Facebook in der Bildung

Über Facebook in der Bildung kann man natürlich lange diskutieren. Nicht nur weil es Facebook, also ein kommerzieller Dienst, ist; sondern weil wir es in der Bildung halt mit unterschiedlichen Zielgruppen und Lernzusammenhängen zu tun haben. Vor diesem Hintergrund versucht der Artikel, möglichst viele Perspektiven und Bedenken aufzunehmen: von der Frage, was Facebook ist, wie es funktioniert, bis zu ersten Ansätzen und Beispielen für die Bildungsarbeit. Pros & Cons sowie Leseempfehlungen schließen diese Einführung ab. Was vielleicht fehlt, sind “O-Töne” von Nutzern, die aus ihrer Sicht die Bedeutung des Netzwerks in ihrem Lebens- und Bildungsalltag einmal zurückspiegeln.
Lea Schrenk, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 17. März 2017

So long Instagram, it was fun

Yesterday I switched off another network, Instagram.

There are a few reasons for this. It was inevitable, really. So how did it get to this and why?

  • Whilst I used to love the filters, and making my relatively mundane photos look fun or interesting, I am fed up with seeing everything else through a filter.
  • The search was pretty useless; you couldn’t save a search, there were accounts or #hashtags I wanted to keep track of but not follow, etc.
  • The app would regularly hog over 1GB of storage, and on a 16GB iPhone that’s a whole heap of space I could use for something else.
  • Until this last week there was no two-factor authentication, and lots of stories of people hacked and locked out of the accounts.
  • Facebook owns it, therefore we’re all feeding into the Facebook approach to security and data access.
  • Spam. At the end I was getting 5-10 likes per photo from spam accounts selling 1000’s of likes or followers, usually using a busty woman as their avatar, and with a randomly generated username. I was also blocking 2-5 accounts per day who started following me. They were inappropriate or accounts (not people, they were mostly bots fishing – of phishing – for followers and likes) I didn’t want to be associated with.
  • I don’t ‘do’ selfies. 
  • Instagram T&Cs state it can use my photos whenever and wherever it wants.
  • Ads. Oh, the bloody ads and promoted accounts. And the fake accounts.
  • Everyone I know/knew on Instagram I am also connected with on either Twitter or Facebook, so I will probably see their (your) filtered snaps at some point.
  • The pressure to post something interesting. Regularly.

I deleted the app a week ago. Initially I missed it, really missed it, as I used to search for things of interest: motorbikes, lifestyle, research places, etc. But I can find the exact same things elsewhere, I don’t actually need Instagram for that. I can still see their Instagram photos using the web interface anyway [wink]. Examples: here and here.

I started using Instagram probably about 6 years ago (I can’t check the exact date now, the account is deceased), shortly after it launched, and used it mainly for conference and workshop activity. Over the years I do less of that now, but still took more photos of family, locations, food, etc. (like everyone else). But, and here’s the real reason, I was becoming more and more desperate to try and find something new to do or somewhere new to go just so I could check-in (I dumped FourSquare back in 2012) or tag myself there, and share a photo even I found pretty boring. My phone stored the original photo and the filtered version so, unless I deleted them off my phone in a vain attempt at recovering some lost storage, I’ve still got the photos.

It’s kind of sad really, this is all that’s left … “Sorry, this page isn’t available.” I kind of wished I had the option to ‘leave a message’ when I disabled the account, leaving one photo as some sort of tribute to the 2.5k or so photos I created in Instagram.

What do other people say about quitting Instagram? Read this and this and this and this. Most search results are of the likes of Bieber (I can’t believe I’ve just included him on my blog. I feel dirty) or Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley, but for reasons of harassment. This is another reason I am considering my online activity. I’ve not been the subject of anything like this – I’ve had a few ‘tough’ tweets from someone who didn’t agree with me, but that’s part and parcel of a generic conversation, not only online activity, so I accept that.

So, if I’ve taken this step, is any other network at risk of being culled? Well, yes, I’ve already written about my (current) mood and Twitter. I’ve also talked about deleting my Facebook account too – I deleted the app a year ago and only use a browser to access it now. I’ve not deleted FB, yet, because there are friends I keep in touch with only through FB. But let’s be honest, it’s not really keeping the friendship alive, it’s just keeping in very-lose touch, stalking them almost. I might just take the plunge, posting one last update saying

“I’m going to delete my Facebook account. if you want to stay in touch you have one week to send me a message or reply saying you want to stay in touch. We’ll exchange phone numbers, email and postal addresses, and stay in touch the nice old way. And arrange to chat and meet up more regularly too. How about it?”

Here are some articles about breaking up with Facebook: here and here

Image source: Pexels (CC0)

Dear Twitter. It’s not me, it’s you

Here’s a confession … I’m not as enamoured by Twitter as I used to be. Unlike a traditional break up argument (is this the case, I don’t know?) where one party says to the other “it isn’t you, it’s me”, I am most definitely saying “it’s not me, it’s you [Twitter]”.

Twitter, at its core, is something that merely reflects us, either individually or culturally. It’s a free tool and subject to very few rules and regulations. And I don’t like what I see there these days. A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be in a position anywhere I would be called, or call myself, anything other than Avid Twitter User (ATU), but today I find myself a Reluctant Twitter User (RTU). I still use Twitter because I have made some amazing friends and contacts there, I have some fabulous conversations and networking, and the like. I’ve had ideas, shared them, allowed them to grow, collected and collated articles and books, all from Twitter. And I want to continue that. For the most part my use of Twitter hasn’t changed in the last year. But the way other people use Twitter has. Let me explain.

I have never used the ‘trending‘ or ‘moments‘ features of Twitter. I’m not interested in the latest celebrity news, I don’t care what who said to whom, or which talentless so-called celebrity is on the cover of some over-priced glam-mag, or whatever they’re called. And don’t get me started on the ads … all I’ve learned from Twitter ads is that the more you interact with them (either blocking the accounts or clicking the ‘dismiss’ option) just means you get more. The last time I tried dismissing or blocking the ads I ended up with a ad every 5th or 6th tweet in the iOS app. Now I ignore them, just gloss over them, and I get far far fewer! Annoying, oh yes, but fewer of them.

No, these are mere annoyances. What is causing me to think twice about Twitter is the way, as I said earlier, the way it reflects ‘us’ and how others are using it. In the last year the world has changed, it’s quite difficult to have not noticed. For my UK and European friends, it’s been Brexit. For the US and, frankly, rest of the world, it’s Trump. My Twitter feed is now full of political commentary and all sorts of negative content that wasn’t there before. Don’t get me wrong, and I’m not making a political statement here, the world feels like it’s on the edge of a very precarious precipice, and I feel like we’re toppling into the abyss on the other side we may never recover from. But that’s not the Twitter I want, or rather not what I look to Twitter for … this is why I ignore the ‘trending’ and ‘moments’ features, it doesn’t represent the Twitter (and my network) I want. 

I admire those who are vocal and active in bringing the ‘new world’ to our attention, to bringing the elite few to task for the masses who are not as able or represented (freedom of the press is powerful and ultimately the only thing capable of bringing balance to current affairs, by holding those in power to account for their actions), but I want to read and hear about it when I choose, not somewhere where I go to learn about my work, my network, my interested and passions, etc. Twitter has always been, for me, about learning, learning technology, etc. because those I choose to interact with and choose to follow are also tweeting about that. The world has changed, and all of us with it.

So, here’s what I need from Twitter, in this new world – I don’t want my Twitter timeline/stream to be controlled by algorithms, but I do want more control (note: I want the control, not for it to be done for me) over the kind of tweets that fill my timeline. If the 1,300 or so people I follow on Twitter want to share and discuss current affairs and Brexit and the like, then I am happy for them and don’t want to stop them, or unfollow them either. I just want some way to filter those out, until I want to read them. Twitter is acting against the rise (and rise) of trolls and the nasty side of the internet (some say too late).

Some might say I shouldn’t’ blame Twitter, it’s merely holding the mirror up to reflect society as it is changing, and it’s that reflection that I don’t like, but Twitter has changed – not just how it’s being used but also how it’s allowing itself to be used. Twitter, I believe, has a responsibility to balance how it is used. An analogy would be to not blame the car manufacturer for the people the drivers kill in accidents where their cars are involved, but we still hold them responsible for either false or misleading advertising features or safety they don’t have, as well as holding them responsible for the safety features they ought to have (so your car can go 200mph … how good are the brakes? Good enough, or the best they can possibly be?). So, Twitter needs to hold itself to account and deal with trolls, deal with the abuse of the verified icon, deal with the abuse of the global audience every tweet can have (whether it’s from someone with 3 followers or 3,000,000 followers), deal with (deliberate) misinformation from those who are in a position to affect so many, etc. Twitter has a responsibility. I don’t know how it can do any of this, but hiding or ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. Inaction to deal with these problems, by association, is the same as allowing them to happen, almost to the level of making it approved behaviour, almost encouraging it?

Am I breaking up with Twitter? No. Or rather, not yet. But I am very conscious of trying hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Oh yes, Facebook. Don’t get me started on Facebook …

Image source: “Twitter” by Pete Simon (CC BY 2.0)

Is LinkedIn still relevant?

I have a LinkedIn account and profile – here it is: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/davidmhopkins

I think it’s OK – nothing special, nothing outstanding. I’ve put a little effort into making it what it is, making sure it’s up to date, professional, and that I have appropriate and relevant connections. I am fully aware of how this ‘shop window’ into my work can work for or against me at any time, even when I’ve been ignoring it for months on end.

Those who know me will know that I moved from Bournemouth University to the University of Leicester in 2012, and again on to the University of Warwick in 2014. I am certain that online professional persona was used as part of the interview/hiring process (let’s face it, they’d have missed a trick if they didn’t use them!) as well as my CV and application forms – my Twitter feed, my LinkedIn profile, my (under-used) Google+ stream, SlideShare presentations, published books, etc.

This is why it’s important to spend a little time keeping your profile up to date, trim the connections (or not accept those you don’t know in some way), post updates and projects, etc.

This LinkedIn Snakes and Ladders from Sue Beckingham is just perfect for anyone who has a LinkedIn profile, student or staff. Sue makes important suggestions on what will help or hinder your profile, like adding projects, publications, and a professional photo (help) or sharing trivia, posting insensitive or unprofessional updates (hinder).

LinkedIn snakes or ladders? from Sue Beckingham

My question is, do we still need LinkedIn? Are those of use who are active elsewhere (Twitter, FaceBook, Google, blogs, etc.) doing enough already, or do we need this ‘amalgamator’ that is LinkedIn to pull our work together? Do you use LinkedIn to find out about people you encounter?

Note: I don’t use the LinkedIn Premium. Does anyone?

Image source: Patrick Feller (CC BY 2.0)

Don’t give it to me unless I can customise it

My first car was a 1993 Rover Mini Cooper 1.3i, in British Racing Green (obviously). I bought it second hand in ’97 from John Cooper Garages (JCG) in West Sussex, and the legendary John Cooper himself handed my the keys (and made my mum a cup of tea while I did the paperwork).

Like so many people who own a Mini it didn’t stay ‘standard’ for very long, as I read through the Mini magazines on the kinds of things I could do to personalise the car. I went to Mini events, like the London-to-Brighton Mini Run and the 40th anniversary party at Silverstone, and looked over the show cars and private cars that were parked up, as well as the stands and auto-jumble traders. I bought the whole set of JCG brushed aluminium door furniture (window winders, door pulls, etc.) and chrome accessories (bling!), as well as doing more mechanical upgrades like vented discs and four-pot calliper for both front and read brakes, and a full-length straight-through (manifold to rear ‘box) DTM-style exhaust system (ooh, that was awesome!).

This was the start of my love affair with tinkering and messing with anything that’s standard to make it personal for what and how I like it. 

At the same time as mod’ing my Mini I also started to work in web design. Here I worked with HTML code and WYSIWYG editors. I constantly tried new designs and different approaches to layout, colours, structure, brand implementation, etc. I was customising what I could, using tools and ideas around me. If I saw a website I liked I’d look at the code, see how it was done, and try it for myself. Then I’d improve it to work how I wanted it to, where I wanted it, and why I wanted it.

Fast forward to 2007 when I joined Bournemouth University (BU) as a Learning Technologist and started working with the likes of Blackboard, TurningPoint, Echo360, etc. Note how I use names of the companies rather than more generic tool names like VLE, audience response, lecture capture? These were systems I had to use out-of-the-box (i.e. no personalisation or customisation), as were other systems within BU. I had opportunities to be more creative and enterprising in other fields and other aspects of my work, but these were highly controlled and locked-down systems that offered little ability to personalise or customise.

For something like Blackboard I had to work in the defined structure and implementation of the installation, but I settled in to it because I had the ability to use it creativity when it came to different approaches to presenting learning materials, online activities, offline resources. I worked with some amazing people in the Business School to develop innovative (for us, at least) assessment techniques (group working, case studies, multimedia, time constrained papers, Box of Broadcasts, etc.) and different ways to utilise and customise Blackboard within the structure of a defined and prescribed ‘default template’.

Today I still have to work within constraints of learning management systems, both internally at Warwick and externally with, for example, FutureLearn. Sometimes the rigidity frustrates me (whilst I fully appreciate the reason for it) and sometimes it’s a welcome boundary with which I can fall back on as a base-line to build on/from. I use WordPress on a number of hosted and self-hosted websites (like this one and my 100 books project), which gives me some freedom to customise how and what I present, although I admit to leaving the innards well alone in case it gets messed up with the next WordPress update.

Customisation, for me, has been key to my own development and understanding of what kind of learning technologist I want to be. Yes, a defined and rigid system is needed in order for it work for everyone, all the time. Yes, the boundaries are required in order that, for example, students. Yes, it annoys me when systems change without warning or without input from the users (e.g. Twitter ‘like’ option), whether they’re free social systems or expensive VLEs (has anyone ever had timely updates to problems identified in Blackboard? How long did you have to wait for the next ‘patch’ which would fix it? Months? Years?).

This customisation has spilled over into other aspects of my life too. I’ve customised by smartphone with a custom cover, I’ve got stickers over the back of my tablet, but this isnt’ really customising the device, just changing the look of it. Yes, I can move apps around and group them together how I think I want to use the, but this isn’t customising it, is it. I think the last time I customised a computing device was when I opened my old ZX Spectrum and did something inside (add extra RAM, I can’t remember).

I’ve loved reading about projects recently where people have ‘hacked’ furniture and repurposed them. Over the festive break this year we’ll be doing this too as a present to our boys (aged 5 and 6), using Ikea Kallax shelving units as base and storage area under a bed, also providing a play space underneath for the kids. For my other boy we’re going to hack his bunk bed and make a fort (like this, but not as full-on – I know my limits). We’re also looking at different ways to create outdoor living space in the garden from different structures – how about a railway carriage (within reason, not sure my neighbours want a full-size one in the garden, even if it did fit!)?

Something else I’ve customised is the humble photo frame. Taking a standard 3-photo frame I removed the glass and stuck a couple of flat Lego base-units in each frame. Each month, sometimes more often, we take it down and the boys make something new to put in each aperture. Again, it wasn’t something I thought could be customised, but now I know I can I love it and see other standard objects in a way that makes me think about how I can customise it, make it work better, for me.

I have also customised my own learning. I use my network (PLN) on social sharing platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to not only source topics or articles or research or courses that interest me, but also to engage with them (you!) as I read, learn, interact, engage, and progress through the resource(s). I’ve taken part in a number of MOOCs now (#OpenBadgesMOOC and #ocTEL and #EDCMOOC) and have enjoyed the experiences, both positive and negative. I can pick up these courses up pretty much when I please, and drop them if something else takes my attention. Being flexible allows me to fit more into my life. You might say it diverts my attention too much (you could be right) but if it works, and I’m learning new things about new subjects that benefit me personally and professionally, then why not? Shouldn’t more of us be doing it? I haven’t taken a formal course since my PG Cert in 2010, and that was the first real formal training since I graduated in ’96. I was planning on taking the MSc in Learning Innovation from Leicester, but was actually glad it didn’t run in the end; I’m just not ready ,or interested enough, to dedicate that much time to a formal course. Plus the fact I don’t think I want the formality a course like that dictates anymore.

I want / like the informality of connecting with people through online networks – it’s become a standard to how I think, being able to take something and mould to my needs. Finding new people or resources that go someway to fulfilling my needs is almost expected these days, and the ability to take it and adapt it (with proper attribution, of course!) is the norm.

That’s me: customising what I can to make it ‘work’ for me.

Image source: Daniel Go (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Reading list: November 14th, 2015

Like many in my line of work (eLearning, Educational or Learning Technology) I read. I read a lot. I read books, articles, blog posts, journals, etc. I sometimes tweet them, I sometimes print them, I sometimes actually finish them. Sometimes I bin them (those are the ones I wished I’d not started).

I’m going to try and keep a diary (a web-log, or blog, if you like) of the more important, or rather more interesting things I read, at or for work. I’ve also decided to up my game regarding my general reading habits … here is my side project of books I’m reading outside of a work setting.

So far this month I’ve been reading, in no particular order: 

What about you, what have you read that has meant something or that you’ve identified with?

Image source: Bernal Saborio (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Supporting emerging technologies

Thanks to Grainne Conole for sharing this on Facebook this morning, and to Michelle Pacansky-Brock for sharing on LinkedIn too – 5 Ways to Support Faculty Who Teach with Emerging Technologies.

It’s a great image (available from Mindwires, CC BY) depicting 5 types of innovators, or rather 5 approached of innovating in learning and education, from the (my understanding of the labels, anyway!):

  • ‘Laggards’. Those who  follow on once a technology has proven itself.
  • Late majority. Those who will join the implementation of something new once the initial buzz has quietened down and the research is starting to support it’s use.
  • Early majority. Like those in the ‘late’ majority, they will wait for the back to be broken on the testing and development before adopting and implementing, but will have been keen observers from the start.
  • Early adopters. Being involved and helping developing new uses for existing technologies (as well as driving developments) the early adopters will often be closely tied with the ‘innovators’ through professional connections.
  • Innovators. The first to know, the first to try, and sometimes the first to fail. These ‘technology enthusiasts’ will not stop when something doesn’t work, they’ll often try again, alter their approach or expectations, and keep looking around to see if there’s anything else they could use to improve work or learning efficiencies.

What do you think, do you identify yourself (or someone else) in any of the descriptors here?

Does your avatar matter?

We all have an avatar on our social network accounts. Some of us took awhile before changing the default, others selected one and have stuck to it over the years. But what does your avatar say about you?

For many this was what people remember me on Twitter for, despite the fact he wasn’t my first avatar:

David Hopkins

Remember him? I used him for about 3 years, and was happy. Scrolling through the status updates made it easy to see and identify tweets or links or shares coming from myself. At the time he was useful as few people used illustrations, favouring more social and personal photos. He was used everywhere, except LinkedIn. For LinkedIn I used a (slightly) more professional, but stylised, B&W photo.

I fought against changing it for quite a long while, against all the posts and articles suggesting I was unprofessional or lacking in integrity or ability to be trusted for not having a ‘proper’ avatar. he is/was my brand, and it was how people knew me and how I’d grown my PLN. I was all to aware of how it could be viewed, and how it could affect how others viewed me, but I am more interested in people judging me for my actions or ability to do my job than how my avatar looked or what shoes I wear. Judge me by my posts, tweets, and what I share, not my avatar or shoes or car I drive.

When we started the BYOD4L (Bring Your Own Device for Learning, January 2014) course I wanted people to actually see me this time, not an illustration, on the course and in the tweet-chats. So, for the duration of the BYOD4L course I changed my Twitter avatar to the same as my LinkedIn one (for no other reason than I liked it):

David Hopkins

But then I realised that I didn’t need or want to hide behind an illustration any more. I kept this avatar for Twitter, and started to update my other social channels to use this one too (SlideShare, Klout, Academia.edu, Google+, etc. After a few months I wanted something a little less obscure and something a little more professional, so I tweaked it and started using this one:

David Hopkins

Same image, but actually showing me, not half of me!

Then, Christmas 2014 I made one final change. It was originally a selfie I took and messed around with in different Apps for colour, blur, etc., but I ended up liking it … and it’s stuck for the last 6 months:

avatar festive

Note: I’ve not mentioned Facebook or avatars that I’ve used. There’s a good reason, I don’t use Facebook for work or my professional activity. I have used many different avatars that often reflect where I’ve been or people I’ve met, as well as using pics of one or both of my boys. I keep my Facebook account separate to my other online activities, this is part of how I choose to use social networks.

For those of you interested, this was my first ever avatar!Muppet

So … what does your avatar say about you? Or, what makes a good avatar?

  • Real photo vs illustration / cartoon: Obviously I’d ignored this advice for many years, and i don’t think it harmed my online persona, but I have had more positive activity and engagements since showing people who I really am.
  • Show yourself: Again I didn’t do this very well, as one avatar only showed half of me, not my full face. It’s also worth noting to avoid obscure angles or facing away from the camera, or looking too far away.
  • Smile? Do avatars of people smiling make you want to find out more about them, or not? Does it matter? Some reports say a smile is better, but it depends on whether you’re a comfortable smiler (I’m not, too many chins!) or a slight smile (see above) is enough.
  • Colour? Does colour matter, are B&W avatars OK? I like the B&W look, it doesn’t bother me, but for some it’s not ‘right’ or ‘professional’ enough.
  • Staged vs natural: I have never liked staged, stock photos, anywhere. While they may suit the contact details on a website, they look out of place on social networks (note, these are social channels, the staged photos are more corporate, and this is why I tend to ignore shares or tweets from corporate looking accounts.
  • Consistency: If you use different channels then help your followers out by using the same avatar across them all. It’s not always possible to use the same account name or handle, which can make finding people difficult, but if the avatar is the same, it’s so much easier!

What about you, what do you look for in people’s avatars?

Image source: Chris Christian (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If Facebook was a country …

If Facebook was a country … yeah, but it isn’t.

I like infographics and social media statistics, but this is the one that has always annoyed me. Liking Facebook (a global network) to the population of a single country is inaccurate.

However instead of saying “if Facebook was a country (population X) it’d be the largest” you said “if Facebook was a government of a country (with population X) it’d be the largest in the world” sounds far more accurate. It’s not about the position or the size of the population, for me it’s the appropriateness of the comparison to geographic countries or responsibilities to it’s ‘population’.

According to Wikipedia Facebook is marginally ahead of China in population, with China at 1.36 billion, and Facebook reportedly at 1.39 billion.

And this is really what it is – Facebook is not a country, it is a government, of sorts. It has ‘residents’ or ‘citizens’, they are real people (for the most part), they have communities and shared interests, passions, ‘likes’, they poll/vote, etc. and they do all this in the area their government is managing.

I’m sure Facebook probably knows more about it’s citizens than most governments do (it knows when we’re happy, sad, ill, socialising, etc.). What I’m not sure on, however, is how many other governments sell this data to other governments?

This reminds me of the opening track from the 22 year old Billy Idol album ‘Cyberpunk‘ where it says:

The future has imploded into the present.
With no nuclear war, the new battlefields are people’s minds and souls.
Mega corporations are the new government.
The computer generated info-domains are the new frontiers.
Though there is better living through science and chemistry, we are all becoming cyborgs.

The computer is the new cool tool, and though we say “all information should be free”.
It is not.
Information is power and currency in the virtual world we inhabit, so mistrust authority.

Is there a similarity in these words and where we find ourselves today as we freely give our data, our currency, to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google, SnapChat, Apple, etc.?

Image source: Kārlis Dambrāns (CC BY 2.0)

Maybe digital isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

So much of what I do these days, and what I produce, is digital. Tweets, status updates, audio & video files, documents, reports, etc. Less than 1% gets to where it needs to get to in any other way than by electronic transfer – money to friends (bank transfer), documents to colleagues (emails, networks, Dropbox), sharing (tweets, blog posts, status updates, etc.). Hell, even a message home to say I’ll be late will be a Facebook message instead of a phone call!

For my 40th birthday my brother bought my a USB turntable (Denon DP-200USB), something I (we) could use to rip our extensive collection of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s vinyl collection of rock, metal, and various dubious listening pleasures. So, the past few winter’s I’ve been holed up in the spare room with 300+ vinyl records (I’m sure we had more) and the turntable, ripping them, adding to iTunes, loading cover art and track listings, transferring to my iPod and listening to my childhood and teenage years in the car during the daily commute.

Even my two boys (ages 4 and 5) are getting in on it, asking for certain tracks or bands in the car with me, looking over the vinyl covers, reading the lyrics, laughing at the band photos (it’s the hair!), and not quite understanding just ‘how’ the sound works!It’s been quite an emotional experience, reliving parts of my youth I’d forgotten, just by hearing the opening riff or vocal to a song I’d not heard for decades.The feelings of a teenager trying to find his way in life, as lived (as many of us did) through our taste in music. Some of this music I’d not heard since I sold my last turntable – I’ve been slowly getting MP3 versions of the best stuff I could from the vinyl collection, but it’s still not the same as the crackles and hiss from the vinyl.

Last week, for the first time in 20 years, I bought a vinyl LP. Yes, it wasn’t the same experience as buying it from the local independent record store I used to spend hours browsing in (I bought this one online and waited for Mr Postie to deliver). But it came today, and I felt like a kid again – touching, smelling, handling, the LP, excited that’s a gatefold limited edition (those in the know know why this is special!) … and what’s more, it’s a new album. Yes, new music on an old format, and it made me feel so good! It made me think that all my MP3 tracks (some 10,000 of them) mean nothing, I’ve nothing to hold or ‘feel’. It may be the same music, but it lacks a connection and emotion when it’s just a track listed among so many others.

Next, for me, is to go and buy/make the hi-fi system I always wanted as a teenager – quality amp and speakers. I may not have the room or ability/willingness to blast it out like I used to (sorry Mum & Dad, I totally understand why you tried so hard to get me to use headphones now!) but I do value the quality of the audio experience, so I will be searching out decent equipment.

But what does this mean? For me it’s realisation that not everything that is digital is good. I realise that I now miss the old analogue, non-digital things like opening a CD or DVD case and reading the insert, opening a gatefold LP and reading the lyrics and seeing the band photos, holding the vinyl on the edges so as not to scratch the surface.

The connection is missing with digital artefacts, which is bizarre as I feel more connected with the world than I did back in 1992 (when I bought my first CD player).

I have also, of late, started buying more printed books. Yes, I still like my Kindle and eBooks, but I have realised that sometimes there is just no substitute for the real ‘hold-it-in-your-hands’ thing. For me I remember that it didn’t start with the predictable mid-life crisis or trying to relive a youth lost, it started with a power cut – no power = no Internet or TV or charged phones. I was stuck with candles (not too bad) and a book. But I didn’t have any new books to hand, it was all electronic. OK, so the power cut didn’t last more than an hour or two, but what if it had … I had nothing to do as everything needed power either to work or to charge up for reuse.

I wonder if our approach to technology and the environments we build for our students could benefit from this too?  Are we giving them so much in digital form (eBooks, scanned chapters of books or journals, PDF of presentation slides, links to news online, skype calls with experts and specialist, Apps and responsive website to make online collaboration and connection easier, etc.) that perhaps a paper copy would help?

I have been lucky enough to sit in on a few lectures recently, and the most animated and engaged students I saw was in one lecture where the PowerPoint slides didn’t explain a theory well enough so the academic switched on the visualizer and wrote it out long-hand, highlighting and updating the text as she went. The students could see something being built, in real-time, in front of them. They could see the learning ‘process’, not just the learning ‘outcome’. They could see that their academic not only knew the answer, but how to get there and how to explain it too.

So, is there room for non-digital analogue in our classrooms and learning journeys? Are we able to see the need or benefit of it if it’s there, or are we so fixed on the digital and the technology that that is all we can ‘fix’ into the equation?

With articles and tweets about teachers being replaced by computers, from the BBC and Huffington Post, I see a trend emerging that more and more people are turning away from the blind adoption of iPads and tablets for classrooms and actually looking at ‘why’ an iPad (or alternative device) would be good, and at ‘what’ it would be good at? Is there an alternative, not just to the device but to the intended use?

Here’s a good idea .. instead of using the iPad to get school children to play a game like Monopoly to learn about management, game-play, finances, control, turn-taking, etc. why not get the board-game out of the cupboard and play the ‘real’ version? Oh, I forgot, the contents of the games cupboard were binned in favour of a charging station for the iPads!

See, maybe going completely online or digital isn’t such a good idea? It isn’t about a ‘blended’ approach either, its just about using what works, where it works?!

Image source: David Hopkins (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)