Topics covered in this chapter include

  • Functional commonalities
  • Feeds: The ‘backbone’ of social media
  • Setting up an account
  • Creating a secure password
  • Hyperlinks
  • Tags and tag clouds
  • Widgets and embed code
  • Saving your work
  • Creating backups
  • Testing social media for your class
  • A word on Word...
  • Personal qualities for successful engagement with social media
  • Attitude
  • Being your own helpdesk

For more detail, read Chapter 3 of Using Social Media in the Classroom. A best practice guide.

‘Reading’ a website

Summary

  • Reading a website is different from reading a book. If you read a website as you would a book, then you need to improve your visual literacy.
  • Most Web 2.0 websites are set up in a similar way. Start to learn where to expect to find things on the screen.

Reading a website vs reading a book

Many of us approach reading a screen as if it is the same as reading a book, i.e., we start at the top left of the screen and work our way down, stopping at the bottom. This way of reading is fine for texts that have a ‘down the page’ structure (such as books), but it doesn’t help when you have a ‘text’ such as a website that displays its content in block format, rather than in a linear format.

Teachers and academics who are more used to reading books than they are websites tend to bring their ‘down the page’ reading habits with them to the web: in other words, they tend to look for information further and further down the page, rather than searching for it across, up, down and sideways.

If you read a website as you would a book, then you need to improve your visual literacy.
Luckily, webpages tend to follow a particular pattern, where position on the screen actually means something. Content on a webpage is displayed in information blocks, and the information can consist of images, text, white space or even a single letter that represents an instruction or facility (e.g., ‘B’ = ‘bold’). It’s all about how meaning is made on the screen.

Here are some general information blocks and what you can expect to find there:

Upper left: Company info
  • Service home
  • Main parts of the site

Top middle
  • Major buttons
  • Search

Upper right: Your info
  • Sign in/out
  • Sign up/register
  • Your profile
  • Your account
  • Settings, options, preferences
  • Help, FAQs

Main part of the site
  • Videos
  • Slideshows,
  • Documents,
  • Clippings
  • Blog posts
  • Whatever
Bottom
  • Contact us
  • Feedback
  • Terms of Service
  • Copyright
  • Privacy
  • FAQ, forums, help
  • About

Here are some other tips:
  • If you can’t find something where you think it should be (according to the information blocks, above), then scan the whole screen.
  • Don’t forget to keep scrolling. A page ends at the bottom of the scroll — not at the bottom of the particular bit that you can see right now. If you come to the ‘bottom’ of a screen, you may have to keep scrolling to see the rest of the page.

To find out more, check out Gunther Kress’s analysis of the spatial placement of information on a website.


Basic terminology

Below is a beginner’s guide to some basic terms you’ll find on the web. I'll add to this section as I go -- for the moment, it's very much a work in progress, and very rough at the moment! Links are to Wikipedia entries.

Account. Your account is what lets you access the information and material you have created with a Web 2.0 site or service. Each time you visit the Web 2.0 site or service you have joined, registered or signed up for, you will be asked to ‘log in‘ or ‘sign in‘ to your account.

Three things come together to create your account: your username, your password, and your email address. You will normally be able to change your password and the email address associated with your account, but not your username.

Blog. A blog (a contraction of ‘web log’) is a website written by individuals (and sometimes groups) that puts forward commentary or opinion on a topic or range of topics. Bloggers write ‘posts’ that are displayed in reverse chronological order, and readers of the blog can make a ‘comment’ on the post if they wish. Posts are normally given tags (or keywords) and are stored in an archive, to help readers find their way around the blog. Blogs can include video, images, links, audio and other media.

Blogroll. This is just a flash name for a list of links to other blogs.

Feed. See RSS feed.

Join. See Register.

Log in. This means ‘access your account.’ When you log in, you will be asked for your username and password.

Password. Choose a password that you will remember and that is fairly strong. Some Web 2.0 services won’t let you register with them unless your password meets their security strength requirements. If you have a strong password (‘yd*wJh#a$Ld’ would count as a strong password, whereas ‘maria’ would be a weak password), then you can use it to sign up across the web.

Most services let you change your password. If you forget your password, you can usually get it sent to your email address by clicking on ‘Forgot your password?’ or something similar.

Privacy Policy. You need to know how the service provider deals with the personal information you provide to them. This is done in the service’s Privacy Policy. The Privacy Policy will normally cover what information is collected and how that information is used, who has access to that information, and whether or not ‘cookies’ (little bits of data about your account that are collected so that you don’t have to keep entering the same info each time you visit the site) are used.

The Privacy Policy is different from the Terms of Service and it is important that you know how your personal information is handled by the service.

Profile. Your profile provides information about yourself to people who visit your site. Your profile might include your name, age, address, contact info, how many and what type of contributions you’ve made to the service, your interests, occupation, hobbies, whatever. The amount of information you put in your profile is optional. You can edit your profile at any time.

Register. Before you can access a service, you need to set up or register an account with them. At minimum, this will involve submitting a username, password, email address, and sometimes your date of birth to the service. You don’t need to enter your real date of birth if you don’t want to, but you should enter a date of birth that makes you at least 21 years of age, as some services will not let you register unless you are over 21.

RSS feed. RSS stands for something like ‘Really Simple Syndication’ or ‘Really Simple Subscription,’ depending on who you talk to. RSS allows you to subscribe to a website and get any updates made to the site automatically sent to you — as long as you’ve got a ‘feed reader’ (also called a ‘feed aggregator’).
When you see an orange button that looks like this external image RSSButtonSmall.png (or just something that says ‘feeds’ or ‘RSS’), it means that you can subscribe to that site. You can subscribe to blogs, wikis, news services, other people’s online calendars, YouTube videos about cacti — all sorts of stuff.

To use RSS, you first need to sign up for a feed reading service such as Google Reader, Bloglines, FeedDemon or Netvibes. Then, you visit the website you want to subscribe to and you get the feed address. You then need to go back to your feed reader and add it to your subscriptions list. For example, if I want to subscribe to the TechCrunch blog, I go to the TechCrunch blog’s website, I get their ‘feed address’, which is http://feedproxy.google.com/TechCrunch, and then I go back to my feed reader and paste the address into my feed reader. Each time that TechCrunch is updated, I get the update automatically sent to my feed reader.

Sign in. See Log in.

Sign up. See Register.

Social networking.

Tags. Tags are keywords that you add to describe the content or material you have created and put up on the web. Tags can be anything you want: they are free-form and individual. For example, if I post a picture of a sunset over the ocean on the web, I could tag it up as ‘sunset, sun, ocean, sea.’ Another person might tag it up as ‘sunset, Waikiki, Hawaii, holiday, 2009′ and someone else might call it ‘yellow, orange, sunset, sunny.’ Because an item on the web can have numerous tags, it can be found in any number of ways: it is not just put in a single folder called ‘sunsets’ or ‘holiday photos’ or ’2009.’

Terms of Use. See Terms of Service

Terms of Service. This is the agreement you make with the service provider when you choose to use their service — it’s a really important part of any Web 2.0 service. You need to check what you’re signing up for. The ‘terms’ will usually cover issues such as those relating to copyright ownership and infringement, security, intellectual property, fees and payment, rights and responsibilities, libel and defamation, limitation of liability, indemnity and termination.

The Terms of Service are different from the Privacy Policy.

URL. Another term for ‘web address.’ The URL of a website or web resource (such as an image or video) can be found in the ‘address bar’ at the top of your browser. When someone says ‘Go to Google,’ they mean, ‘Type in Google’s URL or address in the address bar and go to the Google website.’

User. A user is a person who uses a service. Users normally have to sign up with a service by creating an account with a username and password.

Username. This is a unique name that you choose to identify you on the service you are using. You can choose any username you want, as long as someone else hasn’t already taken it. Once you have created a username for the service you are signing up for, you will not be able to change it. It’s a good idea to choose a username that 1) you will remember, and 2) that you will be able to use everywhere on the internet.

If you want a username that reflects your real name, then choose a username that is unlikely to have been taken by someone else. So, if you have a common name (such as ‘John Smith’), then don’t choose ‘johnsmith’ or ‘jsmith’ as your username, as it is likely to be already in use by someone else. Even if ‘johnsmith’ isn’t already a registered user on the site you are currently signing up for, you can be sure that ‘johnsmith’ will be registered on the next site you want to join. Instead, you might choose ‘jksmith1972′ as a username that is sufficiently unique to register you on most services across the web.

If your name is like mine, and fairly rare, then you can probably use it for most sites that you register for. I always sign up with the username ‘meganpoore.’ Of course, you might like to choose ‘PinkLadyNumber3′ as your username, but unless you have legitimate privacy concerns, or if you want to remain genuinely anonymous, it’s generally OK to choose a username that reflects your real name.

Widget. A widget is a small piece of code that you add to your website that usually allows you to display something that is hosted on another website. For example, many Web 2.0 services allow you to ‘embed’ a YouTube video using a widget, which will then display and play a selected video on your site. Widgets can also be used to display calendars, clocks, slideshows, polls and lots of other things. Think of them as mini-applications.

Further reading

  • Agyei, D.D. and Voogt, J. (2014) Examining factors affecting beginning teachers’ transfer of learning of ICT-enhanced learning activities in their teaching practice, Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(1).
  • Jimoyiannis, A., Tsiotakis, P., Roussinos, D., and Siorenta, A. (2013) Preparing teachers to integrate Web 2.0 in school practice: toward a framework for pedagogy 2.0, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(2), 248–267.
  • Larkin, P. (2013) Tweeting the good news—and other ways to use social media, Educational Leadership, 70(7), 70–72.
  • O’Reilly, T. (2005) What is Web 2.0. Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved from http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html.
  • Pritchett, C. G., Pritchett, C. C., and Wohleb, E.C. (2013) Usage, barriers, and training of Web 2.0 technology applications, SRATE Journal, 22(2), 29–38.
  • Wanago, N. (2013) Effective Web 2.0 tools for your classroom, Techniques, 88 (1), 18–21.