Sunday 5 January 2020

Tweetchats, Personal Learning Networks and CPD.

Personal Learning Networks

Last summer Laurie Phipps got us thinking once again in response this time to the tweet from @EdTechPossum below. I started writing this post and then somehow the holidays followed by the autumn semester took over and it remained in draft. Now the start of a new year and just before I return to work, it was my intention to reflect on the past decade. Having re-discovered this draft I thought it was time to finish it.


Lawrie reached out to his connections to ask them what they felt about Tweetchats through Twitter and two Jiscmail lists. For the record a tweetchat is a conversation that takes place on Twitter with a bespoke hashtag. Usually a series of 5-8 questions over the space of an hour are posted with the hashtag to stimulate a discussion around a chosen topic. Participants include the hashtag in their answers. If you search for the tweetchat hashtag you then get to see the conversations taking place. 

True to his word Lawrie did write this up titled 'Inspired by a Possum' and makes it clear that this is just a quick capture and is limited by the sample size and the nature of the collection. It made for an interesting read for different reasons. One was perceptions of what people liked or disliked about tweetchats and the other was around what personal development is considered to be.

Likes and dislikes

Unsurprisingly the respondents included ideas, feedback and opportunity to learn in relation to what they liked about tweetchats. During a tweetchat it is usual for participants to discuss and question, as well as to share links to further related resources. I frequently participate in tweetchats and always come away learning something. 

In answer to what was the main dislike, the responses included people not feeling they had a way in, and people wanting a way of breaking the ice or being introduced. As an introvert I often feel all of these in face to face group conversations. Whereas online I have gained confidence I think through observing how others interact and realised that it's fine to just jump in and contribute to the chat despite not knowing the people taking part. Perhaps more importantly it is also ok to take time to think and then respond as and when you wish to as a dialogue can take place over time. The time lapse to respond may just be a few minutes or it may be longer. You get to choose. 

Taking part in online small group webinars which involves real time conversations however does take me out of comfort zone. In these situations I often have to challenge myself to contribute. Facilitators like Maha Bali in the Virtually Connected online conversations have helped to draw me and many others into conversations and it makes such a difference. I need to think about how we could replicate this in tweetchats, to help people new to the concept find a way in. Asking people to introduce themselves just before the chat starts could be one way. The difference with the tweetchats is that unless you participate even if this is just a like or retweet, no-one knows you are even listening. 

Personal development

One of Lawrie's questions related to the timing of some of the cited tweetchats as these take place in the evening. He asked: Do you take the time “back”? (e.g. if you participate outside of working hours do you try and take some time off in lieu of participation). He specifically wanted to question why a CPD activity took place out of working hours. This surprised me as I have always taken the stand that my own personal development is something I choose to do and that this is different to the CPD training I am required to undertake as requested within my workplace. For example courses like fire awareness and unconscious bias, or as members of the Department Leadership team we all had to take a series of eight management development workshops. These are undertaken during work time. I would expect time in lieu if I was asked to take a work related course in the evening or over the weekend. 

For me my personal development is not always essential for my role, but it is something that continues to help me to grow as an individual. I do strongly believe that my online connections who I may or may not have met in person have contributed to my learning and therefore advocate the term 'personal learning network'. Many of my connections are just that - people I personally choose to connect with, interact with, and learn with. I hope over time I have also been able to contribute to others development in some small way. These conversations and learning opportunities mostly take place through Twitter. Tweetchats are just one example that contribute to my CPD. I frequently use my commute to and from work to catch up on news and through the use of Tweetdeck and the free version of Hootsuite, I can filter tweets by groups or hashtags, allowing me to focus on many different conversations. I choose when and what I want to engage with. 

For a long time now it has become second nature to share things I have found interesting by tweeting a link or retweeting what others have shared. I don't feel I have to engage constantly with others and refer to positive silent engagement (as opposed to the term 'lurking' which for me still has negative connotations) where I can choose to simply 'listen in'. As I have said many times, as children we all learned through listening and observing. It is no different online. 

It saddens me deeply that there are people that use these online spaces to spread hatred and misinformation. I hope in time there will be ways to eradicate this. It should go without saying, but if there are tweets in your stream that offend or upset you, then you can choose to unfollow those responsible, block accounts that you don't want following you, or mute conversation threads. This aside, I do feel it is important however to listen to different viewpoints and make my own decisions. I don't always agree with what others might say and yet I don't feel I have to make that known. 

My network includes people from many different countries and it is fascinating to learn about different cultures and also through shared interests. From a personal development perspective I think we can learn so much from each other through the sharing of our ongoing lifelong learning journeys. As an educator I gain so much from those who reflect on the process of that learning. I need to become a better open reflector and look up to the likes of Maren Deepwell and Sheila MacNeill. So in 2020 I must endeavour to do this and share more of my own learning experiences. 

Image credit: ijmaki from Pixabay free for use

Monday 12 August 2019

In conversation with Maren Deepwell

I recently had the privilege to be invited to take part in a short interview with Dr Maren Deepwell - a new series of 'In conversation with' posts that can be found on the ALT Blog

Having read previous posts where Maren has talked to Melissa Highton, David Hopkins, Elizabeth Charles and Maha Bali, it is fascinating to see the variety of responses to the same set of questions. I find it so interesting to hear about what others are working on. The #altc community have a common interest in the use of learning technology but the members have a wide range of roles. I think this is what makes it such a rich network and as I mentioned in one of my reponses, it is a very generous community that provides support and shares a wealth of information through the Jisclist, Twitter and events. 

Never sure who reads posts like this I was over the moon to find that Stephen Downes had picked up on this one and wrote a short post on his own blog

Maren Deepwell has posted a number of these conversations recently. The questions are pretty light ("Current recommended reading?", "In work travel, you are never without..?") and though we don't get to see a lot of substance, we get... some. For example: "The SMASH (Social media for Academic Studies at Hallam) team formed in in 2016 will be looking to share an open web site of resources and activities they have co-created." And "a weekly conversation on all things learning and teaching... take a look at"

Thank you Maren for inviting me to take part in this. 

You can read the full post here:

Sunday 14 July 2019

The ALT Conference Preview - Radio EDUtalk

Radio #EDUtalk 10-07-19 Data, Dialogue, Doing #altc

I was thrilled to be asked by Maren Deepwell to take part in a ALT Annual Conference 2019 Preview  on Radio #EDUtalk, alongside Maren and Martin HawkseyJohn Johnston one of the hosts of EDU talk led the interview and the conversation flowed. I couldn't believe how fast the time went!
We talked about the themes of the conference and how these were developed by the conference chairs. I love how they engaged in 'Visual Thinkery' with the very talented Bryan Mathers which led to the beautiful Celtic inspired conference logo below.

The conference themes are:
  • Student data and learning analytics
  • Creativity across the curriculum
  • Critical frames of reference
  • Learning Technology for wider impact

We talked about the use of social media and Martin described its use as "turbo charging the power of the event". At last year's conference over 18k tweets were shared during the three days. The use of live streaming and recordings on YouTube of the keynotes and other talks certainly opens the conference up to those that are unable to make it and also presents the opportunity to rewatch. 

The conference programme is very exciting with a great selection of sessions to choose from. I'm really looking forward to learning more about how holograms and chatbots are being used. 

You can listen to the whole interview on Radio #EDUtalk

More about the conference

ALT’s Annual Conference 2019 is seeking to confront and challenge established assumptions, approaches and accepted truths in relation to key dimensions of digital education, and to advancing our practice and thinking through critical dialogue and reflection, closer scrutiny of evidence and theory, and a stronger commitment to values including creativity, community, social good, openness and porosity, and more democratic access to knowledge and learning.

You can read more about the conference themes here.

The conference will be hosted at the University of Edinburgh and co-chaired by:
  • Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services, University of Edinburgh
  • Louise Jones, independent
  • Keith Smyth, Professor of Pedagogy at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 

The conference venue
If I was a little nervous before, finding out where I will be presenting has sent my heart racing! I am experiencing feelings of both fear and excitement in equal measure. A sneak peak at where the keynotes at this conference will take place!

Sunday 7 July 2019

Becoming a Certified Management and Business Educator #CMBE

I am delighted to now be a CMBE! 

The Chartered Institute of Business Schools launched a new scheme called the Certified Management and Business Educator (CMBE). This provides business school educators (and those subjects that include business) with a framework for continuous professional development and a designation recognising their commitment to excellence in teaching. It focuses on ongoing development and complements the HEA Fellowships and the PGCert in HE, giving educators a platform to continuously develop their practice as well as providing a recognised designation when this has been achieved. It also demonstrates a commitment to the quality of learning and teaching. Educators need to commit to 40 hours of CPD a year. 

Like other schemes such as SEDA and HEA there is an option for those who don’t currently meet the criteria. They are able to join the scheme through the Associate Management and Business Educator (AMBE) route. Individuals on the AMBE route can then qualify as CMBE after completing three years’ CPD.

The framework supports educators to develop their practice according to their development needs across enhancing teaching and learning practice; scholarship of teaching and learning; and academic leadership. What I like about this scheme is the need to record your CPD, and that this can be done in a way that suits you. Secondly the very process of doing this will be useful to reflect on at annual appraisals/PDRs. Thirdly and for me most important is that by becoming a Certified Management and Business Educator, I will demonstrate to my students that I value reflecting on my own practice and the need for continuous professional development and lifelong learning. 

Furthermore I hope to connect with other educators in the community who are also involved in the scheme and listed in the CMBE DirectoryI have added my certificate to my LinkedIn profile and shared via Twitter tagging @CharteredABS and #CMBE. Having been a member of the SEDA (Staff and Educational Development Association) and ALT (Association for Learning Technology) for many years, I very much value the learning that can take place within these communities where the open sharing of our practice is so beneficial.   

To find out more about this scheme go to:

Sunday 9 June 2019

Edge Hill University SOLSTICE Conference #SOLSTICE19

One of the highlights of my year as a Visiting Fellow at Edge Hill University is being invited to speak the annual two day SOLSTICE Conference. I feel so priviliged to be speaking alongside the other Visiting Professors and Fellows, as well as other international guests speakers sharing their practice. I can't thank the EHU CLT team enough for the warm welcome we received on arrival.  

2019 Guest Speakers:
  • Sue Beckingham – Sheffield Hallam University and Visiting Fellow
  • Professor Sally Brown – Visiting Professor
  • Dr. Mark Childs – The Open University and Visiting Fellow
  • Professor Keith Smyth – University of the Highlands and Islands and Visiting Professor
  • Simon Thomson – University of Liverpool and Visiting Fellow
  • Professor Peter Hartley – Visiting Professor
  • Professor Phil Race – Visiting Professor
  • Professor Pauline Kneale – University of Plymouth and Visiting Professor

The Programme

There was a rich and varied programme over the two days which included a great session led by Prof Sally Brown who asked us "Who are you and who do you want to be?" Sally reminded us that professional identity is not a fixed entity: we are likely to have a number over the course of our careers and often hold several simultaneously, so how can we manage these and maintain balance in our lives? It was a both a fun session (which involved designing our identities on a t-shirt) and an opportuity to explore these questions. Keith Smythe presented his work on the Digitally Distributed Curriculum which is based on the values of praxis, participation and public pedagogy, and which is constructed around the four dimensions of co-location, porosity, co-production and open scholarship. 

The wonderfully creative Sarah Wright led an active session on the creative deployment of technologies to enhance the student experience; Dawne Irving-Bell a hands on beginners guide to sketchnoting; Sarah Mersic a session on AR learning; and Suzanne Faulkner on the use of Snapchat for student tutorials. They all got me thinking about new ways to enhance my teaching with alternative approaches. That's why these events bring so much value to educators. It's not just hearing about new or different ways to do things, it is also the time to ask questions, reflect and consider how you might adopt something different. Making conections with people outside of your subject group or immediate teaching team allows you to learn from others, share your own innovations and potential develop new collaborations.  

This year I presented with my colleague Prof Peter Hartley a workshop on 'Communication revisited – new perspectives and their implications for our practice in learning and teaching.' More to come on this topic as we have been accumulating evidence and research findings to inform our revision of a text on interpersonal communication which was published before the avalanche of new technology and social media (Hartley, 1999). 

This is Your Life

A favourite part of the event was surprising Prof Phil Race with a 'This is Your Life' to celebrate his 75th birthday. The tweets during and after the event are captured in this Wakelet.  

Saturday 18 May 2019

Reading habits: how do you bookmark a page?

Scott Ibberson tweeted a table of reading habits a few days ago and it got quite a few of us thinking about our own habits and how we bookmark a page in a book that we are reading. My initial response was also neutral good: uses scrap of paper/shopping list/receipts as bookmark.

I reshared the tweet and it was fascinating seeing how others responded. It also got me thinking about it more deeply and reflecting that I really engaged in a variety of the options depending what I was reading, why I was reading, where I was reading and when I was reading.

When reading academic books, especially when undertaking research, I like to use sticky translucent flags to mark interesting sections. They can be easily re-used and moved around and they don't spoil the book pages.

I tend to buy notebooks with a ribbon bookmark for work. I do like the moleskin notebooks that also have a pocket in the back page to hold extra bits and bobs like a mini ruler. I also use these kind of tabs to mark pages I might have to go back to for a meeting at work. 

When away for a beach holiday I can easily get through 8-9 novels so it's a Kindle is a good space saver. That said I do like to buy 2-3 from charity shops to take with me. Once read I then swop with other books where the hotel has a book corner for guests to do this. My chosen bookmark good be place face down if I decide to go for a dip in the sea or whatever scrap of paper I can find if the book needs to back in my bag. 

So revisiting the table I find I really have a a variety of my reading habits dependent on whether I am reading for leisure, study or work. Here are some of my reflections. 

Lawful good
uses proper leather bookmark embossed with initials
I've never had a personalised bookmark but would love one with gold initials. I do have a couple of 'proper' bookmarks that have been given to me as presents. For some reason (unbeknown to myself!) these have been saved for something special and sit on a bookshelf in my study. I also have some handmade bookmarks given to me as gifts and these are saved too as they are so delicate.  

Neutral good
uses scrap of paper/shopping list/receipts as bookmark
Typically this is what I tend to do as I reach for whatever is to hand. It could be anything from a local takeaway menu to a flyer that came through the letterbox.

Chaotic good
uses finger as bookmark; never actually books book down
Those moments you are gripped with a section of your book and nature calls - the book of course has to go with you and this is the quickest option to bookmark the page you have got to!

Lawful neutral
uses random implement to mark place e.g. pen, phone, fork
When the need arises - a pair of reading glasses, straw, icecream stick, hairpin...

True neutral
reads on ebook, bookmarks digitally
I read a lot of novels on my Kindle. It's light and great to take on holday or long journeys on the train. 

Chaotic neutral
leaves book open, face down, at last page read
Sunday morning reading in bed when I go and make a cuppa, I will leave my book open in this way. 

Lawful evil
dog-ears corners (but smoothes them out again when finished)
Maybe as a teenager...

Neutral evil
dog-ears corners, cracks spine, highlights fav passages
Not intentionally but have lost a few pages reading on holiday as the glue has softened!

Chaotic evil
Rips out each page once its been read 

Friday 26 April 2019

My 10th Twitter Anniversary

Never in my wildest imagination did I consider what a huge impact Twitter and social media would have on my professional development! Ten years on and I have developed an international personal learning network and 11.6k followers. 

This was my first tweet in 2009 

To find your first tweet, you can use Twitter's Advanced Search. Go to and enter your username into the 'From these accounts' field under 'People'. Then to select the date. I added the date I joined Twitter in the 'From this date' section and the day after in the 'To this date'.