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Posts Tagged ‘social media

Spoiler alert: In order to make a point, I need to reveal events in episode 2 of the latest season of Black Mirror on Netflix.

The episode is titled Smithereens and features an ex-teacher who kidnaps an underling who works at a social media company of the same name.

Video source

Some viewers of the episode might wonder if real world entities like Facebook have as much reach as Smithereens. These viewers need only find out about data analytics and how Facebook has been used to influence political outcomes.

So it is not surprising to assume that the episode is about blaming social ills on technological affordances. After all the series creator, Charlie Brooker, has showcased this tendency over five seasons in Netflix.

This might be the first episode where the victim, the ex-teacher, blames himself for getting distracted while driving and causing two deaths. The guilt weights heavily and he resorts to kidnapping the Smithereens employee in order to speak directly to its CEO.

It takes two hands to clap: A greedy company to design an engaging app and an ill-disciplined user to use it regardless of context and circumstances. No one has a gun to our heads to make us watch videos while we cross the road.

The social media company holds it hand up waiting for us to complete the clap, but clapping is not appropriate in every circumstance. It does not take much to put our hand down and move the screen away from our eyes for a while.

Yesterday the topic de jour was our Prime Minister (PM) feeling faint as he delivered his annual National Day Rally (#ndrsg).

Like many others, I was relieved to learn that our PM was right as rain after a rest and check up.

However, before that I observed how quickly rumours spread. I was able to compare what happened on YouTube ‘live’ chat, WhatsApp, and Twitter.

I did not appreciate the low resolution Flash-based video stream at TODAYonline, so I headed to YouTube instead (no URLs as these are short-lived). The chat there, if you can call it that, was largely infantile. Single-worded texts like “clap” and “fap” and the occasional ad were common enough for me to collapse the scrolling chat area.

WhatsApp was no better. I heard from people who propagated the rumour that PM had suffered a stroke while on stage. There was no attempt to verify. It was as if there was a contest to see who could hurl the juiciest head of lettuce to the front.

I checked Twitter and found an “expert” offering his diagnosis.

I cannot speculate if this was rumour agent zero, but this did not stop the tweeter from being a speculative couch doctor.

With the exception of a few cruel tweets, most of the other tweets were questions like “What happened?” and expressions of concern.

My contribution was simply this:

This reminded me again of Jon Stewart’s advice on his final show: If you smell something, say something. I also thought of Howard Rheingold’s “crap detection”.

Speaking of Twitter, the Grammar Nazi in me could not help but notice this tweet.

I have mentioned before how writing copy is vital, particularly in short form. “Faint” is not the same as “feint”. Saying “it was a feint” is to imply that PM was pretending to feel unwell.

I give the tweeter the benefit of the doubt and suggest that is not what she meant. But if you mean something, say it right.

The immediacy of social media does not mean that we have to immediately say something. The adage goes: Better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

In the age of ubiquitous information, perhaps the saying could be: Better to be thought an idiot than to tap away and broadcast for all to see.

Social service meets social media-based learning

I am putting the finishing touches on the keynote that I deliver this week.

To create an interactive seminar — I am told it is called a masterclass — I have asked participants to complete an online poll (Google Form), install a QR code reader on their phones, suggest ideas in an AnswerGarden, and watch a YouTube video. They need to do this before we meet.

During the keynote, I will get the audience to participate in a TodaysMeet backchannel, another AnswerGarden, and a Padlet exit ticket Google Form quiz. They have the option of getting to these resources and my Google Slides via their QR code readers. I will also share some data from the poll and AnswerGarden to help them visualise their learning.

In terms of content, I aim to help participants uncover just two things: 1) three core 21st century competencies (unlearning, relearning, and learning), and 2) using social media to create personal learning networks (PLNs).

I believe that the core focus and PLNs will help the social service sector overcome problems like a lack of resources (by using what they already have) and addressing a diversity of learning needs (by connecting with communities).

I spent a small part of last Friday reading all of the contributions and comments at one of the NIE confessions on Facebook. It was probably the most popular of the three I could find.

I walked away from the experience with three observations.

The first two were pointed out by participants of the confessions page. First, the use of English was much better than other confessions sites. Second, the page was not as popular as other confessions pages. Both these observations are understandable when you consider the demographics of NIE.

The third thing I noticed was the self-policing that happened in that NIE confessions page. This is a good sign of the power of expression being balanced by social responsibility.

Most administrators and policymakers fear social media because they do not understand it. I hope that they now understand that good things can come going with the flow and even embracing it. Good things like greater transparency, brutal honestly, and professional responsibility.

Food For Thought, Covent Garden, London by Kake Pugh, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Kake Pugh 

Last week’s finds provided some really good food for thought.

Humanizing Our Organizations Through Social Media was a great reminder on why institutes of higher learning should leverage on Facebook and Twitter.

Higher Ed and the Monastic Space provided a perspective on how to better use the face-to-face time in classes.

Measuring what you contribute rather than what you collect, my favourite of the lot, provided some concrete examples of so-called alternative assessments. I think they should be mainstream assessments as they are relevant now.

So as not to get mentally fat, I plan on acting on what I consumed!

Online Colleges has a teacher’s guide on social media.

That is all it is, a guide. It should not be a scaffold that then becomes a crutch. Anything descriptive must not be interpreted as prescriptive.


Ask instructional designers what a SME is and they will tell you it stands for Subject Matter Expert.

Today there is another SME, social media educators, that we need more desperately than content experts.

I came to this simple conclusion after yesterday’s #edsg chat on Twitter. While anyone is free to contribute to #edsg [live tweets], we have focused chats every Tuesday, 8-9pm, Singapore time [example: archived chat on unprofessional development].

Based on the profiles of the participants, we have a nice mix of teachers, teacher-parents, parents, and a few non-Singaporean educators, I do not know how many lurkers there are.

Yesterday we discussed how we might manage underaged access to social media. Why? The legal age for a Facebook account is 13, but Primary School teachers on #edsg, mainstream Twitter, their blogs, or Facebook have shared anecdotally that many of their underaged students have FB accounts.

The parents or parent-teachers in #edsg seemed to agree with the age limit and preferred that kids developed face-to-face social skills first. My argument with that is 1) socialization is socialization (no matter what the medium), 2) it should start as soon as you start teaching and modelling values, and 3) we need to prepare kids for today and tomorrow, not yesterday.

As a parent myself, I have discussed with my soon to be 8-year-old if he would like to be on Facebook. He has decided that he does not need it now. I did not make that decision for him.

However, he is on several online gaming social networks designed for kids. Networks like Woogi World offer parent accounts for monitoring. It is wonderful to see him make connections so quickly and to see him apply what he has learnt about cyberwellness from an online programme initiated by his school (credit to @tucksoon for this!).

I suggested at #edsg that there should be a social media education programme for parents and policymakers. I even went so far as to say these could be parent service components and parent engagement courses.

@emmalinesports had a great suggestion:

But she also cautioned that reality bites:

But this should not stop any educator who has his or her radar up. If you know a tsunami is coming, you take preparatory steps. You do not just twiddle your thumbs, pretend it is not coming, or barricade yourself.

The recent breakdowns in Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system illustrated how the press and SMRT as a corporation do not understand Twitter.

The Straits Times [archived article] acknowledged that:

Media and crisis management experts said Thursday’s episode illustrated how much faster news travels now – through the sharing and re-posting of information on the Internet – compared with five years ago.

By the time SMRT finally made an official announcement at 9.15pm, thousands of tweets and re-tweets of the incident on Twitter already made SMRT one of the top trending Singapore topics.

But the same article called the Twitter-based postings, SMRTRuinsLives, a channel instead of a hashtag. I am guessing that an editor did not understand what “hashtag” meant and decided that a TV channel was something more could relate to.

This could have been an opportunity to create a side panel explaining what Twitter and hashtags are. If our newspapers were apps or online only, the term could have been hyperlinked so that users could find out more. Sadly, most people would still rather get carbon on their fingers and kill trees.

The saddest (lack of) response was SMRT’s. It has a Twitter account now, but as mrbrown reported, it has limited operating hours.

You would expect a brick-and-motar-based business to have operating hours. But some businesses like select McDonald’s outlets, NTUC Fairprice Extra stores, and Challenger at Funan operate 24 hours a day. Amazon operates all year and all day. The Internet does not shut down, not on purpose anyway.

The traditional culture and practice of a public relations arm should not transfer to the social media world. SMRT and others like them will learn the hard way that they cannot do this. The feedback will be immediate and their reputations are on the line online.

Now if only educators could learn from this…

Our own mrbrown got into a tizzy over a CNA article that reported that an expert in NTU stated or implied the following:

  • you only need a two-person team to maintain a social media presence for your organization
  • the team should take no more than 24 hours to respond
  • queries or feedback tended to cluster after dinner time

His comments were not surprising since mrbrown is arguably Singapore’s most famous blogger. But I think he might have read in between the lines for information that was not there.

According to the article, the director of the Singapore Internet Research Centre, Ang Peng Hwa said:

You need, basically, two people just to maintain one site, and typically, the respondents come (online, sometime after dinner)

mrbrown might have read “basically, two people” as the recommended number. I think Ang meant that is the minimum number. You need a dedicated and well-versed team to manage the feedback, marketing and customer service that are associated with social media. Realistically, two people is all an organization might afford. We at the CeL have one person. Some entire institutes have none.

Ang’s “after dinner” remark is also something the reporting agency seemed to have summarized. After all, who talks in brackets? He wasn’t referring to reading and responding only after dinner but to peak usage patterns. Scour the Web for Facebook and Twitter strategies and you will find the best days and hours to post. If you want to engage and respond, you will capitalize on when most folks are online.

mrbrown might not like the term “netizen” but I don’t have issues with it. Just like I do not mind how “Google” and “friend” are now verbs today. Netizens are people; they are just people who are comfortable with leaving digital footprints wherever they go. Bloggers, tweeters and the denizens of Facebook are examples of today’s netizens.

I blame the reporting and editing of CNA more than the academic. The sound bite in the video recording was heavily edited so CNA could make its point. The academic’s message might have thus been lost or misconstrued in the medium.

I was more disturbed by statements in the CNA article like:

Singapore’s government agencies are set to get more structured training in the use of social media.

The “structured training” is civil service speak. Social media, like public conversation, is messy. Conventional training sometimes removes context or is so sanitized that it borders on being irrelevant.

I think such a programme does need some organization for organizations. But you need not start from zero and certainly need not rely on conventional structure.

Get teams comprised of people who are already maintaining social media presence for themselves or their organizations. Get them to share their practices, but do not label these as “best practices” because what is best for one or some is not best for the rest. The structure comes in the areas of customer service principles, marketing strategies and communication theories.

Bottom line: The rules have changed. Power is with the people. Teach or train by the new rules, not by the old ones.

The phrase I found condescending was “online chatter cannot be ignored”. Chatter has a negative connotation, like the way chatter in class is frowned upon. Associated with chatter are terms like noise and pointlessness.

Yes, there is a fair amount of chatter online. But there are also reasoned discourse, thoughtful reflection and passionate awareness-raising of various causes. Under certain circumstances, a crowd can be wise. We can leverage on that in class or in civil discourse. We start by recognizing that this discourse is not just inane chatter.

SlideShare source

Many thanks to @hychan_edu for sharing this on Twitter.

This is probably the best SlideShare I have seen on the impact of social media on modern life. How anyone can ignore this in the educational context is beyond me!


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