Archive for March, 2013

ed tech

Image by Rollo, J. (2007). Retrieved from

Well, here is our culminating activity as we get ready to conclude COMM2F00. We are adding another skill-based tool to our repertoire by converting our blogs to a focused topic. In doing so we are adding blogs we follow, key web links with associated information and twitter hashtags that all have the same overarching topic. I have elected to pursue educational technology as my blog theme. As I noted on many occasions, the work from this course intersected on a regular basis with the work in ADED1P32 and very importantly, with my role as a post-secondary teacher. Learning the knowledge and skills associated with these courses has provided me with considerable ammunition for my teaching and learning portfolio. This blogging activity is something that I am considering continuing beyond the duration of the semester.

The world of of higher education is changing with a rapidity that is unprecedented in recent years. In order to be able to reach students, maintain a learning ‘edge’ and continue with life-long learning, it is imperative that I stay connected with the types of tools that can enhance my practice. To that end, I have started to curate a number of contributors to the world of educational technology. By adding these tools to this blog, I not only engage with the critical topic of education, I enhance the impacts of my classroom practice.  Understanding Web 2.0 is great for my personal learning and pedagogy.

This is a perfect opportunity going forward! Stay tuned – blog under construction.


Image by Villi, I.(2009). Retrieved from

The question that has been posed as we conclude COMM2F00 is: Do I feel more inclined to become a “produser?”

Let’s do an inventory of the new skills and applications with which I have gained some facility over the duration of two semesters, two digitally based courses and many experiential activities.

I can:

  1. Tweet– and I do a little – but I follow more
  2. Blog – enjoy this and do it more often with greater commitment to the connectivity. Found some great blogs to follow
  3. Podcast – or voice blogging – great tool
  4. Make and edit a video – in a rudimentary way – also engaging but I need much more skill development
  5. Edit a wiki – would not do this for fun or entertainment until I can become more proficient
  6. Work in Google Drive, use tools such as Diigo, Evernote, VoiceThread,  use an RSS reader and curate work.
  7. Create a story in Storify – fantastic way to weave threads of information into a recognizable pattern

To be able to catalogue these is quite remarkable and I am most appreciative of the learning opportunities that were built into the curriculum.

Will I produse once the pressure of academic requirements is removed? According to Lunenfeld, (2007) I am depriving myself of an element of my humanity if I download only. He states that failing to use my newfound social media literacy skills is tantamount to living in a cultural vacuum. He makes a compelling argument in his assertion that we must balance our engagement in the Web 2.0 world to avoid metaphorical diabetes – or an overconsumption of downloaded media to the exclusion of self-created material that one chooses to upload and share into the ‘aether’ (p. 2/12). He frames this as Mindlessness vs. Mindfulness.

Here is my fear. Rheingold (2010) proffers the idea that participation in the act of produsing connects us, reduces passive consumption – creates agency. But he also cautions us regarding the amount of content produced that is “no good and [in which] nobody cares” (p. 18). I want my contributions to have some meaning, beyond me and if it doesn’t, do I want to engage while further extending my digital footprint?  “What could be more melioristic than mindful reception and meaningful production…” (Lunenfeld, 2007, p, 9/12).  Great quote, but, meaningful to whom? For me, that is a barrier that I need to consider. As an adjunct to this, Lievrouw (2012) reminds us of the mean world aspect of the internet, which in part, is the phenomenon where data gathering and  personal monitoring in the name of security and/or commerce means that my information may be used in ways unintended by me.

Well, then, a tentative yes – I will continue to produse. But first I will commit to improving my skills – to continue to learn – to experiment. I want to be the 1 in 100 who actively engage and not part of the 99 who just comment or opt out completely (Bird, 2011). So, at first, I will just test the water, a bit, before plunging into the deep end.

We have also been asked to consider what intimations of deprival do I have regarding the “produsage” that potentially looms before us? I have three areas that give me pause.

One, I alluded to briefly above. The private becomes very much public and every piece of culture that we produce and disseminate discloses ourselves to those who consume it. Our public sphere becomes ever-wider and I fear the loss of personal control and a too-conspicuous merger of the public and the private. Even using privacy settings or protecting oneself by using avatars in an online setting may not be enough to safeguard our personas. Further, as noted by Rheingold (2010), in order to fully employ our “crap detection” abilities, we need to be critical about the produsers whose content we consume. Can this critical reflection take place if the identity of the product’s creator is excessively protected? The onus for fact-checking is now on the consumer; it is no longer a given that published works have been vetted for accuracy.

Additionally, I have concerns for the increase in “continuous partial attention – attention splitting – multi-tasking” (Rheingold, 2010); call it what you will.  Is our ability to give sufficiently focused attention to the world around being compromised to the degree that we will lose the skill of critical reflection? (see my last post) Bird (2011) frames it by noting that our engagement with technology might be a factor in narrowing our perspectives as it has the potential to invite repetition. This could ultimately discourage truly innovative or creative production of cultural content.

Lastly, let’s take a contrarian look at the idea of consumption. Sterne (2012) states that “active participation is now a privileged mode of consumerism” (p. 2). Does this exclude those whose socio-economic status does not afford them inclusion as part of a participatory culture? While we celebrate the democratic nature of the internet, we always need to consider those whose voices might not be heard.

For me the best take-away from all of this is knowledge. I no longer feel on the periphery of social media participation. Despite my Boomer status, I can say with conviction that I am far more digitally literate; a produsing and consuming member of the Web 2.0 world.


Image by Buchholz, J. H. (2005). Retrieved from


Image by Ambrozik, B. (2013). Retrieved from

A colleague recently wrote in a forum post a reminder of previous learning regarding critical reflection in which we had engaged. Borrowing from his post he reminded me that “Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007) include critical reflection as one of the three key elements of transformational learning.  It involves reflecting on the content, the process, and the premise” (Vusich, 2013).

This is relevant to this week’s module since critical reflection was an integral part of new learning for me around the topic of citizen journalism. Prior to the readings I had the (not too considered)  opinion that while Web 2.0 offered opportunities for information collection, traditional journalism, with its reliance on verification was likely the most reliable way to gather and disseminate “real” news.

Upon completion of the five associated articles that thoroughly explore the phenomenon of citizen journalism, critical reflection has resulted in a personal transformational shift.

“Facts, truth and reality are…the “God terms” in journalism (Zelizer, as cited in Hermida, 2012) with information verification the cornerstone of journalistic integrity. This quote describes the essence of my previously held perspectives regarding news. I want a credible and reliable source from which to receive information. However, Hermida asserts that in so doing, mainstream media exerts control and power over what stories are deemed newsworthy and how they are presented.

Social media; particularly Twitter and blogs are offering alternative perspectives to information gathering. Hermida describes the process through which Twitter offers ongoing pieces of information that is shared, fact-checked, denied or reframed in an open forum that evolves through collaborative discursive processes including citizens and media. The issue of verification in real-time news dissemination is less about definitive facts and more to present “a dynamic and interactive rendition of events” (Hermida, 2012, p. 664). Bruns and Highfield (2012) cited Twitter’s capacity for discovering a story that can then be expanded in venues with the ability to more deeply explore nuances and implications, or to extend the life of a story (such as WikiLeaks) that may have reached its “best before” date as determined by mainstream media players.

I can live with this fluidity – after all as noted by Brennan, any news information is open to interpretation by the individual presenting his/her findings (as cited in Hermida, 2012). Additionally, traditional news gathering organizations may be subject to organizational bias as a result of funding from actors engaged in lobbying activities which in turn influences editorial directions (Bruns & Highfield, 2012).

As I read further I noted several distinct opportunities for citizen journalists:

  1. One of the key social media benefits for citizen journalists is a lessening of the control of cultural production and knowledge by news organizations into voluntary contributions from a variety of diverse sources.  This seems to me to democratize and de-centralize ownership of what and how information is presented.
  2. I liked the term ‘multiperspectival’ (Lind & Bruns, 2012) in which news gathering in social media represents numerous and divergent perspectives. The culminating factor in my transformation to a proponent of social media’s role in journalism is the Friedman (2011) article entitled Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima: An analysis of traditional and new media coverage of nuclear accidents and radiation.” The author presents compelling empirical evidence to demonstrate substantive increases in the quality and quantity of information that was available for consumption following the Fukushima accident. Clearly, the internet and the collaboration of citizen and professional journalists resulted in in-depth, interactive and multi-faceted information to a global community; far better than the traditional news media outlets were able to provide in the earlier incidents.
  3. The advent of news curation – (i.e our Storify exercise this week or storylines in Twitter using hashtags) in which participatory journalism offers news, opinion, commentary on specific stories or topics. Curation activities are now the domain of both the professional and the amateur but the advantage is that there is no one individual organization charged with “gatekeeping.”  “Gatewatching, according to Lind and Bruns (2102) is the new watchword and allows all of us to engage with news and information as we choose – to capture or compile; collaborate, contribute and inform (p. 7). As a story is curated its discrete elements and components can be assessed for validity, completeness and perspective.
  4. Most compelling piece of evidence: Voice. Dahlgren (2003) discusses the impact of voice as a social process, in which narratives can be shared and valued. Social media seems to be a core component in the provision of voice. Participation is enabled through Web 2.0 – social media is a tool which ensures that we do not deny voice to those around us; “to deny it to others is to at least implicitly to deny their humanity” (p. 37). How eloquent an argument for the role of social media in citizen journalism is that?

We were asked to consider if the emergence of these new opportunities encourages us to participate more directly in citizen journalism and/or social activism or not.

I think that the early answer is yes; it may be a few tentative tweets or blog posts until I find my voice. I still worry about my digital footprint, but I can see me offering facts and or opinion where I think it might forward a discussion or provide additional insight. This requires conscious self-editing in what we choose to share. I deplore some of the types of whistle-blowing activities that have emerged in a Web 2.0 era; the sleeping TTC employee who turned out to be ill; the finger pointing after the suicide of Amanda Todd. I am not sure that any of these are positive contributions but judicious use is required with any emerging tools.

A caveat for all information gathering is that we are ill-served in accepting any news story without critical reflection as to its veracity, its sources and credibility. Whatever role we choose for ourselves needs to be informed by critically reflective evaluative processes.