Balancing Identity, Community & Trust

Whether we like it or not the Internet is changing how we see ourselves and how others see us. This post isn’t about the rapid pace of technological change but rather how this change is affecting how we communicate, form relationships, and trust one other.

Social Networks are not new but the need to architect your communities within these networks is. What happens if you ignore this evolution? Imagine everyone you know getting together in one big room with a giant display screen behind them advertising some of the most private details of their lived experience. A birthday party, the death of a parent, the personal impact of a recent natural catastrophe.

Some of these events you may want to share with everyone but mostly you want to target your message to specific people in your community. Before social media this concept was referred to as back room and front room conversations and was easy to manage. Social media has broken down the walls between back room and front room conversations and opened a window into back room behaviors.

What you need to know is that social media can be designed in a way to strengthen our broader relationships in a way that is manageable. This introduces the concept of trust and managing our trust relationships.

I found the following presentation through a tweet and it’s probably one of the most clear and comprehensive explanation that I’ve come across about the importance of architecting your social network and of understanding the underlying trust relationships. It’s written from a designer’s perspective but is relevant to individuals and businesses alike.

Social Media & Collaborative Knowledge Building

Strategies & Challenges in using Social Media

The UBC Masters of Educational Technology program is a strong collaborative environment for learning. One collaboration tool that is emphasized is the Wiki. Although I am a fan of using Wikis, I can’t say that I find collaborating within them intuitive or easy. One thing that I’ve noticed is that it really helps to make use of the discussion page to describe your thoughts on what you have changed or what you think still needs more work.

Working with Wikis is something that takes a lot of practice to get good at. It takes some amount of confidence to go in and modify someone elses work without first getting their permission to do so. By virtue of working within a Wiki you give others permission to modify your work but it is still a little uncomfortable for me.

I thought it would be good to share the top strategies that we came up with as part of one of my classes for the benefit of anyone thinking about incorporating social media into their Community of Practice. These were developed over a week within a group Wiki and demonstrate the potential for the tool to support collaborative knowledge building. I have tailored some of the points to adapt them to CoPs rather than just academic learning environments.

5 Strategies for using Social Media

  1. Enhance a lesson by reaching learners through a multitude of learning styles; for instance, visual, tactile, and auditory
  2. Capitalizing on the way that learners already communicate during their daily lives and use social media to enhance their learning.
  3. Utilize the wisdom of the entire group to progress collectively to a greater destination than what they could have achieved on their own.
  4. Research other training uses of social media to determine the advantages of field tested group learning techniques.
  5. Teach digital etiquette. Discuss public identity management and the appropriate time and use of technology, privacy, copyright, and flame wars.

5 Key Challenges in using Social Media:

  1. Navigating through copyright and plagiarism issues and how these issues apply to the read/write digital culture
  2. Supporting learners with limited computer and/or internet access at home or in work so that they are not marginalized
  3. Providing another platforms to network while yielding sufficient training outcomes without negatively impacting individual learning goals
  4. Ensuring social media sites terms of service and corporate privacy policies are followed and kept apprise of by the CoP’s administration team.
  5. Navigating the legal, social and organizational ramifications of using social media between learner and teacher.

If you are interested in developing a Wiki to build knowledge within your Community of Practice then you might want to check out:

If anyone has a Wiki platform that they would like to share – please leave a comment and I will add the site to the technology page.

At the Intersection of Art & Technology

The musician Trimpin has been given many labels but the one I like the most is kinetic sculptor. He refers to his work as a visualization of sound. Sound being primary it must come first.

I am inspired by his creativity that kept a childlike wonder persevering past a filing cabinet full of eloquently labeled ‘FU’ letters. Of course those probably ended soon after he won the MacArthur “Genius” Award.

I went to see Trimpin talk after a local showing of his documentary about his music experiment with the Kronos Quartet. What interested me most was his creative process and particularly how he visualizes his musical scores.

Trimpin’s experimentation with technologies enable him to create technical feats and artistic wonders such as the automated piano in Ratatatatatt. Being an inventor at heart he custom designs almost everything he creates including the hardware and software.

When asked what he would set out to do if he had unlimited funds? He gazes at the questioner quizzically and responds that it is not the money that is the challenge but the limits of time.

Blogging & Wiki

I started the Wiki activity by adding a post but I’ll need to wait a bit for a few others to add to it before continuing the evolution to discussions and summarizations. Right now the wiki is more like some type of rolling blog. In the meantime I moved onto the blogging assignment which will probably have a discussion forum open up next week. For now, here’s my thoughts.

At first I was nervous about commenting about this issue because I don’t have children nor do I teach children. However after watching the Fischbowl video and reading the Educause article about educational blogging I feel a lot more comfortable about the idea of grade school children blogging in a supportive environment. That is how Stephen Downes describes the environment in the Educational Blogging article. I was also swayed by the interviews in the Fischbowl video where the students listed the multitude of benefits like extending the classroom, having time to reflect, taking accountability for their writing because it will be read so publicly and they will need to be able to defend what they write.

Now, optimistic about the value of the exercise I ran the process and technology through Chickering and Ehrmann’s Seven Principles and the results were also encouraging:

☑  encourages contact between students and faculty,
☑  develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
☑  uses active learning techniques
☑  prompt feedback
☑  emphasis time on task
☑  communicates high expectations
☑  respects diverse talents and ways of learning

I do acknowledge that neither of the sources seemed to offer any critique or discussion of potential risks. However, based on my assessment using these materials, I will move onto the potential strategies.

First would be to have a discussion with the parents – possibly a dialogue with them and their children to hear out the concerns. I would recommend sharing the assessment about how powerful of a learning experience this is and to share the video with the parents. I think its a strong message in the voice of the ones that matter – the kids. I think another option is to look into having a semi-public blogging space that is only open to the educational community e.g. the whole school but not the whole world. I didn’t hear any specific statements by the students about the benefits of having ‘strangers’ comment on their work. The value for the students seemed to come from interacting with their peers in an extension from the classroom. However, this may limit the value of the exercise that allows the students to engage with the world at large in a supportive environment which seems to be a timely and necessary learning experience. I think that they made the right choice with selecting Livejournal given the policy, as stated in the Educause article, of only allowing new members who are recommended by existing members. It’s not completely controlled but it helps to foster a safer community environment. I also think that it would help to include regular discussions and reflective exercises about how the students feel and respond to negative and hurtful comments that appear in their blog. As a last resort I suppose you could allow students to opt out.

Chickering, A.W. & Ehrmann, S.C. (1996).  Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, 49(2), 3-6.

Downes, S. (2004).  Educational Blogging.  Educause Review.  September/October 2004 Accessed online 25 March 2009. Retrieved from

Fisch, K. (2007). “Blogging: In Their Own Words,”The Fischbowl.  Accessed online 26 March 2009.