Category Archives: MA

Teaching WordPress at Ravensbourne

I’ve been using WordPress since my MA in 2007. It had nothing to do with my studies apart from the fact that it was open-source software and a subject I was covering in one of the modules. I was intrigued to know more about it. I’ve since built and worked on about 10 sites and used it as part of the case study for the Social Media book chapter I’ve just completed. Indeed this diary uses WordPress. It’s so customisable and can be used, amongst other things, to collaborate online and as a content management system. It’s a good example of a data mashup in that it takes data from many different sources and integrates it one site.

It is now being used widely at Ravensbourne College as a way of getting content creation students quickly up and running and using a website to collaborate and create content as a team. This gives them the opportunity to get going, creating content without the need to spend weeks designing and coding a website. Over the last three days I’ve been teaching first year students how to use it. But first I gave them two lectures. The first was an introduction to the Internet and Web and the definitions and practices of Web 2.0. It’s surprising how many don’t know the difference between the Internet and the Web. The second (below) is intended as a bit of background before using WordPress. It describes open-source software and gives examples and definitions.

I spent three days with them and generally there was a very positive response to the use of it.

Social Media Chapter & TVam reunion

Now that the Transforming Audiences 3 conference is finished I’m using this week to finish a book chapter I was asked to write back in the Autumn of 2009. There have been plenty of re-writes since then. The book is entitled The Digital Media Handbook. 

A member of staff from my previous MA, Digital Media course  is overseeing and editing the book and it’s final deadline is approaching. The chapter, titled ʻSocial Media: Sharing and Collaboration Onlineʼ, positions the contrasting views of media and academic commentators against a historical and descriptive background and links them to a pedagogical case study.

The chapter is in two sections. The first part is a historical and academically orientated study of the rise of social media and the second part is a case study that relates to the preamble. I’m collaborating with the course leader at Ravensbourne College as he wrote the course that we are using. The book is produced in association with Department of Applied Social Science at London Metropolitan University and is slated for publication in spring, 2012.

After many changes and iterations the chapter is now finished and currently with the editors for integration with the other chapters. I’m glad it’s done as I need to clear the desk for my last year,  although there will, no doubt , be more changes!

Last night I went to a TVam reunion where I worked in the early 1980s. It was organised via Facebook. TVam was the first commercial breakfast TV channel launched in 1983 and the reunion was to mark the anniversary of the industrial action that lost all 230 of our jobs back in the late 1980s. At least that’s what I thought it was, although on reflection it’s a strange thing to mark.

The event was held at the Elephant Arms in Camden Town just across the road from the old TVam building in Hawley Crescent, now the studios of MTV. There was a fairly average turn out and still the factionalised department cliques of the past, the graphics team (left) included. The event was a bit limp, uninspiring and slightly banal. There again, that’s what most reunions are, (sad) reflections of the past.

A New Decade

It’s been snowing heavily again. I’ve been writing most days over the winter break and have now completed 6,000 words with another 2000 to go. It’s been very intensive and parts have been enjoyable but I’m getting a bit weary of it now. It’s standing me in good stead as I’m going to have to get used to lots of writing over the coming years. My background has been in the design world where everything is more visual than textual. But over the last few years I’ve been writing more and more. My first foray into writing again came when I completed a PGCE followed by my MA both of which required large amounts of essay writing. This certainly got me in the swing again and I’m learning slowly to touch type.

I’m out tonight to see the comedian, Kim Noble, who uses multi-media in his act. He’s is said to be quite outrageous. The Guardian describes the show as being a “either a dark masterpiece that yields coruscating insights into the depressive mind (Noble has a history of mental illness), or it’s a wallow in squalor and self-pity, the staging of which marks its sensation-seeking nadir. Maybe it’s both. It’s certainly unforgettable.” Mmmm should be interesting.

During the research I found this video of Clay Shirky on YouTube. His book Here Comes Everybody gives an enlightened view of the world of sharing and participation. I’m finding his views more and more engaging with every read.

[youtube A_0FgRKsqqU 460 280]

End of First Semester

It’s the end of my first semester at University of Westminster and it’s been snowing heavily. I’ve just been in touch with the course leader at London Metropolitan University where I did my MA in 2008 and she has asked me whether I can finish my chapter for a book they are publishing through Pearson Education. The title of the book is The Digital Media Handbook and my chapter is about social media and virtual communities. I’ve only just started it and this was meant to be completed in November but due to lots of reasons, not all mine, I’m late. I’ve got the feeling that it may have been a false deadline anyway.

What this means, however, is that I’m going to get writing frantically over the Christmas period and will not be writing this blog for a while. Luckily I’m really up-to-date with my PhD writing and lots of the reading and researching I’m doing for the chapter is related to the my research subject. Two birds with one stone!

Get-together

As PhD’s go they can be fairly isolating experiences, so what a surprise when I receive an email inviting me to a student rep meeting, followed by a meal in Central London. I’m usually good at transferring information (or at least remembering to print out the details) but not on this occasion. Not only do I arrive at the wrong campus but an hour  early. Anyway, after a mad rush eventually made it to the correct venue and on time.

The meeting was held in a resources room, which is full of what can only be described as ‘pre-millennium’ computers. They are unwieldy and distinctly dirty sandstone in colour. The room also has a rather over-sized oval table in the middle which impinges on space needed for successful computer use and mobility. As the meeting begins, the PhD student reps inevitably move the agenda towards the lack of upgrades for the computers and the very out-of-date browsers. Presumably they mean Internet Explore 6, which has led sections of the web community to campaigning for its demise.

I’ve been here before, with this discussion, many times over the last couple of years, having been at two other London universities. The complaints from students are similar. It’s a combination of lack of money, apathetic IT departments and a general underestimation of how important these resources are to the modern day student. One of my previous universities (which shall remain nameless), didn’t even have internet access in one building. As with my previous universities, the same pattern seems to occur. Every year a new software upgrade is introduced, sending the first few weeks of term into turmoil due to the ‘teething problems’ of getting said software to do what it was suppose to do.

As the meeting ends, there is a 45 minute wait before we all get the tube down to Central London. I check out the student union bar. On approaching the bar, I notice the inevitable lack of ale and the unavoidable sight of six different types of lager, which will almost certainly be similarly bland in taste. Don’t think I’ll be back there anytime soon.

The meal is enjoyable. There is a good gender and cultural mix, so healthy for cultural exchange within a education establishment. This is a decent time to discuss projects and get to know some of the students on their second and third years. When I did my MA there was very little that one could glean about the course from other students, as it was short by comparison (one year). Had pizza and the department stumped up £10 a head towards the meal… nice.