Google+ – A Big Buzz About Nothing?

I don’t usually write those kinds of “social media posts” where I ponder what some services might or might not do for us, but now that I’ve been using Google+ in a couple of authentic e-learning cases, I have to reflect it a little bit.

Everyone is currently discussing and writing about what happens between Google+ and Facebook, often going to the level of which one is better, who will dominate and yadda yadda yadda. This isn’t one of those posts.

When I started to experiment with Google+, still that time in its beta, I also thought a bit “So are they trying to swallow the market share from Facebook, or what is this?”

Now I don’t actually care too much about that. Through the eyes of authentic e-learning theory supported by open social media technologies, Google is really building something potentially remarkable with affordance we are just beginning to undersand, and also, at least I, is beginning to adore. And for me, that is way more interesting than just mere commercial dominance for the digital consumer souls. Here’s why.

I’ve been experimenting with Google+ & other Google Apps in my Master of Instructional Design & Technology studies and in an online collaborative teacher training programme. These both programmes have their backgrounds in authentic e-learning and social learning theories, and are using open social media services instead of just services clearly defined as VLEs (Virtual learning environments) e.g. Moodle or Blackboard Learning System. Although these are also in use, still have their place and are not totally forgotten.

I’m not sure if I can be explicit enough to describe what potential, or like I already stated affordance, lies in Google+ and using it in the authentic learning context, but there indeed is a huge one. But we also need to better understand and internalize the pedagogy needed for these service to live up to their potential.

As without people and the right kind of learning process to guide their way, these tools achieve nothing or at least much less. Using some of the older models of teaching, where teacher is the center of excellence, cripples the use of these tools and using them becomes just something cosmetic, not something revolutionizing.

Here’s some of the affordances of Google+, Google Apps & their integration that I feel are really worth mentioning after using them in learning.

You have the so called social layer, people interacting more informally, in this case supported by Google+. I feel many people don’t truly understand how important the informal interaction layer actually is. It helps the people to become a group, or a team. This is crucial in social learning process to start to happen.

Creating Circles of specific people, like your learning group or class, helps you easily post topics that may interest just them, or ask for help from those in your team. In a way these are very simple things, but psychologically, very important. It shifts the learning and the responsibility more to the learners, perfects their collaboration and stimulates their creativity when they are working together.

Hangout with extras, more advanced version of Hangout feature in Google+ which is still a bit under construction, is finally something you can use for collaborative video conferencing, to share your screen & write documents together in or from Google Docs (you can even start new ones straight from the Hangout). So everything’s in the same place. The usability of Hangout is simple enough and overall works quite well. If this feature evolves further, it could be a good alternative to challenge Adobe Connect and others.

These are just a couple of interesting features I feel are worth mentioning in this time when Google+ has been publicly open only a short period of time. Of course there are still gaps with Google’s attempt to integrate, well, just about everything. For example Blogger is a bit stiff and I’ve had to deal with many frustrated people trying to get its registration process to work seamlessly. But clearly, they are building an interesting ecosystem of services which can definitely be used together with suitable learning process.

And this what is happening is very important: When we have something where we have the social layer to easily interact and communicate with other people, the ease to create, collaborate and share, streamlined usability and learner centered approach from the get-go (as these are our own profiles through which we do things), we are a huge step forwards of a true 21st century learning environment, to use globally.

The learning environment isn’t just some class or the organizational VLE anymore, but everywhere you can find something to learn. The mental learning environment isn’t “on” only when you sleep in the class or interact with a learning management system. It’s where you create it.

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Review: The Social Network


Image by k-ideas

This is going to be short. I liked the movie. Why? Because it reminded me that,

In some ways, we need more students like Zuckerberg in the world who want to do and experiment with things.

We need the attitude of developers and entrepreneurs who consider something so valuable that they aim and do it – and don’t just wait someone to hire them and if someone isn’t hiring them, they start to cry how evil the world is to them.

We need fun. Nothing should be too serious with tech. If you create meanings and fun for people, why in the world should you create it with a grumpy attitude, dude?

The movie was able to convey and raise emotions of excitement that only a human being//developer//entrepreneur who is creating something new can have.

It wasn’t too cheesy. Although there were a couple of those larger than life scenes, but hey, that’s Hollywood.

More info about the movie at www.thesocialnetwork-movie.com

So What Am I Called Then?


Image by DeepBluC

This is a question I’ve been pondering a lot lately when I’ve cleared to many people what I do for a living. Could a simple deduction practice help to determine this?

So am I a,

1. Creative Director?

This is something I even printed on my business card, because at that time it sounded this is what I do.

But in order to be a director, shouldn’t you be having people to direct, right? Well, first of all, I work through networks, and my job description varies a lot, so simple Creative Director [although it sounds good and very mighty] doesn’t do the trick.

2. Just a “Creative”

Well this is most definitely an ambiguous term in a time when everyone and everything is somewhat “creative” or “innovative”. So, no thanks.

3. Social Media Expert?

I find this term a bit hilarious, but I had to put it here in order to make a statement: If there’s someone telling he is a social media expert, don’t believe him. At least too easily.

There are people who understand a lot more about the current web than others, but there are also some of those who try to open up for you a Twitter account or a Facebook Fan Page without really making it clear what it all means.

I would be most cautious about how much we can currently understand what will become of this early mess that we call social media, social web or whatever.

4. Digital Native

I could also be called digital media native, but it’s not quite selling and most likely there aren’t too many people who even know what that means. And in the end it’s more a description than a profession anyway.

5. Digital Media Agent

I tried this for a week, but the word agent sounds like I’m a movie agent, or something from the James Bond saga. Yes, I’m investigating things and sometimes wear a suit, but that’s about it. No Walther PPK, just a Mac, sorry.

With this description I wanted to be considered someone who connects people with digital media.

Epilogue

I believe that new times need new descriptions. We didn’t say ” Metal horse” when the car was invented.

So what am I then? Like I’ve always said that I don’t want to categorize people or to be categorized too heavily [that can prevent self development and growth], but sometimes it’s just something that you have to do in order to make other people understand what you do for a living and where your professionalism could be helpful.

So currently I’m using the title Social and Digital Media Coach. This for two reasons,

1. That’s the closest thing that sums up everything I currently do.

During my time as an entrepreneur I’ve been working with social media in education and in business, from the training to concept creation and even graphic design [yes, I still occasionally open Photoshop too]. I’m also a project manager in an international ICT project which includes usability, eLearning and Mobile. In addition to this, I’ve also designed user interface / experience and graphic design for a mobile application.

As you can see, describing my work with one sentence can sometimes be a hard task.

2. Because I don’t want to be mixed with the label “professional” or “expert” too strongly. I believe the things in social media to be flexible and something that you need to consider with your client or whoever you are working with. You know, together, and not from your professional ivory tower.

And this is how I want the process to be, because that’s the only way to make people understand the new possibilities the web can actually offer. Possibilities that go far beyond than just simple status updating or Fan Paging.

EDIT (after much reasoning): I have to admit that I was wrong; there’s no one definite term I could currently use. There’s just situational terms and being a creative person I just cannot lock myself up with one.

So yes, unfortunately the term “Creative” that I’m mocking up there is a good term, and so is “Trainer”. So let’s keep with these for a while.