Last night I attended a Redeye talk on “New Mindsets on Photography” delivered by Jonathan Shaw of Coventry University.  He’s a photographer, as well as being associate head of their media department (from the “blurb” – “Innovation, Profile & Research”) he works with the Centre for Disruptive Media – and his talk was about his work with them, experiments with social media and open education and co-founding open photography classes picbod and phonar.  He also talked about his upcoming “open access” book.

The talk, at it’s core, was about new approaches to education through an “open” approach – engaging people through digital and talking about alternative methods for educators; I suspect much of it might be more to my brother’s interests.  However it did talk about the student experience – talking about how Massive Open Online Courses lack the mentoring from direct contact which is essential when learning a “craft”.  It talked about the role of a photographer which included being an educator – and how social media can be used to gain recognition and be a “hub” of knowledge and experience.

It naturally involved use of social media, but talked about the decreasing usefulness of it as more and more people engage with a conversation.  That’s something that’s plainly apparent to me whenever Wil Wheaton posts anything on Google+!  Look at the comments on a thread and the conversation quickly falls apart, drifting into repetition of the same point with people paying little-to-no attention to what’s gone before.  I suppose it’s akin to an out-of-control meeting where it splinters into different conversations; only on a much grander scale and much harder to get control of.

The “hub” aspect, therefore, is essentially about engaging with a small number of people to maintain more personalised conversations.  That reminds me of the “monkeysphere” or Dunbar’s number - which I’ve read about when researching social networking; the theory that we can only handle and maintain stable social relationships with about 150 “real people”.

What particularly struck a chord with me – because I’m guilty of it – is how those studying MOOCs can fail to get the most out of it because they’re not engaging with other people/photographers.  While the OCA course isn’t a MOOC, I am definitely failing to get involved in communities and with other photographers.  I tend to work through the course material, do some reading, but generally am not doing much outside of what the course dictates.

One thing I got out of the talk today was a reinforcement of the need for me to do more – and I think some interesting starting points I could look at; including Coventry University’s iTunes U materials and the sites listed above.  There is of course the OCA’s own forums to look at; which I haven’t checked out in some time – previously it’d been recommended I look at the OCA Flickr group but frankly I find Flickr a terrible platform for communication beyond commenting on individual images – I don’t feel it does “community” well.

You can view the slide deck and a bit more info here – on Jonathan Shaw’s blog post on the talk.