Saturday, December 18, 2010

Effat's 8th L&T Symposium - Closing & Overview

Effat staff, faculty, students, local and international invited guests, and community participants in the 8th Annual L&T Symposium  - all wrapped up Day 2 of the event with a combination of exhaustion and elation. Hands-on workshops at the end of Day 2 provided all participants with a chance to interact with facilitators and among themselves - thereby creating ties as well as producing group intellectual output.

Effat University plans to continue to work on the output from all three workshop tracks, to further develop curricula, case studies and social media content. Since the L&T symposium is an annual event, future events may well reflect the outcomes of the current year's symposium.

Effat University would like to thank our invited guests, community participants, and all other stakeholders in enabling the completion of a successful symposium once again this year. We welcome your feedback on how our symposia can be improved and made more inclusive in future years, and how we can better collaborate with the local and global community for greater good.


Track 1: Developing the Jeddah Flood event into a case study for academic use

Track 1: Developing the Jeddah Flood event into a case study for academic use.
Session Leader: Graham Attwell, Director of Pontydysgu, UK
Assisting Facilitators: Cristina Costa, Research Technologies Development Officer, University of Salford and John Smith, Learning Alliances, USA

§  Discussed what a case study means
§  Worked on answering the questions “who, what, why, how, and when” for the case study
§  Discussing the “who” (target audience) and “why” (we’re doing this case study) led the group to realize a research would be more appropriate considering the range of topics/perspectives we wanted to cover
§  Identified an initial set of resources the group could utilize in their research (including Dr. Yeslam Al-Saggaf’s students’ research, volunteers who participated in “rescuing Jeddah” after the floods, and various videos/blogs posted on the Internet)
§  Learned how to use a wiki for future collaboration on this project
§  Discussed a project check-in time for early next year to check on progress

§  Agreed upon conducting a research and its suitability rather than a case study
§  Drew a [preliminary] outline for the topics to be covered in the research
§  Developed a preliminary set of references
§  Created a wiki for group members’ continued collaboration on the project
§  Set an initial timeline with the decision to convene for a ‘progress report’ on the 27th of January, 2011

Asma Sheikh

Day 2 Workshops: Track 2 - Designing a Social Media Curriculum for Saudi High Schools

Facilitators: Dr. Michael Fast, Senior Education Adviser, Academy for Educational Development (AED) USA,
and Dr. Amani Gandour, Director of Curriculum Development, Effat University

An experienced former linguistics professor at the University level, Dr. Michael Fast currently consults with various governments, ministries and aid organisations to help develop curricula across educational levels. His most recent experience includes helping develop the Grades 1-8 digital literacy curriculum in Pakistan. The L&T symposium at Effat followed soon after this experience, and we were lucky to be able to host him for our workshop, and in conjunction with Dr. Amani Gandour, have him facilitate this workshop.

Dr. Fast began his session by introducing himself and telling us a bit about his own experience in curriculum development - including sharing very useful lists regarding the elements of an educational program, and two models of standards-based programs (American and Pakistani). He encouraged the audience, many of whom had little or no experience in designing academic programs, to think about their local context and where the educational needs of a social media curriculum may fit in.

After a break for lunch, the latter part of the afternoon was spent in hands-on activity, with the audience divided into three groups to design their own curricula. Three sets of recommendations emerged, based on various elements with the education program checklist Dr. Fast had shared. Groups collaborated to create the beginnings of curricula that will hopefully be revised, extended, and eventually shared with all participants. It is also hoped that in the near future, a more refined version of suggested social media curricula will be created and shared with the local authorities and the Ministry of Education, for their consideration and input.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Track 1: Researching the Jeddah Floods

Facilitator: Mr. Graham Attwell, Director of Pontydysgu, UK
Assisting Facilitators: Dr. John Smith, Learning Alliances, USA and Ms. Cristina Costa, Research Technologies Development Officer, University of Salford

Boy! By the end of the second day of L&T, I was exhausted even though I haven’t done any of the work! On the other hand, I could see L&T organizers and contributors still bouncing around with utmost commitment to ensure everything and everyone was on track. My exhaustion explains why this blog post is coming in late.

Anyhow, I chose to attend the Track 1 workshop about the Jeddah floods case study; and I’m glad I did. It kicked off with Mr. Graham Attwell’s mind-stimulating questions of the “who, what, why, how, and when” for doing this case study. With the diversity in the group ranging from academicians, city council members, business people, employees, students, and fresh graduates, we had a deluge of thoughts flowing in; and I mean a deluge. After two long hours of discussion for only answering “who are we doing this case study for?,” we realized we had a range of perspectives based on our interests for this case study. As Mr. Graham put it, we certainly had a “rich group with conflicting thoughts.” In fact, looking at the number of narrowed down topics we now had on the flip chart, we were re-considering the case study approach. A research seemed to better fit the bill.

The topics/perspectives covered included:

§  studying how people’s attitudes towards technology have changed,
§  the involvement of the youth in social and community engagement,
§  role of social media in disaster response,
§  diaspora – the role of people outside KSA, and
§  urban planning.

Having done some rigorous brainstorming, we went off for a relaxing lunch break so we could utilize the renewed energy to get our act together.  After the break, we sat down to draw an outline of the topics we agreed to cover in what was now going to be a research on the Jeddah floods. Dr. Smith and Ms. Costa created a wiki, showed the group how to use it, and sent us all invitations so we can engage in continued collaboration in the future to bring this research to realization.

The assignment of responsibilities ensued as participants chose the topics they would like to cover.  A project check-in time was set for the 27th of January for the team to get back together online and discuss progress. As we did all this, Dr. Smith posted a preliminary outline of our research on our wikispace, the resources we currently have in hand, and our roles and agreements. Things were certainly becoming serious and more organized.

As we wrapped up, I could sense the aura of self-fulfillment within team members as they braced themselves to partake in this community service. We came as individuals with diverse goals to the workshop, and we were now leaving as a team with a refined, cohesive set of goals.  

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the objective of this afternoon’s meeting materialize. It will, inshaAllah, be a product that will educate and raise awareness through educational institutions nationally, if not internationally.

Let’s do this.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And now you know ..

Here's a video that I stumbled upon that contains very interesting facts about Social Media. Just in case you wanted to know ..
Hanan El-Maghrabi

Day 2 - Workshops: Track 3 - Summary

"Investigating the use of social media by educators in Saudi Arabia"
Session Leader:  Saddiga Al-Ghalib, Dean, Graduate Studies and Scientific Research, Effat University.


The session was commenced by Dr.Saddiga who presented us with the topic. Then immediately, she requested the participants of the session two divide themselves into two teams : 1. educators and 2. researchers. During the first part of the session the participants of the two teams were separately presented with several tasks that required brainstorming ideas that will identify the use and impact of social media by educators and researchers. After an intense session of brainstorming, the two groups came up with great ideas for their assigned tasks respectively. The second part of the session was initiated. followed by the lunch and prayer break. The different uses of the social media by educators were presented by the 'educators' group and how it can help in improving  and/or maintaining interaction between peers and students. The 'researchers' group presented their ideas of how social media can help in developing, conducting, validating research projects. The group had to also come up with a questionnaire that will investigate the uses,impact,outcome of social media by researchers. The participants of the 'researcher' group formulated questions for the questionnaire draft. In the end the 'educators' group decided to follow-up with their work through collaborating with each other via Twitter hash tag. While on the other hand, the 'researcher' group decided to continue working on the questionnaire draft till they finally come up with a final questionnaire that will distributed among all the researchers of different disciplines to identify how and in what way(s) the researchers use social media and for what for purposes? The first draft of the questionnaire will be reviewed by Dr.Saddiga Al-Ghalib and she took the responsibility of later distributing the first draft for comments and suggestions that would help in designing the final questionnaire.  Dr.Saddiga gathered all the information about the participants so that she can send each on of them some of the interesting and relevant links that will help each group to progress with their group work. On a personal note, I  would just like to mention that i decided to  join the 'researcher' group and i loved the session and the workshop experience completely. The participants of my group were amazing people with great intelligence, energy, and charm. The workshop day ended in a success I am hoping that we could take this short session of the L&T symposium and transform it into a research project on a larger-scale.  

Well, we will just have to wait and watch. 
You keep checking out this blog for more updates!

Signing off!

posted by: Fauziya Ali Ansari ( Alumni, Effat University )

Summary of Day One

After the debate on facebook friendships between teachers and students, Manail Anis Ahmed, Senior Grants Specialist at Effat's Research and Consultancy Institute, presented the summary of day one.

The Research and Consultancy Institute (RCI) at Effat University operates under the umbrella of the Deanship of Graduate Studies and Scientific Research. Licensed as  Deanship in Summer 2010, the vision of this unit is to "be an enlightened community of next-generation scholars who lead positive change in society".
The mission of Effat University’s Research and Consultancy Institute is to perform innovative, relevant and meaningful applied research to solve social and economic problems by applying state-of-the-art methods and technologies consistent with local culture and traditions.


Coffe break before breakout sessions: Tracks 1, 2 & 3

The symposium broke for coffee in the Engineering building before splitting up into 3 different tracks:

Track 1:
Developing the Jeddah Flood event into a case study for academic use.
Session Leader: Graham Attwell, Director of Pontydysgu, UK
Track 2:
Producing an academic program to teach social media, for high school students and above.
Session Leader: 
Michael Fast, Senior Education Advisor , Global Education Center, Academy for Educational Development ( AED) – USA
and Amani Gandour, Curriculum Development Director, Effat University
Track 3:
Investigating the use of social media by educators in Saudi Arabia
Session Leader:  Saddiga Al-Ghalib, Dean, Graduate Studies and Scientific Research, Effat University


Debate (Part III): "Google Makes Me Stupid"

An audience member picked up on Dr. Nazeeh's comment "Google Makes me Stupid" by saying that it is searching that helps us develop critical thinking skills. Farah on the panel argued that it does indeed make one stupid, because by googling one precludes one's independent thinking skills.

Dr. Nazeeh continued by clarifying his definition of critical thinking. He argued that people share information from online sources without verifying the information received, becoming passive recipients and sometimes active propagators of information they have no background knowledge about. The info may be completely incorrect and unverifiable, yet critical thinking skills are not employed to filter the info through.

Other audience members commented on the impossibility of being able to spend adequate amounts of time on social networks providing answers to students' questions. Graham Attwell argued that we need to rethink how to organise traditional teaching and learning modes so that some amount of social networking delivery can be overlaid onto them. Conventional methods need to be replaced by active learning methodologies so that students can be assessed on their intelligence and ciritical thinking skills rather than regurgitation, copy/paste or plagiarism capabilities.

The session ended with a lively debate and a comment by one of the audience members, who commented that this was the first time in history that people across the social/economic class ladder would still be able to have access to hundreds of other people, limitless resources, and an open space for sharing ideas and debate.


Debate: Choices, Responsibilities, Friendships: Should My Teacher Be My Facebook Friend? Part II

On the side arguing against Social Media friendships between students and teachers, Dr. Kathleen Guillaume confessed that it would be difficult to argue against the utility of social media technology itself, but that private relationships preclude the relationship between students and teachers. So, for instance, in the early days of the landed telephone line, it would be considered 'improper' to have a telephone conversation with a student in the evening, during personal time.

However, legislation regarding this issue has not yet been introduced - and in Dr. Kathleen's opinion, students and teachers will both have to continue to 'police' themselves as far as social media relationships are concerned.

Dr. Kathleen quoted Confucius in closing, to illustrate the importance of participation in learning about technology:

"Tell me, and I will forget
Show me, and I may remember
Involve me, and I will understand"

Two students (Hebah Al-Omari and Farah Malla) continued the debate against the motion, pointing out that all information is at some point recorded, and that students who are perhaps less aware of the consequences of some of their online actions than older adults, may land in trouble as a result.

Questions from the audience focused on the problems associated with the online personas and 'digital shadows' created/left behind by people many years ago that still continue to be associated with them now. Graham Attwell argued that it is the job of academics to develop and share knowledge, and therefore rather than shying away from knowledge production, or perhaps privatising it, we should be working towards opening it up through online sharing.

Another comment from the audience was regarding the benefits that friendships between students and teachers provide to students in terms of mentorship. A member of the audience commented that his friendship with his student impacted the student's life greatly, and that this kind of interaction should be encouraged. The panel responded in various ways: one comment was that there are all kinds of teachers, and the ethical or unethical behaviour of teachers needs to be kept in mind by students by them developing critical thinking skills.


Debate: Choices, Responsibilities, Friendships: Should My Teacher Be My Facebook Friend?

Facilitator: Dr. Rania Ibrahim, Dean, Students Affairs, Effat University
Graham Attwell, Director of Pontydysgu, UK
Dr. Kathleen Guillaume, Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Effat University
Dr. Nazeeh Alothmany, Assistant professor at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept (Biomedical Option) at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah
Dr. Malak Al-Nouri, CS Faculty, Effat University
Hebah Al Omari, Student, Effat University, KSA
Farah Malla, IS Student, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Effat University

Day Two continues where Day One left off, beginning with a debate on whether students and teachers should be friends on facebook in addition to real life. Dr. Rania Ibrahim started the debate off with showing a video of students' and teachers' responses to this question in American high schools.

She then opened the floor to the invited speakers, three of which argued in support of, and three against, the motion.

Graham Attwell, Dr. Nazeeh Al-Othmany and Dr. Malak Al-Nouri all argued that since modes of learning have changed and democratised, universities and educational institutions are no longer the exclusive owners of knowledge, or knowledge production. Therefore, the world should welcome modes of social media knowledge production and dissemination, as they make information available to all.

Day Two - Hands-On Workshops

It's 8am on Day Two of the L&T Symposium on Social Media, and we're bright and early and ready to go! Today's sessions may be better blogged in real-time due to breakout groups working in areas of higher wireless signal strength, so stay tuned for exciting updates throughout the day!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Social Media: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Panel Title: Social Media for Social Change
Facilitator: Dr. Saddiga Al-Ghalib
Panelists: Bayan Abuzinadah, Mr. John Smith, Prof. Nazeeh Al-Othmany, Dr. Michael Fast, Mr. Ziad Jarrar, Hanan Maghraby, Syeda Zarlish, and Lama Sabri

This panel discussion shed light on many thought-provoking aspects of social media from the perspectives of academicians, social entrepreneurs, and students.

Several panelists underlined the importance of the “human side” of social media – the relationships behind the technology and the care for one another. If it were not for our inner-lying conscience and feelings, mere technology would have made little positive impact. Others focused on the role of social media in generating mass movements/actions, creating a driving force, and being an outlet for voices that may otherwise be suppressed or unheard.

Having been through several sessions about social media, my head was now juggling thoughts about its implications – pros and cons. And I was just itching to voice them when some of these panelists – to my relief – did just that!  Among them was Mr. Ziad’s firm emphasis on “responsible speech” – the balance between free speech and restricted speech. The audience’s questions directed at the panelists also revolved around the same issue – the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media. (It appears I wasn’t the only one toying with these thoughts after all.)

With convenient access, users have an implicit permit to do as and when they please on the Internet – good or bad. With no boundaries, no rules, they have an open floor to speak their minds – positively or negatively. With separate, guised virtual identities, they have the channel to deceive or exploit the na├»ve.  In brief, social media offers a newfound freedom in a sense.

However, at the same time, this freedom is not a ‘gift’ to abuse. In response to the audience’s questions, Professor Nazeeh suggested his solution of practicing self-restraint; and Mr. Ziad re-emphasized responsible expression and the need for creating jurisprudences for the virtual world, approaching it like the real world. Shedding positive light, Mr. Ziad pointed out the opportunity for the development of dialogue amidst the generally cutting criticism tossed back and forth in the virtual world; and Ms. Syeda highlighted the need to share thoughts and feelings to create purposeful, like-minded communities.

And one thing I find in the social media community it’s a whole new culture. It shows that Saudi youth has so much energy and social media acts as an outlet for them to utilize this energy for something positive. It provides them exposure which is what they need to demonstrate their talents,” she says.

I personally found this panel to be quite constructive. Despite the limited time, the panelists collectively managed to propose general ideas for dealing with this multi-purposed platform of communication.

Closing of Day One of the L&T symposium


To make this event a success, everyone has put a great a deal of effort and the speakers attending the symposium are an amazing group of intellectuals from various fields. 

Mrs.Akila Sarirete concluded the first day of the L&T symposium by informing the audience about the workshops that will be running from morning till evening along with the last session of the day 1 which is a debate touching on issues of boundaries, privacy, connection, interaction and more, to help us answer the fundamental question of “Who is my community?”. Later, she distributed the awards and very eagerly requested the audience to take part on the second day of the symposium as they will try to produce concrete contributions based on the first day’s talks. The day will proceed along three tracks, which participants can choose among. 

Track 1:
Developing the Jeddah Flood event into a case study for academic use.
Session Leader: Graham Attwell, Director of Pontydysgu, UK
Track 2:
Producing an academic program to teach  social media, for high school students and above.
Session Leader:
Michael Fast, Senior Education Advisor , Global Education Center, Academy for Educational Development ( AED) USA
and Amani Gandour, Curriculum Development Director, Effat University
Track 3:
Investigating the use of social media by educators in Saudi Arabia
Session Leader:  Saddiga Al-Ghalib, Dean, Graduate Studies and Scientific Research, Effat University
Since the final product cannot be completed in one day, participants will use a collaboration tool such as a wiki to continue working on the output after the Symposium. Part of the day will be devoted to training on how to use the tool. In addition to the case study and the educational program, research papers will also be written on the process of creating the outputs.

So, good luck and i hope to see you all tomorrow morning,
Signing off !

 posted by: Fauziya Ali Ansari ( Alumni, Effat University)