Thursday, 23 August 2007

An Online Social Presence

Our task is to offer up some light-hearted cartoons/sound bites/jokes in an attempt to help build a 'social presence'. This was fun and far less taxing on the old grey matter but I wondered whether this was an effective starting point for creating this social presence.

So where do I start with this thought? Well, firstly I looked back at some notes I took while listening to Konrad Glogowski's lecture on 'classrooms as third places'. Konrad explains that the term 'third place' was coined by Ray Oldenburg (1989) to describe social spaces distinct from home ('first place') and work ('second place') as a place where people meet informally to socialise. (My question at this point is where does school/college/university fit in - does education count as work or as informal socialisation???).

Anyway, at this point our task looks like a bit of informal socialisation - similar to Konrad's first key attribute where he encourages students to express themselves outside of the course currculum with personally relevant content. To some extent the task also enables us to display a 'personal stamp' - i.e. by demonstrating our sense of humour - which Konrad identified in his second key attribute as a means of building a 'web presence'. Konrad's third key attribute suggests that 'any participation' is welcome as this helps build 'sociability'. And hence a 'social presence'? Yes, I reckon so. The fourth key attribute of 'the classroom as a third place' relates to the teacher's promotion of 'all activity' generated by the learners - so I suppose we'll see how Leigh & Bronwyn respond to our joke selection! So, although the task is a contrived one it does enable a little bit of personality to come through. Taking this forward with Konrad's view - of allowing learners to express themselves with whatever interests them as a means of building a community - it makes sense that over time a 'social' or 'web' presence would result.

My one reservation though is this. If I had been given the freedom to try to display my sense of humour in any way that I liked, would I have found the task as fun or did the structured nature of the task (i.e. find a cartoon, find a joke, find a soundbite) actually enable me to get on with it and produce something I was happy with? I think this comes down to my slow realisation that I'm clinging to my traditional learning patterns which is interesting as I browse through the report on e-learner profiles (link provided by Bronwyn in the googlegroup forum). The report mentions, among many other things, that a debate exists about whether learner 'preferences should be accommodated (matched) or deliberately not accommodated (mismatched)' to enable effective e-learning (page 7). By not meeting learner preferences, he/she will be forced to develop new ways of learning. How does this effect how I would facilitate an online group? Err, that will take a bit more thought!

Well enough of the rambling! Here are links to some Calvin & Hobbes cartoons that make me smile.

Using Graeme's post as inspirition for my jokes search, here are some excuse notes from parents taken from:

  1. My son is under a doctor's care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.

  2. Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.

  3. Dear School: Please exscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29,30, 31, 32, and also 33.

  4. Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.

  5. Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.

  6. Please excuse Ray from school. He has very loose vowels.

  7. Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father's fault.

A short sound bite from Homer Simpson at

[I couldn't link to the exact clip but I liked the Computer one].


Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Identity & Ownership

I listened to the recording of James Farmer's lecture on Indentity and Ownership from last Thursday and came away with the following.

  • Using bulletin boards/forums are useful for individuals to express a view or seek help on a specific issue but are less conducive to effective discussions. (As shown by our 'persona' task perhaps).
  • Learning management systems (which can include bulletin boards) have been developed in response to teacher's needs to deliver content online and not necessarily as as an aid to communication. Hence LMS are not always successful in creating communities.
  • Blogs, on the other hand, enable effective communication to exist which can be recorded, archived and shared easily. A blog also gives the 'teacher' a chance to create a 'social presence'.

LMS/Bulletin Board


  • Difficult to interact.
  • Individuals search for relevant content rather than communication?
  • Interaction exists (comments/links)
  • Personality can be developed over time.
  • 'Real' life commentary can help establish identity.
  • Diffcult to build a presence.
  • Work created and copied to Word docs - requires extra effort/skill
  • Work archived and/or shared.
  • Central hub eases management of communication

My experience with Blackboard (during previous papers on this course) leads me to disagree to a certain extent. Through some extensive posting and discussion (including 'real' life stuff) there were some very strong identities created. Group tasks which resulted in a concluding post led to quite a bit of discussion especially when the activity was being assessed! However, the ownership issue is apparent as once access to the course LMS is removed there is a lot of work lost - unless you were organised enough to make copies of everything. Did we create a community? By the end of the paper I think we did. Will the blogs be more successful? My impression is that one blog as the 'strong coherent hub' (James' term I think) could be, although at present it still feels like a muddle (emails, googlegroups, blogs). With a bit more knowledge about RSS I'm hoping I can grasp the idea of creating a 'hub'!