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)

Digital story of … Rock n’ Roll

Back in June 2012 we were all sharing this great video – Digital story of the Nativity. Using the different forms of social media and social sharing the story of the nativity was brought (amusingly) up to date with things like online purchasing, messenger systems, etc.

Now someone has used the same approach and premise of social media activity and Facebook share/likes on the history of Rock n’ Roll. Using soundbites from 64 songs, 84 guitarists, 44 drummers, and 348 rockstars, this is a wonderful video. Checkout the link below for the full track listing (as if you couldn’t list them all anyway!)

What this so brilliantly brings together is the relationship(s) between bands, their music, and what they listen to/like in a world of connection. Enjoy!

History of Rock from Ithaca Audio on Vimeo.

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)

Networks – establishing and maintaining them

So, how would you provide an insight into creating and maintaining a professional network, in 140 characters? This was a challenge I took up from David Walker this morning.

Tweet

Actually, once I included Twitter handles of David, Sue, and Sheila, I only had 108 characters left. This is what I said:

Tweet

Replies both David and I received include, from Sheila MacNeill, “the more you give the more you will receive” and  a PLN “takes time to cultivate but pays huge dividends as a forum for sharing/Q&As” from Sue Beckingham.

I’ve written previously on networks, and how they work for me:

Many of us are aware of our networks and the impact we/they have on others. For some, like me, the network has grown out of no real plan or long-term goal. For others it’s been carefully managed and nurtured to be what it is. Whichever your approach it is fair to say our respected networks are important to us, both personally and professionally. Therefore we must care for it, and how others see us through it, in order to maintain our position in other peoples network. If we don’t do we end up being removed from networks and getting ‘black flagged’ or a bad reputation?

What would you say, to David or anyone else, about how your PLN, your learning network?

Image source: Kristina Alexanderson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media #Jisc50social

For a month or two JISC has been asking for names and nominations to a new list they’ve been producing – 50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media. Well, the time has come and the final list has been announced.

There are some wonderful people on this list I am proud to know and call friends, and some I’m not previously aware of and will be looking at (hmm, sounds a bit stalker’ish, sorry) to learn about what they do, why, and how.

“The final line-up – chosen by a panel of social media experts, including award-winning social media editor for Times Higher Education Chris Parr, Insider Higher Ed journalist and blogger Eric Stoller, and Teacher Training Videos founder Russell Stannard, as well as Jisc’s David Kernohan and Sarah Knight – features an impressive mix of academics alongside vice-chancellors, librarians and IT and support staff.”

The final 50 features outstanding cases of social media use that others could benefit from, and we will be looking to highlight some of this excellent practice in the weeks to come.”

Even more helpful than the list is also the Twitter list, making it easier to follow the work of all those on the list.

Again, it’s an honour to be on the list, and I’d just like to sat how much I enjoy being ‘social’, talking about and sharing ideas and experiences, and above all hearing all about the wonderful things people are doing with students, learning, engagement, collaboration, technology, communication, and each other.

Gearing up for #ALTC 2015

So, with only two weeks to go before this years ALT conference (ALTC) it’s time to start making sense of the programme and sessions, see what’s happening and when, and then trying to work out how to be in several places at once.

So, after a first pass at the ALTC programme here are my plans, subject to change once I spend more time reading more of the abstracts and changing my mind. I think I may need to compare notes with someone who can get to some of the sessions I miss? 

ALTRC 2015 Programme

Other ways I’m getting ready and gearing up for ALTC is making sure I have the necessary ‘stuff’ around me, and working, now so I won’t be rushing on the days before hand. Perhaps the most important is to have enough power with me for phone and tablet, for this I’ll be taking a wall charger as well as an Anker Astro Mini battery.

For note and sketchnotes I’ll be taking both my old, not quite full notebook I’ve used at previous events and my new ALT Moleskine notebook (thank you ALT!)

As always I’ll really enjoy the sessions as well as catching up with old friends, and making new ones .. and meeting ‘virtual’ friends for the first time. So please come and say hello, either in the sessions or in the down-time between (and at the evening events!)!

Big question .. how many sketchnotes can I get this year? Comments?

Image source: Mike Kniec (CC BY 2.0)

Reading: Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs

One aspect of working on MOOCs is that there is no clear way to measure it’s success. Do you use the stats and logs that indicate clicks and time-on-page, or look at the nature of the conversations and/or comments made?

That’s why this paper loaded to Academia.edu by George Veletsianos piqued my interest – is there something in here that can help me understand the metrics we need to use in order to measure the learning and/or success of a MOOC?

“Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs: Participation in social networks outside of MOOCs, Notetaking, and contexts surrounding content consumption.”

Unsurprisingly the authors highlights the lack of literature around MOOCs that look into the metrics of MOOCs that are not captured on the MOOC platform (EdX, Coursera, FutureLearn, etc.), notably the social engagements, note-taking, and content consumption. Something I’d not considered before is the “availability of large-scale data sets appears to have shaped the research questions that are being asked about MOOCs.”  It’s something I’ve wrestled with … are we asking the right questions about a course ‘success’, and do we have the right data to start with? I think not, on both counts. I would love to know more from learners on a MOOC, but the response rate on post-course surveys are typically low, typically completed by the ones who finished the course and enjoyed it. It’s the learners who signed up and didn’t visit the course, those who did visit the first step but then left, and those who dipped in and out that I really want to hear from. They have as much to say about the course, it’s content, it’s delivery, and it’s ‘merit’ as those who completed.

The paper concludes, rather disappointingly, by saying that “researchers need to dig deeper, and use an array of methodological tools to do so. Separately or together, each research method can lead to pragmatic suggestions to improve open teaching and learning through social, pedagogical, or technological approaches.” I shouldn’t be too surprised with the conclusion as there isn’t a good metric to define a MOOC or online courses’ success – it depends on what you define as the success (numbers of learners enrolled, numbers of learners completing, passed assessments, duration of study, post-course questionnaire, course reach, etc.)

Veletsianos, G., Collier, A., & Schneider, E. (2015). Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs: Participation in social networks outside of MOOCs, Notetaking, and contexts surrounding content consumption. British Journal of Educational Technology 46 (3), 570-587

Image source: Gabe Rosiak (CC BY 2.0)

How has technology transformed the classroom?

Last month I was asked to provide a few lines about how I believe Apple has transformed classrooms. Unfortunately for the organisers I didn’t want to concentrate on just what one company, or even one single piece of technology., has done to ‘transform’ or enhance the classroom. I also don’t agree we should concentrate on one single entity or company as being more important than another. So I wrote a more generic piece about my experiences with changes in technology, as well as its use, who uses it, and why, in classrooms. From this they could take a few choice snippets as it suited them. Here’s what I wrote:

“Classroom learning, and for that matter learning in general, has been transfdormed by the rise of mobile computing. Smartphones and tablets have brought about the ‘always-on’ availability of anyone with the funds to buy the devices. Being connected to the Internet enables interaction and engagement with networks of learners from any locations, from coffee shops to shopping centres, to libraries and schools – it is this that has transformed the use of technology for learning.

The rise of the App Store, whilst not a ‘technology’ per se, has brought about such a change in approach and delivery of learning resources to teachers, parents, and children – at no other time have so many passionate and talented individuals been able to design and implement such a varied range of learning resources, and have the ability to reach a global audience. This is the power of the App Store (once you filter out the dross and poorly designed Apps).”

You can read the published version below and on their website, along with five other perspectives from the likes of Erin Klein and Shelly Sanchez in the first part of the How has Apple transformed your classroom series of articles:

For University of Warwick Business School eLearning Consultant, David Hopkins, there’s no denying that recent technology has transformed learning, specifically with the rise of mobile computing. For Hopkins, smartphones and tablets bring about an “always-on” availability, and by developing the iPhone and iPad, Apple has contributed to this in the classroom.

Easy access to the Internet is enabling interaction and engagement such as, “networks of learners from any location, from coffee shops to shopping centers to libraries and schools,” Hopkins explains.
The rise of the App Store, he adds, has helped bring about this change in approach via the delivery of learning resources to teachers, parents, and children. “At no other time have so many passionate and talented individuals been able to design and implement such a varied range of learning resources, and have the ability to reach a global audience,” says Hopkins.

What do you think? Has Apple single-handedly transformed the learning and classroom landscape, or are they part of a more ‘organic’ movement? Is there a moment where you can see, from your own experience and perspective, a more profound shift in the use of technology in your classes?If so, what was it and when did it happen?

Image source: James Harrison (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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)