Aug 25, 2009

Preeliminary survey results of ICT use by social movements in Pittsburgh - update

A month ago I released the preliminary results with ~10% response rate and promised that I'll release new results when we cross magical numbers of ~20% and (target) ~30%. Now we are midway at ~20% and hence I'd like to update you the new insights gained from the survey.

Before I go into the numbers, first, an interesting observation that comes from some interviews / phone conversations I recently had with some of the respondents. Many do not consider their organization a part of a "social movement" - yet at the same time they are happy to be listed as a group for "social justice and change" on TMC website. This shows that there is an interesting difference between academic (ivory tower...) definition of what a social movement is, and what an average person (activist...) thinks of it. Plus, from the academic perspective, there is the problem of blurry boundaries - some organizations may be seen as not part of the movement itself, but rather, of the allied "movement community", which can be best understood as the attitude "we are not activists, but we broadly support them". And since in real life it is often difficult to distinguish where the movement stops and the community begins, it is understandable that my survey will reach both spectrums - which I think is fine, as community organizations are no less important (if less showcased) than the movement ones. So if you are not sure if your organization is part of the movement, you can rest assured that as long as you are fine with being listed on TMC list, you are part of the larger community that I am interested in :)

Now, back to business. With the response rate doubling, what has changed?
* a few newer organizations have replied (out of 19 respondents, 3 are in the "our organization is 2 years or younger group", and 16 are in "our organization is 5 years or older group")
* as for areas of focus, environment (9 respondents), health (7) and community and social services (7) are still among the most popular, but have been joined by education (7) and human rights (7).
* so what's unimportant? Culture (4), intellectual property / free culture (6), Internet / network neutrality / digital divide (6) and religion (4) were all selected but ranked only in the third tier ("Least important" - but still important enough to be ranked as third), and
economy / promoting business / labor / trade and commerce (6) is in the middle tier
* ~75% of organizations indicate they have non-members (supporters) who participate in their organization activities, about half have non-members who recruit others for the organization
* at this point, for every new innovative technology I suggest (from blogs through video-sharing sites, wikis to Twitter) there are respondents who indicate their organization finds it useful for something.

For the results to be considered reliable for academic research, a responce ratio of 30% is needed (which translates in ~10 more people taking the survey). Hopefully, in about a month, I'll be able to report that the local survey is done, and move on to my second stage - the international survey.

It is my hope that once the results are fully analyzed, you'll be able to look at what your peers are doing, and thus find some helpful solutions and strategies to benefit your organization.

Thanks to all that took the survey, and to those that will take it - a few minutes of your time greatly contributes to our understanding of how organizations desiring social change are using the tools of the Digital Age.

Aug 23, 2009

Teaching with wikis and Wikipedia

Recently I run into an excellent quote:

... the future of communication and an informed citizenry will depend increasingly on the Internet rather than on television or the print media. That doesn't mean we should stop teaching the traditional essay and research paper, but it does mean we need to teach students to work in other genres, such as writing for blogs and wikis, creating podcasts and PowerPoint presentations, and participating in social-networking sites. They need to be comfortable in a variety of online environments, understand Web etiquette, know how to protect their privacy and respect the privacy of others, and learn how to evaluate various sources of information.
-- William Pannapacker, associate professor of English at Hope College, "On Stupidity, Part 2: Exactly how should we teach the 'digital natives'?", The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 5, 2008
Hear, hear.

Personally, I see no reason not to assign Wikipedia articles as assignments, and many reasons to do so. Students improve their digital literacy, learn about the site they use so often (and why indeed it can be sometimes unreliable), have something to show for their hard work (a digital artifact, useful to others, instead of a paper that's going to the next trash bin as soon as the course has ended), Wikipedia gets some nice content and the teachers can get help from Wikipedia volunteers (for example, when I am grading students articles, I am also aided by advice from Wikipedia content reviwers). It's a win-win-win situation for everyone :)

Sometime in the near future I want to write a follow-up to my first academic article, Teaching with wikis and Wikipedia. Three years down the road, I am happy to say that most of what I wrote than is still useful - but some updates are needed.

Crucial things I have learned could be summarized as follow: students are lazy, and need motivating. Carrots will only work for a few - you need sticks as well. Hence in the wiki assignment, which depends on students contributing to it regularly, you need graded deadlines to avoid a relatively common phenomena where most students ignore the assignment till the last few weeks/days.

Overall, teaching with Wikipedia has been an enjoyable experience, not only to me but also to other Wikipedia editors - and to the students themselves (at least those who were sufficiently motivated to try to learn something). My last class, despite having just one month and a half, managed to expand three (out of six assigned) articles into Good Articles - and that did exceed my expectations. Now I wonder if the new class, lasting 4 months, will be able to do this to all assigned articles, and if they succeed, I am thinking about replicating the great achievement of the MMM project, and aiming to have the students write Featured Class articles.

On the subject of initiatives related to teaching with Wikipeida, it is worth to check out:
* the Wikipedia Educator's Guide
* the Best practices in assigning Wikipedia articles as coursework to students
and of course
* the Wikipedia:School and university projects

Aug 12, 2009

A gift for my friends in social movements

With the G20 coming to Pittsburgh, a lot of my friends and colleagues involved in social movements are having the time of their lives :)

I thought they deserve a break - hence here's an anti-Iraq war song by Big Cyc, a popular Polish anti-establishment rock band, Mówi Bagdad (Baghdad Speaking). (For better or worse, Poland had one of the largest and longest staying contingent of troops in Iraq)

Please note that youtube is likely to remove this video as a copyvio - I am confident that a search for the song title will yield a reupload somewhere (I wonder what Big Cyc members think about that... I send them an email some time ago asking for some freely licensed materials for their article on Wikipedia but they never replied :( ).

I found Engrish (Pogrish...?) words for the song at some blog. Here's a version that's at least free from major grammatical errors:

Big Cyc - Baghdad Speaking

Janek is going to Baghdad — wants to fight
Young wife will in Poland — proudly lives
Muslims want to — wipe out the infidels
Blood and sweat pour on dry sand

Polish Army pays poorly — everyone knows
Smuggling can pad it up — it’s ok
Again a bomb in Tikrit — shadow of death
Suicide terrorist with dynamite — began the day

Salamu, salamu, salamu alaykum
As-salamu, salamu, salamu,

You can hear silent bullets pass over helmets
Screams of torn people — children’s squeal
Polish soldier has character — tough guy
He doesn't know what he fought for all year long

Janek returns to Warsaw — human wreck
Without money, wife and fame — something wrong
Mr. Minister loudly praises — all is fine
Although they didn’t read Koran — they want to fight

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Voice of the Prokonsul by Piotr Konieczny is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.