Networking and Collaboration

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You always hear people going on about networking but what does that really mean and why is it considered so important?

We never only learn on our own, there are usually other people involved. They might form part of a class, be work colleagues or family and friends but they all influence what and how we learn. This video from Denison University in the USA is three years old but it is inspiring to hear how the students talk about learning how to network online. The wider the community we engage with the more chance there is for our learning to be honed by others. Basically that is what networking is all about, you find other people who have similar interests, you talk about those interests and, as a result, you learn. As you learn so do others learn from you, they also learn about you. So before you start networking you need to think about what it is that you want people to learn about you.

You need to be seen as friendly but professional, honest but not to the point of being rude and you need to be positive but not full of your own importance. You need to decide how you want to appear to others, this blog tells you about ten words you can cut from your writing if you want your argument to be more forceful. If you are trying to present a less formal personality you would want to leave some of these words in your writing; look to see how others write before you start. Be careful what you say and what you say about other people – let this video be a warning. Of course you also have to consider the law relating to what you do online. You might like to try out Accidental outlaw, a quiz about the law and online writing. One way to start networking is by blogging, like Laura Pasquini who writes about studying for her PhD. You could join discussions on Twitter, this might be with a support group such as #phdchat, it could be following a person who works in the your subject area, such as Richard Branson (if you are a business student) or a company such as TechSmith (if you are a computing student). You could join Facebook too and then link all your networking sites together thus enlarging your network. People often call this type of setup a Personal Learning Network (PLN).

You do not need to join in any discussions at the beginning, in fact it is better to lurk for a while so you can learn about the culture of the group you have joined. If you do not know how to join in here are a few tips:

  • If you do not have anything to say don’t say anything
  • Develop your listening skills
  • If you are not sure what someone means, ask them
  • Ask interesting questions about the site topic/subject area
  • Give helpful and interesting answers, do not use mundane phrases such as, “I totally agree”
  • Try to give only positive answers (this can be challenging), if you cannot be positive do not say anything
  • Do not comment or reply when you are angry
  • Provide people with links to useful sites/information
  • Do not use humour/sarcasm, it can very often misfire or be misunderstood
  • If you do say something humourous, remember to put a smiley, :) , so people know you are not serious

In the next post I’ll be talking more about employability and how it is linked to digital literacy. If there is anything you would like to have explained further do let me know, especially if you would like me to put a video into Quiler for you.

Communication, openness and freedom

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As most of you all know by now, I am a great supporter of Open Access in all its variety. So you will have to excuse me if the first thing I mention this week is Open Access.

This blog post is from the blog of Curt Rice, Vice President for Research & Development at the University of Tromsø in Norway. From what he says it seems that Curt has had some quite strong reservations about Open Access for Research but he seems to be changing his mind. Read Curt’s argument in favour of Open Access, if you have any doubts about this new direction in academia I think this article could change your mind.

Another article this time from Pamorama, starts off talking about using social media in schools but the main part is about social media use in universities. I was in two minds as to whether to put this on the Calling All Lecturers site but I think everyone could be interested in this. Of course, this is about social media use in America but we are not far behind them. The article itself is fairly short but the comments and links that follow are very interesting. How would you like to see our University expanding its use of social media?

I’m going to try out AnyMeeting. It’s a programme for running your own webinars, it can be free (with advertisements of course) or you can pay about £15 per month to do it without advertisements. Skype is good but it only works well with fewer than five people, whereas AnyMeeting is supposed to work ok with up to 20 people. I’ll let you know how I get on.

I think I’ve said before that I use Penultimate as the writing tool for my iPad, however, I found this list for eight tools the other day. The site Educational Technology and Mobile Learning is admittedly aimed at schools rather than universities but it can be really useful for picking up learning and teaching tools.

Now then I really want to direct you to this next site ‘cos the way the blog is used and the particular discussion is very interesting. However there is a big “but”; the site is very, very coarse in the sense that there is a lot of swearing in the podcast – so be warned. Even if you do not listen to the podcast just look at the way the blog is used, very clever. The podcast is about the misunderstandings that can occur when social media is used if you do not know how to use it properly. The blog is called, The Overstand Podcast, and this is Episode 6 – Law of Attraction, the Podcast link is at the bottom of the first paragraph.

Who, What, umm identity?

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Today I have brought together seven items that are all, in one way or another, connected to identity. Do have a go at some of them they really are quite good fun :)

First up is Spezify, a visual search engine that will search for any picture with your name on it. Do you know what pictures there are of you online? Go and search for yourself and find out just how visual you are!

Next comes Pipl another search engine, this one searches for anything about you online, or for anyone else you want to search for.

By now you should have started to realise how this all connects to questions of identity. So first I looked at how our persona appears online. Now I’m looking at Second Life which provides the opportunity to create a different persona. For those of you who don’t know Second Life is a 3D communication device/social media tool where you can have meetings, or get together with friends to create a special online environment. For those of you new to Second Life (SL) here is the most recent video on how to shop for things in SL. One of the things that people have often complained about with SL is that you can’t access it on a mobile device – well you can now! Lumiya can be run on any Android device, tablet or mobile phone. You can’t do any building in SL with Lumiya but you can do everything else.

Just what else will researchers come up with? Well one of the things they came up with was touch sensitive devices (haptics or haptic technology). Moving on from there they are now working on how to add touch sensitive technology to telemedicine. So you will not just see and talk to your doctor, nurse or specialist online but you will also be able to feel them! eeek! Read about what the researchers at University of Texas are getting up to.

I could not resist bringing you this video spoof of how your grandparents use the Internet. At first the video seems dreadful but real but as soon as the presenter says his name is Bob you know it’s a spoof. A really great laugh but it does get you thinking :) It’s on the Digital Tattoo site from the University of British Columbia, excellent site, you might like to take a look round that too.

Last an old but interesting article from Heloukee on the Paradox of Openness. Yet another view of identity or identities online that should give you some food for thought.

Where we are

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I’ve been working with students and talking to others in Second life today. Second Life is a communication device, it lets us see representations (avatars) of one another, it enables us to talk in text or voice (to groups or individuals), and it gives people the opportunity to build things together, so people can create together anything from art to rapid prototyping. All of this at the click of a button and from anywhere in the world at any time. This tool thus lends itself to teaching (amongst other things), as an acquaintance from Arkansas State University demonstrated for me with the teacher training course they run completely in SL. I don’t intend to dwell on Second Life and how some are doing more with it than others but all this rather got me thinking about communication and communication methods these days.

Like most other people these days I use a whole range of devices from the physical to the virtual to communicate for work, rest and play. We are all Tweeting, Texting and Scoopiting to our heart’s content, all day. We are communicating at a level of incidence never seen before and we are communicating about all sorts of things. Anything we can think about:

The above list does not include, of course, all of that everyday communication we carry on all the time with our bank or the local government (for example about housing) or the national government (for example pension claims) or the NHS (for example making appointments at the hospital).

So if we can’t communicate properly in the modern world, using modern devices of communication we will not only, not know what is happening, more importantly we will not be able to let people know what is happening with/to us.

The joys of writing?

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Like anyone who maintains a regular blog input I must (somewhere in my psyche) enjoy writing. There are times when writing is very easy, sometimes the muse completely eludes me and sometimes it’s a really up-hill, frustrating task. In my wanders round the metaverse I have found a few items on writing that I’d like to share with you. One ‘cos it gives me something to write about and two ‘cos I think you’ll find it interesting and useful :)

This article from Socialmedia.biz is about how to get over social media writers’ block. It’s a bit different from what you and I might do as it’s coming from a business background rather than an academic one. There’s no reason why we can’t learn from these folks though. Chris Abraham the writer of the post knows what he’s talking about – at least, what I mean is, his experiences coincide with mine.

Gradhacker often has useful posts on writing (as well as loads of other types of help). I particularly like this one, Your Academic Twidentity, you do need to know how to write for Twitter. It is a different skill from writing your blog or your thesis. Do read Andrea’s post and the one she directs you to at the end, How to Hack it on Twitter, it’s all really good advice – especially the one about following #phdchat.

Of course, as always, I direct you to Thesis Whisperer. A great blog, run by people with lots of experience in academic writing. Provides a platform for posts and good discussions with other PhD students, PhDs and people with experience in publishing. I like this post on different approaches to writing from February by “Ben” from the Literature Review HQ.

Literature Review HQ has a forum for your questions and lots of tips, like this one on finding your literature review theme.

Finally, don’t for get PhD2Published. The site is a bit bright but I find that helps on a dull day or when I’m feeling fed-up with writing :) Lots and lots of interesting stuff to look through and prevent your from facing that writing task :)

Eyes like poached eggs

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Right guys just three things for you today ‘cos I have a headache, and eyes like poached eggs.

The first item is a video (possibly a bit long) from one of the big names in virtual reality, Jeremy Bailenson. Prof. Bailenson is the Director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at the Stanford University. Bailenson recently wrote a book with Prof. James Blascovich from University of California, called Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Words and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution. In the video Bailenson talks about some of the issues raised in the book – do watch, even just a little of it, it helps in understanding just how far we have travelled in the last few years.

Next up is Videolicious, this looks like fun. Take a few of your dreadful videos and pictures, pull them together with the aid of this app, put some voice over them and presto! You have something worth showing people :)

Last, I thought I would try to get some feedback from you all. Read this article from Mark Smithers and tell me if you think, “lecture capture the single worst example of poor educational technology use in higher education?” Do you like lecture capture? Read what Mark says and see if you agree with him or not. Your feedback could really help lecturers to give you what you want.

To be or not to be …

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I am often torn about how serious, or not, I should be on this blog. I mostly try to keep things fairly light, interesting and even, dare I say it, fun. However, there are times when I feel there is little out there in the metaverse but serious stuff (times when I often choose not to blog). I tend to err on the side of, “if you can’t say anything real nice, it’s better not to talk at all …”. Today though I think I will say a few serious things just to try to press home what this “Digital Literacy” stuff is all about.

I’d just finished the Research Seminar for February in Second Life at lunchtime and I thought I’d have a look at what was going on in the rest of the world (I mean the corporeal one not the virtual). I opened Twitter and was immediately bombarded by loads of Tweets on copyright issues (these are always very busy streams within Twitter). One Tweet on Digital Literacy though caught my eye from Catherine Cronin from the National University of Ireland. Catherine was Tweeting about a post on the ICTology blog about finding out what Digital Literacy means by analyzing one Tweet. Do read the blog – Ismael Peña-López takes apart one Tweet from Brian Lamb at the University of British Columbia to show just what skills are needed to be a member of the digital world we all, increasingly live in these days.

Moving on from that rather pleasant idea I then came across two items. The first was about Pinterest and the copyright infringement problems it is currently wrestling with. This problem is analyzed by Martin Sloane on the Brodies Law Firm blog (they’re in Scotland), TechBlog. Trying to follow the ins and outs of this problem is also a Digital Literacy issue, any of us could find ourselves caught up in this weird world of digital copyright law – apps like Pinterest are very popular and can be very effective for promoting organisations. What the outcome will be of this tussle is going to be interesting – for all of us. The second was another copyright issue, this time about photography. “Do you need permission to take a photo with a chair in it“. The world is a smaller place these days and we have to be conscious of how laws in other countries affect us. The copyright law and the design rights law in France are clashing over this problem of a photograph of a “designer” chair (designed by someone who worked with Le Corbusier). This is not an unknown issue of copyright law – photographing “famous things” for profit requires the permission of the designer of the “famous thing”. What everyone is complaining about is that the effect of this is to restrict/reduce creativity, the very thing that copyright is supposed to protect and encourage. Read the article you can tell why the photographers are upset.

What does all this mean for the average man in the street? It means that these days he has to be Digitally Literate just as in the past he had to be able to read and write.

Sleep well everyone :)

Developing Digital Literacies

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I was going to write about something completely different but then I saw the Tweet in the #jiscdiglit Twitter stream from CosmoCat. I’m not sure if many/any of you are aware that JISC is currently running a Programme called Developing Digital Literacies (unfortunately we were a little too young to join in). The Programme comes under JISC Cetis and on the Programme homepage it says,

“We’re working with colleges and universities to embed core digital skills into the curriculum. By digital literacy we mean those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society: for example, the skills to use digital tools to undertake academic research, writing and critical thinking; as part of personal development planning; and as a way of showcasing achievements.”

Which is, more or less, what we are trying to do here at Worcester. (I must say I really dislike the JISC homepages their new sites are much nicer. Have a look at the range of projects in the programme) What CosmoCat drew my attention to was Sheila’s work blog, which provides an excellent round-up of how the programme is progressing so far and what is happening with each of the projects. You can get a good idea of what it is like to work on one of these projects by looking at the blogs from them.

Do go and look at all the information in the links above as it will give you a better idea of what this blog and the Digital Literacy Services in general are all about:)

Ideas are important

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My goodness, what a day! I leave home with no earings (arrgh I’m naked without them), someone has “borrowed” my milk from the ‘fridge and then I find Facebook has gone all peculiar. Ah well, never mind if I can’t come up with an idea to put it all right there is always the rest of the web to sooth my poor aching brain :)

In the Chronicle this week there is an interesting article on the control of the WWW by repressive regimens and organisations. What would we do maintain our independence? Well it looks like it could be Project Byzantium – have a read and tell me what you think. Is this just paranoia or is there a case to answer?

For many lecturers (and students) life in Higher Education carries on as it always has, with just a few nutcases trying to use modern technologies in the classroom. Well here is a new book that might change people’s minds, “The Digital Scholar”. Thanks to @AJCann and @gconole for the information about this book. At under £18.00 I think it could prove a useful addition to the library.

Well it looks as if Amazon is moving the goal posts again. They just recently provided lending rights from their website in America and now 11,000 US Libraries are going to receive the same benefits. Come on UK why are we lagging behind? I love the idea of loads of people sharing their ideas about the books they have read.

Only one thing is moving out there

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I was so glad when I saw another academic’s Tweet (@wonkhe) and Blog say that it’s really quiet out there in the blog and tweetiverse at the moment. At least it is on the academic side of things. I note with interest that #copyright is as fevered as ever. I currently refuse to write about any copyright stuff on the grounds that it might incite me to violence. I’m trying not to look at all the tweets about it – I know I’ll succumb eventually but I have to try to recover my equilibrium before hand.

On this blog I try to write about interesting little things and leave the deeper discussion for my other blog. Unfortunately that does mean that this blog is a bit short at times :) I have found a couple of things though that I think might interest you all (well those of you who haven’t heard about them before that is). The first is something I’ve been talking about for ages; using it as an example of just how much things are changing – NFC Mobile Payments. For those of you who have never heard of it before I’ll quickly explain. It’s a method of paying that does away with a chip and pin card – you just swipe your phone over the payment device. Yes I know that not much is happening yet and some companies think that it will take up to 10 years before it catches on – I still think it’s just round the corner. For one thing it’s already out there, and I for one would love to have this on my iPhone. Come on Apple get a move on :)

The other thing I’ve found is Prezi – nice little program. Dead easy to use and it really moves your presentations beyond the usual boring PowerPoint. I know this will become boring too eventually but I think it could be used for other things. For example I can see how it could be used rather like a Flip Chart in class or even in online teaching – I bet someone has already done that. Have a go with it and let me know how you get on,

Just as a parting shot – I really can’t resist these cute little people. I must find a presentation I can use them in :)

More on that fiendish copyright

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Just been listening to the start of the discussion from Transatlantic Roundtable (Transatlantic Week), it’s a bit long but a very interesting beginning. I hope these will be some useful discussions about copyright law that can be used successfuly across the whole of both the EU and the USA.

It gets very boring trying to work out whether you have infringed some copyright law in another country. Now that we have the web or more importantly web2.0 (for want of a better phrase) we need to have world wide agreement on regulation/non-regulation (not that I’m naieve enough to think that will ever happen). For example why should we have to bother whether if we have the appropriate copyright license for someone in another country to read the etextbook we have provided for our students. We have increasingly more distance learning students and more students from overseas – by the time we know where they are from it’s a bit late to try to get copyright sorted for them. I was very interested to read the post by Rick Falkvinge, “It was never about the money, stupid” that I linked to through victorsald’s Tweet on #copyright. There are some pointers here for those legislators who are interested enough to find out.

Rick mentions the act of sharing and why we do it. We all do it or have done it at sometime in our lives. Shared a book we have just read, or an article we have photocopied or printed. We don’t do it because we intend to breech copyright law, we do it ‘cos we are human beings. Rick’s post mentions a post on Shareable by Kelly McCartney on the short study by New York Times, The Psychology of Sharing. This study indicates that we like to share for all sorts of interesting reasons; why should we have to jump through hoops to share something in a “legal” way. It feels as if the law is determined to make criminals of us all rather than providing protection for those who need it. I think a lot of academics must feel under attack like this chap in the USA that Brett Trout writes about. I feel very sorry for this poor chap, “24 year-old Harvard Fellow, Aaron Swartz”. His treatment seems to be completely out of proportion.

Come on now legislators give us some laws that we can keep to instead of one that just wastes our time.

What a great little mover!

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Wouldn’t you just believe it! Yesterday I was moaning on my other blog about how we need to have the same sort of easy access to ebooks in academia as we do in the everyday world. And there you are – Amazon do it :) Bless-their-little-cotton-socks, it is only in the USA at the moment but you can “rent a textbook” from them on Kindle for a few days at a time. I wonder how long it will take before this practice becomes common-place?

Now back to the Bloomsbury Conference at UCL. If you have a science background and haven’t heard of PLoS (Public Library of Science) or PLoS ONE before, you should have. Damien Pattinson their Executive Director talked about PLoS ONE, a PLoS journal that provides open access to scientific and medical papers. PLoS ONE is a peer-reviewed journal with very fast publication times – a matter of weeks rather than months or years. If you want to get published and published fast contact them. PLoS ONE publish 70% of the papers sent to them, the authors retain the copyright but the papers are published under an attribution Creative Commons Licence. The usage and linkage metrics for the articles is also published which is really useful feedback for the authors.

I must admit that I have been fascinated by the next speaker, Claire Ross. I started following her on Twitter and was very pleased to find she was speaking at this conference. Claire spoke about the relevance of social media to researchers. Claire stated that many more of them are now realising just how useful these media are in communicating and collaborating with other researchers. I suppose Claire should know ‘cos she is an experienced researcher herself. She is presently Lead Researcher on the Qrator project and Chair of the Digital Learning Network (a network for museums, libraries and archives).

Must dash now but I’ll tell you more tomorrow.

Preparing for annual leave

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Catching up on everything today. Trying to make it all shipshape before a have a little time off, which is why this blog is a little late going out.

Just as a parting shot before I go I thought I would leave you with this post from Scott’s eLearning Library. I think you should read Scott’s article (if you haven’t already) and his links to Karl Drinkwater’s post and SCONUL article. There’s plenty out there now telling us about how badly the traditional publishing services are doing but the academic world in the UK still seems to be trying to manage with paper based books. Please, please let me know if anyone knows if this isn’t true. Even our ebooks tend not to be produced on standard ebook platforms! This is a technology that is here to stay, I used to read quite a lot of paper-based books but since I downloaded Kindle to my iPad I have read far more books. As Scott says, with a leather cover on my iPad it is just like reading a good book – and I don’t get the eye-strain I used to either.

I’m not saying we should do away with books completely. I love old books – I love them because they were works of art, the covers are beautiful, the typeset is beautiful – let’s keep them as works of art, encourage people to create books from hand-made paper, and gold-leaf the lettering on the spine. Books and eReaders should be used for different purposes. I don’t know anyone who would rather lug round a great pile of books rather than an iPad. If lecturers could do their marking on an iPad instead of having to print everything off because the screens on laptops and desktops are so awful I’m sure they would choose to do so. And just think of all that re-shelving ebooks could save :)

I’m away until 18th July so just keep talking between yourselves until I get back :)

Librarians turn

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I’ve been trying to think what I chat about for a few days for the librarians (knowledge managers) – I’m not sure which term people prefer these days – can someone let me know which term I should use? I think I’ll try starting with some online resources of one type or another – let me know if there is something you’d rather look at.

I’ve been looking at a few online courses, Open Educational Resources and online content (there’s a nice little discussion about OER and online content). This MSc on elearning from Edinburgh – well-known and worth looking at – got me thinking about what is it that the ILSs of this world contribute to this sort of program. Are librarians constantly involved in these courses or do they do a load of work during the set-up period and then stop? I think this is a question worth asking ‘cos it can really change the way we/you work. I know there’s all the technical set-up to organise but I’m thinking more about finding resources and providing knowledge management support. Look on the left of the screen at Resources and Programme Environments.

Under Resources there are the usual, Programme Handbooks, Support Contacts, Course Application Form, and e-learning journals. Under Programme Environments there are, WebCT, Course Blogs, Wiki – Holyrood Park (PBWorks), Second Life – Holyrood Park, Student Mail Service (SMS), University of Edinburgh Library, MyEd. Of course these aren’t exactly the same as ours but we do have all these facilities – Blackboard, blogs, wikis, Second Life, Library and SOLE. If, as I expect, we do move closer to this type of learning how much of this will librarians be involved in and what will be the role they fill?

Sorry have to go and meet a special person from the library :) I’ll be back next week.

Is this the end?

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Let’s see if I can get through these last two Social Multimedia today. I don’t think I have to dash off to any meetings today so that should help :)

I’ll start with Presentation sharing. It’s very basic but it’s often something we need to do as researchers. We get asked to present somewhere and need to leave our slides in a place where the audience can return to them after the presentation. There are loads of other reasons too but I think that’s the most common. I think the one people are most familiar with is SlideShare. SlideShare is very easy to use and, unless you are doing presentations as a business, you only need a free account. SlideRocket is a smashing program, you can have lots of fun playing with it :) You can import a presentation from PowerPoint or you can create on in SlideRocket. There a places where you can store your own images, there are interactions such as “voting” that you can place in your presentation and loads more. The fantastic thing is it’s free :) If you want to use your presentations for working/collaborating/sharing with other people in your discipline SlideRocket is definitely a useful program to consider.

Scibd is really something rather different. Scribd isn’t just for a PowerPoint type presentation, Scribd is for publishing. Write a book if you want to, publish an article or a diary – this is where you can start to get published. Fantastic can’t recommend this enough!

Now we get on to Virtual Worlds. The RIN Social Media guide includes World of Warcraft in this section and although people do use it as a social meeting area I don’t think it’s as much use in that way as some of the OpenSim worlds are (Open Simulator is the platform the worlds are built on). Although the OpenSim worlds are catching up fast the Second Life Virtual World is still streets ahead of the others. Admittedly the graphics in World of Warcraft are better but it is not as flexible as the more community focused Virtual Worlds.

Why would researchers want to use Virtual Worlds? I use Second Life for meeting friends and colleagues from all over the world. I also run a monthly Research Seminar on teaching in Virtual Worlds where international speakers present their research. I tend to like Second Life because it is the most mature world. It’s been around since 2003, there is a general large community and, usually, loads of people from your discipline area. That means there is lots of help and lots of goods for you to buy or to get for free. Why a Virtual World rather than Skype or Blackboard Collaborate? Although there is a fairly steep learning curve in Virtual Worlds (it takes 30-60 minutes for people to feel comfortable when in a supportive group), the majority of people who use them say that they feel far more as if they are “with” the other people than in other media. People who use Virtual Worlds us it for all sorts of reasons and cover a wide range or researchers, educators, service providers, enthusiasts and businesses, for example Healthcare services, IBM, Universities (e.g. Nottingham, Glasgow Caladonian, Imperial College, etc), emergency services, armed forces, music lovers (from Country and Western to Choral music). If you have collaborators from all over the world, you meet frequently, want to display or create things together and want to be able to record your meetings, you should definitely consider a Virtual World. If you are not keen on Second Life I suggest you look at the OpenSim ReactionGrid Virtual World, that is the next one I would choose.

Here endeth our sessions for researchers. Well they are sort of for other people as well but I’ve been trying to remember to explain why these technologies might, especially, be helpful researchers. I’m thinking of picking on Librarians next but do keep following as there are always apps/programs that are useful to all :)

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