Yes or No on Facebook


Facebook…it came up last week at UMW’s Faculty Academy, and has kept the blogosphere buzzing.  Most of the posts I have read have been negative about Facebook.  Rob Cottingham in Canada noted (and I love the dog cartoon):

This hasn’t been a good past few weeks for Facebook. Growing concerns over what Facebook’s deliberately doing to your privacy collided with news about what Facebook’s doing accidentally with your data.

There are two upcoming ways you can protest: by not logging in on June 6, or – if you’re ready to finally cut the umbilical cord – quitting altogether on May 31. So far, while they’re getting press attention, neither initiative is showing signs of snowballing yet, with registered followers numbering only in the hundreds.

That’s not to say the discontent is limited to net activists and privacy advocates. “How do I delete my Facebook account” is suddenly a very popular search on Google.

As I noted earlier,  danah boyd “ranted” about Facebook and “radical transparency.” (but I love how scholarly her rants are!).  CogDog barked about it…but provided some th0ughtful (if graphic) commentary on the issues of privacy and sharing.  One of his quotes:

I don’t place any value judgment on quitting versus not quitting Facebook; I think the bigger lesson is what happens when a simple system overlies something quite more complex and unfathomable. I am not naive to the information I give Google, because Google gives me back useful things, tools, information, yet Facebook feels somehow more sinister, more untrustworthy, more a murky fog covered minefield.

This mirrored remarks by Siva Vaidhyanathan last week at UMWFA10 where he stated that Google was vacuuming up all your data, but that Facebook was simply evil (and Google’s biggest competitor – because when you are on Facebook, Google cannot mine your data).

Pretty damning stuff.

Yet two other posts have me thinking about Facebook in a more positive light.  First, danah followed up her rant post with one on “Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated.” She referenced Nancy Baym’s post last Thursday: “Why, despite myself, I am not leaving Facebook. Yet.” Nancy said:

I don’t like supporting Facebook at all. But I do. And here is why: they provide a platform through which I gain real value. I actually like the people I went to school with. I know that even if I write down all their email addresses, we are not going to stay in touch and recapture the recreated community we’ve built on Facebook. I like my colleagues who work elsewhere, and I know that we have mailing lists and Twitter, but I also know that without Facebook I won’t be in touch with their daily lives as I’ve been these last few years. I like the people I’ve met briefly or hope I’ll meet soon, and I know that Facebook remains our best way to keep in touch without the effort we would probably not take of engaging in sustained one-to-one communication.

The other was an announcement from Eduardo Peirano that College 2.0 was moving from it’s Ning platform to a Facebook group.  I have enjoyed membership in College 2.0 for the past three years and immediately joined the Facebook group.  With nearly 700 members, this move just made sense now that Ning is moving to a pay for use system.

I agree with Nancy.  I get real value out of Facebook.  It is where I tend to find pictures of my grandkids, stories of what is happening in the lives of my nieces, nephews and brothers’ families, and connections with my colleagues in Georgia and here in Virginia.  There are a ton of potential social networking sites that could provide these functions, but Facebook is the one ring that binds them all.

I have also tended to see Facebook as different from other social media sites that I use.  My use of Twitter, Slideshare, Flickr, and Ning have all been while wearing my professional hat.  My use of Facebook is as friend and grandfather.  I would not want to lose those connections…and I suspect Facebook is counting on this.  The Youtube video I embedded earlier this week speaks to the size and volume of traffic that is the Facebook “utility” – as danah called it.

So put me down in the column of working my privacy settings but remaining with Facebook…at least as long as this country continues to provide utilities.  Watching the debacle in the Gulf reminds me that this is not guaranteed either!

As always, I would be interested in your thoughts.  What do you intend to do with your Facebook account?

{Graphic mashed up from images by benmarvin and themookie99}

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Reflections on Faculty Academy 2010 – Part Two

Yesterday, I posted about my reflections after attending the first day of University of Mary Washington‘s Faculty Academy 2010. I will finish up with some reflections on the second day here.


The first morning session on day two had two presentations.  Raul Chavez and Lisa Ames discussed their use of a Ning social network they had constructed which linked business students with alumni and local businesses.  Their Ning, Project Management Student and Alumni Network was primarily constructed for instructional use,  but two-thirds of the members were graduates of the program networking for jobs.  I asked about their plans given the recent announcement about Ning dropping free sites, and they stated they planned to continue it at least through the next year but at the mini-level.

The other presentation involved Melanie Szulczewski’s use of class blogging to encourage students to connect with the relevance of their studies.  In her undergraduate course on Global Environmental Problems, she had her students look for and post both reflections on the course topics and new resources they might find.  What was fascinating was how the rhetoric in her class changed from passive to active as her students became engaged with the topics and each other.  From reducing meat consumption to eliminating the use of bottled water, her students moved from personal action to evangelists urging others (family, roommates, even Congressmen) to take action.  I also liked how Melanie used Awesome Highlighter to mark up her student blogs and provide feedback.  It was an interesting study in both social media and learning.

Julie Meloni returned to provide a third keynote on “System, Self, and Society: Understanding and Controlling the Rhetoric of Information.”  Her talk was fascinating as she discussed the underlying code of the web and how the choices made by individuals were in a way rhetoric.  As she noted in her abstract, “…our collective experience has likely shown, the concept of the digital native is little more than a polite fiction.”  That started an interesting backchannel debate on the efficacy of the concept of digital native.  I liked the fact that Julie used her own freshmen students to debunk the concept.  However, Derek Bruff defended Marc Prensky’s original use of the term, stating that the whole tech savvy emphasis had been tacked on later.  Tom Woodward noted by tweet that the digital native term is an over statement that encourages a false divide, a divide that helps no one.  I hope Derek follows up and blogs about this as he promised!

I found one comment by Julie insightful when it comes to this concept of shared learning on the web.  She said that it was not her place to tell students where to go, rather it was her place to tell them where they could go.  Interesting and subtle difference.  Importantly, she works to educate her students towards understanding the ramifications that their individual choices online have.  Jim Groom summarized this concept nicely with his comment that he tells students to get their own space and not be a sharecropper online!

The next session was a panel discussion on Is Digital Scholarship Really Scholarship? by Zach Whalen, Steve Greenlaw, and Jeff McClurken.  As much as I expected three YES’s, they really were tentative in their presentations.  They showed what I would consider some great digital scholarship, such as Zach’s dissertation morphing online, or Steve’s scholarship of teaching and learning, but seemed to fall short of declaring it scholarship themselves or something that would be recognized as such by their peers.  As Zach’s grandmother questioned, did he write a real book or some online thing?  I offered up the definition from ISSOTL which defines scholarship as follows:

… an act of intelligence or artistic creation becomes scholarship when it possesses at least three attributes: it becomes public, it becomes an object of critical review and evaluation by members of one’s community, and members of one’s community begin to use, build upon, and develop those acts of mind and creation.

It seemed to me that the examples they were showcasing fell into the broad categories of public, evaluated by one’s community, and used to build upon.  Jeff cracked me up when he noted his next book would be considered scholarly because it had a colon in the title!  Steve stated that he was less interested in going the book route in the future because the turnaround time was too slow and paper just did not engage him like hyperlinked text did.

Mike Caulfield did a session on integrative course design.  Biggest takeaway was his use of De Fink’s taxonomy rather than Bloom’s taxonomy as an aid in course design.

The final session was by Andy Rush on the use of web video.  He has an excellent list of resources on his center blog.

So, two days of informative presentations, excellent networking, and engaging colleagues.  I am still digesting all that I took in…and look forward to seeing how others who were there blog about the experience.

I said before I went that UMW’s Faculty Academy always re-energizes me, and this year was no different.  My hat is off to the wonderful faculty and staff at Mary Washington…thanks for helping me get my learn on once again!

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Reflections on Faculty Academy 2010 – Part One


For the third year in a row, I had the opportunity to attend the University of Mary Washington‘s annual Faculty Academy with my colleagues Jeff Nugent and Bud Deihl.  This was the fifteenth year in which UMW faculty have shared their creative ways of using technology in teaching and learning.  It has been interesting to watch FA evolve over the past three years.  It has gotten smaller but more intimate.  Bud Deihl noted today that it has shifted from faculty evangelizing about technology to more of a demonstration of how creatively their students have used technology in the learning process.  I saw a good deal of that, but I also saw faculty generating conversation around both their ideas and their concerns.  In other words, it was a very healthy discussion about teaching and learning with technology.

With so much packed in to two days, I suspect I should do this reflection in two parts.  Somewhat arbitrarily, I will stick to day one and day two.  So here are reflections on day one.

The very first session was a panel discussion with Steve Greenlaw, Janet Asper, Teresa Coffman, and Marie McAllister on “Is Course Design Only for Online Courses?”.  The genesis of this session was Joshua Kim’s Inside Higher Ed post on “The Primacy of Course Design.” Kim listed 8 fundamentals for solid learning design, and noted:

“Fully online courses, and programs, have the advantage that the LMS is the only classroom available. Online faculty are willing to go through a course design methodology as part of their compensation for preparing to teach online.”

The question looming for this panel – are not these same fundamentals necessary in face-to-face instruction?  Their answers appeared to be “maybe.”  They seemed to all recognize that Kim’s fundamentals are “good,” but they went back and forth on how explicit they were in their teaching.  One noted that her winging it was possible because of her years of experience.  Another noted that she would like to be more explicit, but that took time – time she did not have.  It was noted that there were good online courses and bad, just as there were good f2f classes and bad.  Design is part of the mix, but as Jeff tweeted to me, teaching practice and interactivity are as important if not more so as design, whether online or in a classroom.  I liked Steve’s closing point that his design was based on “how will class time be used” to achieve learning objectives rather than focusing on the content or the technology.

As usual, UMW FA 2010 brought in some wonderful keynote speakers.  The first was Siva Vaidhyanathan of the University of Virginia, who spoke on the Googlization of Higher Education.

Siva is currently finalizing a book on Google, and noted how hard that project was, as Google continued to change and morph.  His talk focused less on Google per se than it did on an emerging culture in which Google is embraced by both faculty and students.  He stated that in the rush to adopt new technologies, we in higher education should not reject centuries of wisdom in the educational process.  There were some interesting comparisons between the corporate Google and institutions of higher education.  He suggested that universities had sprung from monasteries, which were essentially big piracy machines copying others’ work!  Google’s founders were children of academicians whose culture mimics in many ways the academy (with many members coming straight from academia).

Siva argued against the findings of two recent books: Jeff JarvisWhat Would Google Do? and Anya Kamenetz’s DIY U.  While higher education definitely needs updating, Siva saw it as wrong to simply throw out the educational process in favor of just-in-time self-development.

google sign2

Siva spent most of his talk on the googlization of students, research, and education.  He noted the huge shift by institutions towards cloud computing, GMail for students, Google Scholar, use of Google Docs and Google Reader, and asked the question – do faculty and students understand the vast data mining going on behind their use of these Google systems?  I would opinion that the answer is no…including in many ways myself.  He asked for a show of hands of who present (and it was a fairly tech savvy group present at Faculty Academy) had taken the time to modify their settings in Google regarding privacy?  Out of the room, maybe 3%-5%.  So if the Google default is the maximum vacuuming of data, are there issues with that?  Of course, Google is not the only one – Facebook has been in the news lately regarding its own data mining and privacy settings, with the default again being wide open (See danah boyd’s reflective piece on Facebook and “radical tranparency” (a rant)).  Like danah, Siva saw Facebook as out of control compared to Google.  Just look at this graphic from FastCompany on Facebook’s privacy settings! (Click here for enlarged view)

FB_privacysettings3Much to think about…and it raises questions for those of us in faculty development as to how to address these questions.

Equally thoughtful was Mike Caulfield’s session on Learning in an Age of Just-In-Time Instruction.  Mike’s abstract stated:

People with no IT background installing complicated computer systems in a single afternoon. Amateur chess players beating both grandmasters and supercomputers using off the shelf software. Your spouse cooking a meal like a master chef — without any formal training. Coworkers communicating to someone across the world in a language they are just encountering for the first time. This is not science fiction — it is the average person’s life today, in 2010. Just-in-time instruction is the hidden revolution that has already radically changed how we live.

Mike started by suggesting that higher education was marked by the banker model of instruction, where people come to IHE’s to bank and save knowledge that they might need in the future, when they can call on that knowledge and withdraw it.  His abstract and talk gave examples of how the web has flipped this model so that people can  search for needed information and train themselves as they need that training. Mike had the room research how much electricity we would need to cut to equal the carbon savings if we switched to a vegetarian diet.  It was fascinating to see how the different tables came to similar answers…with little questioning of the veracity of the websites we used (back to Siva’s talk).  On Twitter, there was an interesting side conversation by those not present on whether we would want our doctors using just-in-time instruction…and some agreement that – YES, we want our doctors using the web to stay current in the fast changing medical world.  Mike suggested that the liberal arts are about discerning truth…and that remains relevant in a world of informal learning.


A side comment by Tom Woodward nearly brought tears to my eyes.



The day (for me) ended at a session led by Julie Meloni, a newly minted Ph.D. from Washington State University.  Her session was on the basics of Twitter, though it did not get into instructional uses to the degree to which I desired.  Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear her discussion about the grammar and rhetoric of Twitter – themes she continued the next day in her keynote.  She did introduce me to Twapper Keeper – a neat tool for archiving tweets.

Energy running out, so will complete this post and come back to reflect on day two.

{Photo Credits: Martha Burtis, psd, Dan Nosowitz}

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Mixed Signals about Online Teaching

As many of you know, we have spend the past few months preparing for our summer institute.  Each summer, our Center for Teaching Excellence runs an intensive week-long institute on teaching with technology.  Our theme this summer is teaching online, and in concert with our Provost, we are funding twenty faculty to work with us in June at our institute, then attend the Quality Matters online  course “Build Your Online Course“, followed up with working with us through the Fall and Spring semesters as they design and deliver an online course.

As one can see from examining our institute schedule, we are going to spend the week immersed in the pedagogy of teaching online, because as we stated in our White Paper last May, we fundamentally believe that teaching online involves not just the design of content delivery, but new practices as well.

Whether one has been teaching for years or is relatively new to teaching, it is our assumption that one should not just jump into teaching online (no more than one should just jump into teaching in the classroom).  We have, I think, thoughtfully crafted a networking and learning experience for our institute participants to facilitate their development of the skills and practices needed to teach online.  Teaching online takes an investment in time, and this nearly year-long process will assist this development.

So it was interesting to see two very different references to online teaching cross my desk today.


The first was an article in the May 9, Chronicle of Higher Education – “U. of California Considers Online Classes, or Even Degrees: Proposal for virtual courses challenges beliefs about what an elite university is—and isn’t” by Josh Keller and Marc Parry”.  The University of California is rolling out a $5 to $6 million pilot project for undergraduate online courses and degrees.  They are focusing on their 25 high-demand lower-level core gateway courses.  The university plans to spend up to a quarter million dollars on each course.  The article noted that there is faculty resistance to the concept of teaching undergraduates online, although they also quote Frank Mayadas, of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, as noting that piloting online courses is “…like doing experiments to see if the car is really better than the horse in 1925, when everyone else is out there driving cars.”

While I agree with Frank, it is good to see an institution as prestigious as UC exploring the use of online teaching for core courses.  They are taking a serious look at it as opposed to just opening up a bunch of sections and throwing adjuncts into them.

One issue I do have with the article by Keller and Parry is where it mentions the open content at MIT and Yale as if they were also online courses.  They are not – and MIT is explicit about this – they are content and not meant to replace online teaching and learning.  Too many in media and administrations conflate open content with online courses.  Just as a textbook does not replace the facilitated learning in a college course, neither does the online content replace the facilitated learning that takes place in good online classes.

Meanwhile on the same day – and I am not meaning here to be disrespectful to either Magna Publications or to David Penrose, an advertisement arrived in my email:

magna ad

“With Rapid Online Course Design, your faculty members and instructional designers can arm themselves with the tools and knowledge necessary to create quality courses with maximum value in a minimum of time. If your institution is struggling with online instructional design, this upcoming training seminar is for you”


So, for only $229 and 90 minutes, you can learn what you need to teach online!


Now…I just know in my heart that David Penrose is not suggesting this (though the marketers might be and many administrators probably do).  As the many comments in the Chronicle article attest, teaching online is work.  I think that it is fulfilling work and opens access to higher education that many might not otherwise have.  But none the less, one has to approach teaching and learning online in meaningful ways.  One cannot simply take a series of powerpoints, a few multiple choice tests, and call that an online course.


I was therefore struck that, on the one hand, we have a prestigious research university “considering” online classes – or even degrees – and on the other hand, we have an advertisement for an online webinar addressing the high demand for online education and giving institutions the blueprint they need to meet that demand – NOW!

Thoughtful educators will see issues with both approaches.  Teaching and learning online has moved in much of higher education from a pilot phase to a mainstream method of instructional delivery.  As with face-to-face learning, the quality of instruction varies.  I applaud UC for taking a serious look at the design and delivery of quality online courses – an approach we are also taking here at VCU.  It is equally important that we continue to address these mixed signals.  Faculty development needs to clearly focus on processes that improve student learning and student success rather than simply loading content onto the web.

It is one of the reasons I look forward to the next two days at University of Mary Washington. Their Faculty Academy 2010 will once again help me learn processes that indeed do just that.

{Photo Credits: foomandoonian, gagilas, ZeroOne}

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Blogging Confession

guilty2I admit it.

I have not been blogging much lately.

There are excuses.  To a large degree, I have been wrapped up in other work, so my connections to networked learning have been primarily through Twitter. We have been gearing up for our week-long summer institute, which this year focuses on online learning.  I have also been participating in our Preparing Future Faculty graduate class.

But really, those are just excuses.  I have missed putting my thoughts down…and more importantly, receiving feedback on those thoughts from others.  Reading CogDog‘s barking this week on Blogs Alive or Dead is mentally pushing me back online.

So let me add to the chorus of “I’m not dead yet!”  Time to get back into blogging.  Tomorrow, I journey up I-95 to attend for the third year in a row Faculty Academy 2010 at University of Mary Washington.  This is always a re-energizing opportunity…so I plan to use it to kick start my blogging once again.

After all, where better than the home of UMW Blogs and the creative juices that flow from this institution?

So watch for more starting tomorrow.

{Photo Credit: Jim (jaytay)}

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