M’s reflections on using ict



For many people living in developed countries, information and communications technologies have become transparent. We use mobile phones, digital still and video cameras, email, applications like Word, Excel, Publisher, Facebook, Flickr, Live Messenger, iPlayer and YouTube almost without thinking as we shop on-line, look for information, work, communicate with one another and  entertain ourselves.

I have asked you to reflect on your growing understanding of the impact of ICT on society (including education) and on yourselves as you use it as a work and personal tool.

In this post I will be doing much the same, except that I will log my use daily for a few days and then do an analysis of my use at the end.

Wednesday 26 November.

  • Set up new wireless profiles on the new Ergo laptop computers in building 34 (work – techie stuff)
  • Work related e-mails (work)
  • Phone calls using mobile, text sent (personal computing)
  • Meeting – Dell Axim pda used to make notes in meeting. Attempt to use Mp3 function to listen to music to and from meeting, but data card not recognised (work)
  • Meeting with student. Excel to demonstrate a mathematical point (work)
  • Pdf of a journal article printed out (work).
  • Home. Reformat data card and copy music for pda (personal -techie stuff)
  • Check on the news on a variety of electronic newspapers, personal email and Facebook. Pages bookmarked on Del.icio.us (personal – social networking)
  • Twitter. (personal – social networking)
    This micro-blogging application allows me to follow and be followed by a variety of people, including a number doing he same kind of  job me, others involved in Internet services and entertainment (Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht of Diggnation) and others whom I was involved with Internet wise in SA. Twitter is an interesting micro-blogging application, which enables one to communicate in a sms like way, with a maximum of 140 characters per message. What is particularly interesting is the community which develops around it, and the way in which, despite the limitations of the medium, it is possible to share ideas, resources and banter.
  • Windows Messenger used to test the webcams on new Ergo’s (work)
  • Firefox installed on new Ergo. This post (work)
  • Facebook, Twitter, anime (personal – social networking, entertainment).

Thursday 27 November

  • Home. Quick look at Plurk, before breakfast (personal – social networking)
    Plurk is another micro-blogging site like Twitter, but with an interface than supports threaded conversation more readily. The audience here is somewhat different to Twitter, but a number of ‘tweeters’ use both platforms. I guess a number of plurkers also use Twitter. Plurk does not support mobile plurks at this stage. (personal computing, social networking)
  • Work. Fire up new Ergos to check wireless network in Bldg 34. Sees the network, but cannot connect.   (Work – techie stuff)
  • Work email. Requests for meetings, set up. One meeting for tomorrow changed to facilitate another.
  • Student issues… looking at targets, research proposals, December reviews… This blog update begun. (Work)
  • Twitter (personal – social networking)
    Matthew Buckland shares new Nando’s advert, due for launch on TV is SA today. Only South Africans or those familiar with politics in SA will understand all the nuances of this ad. Reply to Matthew via Twitter, then a post in my personal blog re the issue, and a link for Matthew to look at.
  • Building 32, to book out an Ergo and check whether wireless network recognises B32 wireless profile. (Work, techie stuff)
  • Work on M’s CBLT Blog, with post on constructivist design for next week’s session. (Work)
  • Meeting. Use of Dell Pocket PC as music player, and for taking notes. (Personal – entertainment and work)
  • Library. Work on constructivism blog, Dell Pocket PC with headphones for music. (work)
  • Home. Plurk, Twitter, ‘research’ on Mumbai incident, listening /watching David Gilmour on Last.Fm Three episodes of FMH anime (personal computing, entertainment).

Friday, 28 November

  • Work e-mail (work)
  • Plurk updates, Twitter updates, Dark side of the Moon with iTunes (personal, entertainment)
  • Report for JB on issue of laptops in Buildings 32 and 34 using Word, background ‘musak’ by Pink Floyd courtesy of ‘iToons’ (work)
  • Meeting with JR – look at BAQTS wiki using desktop, and Free Online Surveys course evaluation survey (work)
  • Meeting with student. Use desktop to look at ICT site, Primary blog and Primary wiki. (work)
  • Phonecalls, texts (communications)
  • Home. Personal email, watch FMA anime. Plurk, Twitter, Facebook (personal computing, social networking, entertainment).

Saturday, 29 November

  • Plurk, Twitter, Facebook. iGoogle (access to electronic news feeds). Watched Monty Python on-line. Check personal email and send links to friends (personal computing, social networking, entertainment)
  • Flickr, copy pics for wife’s Facebook site
  • This blog (work)
  • M’s CBLT blog (work)
  • Check personal email and order goods on-line from Amazon (personal computing, e-commerce).

Sunday, 30 November.

  • CBLT blog (work)
  • Search for and access academic papers on-line to reference in blog (work, research)
  • Online resources bookmarked using Delicious
  • Search Delicious for previously saved articles to reference in blog (work, research, bookmarking)
  • Plurk,  request to on-line friend to look at and provide feedback on CBLT blog. (social networking, work)
  • Personal wiki to post recipe for Lasagna
  • This blog (work)
  • Check ICT website for venues tomorrow and Tuesday
  • Catch up with TV programmes missed using BBC iPlayer.

Analysis and reflection

A quick analysis suggests that my home and work use of ICT is about equal. Work stuff includes updating work related blogs, websites and wikis, administrative jobs like replying to e-mails, report writing, feedback to students, fixing wireless profiles on laptops, although I do this rarely.  Software used includes traditional packages like Word and Excel, but mostly involves social software like blogs, wikis, photosharing and bookmarking. I find myself investigating more and more social applications, some of which I find useful, and others which are interesting but not worth ‘getting into’ just yet. New applications I have come across in the last month include Plurk, which I use a lot, and Diigo, another of many bookmarking application like Delicious. Diigo has a few useful features, including the ability to ‘highlight’ or ‘yellow sticky’ sections of  webpages which are particularly pertinent. I have used Clipmark with Delicious to do this previously. I have also started putting my own photographs on Google Earth.

My home use tends to be more varied, including a good level of recreational computing such as listening to music and watching movies, TV and anime. It also includes purchasing on-line, working on blogs and wikis, (work sites and personal ones), using Facebook, Flickr and micro-blogging using Twitter and Plurk.

My analysis shows also that about three quarters of my use of ICT at home is work related – preparation of lessons, blog posts, updating websites, marking online. I also do some ‘personal’ computing at work at times. Some is neither work nor home specific, such as listening to music, and some is both as in Twitter which is both recreational and academic in that I communicate and share ideas and resources with other academics.

On reflection, I find that I use a much greater amount of social software than ever before and that my use of ‘traditional’ software is reducing. Where I used to design websites using specialist web design software like Dreamweaver, I now find it more convenient to do a blog post. This notwithstanding, I still maintain and update three comprehensive websites – one for PGCE Primary, one for PGCE Secondary Special Study and one for my M.Sc CBLT group, both as course tutor and presenter of the seven week Multimedia unit.

John Meyer, Hyde Park, June 2008

John Meyer, Hyde Park, June 2008

The impact of developing information and communications technologies has had a profound impact on my life, affecting just about everything I do. We have four computers including three laptops between the three of us at home. These are normally on, allowing us to access information immediately, be it to settle an argument, share or find a recipe, check e-mail, Facebook and other social networking sites. I take my laptop with me just about everywhere I go, as well as at least one pda. This helps me to be more productive and efficient given that I can get on with work while waiting for a meeting to start, sitting in a train, or a bus. While it is not always convenient to use a laptop, a pda is small and unobtrusive, and also allows me to listen to music – a big part of my life – as I work. A mobile enables me to take photographs wherever I am and load them directly to Flickr, Twitter, most blogs and websites. It also allows me to send posts directly to Twitter, which in turn sends them on to Facebook. This is useful whether  at a conference, rock concert or watching rugby. Bluetooth makes it easy to upload work from one platform to the other, so it is no longer necessary to reinvent the wheel when working with different devices. What is most important is that what I have just described is normal for a large number of people today, as opposed to a monority of ‘geeks’ five or so years ago.

What is especially interesting to me is the way that my own use of social software is changing. In 2005 I updated my personal blog an daily basis, and spend quite a bit of time developing various wikis, but that ws about it. I now have about ten blogs, five of which are active,  and about same number of wikis, five of which are active. I use Flickr, Facebook and Delecious regularly, but my main use of social software today is Twitter and Plurk. Microblogging, more than any other activity, has raised my awareness of the power of online communities. When discussing this recenty with my son he remarked that he felt he knew more about the virtual frinds in his WOW guild than his ‘in the flesh’ friends. I am finding this happening to me on Plurk and Twitter where, for the first time, I am making strong ‘virtual’ friendships with people I have never met and will probably never meet in the flesh. These friendships reveal quite complex relationships, both domestic and work based as we swop banter, ideas, resources and other information in a surprisingly candid way, for British people at any rate.  This reflects the power of social media as a tool for opening up debate, especially on issues that we might be embarassed about in a face to face situation. As Fox (2004:226) says:  “… cyberspace is a disinhibitor. The disinhibiting effect of cyberspace is a universal phenomenon…. people … find that they are more open, more chatty, less reticent than they are face-to-face or even on the telephone.

As a successful digital immigrant, it has been useful for me to reflect on instances where my ‘immigrant accent’ is betrayed. I do a  minimal amount of handwriting and printing. However, I do tend to print out academic papers in pdf format for detailed reading, so that I can highlight and annotate them. If I use these as a reference in my own papers, I will copy and paste from the electronic document so as not to have to waste time retyping. Overall, I do not think that I have much of an immigrant accent; however, my son (20) does many things much faster than I do, using more efficient methods (shortcuts) as well as things that I do not know about or how to do. The main difference between us is that he does these things intuitively, while I have to ‘think’ before doing some of them. This suggests that to others I have a marked immigrant accent which I am not fully aware of.

I have also been giving some thought to the changing nature of computing at the university. Learning and teaching has changed radically since I started here in 2002, due largely to developments in ICT. We looked mainly at ‘traditional’ software then (loaded on hard drive) , and had a white board with a rudimentary level of interaction. Web2.0 applications (blogs) were around, but not generally known about. The web, e-mail and Windows Messenger were reasonably well used, especially e-mail.  I came across blogs in 2004 and started blogging in earnest in 2005. The Learningresources wiki was set up for the September 2005 cohort and, as far as I know, was the first of its type used by students in the uni. No student had a laptop in 2002 and my own request for a laptop as opposed to a desktop when I arrived was regarded with suspicion. The one I got turned out to be cheap and nasty, probably because it was seen by the purse holder as a waste of money. Today, many students have their own laptops, as well as a number of mobile wireless devices which they use for both recreational and work purposes.

I was recently asked whether today’s digital natives will become tomorrow’s digital immigrants. I suppose that this is inevitable to a certain extent. However, I think that the distinction between digital generations will be less marked, given that the essential lateral thinking skills required to live in our fast moving digital world are well established in our current crop of natives. This might not be the case however, should we develop technologies which are radically different.

Finally, a concern about our rapidly changing society.  I noticed a few elderly gentlemen in the library last week using the computers provided by library services. They were busy emailing and looking up information on the web. I found this a cheering experience until I began to think of the large number who are locked out of our digital society at a time when authorities are closing off traditional support systems that old people rely on, replacing them with electronic tools which are alien to them. It is no longer possible, for example,  to walk into Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs offices in Ogle Street and ask to see a consultant. Face to face consultation is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as more and more services are moved on-line or passed on to annoying and confusing call centres which require users to select opaque options and punch numbers into the system using the telephone keyboard. For the elderly, the world is becoming more alien, isolating, threatening and scary. However, the point is that this issue is automatically blamed ‘on computers’, when it should be blamed on those who have taken the decision to go ‘digital’ full knowing that old people will be left out on a limb.

The same kind of jumbled thinking emerges when I come across teachers and even my own students who are happy to blame technology for all sorts of (mainly) imagined ills – the ‘death’ of literacy, poor handwriting, bad arithmetic, plagiarism, paedophiles, obesity. The same thinking seems to drive decision-making at city and county level when bureaucrats decide to ban school access to sites like Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and even something as innocuous as Twitter. Too many schools resist using social software, giving a host of reasons, but in reality because they do not understand the nature of the applications and, worse, are not prepared to stir themselves to find out about them and their potential as learning tools.Thankfully, there are excellent practitioners in our schools, who work hard to share their skills and knowledge, often against difficult odds. These people can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Plurk and other social networking sites, sharing their experiences, expertise and humor.

It is important that look at issues critically and avoid the knee-jerk reactions which are unfortunately common in our society and recognise the exciting potential that developing information and communication technologies provide for young and old learners alike.


Fox, K. (2004) Watching the English. The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour. Hodder, London.

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One Response to M’s reflections on using ict

  1. Andrew Cosgrove says:

    Perhaps the most powerful yet most overlooked advantage of a computer in developing writing skills is as a glorified typewriter. It waits as a blank page which can be written upon, corrected neatly, proofread, edited, added to and rearranged with a minimum of effort, and without rewriting. It allows an approach to teaching writing that is impossible with a pencil and paper, and may have its greatest impact in the earlier years of school.

    It is important not to be distracted by technology, and get carried away with multimedia, interconnectivity and internet access. The keyboard and screen can be used to empower children to master the written word, and produce written output at a level necessary to cater for their learning needs. It can be used to teach sentence construction, grammar, punctuation and spelling, the mundane but essential building blocks of written literacy, without being dependent on good handwriting skills which may be slower to develop.

    Production of written output is essential to the learning process in school. A child who cannot write cannot learn effectively, so one of the first tasks of school is to teach the child to write. Writing is a complicated process requiring the simultaneous execution of several difficult activities. There is the content, there is the sentence construction, there is remembering to go across the page from left to right, and remembering what shape the letter “e” is. There is the physical movement of pencil on paper. The coordination and complexity involved in handwriting has been compared to that involved in driving a car.
    Up until now, all these skills had to be taught simultaneously, and were deeply dependant on how quickly the handwriting skill developed.

    It is no wonder that some children are slow to develop adequate handwriting skills, which retards the whole of their school career. Teachers are aware of students whose written output does not match their intelligence, comprehension or verbal language skills.
    This can be because their handwriting skill is not adequate for their learning needs.

    A keyboard and screen allows the middle order writing skills to be taught in isolation to handwriting. Handwriting must still be taught, but it is no longer the limiting factor. Handwriting skills may develop with maturity and practice, so that when a student is required to produce handwriting for an exam, not only do they have handwriting skills, they also have something worth writing.

    Middle order writing skills include such things as sentence construction, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Sentence construction can be broken down into discreet steps, and leverages from a child’s verbal language skills. When they start school, children already use extensive language skills. They do not know the technical terms for the parts of a sentence, but they certainly know how to use them. The “Davidson Method” of sentence construction uses the advantages of a keyboard and screen (any computer with a text editor) and scaffolds a child’s existing verbal skills into the written form.

    Davidson Method for Sentence writing

    1. Choose an action word, a verb.
    A verb is an –ing word
    e.g. chasing

    2 Ask who or what thing is doing the action. (noun,object)
    dog chasing

    3. Ask who or what thing is the action being done to. (noun, subject)
    dog chasing cat

    4. Describe the things (adjective, phrase).
    black hairy ferocious dog from next door chasing mangy yellow cat

    5. Ask when or where or how the action is happening (adverb, phrase).
    yesterday afternoon black hairy ferocious dog from next door quickly chasing mangy yellow cat across the park

    6. Check that the tense of the verb matches sentence. Does it sound right?
    Modify verb (auxiliary verb, compound verb)
    yesterday afternoon black hairy ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing mangy yellow cat across the park

    7. Add words to make it sound right.
    yesterday afternoon the black hairy ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy yellow cat across the park

    8. Add commas and full stops. (Punctuation)
    yesterday afternoon, the black, hairy, ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy, yellow cat across the park.

    9. Add a capital letter to the first word.
    Yesterday afternoon, the black, hairy, ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy, yellow cat across the park.

    This method allows a sentence to be built logically rather than sequentially, the screen holds the parts in place rather than trying to juggle all the pieces in memory while attempting to write neatly.
    It is easier to choose a letter from a keyboard than try to remember the shape of a letter.
    Correction is neat and does not require the whole page to be rewritten.
    Spelling can be checked as a separate step.
    The sentence can be copied by hand to paper when complete to practice handwriting, and it is relevant to the child because it is their sentence with their ideas. There is no need to print the sentence.
    There is no dumbing down of the ideas in the sentence to match writing or spelling skill.
    Proofreading and editing are being taught as an integral part of writing.

    It should be emphasised that this does not replace handwriting. Handwriting must still be taught in the normal way. It does make handwriting more effective by allowing some ideas to be taught and practiced in isolation, thereby increasing focus and effectiveness.

    It should also be emphasised that we still need a competent and dedicated teacher to lead the child, to encourage, to nurture. The keyboard and screen is just a different writing tool, with features that a good teacher can use when required.

    Computers can be used to increase learning outcomes in KLAs –here-now-today in ordinary classrooms, and bring relief to children who are struggling or giving up because they cannot write fast enough or neatly enough to produce the written output required to cater for their learning needs. Avoid the temptation to reinvent the school system and philosophy of education in order to justify spending money on ICT. Instead look at the problems that are in our classrooms and see if technology can help a competent and dedicated teacher find a way forward.

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