If you don’t do it, it doesn’t exist!

I admit, I’m a little late to the party, and my recipes  are simple to say the least. But you know, one of the very best things about learning and working with students and fellow educators is always being fortunate enough to find more to learn! There is no shortage of ideas that can be done.

My main work is with professionals – teachers in schools and post school settings.  So we are not talking new learners!  Now I don’t buy the digital native argument for a minute, but I do wring my hands in despair at educators who don’t keep their minds and hearts open to exploration, innovation, and learning in whatever way is needed to ensure that the role we play as an educator is guaranteed to be useful – even if only in a very small way.

Yet I understand things not always coming easily. If you can’t ‘find the URL’ to a item, I’ll help you learn (yes, I still get asked that question). But I’d much rather you asked me a complex question about professional practice, information curation, or ways or managing information flow. Why?  Because these are some of the key challenges for educators.

So back to that basic recipe I mentioned – yes, I finally faced up to the fact that I NEED to be using IFTTT for more effective information gathering as part of my subject delivery processes. I have my colleague Dean Groom to thank for the final push. We’re playing in INF541 Game Based Learning, a subject which Dean is teaching after heading the writing team of Groom and O’Connell again. Wow, the years have flown since we got into online environments and virtual worlds with our small books back in 2010.

But nothing has changed since then. Still learning. Dean showed me how to set up IFTT to gather a running record of what’s happening in our subjects, and how to push that information back out as part of our participatory learning experience.

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT empowers you with creative control over the products and apps you love. Recipes are simple connections between products and apps.  I knew this, and until now the only recipe I had running was an email of a new recipe to me each week. But I never did anything else.  Dreadful.

The amazing thing is that IF Recipes run automatically in the background. Create powerful connections with one simple statement — if this then that.

For example:

So now I am using three recipes, taken from shared recipes available at the site, and also one customized by Dean.

Now we are both doing the following:

  • Collecting all the tweets with the subject #hastag in a Google spreadsheet.
  • Collecting all the blog posts that relate to the subject from my Feedly category to a Google spreadsheet
  • Sending back to twitter the new posts that turn up in the Google spreadsheet.

This is all automatic.  What does this allow?

Participatory sharing ||| Data collection ||| Subject tracking |||

Now we have the opportunity to quickly confirm (or otherwise) the extent of a students actual participation in the back-channel as part of the course experience – a vital part of monitoring student engagement and program effectiveness. There are many other formal channels, of course, but the social media aspect was one that I was never quite happy about.

I’m embarrassed I didn’t do this sooner! But of course, that’s why I am still learning from my peers. :-)
Image: creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by venspired

Our connections and the flow of knowledge

Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge, which is an active process and operates at both individual and social levels. When it comes to information behaviour within this context there are a wide range of theories and models which represent thinking and research investigations in this field. Existing models have elements in common, though most models in library and information science focus on information seeking and the information user, while those from the field of communications focus on the communicator and the communication process.  It is certainly worth stopping and revisiting these models, to better understand the ‘cognitive actors’ or other influences at play (Robsons & Robinson, 2013)

What I’m particularly interested in are the Information seeking behaviours and places of information seeking which are constantly changing, and of course growing in possibilities all the time. While we can study models in depth, as academic or professional pursuits,  when we consider how we think in the digital age, Bradbury hits the nail on the head for some of our common issues:

Our modern-day information processing is both careless in how it is consumed and how it is related back to others: rarely do we intentionally seek out an article, comb through it, and then selectively disperse it to an appropriate recipient. Rather, we come across it online, skim the headline or sound bites, and blast it indiscriminately via social media.

The complexities of information behaviour are so important to understand and be responsive to.   What can we hope to do about this, or what is being done? After all, you could say that digital technologies tend to outsource much of what could potentially be reflective thinking to an external device that provides a quick, pre-formed answer!

I was quite taken by a reflection on the Fourth Age of Libraries, and will share an example here from author Sean McMullen:

Recently,  for a story that I was writing, I researched intelligence in crows. So my first stop was to type ‘intelligence and crows’ into Google. I was instantly offered 8,180,000 links. At 5 seconds per hit, working 12 hours per day, it would take about two and a half years to check them all. Everyone can surf the Internet, but librarians can do it effectively. Since I am more interested in using information than finding it, I will continue asking librarians for help.

Yes! Information seeking, and good information behaviours will continue to involve quality curation and equally open information dissemination processes.

Two reports

Two reports I picked up this week add to my pool of readings to help with my thinking about the information era dilemmas.

We  have to nurture the ability to read – and read well!  Measuring the impact of thousands of libraries across multiple countries is quite a formidable undertaking, but with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,  an external research team examined from Room to Read examined  libraries in Laos, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, and South Africa. To establish a baseline, they began evaluations at the schools before a Room to Read library was established and tracked progress in reading habits over the course of two years.

The most exciting takeaway from the study is that they have been able to confirm empirically that  libraries are helping children become independent readers.
Read the full report summary.

The second useful report to examine comes from the Knowledge Exchange, and the report Sowing the seed: Incentives and Motivations for Sharing Research Data, a researcher’s perspective. A qualitative study, commissioned by Knowledge Exchange, has gathered evidence, examples and opinions on current and future incentives for research data sharing from the researchers’ point of view, in order to provide recommendations for policy and practice development on how best to incentivize data access and re-use. Researchers’ experiences, data sharing practices and motivations are shown to be heterogeneous across the studied research groups and disciplines. Incentives and motivations ask for development of a data infrastructure with rich context where research data, papers and other outputs or resources are jointly available within a single data resource. Different types of data sharing and research disciplines need to be acknowledged. This  report that shows what a long journey is yet ahead of us, to beat the general google-grabbing of low-level information, because better quality material is hidden. Download the study ‘Sowing the seed: Incentives and Motivations for Sharing Research Data, a researcher’s perspective’

Moving forward

So let’s focus on technology and supporting services.  Libraries are a significant focus point in our communities, and technology is the other. As we invent more technology and forms of media, we also need to reinvent our community interactions as virtual and physical spaces of exchange for cultural and knowledge development. Libraries can continue to lead the way in this – from the national services to the quality services in your small local school library.  Building reading along with development and refinement of information seeking strategies and long term information behaviours,  educators and organisations need to remain open and responsive  – skipping the fads that are not supported by research and proven to stand the test of rigorous investigation.

The good news is that libraries are morphing. Read the Near and Far Future of Libraries .As archives become digital and machines become smarter, what function will libraries serve ten years and ten thousand years from now? See what some interesting experts had to say!

Our priority has to be our connections, and creating a flow of knowledge for all ages, across communities, nations and people. Our connections and the flow of knowledge is vital through building on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

If you love something – set it free!

References:

Andrew Robson, & Lyn Robinson. (2013). Building on models of information behaviour: linking information seeking and communication. Journal of Documentation, 69(2), 169–193. doi:10.1108/00220411311300039

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by whatmattdoes

Predatory journals – watch the scams

Part of our information literacy expertise is to engage in reading of (and contributing to) quality research.  This requires that we understand exactly what ‘reputation’ is!

If you are not ‘up-to-date’ with the evil intentions of “predatory journals” you’ll get a kick out of reading this article from Science Alert and learn something along the way. From Science Alert: A study by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel has been accepted by two scientific journals.

A fictional paper authored by Simpsons characters Edna Krabappel and Maggie Simpson, as well as someone called Kim Jong Fun (who we can only imagine is a slightly more approachable relative of North Korea’s leader) has just been accepted into two scientific journals.

Perhaps most troublingly, in Feburary 2014, a pair of science publishers (Springer and IEEE) retracted more than 120 papers, some of which were pure nonsense (created by the same program used for the Simpsons paper) but had made it into their published conference proceedings. Both these publishers are generally seen as reliable — showing how far the problem of substandard quality control goes.

Open Access has become a major theme of interest within the research community and those interested in dissemination of information and knowledge. In most cases, open-access publishing will occur through electronic institutional repositories – university websites where one can freely download researchers’ articles. Search engines such as Google Scholar will automatically index these articles and link them to related research. The resulting stream of freely available research will be a boon for our society and economy. But it’s not perfect, just a step in the right direction, as publishers also get ‘a say’ in what happens with published information.

Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers

The gold open-access model has given rise to a great many new online publishers. Many of these publishers are corrupt and exist only to make money off the author processing charges that are billed to authors upon acceptance of their scientific manuscripts.

Scholarly Open Access showcased the Beall List of Predatory Publishers 2014. The first includes questionable, scholarly open-access publishers. Each of these publishers has a portfolio that ranges from just a few to hundreds of individual journal titles. The second list includes individual journals that do not publish under the platform of any publisher — they are essentially independent, questionable journals.

In both cases, the recommendation is that researchers, scientists, and academics avoid doing business with these publishers and journals. Likewise, students should exercise some caution when reading and referencing these articles in their own academic learning.

Follow Scholarly Open Access for more insights into the contentious field of Open Access publishing.

Meeting future learning needs of education practitioners

Knowledge building, literacy and communication in action now take many forms. When Skype was first released in 2003, the global face-to-face contact began to transform communication and collaboration in ‘real time’. Now Apple’s Face-Time, Skype in the Classroom, and Google Hangouts (to name just a few tools) guarantee synchronous engagement, alongside collaborative text platforms such as Google docs. In other words, the mechanisms for engaging with information and processes of learning in the acquisition of new knowledge has become a deeper process of individual and collaborative learning activities, problem solving and artefact development, through an integration of face-to-face and online interactions within a community, involving absorption, integration and systemisation of the information received by the receiver in their own pre-existing cognitive structure, which are the result of personal experience, and earlier knowledge transactions (Trentin, 2011).

This digital information environment demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connections. While the bibliographic paradigm created textbook learning, the digital information environment of today indicates the need for educators to understand information seeking and engagement within connected multi-media contexts. Computer and mobile device technology environments, social media, and ready forms of online communication drive our newly emerging knowledge ecosystems. Thomas and Brown (2011), who explored what they described as a new ‘culture of learning’, explained how much the Internet has changed the way we think about both technology and information. In this new culture of learning, information technology has become a participatory medium, giving rise to an environment that is constantly being changed and reshaped by the participation within information spaces. They argue that traditional approaches to learning are no longer capable of coping with this constantly changing world. The information environment is a technology environment, which demands adaptation. As information is also a networked resource, “information absorption is a cultural and social process of engaging with the constantly changing world around us” (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p.47).

In other words, our digital information ecology is a remix of different forms of technology, devices, data repositories, information retrieval, information sharing, networks and communication. New technological tools are expanding and continually altering the ways school students, or educators can interact with the world. The implications for education that stem from new means for accessing information, communicating with others, and participating in a community needs a new brand of professional competences to thrive within the changing environment. Haste (2009) recognised the co-construction of knowledge through interpersonal discourse and the tension within pedagogy between a focus on knowledge-based instruction and outcomes, and on praxis-based instruction. “While most pedagogy, of course, recognises the interaction of both in good practice, there is nevertheless an underlying epistemological gap; knowledge-based models are implicitly more ‘top down’ and praxis-based more ‘bottom up’. ‘Knowledge’ implies that the route to understanding is in the structured transmission of information. ‘Praxis’ implies a necessary interaction with materials, actions or other persons as a route to understanding” (Haste, 2009 p.213).

Information ecology at the heart of knowledge

While technology is changing the information environment (including information places and spaces), the transactional nature of information interactions and knowledge flow underpins learning. Information can comprise both physical and virtual parts for operation and interaction. A major challenge for education is to enable and facilitate the generation of new knowledge via an appropriate information environment, to facilitate integration of new concepts within each person’s existing knowledge structure. This is described as an ‘information ecology’.

“Information ecology examines the contexts of information behaviour by analogy with ecological habitats and niches, identifying behaviours in biological terms such as ‘foraging’” (Bawden & Robinson, 2012. p.199). In this context of adaptive and responsive co-construction of knowledge, we can facilitate a viable praxis in digital environments, influenced by concepts of rhizomatic learning. “Seen as a model for the construction of knowledge, rhizomatic processes hint at the interconnectedness of ideas as well as boundless exploration across many fronts from many different starting points” (Sharples, et al. 2012 p.33). By creating curriculum and subject delivery which can be reshaped and reconstructed in a dynamic manner in response to changing environmental conditions or the personal professional needs of students, a digital information ecology provides the opportunity to work with information in the construction of knowledge in more dynamic ways, connecting learning experiences across the contexts of location, time, devices and platforms.

This information ecology also involves the creation of assessments and environments for knowledge building to enhance collaborative efforts to create and continually improve ideas. This approach to knowledge building “exploits the potential of collaborative knowledge work by situating ideas in a communal workspace where others can criticize or contribute to their improvement” (Scardamalia, Bransford, Kozma, & Quellmalz, 2012, p.238 ). In this information ecology we also understand that “the development of critical thinking is a key learning objective in education – particularly higher education – [and that] it entails the ability to make reasoned evaluative judgements when making sense of information sources that contain different (potentially conflicting) findings, perspectives and interpretations of a given topic of phenomenon” (Ford, 2008 p. 59). The use of critical thinking has become particularly important as relatively quick access to a wide range of information means that the user needs the ability to critically evaluate the validity and value of information accessed.

The evidence is that technologies and social media platforms are driving an unprecedented reorganisation of the learning environment in and beyond schools and tertiary environments. These disruptive shifts are already reshaping the workforce landscape and the skills required (Davies, Fidler & Gorbis, 2011), establishing lifelong and life-wide learning as the central paradigm for the future (Redecker et al, 2011).

Our work as educators has to centre on helping to meet future learning needs in courses/programs by fostering a culture of enquiry within a sustainable learning ecology that is shaped by the ubiquity of information, globally responsive pedagogical practices, and driven by collaboration and informal learning in multiple access points and through multiple mediums.

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2012). Introduction to information science. London: Facet.
Charles Sturt University. (2012). Course Approval Document. Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation Articulated Set). CASIMS, Office of Academic Governance.
Davies, Al, Fidler, D., & Gorbis, M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute: California.
Ford, N. (2008). Education. In Web-based learning through educational informatics: Information science meets educational computing. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Haste, H. (2009). What is ‘competence’ and how should education incorporate new technology’s tools to generate ‘competent civic agents’. Curriculum Journal, 20(3), 207-223. doi:10.1080/09585170903195845
Redecker, C., Leis. M., Leendertse, M., Punie, Y., Gijsbers, G., Kirschner, P., Stoyanov, S., & Hoogerveld, B. (2011).  The future of learning: preparing for change, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, JRC European Commission.
Scardamalia, M., Bransford, J., Kozma, B., & Quellmalz, E. (2012). New assessments and environments for knowledge building. In Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 231-300). Springer Netherlands.
Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., … & Whitelock, D. (2012). Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University innovation report 1. Milton Keynes: The Open University.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.
Trentin, G., (2011). Technology and knowledge flows : the power of networks. Chandos Pub, Oxford.

Image: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by katypang: http://flickr.com/photos/katypang/2628074710

Shrinking the world after 4000 years

Quite a while back I read the book by John Freeman called Shrinking the World – the 4000 year story of how email came to rule our lives!  A ripping read, that contextualises email into the early 21st century communication systems as a derivative of human interactions through the ages.

We are now working in an era of constant interruptions. We nearly all have multiple email accounts which we use for a variety of purposes. Some eschew rapid communication still, of course,  along the lines of “oh I don’t want a gmail account, and please don’t expect me to create one so that I can participate in a google hangout for the conference/professional development/learning activity”.  Others of course have moved well on from email, making equally boring comments like “who uses email now anyway”?

If you work for a large organisation – as I do – the likelihood is that you will be using email. In fact, email remains a core professional communication tool alongside other forms of communication – Yammer being one example in my institution.

To be honest, I don’t have a problem with email – when it is used properly!   Ah, but there’s the catch.  Like any media tool, there are savvy users, and there are others.  And it is  the ‘others’ really who just confound the efficiency of the thing :-)

Freedman says:

One of the great paradoxes about email is that although it is created, driven and indelibly marked by ourselves, heavy use of it can leave you feeling emptied out, voided, fractured into a million bits and quips, yet somehow obliterated.

Overall his book is an attempt to step back from the frenzy and the flurry of now – the now we have created and the now we have to slowly remove ourselves from. He suggests that email is good for many things; but that we need to learn to use if far more sparingly, with far less dependency if we are to gain control of our lives.

I don’t agree with this – I think there are significantly  important points at the central purpose and value of email. Of course social media is giving us levels of connectivity across platforms, organisations and devices that email never set out to do.

But email itself, while still at the centre of an organisation, also needs to be used effectively. Let me tell you there are some basic aspects of email that can allow you to manage your workflow AND use the tool efficiently. Here are a few starting points: 

1. Don’t take forever to respond to an email message.  You may be busy, and if you haven’t time to give a considered and full response, have the courtesy to reply and indicate a timeline for response.  Not replying at all is discourteous.  If you can’t reply – put on your vacation message, or your ‘out of office’ message as a quick way to let people know that your inbox is in fact working.

2. Treat your students with respect. If you work in a tertiary institution treat students with the same respect you would accord to any adult you have contact with. I can’t tell you how many times students have been shocked to receive a reply from me the same day – they are accustomed to the (almost inexcusable) approach of treating virtual contact with students the same way as consultation hours with the tutor in a f2f setting – i.e. once or twice a week.

3. Use distribution lists or group lists to hold a conversation about a topic

4. Organise conversations logically. When in a group conversation – for heavens sake reply to the latest message.  The way that people fragment the conversation by simply replying to the first message, or one somewhere in-between is not only inefficient but also transparently discourteous.  If you were standing in a group around the water cooler – how would you feel if everyone simply acted as if you weren’t there.  Same thing.

4. For goodness sake use proper formatting.  We have a wonderful written language. We communicate in proper sentences when we write. We also speak sensibly and courteously with each other.  Yet for some reason, people apply kindergarten rules to email which look like this:

Dear Person I just like to write my comments all in one sentence and/or maybe a paragraph because it’s too hard to apply proper punctuation or even structure the message intelligibly and did you have a nice weekend Judy

While I can accept this in casual social media settings, to my way of thinking professional conversations in corporate email should also utilise the full affordances of the English language and supporting email structures.  I actually find it vaguely rude when a colleague doesn’t.

5. Turn on your auto-signature. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to chase up a person’s contact details because the courtesy of having the full signature file is not utilised.  In a large organisation, transparency of conversation is essential.  If I need to phone you, or forward your email to another for response it should be clear who you are and in what capacity we are having our email conversations.

You’re probably thinking this is all very ‘old school’.  Perhaps it is!   But I’m convinced it’s part of the way to be professional, courteous and efficient with email until another tool arrives.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by consumerfriendly

Stayin’ Alive – learning as the future

You have to love this old tune from the Bee Gees! Tight pants aside, the lyrics and pace of Stayin’ Alive hits the mark for the first subject kicking off in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation)!

It’s “O” week, and I have a new band of troopers who are aiming to stay alive while giving  learning in new channels and new scholarly approaches a go with me. Wherever we work in the education sector the challenges are there – time to level up!

Areas to explore:

  • The information revolution, global connectedness and trends in technology
  • New modes and methods for information organisation and knowledge creation
  • Principles of connected learning, open access and open communities
  • The digital divide and globalization of lifelong and lifewide learning
  • Creative cultures including gaming and maker-spaces
  • Education informatics
  • Re-imagining the experience of education in a digital age.

Yeah, we’re stuck in CMS land – but not completely.  We have our backchannel in Twitter (of course), and we have our own degree portal as a launchpad for digital connections across platforms, devices, and scholarly digital direction. Please note the word ‘scholarly’. We are not about devices. We are about adding depth and scholarly rigour to the push into spreadable media, networked culture and postmillenial pop.

Yes, our students will have to know how to cite Twitter in an academic paper, alongside traditional citation practices.

Professors may scoff at the idea, but students are increasingly citing tweets in academic papers. Although they don’t exactly count as peer-reviewed, tweets do provide interesting insight into pop culture, breaking news and a number of social issues. After all, the Library of Congress is indexing tweets for historical reference.

They need to know about Open Access and full research re-use rights and predatory publishers.

mobilehubThey will make use of a host of tools from CSU Mobile Hub and dig deep in developing their professional reflexive and reflective position on what they are learning by keeping a digital record at CSU Thinkspace. Naturally a bunch of Bibliography and Citation tools will also kick into action.

Blending imaginative learning with real-word development needs can be extremely challenging and extreme FUN. Take our first assignment (yeah, we still have to have them)  – the scholarly book review.  Seems easy? huh?  Until you realise that there is an extensive list of books to choose from – see my Amazon list collection.

Write a scholarly book review, which presents a critique of the work in the context of current and emerging trends in information and knowledge environments created by the social and technological changes of the digital age, and in relation to learning and teaching.

Identify questions or issues that are important and which have implications for current practice and/or for your professional goals.

Many critically acclaimed books are published that address topics related to digital information environments and knowledge networks; creative cultures and use of technology; and futurist perspectives on learning in a digital world. However, regardless of popularity or publicity, educators need to be able to evaluate these publications from a scholarly point of view.

A scholarly book review is a critical assessment of a book. It can take a substantial amount of time for critical scholarship to emerge about a book. Likewise, as scholars read and digest the content of a publication, divergent views can emerge, and research can be questioned, or new areas of investigation can appear. Therefore the knowledge and skills underpinning a scholarly book review are more important than ever in the dynamic information environments of today.

This is no tripadvisor review.. it’s one that requires students to challenge their thinking, dig into the research, and in particular identify the value versus hyperbole so often present in many of these kinds of publications. This critique is a critical review, and as Steve Wheeler explains,  it requires a student to “look both ways” : 

  • Provide a balanced and objective argument; don’t indiscriminately pepper their assignments with direct quotations from the literature;
  • judge the worth of any theory or idea they include in their work; and
  • demonstrate to the reader (and marker!) that they not only found the idea and can understand it, but that they can also contextualise it.

Warning, warning.  Don’t keep quoting statements that have no foundation in emergent theory and research. Just because a self-appointed media ‘guru’ says it’s so, doesn’t make it so!

Students, it’s time to fine you niche in the digital noise.  We’ll be stayin’ alive together if you connect, communicate and collaborate.  Otherwise……get back into the desert of the analogue world.

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother,
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’,
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Daniela Hartmann

Resist the colour of Twitter?

Within the business and education sectors, some people prefer to maintain a ‘professional’ social  network for work-related communication and collaboration, while maintaining a ‘personal’ social network to communicate and share with family and friends. Others prefer to merge or integrate their professional and personal lives as a single ‘connected’ network.

Yet in my experience, rather a lot more hardly make use of the affordances of technologies, and prefer to remain back in the 20th century.  While I understand this when the choice is actively made based on knowledge of social media, I have run out of excuses to justify this position for educators at any time. In a technology-driven society, things change at a faster rate than ever before in history. We need to be connected.

Do we really need connected educators? Tom Whitby provides a ‘neat’ rationale for being connected:

Who educators connect with is a very critical consideration. Acquiring numbers of educators who share concerns and interests is essential. Once an educator connects with other educators, they begin to collect them as sources in a Professional Learning Network of educators, a PLN. A connected educator may then access any or all of these sources for the purpose of communication, collaboration, or creation. This connectedness is not bound by bricks and mortar. It is not bound by city limits or state lines. It is not limited by countries borders. The only nagging inconvenience is dealing with time zones on a global level.

Yes, there have been any number of examples in the last several years about the influence of social media, but this next story caught my eye today.

A Quiet [Twitter] Protest

In Istanbul, known as the city of seven hills, dozens of public stairways crisscross centuries-old neighborhoods, giving pedestrians a way to avoid heavy car traffic on the streets.

Those walkways generally attract little notice, but that changed last week, when a retired forestry engineer decided to paint the Findikli stairs in the central district of Beyoglu in all the colors of the rainbow — an act of guerrilla beautification that unintentionally triggered a fresh ripple of anti-government protests.

The retiree behind the caper, Huseyin Cetinel, 64, told the local news media that his original motivation for applying a fresh coat of paint to the stairs was not activism, but the desire “to make people smile.” Mr. Cetinel said he spent nearly $800 on paint and devoted four days to sprucing up the stairs, with help from his son-in-law.

“Don’t you think Findikli Stairs are just amazing? Thanks to those who did it,” one Twitter user wrote last week.

What happened next in the story was interesting.

What transformed the painted stairs into a political issue was the surprise that Findikli residents woke up to last Friday: the stairs had been hastily, and somewhat unconvincingly, repainted in their original color, a dark cement gray.

Activists began organizing on Twitter almost immediately, using the hashtag #DirenMerdiven, or ResistStairs — a reference to the hashtag used for protests in June against government plans to build a shopping mall in place of the city’s Gezi Park, #DirenGeziPark, or ResistGeziPark.

The rest is as you would expect – thanks to social action.  Read more at New York Times.

“But I’m already active on Twitter” I hear you protest?

Well I have something else to share with you that I know others have enjoyed.  Check out this  presentation to find out the number one mistakes that everyone makes on Twitter.

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Lenore Edman