Blogging as reflective practice or vanity publishing?

Why do I blog? What is its purpose? Am I engaging in a monologue or a dialogue and why should it matter?

These are questions I often ask myself and after reading Marcus O’Donnell’s excellent journal “Blogging as Pedagogic Practice: Artefact and Ecology” (2006) I feel I need to clarify a few things to myself and in doing so I believe I am having a conversation with self. This blog is predominantly a tool to help me critically analyse and shape my own ideas based on the wider research I am undertaking into learning technologies and practices. Secondly it is a narrative, recorded moments in time, of my current thoughts and feelings on specific topics and interests which I can refer to in the future. The links to other resources, websites and blogs and my comments on them act as an aide memoir. It is my harvesting of relevant information whilst sorting out the wheat from the chaff. By writing about these carefully chosen resources (amongst so many) I am more likely to remember them and make thoughtful and measured connections between them. It is the building of these connected ideas which shapes my learning into something tangible and real. Isn’t this what Papert refers to as constructionism, which is a step further from Piaget’s theory of constructivism, in that I am constructing an artefact with my new-found knowledge and applying it to the real world – scaffolding my knowledge and experience into this thing, this blog? Another reason why I blog is that I am able to refer others to specific blog posts which contain relevant links and ideas, thereby saving me some time in the long run. All pertinent reasons for keeping a blog and nothing to do with the “vanity publishing” (O’Donnell, p.6) that critics of blogs dismiss. For those who do use blogs to advertise or market themselves, their companies, their professional expertise then good luck to them. That is the power of the “expressive internet” (Tufecki, 2008).

My reasons are more humble. To quote O’Donnell, “Part of the freedom of blogging is its immediacy and its flexibility: it is a space where anything from brief notes, first thoughts and links, to more worked-up essay style postings can live together. However, deeper dimensions are discovered if the blogger actively mines this archive gradually shaping it through addition and juxtaposition.” (O’Donnell, p.9).

It is strange however, that this blog started its life as a conversational blog within a network of peers (learners on an MSc programme) who wanted to create a community of practice. This dialogue with others is undoubtedly an asset of blogging and central to the success of many a blog and something I need to build on if I wish my colleagues to share good practice through blogging. I have steered away from this approach lately because, for me personally, it is my own stumbling forays into the unknown that count – the treasure hunt at the end of all the ramblings. I agree with O’Donnell’s assertion that the concept of deeper learning has become a bit of cliché. It brings to my mind the vision of the exploratory diver floating on the surface of the sea, looking down into the dark depths of the ocean and then swimming down to find the hidden, buried treasure at the bottom. O’Donnell points out that this lacks any “sense of horizontal connectivity” (p.14) which resonates with Siemens concept of connectivism. I played with this metaphor a bit and came up with my own which makes more sense to me. Learning is not a vertical journey (made in isolation) nor a horizontal one, it is a higgledy piggledy eternal cycle, both horizontal and vertical and that is why I prefer to think of my own learning as movement within a spider’s web. I scurry along a bit on the outer edges and then delve in a bit where I see an interesting connection which may lead somewhere exciting. I then scoot around a bit more, diligently side-step along a horizontal tangent and then vertically transcend just that bit more and the cycle continues. This fits in with my understanding of situative learning and active, problem-based learning. So my treasure, that nirvana of knowledge and understanding, is centred at the heart of my web and my blog epitomizes the scurrying around this web of interwoven, tenuous connections. This is how I see it. I wish I could draw it.

Attribution: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos from Wikimedia Commons

Attribution: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos from Wikimedia Commons

I like O’Donnell’s ideas on blogging as “Relationship and Conversation”. There is the conversation with self (the monologue) and the potential conversation with others (the dialogue) when comments are made and then relationships forged into future reciprocal exchanges. Somewhere in the middle lies the magic, or the motivation that drives bloggers  to continue.

“Unlike other tools that support conversations, weblogs provide their authors with a personal space simultaneously with a community space. As a result, at any given time a blogger is involved in two types of conversations; (1) conversations with self and (2) conversations with others” (O’Donnell, 2006, p.8).

My understanding of blogging as a conversation with self and others

My understanding of blogging as a conversation with self and others

One of the issues I am undoubtedly going to have to consider is how to encourage peers and learners to find their own voice when they venture into this unknown territory. Blogging is not for everyone and at first it can be very unsettling. However, I do feel that there is much to be gained from making that first leap into the public domain, into that Web 2.0 whacky world and now I need to develop a strategy to provide the relevant practical and pedagogical guidance to those learners who wish to make those first daunting steps into the blogosphere.


Coming of Age

A Tale of Two Ages

The evidence is clear. Generation C cannot strictly be characterised by the fact that they are all born in the 1990’s. After attending today’s Teaching and Learning Olympics 2012 we can define Generation C as a band of people who simply engage with technology and leverage Web 2.0 to meet their needs to communicate, collaborate and connect. As Picket points out in Who is Generation C?

Generation C’s members all have the common characteristic of being “digital natives” who turn to the Internet naturally and extensively to do a number of things, and are very Web 2.0-savvy.

Age cannot be a defining characteristic of this group so this begs the question, why do some people cross the Rubicon of technological innovation and creativity, effortlessly and with gusto, whilst others don’t even dare dip their toes in the water’s edge? How can a silver haired enthusiast rave about the benefits of Facebook when others talk of a generational digital divide that is like a chasm? True, the arguments against the concept of digital divide that Marc Prensky first brought to the limelight are now gaining credence but my curiousity stems from the reasons why some people do engage with technology and others do not. Practical considerations aside what is it about our personalities, DNA and experience that either spurs us on to explore new territories OR shrink back into the comfort of our home territory. I agree, there is a lot at risk but the rewards are great for the practitioner who sets out on the adventure. The Bilbo Bagginses of the new technological frontier are the ones that have all the fun. You just have to minimize the risks and watch out for the trolls (excuse the pun).

What a whirlwind today. It is a privilege to be amongst those evangelists who extol the virtues of technology to promote learning despite my disinclination to concede that only teachers who use technology can be “good” teachers. Watch the live debate recorded at:

On a personal level, today heralded another milestone. If I keep on like this I’ll run out of them! At this moment in time I am being reflexive to the situation I find myself in. I am sitting on the train, deep in contemplation and revisiting my thoughts about the day but instead of simply looking out of the window and re-mashing everything I am blogging all these reflections down on my shiny new, fabulous new mobile device – the iPad.
Yes, I have come of age.

My Shiny New iPad

The thrill of it all!

During the conference I was even able to see a retweet of something I had posted on Twitter just moments earlier, there on the big screen – there-in lies the satisfaction. Gee, refers to the semiotic domain of communities (2009), that sense of belonging which an active participant feels by using the same lingo and mannerisms. That is how I felt today, a legitimate part of the group, with the same know-how, in with the gang.

A quick recap of the day, for my own sanity, so I can remember my
To Do List (so much better than pen and paper which gets hidden away amongst a mountain of paper work).

Workshop 1: Gamification?

A new term and an interesting concept. The factors that drive the success of gaming is engagement, loyalty and revenue. Gaming involves achievement, collaboration and socialisation which I suppose is a strong argument for the pro-gamers in education. I realise that games are integral to learning but I do recognise there are limitations, and context is key. I have relented in allowing my little one to play on Angry Birds more often ever since I read Mr Williams used it in class to improve numeracy in iPads in Primary Education. I now interrupt my son frequently (it is a negotiated bribe) to ask him what score he has and it is amazing how fluently he can say 22,367.

Apparently you can use Bartle’s Quiz to assess your Gamer Type? Are you a socialiser, killer, explorer or achiever?

To Do: I am in a group on on the subject of gaming for learning and teaching and I do need to revisit this. Download Drawsomething which is becoming a popular gaming app. Read Gamification in Education; What, How, Why Bother?

Workshop 2: Transforming Teacher Education with Web 2.0 for social purposes.

Louise Mycroft is an inspiration. She describes herself as non-technical until she came across the iPhone and then her journey began. She is encouraging reflexive practice with her teacher education learners using social media. I liked her passion for focussing on sense-making and finding one’s own identity as well as her revelation that “Twitter has transformed my practice”.  Follow her @TeachNorthern and view her blog at love her first sentence already, “The path to being a teacher educator is littered with lightbulb moments…”

Workshop 3: Educational Apps

Download, download, download. There is so much out there. I wonder what would have happened if Mitra had used an iPad in his Hole on the Wall experiments rather than a computer?

I pointed out that many primary schools are now equipping their learners with iPads rather than kit out new ICT suites. It appears that a school can purchase any number of iPads and using one account and one docking station download the relevant apps onto them all and sync all the iPads for students’ use. Clever. I wondered how they managed it.

I am not convinced that straight-jacketing apps into a taxonomy is such a good thing, but it is worth pointing out.

Adapted from Kathy Schrock's Blooming iPad

Adapted from Kathy Schrock’s Blooming iPad

Available at

To Do: explore, experiment and collaborate. Apps that intrigued me are AudioNote and HootSuite. Prom Hairstyles is a must fun app for Hair Dressing and Beauty. There seems to be so many apps to help learners with dyslexia that I have asked JISC-RSCYH to showcase what there is to relevant tutors in Learning Support.

So I am edging nearer to the frontier. What on earth will I do when I get there?

I am reading The Hobbit at the moment to my little boy so perhaps this post has been rather Bilbo Bagginsesque in its zealous use of adventure metaphors.

Web 2.0 in Higher Education…and Colin

I have read for the second time the publication Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World (JISC et al, 2009) and still found it interesting and relevant even though I think deployment of Web 2.0 tools in education is obviously now more widespread than it was then. What I found intriguing at first glance was the illustrations on the front cover.

Front Cover of the publication

I think the mobile device in this photo is a blackberry but it appears that the other learners illustrated here are sitting with their laptops – not an ipad in sight!

How things have changed! At every conference or training event I have attended recently it seems that everyone, except me, is tapping away and swiping at their shiny new ipads. The first ipad was launched in April 2010 and the sales figures were indeed impressive – see Apples Sells 3 Million iPads in 80 days. This small tablet and its copycats have taken off with such lightening speed, in such a short space of time, that educators need to sit up and listen to the buzz. Why? Because just like the advent of the Smartphones that are now ubiquitous and in the loving hands of nearly every learner in College or Uni these sophisticated mobile devices with their innovative apps will probably become mainstream. A quick peruse of the blogosphere will evidence the rapid growth of this technology within education from primary to tertiary.

Just the other day I heard a forward thinking Science tutor say how much he relished the fact that learners in his class were tapping away on their ipads. It seems to me that the ipad instigates feelings of exploration and discovery.

Discovery! Now there’s a compelling word. There is no doubt that Web 2.0 tools can offer a world of discovery.  I am reminded of a narrative I came across the other day in relation to the learner of the future. It centres around a fictional character called Colin who belongs to Generation C, “connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented, always clicking” (Booz & Company, 2012). Go and have a look through the crystal ball.

But back to Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World which I had hoped to digest and focus on a few key points. It was apparent, even in 2008, that there was a need for an independent inquiry to explore the impact of integration of Web 2.0 tools in higher education to inform strategy and policy. The report suggests that amongst school age children of 11 years old and upwards the use of Web 2.0 is high. This has repercussions for H.E. However, deployment of Web 2.0 for teaching was patchy and driven from the bottom up (as innovative technologies often are). I think this is probably still the case. The pros and cons of adopting Web 2.0 for learners and teachers are carefully considered and a number of critical issues identified which help formulate the recommendations. The researchers of this publication had the foresight to identify that the skills learners gain from engaging with Web 2.0 also match the skills demanded by 21st century employers – “communication, collaboration, creativity, leadership and technology proficiency” (JISC, 2009, p.6). Although the adoption of social media sites like Facebook at this time was seen as something to be developed I think educational institutions have made significant strides in the last few years as most colleges and universities now have a Facebook and Twitter presence. A recent HDA report on the Facebook generation suggest that the social networking phenomenon is having a positive impact on “creativity, collaboration, communciation and productivity” (HDA, 2012, p.10). As educators perhaps we should be tapping into this phenomenon?

The critical issues that emerge from the Web 2.0 in H.E publication point to staff development issues for tutors, especially in relation to e-pedagogy and also the necessity to develop learners’ digital literacy so they can “search, authenticate and critically evaluate material from the range of appropriate sources, and attribute it as necessary” (JISC, 2009, p.7). I suggest this is something educators need to address too. The role of the tutor is fundamental as is the changing relationship between the tutor and the student. The constructivist pedagogy which is the hallmark of Web 2.0 based on community, collaboration, participation and sharing allows the learner to be more actively engaged in learning with their peers. This active, self-directed learning calls for a rethink on how we structure teaching and learning. For tutors to “practice effectively, they have to stay attuned to the disposition of their students” (ibid, p.9) and recognise that their role is changing. The idea of a more equal partnership and a flatter hierarchy might not appeal to many (both tutors and learners) but it may be worth considering.

On that dangerous note it might be helpful to know about Mitra’s Hole in the Wall experiments in which young school children in rural areas in deprived parts of the worlds learn from a computer, amongst each other and without the intervention of any teacher. Fascintating stuff…but that deserves a posting all on its own.

In the meantime, I wait with bated breath for the arrival of my very first ipad. What on earth am I going to do with it?


JISC (2009) Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World [online]. Available at:

HDA Associates Ltd (2012) Generation F: Facebook Generation Future Workforce Research White Paper [online] Available at:


It seems my appetite for blogging has not been satiated. The smorgasbord of Web 2.0 offerings is too enticing. We are on the cusp of great change in education and I feel it creeping upon us with an ever increasing urgency. It is as if my senses are heightened so that where ever I look or whatever I hear, it all bears testimony to the changing times; a billboard advertising a local theatrical production with the ubiquitous QR code on it, my six year old asking me to go to Google Maps to see our house (virtually), the back channel of hash tags advertised on the Channel 4 news. I marvel at all the young folk who sometimes appear to be talking to themselves but are unabashedly tethered to their communication devices – with not a care in the world. These “harbingers of change” (JISC, 2009, p.14)  must not go unnoticed because their “habits, expectations and behaviours may anticipate what the rest of society will come to consider as its culture or norms” (ibid, p.14). With this dizzying array of digital communications pressing upon us I feel compelled to resurrect this blog entitled (in haste) blogging4education. Its purpose has undoubtedly changed. Originally it was set up as part of a module assessment for the Msc in eLearning and Multimedia at Huddersfield University. However, rather than using it a springboard for ideas within a Community of Practice (Wenger, 1998) I feel the need to use it as a reflective tool in a similar vein to my other blog Sheardie’s Action Research Blog. I think this is because I feel the need to write down my interpretations of events happening around me within the socio-cultural context of digital communications and new media to assign it some meaning. Is this what Kolb’s reflective cycle refers to I wonder (Kolb, 1984)? I came across this site recently which seems to summarise Kolb quite deftly though I am not a fan of learning styles per se after having read  the literature review by Coffield et al (2004) on  Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review.

I do think however that this blog will help me explore, with a more critical eye, some of the literature I am studying. If all else fails it should act as an aide memoir to my initial thoughts and feelings on a particular journal, book, site or publication and that has to be a useful tool for my Literature Review.

The danger, I guess, is that I get sucked into the blogging vortex and I am unable to detach myself from the Web 2.0 shackles. There’s not enough time for me to read, analyse, blog, vlog, tweet, follow, podcast, like, poke and post…surely not, not when there is work to be done and life to be lived.

Let’s see.

Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., Ecclestone, K. (2004) Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review, LSRC reference, Learning & Skills Research Centre, London.

JISC (2009) HE in Web 2.0 World [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 May 2012]

Wenger, E. (1998) A Social Theory of Learning, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Commuting with Winston Churchill

An epiphany! As I strut and fret my short time on this blogging stage and worry about the Generation Me who are more “Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable than Ever Before”, (Twenge, 2006) I think I get it!

Yes, I subscribe, I register, I participate, I experiment, I learn, I salivate with the enticing array of technologies on the Web 2.0 smorgasbord. There are so many to discover on the horizon that make our lives easier BUT – and here’s the rub – there is something I find unsettling about how we are living our lives online and how this media ecology is changing us. With my various hat wearing roles I find mysef cautioning learners on eCitizenship, eResponsibility and eSafety. I could despair about humanity and the lack of accountability and affiliation. Why, oh why, do people cast off their decency and humanity by hiding behind pseudonyms so that they can shout their obscenities and profanities online to people they don’t know and will never care about!

But this is not a strut, this is a skip! There are always two sides of the coins to this social experiment which we call the internet, the internet which Eric Schmidt suggests is “the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy we’ve ever had” (2010).

The flip side is what I really immersed myself in yesterday. Whilst commuting back to my home town on the train I shoved my Metro newspaper to the side and checked my mobile. @RealTimeWWII had tweeted the days events from 12th November 1939. I found myself entranced by Winston Churchill in the virtual world as the train stations slipped silently by in the real world. There was his picture on my phone, I held him to my ear and heard what he had to say on the 10th Sunday, the 10th week of the Second World War. I was transported to a different time and era, I shed a tear, because I had the hindsight of the past. I knew what Winston didn’t because it’s now 2011. He spoke of Japan in 1939, I thought of my 3 wonderful years living in Japan, an experience I will cherish for ever. He spoke of a war that would end soon and I knew otherwise.

All these emotions – from a few tweets on a mobile.

Thank you Web 2.0. Thank you Internet. Thank you for changing the world.

Now…let us learn and let us not forget!

Best in Breed 2010

In 2009 and 2010 Twitter was voted the No.1 teaching and learning tool according to pollsters for the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT). The results for 2011 are being finalised and I suggest if Twitter is not at the top it will be snapping at the heels at whatever is. Even though Twitter is a relatively new technology emerging in 2006 its $10 billion price tag is evidence of its popularity although those who criticize its business model suggest it could “potentially go the way of the Dodo” like other short-lived internet phenomena. I think Twitter is here to stay for many years to come and teachers have yet to capitalise on its potential: “People don’t look at Twitter as being educational…yet” (Freedman, p.30). I disagree with this latter statement because there is plenty of research out there to suggest otherwise such as Twitter in Further Education and Learning and Teaching with Twitter but I do think that unlike the accessibility of blogs and other Web 2.0 technologies, even Facebook which are slowly being harnessed for education, there is a lack of understanding as to how Twitter could be effectively employed for Teaching and Learning. I once suggested to my son’s primary school’s Head Teacher that Twitter could be used to inform parents about daily classroom activities. Suffice to say the suggestion was not seriously considered.

Unlike Facebook users the Twitterati are more serious about the type of messages they send out and Twitter stands out from the crowd of Web 2.0 jostling technologies because it is regarded as place where professionals meet to network and share ideas. Twitter still gets a bad press however because those who don’t understand it think that all it amounts to is celebrities making banal comments and narcissistic but insignificant revelations about what they had for breakfast (see Steven Anderson’s Ten Misconceptions about Twitter). There is no doubt that this does happen in Twitter but less often than the non-twitterers would have us believe. When I found myself bombarded with irrelevant twaddle from one tweeter I simply “unfollowed” him. Problem solved.

Our question though is does Twitter facilitate interactivity?

A recent report on Twitter in Further Education certainly thinks it does:

“Twitter is a valuable tool for the FE sector. It is free and immediate, so is the most cost-effective way of getting information out there to the world. However, it is also important for interaction  – encouraging debate, while also helping to provide a quick, easy answer to a simple or complex question” (Solus, 2011, p.4).

Comments on this report have been positive and reaffirmed the use of Twitter as a useful interactive tool: “…I think it is important for the sector to read this report, but also those beyond FE who are thinking about how to use the interactivity of social media to the full.” Former Minister of State for Education, Children, Schools and Families. (

However, when I ask myself the same question, I ponder. My initial response like Andy’s in his blog post Rockin Robin is “yes indeedy” but then I pause. Unlike Andy who has established Twitter as a PLN (Personal Learning Network) mine is not. Yes, I have a few followers and yes I follow others BUT because I do not engage with my Twitter account enough then I still feel like the outsider looking in. It’s the locked out of the sweetie shop feel again. Everyone says the sweets are yummy and they look yummy and occasionally I find the odd sweetie wrapper outside but no real sweeties to mull over in my mouth. Enough of the metaphor. This is not the fault of Twitter though, this is undoubtedly my own incompetence at not persevering with the technology.

Steve Wheeler’s blog suggests that you need to “persist with the tool” to give it enough time to build up a critical mass of followers and followed, ensuring that your personal learning network (PLN) becomes effective” (Wheeler, 2010).

For some reason, when I registered with Twitter, over 2 years ago, I found the interface a bit muddling. I think I have the grasp of the @elearningBC (me) and #hudmod (topic) and I use TweetDeck but I’m still not sure who sees what and why I see posts from people I don’t follow? I have made a promise to explore an online support resource on Twitter  which should teach me all I need to know. But I am not sure that the interface and usability is the real stumbling block. I think I simply lack that “social capital” (Tufekci, 2008, p.546), that need to network and be seen to network although I feel the pressure to join the crowd. Like so much Web 2.0 you cannot escape the fact that there is an element of self-promotion, blowing your own trumpet, in any online disclosure. What am I doing now but writing in the public domain? Yet, there is an ulterior motive. This is a blog which is part of a TASK I must achieve as part of my MSc module.

I think this reticence of self-disclosure is a psychological stance which other learners may struggle with…but this is a very significant point. If we are to encourage the use of Web 2.0 which undoubtedly promotes collaboration, communication and sharing which supports knowledge and understanding, what about those learners who don’t have a natural disposition to do this online – for whatever reasons? Wenger suggests that Learning is “fundamentally experiential and social” and that it is also to do with “boundaries” (Wenger, 1998, p.227) so I am learning alright but Yacci also suggests that messages in an interaction must be “mutually coherent” and that there needs to be a physical or emotional response by the learner. Only through real engagement can the interactions take place or is it the chicken and the egg quandary – is it the interactions that leverage the engagement. I don’t think there is an answer, the two evidently work in tandem. It is interesting to note however, that as an eLearning trainer I preach the benefits of Twitter but I am not using it to its full potential. Because I do not engage fully I do not get the feedback that is required for interactivity to place or rather I don’t “feel” that interactions have taken place. Yacci cites Berge’s conclusion that “task/content interaction and social interaction as key variables in web-based learning” (Yacci, p9) so I am receiving the tweets, checking out some of the information and reading the content but not getting that social benefit, the affiliation, the VcoP, the PLN, whatever you want to call it!

On a positive note I have just signed up a personal account to Twitter so that I can receive @RealTimeWWII tweets to my mobile which will inform me on a daily basis of real time events that happened in the six years during the second world war. I am hoping this will give me the opportunity to view tweets on my mobile and then look at media coverage and websites. I am not a real history buff although I graduated in history. But to think back now to those days when I had to traipse to the library to search for the relevant books and journals to learn! Now I can sit on the train from work and all that wealth of knowledge comes straight to me, via my mobile, in multimedia format! Generation Me may have their problems, but God, they are lucky! 

YouTube – Generation Me or Generation Us?

From its inception in 2005 YouTube has grown exponentially to become the world’s biggest video sharing website. In May 2010 there were over 2 billion views per day on YouTube and TakeNoGlory states that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world with over 100 hours of footage uploaded every 2 minutes…so pretty big! See

Despite it’s early and rapid success as a business by attracting viewers, subscribers and advertisers it quickly, and not undeservedly, got a mixed press.

Lev Grossman quipped in Time Magazine in December 2006 that “YouTube makes you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred“. Out of context you would assume that this article lampoons YouTube but actually it lauds it as a Web 2.0 social phenomenon for the greater good, a great “experiment”.  Take a look, it is worth a read!,9171,1570810,00.html

In 2009 the Guardian defined the comments posted by YouTube users as;

Juvenile, aggressive, misspelled, sexist, homophobic, swinging from
raging at the contents of a video to providing a pointlessly detailed
description followed by a LOL, YouTube comments are a hotbed of infantile
debate and unashamed ignorance – with the occasional burst of wit shining

Guardian 2009

…so not much has changed in the last few years! I quick trawl of YouTube comments will evidence this.

This seeming lack of humanity that clouds over YouTube is one of the site’s most negative aspects. In Wesch’s lecture on the The Machine is Changing Us: YouTube and the Politics of Authenticity, he attributes this to what he refers to as context collapse in that comments are often made anonymously and without responsibility because the same social mores that we apply in F2F social settings do not apply online. He believes that this narcissistic disengagement stems from the impulsive search for identity and creation. Personally, I find this very unsettling but perhaps this is the media ecology that Wesch is trying to extrapolate: when the media changes the conversations change and the situatedness of YouTube, the semiotic domain that Gee (2009) refers to promotes and cultivates this shared dialogue whether it be idiotic banter, defamatory remarks, crass comments or nonesensical quips. This “captive culture” is not quite the vision Orwell rebuked in 1984 although YouTube undoubtedly does have its own captive audience.

But I am being harsh. I am merely what Gee (2009) terms as an “outsider” in this affinity group. I watched The Machine is Changing Us with awe and some degree of disappointment that I was not one of the crowd, that I don’t feel that “craving” to be a part of that semiotic domain and I asked myself why because YouTube crosses boundaries in that those who upload videos to YouTube for whatever reasons cut across cultural, social, religious and generational groups. The more I explore Web 2.0 the more I try to unpick the paradox that I am looking at myself on the other side of the digital divide – that is, the conventional side! Tufekci’s article on Grooming, Gossip, Facebook and MySpace (2008) considers the differences between those who do and those who don’t engage in the expressive internet. Perhaps my disinclination for “gossip, people-curiousity and small talk” (Tufekci, p.546) puts me at a disadvantage in accumulating social capital? Not sure if I want social capital actually? However, I would love to spend more time on YouTube. I have been a registered user for several years. I subscribe to various channels, I use it for Teaching and Learning, I actively promote it amongst colleagues as an engaging, “interactive” teaching aid to encourage discussion and debate (look at what we are doing now) but I just don’t have the time although it is the first port of call if I am looking for a technical tip or short instructional guide to unfamiliar software. Like Flickr however there is an awful lot of rubbish to sift through before you find a gem and that is perhaps my problem – patience!

Another bug bear of mine is that not all the content is clearly legally uploaded into YouTube. Every user has to declare on uploading files that they are not breaching copyright but you only have to check some of the content taken from music videos, movies and T.V programmes to know that this is taken with a pinch of salt.

The flip side of the coin, is that YouTube can be profound, inspiring, motivational and even heart warming and if we focus on the democratic power of YouTube and its ability to inform an audience of potentially billions then therein lies its power.

Please do watch this to the end.

Most colleagues whom I sent this to responded that it was “powerful”. I am hoping that we can use it in discussions on equality and diversity.

I subscribe to the CEOP videos to share the eSafety message with tutors and learners and use these extensively as they are powerful catalysts to leverage discussion on difficult subjects such as cyberbullying, sexual grooming and sexting. I have designed whole lesson around such videos. This is one of my favourites to highlight eResponsibility and eCitizenship.

Recently, YouTube and Twitter played significant roles in the Arab Spring uprising which is why so many countries have tried to ban them. Evidence of atrocities recorded on mobile phones that have been quickly uploaded to YouTube in the heat of the moment have informed news coverage of world events. It is not uncommon to see this raw footage broadcast by big media corporations on our T.V – many hours after the event. For me, this is the saving grace of YouTube, the simple power to inform.

Did you know that You, yes YOU, reading this now have been awarded (back in 2006) Time Magazine’s Person of the Year! Why? Because as Les Grossman states:

“It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for  nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the  world changes”. Lev Grossman, Time Magazine, 25-12-2006

Read more:,9171,1570810,00.html#ixzz1d9iFgaCm

Gee, (2009) Learning in Semiotic Domains: A Social and Situated Account [Online]

Tufekci (2008) Grooming, Gossip, Facebook and MySpace