Tag: technology

Social media in higher education: Where do we go now?

Social Media1 Comment

The following is my guest blog post for the Higher Education Development Association to be published mid-June.

Social media is everywhere. Particularly in higher education, every institutions home page now proudly boasts a complement of follow buttons from the ubiquitous Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to the fast growing Pinterest, Vimeo and Google+. Matter of fact, some publications estimate as high as 98% of institutions are active on at least one social media platform.

So how are we going?

While it’s hard to make a call on how effectively we as a sector are using social media, it’s a safe bet to assume that most institutions are struggling to understand exactly where it fits into the existing communications mix and what they should be posting which is ironic given the sheer volume of content we generate. The problem is that social media is often treated like another channel, lumped in with television, radio, print and (to a lesser extent) email without much consideration to the seismic change it has had on society, culture and the way we interact with each other.

Social media isn’t just another channel to broadcast messages. It is more than a specific platform but a monumental change in human behaviour.

To illustrate what I mean, consider the students who are the lifeblood of our institutions:

  • They are as old as Amazon and eBay
  • They grew up with instant messaging, mobile phones and SMS
  • They have always turned to Google and Wikipedia anytime they have a question
  • They rely on social networks to stay in touch with their friends and make plans for the weekend

Most tellingly, the way they communicate is in stark contrast to how their parents do. They are no longer ‘locked in’ to a medium but are happy to converse non-linearly across multiple platforms. A conversation that begins in the classroom can spill over onto Facebook and IM before finding its way to a blog a few days later igniting a debate in the comments followed by rebuttal post on another blog. This is accompanied by a back channel discussion on Twitter with complementary photos uploaded to Instagram and indexed using the same hashtag. While this may seem confusing to digital immigrants, for digital natives like them, it is very much the norm.

Free social media

The future isn’t coming; it’s already here.

As a sector, higher education has typically required that people engage on our terms when we are ready. The level of paperwork and hoops prospective students must jump through to study with us not to mention deal with while they’re here sends a clear message: you must do it out way.

For our students, technology and the Internet isn’t something new to be fawned over; it’s been part of their lives as long as they can remember just like electricity, gas and water that’s it’s just expected.

We must take off the kid gloves and fully embrace social media. It must be taken out of development, walled off from the big, bad world and put into production.

In a world where we can pick and choose the mediums we participate, organisations can no longer dictate the rules of engagement. For higher education to continue to engage students and remain relevant, Universities must deliver dynamic, transmedia experiences that respond and adapt to the learning style of each individual student, a la the Khan Academy, or risk alienating future cohorts.

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Is Social Media Squishing The Adoption Lifecycle?

Digital Strategy, Marketing, Social Media7 Comments

Last month, it was reported that Google+ had racked up over 25 million users making it the fastest growing website in history. This prompted some – including some tech and social media royalty – to suggest Facebook and Twitter’s time was up and the future was all Google+. But at a time when some signs suggest we are suffering from social media fatigue, did Google read the zeitgeist and launch the next evolution of social networks or was their timing just incredibly fortunate?

We’re more connected now

The hype on launch was deafening. If you worked and lived in social media, everyone was talking about it particularly when heavy hitters like Chris Brogan and Robert Scoble jumped on and declared it the way forward. The figure often used here is the length of time it took Facebook (3 years) and Twitter (30 months) to reach 25 million users but what most forget in that comparison is that the acceleration in growth correlates with an increase in connectedness.

It can’t be understated how important this was in driving such rapid growth, the fact that we are more connected than ever before means that it is easier than ever to seed an idea provided it is compelling enough to your audience. In the case of Google+, the number of people actively playing in, not just on, social media for work and play gave it a ready made audience.

Adoption is getting faster

The diffusion of innovation has now changed. Instead of a normal distribution, the front of the curve where the innovators and early adopters live is getting squished as we adopt innovation faster than ever before. Before Google+, it was the iPad that smashed all records for consumer electronics adoption in a market that previously didn’t exist.

Social media is driving this by empowering consumers and changing their behaviour to become active participants in media and technology. Every blog, tweet, check-in and status update can cause innovation to be diffused not only faster, but to the right people who can amplify and seed it further.

Technology Adoption Lifecycle

A 'Normal' Technology Adoption Lifecycle

Hat-tip Martin Read for the inspiration for this post from his tweet several months ago (alas, I couldn’t find the link).

 

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Does the iPad = 1960?

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A friend recently asked me whether they thought an iPad or a laptop was better for their child.

If you thought I would have said “iPad” straight away – you’re right. After all, seeing a child interact with a tablet makes you marvel at how intuitive and accessible it really is compared to a laptop which seems ancient in comparison. Besides, I love my iPad but the more I thought about it, the more my answer started shifting towards a laptop.

Escaping technology bias

apple devices are multiplying

They're multiplying

With minimal start-up time, convenient size and beautiful screen, it is clear that tablets are biased towards consumption over creation.  However, since reading Douglas Rushkoff’s book Program or be Programmed I’ve become far more aware of the importance of recognising and not giving in to the natural bias of technology.

In a media environment that is becoming increasingly participatory, stories and mythology are no longer told but co-created. As the rise of social networks, blogs, podcasts and online video has shown, digital media is biased towards creation by enabling everyone to write and publish. We are no longer resigned to being passive consumers of media – as was the case when traditional mass media was the only player in town – but active participants with real influence and the power to shape communications.

When you look at it through this lens, tablets are almost a throwback to the past as it discourages longer, meaningful creation. It’s well suited for short bursts of content creation such as a tweet or a status update, but not so flash at long emails or blog posts (as Prakky opines).

Learning to create

The long and short of it is that although there are apps for creating – word processing, spreadsheets, photo editing, etc. – they are shallow compared to the same thing on a laptop. At this point in time, touchscreens are yet to offer a depth of interaction that a keyboard and mouse offers.

Much like the argument that Google bypasses critical thinking, so too have tablets removed the need to understand how software and hardware works, offering up instant solutions. For this reason, while I think there’s a place for both, for children who are just starting out, it is vital that they explore, question and test the limits of technology without restriction.

What do you think? Are iPad’s and tablets better learning devices for children or is there still a place for laptops?

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We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

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This tweet from YouTube caught my attention last week.

Increasingly better, faster processors and connectivity are the hallmarks of the Internet age. Combined with the convergence of technology, access to knowledge and information is now truly (or at least nearly) ubiquitous.

What we can do with content and how we consume it is changing every day.

Who would have thought that online video would constitute half of all mobile data traffic, let alone that we would even want to watch it on our third screen?

And now, according to YouTube, not only is the rate at which video is being uploaded growing, but so too is our capacity to download and watch it faster than ever before. We can now watch video almost as soon as it is uploaded.

Our appetite for information has grown, but is there a point where won’t be able to consume any more, any faster? Will the day come when we say enough is enough or will our consumption keep pace with the technology?

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How digital channels have changed the value of news

Digital Strategy4 Comments

The different ways in which we access media has changed the relative importance that we place on different types of news. The news that we find through traditional delivery mechanisms is no longer as relevant as the news that we actively seek out or that finds us on social media.

Traditional media is losing relevance

In the dark ages pre-internet, there was only really one way to consume news – passively. You either read it  (in hard copy), watched it or heard it, and were (generally) at the mercy of your local publisher.

I remember staying up late most nights just to catch a glimpse of the NBA highlights on Sports Tonight which – if you remember Ten’s programming in the late 90s – meant that I had a better chance of finding a chupacabra.

Thankfully, that is no longer the case and we are surrounded by more media and information than we could ever hope to consume. We can now find endless amounts of information about the things that interest us no matter how esoteric our tastes.

We are  no longer passive but active consumers of news.

It matters where it’s from

With so much news content already vying for our attention and our interest, what this means is that where we heard it determines if we are really paying attention to it.

Search, RSS and email, in particular, have flipped news on it’s head. Instead of going to a single or a few sources and hoping to find something of interest, we simply subscribe to the blogs, podcasts, etc. that interest us. That we actively and deliberately subscribe means that we assign it a higher value than something we happen to see in the paper.

This gets taken a little further when social media gets thrown into the mix. The ability to share and recommend means that we are now also exposed to what others in our network think is interesting. Assuming you actually like and respect that person, you are more likely to click on a link that they are sharing than if it were put to you by an anonymous corporation.

In summary, we are gradually paying less and less attention to news that comes to us pre-packaged. While the morning paper or the 6 o’clock news will still be part of our media consumption, it is becoming increasingly irrelevant in the face of more relevant sources such as social media and RSS feeds that directly interest us.

Have new technologies changed the way you find out news? Do you still rely on traditional sources or is the bulk of the news you consume now found online?

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