Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On Internet Use, Social Networking and Age

In their May press release Nielson/NetRatings tell us that 18% of online Britons are women aged between 18 and 34.

Looking at the graph, it appears that the split between male and female users of the internet is fairly equal, but in the over fifties more men than women are active online.

In the words of Nielson's chief analyst

"The Internet is no longer dominated by young male adults times have changed considerably and many will be surprised to see that women aged 18-34 are now the most prevalent group online and that a quarter of the online population is at least 50 years of age."

The BBC report on this story suggests that young women visit a variety of sites including those dedicated to fashion, family and lifestyle issues as well as social networking sites.
They're shopping!

I have to confess that I find the figures for the under 18s surprisingly low, or is my perception of internet use amongst teenagers wrong?

In the light of the Nielson data it might be interesting to examine the age profile for male and female users of social networking sites.
Rory Cellan-Jones writing for the BBC suggests that as a 40 something Technology Correspondent he found it difficult to find friends in MySpace, Bebo, Facebook and Twitter. He concludes his article by deciding that he is too old to Twitter and too mature for My Space.

In the interests of research I have profiles in several social networking sites.
I have to agree with Rory.
I'm just too old and mature (and I'm older than him).


On Lifelong Learning

This article about Tom Norton is worthy of note.

He has eight Masters degrees, all awarded since he took early retirement ten years ago.
Respect is due.

I'm not sure why anyone might wish for eight master degrees.
I'm not sure that possession of a Masters Degree actually indicates mastery of a particular subject.
However, Mr. Norton's degrees point to a man who is, without a doubt possessed of a curious and enquiring mind, who is still learning for the sake of learning.

I was struck by the quotation from E H White's "Once and Future King" mentioned in the article.
"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails."

How true that is.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On iPods, the Home Office and Training.

John Reid famously described the Home Office as being "not fit for purpose".
It is therefore heartening to read that as the department strives to "protect the public and secure our future" their in house staff training and development continues.

According to this report from the BBC twenty of their "top civil servants have been issued with video iPods to help improve their leadership skills". The iPods come filled with fifty short training films, which our Mandarins will be able (or expected) to watch on their way to work.

Think about it.

The Home Office believes that this is a "cost effective way of providing learning and development across the department". I would love to know what the "twenty top" civil servants think of this project. I bet they are so pleased to be offered the opportunity to hone their skills on the tube, in their own time, on the way to work.
I wonder what effect this method of staff training and development has upon departmental morale.

Nothing that I have read about this pilot project suggests that the training films are a constituent part of a structured training scheme.
Could that be the case?

Its somewhat ironic to read that the iPods in question will be closely monitored to ensure that staff did not use them for watching feature films or listening to music.
Big Brother in the Home Office!

The Times Online version of the story offers us more information, the spokeswoman said
“As with other modern learning aids, video iPods provide the opportunity for flexible learning and the cost is extremely competitive compared with the rates for classroom training for senior staff......The capacity on one video iPod represents the equivalent of three days’ worth of classroom training. In addition, material on the video iPods can be recycled, whereas classroom training cannot.”

We must be careful about criticising this project before it has been properly evaluated but I'm not certain that it's "fit for purpose".

They've saved money but will they improve their department?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

On Google, Essay Writing and Plagiarism

Plagiarists take note.

Google has added professional essay writing companies to its blacklist of "product and services for which it will not accept advertising".

According to the BBC "From next month, Google will no longer take adverts from companies which sell essays and dissertations - and the internet company has written to advertisers to tell them about the policy"

As you might expect essay writing companies are upset as much of their trade comes from Google. The ban has been "warmly welcomed" by University authorities.

The owners of the essay writing companies believe that students buy their bespoke essays so that they might have access to model answers to guide their own work!


I wonder where the adverts will appear next.

On Podcasts, Vodcasts and Radio

For some time at Radio Five Live the BBC has been exploring and crossing the boundaries between online and on air broadcasting. The announcers and journalists announce with pride that Radio Five can be heard on 909 and 693AM, on digital tv, online and on Digital radio. Webcam views of the studios are often available and the Five Live Blogs have become an integral part of much of the station's output, many transmitted programmes are available as podcasts. Such is their enthusiasm for exploring our brave new digital world that they devote an hour of radio time each week to "covering the news as it's seen by bloggers, podcasts and citizen media". Strangely this programme is broadcast at 2AM on Tuesday mornings but digitally aware listeners can catch up via podcasts or via the programme web site.

I listen to Radio Five Live at various times during the week in the car, in bed and often while I am online. One of my favourite programmes is the Simon Mayo afternoon show where I enjoy the book and tv reviews. However the jewel in the crown of this programme is without a doubt the weekly film reviews presented jointly by Mayo and Dr Mark Kermode. I cannot always hear these reviews live and often listen to the podcast.

I was interested to notice that this week the film review has been released on line as a video podcast "radio with pictures". We can see the radio broadcasters at work. Its strange, radio as televison in a quick time movie on my laptop.

Now the original film reviews were entertaining, informative and thought provoking, Kermode and Mayo talk with interest about films sometimes supporting their discussion with soundtracks from the chosen films. No need for pictures, no need for moving images. Radio at it's best.

The video podcast contains additional information, the spoken words are the same (I think) but are now supported by still images of the movie posters and video clips from the films.

I've tried "watching" the vodcast with my eyes closed; it works.
I've watched the vodcast with my eyes open; it works.

I'm not sure which is best. Should I be comparing them?

There are things to think about here!
Do we need to see moving images of a radio programme?
Would all radio programmes benefit from the vodcast treatment.
Should radio programmes be vodcast?

Is this a case of we have a technology and we must use it?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On Cat Blogging, Self and Authority

Stephen Downes' observations on "Cat Blogging" are important and have made me return and think more of our recent experiment in undergraduate blogging.

While our students were keeping blogs I have no doubt that some of the most thoughtful reflective observations on personal learning came from those students who were able to "reveal something of themselves". It was through their writing about self that their understanding of personal learning emerged.
The students who told us little or nothing about themselves tended to be those whose blog entries simply reported what had been done.
Conversely there were those who wrote much about themselves but little about their learning.

What did Socrates say?

In the blogosphere and in print media we come across many who write with authority but tell us little about themselves. We often need to ask the question "who says?"
Read this little article from last Sunday's Independent.
"Birds and bees are hit by phone waves"

What questions do you want to ask? Here are mine.
  • What reports?
  • Who claims?
  • Who is Debi Jones? an authority on bees, birds, mobile phones, electrosmog?
Now read this little article (via Kottke) on "The Dangers of Bread"