Importance of Real-time Education Analytics

Following a tip from Carolyn, @camcd, I watched the talk from Mark Milliron, @markmilliron, at the EDUCAUSE 2011 online conference. Mark spoke on Analytics Today: Getting Smarter About Emerging Technology, Diverse Students, and the Completion Challenge.

Mark spoke on 7 major topics:

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and by Getting Ready he means:

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For me the main takeaways are:

Can you use information about me to help me?
How to make the human moments precious?
Tuned blended learning per student   
OER repositories – the junk draw
Be a rookie every year
Student pathways – from entry to endowment, find haemorrhage points
Courageous learning – the ability to continue to learn new things
Learners inherit the future, the learned are equipped to live in a world that no longer exists
CAVE people, colleagues against virtually everything – if you don’t know one, you may be …

This is highly recommended viewing, follow the talk link above then click on Resources to see the video link.


Customised Social Network Connections, if this then that

As a computer scientist I am naturally attracted to the simple conditional statement programming paradigm of a new web app that allows you to connect status updates between your favourite social networks. ifttt or ‘if this then that’ leverages the ‘if-then-else’ conditional statement, one of the three major building blocks of all programming languages. You connect your social networks by a simple collection of if this then that rules that yield a highly customised set of connections.

2011-09-26 SNAG-00This is an example of a rule or task as ifttt calls it. The ‘this’ part is a specified event on trigger channel, a typical activity on your chosen social network or channel. I chose a check-in with a photo in my task. For the ‘that’ part I chose to upload the photo on Foursquare to a chosen album on my Facebook account. It works extremely well and took only 30 seconds to establish.

2011-09-26 SNAG-01ifttt comes with several default channels but it is very straightforward to add your own social networks. My list is on the left. I have used less than half of the social networks (channels) supported.

Each channel typically has two of more possible actions from which you choose. Some actions require parameters which are entered via simple forms. For example, I was able to define the message content that accompanies my photo when it finds its way into Facebook. You can see that my 17 channels allow 1485 different possible task combinations.

A simple ‘{{ … }}’ notation is used to transfer key information from the trigger to the action such as {{VenueMapImageURL}} from the Foursquare check-in in my example. ifttt checks for triggers every 15 minutes so the typical delay in the action being executed is half that time.

For me one of the key omissions at the moment is a Google+ channel, but of course we need the API to be extended from its current read-only capability before ifttt can make use of Google+ in a full-featured way. ifttt is free and easy to get an invite by leaving your email on their web site.

Google Plus Presentation by @petahopkins

At the Social Media Club Gold Coast August 2011 meeting Peta Hopkins gave us a detailed overview of Google+. Peta sent me an invitation to Google+ is the very first days and I have been an avid Google+ user ever since. Nevertheless I learned new facts and I appreciated Peta’s comments. My take-aways are:


My live mindmap is on Mindmeister. Peta put her slides on Slideshare.

From Webslides to Pearltrees

Each week in class I pick a few of my students’ blog posts for discussion and string the links together in a list like a slide show of web pages. As discovered by a colleague I have been using Webslides from Diigo for this task over the last 12 weeks. Using the Diigo bookmarklet I can quickly capture the current page link into a Diigo group. Each Diigo group has a link to the start of the webslides presentation – example here.

The links are quick to gather but there are few niggles:

  • by default the web pages change every 10 seconds during presentation – not ideal for use in class
  • webslides caches the pages leading to a slow start-up, and an annoying overlay at the top of each page reminds the viewer that the page is cached and not live; an extra click is needed to remove the message

The first niggle is fixed by changing the settings for each webslides group, which naturally I don’t always remember to do before use. I have been looking for an even more efficient mechanism.

Today I think I found an improvement for page link presentations in the exotically named PearlTrees. Page links are stored as leaf nodes in a tree of links. Tree nodes are called pearls. Link gathering is made easy using the Chrome extension. Either the link is collected in the drop zone to be assigned a place in the pearltree later, or placed directly in the desired pearltree (subtree) of links. Pearls can be dragged to any required position in the tree. I collected some of the last student posts as part of my tree:

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For presenting the pages as ‘slides’ simply click on a pearltree such as the Student Blogs Week 13 and the page shows the pearltree detail that acts like a title slide. Simple next/previous navigation with commenting is available with each page:

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I have just described the slideshow features but PearlTrees has many social capabilities for sharing pearltrees with a friending system, Twitter and Facebook integration, and a mechanism for showing related and popular pearltrees. In this respect it acts as a visual social bookmarking repository.

So far PearlTrees has not been used in the heat of class preparation and presentation but the great ease of collecting and presenting a set of sample links bodes well for the future.

First SnapSendSolve Experiment a Success

On 11 August I tweeted about a great new iPhone app called SnapSendSolve ( that allows you to quickly and easily send incident reports to your local council.

On 16 August I tried SnapSendSolve for the first time. On our regular cycling route the bushes were taking over the path. Launching the app I took a photo, selected the incident type, entered an optional short message and touched submit. This is the message that SnapSendSolve generated:

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I’ve been interstate for a week or more but at the beginning of this week (7 September) I am very happy to report that this problem has been fixed with fresh saw cuts evident throughout the affected section of path. A big hat tip to Gold Coast City Council (GCCC) for getting this done, and so quickly as well. [I am hoping the social media watchers at GCCC will pick up on this praise.]

Needless to say my initial enthusiasm for SnapSendSolve has grown enormously. I hope it is an encouragement to others as obviously our council is taking notice. Good on the GCCC!

Infographic of the Geosocial Universe

A great graphic from the Jess3 agency. It would be useful as an animation showing the circle sizes and ordering changing every week or so.


Our Social Circle has evolved to … Your Suggestions Welcome

Decades ago we referred to our collection of friends and acquaintances as our social circle. Now such a collection has undergone fundamental change so what should we call it? Social network even does not cover it since we are members of several social networks all subtly different. We need a term to encompass all of these social networks.

Having only thought about the naming problem for a few minutes, here are a few of my suggestions in no particular order:

  • social universe
  • social sphere
  • social circus
  • social clan
  • social crowd
  • social set
  • social mob

I would really like to hear your name suggestions. Please comment here.