Northern Voice 2013, Part 3: Tools of the Trade

A couple of talks about social media used not to change your life or tell stories, but for more specific purposes.

A couple of talks about social media used not to change your life or tell stories, but for more specific purposes.

Darren Barefoot: Living the Quantified Life

Darren started out with a personal anecdote, about having a box of his old comics stolen from his storage locker. Fortunately he’d made an obsessively detailed spreadsheet of every comic he had, so insurance was not a problem. Came out really well! That was one early reward the quantified life.

Using technology to monitor and share your input, life and performance has become possible thanks to smaller sensors, computers you can carry with you, omnipresent social media, and the cloud for aggregating and storing. Darren made the distinction between self-documentation such as blogging, and self-quantification, which is more about numbers and the aggregates thereof. There’s also passive vs. active. For example, the Nike Fuel Band (should I add a ™?) monitors your heart rate and steps taken without any input from you. Just wear it and away you go.

Why would you do this? Well, there’s the old saying: “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Measuring your current status and your progress can be a powerful motivator to change some things about your life, and focus on what’s needed. On the other hand, you could be missing the forest for the trees, either looking at the wrong things, or spending so much time measuring and aggregating that you never get around to doing.

It all comes down to what’s best for you. Personally, I use two tools: a fitness app that conveniently lets me record my weight, workouts and food intake (including calories and protein); and Toggl, which lets me record my time.

Brad Ovenell-Carter: Twitter As A Note Taking Tool

Brad Ovenell-Carter spoke about his project to use Twitter as a note-taking and collaborative communication tool in his Grade 11 Philosophy class. Students get to communicate with each other and the teacher during or outside of class (using a particular hashtag to define the class’s online space), but unlike e.g. Facebook, all their conversations are 100% public. Since other adults are part of the digital space, they get to model good online behaviour.

In addition to Twitter, Ovenell-Carter’s class is divided into small discussion groups where students rotate through specific roles: note-takers take notes (obviously), researchers find answers to specific questions (if I remember right, they are the only ones who get to use the wider WWW during class), and so on. Students help each other out, which leaves the teacher free to do more one-on-one coaching. A win all around, it seems.

An important point is that students tweet under their own names: not only is this to keep them accountable, but they’re already building their online brands!

Now, this is a Philosophy class in a private school. Not all subjects are so discussion-heavy vs. information-heavy, so Twitter might not be so useful. Furthermore, the question of access to technology is an important one: not all public school students have a computer that’s all their own and that they can use for Twitter. All important questions, to be sure. Still, it’s a fascinating look at how education will change in the coming years and decades.