Monday, June 23, 2008

Getting together: Communication technologies and some questions!

Spatial Worlds website
Picture descriptions:
Left image: Concrete jungle: New York.
Right image: Electrical overload: Times Square, New York

Teaching Australia Network Forum
Sydney, Australia: S: 33º 53' E: 151º 10'
On June 22nd-23rd I attended the inaugural Teaching Australia Network Forum in Sydney. The forum was conducted to bring together the 35 National professional teacher associations across Australia to discuss possibilities of co-operation under the banner of Teaching Australia. Teaching Australia is a federally funded body (a public company limited by guarantee, established under the Commonwealth Corporations Act 2001) which organises and co-ordinates a range of initiatives designed to enhance the teaching profession in Australia. These initiatives include teacher awards, teaching standards, a teaching profession charter and co-operatives futures inspired activities, such as the association forum. In this blog I won’t dwell on the bulk of the workshop discussions which focused on why, how and in what form an association network could be structured by Teaching Australia. The forums catchcry “for the profession by the profession” certainly is a fine sentiment if we are to progress the quality, status, influence and reputation of the teaching profession in Australia.

The section of the forum I would like to focus on in this blog is the use of technology by students, schools and associations. Ron Hair from Affiniscape presented an excellent talk on the way technology is changing and evolving as evidenced by the ever growing use of Podcasts, Wikis ,Nings and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. I found the talk a great summary of what is presently happening with communication technologies and where it is going. The focus of Ron’s talk was on how associations need to understand and embrace the changes to Web technologies if they are to service their members as functional entities.
Here are some useful thoughts, information and links from the presentation:
1. Associations need to change and use technology to personalise their relationships with members in an effort to remain relevant and useful. The Web 1.0 function of being the disseminator of information has been replaced by Web 2.0 which involves an ‘architecture of participation” in a re-write environment. Social software such as MySpace, Facebook and Wikis are central to this new participatory environment. “Now the individual controls the information age.” Web 2.0 innovations such as YouTube, blogs, Wordpress and Flickr has resulted in the democratization of news and information. “Users add value to websites and it gets better the more people use them.”
2. ‘Linkedin’ is a professional version of MySpace.
3. The way we communicate has changed drastically. The website ‘101 things about associations we must change' uses associations as an example to show the way things have changed with Web 2.0.
4. ‘Google Alerts’ are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. Worth adding to websites and blogs.
5. Add an RSS feed to your website via ‘FeedBurner’. FeedBurner is the leading provider of media distribution and audience engagement services for blogs and RSS feeds. Check out the ‘In plain English’ YouTube video to find out about RSS. While there check out the other ‘In plain English’ YouTube feeds. Very useful to get an understanding of new technologies.
6. Google offers the ability to create a personalised iGoogle page that gives an at-a-glance access to key information from Google and across the web.
7. ‘Google analytics' is designed to help learn even more about where website visitors come from and how they interact with your site.
8. Build the ability to survey from websites via ‘SurveyMonkey’.
9. ‘WordPress' is a state-of-the-art publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards and usability.

The meeting was a great opportunity to formally and informally network with a group of dedicated and articulate teaching professionals. I now have plenty of work to do to transmit the work of Teaching Australia to members of AGTA. Maybe setting up a Web 2.0 environment for AGTA and the GTASA could help this communication for our associations in the future.

Some questions related to spatial literacy and communication technologies.
What are the spatial implications of the technologies discussed on this blog? What is the impact on individuals and communities? Do these technologies change the spatial perception of the world? Due to such comminication technologies and our immediate accesss to all parts of the globe via the Web has there been a shift in how we perceive space? Distance has almost become secondary to our considerations when thinking about the space called earth. Unless travelling physically, anywhere or anyone in the world is only a click away. In the long term what will be the effect of this on the spatial perception abilities and literacies of humans? Are modern technologies actually making us spatially illiterate? Do we rely on Google Maps to get somewhere instead of reading a map or trusting our navigational instincts? Do we use Google Earth to see a location virtually instead of actually going there? Is the use of spatial and communication technology making the world a smaller and better place for the future? More on these questions in another blog when I find some research on the impact of modern communication technologies on spatial literacy.

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