Blog for the course offered at Teachers College, Columbia University during Fall 2005

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Blog buzz about our SSA class

As a result of posting my report on the class (which might be getting published soon in a 'real' journal, too), some people are talking about us. That's social software! I include some links below and I will try to update it as I notice new things. This is interesting to me for two reasons: First, it shows that the work started during the class continues after the semester is over. And second, it serves to promote your work, as people are being introduced to your blogs, checking out your IE projects, etc. What do you think about this? Does the 'loss' of control over who gets to see your work make you nervous, or are you comfortable with this aspect of social software? (sorry for trying to insert a learning moment after the class is over ;-) )


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

First -and only- course podcast

I never got around to experimenting with podcasts during the semester, but a couple of people asked me to post the mp3 recording of the last class session we just had. So, for your listening pleasure, here it is. The one hour twenty minute recording might make for a wonderful listening experience while you travel during this winter break. Have safe and happy holidays, everyone!

SSA last session recording (right click to download mp3 file)

Final Evaluations

We had our last class session today. The strike, combined with holiday travel plans, took a heavy toll on attendance. So for those of you who could not attend, I have created a wiki page in our original Seed wiki where you can anonymously post an evaluation of the class. It's not the same as submitting an official TC form, but at least it will help me improve the course for future generations. Anyone who attended class and would like to say something they did not get a chance to say during our meeting today, or forgot to write on the TC form, are welcome to leave feedback on this page as well. The page will be permanently deleted early next year.

Lastly, you are all supposed to send me an email with your self evaluation (including the grade you believe you deserve for the course).

To those who didn't hear me say it in person (or in podcast): This was a great experience for me. Thank you for your participation.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

In preparation for landing...

Although it might feel like your projects for this class are far from being completed, it's time to start thinking about wrapping up the course. Let's review where we stand and what you need to do in these final two weeks.

DPSC Wiki: At this point, I would suggest that you focus your collective efforts on editing and formatting the wiki so that it looks nice for when we present it to the rest of the world.

Issue Entrepreneurship project: I would assume nobody feels like they have completed their IE project, but as I've been saying all along, that is not the point. You will not be graded on whether you completed your project or not, but on the quality of your thinking regarding the application of social software to your selected cause (as demonstrated on the IE updates you have been posting on your blog). The syllabus calls for one final update and reflection, so I expect to see something that summarizes your efforts and the lessons you have learned from this specific exercise.

Additionally, it's time to start thinking about evaluating what you have learned as a result of taking this class. The syllabus calls for a post on 'final thoughts.' I think this is an excellent opportunity to go back to the questions I identified at the beginning of the course:
  • What is 'social' about social software?
  • How is the notion of community being redefined by social software?
  • What aspects of our humanity stand to gain or suffer as a result of our use of and reliance on social software?
  • How is social agency shared between humans and (computer) code in social software?
  • What are the social repercussions of unequal access to social software?
  • What are the pedagogical implications of social software for education?
  • Can social software be an effective tool for individual and social change?

Here's what I want you to do: Answer each question using one sentence only. Alternatively, you can write your reply in the form of a hayku (obviously in English, not Japanese, and I don't care about the exact number of syllables). The reason for this format is that I want you to spend more energy synthesizing than writing lengthy responses. Don't over-think it --go with your gut (hence the Zen suggestion of the hayku)! Post your responses by Dec. 18 on your blog, and we will discuss them during our final session. [You'll notice that I have omitted the last two questions from the original list because I think you are addressing some of those issues through the Design Patterns wiki.]

And speaking of the final session: I am assuming all of you will be attending our meeting on December 20, the last day of the class (usual time and place: 1PM-2:40PM at GDH 177). The agenda for that day is to fill out the official TC course evaluations (10-15 minutes), and then to spend the rest of the time discussing each other's final reflections. With your permission, I will be audio recording this discussion, as it will help me put together my final report about the class. As part of this conversation, we will also discuss any suggestions you might have for improving the course.

The last thing I will expect you to do, immediately after our session on December 20, is to send me an email telling me what grade you think you deserve, and briefly explaining why. I want you to do this as a form of self-evaluation. I will then reply to that email at a later point with your final grade and my own comments about your performance.

If you have questions about any of this, please let me know.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Marion: the disjointedness of online sociality

Marion recently wondered about the connection between the links pointing to a community web site and the relevancy of those links to the goals of the community. She asks: "Is there really value in establishing links between sources that are inherently unrelated?"

First, I would like to propose that the mere act of linking creates relevancy. Isn't the fact that "the 20 opera singers and 50 ice-cream truck drivers" convene in the West Siders for Responsible Development blog an indication that they are more than disjointed links, but people who share a similar interest?

Second, and following on that, I would say that this is precisely one of the advantages of social software: creating connections that would be much harder to create offline. What we have to keep in mind is that to some extent the formation of these connections follows its own rules. In other words, we delegate some of the control to form those connections to the Code, the social software itself. Where alliances seem natural and we strive hard to create them, they somehow fail to materialize. On the other hand, unexpected alliances emerge out of nowhere, facilitated by the Code! Sometimes you build it and those you expected to come (the opera singers) don't come, and sometimes those you didn't expect to come (the ice-cream truck drivers) crash the party! It's all part of the process of delegating some social agency to the Code.

As facilitators of online sociality, we need to be aware of these dynamics. In any change process, there's going to be few early adopters and a slow increase of adherents until an early majority is reached, and then the rest of the adopters quickly fall into place. Part of the role of the change agent/issue entrepreneur is to plan for these stages. Of course, it's nearly impossible to go through this cycle in less than one semester, but it's something you should consider in your IE projects beyond what you accomplish this term.