Archive for 23 February 2007

E-Learning Pioneer Nominated for the New Statesman New Media Awards 2007

The New Statesman, Britain’s leading political magazine, in association with Atos Origin, one of the leading IT services companies, announces the nomination of e-learning pioneer Jonathan Bishop in their New Media Awards in the category of Education.

The award will go to the body or project that has made the most significant contribution to education through the use of new media technology.

In supporting the nomination of Mr Bishop for the Digital Classroom of Tomorrow Project, director of Glamorgan Blended Learning, Mark Beech, said, “This project deserves to win the award because it has made a significant contribution to education through the use of new media technology through producing original ideas that have been utilised in industry and academia.” Continuing he said, “Jonathan Bishop has shown leadership in the design, development and evaluation of new media technologies for the purpose of delivering educational experiences. The inventor of the Circle of Friends, now used by MySpace, he has long been an advocate of using online community technologies to improve educational outcomes.”

The key themes of this year’s awards are “accessibility, usability and interactivity”. The awards celebrate those who use new media for the benefit of others, whether in their community or in society at large. Since 1998, these awards have promoted projects that embrace new technology, fresh thinking and creative management in the UK.

The editor of the New Statesman, John Kampfner said, “As the hits on our own website have shot up by almost 150% since our recent relaunch, we have seen first hand the power and potential inherent in the medium. We are delighted to be able to champion those who are using technology to make a real difference to society.”

Online Community Pioneer Asks for Proportionality in Dealing with Lurkers

A British online community expert is calling for restraint by online community managers as lurkers are booted off a Web-based Hyperlexia support group.

Jonathan Bishop, director of e-learning firm Glamorgan Blended Learning who has been developing and researching online communities since the 1990s says the actions of the Hyperlex online community’s manager to delete any member who did not post a message to the community was not proportional, “Participation inequality is a serious problem for the new media society, but banning people from using online communities if they do not post content is not the best approach to dealing with it”, he said, “it would be like a government trying to increase turnout in an election by disqualifying those who did not vote in the last one, which would only mask the problem and not actually deal with it

Discussing participation inequality, Web Usability Guru Jakob Nielsen said, “The first step to dealing with participation inequality is to recognize that it will always be with us. It’s existed in every online community and multi-user service that has ever been studied.” Dr Nielsen believes that participation inequality can be tackled by the webmaster making it easier to contribute, making participation a side effect, letting users build their contributions by modifying existing templates rather than creating complete entities from scratch, rewarding people for contributing, and by displaying all contributions equally.

Mr Bishop has carried out research into lurking, which is currently being considered by the Computers in Human Behavior journal, claiming that the reason that people do not post messages in online communities is that they hold beliefs that lead them to experience a cognitive response called ‘temperance’, which means they do not act out their plans to post messages. Mr Bishop’s study, which investigated online communities including Hyperlex found that lurkers in online communities share much in common with those who have social phobia in real-world communities, though lurkers do not necessarily hold the same beliefs as those with social phobia. He said, “The extent to which an online community member finds a social phobic belief characteristic of them can be predictive of whether they will be a lurker in that community, as for example lurkers are likely to find the belief that they appear clumsy during social situations and the belief they what they say to be interpreted as stupid to be more characteristic of them than those who are not lurkers”.

Summarising his study Mr Bishop said, “Leaders and elders in online communities should take into account the beliefs held by lurkers and encourage them to become novices and go on to become regulars as it is important that all members of online communities be encouraged to play a part in the community as they all have unique perspectives to share.

Technological Lifestyles – Should the elderly and disabled live an e-enhanced life?

It is now 5 years since I launched the PARLE system, a revolutionary e-learning system and assistive device that sought to make technology compatible with the social model of disability.

As a disabled child the education authorities decided it was in my interests for me to be sent away from my home to a residential school, and this is something that many elderly and disabled people experience today who are often forced to leave their homes and go into institutions. Nigel Praities of Firstscience.com talks about using technology to support the elderly in their homes in the future, but I don’t think we should have to wait over 40 years for the elderly to be able to live in their own homes, both the elderly and disabled should be supported in their homes so they don’t have to go into institutions to be cared for if they don’t want to.

The elderly and disabled should not be seen as problems to be solved, and they should not be denied the opportunities of others just because they may have problems with their mobility or personal care. Why should it just be the most physically able people that get the best jobs or that get to go abroad on holiday?

There are probably a lot a disabled people with the potential to be the best scientists, the best writers and even the best politicians, but because of the barriers they face are not able achieve what they are capable of. There are probably at lot of elderly people that deserve to see the world, deserve to take up an interest and deserve to contribute to society, but they often also experience barriers in society.

I believe a disabled person only able to work 20 hours a week should have the opportunity to have the same lifestyle as someone working 40 hours a week. I believe an elderly person that worked all their life should be able to enjoy their retirement as well as undergraduates who have never worked enjoy their lifestyles.

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