It’s an RSS feeding frenzy!

rss-feed-jobportal-790x1024Way back, when I was still working at Citytv in Toronto, I sat briefly near the part of the newsroom we called the “Feed Room.” This was an alcove about 10 feet wide that featured at least a dozen television monitors and nearly as many videotape recorders. Its purpose was to monitor all the international coverage from CNN, Reuters and other satellite news services. The feeds producer had the task of trying to keep tabs on what was beaming out on all the various services and aggregate the most important clips for that night’s news.

This past session in my Learning in Digital Contexts class at Brock University we were introduced to RSS feeds and how they can serve as our personal feeds producer. Of course, I was familiar with RSS feeds and their purpose, but I had never really explored their use or put much thought into how they could manage my own digital reading habits.

As a self-confessed news junkie, I constantly troll websites and continually log on to my favourite digital newsrooms in search of the latest updates to stories that I am interested in. Often there is little new and I find myself wasting time that I should probably be dedicating to work or my studies. Through my new Google Reader account and Feedly I’ve now found a way to quickly and conveniently take a peek at all the latest news of interest in one organized location.

I think this new addition to my Personal Learning Environment will greatly enhance the efficiency of my digital life and perhaps give me more time to explore issues related to work and education that I might have otherwise missed because my focus was elsewhere at the time.

If I could recommend just one my new RSS feeds to friends it would be the New York Times Lens Blog page where some of the most powerful and progressive photojournalism is displayed on a daily basis. This site and its feed provide a window into worlds and cultures very far from us that are now just a click away.

Reflections on digital citizenship

Digital CITIZENSHIP

Graphic by Phil Raby

Most people take their national citizenship quite seriously and will defend it with great vigour, particularly if they are fortunate enough to live in a prosperous and democratic country like Canada. But what about your digital citizenship? Should we not also care and protect that non-territorial realm that most of us immerse ourselves in daily?

Earlier on this blog I wrote about my digital footprint and how I was surprised at its depth and breadth. With such a large digital footprint across the World Wide Web, this week’s lesson on digital citizenship in my Learning in Digital Contexts course from Brock University has taken on an even greater meaning. I now realize how large my digital footprint is and with that understanding comes a greater need to manage it appropriately and display good “netiquette” (RIbble, 2011).

For me this means maintaining a mostly professional presence in cyberspace through Linked in, Twitter and FaceBook, though I do allow some personal thoughts and mild political views to be aired on FaceBook. On Linked in though it is all about work and education and making connections that could be helpful to me. And on Twitter I maintain a personal account with mostly just family permitted to view my Tweets and a number of other professional accounts (@goingmojo, @carblogging, @tripswithkids, @DCbroadcasting and @shopatfestoon, just to name some!).

Netiquette relates to your digital footprint because it is all about how you interact and present yourself to others on the Web. As our textbook, Digital Citizenship in Schools (Ribble, 2011) points out, the best policy is to maintain the same sort of etiquette and professionalism that you would exhibit when meeting people face to face. This is exactly what I try to do, but the Internet is rife with examples of people on forums and comment sections flaming each other and attacking total strangers who dare to have a contrary opinion. Mostly, this is done anonymously with pseudonyms so there is often little impact on a digital footprint, but it is just bad form to be so obnoxious to total strangers.

Part of the learning activities for this week included taking a “Digital Driver’s License (sic)  exam.” I found this quiz relatively easy with the exception of some questions regarding cellphones in school. My experience as a college educator led me to a different answer than in the text because the textbook appears to be oriented more towards a high school audience. In my classrooms, we are teaching people to use smartphones and iPods as professional broadcast tools so we require our students to bring such devices to class and experiment with them.

My PLE (personal learning environment)

The image above was created on the website Popplet.com to illustrate my personal learning environment in all its digital formats.

The image above was created on the website Popplet.com to illustrate my personal learning environment in all its digital formats.

A PLE (personal learning environment) is defined as “a system that helps learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to set their own learning goals, manage their learning, manage both content and process, and communicate with others in the process of learning.” (http://microbiologybytes.com)

This is In contrast to a virtual learning environment (VLE) or learning management system (LMS), such as Blackboard, Sakai or Desire2Learn.  These are proprietary software systems designed to help teachers manage their curricula in  a very controlled way. The main difference is that a PLE is all about your personalized digital learning universe, whereas a LMS offers very little, if any, learner control.

As you can see from the mind map above, my PLE turned out to be fairly intricate with numerous categories and some cross indexing of certain websites and services. I believe myself to be fairly connected to the digital world, but even I was surprised by the complexity of my digital footprint. It will be interesting to see what new connections are made as I make my way through the Brock University Learning in Digital Contexts course that  spurred the creation of this diagram.

Fortunately, I have been aware of the negative aspects of having such a large digital footprint and always try to keep any digital presence professional, or at least courteous when it comes to the more personal social interactions via FaceBook and other social media. Limiting any negative fallout from your digital footprint is also something we teach our students at the college where I work. Flaming the boss at their part-time job or expressing personal biases is something we often have to counsel against. Connected as the new twenty-somethings are, it can be a difficult task to get them to look at their online presence as a possible impediment to employment when they see it as a creative expression of their personality.

On the flip side of that coin, there are other faculty at our college who barely have any digital presence outside of mentions in the staff directory on the college website. I find this difficult to understand in an era in which digital media is rapidly eclipsing traditional forms of news dissemination and social interaction. Perhaps a course like Learning in Digital Contexts is something that should be mandatory for all instructors, or at least those teaching in the Media, Art and Design department.

What’s in a Wordle?

Image

Created by Wordle for my Brock University Learning in Digital Contexts course

Created by Wordle for my Brock University Learning in Digital Contexts course

The image at left is a Wordle, created by pasting some of the text seen below. This graphical representation is meant to illustrate my goals and my personal learning environment.

Currently, I work part time at Durham College in the Journalism department. I am also completing my first degree through Brock University and have just been appointed co-ordinator of the new Broadcasting for Contemporary Media program at Durham.

In five to 10 years, I hope to be a full-time professor at Durham College in either Broadcasting or Journalism faculties. I hope to have completed both my Bachelor of Arts in Adult Education through Brock University, as well as a Master of Arts or Education through either the University of Ontario Institute of Technology or Central Michigan University.

Currently, I teach television news production and digital photography. These past couple of year I have found that Instructing others is a great way to rediscover your own passions  and I have really begun to explore photography again. I hope the coming years allow me more time to create more photography and video projects professionally. And if the teaching does not develop as I would like it to, I can also see myself running a professional consulting or media services business helping to provide cutting edge media education.

To accomplish my educational and professional goals, I need to study very hard this year to complete my Brock degree by the end of 2013 or early 2014 at the latest. From there I may take a break or begin the Masters degree right away. Part of the educational advancement will depend on my employment. If I manage to get full-time employment then I will be better able to afford the next degree through the financial assistance of the college. I have most of the tools I require for this learning, save and except the funding! The mental tools and knowledge will come from my course work which has already altered the way I teach and look at adult education.