Thursday, 30 January 2014

Day 4: BYOD for Learning and Collaborating #BYOD4L

Today's topic for BYOD4L is collaborating. What does this mean to me? Well it is through collaborating with Chrissi Nerantzi that we got the idea off the ground. It is through collaborating and pooling of expertise and ideas with our amazing facilitators that we been able to run this open online course.


To get a job done, it very often is done more quickly and more effectively if we work together as a team. "Two heads are better than one" my Mum frequently said when trying to solve a problem. Now whilst this confused me as a young child with visions of having to grow another head, I do of course now see the value of pooling ideas and working together.

How have my approaches changed?

Collaborating in relation to my work or learning often meant meeting up with another person or group. We discussed ideas and then shared out the tasks we needed each to do. Further meetings were required to share progress, interspersed with emails and links to new iterations of word documents as well as questions that sometimes lost context if not connected to a 'reply all' email trail.

In recent years however I have been introduced to new ways of approaching such tasks. A good example would be when I was invited to collaborate with some colleagues I had met at a conference in the US to work on a proposal to present the following year at the same event. I live in the UK and the individuals involved were scattered across the United States 100s of miles apart. Face to face meetings were therefore not one of our options. This is when I was re-introduced to Google Docs and Google Hangouts had just been released. We planned and wrote our proposal using these two tools. What this meant was that we had one live document we could all contribute to and through the comments box raise questions. Due to the time differences there were often times we worked asynchronously but other time slots we could meet up online. Using Google Hangouts meant we could talk to each other AND work on the document at the same time. I have to say it was the most fun I have ever has writing a proposal!

Chrissi and I have also used these tools to plan and develop the BYOD4L course. Communicating with our team of facilitators we also introduced a Facebook Group; an informal space we could use to chat and get to know each other.

What I have found is that Twitter and LinkedIn have provided a forum for initial ideas and discussions. Collaborations have emerged because a seed of an idea has been shared and developed. Further exploration of such idea are often taken further now by a Skype of Hangout in preference to email. Online conversations using these tools helps to replicate the value we get when meeting face to face. They are in my experience quicker and more focussed. No longer are we tied to a PC and complex conferencing tools; we can use our mobile devices to have these conversations. 

I'd love to hear how you collaborate online. Below are a collection of tools that can be used for collaborating. Is there anything you would add?

My Edshelf collection of tools for COLLABORATING

Further reflections as a Facilitator on #BYOD4L

Having engaged for some time now in social learning, I have developed a number of strategies for coping with what is often referred to as information overload. One of these is curating or collecting stuff. But unlike that kitchen drawer we all have, the shoe box, the filing cabinet with no files; curation in the digital sense, allows you to organise by tagging. Retrieval for me is so much easier because of the visual way I curate.   

What is Curating?

What is Curation? from Percolate on Vimeo.

Different Approaches

During the #BYOD4Lchat this week on curating I discovered new curation tools but more importantly what people were doing with them and why. I could so easily have been in the very 'information overload' position had I focussed just on the many tools.  Rather than try and absorb them, I zoomed in on a handful. I was intrigued by the number of people talking about Evernote, Flipboard and Zite. These given the ongoing conversations are now on my list to explore! 

Its always good to hear about a product by recommendation. But..that's not to say everything this community suggests will be right for everyone, though it is a good starting place. My colleague Sue Bamford raves about Pearltrees but I'm afraid it just didn't enthuse me despite creating a 'tree' or two and adding my pearls of information. Why I wonder? Was it the look and feel of the tool? It was simple to use. I think it's a bit like buying a car. Taking away the price tag, every car has four wheels, doors and an engine. The most basic car can get us from A to B. It can do its job. But we all know we make preferences with regards to shape, size and colour. For me its the layout of the pages when I look for information.

Terese Bird and Anne Nortcliffe talked about Mendeley. Could this be a replacement for Diigo? Again something to explore and help me organise academic papers and books. I'd like a tool that would pull in the book cover. That would help me recall what I had read. 
I was pleased to see Flea Palmer share a paper on curation and the link as a core competency in digital and media literacy education. The paper 'explores the concept of curation as a pedagogical tool to embolden critical inquiry and engagement in a digital age' (Cohen 2013). It comes with a rich list of references and I now have some excellent pointers to articles on this fascinating topic to read. Thank you Flea! I think there is a lot more about this topic I have yet to learn about.

Don't discard the JISC list

This is still a good way to send and receive interesting gems of information. There are many lists out there so you do have to be selective or risk an overflow of emails! (A JISC list is an email discussion lists for the UK Education and Research communities).

Andy Miah has curated a list of social media tools through crowd sourcing. He put the call out via a JISC list he created and also on Twitter, and now has an excellent collection of social media tools on his blog he calls the
A-Z of Social Media for Academia.   

I personally keep a private blog of social media stuff tagging it as I gather. It works for me as I know I can go back in and find things. 

However we curate, collect and store doesn't really matter so long as it works for you. I am grateful for being part of such a wonderful open sharing community as the combined efforts have certainly helped me to filter out what I don't need to see and focus on what I do. I curate what is of interest to me through the shared interest of others. Just in this short space of time I have learnt so much from everyone participating in BYOD4L. It has also given me the opportunity to go on and discuss what I have learnt, raise questions and along the way answer questions for others. We have together built a learning community. 

Day 3: BYOD for Learning and Curating #BYOD4L

Today's topic for BYOD4L is curating. I have to say I am a huge fan of curating tools to help organise the many interesting resources I come across into manageable chunks.

Curating allows you to collect and archive digital assets. Initially I began by favouriting tweets so that I could go back to them at a time I could look in more depth at the associated link to a article, website or perhaps video. I also began a private blog I refer to as my treasure trove of useful stuff! Here I could write a few lines, include links to the item of interest, maybe embed a photo or video. I the assigned a few tags to the post. The tagging is useful because as your collection grows, it means you can go back and find things by searching for that associated tag. Putting in a few keywords helps too as over the course of time that 'obvious' tag may not be so memorable!

Then in recent years, some really nifty and easy to use tools have been developed that enable a more visual way to collect and organise.

Below are some of my favourite tools and how I am using them. I should add that for this post I am just looking at this from the perspective of how I curate for my own needs. How I use this collections to share with others will make for a future post!

I use Twitter daily, skimming through my lists. (If you don't know how to organise those you follow into lists take a look at this post: Creating lists on Twitter). Very often this takes place on my journey to and from work so from my mobile phone. If I find a tweet I want to save, I do so as a favourite.  

We have been curating the tweets from the daily TweetChats as a Storify story. The tool allows you to curate social networks to build social stories, bringing together media scattered across the Web into a coherent narrative. We curated all tweets that contained #BYOD4Lchat. These display in a panel on one side and you choose which you wish to drag across to your story board. You can add text boxes at any point which helps to provide context for the tweets.

This is an example of one of my 'scoops' - Talking a look at MOOCs. As I come across a article of interest I can simply enter the URL in the new scoop box and it is added to my collection. It automatically grabs an image from the webpage, the title and a few lines from the text. You have the option of adding your own thoughts in a further text box. 

Chrissi Nerantzi is curating Smart Devices for Learning which will be of great interest to the BYOD4L community.

Whilst this doesn't look at nice as, those that like lists may warm to it. Again you can collect links and organise them in topics. I curate articles on Google Glass in one of my bundlrs.

I began using this tool to curate infographics. Previously I had saved the image as a file and stored maybe on my PC, laptop or pendrive. Very often I couldn't quite remember where or indeed after time remember exactly what I had saved. By creating themed virtual pinboards I can now access these from any device I choose to. You can pin images you see or upload your own. Some of the boards I have created include:
I had the opportunity to show Andrew Middleton and Rob Appleyard what Pinterest looks like this afternoon.
I created a BYOD4L digital paper using #BYOD4L and @melsiguk. This tool curates tweets and presents them into a newspaper like article. What I like about this, is that it captures a random collection of tweets from what could be a large community and quite often enables me to pick up on useful tweets I may have missed in the stream of tweets going through Twitter. 

This a great tool to search for and curate apps by organising them into themed group. At the bottom of each BYOD4L topic page is a link to a collection of related tools curated using Edshelf. You can also embed your collection in your blog or website. See below. 

My Edshelf collection of tools for CURATING

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Day 2: BYOD for Learning and Communicating #BYOD4L

Today's topic for BYOD4L is communicating.

In the TweetChat #BYOD4Lchat we have been discussing 'what does communicating mean for you?' - what was clear pretty quickly was that there were two key approaches:

  • broadcasting
  • conversation/dialogue

Thinking about this from an Educator's perspective and with students therefore in mind I would say that BOTH approaches have value. Hers's why:


There are many examples of useful messages we need to cascade to student and staff. Examples might include deadline reminders, class closures, IT and network issues, events. Here a broadcast approach is valuable. One message has the potential of reaching many. For example:


This is where the social comes in: social conversation, social engagement, social networking, social learning, social listening, social feedback. I think it is important to encourage new users of social tools to listen. From my own perspective this is how I developed my confidence to engage with other educators in these new forums. Reading blog posts and comments, TwitterChats, LinkedIn group discussions; each provided me with the opportunity to listen to conversations and to participate as and when I felt I wanted to.  

There are so many tools we can converse with online. Brian Solis and JESS3 capture this in the Conversation Prism. This is a visual map of the social media landscape. It’s an ongoing study in digital ethnography that tracks dominant and promising social networks and organizes them by how they’re used in everyday life.

My Edshelf collection of tools for COMMUNICATING

Reflections as a Facilitator of #BYOD4L


After a pretty much sleepless Sunday night I began the day a little nervous about what might present itself. Juggling multi tasks at work would I be able to keep up with the emerging conversations. As a facilitator I felt a huge responsibility to be there for everyone. Unlike a traditional classroom or workspace where you meet at a given time and talk to those present, online we have a number of spaces. For BYOD4L I wanted to connect with those people already engaging in Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I wanted to ensure anyone new was made to feel welcome. 

What is reflection

Moon defines reflective practice as “a set of abilities and skills, to indicate the taking of a critical stance, an orientation to problem solving or state of mind” (1999: 63). Taking this on board and looking more closely at what I was tring to achieve, was actually impossible. But what was wonderful was the realisation that I didn't have to be there for everyone. A community was emerging and along with the other wonderful BYOD4L facilitators and the participants, new connections were being made.

How to reflect

As facilitators and participants, the value of our learning journeys will be so much more valuable if shared. This blog is one of the spaces I will be doing this. 

I've just been reading one of Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano's (known as Langwitches) blog posts on reflection. She talked about how she was trying to encourage teachers to let their students reflect using a variety of mediums beyond text. This is not to say that text is still not valuable but to widen the options so that individuals can try different ways in which to express themselves. I will look to enrichen my reflections and hope that you will do too. The Haiku poem in the image at the head of this blog is my starting contribution.

This is the diagram Silvia used to share just some of the different ways we can reflect.   

I personally very much resonate with images as a memory trigger. Looking back on my own writing I can pinpoint a moment far more easily where there is an image. This image may be a digital photo within a blog post or it may be a doodle within my own paper notebook. Recording thoughts using video or audio and then playing them back, helps you reflect upon your reflection as you hear yourself speak.

Reflection can is often seen as a personal and private activity, however when shared can open up opportunities for dialogue and clearer understanding. Sharing can be with a peer, a tutor or perhaps a somewhat brave approach to whoever reads it. 

Reflections as a facilitator on BYOD4L

As facilitators of this new open course: Bring your own devices for learning we will be encouraging participants to reflect upon their learning, capturing their thoughts in whatever medium they wish to. We hope they will share these by posting a link in our Facebook group, Google+ community orTwitter along with the course hashtag #BYOD4L. I know this will present rich opportunities for us to all to learn from and with each other.

As facilitators we also want to capture our own reflections about what our experience being involved with this exciting new open course has been like. How has it felt to be involved with a team volunteering their own time to work behind the scenes? What preparation has been going on? How has this collaboration opened our minds to new possibilities in relation to learning and teaching?  

This story will be continued!


Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and Practice

Monday, 27 January 2014

Day 1: BYOD for Learning and Connecting #BYOD4L

The first topic for our new BYOD4L open course is connecting.

Social Learning Spaces

To encourage participants to connect we have created three social spaces to direct people to discuss and share ideas about the connecting scenarios which include video perspectives from students and teachers. These spaces are:

  1. Twitter - Follow @melsiguk and #BYOD4L. In addition there is also #BYOD4Lchat and #BYOD4Lhelp. 
  2. The BYOD4L Google + Community
  3. The BYOD4L Facebook Group

I am fascinated about what draws people to one space over another. Twitter has been busy for some time prior to the course starting as people starting sharing this new opportunity. From yesterday morning we started to see introductions and some conversations emerging. Of course it takes a bit more digging to follow the interactions in this space if you are not there at the moment. The Facebook Group and Google+ Community allows you to see the threads of any conversation grouped together, so for anyone coming in after the immediate moment, it is easier to catch up with a conversation.  

That said we hosted our first Twitter chat between 8-9pm UK time which myself and Neil Withnell facilitated. I was blown away with how many participated and what a rich conversation took place. A Tweet Chat is fast and furious lasting an hour with continuous exchanges taking place. I was so pleased to see and hear that people new to this forum were not only dipping their toes in but also enjoying this new experience. We will be collating the tweets as a story using the Storify tool. 

Through all these forums it was clear to see that people had begun to share blog posts and in reaction to these, interactions were taking place and connections been made. As this new and evolving learning community evolves it may not be possible to get to know everyone but it is already evident that as soon as someone asks a question or is found to be struggling, responses to such tweets are being made not just by the facilitators but the wider BYOD4L community. 

Martin Hawksey has done an amazing job creating a visual map of those who are tweeting the course hashtag #BYOD4L and created a second map for the TweetChat #BYOD4L. Below you can see where in the world people were participating from. Amazing! 


I look forward to connecting with more people as the week goes on. I am @suebecks on Twitter. Do reach out to me and say hello. Post a link to your own blog or other artefact that shares how you are finding this new learning experience. It is through sharing that we will go on to learn so much more!

My Edshelf collection of tools for CONNECTING

Sunday, 26 January 2014

BETT Technology in Higher Education Summit

On Friday I attended BETT for the first time. BETT or the BETT Show was formally known as the British Educational Training and Technology Show. It is held at the huge Excel in London and is targeted at anyone interested in using technology for learning. The programme you are given on arrival is like an A5 version of Yellow Pages, crammed with information about the wide variety of sessions and exhibitors present at the event.
A jam-packed Arena programme, 3 bespoke CPD accredited Summits, 6 Learn Live theatres and a whole host of networking and fringe activity, Bett is the must-attend event for education and learning professionals.

Speaking invitation

I was invited to speak at BETT for the Technology in Higher Education Summit alongside Helen Keegan and Stuart Miller. It seems we were picked for our use of social media and asked to be part of panel discussion on 'Incorporating social media into the learning place'. The panel was chaired by Juliet Morris, Journalist and Broadcaster. The session was billed as: 

A group of educators will discuss how content creation from different social platforms has impacted on student learning. Looking at how these institutions have exploited social media to enhance collaboration between students and other universities.
Our introductions prior to the event started via email and we quickly aligned our thoughts on the topic. However what was most enjoyable was the opportunity to meet up at the event in the Speakers Lounge. This gave us a chance to discuss the key areas we felt would be useful to share in our panel discussion but what was most enjoyable was simply sharing our teaching experiences and ideas. 

It made me think about how scarce these opportunities are when we are actually at work. Gone are the days when there was actually a staff room you could meet up in; a space to share ideas and ask questions. This for the most part now happens by chance as you pass in the corridor. Granted there are opportunities to attend staff development events at my own university and whilst a big advocate of these I tend to see the same people there. Attending external events widens the possibility of meeting others outside of your own institution. Indeed because we were speakers, Helen, Stuart and myself were in the speakers lounge. As I sipped my coffee and browsed the programme I said out loud to Helen "John Traxler is speaking. I'd like to go to this session. I've never met him but know of his work" - just at that moment John having just come into the room looked over to us! John knew Helen and came over to talk to us. We had a fascinating conversation and later went to hear his talk about the impact of integrating mobile phones into the learning environment.

If you have ever been to Excel you will know it is a huge place. The chances of bumping into people who may share your interests are therefore much reduced. It tends to be during sessions that you get chatting to whoever is sat close by. However because we now have Twitter there was an opportunity to reach out to others by following the conference hashtag. For this event it was #bett2014. You can also look through the programme and reach out via Twitter to speakers you'd like to meet. One of these was Doug Belshaw (who I have known for some years now but you get the point) A couple of tweets later and Doug came and found us and in turn John had the opportunity to catch up with him too. 

The event

I was only there for the day sadly, but I did get chance to also take in Doug Belshaw's session: A Masterclass on improving digital literacy among staff and students
Our panel session was the last of the day. We'd anticipated quite a low attendance but was surprised by how many had stayed on. Graham Attwell was one of these and it was great to finally meet him in person, having connected via Twitter for some time. I learnt about an exciting new community project he is leading using QR codes. 
All in all it was a great day and well worth getting up at 5:30am to make the journey down from Sheffield. It was a privilege being on a panel with Helen and great to meet Stuart and hear about his innovative approaches to teaching too. It was a reminder though that it is the people that make a difference and it was though the many conversations I had that made the day so special. I came away inspired.

In life it is not where you go 
but who you travel with 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

An open magical box: BYOD for Learning #BYOD4L

Back in November at the Staff and Educational Development Association Conference I caught up with Chrissi Nerantzi. Having not seen her for some time we had plenty to catch up on despite us having regular interactions on line mostly though Twitter but also Skype. 

Last year I contributed a webinar presentation on collaborative learning and communities to Chrissi's online Flexible Distance and Online course. We began  to talk about the possibility of developing some of Chrissi's very creative ideas into a new learning opportunity. 

An idea...

Our conversations continued in earnest as we sat waiting for our trains following the conference. What could an open online course look like if we focussed on bringing your own devices for learning - mobile smart devices? We wanted to align this to work of the Media Enhanced learning SIG (MELSIG). How could we help others learn about new ways to interact using the very devices they carry out with them every day? 

By the very next day we had taken our initial ideas and began building what was going to become the Bring Your Own Devices for Learning open online course (BYOD4L for short). Using Google Drive we sketched out thoughts, communicated via Twitter DMs and started to create a space on Wordpress as a platform where we could share this new opportunity for open learning. 

A magical open box

The idea was simple in nature. Create a space where anyone (teachers and students) could use their smart devices for learning as an individual or within a group. A space where everyone can learn together; reflect upon what they have learnt; and as a community share they ideas. Chrissi refers to the concept as a magical open box - a space from which anyone can take out but also contribute to.

To complement the course site (where we have used Wordpress) we have also now set up a Google+ community and a Facebook group. To embrace a fully open and inclusive approach the course does not require registration.

BYOD for learning focusses on five topics as a starting point. We welcome other ideas and hope these will emerge in the conversations that will take place. 


  1. Connecting
  2. Communicating
  3. Curating
  4. Collaborating
  5. Curating 

Finding out more

So how will we let people know about this new learning opportunity? Twitter has been our main communication tool and we have adopted #BYOD4L as the course hashtag. By searching for this hashtag you will see all the Tweets we make. You may also want to follow MELSIG on Twitter too. You can find out more about the volunteer facilitators who will be helping to make this learning experience possible. 

Using Explee (cloud-based presentation software that allows you to create animated videos) I created a short animation which you can see below. 

The course in its first iteration will run for 5 days between 27-31 January. I do hope you will join us.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Top e-Learning Movers and Shakers in 2013

Listly is a space to make lists - from baby lists to bucket lists and everything in between. It is described as a tool which bloggers, content creators and publishers use to increase user engagement, get found, and distribute their content to a wider audience. Shared lists invite viewers to vote up items or people on the list. 

In recent months I have seen increased use of Listly in the education field, where people have been listed. Two examples are:

The Edublog Awards

I was thrilled to be added to both of these Listly lists.

It has made me ponder upon how this tool could be used to create other useful educational lists. My first thoughts are curating my own personal lists of useful apps, educational websites, blogs etc. Very much along the lines of the Edublog collection of list categories, but containing my own choices.