Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘digital

Note: This might read like a rant. It is actually a reflection of hope and I indicate as such right at the end.

One of the bugbears of freelancers and consultants must be the variety of needless administrative requirements of partners. My pet peeve is old-school practices disguised as new.

I will share just two stories. I do this without naming names and without intent to shame the organizations. I do this to provide a different perspective and highlight blindspots.

Snail in the road by DaveHuth, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  DaveHuth 

One important administrative process is making sure I get paid. While smaller organizations have moved on to better processes, large ones tend to be more conservative.

For example, I have completed forms for electronic payment by many organizations. With smaller organizations and schools, I merely visit their e-portal of choice, submit in e-invoice, and wait to get paid. The e-platform already has my bank account information so the process is seamless.

With one large organization, I had to visit my bank to get endorsement that the bank account was mine and submit a paper-based form by snail mail. Why was this necessary when the electronic processes were faster and no less secure (if not more so)?

To be fair, there is value in verifying one’s banking information. However, the electronic way is much faster. Perhaps I should start charging a WET fee, Wasted Effort and Time, if I am required to enact outdated practices.

Maybe they are worried that I might specify some other bank account that is not mine, a terrorist organization’s perhaps. If that was the case, the trail of evidence is electronic. Merely looking at my face and identification card would do diddley-squat.

Another large organization sent me a similar financial document in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Unfortunately, it was near impossible to fill in. The default text was white (on white background) and offset so that it did not appear in text boxes.

Such a form was clearly designed by administration wanting to be digital on paper, but not in practice. The form merely replicated what you had to do on paper instead of taking advantage of digital forms.

If I was a productivity consultant, I would recommend getting rid of the old-school managers or policymakers for maintaining this unproductive process. I would also send the administrative staff for professional development, and if they refuse to change, they can join their higher-ups in the unemployment line.

square-peg-round-hole-21 by ePublicist, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  ePublicist 

Story number two. Before working with a partner or collaborator, there is typically a contract document (complete with legalese) to sign. Most people do not read the details or care for them even if they do. I do because I care.

I have processed one-size-fits-all documents, detected missing sections, spotted errors in details like dates, and worse, read clauses that protect only my partner organization, but not me. Partnership? What partnership?

For example, once in a blue moon I receive documents that attempt to take ownership of my products or processes, and/or effectively require me to seek permission from them to use my own work.

Instead of getting angry, I have taken the opportunity to try to educate them about Creative Commons.

I do this at the risk of not getting awarded the contracts. I ask myself if I can live with the consequences. One is a pragmatic consequence: It represents a potential loss of income. The other is philosophical: It stands for what I believe in. I can live with not being awarded a contract and a lucrative pay; I cannot live with an unnecessary compromise.

But all is not lost. There are a few (very few!) individuals who are open to change and working within those systems. Some are just learning that there are alternatives, some are natural change agents. I hope they stick around long enough to make a difference.

On an almost daily basis, I get notified by Twitter that something I wrote or a tweet I shared is part of someone else’s curated e-paper. For example, I get tweets like “The [name] Daily is out! Stories via @ashley…”.

These tweets become spammy when others listed with me retweet or favourite the tweet and I get notified repeatedly. The notifications are easy enough to ignore, but some of the malpractices of digital curation is not.

There are at least two types curation tools, auto curation tools like, and manual curation tools like It is the auto tools left in fire-and-forget mode that concern me.

An owner of something like a space defines content by including Twitter handles and hashtags, amongst other parameters. The tool harvests information daily and spits out pretty decent-looking papers based on algorithms.

The original authors or creators of content are assured that they can opt out or stand to gain increased traffic.

Let me address the first issue short and sweet: How about first being asked if we would like to opt in? Even if I share content openly, what happened to “Please may I use…” and “Thank you for sharing…”?

On to the next issue. Does algorithmically-determined curation really benefit the original creator with more traffic or credit? I think not, particularly if the 1) collection is not focused in terms of topic and audience, and 2) attribution goes to someone else.

I share and create mostly educational technology ideas. But I have seen my tweets and content shared under categories like art, sports, and science in the right sorts of education-flavoured papers. My content has also been included in totally unrelated papers.

In an attention economy, a “curated” paper is likely to only attract specific target audiences with specific needs. If my tweets and blog entries are categorized by basic algorithms that do not factor context and nuance, then they will not be read.

I share my own resources by amplifying them on Twitter or might be the first to tweet something. However, auto curation tools may not be smart enough to detect that. I have seen my content attributed to someone else in platforms like

Auto curating platforms like also remove comments in favour of links to content. This can lead to a misrepresentation of who I am or what I stand for. For example, I might tweet a resource with a comment about it being a negative example. However, will share the headline and URL while removing my comment and thus the context in which it was shared.

I ask those that think they are curating to learn how to curate with Diigo or with For example, here is what I curate on flipped learning.

Digital curation, like museum curation, takes work. You must want to tell a story or provide a custom set of resources for those who request it. For example, when people in my PLN ask for resources, I would create bundles for them (unfortunately these are being “sunsetted” soon).

If you wish to call yourself a digital curator, I ask that you also create your own content and share it openly. Imagine if no one created any; what would there be to curate? I also warn that auto curation breeds laziness, especially if you do not manage by manually taking control from time to time or monitoring for accuracy and quality.

I lurked for much of Sunday’s #aussieED chat about digital citizenship. 

One or two tweeps suggested that digital citizenship was partly about how to manage your digital footprints.

Another one or two commented that footprints were temporary. Digital artefacts are much more lasting than that. Not many people know that if your web resource is indexed by Google, it is likely to be cached. You might delete the resource, but it can still be retrieved from the cache. 

Someone else suggested digital tattoos instead, presumably for permanence and personal choice.

I do not think that we should be selling the idea of positive digital citizenship with tattoos. Depending on context and mindset, tattoos are associated with negative elements, e.g., gangsterism. Tattoos are also painful, but the process of being a responsible and productive citizen does not have to be that way. 

I suggest digital shadow instead. 

Your digital shadow is always there as long as you stand in front of the practically omnipresent Internet light.

A shadow follows you wherever you go. It is not just an online feature, but also an essential part of you. Your shadow might start with clicks, but it goes to where there are bricks.

It takes your shape (it represents who you are), but you can also distort it (you can exaggerate or emphasize). You shape it and you have control depending on how you grow and where you stand with respect to the light.

Unless you are an Internet ghost, you have a digital shadow. Parents create one for you by putting your baby photos online. Later on you take ownership of your own shadow. Some of us gravitate to this task naturally, some of us go kicking and screaming.

Your shadow does not define you; it is an extension of who you are. But others can manipulate your shadow by shifting the light or adding to your shadow. You need to decide if that is how you want yourself to be represented.

Like a real shadow, we often take our digital shadows for granted. Unlike a real shadow, our digital shadows can serve us or haunt us. Most “cyberwellness” programmes tend to focus on the harm. Well designed digital citizenship programmes find a reasonable balance.

I announced yesterday that I was leaving NIE. I would like to elaborate on my reasons and hint at what I am planning on doing next.

Like some of my colleagues, I have received job offers by headhunters over the last few years. I have been asked to set up or lead the equivalent of CeL both locally and overseas. I always said no because I felt that my mission in NIE was not complete. Individually, those pull factors were not strong enough to convince me to leave.

Over the last few years, I have also received numerous requests from schools, educational outfits, and training institutes to provide workshops, talks, and an assortment of consultations. Not only was there a greater need for my services “out there”, there was also a greater appreciation for them. Collectively, these pull factors became stronger over time.

When my schedule allowed, I took leave to provide free or paid services to these organizations. My approach was always to first take the time to listen to my clients and then to meet their needs instead of their wants.

This logical and human process of looking and listening before leaping was gratifying to me. I think that the people I worked with also appreciated the extra effort I took (and still take).

So the job offers and approaches for consultation came my way without active seeking on my part. Often I would be found quite quickly after this blog or my tweets appeared high up in Google search results. This was not due to dumb luck, but to years of my leaving digital footprints and valuable artefacts for people to find for free. I attribute this daily strategy as key to being found for ad hoc work.

But it might be serendipity by human design that has resulted in job and career offers. I can recall at least two major ones.

In my first year as Head of CeL, I was headhunted by an agency in New Zealand for a position in Australia. The headhunter had asked a faculty member from one of my alma maters in the USA for recommendations and I was top of the list.

The latest offer happened just last Friday. As the details are not yet cast in stone, I shall be a bit vague.

The connections were closer to home but the prospects more global. The offer was very exciting and I told the headhunter that the job description seemed to be written with me in mind. I am very open to this option as it will allow me to 1) follow my passions, 2) build on what I have started as a thought leader and strategic implementer, and 3) wield influence in a much wider circle.

Whether the offers were ad hoc or longer term and whether they were a result of having a digital presence or serendipity, there were clear human links. By this I mean being caring and connected enough so that the right opportunities come my way. If you look at your own work life and find joy in it, you will probably find this to be true too.

This video by David White nicely encapsulates the more recent thinking on the natives/immigrant vs residents-visitors debate.

Video source

In particular, I like how he emphasized that the visitors use of online tools is functional, relatively infrequent, and leaves no social trace. Residents, on the other hand, treat these online spaces as part of their lives and leave a trace as a result.

The video echoes what has been slow-blogged online: Each person can be both a resident and visitor based on the context of use. You are not either a native or an immigrant. That false dichotomy provides you with excuses, particularly as an immigrant, and promotes learnt helplessness (“I can’t help but be helpless!”). Instead, you might be a Twitter resident but an Instagram visitor.

Another point that White makes in his video is that the resident-visitor phenomenon is a continuum instead of an either/or categorization. Who you are depends on what you do with which tool and how often.


I think that the value this video brings near the end is the addition of the personal-institutional continuum as the y-axis. White makes the point that it is not easy to transfer what a resident does in the social-personal space to the social-institutional space. This reflects what active and innovative instructors experiment and struggle with when trying to integrate social media in the classroom.

Video source

Whenever I hear someone say “digital native”, I try to educate them on why that term is divisive and harmful.

I have reflected a few times over the years on digital natives in this blog. This entry probably best encapsulates my thoughts.

I hope that this video adds more fuel to the there-are-no-digital-natives fire.

Two takeaways from this video that I had were:

  1. Being technologically competent is not something kids are born with nowadays. It is learnt like a language.
  2. Being comfortable with technology is not the same as having the knowledge or wisdom on its use.

These two takeaways deal with fundamental assumptions that people who use “digital natives” may have.

It is important to address these assumptions because they affect values and mindsets. These in turn affect actions like lesson planning, teaching, setting policy, and so on.

I liked Steve Wheeler’s four elements of digital curation. He elaborated on this in his blog entry, Get it together.

I simplify the four elements as:

  1. Finding
  2. Organizing/Arranging
  3. Adding value
  4. Sharing

Based on Wheeler’s argument, curation is a form of creation and therefore at the apex of Bloom’s revised taxonomy. I have no argument with that.

The thing that still troubles me is how some people think they are curating when they are not.

Tools that can be used to curate digitally include Diigo,, and Storify. Take Storify for example. Simply finding tweets and arranging them chronologically for archiving is not curating. It is recording and storing.

I would suggest that reorganizing the tweets so that they follow logical pathways like conversations or idea streams is a component of curating. Adding value by providing explanatory comments or resources to the Storify is the next component. Then sharing and managing the ratings, comments, and discussion that follow in Twitter or Storify is another component of curating.

If you don’t do one of these components, are you curating? If you merely pass things along and have not created something new from something else, have you really curated? I think not.

The apex of a mountain is not easy to reach. Neither is curating if it is done right.

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