Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Scales that can tweet your weight?

Spent most of the last couple of days in meetings or preparing for a talk I gave this morning at SROC - the Student Records Officers Conference. I'd been asked to cover Web2.0 in HE, and specifically address it for a non IT audience. I cheated slightly and expanded it to cover new technologies in general - including phone apps and cloud computing.

I used the wiki dictionary definition of web 2.0 - "The second generation of the WWW, especially the movement away from static web pages to dynamic and shareable content and social networking". There's loads of definitions out there, but this one is nice and concise and easy to understand. I also stressed the importance of user generated content and collaboration.

The CLEX report published last year - Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World - is still relevant and I used a couple of quotes from it to illustrate their conclusions:

Web 2.0, the Social Web, has had a profound effect on behaviours, particularly those of young people.....They inhabit it with ease and it has led them to a strong sense of communities of interest linked in their own web spaces, and to a disposition to share and participate.
The world they encounter in higher education has been constructed on a wholly different set of norms..... hierarchical, substantially introvert, guarded, careful, precise and measured.
The two worlds are currently co-existing, with present-day students effectively occupying a position on the cusp of change....they are making such adaptations as are necessary for the time it takes to gain their qualifications.... This is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. The next generation is unlikely to be so accommodating.
I also talked about the consumerisation of IT - technology and the internet are all around us. Internet enabled fridges, and bathroom scales that send your weight to a server over your wifi network are already with us. I can see the benefits of being able to connect to your fridge from the supermarket to see how much gin, oops, milk you've got left, but I really don't want my scales checking up on how much I weigh and tweeting me telling me to go easy on the chocolate!

So, we then had a look some of the technologies out there including Facebook, Blogging and Twitter, and also about some more "controlled" web 2.0 environments such as our own uSpace service, demonstrating how they can be used in an HE environment. I think I also successfully demonstrated how mad I can appear to non-users of this technology when I showed a picture of my desktop the night I was watching the debate on the Digital Economy Bill - with BBCiPlayer, Tweetdeck, Twitterfall and the Guardian live blog of the event all open at the same time and me actively reading, watching or participating in all of them. And watching the final of Masterchef at the same time.....

A demo of our mobile phone app CampusM, some thoughts on Cloud Computing, and we were on to the perceived risks of these technologies, including privacy and security of data, loss of control, copyright/IP issues and the ephemeral nature of some of the services. My view is that this is all about risk management - you have to know and understand the risks, and then decide which ones you're prepared to take and how you're going to manage them.

A good discussion followed, so I hope I made the audience think a bit about about how these technologies might be used to improve the services we provide to our students.


Adrian said...

It is interesting how consideration of web 2.0 and new technologies in general distills down to a question of how we perceive and manage risk. I think you have hit the nail on the head.
The CLEX report description of HE as introvert, guarded, careful etc. suggests HE to be highly risk adverse. Yet if we are to exploit new technologies we have to be prepared to embark on a process of discovery. The key question is perhaps 'what level of risk can HE tolerate in these financially difficult times?'
Great overview of new technologies BTW.

Andy Tattersall said...

I think for us to exploit and embrace these great tools and ideologies, we need to explain in clear terms what Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 are or at least what the concept is, as it is not a platform - but a way of thinking. There are plenty of good counter-arguments that deflect much of the criticism and concern this change has brought about. I'm suprised by the amount of people I come into contact with - the vast majority - who have never heard the term Web 2.0.
An essential part of this evolution is that of risk taking, something which I imagine goes against modern business.