New words have developed from the inability of predictive text to ‘guess’ the required word corrrectly every time. Some teenagers are using these as a secret code language to keep parents from finding out what they are saying. While some have claimed that texting is bad for spelling and even that it is ruining the English language, experts disagree. Others have gone so far as to see this as a welcome challenges to the ‘tyranny’ of spelling.

In reality, portable multimedia technology is in its infancy and it will take time for a full range of useful working affordances to materialise. These need to be in place before (especially) schools can begin to use them efectively. However, there are a good range of useful tools and applications already available and teachers need to use thier initiative to make the most of their potential. Some of these are discussed below.

Twitter is an application which is growing in popularity. It is useable on a cross-section of platforms, including texting and IM, to share short messages. Some members of the sub-culture share their every movement with friends via ‘tweets’. These are often quite mundane – going to sleep – but Twitter can also be used quite innovatively. While many use Twitter for communicating with friends and others in an open forum, it also provides access to breaking news via feeds fromBBC News and other media.

Friendfeed is similar in a way to Twitter, in that it uses short messages. It provides information about what ones friends are doing, and allows one to follow the action. For instance, he/she might have just uploaded new pics to Flickr, or a message to Twitter or read a new post on Box of Whine or other blog. Links on Friendfeed make it easy for you to go directly to those locations.

Other useful mobile applications include Shozu and ZuCasts. Shozu is a free to download application which enables certain mobile camera phones to share pictures and video via the web (mobile to web transfers). this means one can blog directly from one’s mobile phone, upload material directly to sites like Flickr, You Tube and other sites, including BBC News.

ZuCasts enable one to “watch, read, listen to what they like, when they like, wherever they like. A user simply selects their ZuCasts and in the background, ShoZu quietly delivers all the content down to the phone. ZuCast content can automatically be updated hourly, daily or weekly…”

See the Shozu forum here.

Literature reviews on mobile learning from Futurelab.

Slideshare presentation from IADIS Mobile Learning conference, April 2008.

Useful articles.

Handheld devices and the net |:| Intel’s live large vision for mobile phones |:| Nokia’s brave new mobile world |:| Samsung’s mobile trainer |:| Times Mobile – news on the move |:| Skype ready mobile phones |:| iPhone… calling the future |:| GPS enabled mobiles |:| Your Mobile boarding pass |:| Your mobile digital wallet |:| Case study: Wifi in Norwich |:| City wifi networks to be expanded |:| Find a wifi network with The Cloud |:|Dan York – Disruptive conversations… |:| Dan York – Disruptive conversations 2… |:|Mobile Multimedia from Quicktime |:| What teens want from their mobiles |:| Acronyms |:| Acronyms /initialisms commonly used by texters |:| The ABBREVETIONARY |:| British Council guide to Texting |:| Cracking the code of teenager’s IM slang |:|Text messaging as emergency communication superstar? |:|

Twitter specific articles.

Using Twitter productively |:| Twitter Tweets in higher education |:| 5 terrific (unusual) uses for Twitter |:| Business uses for Twitter |:| How to use Twitter (You Tube) |:| Five ways to use Twitter for good |:| Twitter at the tipping point |:| Twitter takes on Facebook |:|

Other resources.

For those who are technically minded, see this paper (Dec 2006, pdf) on the next generation of mobile technologies from Springer Science.

Papers from academic journals.

Alexander, B. (2004) Going Nomadic: Mobile Learning in Higher Education. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 39, no. 5 (September/October 2004): 28–35

Cavus, N. & Ibrahim, D. (2009) m-Learning: An experiment in using SMS to support learning new English language words. British Journal of Educational Technology. 40 (1) 78-91.

Chen, G.D., Chang, C.K. & Wang, C.Y. (2008) Ubiquitous learning website: Scaffold learners by mobile devices with information-aware techniques. Computers and Education, 50. Pages 77-90.

Churchill, D. & Churchill, N. (2008) Educational affordances of PDAs: A study of a teacher’s exploration of this technology. Computers and Education, 50. Pages 1439-1450.

Churchill, D. & Hedberg, J. (2008) Learning object design considerations for small screen handheld devices. Computers ans Education. 50. 881-893.

Corbeil, J. & Corbeil, M. (2007) Are you ready for mobile learning? Educause Quarterly 2. Pages 51-58.

Felder, R. & Brent, R. (2005) Screens Down, everyone! Effective uses of portable computers in lecture classes. Chemical Engineering Education. 39 (3) 200-201.

Holotescu, C. & Grosseck, G. (2008) Using microblogging in education. Case Study: (Original on Scribed)

Rau, P., Gao, Q. & Wy, L. (2008) Using mobile communication technology in high school education. Motivation, pressure, and learning performance. Computers and Education, 50. Pages 1-22.

Triantafillou, E., Georgiadou, E. & Economedes, A. (2008) The design and evaluation of a computerised adaptive test on mobile devices. Computers and Education, 50. 1319-1330.

Uzunboylu, H., Cavus, N. & Ercag, E. (2009) Using mobile learning to increase environmental awareness. Computers and Education. 52. 381-389.

Other sources.

Becta (2006) Emerging Technologies for Learning 1.

Becta (2007) Emerging Technologies for Learning 2.

Becta (2008) Emerging Technologies for Learning 3.

Campbell, G. (2005) There’s something in the air. Podcasting in Education. Educause Review, Nov/Dec.

McFarlane, A., Triggs, P. & Yee, W. (2007) Researching mobile learning – Interim report to Becta. Period: April – December 2007

van ‘t Hooft, M. (2008) Mobile, wireless, connected Information clouds and learning. Emerging technologies for learning – volume 3 (2008), Becta.

Journal of Mobile Multimedia. Rinton Press.

Mobimedia2011 Conference. Lisbon, Portugal, September 2011.

Handheld Learning Conference, London, January 2011.

Display Technology: interactive surfaces

Multimedia is mainly about providing a range of visual and audio experiences to support traditional text formats. The future will no doubt expand the world of multimedia to include our sense of touch and smell, and perhaps other senses.  In this session, we will look at interactive technologies involving touch sensitive screens. These include interactive whiteboards (IWBs) and  touch sensitive surfaces such as tabletop devices like Microsoft Surface and touch sensitive screens on computers, mobile phones, tablets and domestic items like cookers and refrigerators.

Interactive whiteboards

Interactive whiteboards are one of the latest technologies being invested in by educational institutions and businesses. There is a growing body of research on this technology.

The main advantage of IWBs is their interactivity, but this feature does not guarantee that it will be used. Yet, even not used as intended, they provide a good platform for demonstrating ideas on a large clear screen that everyone can see. Also, one no longer has to turn one’s back on the audience to change a slide – everything can be done from the board. Iwb software allows one to plan, design, manage and save resources.

There are a number of issues which raise concern, however. These include:

  • Boards don’t always do what they are supposed to do – moving an image is sometimes difficult, depending on pressure, cleanliness of hands, the setup of the board, etc.
  • Front projection boards cause problems – users are dazzled by projected light and the board is shadowed when the user stands in front of it, making it difficult to use, for instance, a virtual keyboard. Again, new designs overcome this.
  • There is a shortage of good interactive educational software. While IWB software allows teachers to design interactive resources, many find in difficult to do so.
  • Both software and hardware is very expensive.
  • There are a number of different makes of board around, as well as a number of different software suites. This makes choosing the ‘right’ board difficult.

The problems above commonly accompany new technologies and should be largely solved within the next few years. Prices should come down in real terms and software should get better. However, it is important to see IWBs as complementary rather than as replacement technology. Ordinary whiteboards and flip charts still have their place and should remain in teaching rooms.

See also this post on using IWBs.

Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface is a tactile screen which can be used for a host of purposes. This could include downloading pics wirelessly from a digital camera, uploading data from digital maps to a mobile phone and buying music and uploading it directly to a music player. It provides a more natural interface, using hands and fingers to drag data from one location to another. See this demonstration of Microsoft Surface from 2007,  for an idea of the multimedia interface of the future. See also this advert of this advert.  Other touch sensitive devices include gesture recognition.  Apple’s Magic Mouse, touch pads on Macbooks and Trackpads recognise different gestures and respond appropriately. New technological developments have been developed to enable visually impaired people to touch-type on  a tablet.  See Pranav Mistry’s work with gestures on TED.

This kind of technology would seem to offer opportunities for a freer and more intuitive working platform. Could these be the work surfaces of the future?

Other common interactive surfaces include global positioning tools used for navigation in motor vehicles, boats and aircraft.  An increasing number of touch sensitive surfaces are now found in the kitchen, including touch sensitive cooking tops which provide an easy to use and easy to clean environment. Futuristic conceptual kitchens are controlled largely by touch.

Beyond interactive surfaces – gesture and kinetic hand detection

Face recognition software is used across the world in surveillance systems, by governments and casinos. User interfaces (UIs) using kinetic hand detection technologies of the kind featured in the film Minority Report are under development, freeing users from the need to physically touch surfaces. See here for Kinect controls for Windows 7.

Kinetic Hand Detection technology  : Minority Report Interface : Face and iris recognition technology : Minority Report trailer : Windows 7 Gesture Cojntrol software :

The old argument about technology not raising achievement – BBC News

Useful readings

Barber, Cooper & Meeson (2007) Learning and Teaching with Interactive Whiteboards. Learning Matters, Exeter.

Beauchamp, G. &  Kennerwell, S. (2010) Interactivity in the classroom and its impact on learning. Computers & Education, Volume 54, Issue 3, April 2010, Pages 759-766

Coghill, J. (2002) IWBs – Primary use

Cutrim, E. (2008) Using a voting system in conjunction with interactive whiteboard technology to enhance learning in the English language classroom. Computers & Education, Volume 50, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 338-356.

Also see Teaching Interactively using IWB’s in the Primary Phase (Becta, PDF, 36 pages)

What the research says about Interactive whiteboards. Becta Research.

Armstrong, A., Barnes, S., Suthertland, R., Curran, S., Mills, S. & Thompson, I. (2005) Collaborative research methodology for investigating teaching and learning: The use of interactive whiteboard technology. Educational Review. 57(4), 457-469.

Freire, A., Linhalis, F.,  Bianchini, S.,  Fortes, R., da Graça, M. &  Pimentel. C. (2010) Revealing the whiteboard to blind students: An inclusive approach to provide mediation in synchronous e-learning activitiesComputers & Education, Volume 54, Issue 4, May 2010, Pages 866-876.

Gillen, J., Staarman, J., Littleton, K. & Mercer, N. (2007) A ‘learning revolution’? Investigating pedagogic practice around interactive whiteboards in British primary classrooms. Learning, Media and Technology. 32(3), 243-256.

Goodison, T.A. (2002) Learning with ICT at primary level: Pupil’s perceptions. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 18, 282-295.

Haldane, M. (2007) Interactivity and the digital whiteboard: Weaving the fabric of learning. Learning, Media and Technology. 32(3) Pages 283-301.

Hall, I. & Higgins, S. (2005) Primary school students’ perceptions of interactive whiteboards. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 21, 102-117.

Hennessy, S., Ruthven, K. & Winterbottom, M. (2007) Pedagogical strategies for using the interactive whiteboard to foster learner participation in school science. Learning, Media and Technology. 32(3) Pages 283-301.

Hodge, S. & Anderson, B. (2007) Teaching and learning with an interactive whiteboard. A teacher’s journey. Learning, Media and Technology. 32(3), 271-282.

Kennewell, S. & Higgins, S. (2007) Introduction to IWBs. Learning, Media and Technology. 32(3), 207-212.

Kennewell, S. & Beauchamp, G. (2007) The features of interactive whiteboards and their influence on learning. Learning, Media and Technology. 32(3), 227-241.

Levy, P. (2002) Interactive whiteboards in learning and teaching in two Sheffield schools: A development study.

Lopez, O. (2010) The Digital Learning Classroom: Improving English Language Learners’ academic success in mathematics and reading using interactive whiteboard technology
Computers & Education, Volume 54, Issue 4, May 2010, Pages 901-915.

Moss, G., Jewitt, C., Levaaic, R., Armstrong, V., Cardini, A. & Castle, F. (2007) The interactive whiteboard, pedagogy and pupil performance evaluation: An evaluation of the Schools Whiteboard Expansion (SWE) Project London Challenge. Institute of Education, University of London/DfES. London.

Rudd, T. (2007) Interactive whiteboards in the classroom: Bristol, Futurelab. Nabeel Al-Qirim (2011)  Determinants of interactive white board success in teaching in higher education institutions
Computers & Education, Volume 56, Issue 3, April 2011, Pages 827-838.

Schmid, E. (2008) Potential pedagogical benefits and drawbacks of multimedia use in the English language classroom equipped with interactive whiteboard technology. Computers & Education, Volume 51, Issue 4, December 2008, Pages 1553-1568.

Slay, H., Siebo¨rger, I & Hodgkinson-Williams, C. (2008) Interactive whiteboards: Real beauty or just ‘‘lipstick”? Computers & Education, Volume 51, Issue 3, November 2008, Pages 1321-1341.

Smith, F., Hardman, F. & Higgins, S. (2006) The impact of interactive whiteboards on teacher-pupil interaction in the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies. British Educational Research Journal. 32(3), 443-457.

Torff, B. & Tirotta, R. (2010) IWBs produce small gains in elementary students’ self-reported motivation in mathematics.

Wall, K. Higgins, S. & Smith, H. (2005) The visual helps me understand the complicated things. Pupil views of teaching and learning with interactive whiteboards. BJET, 36(5), 851-867

Warwick,P., Mercer, N., Kershner, Staarman, J. (2010) In the mind and in the technology: The vicarious presence of the teacher in pupil’s learning of science in collaborative group activity at the
interactive whiteboard
. Computers & Education, Volume 55, Issue 1, August 2010, Pages 350-362

Other useful papers on the impact of new technologies on learning.

Creanor, L. et al. (2006) The learners voice – a focus on the e-learner experience

The Economist (2008) The future of Higher Education. How technology will shape learning.

Becta (2002… 2008) Videoconferencing

Interactive Whiteboards.

Somekh, B. et al. (2007) Evaluation of the Primary Schools Whiteboard Expansion Project.

Somekh, B. et al. (2007) Evaluation of the Primary Schools Whiteboard Expansion Project (summary)

Social Software

Social software is one of the major features of what is generally referred to as Web2.0. This video provides a useful overview of social software.

According to Wikipedia, ‘social software enables people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication. Many advocates of using these tools believe (and actively argue or assume) that these create actual community, and have adopted the term “online communities” to describe the social structures that they claim result.’

Collaborative software is a more specific term, applying to cooperative work systems and software that enables work functions. Distinctions between usage of the terms “social” and “collaborative” is in the applications not the tools, although there are some tools that are only rarely used for work collaboration. For further details and a discussion about communities, collaborative software, design features, software and emerging technologies, see here.

Social software has has impacted greatly on the way many of us live our lives. Developing technologies now allow one to work online at any time, using software which was previously installed on hard drives. Google has already launched Google Docs and Spreadsheets, providing the facility to word process and spreadsheet online. A Google account (gmail, googlemail) is required. Microsoft has a similar facility, as does Apple, although Apple’s iDisk and is by subscription. The great advantage of these applications is that files are available via the web from anywhere at anytime. However, security could be a problem for important and confidential documents.

Timeline of Web2 buzzwords from Wikipedia.

Social software includes blogs, wikis, social networking software like Myspace and Facebook, and I’mThere, bookmarking software like Del.ici.ous and Diigo, photo sharing sites like SmugMug, Flickr, Zooomr and Photobucket and video sharing sites like YouTube.  Social news and discussion sites include  Digg. Other online artistic communities include DeviantART. Purveyors of social networking sites have been quick to capitalise on relationships, including old ones. There are a number of sites which facilitate school and cultural friendships, like Friends Reunited and SAReunited. Business organisations have recognised the potential of these online presences. Warwick is the online Myspace presence of Warwick University. See this article for more detail. University Admissions organisation UCAS has also launched a social networking site which allows university students to meet and talk to each other online before they start their course.

There is a certain level of cross over between these descriptors – Digg provides a bookmarking facility, but most users use it as a social content site – a source of daily ‘geek’ or techno news and for commenting. For a description of who uses Digg, see here.

Some see Myspace and Facebook as blogs, but others see them more as communal diaries and social networking facilities. In my view, while they have characteristics of both, they are not blogs in the true sense. They are virtual meeting places for social networking, with very little by way of serious discussion.

Messaging and personal videoconferencing sites are growing in number. MSN Messenger is probably the best known. Others include Jabber and Meebo. Google users have access to messaging systems via gmail or googlemail accounts.

Skype provides more than messaging, offering free telephone calls to other Skype users and cheap calls to landlines and mobiles via the internet. Skype has recently been b ought by Microsoft (May 2011)

These packages offer free (or cheap) access to a range of multimedia software and opportunities to share ideas, experiences or resources as well as archiving facilities for web based information. As such, they offer potential for educators, students and pupils. The question is whether educators recognise the potential that these sites offer and whether security issues can be overcome to ensure a safe environment for (especially) young users. However, there have been calls for educators to recognise the potential of social networking as  educational platforms, offering classes on the use of Twitter to teachers and calling for pupils to be able to use Facebook in class. The power of Twitter has recently been demonstrated in the way that  British laws which sought to enforce superinjunctions requested by a number of tawdry celebrities were flouted.

Bob Geldorf’s proposed Dictionary of Man website :: Bob Geldorf on Youtube  ::

Bookmarking software

Delicious :: Nowpublic :: Redditt :: Digg :: Newsvine :: Fark

Photo sharing software

Zooomr :: Flickr :: Photobucket :: DeviantART  :: SmugMug

Video sharing software

There is a useful comparison of video sharing software on this site.

Mooziko. Africa’s YouTube..

Television on demand

BBC iPlayer

Messaging and video conferencing software

Meebo :: Skype :: MSN :: Yahoo ::  Jabber :: Twitter

Meebo lets users send and receive messages from a number of different IM services, such as AOL, MSN, Yahoo and Jabber. It is an elegant solution to the problem of having multiple accounts – many of which are not interoperable – and requiring different software downloads.

Twitter cross-communicates content between email, instant messaging and mobiles.

Article from ZDNet: Is Facebook the new Twitter? (Nope… Twittwer is the new Facebook!)

Online debating

Convince me Provides a range of online debates, of various sorts.

Extortr Online blackmailing site. Fun for some.


Slideshare allows one to upload and share presentations.


“Stikkit gathers phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, and other useful bits of information about the people you meet and know — over time and across stikkits. More than outdated scribbles in your address book, Stikkit peeps are up to date, in context, and as interconnected as your life is. Stikkit gathers phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, and other useful bits of information about the people you meet and know — over time and across stikkits. More than outdated scribbles in your address book, Stikkit peeps are up to date, in context, and as interconnected as your life is.”

Friend Feed.

Keep up to date with what your friends are doing with feeds of thewir latest pics, web pages, contributions to YouTube etcetera

Tag Clouds.

Tag Clouds provide an easy way to navigate a website. According to WordWorks, “A tag cloud (more traditionally known as a weighted list in the field of visual design) is a visual depiction of content tags used on a website. Often, more frequently used tags are depicted in a larger font or otherwise emphasized, while the displayed order is generally alphabetical. Thus both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. Selecting a single tag within a tag cloud will generally lead to a collection of items that are associated with that tag.” See also this article.


You can use any words to create a cloud with Wordle.


Real reviews (restaurants, arts and entertainment, nitelife, whatever) by real people. See also Yelp Maptastic.

RSS (Really simple syndication)

One of the features of Web2 is the facility for web users to get information delivered directly to their device, be it a computer, mobile phone, IPod or wireless PDA. RSS is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated digital content, such as blogs, news feeds or podcasts.

Users of RSS content use software programs called “feed readers” or “feed aggregators”. The user subscribes to a feed by entering a link to the feed into the reader program. The reader can then check the user’s subscribed feeds to see if any of those feeds have new content since the last time it checked, and if so, retrieve that content and present it to the user.

The initials “RSS” are variously used to refer to the following standards:
Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0)
Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.91, RSS 1.0)
RDF Site Summary (RSS 0.9 and 1.0)

RSS formats are specified in XML (a generic specification for data formats). RSS delivers its information as an XML file called an “RSS feed,” “webfeed,” “RSS stream,” or “RSS channel”.

See O’Reilly XML.Com for more info on RSS

Print on Demand.

This may seem a strange idea to include here, but POD would be difficult without the web as a medium to explore titles that are available either as PDFs for download, or as books printed specifically for one-on order. It provides an alternative method of publication for authors who would prefer to avoid traditional publishing houses. It is likely also to become a more common choice for both authors and readers. See

Genealogy, ancestry and other sites.

These have blossomed recently, as people begin to take an interest in tracing their family roots and ancestors. They include access to a number of databases, including births & deaths registers and passenger lists. These are great resources for history teachers. See Ancestry dot com.

Create a family site as part of Coordinate your family and remember important dates, share family photos and stay in touch. See My family dot com.

Virtual learning platforms

School Life

Virtual Social Worlds and the future of learning

Developments in collaborative tools

For developers and techies…

Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud)

Link to various Mobile Networking resources.

Network Computing site.

The impact of computing on modern day language.

The Jargon File.


Anderson, T. (2005) Distance Learning – Social Software’s killer ap?

Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L. (2008) The ‘digital natives’ debate. A critical review of evidence.

Bryant, T. (2006) Social Software in Academia.

Conole, G. & Culver, J. (2010) The design of Cloudworks: Applying social networking practice to foster the exchange of learning and teaching ideas and designs. Computers and Education, 54(3), 679-692

Dalsgaard, C. (2006) E-learning Beyond Learning Management Systems.

Grosseck, G. & Holotescu, C. (2008) Can we use Twitter for Educational Purposes?  Papers, The 4th International Scientific Conference eLSE “eLearning and Software for Education“, BUCHAREST, April 17-18.

Grosseck, G. & Holotescu, C.(2008?) Using microblogging in education. Case Study:


Hammond, T., Hannay, T., Lund, B. & Scott J. (2005) Social Bookmarking Tools.

Jones, N., Blackey, H., Fitzgibbon, K. & Chew, E. (2010) Get out of MySpace! Computers and Education, 54(3), 776-782.

Jansen, (2009) Twitter Power:Tweets as ElectronicWord of Mouth.

Kahnwald, N. (2007?) Social Software as a Tool for Informal Learning.

Kennedy, R. (2004) Weblogs, Social Software and New Interactivity on the Web.

MacIntosh, A. (2008) The emergence of digital governance.

Madey, G., Freeh, V. & Tynan, R. (2002) The Open Source Software Development

Mejias, U. (2005) A Nomad’s Guide to Learning and Social Software.

Mazman, S. & Usluel, Y. (2010) Modelling educational use of Facebook. Computers and Education, 55(2), 444-453.

Newitz, A. (2003) Security and social networking sites.

Prensky. M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Pt1

Prensky. M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Pt2

Sit, R.J., Hollan, J.D. & Griswold, W.G. Digital photos as conversational anchors.

Phenomenon: An Analysis Based on Social Network Theory

Using social software in UK schools – ZDNet interview with Doug Belshaw.

Wikipedia – Social software in education.

Literature reviews on mobile learning from Futurelab.

Security issues.

Myspace adds security monitor.

Kevin Mitnick on Hacking.

The impact of Multimedia on the gathering and dissemination of news.

Developments in digital multimedia continue to impact on societies across the world. This influence is wide ranging – from public news media, through marketing,  entertainment and education to hobbies like photography and the way we create, edit  and share information.

In this session we will concentrate on the influence of multimedia on the process of news gathering and dissemination, highlighting the changes in the way in which  ‘news’ is gathered, collated and shared.

There are three main issues.  The first is the way that digital technologies have changed ‘traditional’ practice. The second is the way in which these technologies have led to a proliferation of information creation and dissemination via the rise of what some call ‘citizen journalism’.  The third is the way in which the balance of power, in the context of the way information is gathered and controlled, is changing.*

Looking at ‘traditional practice’, one and two dimensional media systems (radio and the traditional paper based press) have benefited from digitisation, in spite of the systems remaining largely unchanged with respect to the way we consume them. The main advantage for them are systems which add value by providing electronic archives which make the creation, dissemination and storage of media more efficient. Traditional newspapers continue, side by side with new (normally) free electronic versions available online and increasingly as ‘apps’ for mobile devices like the iPad. Changes continue as the number of papers sold continues to dwindle and new electronic interfaces develop. The Guardian has already indicated that it will stop its loss making print edition in the future.

In the case of radio, storerooms housing vinyl records / CDs have been replaced by personal computers managing the broadcasting of digital music and other sound formats. Any radio station worth its salt has a website, providing information about its policies, personnel and programmes to radio aficionados, some of whom tune in via the internet.

Computerisation has changed both the way that newspapers are produced, and the way they are managed. The printers union, The National Graphical Association, once powerful enough to to dictate to management with respect to how many printers were required on each daily and to bleed profits by using out-of-date piece rate systems which enabled them to claim extra compensation for working with irregular sized typefaces, heavily edited copy, in languages other than English and even for work done by others ‘out of house’, suffered heavily when DTP systems made hot metal compositing a redundant skill.

(See Bryson, B. (1995) Notes From a Small Island. Black Swan, London, pages 47-62, for a description of the changes in the world of newspapers since the 1980s). See also this site for info on hot metal and hand compositing

Digital photography has also revolutionised the way that newspapers work. The traditional world of photographic film has disappeared, together with darkrooms, enlargers and the chemistry of developing and printing. Professional digital still cameras can now shoot and upload images to editors via wireless ftp immediately, cutting time margins to seconds rather than hours. Online editions of newspapers often include video footage.

But the biggest impact has been provided by applications that make it possible for the world to go online. Blogs, once the preserve of computer geeks, have become respectable and are used by professional journalists, essayists, political and social commentators and academics, to name but a few.


Blogging is not a revolution. It is a pan-generation group of people clearing its collective throat…announcing that it has a voice – regardless of how it chooses to use it.
Stuart, New York. BBC News.

Blogging is now a well known and respected internet activity. A blog is simply a series of updated posts on the web, usually in a diary or journal format. Posts are generally chronological. The usual array of multimedia – links to other sites, text, images, music, and streamed video, are common.

According to Raynsford (2003), a possible attraction of blogging lies in its “unmediated and dynamic quality. Without an agenda, editorial stance or pedantic sub-editor standing between the writer and reader, blogging can provide reportage in a raw and exciting form.” (Accessed 26/4/05). Furthermore, a growing dissatisfaction or distrust of news provided by large media conglomerates makes blogs an attractive alternative. In spite of often being being raw and subjective, blogs “provide information that will never see the light of day in the print or TV media realm,” (Belichick, in Raynsford 2003, accessed 26/4/05). By way of illustration, Raynsford (2003) mentions that “not one major media outlet in the US reported that the US excised over 8,000 pages from the Iraq declaration since it contained information about the US companies that supplied all of the biological and chemical ‘weapons’ to [Saddam].” A blog did. Similarly, the recent smear campaign orchestrated by Labour insiders in the UK was brought into the public domain largely due to the Order,Order! blog.

Blogs have also been used as emancipatory tools, providing information to the world about tyrants like Saddam, Mugabe the military junta in Burma and more recently, providing up-to-date ‘alternate’ information on revolutions in Egypt Libya and across the Middle East – the so-called Arab Spring.  Social networking has played a large part in these protests, enabling people to form online revolutionary movements and to communicate quickly and freely. Mobile multimedia devices capable of capturing and uploading digital still and video images, together with blogs and other applications through which they are shared with the world,  make it impossible for tyrants to control information.  Because the information is stored on servers outside of these country, and because the posts are available from anywhere (home, home of a friend, internet cafe, office) the source of the blog is relatively difficult (but not impossible) to find. In essence, applications like blogs and wikis provide a realistic challenge to the control of information that powerful press barons, governments and businessmen once enjoyed.

But it is not only in these countries that digital tools are making a change. Today, a number of articles appeared in the British press about the inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson, after his was hit with a baton and pushed by a policeman during the G20 protests in London last year. Without effective portable technologies, in this case a video taken by a passer by, this case would not have been brought to court, nor would the inquest ever have happened. More importantly, it now seems that there will be a great deal more scrutiny of policing and especially police brutality, which has led to the deaths of a number of people with little in the way of accountability on the part of the policemen  involved. Whether Harwood will be prosecuted is still not clear. Whatever the case, this is a great day for democracy.
Zapiro, Mail and Guardian, 6 May 2011

Microblogging platforms like Twitter play an important role in providing breaking news. The main reason for this is that the platforms are mobile, enabling tweets to be created and posted off as the action is taking place, even from space. Twitter has been much in the news in the UK recently, with some calling for a ban on its use in meetings and others requesting rapid updates of information on current debates. In some cases, tweeters have been prosecuted for the content of tweets. The most famous of these is perhaps the misrepresented ‘menacing’ joke tweet by Paul Chambers regarding Robin Hood airport. Twitter users are working hard to get the sentence overturned. This week, a twitter account was set up revealing the identities of the alleged rich and famous behind a series of superinjunctions granted by UK judges, getting around the limitations placed on the traditional press, in spite of the superinjunctions supposedly being applicable world wide. This is another example of the emancipatory power of new media, in this case providing the spur for us to challenge archaic privacy laws. Twitter has proved to be a powerful tool for protesters, providing rapid communication between activists.

Many supporting apps have been developed to enhance Twitter. These include applications like Twitpics and an ever increasing number of Twitter clients.

Professional journalists have also been attracted to blogging. In an interview with dotJournalism, JD Lasica, senior editor of the Online Journalism Review mentioned that some reporters in the Gulf region were using weblogs “to provide fuller, more personal and colourful reporting of what they are witnessing first-hand.” (in Raynsford, 2003, accessed 26/4/05). This trend has grown and today, blogs, Twitter and other social media like Facebook are all part of a journalist’s life, according to Wired’s Matthew Lasar, who sees the internet as a tool which has led to the ‘hamsterization of journalism‘.

Whether blogging is the new journalism remains unclear. However, the increased number of blogs, many by webloggers who are careful with their reportage, makes them a real alternative to traditional forms of news, providing some measure of reaction to the danger of large corporations taking control of the public’s right to know. What is clear is that the traditional media (The Times, The Guardian), has embraced blogging, seeing it as complementary to if not an  alternative to traditional reportage. However, Matthew Ingram reflects that the social media aspect of some ‘professional’ blogs in newspapers can be limited by organisational rules which limit the use of comments.

This article from BBC News is an indication to me that blogging is no longer a quaint sideline. Blogging is influential and has come of age. I remember when this was ‘cranky’ – Dave Gilbert, BBC News. See also The State of the News Media 2007. This report raises questions about the influence of blogs and the responsibility of bloggers. Blogging has come of age, recognised as an effective way of writing even by conservative educational organisations. Blogs, video blogs, podcasts and wikis have great potential as educational tools which can be used effectively by imaginative teachers. Young people are used to and comfortable working with digital technologies and are keen to use these in their educational settings. The bloggosphere recognises everyone equally with respect to gender, age and race and provides a level of immediacy (posting, editing, responses, responding to responses) which supports the demands of the age.


  • How can educational institutions use social media effectively? See Johnson’s comments on using blogs as part of a writing course and Wheeler’s comments on the rapid sharing of information.
  • Is the increased use of social media platforms inevitable in education?  See Times article on using Facebook in class.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media in schools?
  • Other issues.


Links to articles showing the development of  blogs and blogging.

Blogging Today   :  Blog reading explodes  : Top 15 blogs today  : Meeting the bloggers face to faceSo what is the point of blogging?citizen journalismAcademics, students turning to blogs :

Careful what you say

EFF Guide to safe blogging Don’t blog about work : Civil Serf blog closed down avoiding identification :

Blogging and politics

Blair backs regulation of online journalism : Wikileaks information (Wikipedia) : About Wikileaks wiki (Wikipedia) Dangers of blogging in Iran : Dangers of blogging in Eqypt  : Chinese bloggers must register   : This is Zimbabwe – Sokwanele Civic Action Support Group blog : Lords of the Blog – a collaborative blog from members of the House of Lords : Bryan Appleyard. The Real Twitter Revolution. Sunday Times News Review, 29/5/2011

About blog design

Donnely, P. (2009) Death of the boring blog post.


Articles about Twitter from Monty’s Delicious site : Blogging stats from Mashable, June 2010 : Peter Jackson’s video blog on the making of  The Hobbit (Facebook)

Nieman Journalism Lab – The Guardian goes digital first. Accessed 18/6/2011

Conference papers

Ryan Y. Sit, James D. Hollan, William G. Griswold. (2005) Digital Photos as Conversational Anchors. Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences – 2005

Susan C. Herring, Lois Ann Scheidt, Sabrina Bonus and  Elijah Wright. (2004) Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs. Proceedings of the 37th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences – 2004

Lilia Efimova and Aldo de Moor. (2005) Beyond personal webpublishing: An exploratory study of conversational blogging practices. Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences – 2005

Susan C. Herring, Inna Kouper, John C. Paolillo, Lois Ann Scheidt, Michael Tyworth, Peter Welsch, Elijah Wright, and Ning Yu (2005) Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis “From the Bottom Up” Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences – 2005

From the journals

Beale, R. (2007) Blogs, reflective practice and student-centered learning. British Computer Society, Volume 2 Proceedings of the 21st BCS HCI Group Conference, HCI 2007, 3-7 September 2007, Lancaster University, UK
Devina Ramduny-Ellis & Dorothy Rachovides (Editors)

Brescia, W. & Miller, M. (2005) What’s it Worth? The Perceived Benefits of Instructional Blogging. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, Vol. 5

Chandra, V. & Lloyd, M. (2008) The methodological nettle: ICT and student achievement. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(6) 1087–1098.

Drezner, D. & Farrell, H. (2008). Blogs, politics and power: a special issue of Public Choice. Public Choice 134: 1–13

Ebner, M., Lienhardt, C., Rohs, M. & Meyer, I. (2010) Microblogs in Higher Education – A chance to facilitate informartion  and process-oriented learning? Computers and Education. 55, 92-100.

Gill, K. (2004) How can we measure the influence of the blogosphere?

Hernández-Ramos, P. (2004) Web Logs and Online Discussions as Tools to Promote Reflective Practice. The Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 3 (1).

Kamel Boulos, M., Inocencio Maramba, I. & and Wheeler, S. (2006) Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:41.

Karger, D.R. & Quanb, D. (2005) What would it mean to blog on the semantic web? Journal of Web Semantics, 3 (2-3), 147-157.

Kennedy, R. (2004) Weblogs, Social Software, and New Interactivity on the Web. Psychiatric Services, 55(3).

Mortensen, T. & Walker, J.(2004) Blogging thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool.

Parker, C. & Pfeiffer, S. (2005) Videoblogging: Content to the max.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia. IEEE Multimedia, April-June.

Probert, E. (2009) Information Literacy Skills: Teacher understandings and practice. Computers and Education 53, 24-33.

Schmidt, J. (2007) Blogging practices: An analytical framework. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. 12, pages 1409-1427.

Williams, J. & Jacobs, J. (2004) Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.

Technology and educational blogs

Rory Cellan-Jones Technology Blog : Steve Wheeler’s Learning with ‘e’s blog : Teaching with blogs – Educating Alice blog : The Ed Techie blog : Ollie Bray’s Creativity and Innovation in Education blog : e-Learning Stuff blog :