Social Media Choices for Open Educators

This discussion is “borrowed” from a message to the CCCOER mailing list posted by Amy Hofer @hofera – I have tried to convince her we might be able to expand the discussion as an unconference style activity.

Amy’s original question:

I’m curious to know what folks are thinking about professional conversations over various social media sites. While the changes at Twitter are on my mind, I feel uneasy with the alternatives too. I’d love to hear my colleagues’ brilliant thoughts!

Many educators concerned about the potential changes with new ownership of twitter, and a number of them are exploring options like the federated, non-commercial platform from Mastodon. I’ve been in a bit of straddling as, likely it is for you, I have so many valuable connections in Twitter. And we already have attention spread among email lists, other social media spaces, and maybe even a wee bit here in OEG Connect.

Can we have some discussion about where/how open educators are dealing with these choices?


Choices flickr photo by keepitsurreal shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

:person_cartwheeling: Alan Levine: (trying to bring Amy Hofer into the space!)
:office: Affiliation: Open Education Global
:tada: Format: Ongoing discussion
:page_with_curl: OER Recommendation Action Area(s): Building Capacity * Facilitating international cooperation

How to Participate

We are just looking for responses on how you are addressing your choices for social media in open education.

Is here something we can do collectively?

I’d tag in @Mackiwg and @lightweight from OERu who have a Mastodon instance to hear if there is more uptake since the Musk Twitter takeover.

How do we get over the big inertia hurdle of change and building networks again? What are the gains and losses?

Where do you focus your energy?

What can we do collectively?

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I, and I’m sure @Mackiwg as well, will be happy to share our experience with Mastodon and the Fediverse with you all!

We’ve been immersed for quite a while now, and I can assure you, the water (at least from our vantage point) is fine!

You might also find this blog post interesting (some of you will recognise the author, I’m sure) - linked in this Mastodon post :slight_smile: - Clint Lalonde (he/him): "Migrating to a new Mastodon home https://edtec…" - OERu Social - Mastodon

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These are important questions for individuals and organisations thinking about open. Speaking for ourselves, as an organization committed to openness in everything we do, we don’t think its appropriate to use “closed” technologies to achieve open goals. That said, we recognize it can be hard for many organisations to make the shift. If some organisations are willing to take small steps towards greater openness in the technologies they use, collectively we can move closer to more sustainable technology solutions in education.

With specific reference to Mastodon, we have seen some increased activity in our corners of the Fediverse as a result of the anticipated changes at Twitter. But things appear to be going back to the old “normal” :-(. I suspect individuals who use social media platforms as a vehicle for self-promotion are not going to like the Fediverse because there is no algorithm to support their goals.

What can we do collectively?

The real power of federated technologies is the ability for each institution to establish their own instance. I would like to see a small demonstrator initiative of four of five Universities working as a cooperative to set up their own instances for their learners. This way we can learn by doing while building local capability in hosting open technologies in-house rather than using corporate walled gardens as the default. We would be happy to work with a handful of organizations to set up a demonstrator like this - we will share our technical recipes freely.

I think @ammienoot is right where she referenced the contemporary challenge for organisations in a recent blog post as follows:

how to transform IT departments from being sole-suppliers of technology into being enablers of a digitally fluent organisation

Sure - moving to new pastures is challenging especially when you have many meaningful connections. Its worth thinking of Mastodon as something like an email service. We have succeeded in finding each other’s email addresses when moving to a new account - why can’t we do the same here in the fediverse ;-).

When it comes to the climate crisis - many folk are happy to take small steps for a more sustainable planet. When it comes to digital technologies, I think we should be doing the same to get out of the surveillance capitalism that academics and universities are imposing on their learners in many cases.

Small steps … and we’re are happy to help any organization that wants to test the waters setting up their own corner of the Internet.

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I admire so much your fierce dedication, Wayne, and your patience with others not yet on that path (cough cough, looks in mirror).

Personally I am weighing my own choices and where the energy goes. To some degree the platforms both give in terms of making connectivity and expanding of connections so easy, yet also that it ends up taking energy I previously put elsewhere.

It should not be a big deal, nothing lasts forever, and networks are always capable of rebuilding. Having known you long, your “Wayne-ness” comes through in any platform.

There is a freshness and lightness of the exchanges recently in Mastodon, and I have found people, information there I would not gain elsewhere. There is this complexity of the “where you choose to home” both matters (for having a useful base for local) but also not mattering because it does not bound you. That’s a complexity that can be hard to explain or grasp.

The institutional or small band approach is compelling. I’ve been pondering whether we do one at OEG, and maybe that could develop as a space that could have more gentle overlaps with OERu. My hunch is that I’d like to have more of a purpose or compelling reason than to be Not Birdspace, but maybe it is.

Thanks as always for making me think much!

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Agreed - the federation piece takes a while to figure out and get used to.

I think OEG should set up an instance, if nothing else to provide a safe space for open educators to explore how the technology works.

The more instances we have, the more resilient the ecosystem becomes. Diversity is our point of difference in open.

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Ok, I need something new to dig into… and this will solve the issue of where I should move my account!

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If you need any help spinning up that server, just ping @lightweight. We’ve just installed a fresh instance for the Samoan Ministry of Education, so our memory is still fresh.

Perhaps we can collaborate on some OER capacity building materials i.e. Mastodon for Newbs :sunglasses:

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Count on that. And not just the technical spin up but could use the wisdom on the rules/parameters to build in.

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I’d be happy to help here @cogdog - we could have a new Mastodon set up for OEG in a few hours if you want one. Maintenance is a few hours a year. Hosting infrastructure costs, probably $40-$60/month.

In the past I mentioned to @cogdog how great it is that OEG adopted Discourse, and I’m glad this is an ongoing discussion. Those of us who push so strongly for open (access, resources) and particularly those of us in academia, who want to make educational/community use of social networks, and have some institutional freedom, can really try to push some of these boundaries and demonstrate alternatives.

I think Mastodon is particularly useful for educators. In the UNG Masters Program in Leadership in Open Education, we have used it as a way to get folks used to publicly displaying their progress, work, drafts, ideas - but in a ‘safer’ or ‘quieter’ (and open) space compared to other social media.

We currently use existing instances, but I think @Mackiwg and @lightweight 's discussion on federating is a good way forward.

Additionally, we use the (open) API data to map interaction and use, but as a way to engage students in how we are collectively acting in this network (only use? how much? with whom? do others join?). I developed a simple script which outputs toots, replies, interactions graphs…something like this. The script is available here, if anyone is interested (and I will update it with some new features soon).

We even got some undergraduate courses at University of Brasília to join in, and Pedagogy students came up with a little intro tutorial to Mastodon :wink:

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Thank you again, Tel, for leading with ideas like this, and I am now that more motivated to think not only about offering an instance via OEGlobal but the idea of having several options for educators and students to operate from rather than just picking from the list.

Since you are ahead of the curve, it sure looks like the UNG Leadership program is the kind @Mackiwg described as a potential for his offer to help set up an instance (here I go offering his services!)

And thank you for the script examples. I marvel at your data visualizations and I want o understand better the Mastodon API to maybe leverage things I have used in that other social network space.

Many thanks!

Hi Tel - its been a while.

That’s really cool. I’d be keen to give it a try in one of our future open online courses (and good on you for using Gitlab as repository). It would be a great way to visualize learning interactions on Mastodon. I haven’t looked at the code - but does it update dynamically?

In our open courses we syndicate interactions from a variety of open platforms (Discourse, Mastodon, custom WENotes site posts etc.) See for example this recent DS4OERS feed of a course we ran for Pacific teachers. The neat thing is we can syndicate feeds from different WordPress Multisite instances which is a small step to thinking about “Federated” course sites.

I’m keen to experiment with your script to provide a visualization of how learners are interacting on Mastodon. Nice one!

The topic close to my heart! So much that even my doctoral study looked at how to leverage social media for learning! That too when I started my study, social media was ‘banned’ in educational institutions in India. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

This is a complex topic to deal with. It is not just a inertia of rebuilding connections, but the sheer amount of time and energy required for it, as @cogdog says (remember the closure of Orkut?) The point that I would like to make is that, the people with whom we interact for wider reach are still on the popular social media- Facebook/Instagram/Twitter (each having typical demographies. And I am not even mentioning LinkedIn). We would want more people to know about the kind of work we do, want to have collaborations and even if it comes to the (not-so-)simple parameter of being “seen” and “heard”. If we call ourselves ‘influencers’, we need to reach out to people, make them interested and help them to transition as well, if they desire. That would mean to be on the popular social media platforms. Another important aspect of this is the context. The popular social media usage differs from country-to-country.

I look at myself following two paths- one Open like Mastodon to build a network here, slowly. And maintain and share on the popular one as well. I hope this adds to some insights, @Mackwig.

Thanks for sharing @AjitaD. You make an important point in the value of sharing the open message where people are. The network effect can be put to very good use for advocacy work in OER.

My concern, however, is when teachers and educators recommend (or require) students to create accounts on these corporate websites to engage in learning forcing them to sacrifice personal data and exposing them to the associated risks of surveillance capitalism.

We do have good open source alternatives to provide safe places for learners to develop social media skills in support of learning and I think this is a significant point of difference of open when compared to closed models of delivery.

Its a complex topic requiring deep thinking :thinking:

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Indeed it has :wink:
So it doesn’t, mostly because I only do a weekly snapshot, and I didn’t want to deal with file naming, folders and the like. But nothing complex, I imagine (another 2 hours of python study). Now that I have been using this for a little over a year, I want to formalize it and make it a bit more seamless…‘issues’ in gitlab are welcome for further development ideas!

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Thanks @tamiel

I’d imagine the script could be set up to run as a cron job. I’m keen to have play with this for one of our future offerings. I’ll ask my colleague @lightweight to take a closer look and we’ll be sure to note any issues or thoughts via gitlab.

Thanks for making this one of the more active discussions in this unconference space. If anything, I have gotten a bit more incentive to work with @Mackiwg @lightweight @tamiel in some effort to get some momentum in the federated Mastodon space.

Going back to the impetus, I am sharing a response I just got from @hofera who’s call out started this thread. Amy is partial and very successful at networking through good ole mailing lists, and I have been unable to tempt her in here… Hi Amy! She got responses from a few open education groups:

Hi all, here’s a roundup of responses to this message!

Suggestions of platforms that people have tried and liked/not liked to varying degrees for professional conversations: Facebook groups, Discord, LinkedIn, OEGlobal Connect, Mastodon, Discourse, Lemmy, IRC, Matrix.

We got a helpful pointer to a webinar hosted by Metropolitan New York Library Council: “Goodbye Facebook, Hello Decentralized Social Media? Can Peer-to-Peer Lead to Less Toxic Online Platforms?” Recording and resource guide are available now.

One person (besides me, I promise!) likes mailing lists.

One other person pointed out that all communication formats are fleeting in > their own ways :slight_smile:

Alan Levine picked up this question and brought it over to the OEGlobal Connect platform during the conference that just wrapped up. He’s bcc’d here and I hope he’ll give us a reply-all with some highlights.

I shall reply with some irony of this discussion moving across different email lists and here in OEG Connect (which I admit is not the “best” and has gotten a bit sprawling here because of my design choices). I don’t think the platform alone is the answer but more and more I agree with Wayne that we should move from foisting exploitive platforms on students because they are convenient or familiar. We are educators, we can do better.

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