Tuesday, 10 March 2009

MindMeister and Me

So, MindMeister. Part of me (the 'make things look pretty' part) just loves this! Several of my students are mind map users already, and habitually plan their work this way. One even gave a presentation handout as a mind map this term (with key connections in different colour felt tips!), and it could have been very useful if she had been able to provide the seminar group with this electronically and invite us to make our own contributions to it. And she might have spend less time with the felt tips, although a bit of creativity in the good old-fashioned ink-all-over-your-hands way seems just as desirable as online work to me. MindMeister is a bit clunky to use, but presumably the people behind it will be working to make it better if they want the rest of us to find it indispensible. I don't really see it as an end in itself, but I can imagine making a place for it in my life - even if it is only that small space in the corner under the plant stand.

Am I a fussy eater?

Del.icio.us is the area of Web 2.0 that has exercised me most so far. On the one hand, I can see how sharing bookmarks is sensible, efficient, potentially interesting, and creates a network of users effectively finding material for one another. This could be a quick way of directing students to key material, or helping them to model good Web use, thereby improving their own skills. On the other, this fundamentally challenges all my assumptions about the different stages of information gathering in general, and possibly research in particular; the messy, 'looking for stuff' phase has always been to me the stage which everyone else does not see; even when we present 'work-in-progress', the methods and sources which we use are packaged and offered up with a certain amount of 'glamour' (in the old-fashioned sense of the word). What we present as the fruits of our labours inevitably conceals the nuts-and-bolts methods by which we have attained it.

The idea of someone else tracking my progress through the Web by means of my bookmarks makes me feel profoundly uncomfortable - a feeling which was only intensified by the 'example' at the end of our introductory video of the student who acknowledge she was effectively stalking her professors' Web use by following their Del.icio.us accounts. My enjoyment of what the Web offers is grounded in its potential to act as a kind of information playground, where I could end up reading and marking and going back to anything from Old English recipes to online versions of primary texts to sites that make replicas of Anglo-Saxon jewellry! That aspect of 'play' occupies a strange space between professional work and private interest, and that's not a space I particularly wish to share with my students. I don't have any particular answers to how to deal with this; somehow, the reassurance that 'you can make some or all of it private' does not make me feel any better about this! Clearly I have a long way to go before I am fully comfortable in the age of shared information...