Content still counts

Graph illustrating the Law of diminishing content
The law of diminishing content

First off, a disclaimer: I love discovering and using new Web 2.0 technology and tricks. However, it sometimes seems that the people I would most like to share with are the least likely to use the technology; worse still, the people who tend to dominate new media are the least interesting to me.

Take twitter, for example. I find that I use it almost exclusively to get immediate alerts of breaking news (Another reactor blows in Fukushima!), although most of my incoming tweets are from colleagues who seem to think that they should share every thought that occurs to them, from the most interesting work developments to their most personal experiences. I resent that they are unable to filter their stream of consciousness to separate different content for different audiences. I do not find it normal to include a link in your email signature that takes me to photos of your children in the bath, for example.

Even after making a distinction between public and private information, there remain a number of colleagues who flood my tweetdeck with impressive-sounding messages about seminars led, students coached or bridges built. But it is soon apparent that these are nothing more than descriptions of routine duties dressed up as new initiatives. Not surprisingly, these kinds of tweets come from people specialized in marketing, communication or life coaching — all pseudo-academic subjects that are sustained only through their own self-promotion.

These same people, the audience myopics and fluff meisters, are always present at the coffee and cake gatherings, or at the meet-and-greet lunches, always looking for ways to increase their network, although between their frenetic tweeting and hobnobbing, one wonders when they actually do any real work. I rarely attend these social gatherings, not because I’m a misanthrope (OK, not completely), but because I’m busy producing content: solid course material that draws on Web 2.0 eLearning possibilities as a means for student-centred, collaborative, flexible learning.

When my contract comes up for renewal at the end of the academic year, I’ll have an impressive portfolio of innovative training material to back me up … and not one tweet will be included. In a wider context, whether content will win out over appearance is hard to guess; however, in my case, contract renewal will come down to a place being vacated by a retiring colleague, and will have nothing to do with my own contribution (despite management and HR protestations to the contrary).

Maybe I should just go eat more cake.

Hiatus interruptus

Since the start of classes in September, I’ve had very little time to blog. In addition to teaching and its concomitant demands, I’ve been getting busy with developing a learning management system (LMS) for the modern languages department. It’s based on Moodle, one of the most popular LMSs around, and offers almost infinite possibilities of combining different learning modules to make flexible, interactive and collaborative courses. I’ve got most of my colleagues signed up and we have a total of 17 courses running wholly or in part on my Moodle site.

It keeps my grey matter ticking over, but other activities have fallen by the way, sadly. I haven’t had time to work on photography, for example, although even without active developing and promoting, I have got another photo published, this time in Jamaica. More later. Class in five minutes. Last of the week.