Thursday, 6 February 2014

Looking back on #BYOD4L and #BYOD4Lchat

Image source: Kevin Lau

Sometimes you have to look back to see how far you have come.

Reading through the slides below captures what BYOD4Learning was about. What I was not prepared for was the impact it has had on the community of learners and facilitators. Following the course we have have seen so many tweets exchanged and blog posts reflecting on the experience. For many engaging with both Twitter and blogging was relatively new and yet what people accomplished and shared in the one week was phenomenal. 

The openness seemed to have both encouraged people to join but also gave them permission to do so as and when they could or wanted to. This it seems has been a great motivator. With busy lives both at work and at home, it is important we consider flexible options for learning that still include interactive opportunities to communicate and engage in dialogue and debate.   

BYOD4Learning: Overview of the Week 27-31 January 2013 #BYOD4L from Sue Beckingham

Sharing and Collaborating

Something else that struck me about the people that engaged with BYOD4L was the open generosity and empathy towards anyone asking questions. The facilitators who gave up their time to help make this course happen were outstanding. Seeing connections form between participants, information shared and collaborative resources made and shared. 

Tweet Archivist

In the flurry of last week I completely forgot to look at the visual data Tweet Archivist can provide over a week period. (Note: there are Pro options available at a cost to get more detailed ongoing information). For free it will track a hashtag and bring up pie charts and bar charts to visualise the top users (of the hashtag), top words and top urls (included in the tweets).

Here is a snapshot of #BYOD4L captured between 29 January and 6 February. As the course started on the 27 January and tweeting some weeks before, it can only give us a flavour of the tweets exchanged.


I repeated the search for the TweetChat where we used #BYOD4Lchat. During 27 January and 6 February 1680 tweets were recorded. Again bear in mind 2 DAYS are missing! This is where the real conversation went on. TweetChats were scheduled each evening between 8-9pm GMT. 

What I find fascinating is that in both cases the top words (aside from the hashtag) are LEARNING, THANKS and COLLABORATION. The focus of our conversations were around learning. That's not to say we didn't share links to useful apps or indeed use them to produce our creative artefacts or record reflections. What was evident was that as the week went on we learnt how to make the most of our devices to connect with each other and enjoy this new learning experience. 

If you missed the link to the Storify stories we curated, then you do take a look. Twitter was on fire each evening as we held an hour's chat around the topic of the day. Storify has enabled us to capture the essence of the dialogues which took place.  

Monday, 3 February 2014

An apple a day... it's good for you. And so is blogging #BYOD4L

If someone had told me a year ago that in the space of a week that I would have written half a dozen or more blog posts and posted them publicly for all to see, I would have looked at them in disbelief. But as my commitment to BYOD4L this is just what I have done. 

Writing is good for you 

I've kept another blog for some time now sharing information about social media. Social Media 4 Us focuses on the social media tools and apps. I refer to my use but it is not from a reflective perspective. I created the blog originally when introducing social media to students. It was simply an exemplar of how to create a blog, add pages, images, video etc. However I then felt that I really should write some posts to be a good role model and found that over the course of time I developed a style of writing that felt right. I started to receive comments and RTs which helped to build my own confidence. Why should this matter? It matters because we value the opinion of others. Blogs come with the option of allowing comments (which you can screen) and this is a good way to get feedback. The more posts I wrote the better I felt about this type of writing. It did get easier.   

Learning by example

Getting started with blogging should begin with 'listening' - reading other people's blogs and the comments they receive is such a valuable part of the learning process. I discovered there is no set style or required number of words like an essay. Sometimes a short paragraph is enough to capture a moment. Some people write in bullet points, use images, include video diaries. 

Through Twitter I have learnt the value of open sharing of information, thought shrapnels, questioning, debate. Taking this a step further is simply writing a paragraph in the form of a blog post. Isn't it?

Reflective writing 

Reflecting upon our thinking and in the context of BYOD4L my scholarly activity and involvement in the course is a different kind of writing. I haven't found this easy. Reflecting on what I have experienced is so much harder when you think there may be an audience. Taking my own advice however and reading blog posts of my peers, I began to question what was I in fear of? The people likely to read my posts were part of the very learning community I had been exchanging numerous conversations with. This wasn't a pass/fail piece of writing but a space I could 'think out loud' and record those thoughts as they happened. 

I feel that the very act of regular writing has helped the flow of words. It is going to require practice. Getting those thoughts down whilst they are fresh in my mind I think is the best approach. Rather than scribbling these down on a scrap of paper, I need to take these raw thoughts and capture them. I need to make more of my mobile device and even if saved as a draft, get these thoughts on to my blog in preparation for a new post. The Blogger and WordPress app are easy to use and this is something I can do on the go. 

BYOD4L has been a wonderful learning experience and the catalyst for helping me to 'grasp the nettle' of reflective writing. Nettles are too very good for you taken as soup. Who would have thought it?

 Image source: Wikipedia

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The End? Reflections as a Facilitator of #BYOD4L

Image source: Adapted from C. Frank Starmer with Creative Commons licence

Last week simply flew by. Combining a busy working week, the start of teaching in semester two and launching a week long open oniine course with a daily TweetChat between 8-9pm has brought its challenges. The biggest challenge has been juggling my time to ensure everything that needed my attention was given it.

Focussing on BYOD4L, this has been a long time in the planning. An idea seeded by my dear friend and colleague Chrissi Nerantzi led to a conversation sat at a train station. Her infectious enthusiasm of what we could do was what made me believe in what I could personally achieve. The world needs more people like Chrissi!

"Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas."
Henry Ford

Looking back

Over the next 3 months Chrissi and I exchanged hundreds of direct messages using Twitter - sharing ideas and messages of what we had updated on the growing course site and planning documents held in Google Drive and Dropbox. Our shared excitement of wanting to make this a meaningful experience for those who chose to participate in the course, meant that we worked on this project at every spare moment we could grasp. This included long into the night and over the weekend. There was much to think about and consider. Deciding on the focus, the topics, the activities, the forums, the evaluation and on the list went. Putting these ideas into practice, writing, editing and seeking feedback along the way. Cristina Costa was invaluable in this process and as our critical friend looked over the course site and gave us feedback.

We knew we couldn't deliver this course in the format we wanted to without the help of others. Seeking out those we already knew had an interest in it was a starting point. We soon came up with a list of colleagues and were over the moon when each and every one agreed to be involved with this adventure. And it was an adventure. We had our hopes of what we wanted to achieve. Over Skype conversations Chrissi and I met online with our team of facilitators. We wanted to create the next best thing to meeting face to face. I hope it worked for them as well as it did for me. I wanted to hear their voices so that I could link this with their contributions and interactions going forward on Twitter and within our informal Facilitators Facebook group. 

Looking back over the BYOD4L week

I can remember vividly proofreading one final time before publishing our blog post on Topic 1: Connecting. Chrissi direct messaged me "I can't see the post!" My heart was in my mouth, what had I done? Had I somehow inadvertently deleted our crafted message? I then realised that because we had begun to write the drafts some time ago, been in and made edits etc. it had been set to private. Panic over. 

From then on I tried my best to keep abreast of the tweets, the blog posts, Facebook and Google+ entries; make comments and interact with those sharing their ideas and reflections. I also wanted to keep reflective posts of the days activities and I also wanted to contribute to the activities set up by ourselves as Facilitators. Engaging each evening between 8-9pm in the TweetChat involved leading the first TweetChat with Neil Withnell and checking prior to that the Facilitators hosting the others were ok and felt supported, and then following up creating the daily Storify were important aspects I wanted to get right. Reasurring DMs between Chrissi and myself helped enormously. Communicating is an integral part of the supportive process of any learning journey. Encouraging questions is vital.

Mobile devices

The aim of the course was to look at how we can learn using our own devices. I use my phone constantly throughout the day to read email, access and participate in social media channels, take photographs, make notes and check my diary for where I should be next. Where there is WiFi I will also use my iPad. However for many tasks I will still gravitate towards my laptop - or should I call it a notebook? Is this a mobile device? It fits in my handbag and comes with me when I need it. As my eyes get tired after a long day I just find the larger screen easier to use. My impatience sometimes of the slippy touch screen of my phone and iPad makes me discard these and use my notebook and mouse as I prefer this over the touchpad. After nearly two decades it feels comfortable to right click and scroll. I do remember however when it felt alien and uncomfortable...

During the course we talked about using smart devices and mobile devices. The associated book project with BYOD4L calls for contributions for Smart Learning teaching and learning with smartphones and tablets in post compulsory education. My search for smart devices via Wikipedia was not helping. (Note for Andrew Middleton - you have a duty to update this Wikipedia page!). So where does this leave me? 

  • A confession that I used multiple approaches to engage with this course. 
  • Recognition that when trying to explain to someone else how to use a particular tool this may differ depending on the the device used. 
  • Learning how to use YOUR OWN devices so that you feel comfortable is so important. 
  • Don't expect each time you go back to an app or tool to remember exactly how to use it. If you get stuck Google it and chances are you will find a guide someone has written or a YouTube clip demonstrating how to do it. 
  • It's ok to reach out and ask someone - Twitter is a great channel to do so. But don't forget the people you know - peers, family, students. A simple "Could you show me how to do x?" is all it takes. 
  • It helps to hear others talk and visually share how they are using new apps and tools 

A commitment to learning

There is a perception that people who like to use technology are all confident using it. Maybe some are, but many of us have to work at it, but in the knowledge that through learning something new, the results are worth it.  Even if the end result is not as expected there will be learning from it and the desire to seek out another approach. Our BYOD4L community shared examples of this. 

Learning anything new takes commitment. Commitment to engage means that you need to find time to dedicate. Having access to my own mobile device when and wherever I was was a great enabler. I could check in and make the most of those minutes on the bus to and from work or between meetings as I walked between venues.  

A key motivation for providing this learning opportunity was that we could create a reason for a learning community to form. I think we did this. Learning with others is what made it so valuable. 

Making learning fun

I have loved trying out some of the new apps my peers on this course have introduced me to. My artistic talents are somewhat lacking with a disconnect between what I see in my mind and what appears on paper at the end of a pencil or a brush. Digital apps enable you to create mashups and overlays using drawing tools. If it 'goes wrong' I can undo and have another go. Seeing how others have used these kinds of apps through BYOD4L has been so inspiring. The spontaneous contributions to our final TweetChat where the topic was creating, demonstrated that sometimes simplicity is enough. Our rough creations made and shared within the start of the chat were fun to do and sparked a great discussion. Just by capturing a photo and sharing via Twitter enabled us all to enjoy these together. Perfection is not required! 

I have learnt much about different approaches we can take to make learning fun and am already re-looking at how I approach my teaching. Sharing these experiences going forward is important. I hope others will do so too. 

The End?

So our 5 day open course has come to an end....

Is this the end? Absolutely not! We have an associated book project and an event in April to look forward to. Chrissi and I already have plans of how we can use the BYOD4L model for other learning opportunities. BYOD4L has a Creative Common licence and we hope others will adapt it to meet their needs. To find out more about you might do this we have created a list of suggestions.

 Image source: Wikipedia

The end of a chapter maybe. Thank you to everyone who made this learning community happen. 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

What the 'tweet(s)' has that all been about then? #BYOD4Lchat

For anyone following me on Twitter over the past week in particular, you may have noticed an upsurge in Tweets, particularly between 8-9pm GMT accompanied with the hashtag #BYOD4L. These coincided with the daily TweetChat organised as part of the BYOD4Learning open course I have been running with Chrissi Nerantzi and a team of amazing Co-Facilitators. Tweets may not have made sense therefore if you were not engaged in the online conversation or chat. It may have like you could almost catch the odd word or statement just as if you were overhearing a conversation stood by a group of people perhaps in a busy train station. Our TweetChats were open though and anyone who 'stepped in' with the very question 'What is this all about' was welcomed in, and then received a flurry of responses from those participating in the chat to explain what was going on and how they could join in. 

What's a TweetChat?

If you have never experienced a TweetChat, it may be helpful I think to read this. It explains a typical format of a chat which usually lasts for about an hour. A series of questions on a chosen topic are shared over the hour and participants answer these questions sharing links, their knowledge but also with new questions of their own. Splinter groups also emerge as a few people take a point raised further and explore it. But this is brief and they then return to the focus of the chat. 

A TweetChat is often described as fast and furious; a torrent of tweets emerging one after the other. It can feel chaotic if you join in midway through the chat. And yet whilst it does feel like that initially, the pace can be managed by encouraging people to answer the questions in the format suggested and by the facilitator or participants repeating the questions.

As a facilitator I was acutely conscious that we had people engaging with a TweetChat for the first time. In our first #BYOD4Lchat on Monday, a number of participants were tweeting their confusement. But then an amazing thing began to happen. The more confident 'TweetChatters' stepped in responding to those asking questions. Over the week we saw these new TweetChatters return and engage in the chats as if they had been doing it for ever! I was filled with pride for all those who had stepped out of their comfort zone and given this a go. Well done to all of you!

Speed Networking

I was also 'looking in' on the TweetChats and observed many examples of new connections being made. A shared interest on a topic resulting in signposts to other related material. Engaging debates on a particular point. During each hour of the chat so many conversations were evident. So yes it is somewhat chaotic, but it is a good chaotic. 


It is not possible to take in every conversation during a TweetChat. What I have found useful being a participant in many chats, is when the chat is 'storified'. Storify is a great free tool that allows to to curate a selection of Tweets and using text boxes organise these into a meaningful story. It helps to present the context of the conversation. You can find examples of the #BYOD4Lchats on our Storify page dedicated to this course.

Our wonderful participants

There are so many tweets I could pull out as quotes but I think this particularly summed up the chaotic week of #BYOD4Lchat for me! Thank you Julie!


Day 5: BYOD for Learning and Creating #BYOD4L

Today's topic for BYOD4L is creating. This is the final topic for our open online course which had take place over the last five days. 

I have been blown away with the creative approaches people have taken right from the start. From photographs of hand drawn images and mind maps; audio and video clips capturing their reflections of the day before; to a whole host of ways digital apps and tools can be used in place of simply text.

Prior to the course starting each of the Facilitators created an 'about me' video clip. Let me tell you this was not an easy task for any of us! Many procrastinated before finally 'having a go'. The important thing is we all did it and these were then shared on the course site. It was our way of bringing a little something of us to introduce ourselves. Yes it may have taken us out of our comfort zone but once done I for one really enjoyed listening to my peers talk about what they hoped to get from BYOD4L!

My experience as a student  

Over the last 2-3 years I have been a student on the MSc Technology Enhanced Learning Innovation and Change course. During the taught element of the course we were introduced to some great ways to create and share information. As a short activity, rather than write a side of A4 about what change and technology meant, we were asked to summarise this in a short Animoto clip. This is what I created. During the next class (which was online) we shared our clips and then engaged in conversation about them in more detail. The artefacts provided a visual focal point to get us questioning what we we thought. It made the learning fun. 

BYOD4Lchat - a creative activity

For our final TweetChat facilitated by Chrissi and Alex, we were encouraged to reflect upon what we would take away from the course and create an artefact that we had drawn or made! My takeaway was that despite BYOD4L only being a 5 day short course, it had become more than that. We had between us developed a learning ecology; a social open community who enjoyed learning together; a lifewide learning community; a network who have the opportunity to continue learning together.


Using creativity for learning

Having listened to a number of Sir Ken Robinson's talks, I can hand on heart say he is an engaging speaker and someone I could sit and listen to for long periods. For me the lecture still has its place in learning and can engage the learner. Granted a lecture can also disengage you when the speaker is talking at you rather than to you. Ken Robinson is a joy to listen to, managing to tell a story but at the same time speckle this with questions that gets my mind racing and curious to explore more. 

In recent years RSA Animate have taken some of these talks (and other speakers) and animated them. If you have not had the opportunity to see any of these then I urge you to do so! The opening up of TED talks (a conference with a very high price tag) through videos, give us the opportunity to listen to excellent talks about a whole host of topics. Two of my favourites are:

You can follow the RSA Animate playlist of videos on YouTube and TED talks on their website where you will find over 1600 talks to choose from. 

I rather like the animated versions and often recall an image from a talk as I reflect upon what was said. Visual recall for some is an important part of the learning process. Mindmaps which can be hand drawn or digitally created are useful ways to break up information into chunks. 

Below is a short animation I created to promote the BYOD4L course using Explee. This is a very clever tool which provides simple templates that you can customise with text, pictures and sounds and create a short animated message. Its fun to experiment with the free version. 

My Edshelf collection of tools for CREATING