Sunday 20 December 2015

Social Media for Learning in HE Conference at Sheffield Hallam University

The inaugural Social Media for Learning Conference took place at Sheffield Hallam University on the 18th December 2015. This post is a collection of the activities I was involved in during the conference. Further information about the event can be found on the conference website and this blog post.

Experiences of social media in higher education: barriers enablers and next steps

The first short paper was presented with my research partners Dr Alison Purvis and Helen Rodger. The research was undertaken with colleagues at Sheffield Hallam University. We presented our initial findings from the research and will be sharing the short paper in the forthcoming conference proceedings.

The focus of our study investigates current institutional practice of the use of social media to support and enhance learning. Our short paper shares survey findings; highlighting both enablers and barriers for what is for many, still considered innovative practice where peers are calling for guided support.

There are many examples of social media used in HE to enhance learning and teaching. While some academics are confident in exploring multiple strands of social media and blend them instinctively for a multi dimensional learning experience; others are more tentative, preferring to understand the nature of the tool or process thoroughly, often by learning from others before embarking on a social media based activity (Beckingham, Purvis and Rodger, 2014). There are a broad range of factors, experiences and perceptions that may influence an individual and their resulting use of and expectations of social media as a learning construct.

The aim of the study was to examine current institutional practice in the use of social media in this way, to inform strategic direction and consider implications for future academic development to achieve a positive impact on the learning experience for students.

Fifty individuals responded to an online survey. While the majority of these (n=33) were already using social media in some way in their teaching practice, and mostly had positive attitude to it, the remainder had not. Some were open to the idea, though naturally cautious, but others were clear that it had no place in their teaching practice.

This rich picture presented a variety of barriers and enablers: where confidence was high and support and equipment available; uptake of social media as a technology enhanced learning tool was more prevalent and more successful. There was a strong connection between support (formal and informal) and individual confidence, and a subsequent willingness to try new things to enhance learning.

Recent research advocates the development of digital capabilities including the confident use of social media for communication and collaboration (Beetham 2015); and that where embedded, provide essential skills for future graduates. It is therefore timely to review the skill sets and development needs of staff in order to support the learning of students.

Beetham, H. (2015) Thriving in a connected age: digital capability and digital wellbeing. [Online] Available at:
Beckingham, S., Purvis, A. and Rodger, H. (2014) The SHU Social Media CoLab: Developing a Social Media Strategy Through Open Dialogue and Collaborative Guidance. The European Conference for Social Media, University of Brighton, Brighton, 10-11 July 2014. Available at:

VConnecting live streamed Google Hangout

Thanks to Maha Bali, virtual participants were able to join a 'vconnect' session with Eric, Mira and myself. Maha had put out a call to participate in the hangout, via Twitter and other social networks asking anyone interested to tweet to @vconnecting or herself (virtual buddy @Bali_maha) or by leaving a comment in the blog post. It was engaging discussion around the key points shared by Eric during his keynote. Participants included colleagues from the University of Cairo in Egypt and the University of Warwick. 

Virtually Connecting (2015)

Social media portfolios: building a professional social media profile for presentation in LinkedIn

My second short paper was presented with Andrew Middleton on our HEA funded project 'Connected U' and ongoing research relating to professional portfolios, the use of LinkedIn, and how colleagues develop a rich picture of their personal digital identity and associated scholarship. The website and resources can be found here: A paper will be shared in the conference proceedings. 

This short presentation first reviews the Connected U (Middleton, Beckingham & Snape, 2015), an online digital toolkit of student, alumni, staff and employer video case studies about the use of LinkedIn as a tool for professional profiling. The collection of studies and guidance was produced for a recent HEA funded project.

The Connected U project demonstrated how the social networking tool LinkedIn, as the de facto social media for professional people, provides a useful space for both students and academics to present and manage their professional profiles. LinkedIn, therefore, becomes a necessary and common focus for driving engagement with Personal & Professional Development Planning (PPDP) and for Professional Recognition respectively. More than this, the project asserted that student employability should be framed within a lifelong strategy for being professional, creating an ’employability continuum’. Therefore both students, as aspiring professionals, and academic tutors, as practising professionals, are seen to have a common interest on this continuum in developing skills, habits and reputations and in ensuring they are capable of maintaining their professional standing throughout their careers.

If LinkedIn provides a ‘presentation layer’ driving engagement with professional profiling, how can other social media help to feed this, keeping profiles fresh and up-to-date? This paper will go beyond the cautionary and protective digital literacy discourse about personal management of social media exposure to positively explore digital capabilities and practices. The paper describes the concepts of the ‘digital toolbox’, digital narratives and social media portfolios; ideas which have since been developed as an outcome of the original project.

Middleton, A., Beckingham, S., & Snape, K. (2015) ‘Linking learning: lifewide and lifelong’ Presented at ALT-C “Shaping the future of learning together”, 8th-11th September 2015, Manchester, UK.
Connected U: the digital toolkit on developing professional online presence

Wednesday 16 December 2015

The 12 Apps of Christmas

For the last two years Chris Rowell and Steve Dawes have developed  and shared their online CPD course promoting apps in Higher Education called the ’12 Apps of Christmas’. 

Over the twelve days of the programme, starting from December 1st, Chris and team publishes a daily post with the day’s task by 10am, giving participants the opportunity to work through it whenever there is ten minutes or so spare in the day. Each post contains instructions on a different app, together with tailored suggestions of how to use it with your students and how it might work effectively for you in a professional context.

In general each task shouldn't take much more than ten minutes a day so a nice bite sized CPD opportunity. Participants are advised: "Don’t worry if you get a bit left behind – you can always catch up!"

For those using Twitter there was a course hashtag #RUL12AoC and this provided an opportunity to connect up with others on the course. After the live programme, the materials are made available on the course site to refer back to later, or to catch up on in your own time if you dropped behind.

What makes this course different is that Chris and Steve have reached out to the community to contribute as facilitators and lead on one chosen app. I was delighted to be asked by Chris to facilitate on day 9 with the app Periscope. 

I've written a couple of blog posts on using Periscope in educational contexts:

What made this day for me seeing the app used via a live Periscoped discussion with Laurie Phipps and James Clay.  They talked about Mobile Apps and the work they've been doing on Digital Capability. 

You can access the course here:

Friday 9 October 2015

50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media #Jisc50social

This week I was delighted to be informed that I had been selected as one of the 50 most influential higher education professionals using social media by Jisc. Ok this is an understatement! I was over the moon! It was also fabulous to see peers I have collaborated with on social media initiatives recognised too, plus other colleagues in a wide variety of disciplines.

The final line-up were chosen by a panel of social media experts, including award-winning social media editor for Times Higher Education Chris Parr, Inside Higher Ed journalist and blogger Eric Stoller, and Teacher Training Videos founder Russell Stannard, as well as Jisc’s David Kernohan and Sarah Knight.

Below is the summary by Jisc of my social media profile:

Sue Beckingham
Sheffield Hallam University
Sue’s interest is in making the links between online presence and employability; and digital scholarship and personal learning communities. She has delivered talks, workshops and keynotes nationally and internationally, and has influenced many of her peers to use social media to collaborate and communicate between the university and students, academics and alumni, and themselves.
She has collaborated with the cross-institutional open course BYOD4L, FOS, the weekly #LTHEchat; the Social Media for Learning Framework and the HEA funded LinkedIn toolkit 'Connected U' project. These have helped staff and students develop digital capabilities, integrate social media into their own practice, increase dissemination of research, and innovate in learning and teaching. She uses SlideShare to share presentations and resources with a Creative Commons licence, blogs at Social Media for Learning and uses Twitter to disseminate useful information, her own practice and that of others.

The list of 50 educators are truly inspiring and demonstrate innovation and creativity in our approaches to learning and teaching, as well as ways of communicating and collaborating as peers and with students using social media.  

#Jisc50social Twitter List

Sunday 4 October 2015

Enquire within about everything: the influence of Pablo Picasso and Sir Tim Berners-Lee on my learning #twistedpair

Dove of Peace by Picasso

Sunday afternoon and Steve Wheeler has set a new blogging challenge. This time building on a post of his own he tempts us to write a blog post about a strange or twisted pairing of two unlikely people or characters and tag the post #twistedpair. The idea being that I then go on to challenge three other people. To get the creative thoughts going he also presents a list to choose from. My attention was caught by Pablo Picasso and Sir Tim Berners-Lee. A tweet from Steve directly setting me the challenge was enough to earmark some time to reflect on why I had been drawn to these two individuals and the resulting blog post is a summary of my thoughts and memories.

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso was a Spanish artist (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) who is possibly best known for his quirky Cubist paintings and sculptures. Any art experts out there will no doubt expound upon this and talk about his 'Blue Period, 'Rose Period' and 'African influenced Period'. You can read more about this here and view a wide variety of his work by googling PicassoLove or loath his work he was undeniably talented. I am not an art expert nor an artist, but I do know a little about Picasso and can recognise his work when I see it. My favourite pieces are actually his simple graphic line drawings. I have both the Dove of Peace and the Sleeping Woman; prints purchased for a just few pounds from Ikea and then framed. I was captured by their simplicity and the fact that they speak to me and evoke feelings of peacefulness and the symbolism of peace.  Just as love is in the eye of the beholder, art appreciation in any form is individual. We have only to look at the Turner Prize named after the artist J M W Turner held by the Tate Gallery and find ourselves raising an eyebrow when thinking about some of the nominated or indeed winning pieces....

Sleeping Woman by Picasso
Sir Tim Berners-Lee

In contrast Sir Tim Berners-Lee is a Computer Scientist and famous for inventing the World Wide Web and perhaps less so for establishing the World Wide Web Foundation and dedicating his life to ensure the Web 'belongs to all of us'. Tim saw the potential of linking together otherwise unconnected information back in 1980 when he was working as a consultant at CERN where he pursued this idea in his own time for his own personal benefit. He named this prototype Enquire (the title inspired by a Victorian book on his parents' book shelf called 'Enquire Within About Everything' - a collection of tips on anything from stain removal to managing finances). What is less known is that his initial paper on the system was rejected by a conference, because the organising committee considered his proposal too simple an implementation of hypertext. However Berners-Lee persevered and went on to publish his landmark paper in 1989 called Information Management: A Proposal and to build the world's first website. Even at this stage his idea is reputed to have been considered as vague but exciting. In 1994, he founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Connecting through enquiry

So what do these two people have in common? Both had the drive and energy to believe in themselves despite setbacks. Ideas are the building bricks and foundation for new ideas. Making simple connections between previously perceived disparate objects, opened the floodgates to inspirational outcomes.

It could be argued that Tim Berners-Lee has empowered us all to take ownership of our own enquiry pathways. Through the 'web' we can find practically everything we want to know and in multiple mediums. We can connect with others to co-learn and collaborate; to discuss and debate; to seek and provide feedback and advice.

In his own book Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor (1999), Berners-Lee talks of his vision:
"The vision I have for the Web is about anything being potentially connected with anything. It is a vision that provides us with new freedom, and allows us to grow faster than we ever could when we were fettered by the hierarchical classification systems into which we bound ourselves."

Picasso felt empowered to use his artistic talents and the freedom to explore these in new and exciting ways. He in turn was unfettered by what might be referred to as traditional art style. 

Art and HTML 

In 1996 and 2004 my life changed irrevocably following a divorce and the loss of my Father. I was also made redundant. My Picasso prints are a symbolism of my independence and gave me both joy and also a sense of peace when admiring them on my wall. Embarking on my first degree as a mature student at the Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Shefield I was introduced to HTML and can still remember the joy of creating my first web page. The web has since paved the way to open many new doors and enabled me to connect with people I would never have met otherwise. I remain curious and know that I have so much more to learn, but in the confidence that through enquiry I can and will continue to be a lifelong and lifewide learner.  

So for me Picasso and Berners-Lee are somehow intertwined in the re-making of a more confident me.  It is in our power to accept our own fate or to create our own destiny. 'Enquiring within' starts with ourselves. Maintaining an open and enquiring mind is how we can continue to learn and grow.

flickr photo by Backbone Campaign shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Sunday 16 August 2015

Building confidence takes time: Learning from Elks and Aesop's Fables #blideo

Public domain image: Pixabay

#blideo - a new blogging challenge

Steve Wheeler has raised the bar and taken the recent #blimage challenge (blogging about an image) and given myself, David Hopkins and Amy Burvall a video to blog a response to + find a video of our choice and pass on the challenge to three more people.

In recent years I've found the confidence to take on many a new challenge. These include giving keynotes at academic conferences to trekking 103km across the Sahara Desert to raise money for charity. Ask me a decade ago if I could do this and I would have said "Not a chance". 


My immediate response to Steve's tweeted challenge was one of excitement. An opportunity to reflect and write. The tweet led to a blog post and a short video. I watched this and my reaction was totally unexpected.... 

I was taken back to my days at secondary school and then even earlier. This challenge had provided me with the stimulus to focus my thoughts and yet I was experiencing mixed emotions and these were coursing through me, taking me back and forth through various episodes in my life. The video was evoking memories I had not visited for a very long time. The elk that was left behind became me and took me back to two memories where I too felt abandoned. One is sports day and the other is being left handed. But first, if you have not already, watch the video.

1. School Sport Day

Girls Hurdles by Marie

This is where the video first took me back in time... The hurdle race

For reasons I've never understood, I have poor coordination skills - catching, throwing, kicking, jumping... I'm hopeless. Many a bruise I collected attempting to get over a hurdle never mind take part in a race. I felt the pain of the final elk. The one left behind. That was me on Sports Day. Never picked for the school team and although secretly relieved there was also a sense of rejection, not feeling good enough. Over the years I tried hard to find a sport I could participate in - at school it seemed that you had to have something to be part of a gang. I persevered taking tennis lessons, and even left handed golf coaching on the putting range. However despite patient teachers it wasn't to be. And there opens another issue - being a left hander... 

2. Being left-handed

In the late '60s we were taught to write with a fountain pen. Well we were taught to do write right handed... Anyone left-handed who has tried to use an ink pen will know that as soon as you write more than a word your palm has a habit of brushing over the writing and wet ink smudges... Smudges were not accepted. Many a play time was missed as I had to repeat a piece of writing.

Kristina Werner

Finding my niche

Before you worry that I went through school traumatised, I can assure you I didn't. I found that non-competitive sports were far more enjoyable and went on to collect many certificates for swimming and live saving. The biro was a preferred writing tool (less smudging) and now I tend to note take using a pencil with attached rubber, as well as using a keyboard and storing notes electronically. In terms of practical activities I enjoyed art, and applied this creative side to the classes then called Home Economics or Domestic Science. I excelled at cooking and baking, creating handmade menus and glowed with pride when I was given the school prize at our Leavers Ceremony. 

Reflecting on these aspects made me think of the Hare and the Tortoise. There is a tendency for many to think life is a race and if you are not in there first then you've lost the opportunity to shine. Yes we have to learn a range of skills but a) we don't have to excel at everything and b) some will take longer to develop. Key to this is giving learners a sense of self-belief to build confidence.

The Hare and the Tortoise - Aesop's Fables
A hare boasts to the other animals about how fast he can run. When none of them responds initially to his challenge for a race, he taunts them that they are too scared even to try. When tortoise speaks up and takes on the challenge, the hare scoffs that he won’t even waste his time racing the slowest creature in the world. Eventually though, he agrees to the race in a week's time.
The tortoise spends the week in training, but continues to move very slowly, and the other animals wonder if the race is a good idea. Nevertheless, there is a large crowd of animals on the day of the race.
The race begins and the hare roars off, while the tortoise plods along slow and steady. Deciding he is so far ahead the hare decides to have a sleep in the sun. However, when he wakes, the tortoise is nearing the finish line and takes an unlikely victory.
BBC School Radio

Helping our students find their way 

Going back to the video, the elk that was left behind made it in the end. In the space of time it had taken him, the others had galloped across the next field and at first seemed out of sight, until you realise a small group were waiting. Peer support and encouragement is a vital part of our learning experience. My students don't always value the importance of group work until later on. There are frequent moans that someone in the group is not pulling their weight. Yes there are the 'free-loaders' but often when I question if they have spoken to the person to find out why, they have omitted to do this. I think as a tutor I also play a role in getting to the bottom of issues. Shyness is something that comes out time after time. Ice breaker activities to help the students get to know each other can help to break down perceived barriers. I'm going to re-visit this next semester and prioritise this.

So to conclude, thank you Steve. The video has taken my thinking on to new directions!

My #blideo challenge  

I would like to extend the challenge to anyone who wishes to respond. However following the rules set, here are the names of three people I nominate to give this fun and thought provoking activity a go!

  1. Chrissi Nerantzi @chrissinerantzi
  2. Whitney Kilgore @whitneykilgore
  3. Joyce Seitzinger @catspyjamasnz 

And my chosen video.

Saturday 15 August 2015

The collaborative #LearningWheel led by @DebMillar24

A few weeks ago I was included in the Tweet below and introduced to an amazing and ever growing resource that has contributions from educators across the UK. It's called the Learning Wheel and there are a number of these 'wheels'. 

When I took a look at the Prezi Deb Millar had created, I was immediately enthused and recognised this was a valuable resource. The #LearningWheel focuses on four key areas. 

  • Learning content
  • Assessment
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

The Learning Wheel is described as a simple graphic to help bridge the gap between traditional teaching methods and contemporary digital learning content and resources via four modes of student engagement and three modes of delivery. 

Examples of completed wheels include How to use Twitter, Blendspace, QR Code, Moodle and Assistive Technologies to engage students.There are also contextualised wheels which map curriculum content to individual resources and wheels. Examples include How to use Twitter to engage learners studying subjects such as Maths, English Language, Illustration, S and PE, Graphic Design, Hairdressing. Education Studies and ESOL.

The Learning Wheels are focused at FE learners but there is much that will transfer to both schools and higher ed. 

However my engagement didn't end there as I was invited to contribute to a new Learning Wheel. How could I say no! Tweets went out to ask other educators to collaborate and contributions came pouring in. The collaboration to build the 'arms' of the wheel all took place in a Google Drive. The latest wheel is titled 'Using a range of OERs/DRs for FE level Research/Library'. It can be viewed on Google Drive

Deb has done a sterling job both crowd sourcing contributors but also in the fab way she has acknowledged each individual who has collaborated by sharing ideas, both on the poster itself and through Twitter. It just goes to show what can be achieved when many hands pull together. 


I am sure this latest release won't be the last! Be sure follow Deb on Twitter @DebMillar24 and #LearningWheel.

Sunday 2 August 2015

My keynote at eLearning 2.0 Conference (2015) #elearning2

I was invited recently by Chris Evans (Brunel University) Jennifer Killham, (University of Cincinnati, USA), on the recommendation of Steve Wheeler to give a keynote at the annual eLearning 2.0 Conference at Brunel University in London. This was exciting on two counts - one the invitation itself to keynote and two that Steve had put forward my name. I then discovered the second keynote was Mark Childs. I'd met Mark at a previous conference and have a huge respect for his work. I felt both honored and in awe at being billed alongside Mark. 

Dr Mark Childs is a freelance academic, working for several universities and learning organisations in the UK, USA, South Africa and Croatia. Since 1997 he has worked on nearly 40 technology-supported learning projects as an evaluator, manager and principal investigator, predominantly in synchronous online communication. In parallel to this he has had posts in academic development at Wolverhampton, Warwick, Coventry and Worcester Universities as well as running staff development sessions in Singapore, Oman and Ethiopia. His PhD in Education in 2010 was on learners’ experiences of presence in virtual worlds and he has written and edited several books in this field. 

Now whilst this was not my first keynote, a feeling of self doubt enters your mind when faced with preparing a 30 minute talk followed by 15 minutes questions. What if my talk doesn't appeal to the audience? What if I pitch it wrong? Will the audience gain anything from what I say? Will it align with the conference theme and others interpretation of this? 

The theme of  eLearning 2.0 Conference (2015) was “The Paradigm Shift: Refocusing on the Student”. This educational paradigm shift is fuelled by the unprecedented access that students now have to information coupled with a view of learning as a constructive process consisting of selecting, organising and integrating information. Sessions in the conference programme aimed to explore both technology-enhanced learning and social media technologies. With this information I explored online identities and the discord between social and professional. 

My talk commenced with an activity that got all the delegates on their feet with the instruction to turn to the person in front or behind them and 60 seconds each to shake hands and introduce themselves, stating who they were and what they did. Such introductions are carried out many times as we meet new people in work and social situations, and yet online many do not make good use of the space there is to introduce themselves by writing an informative bio. Online we do not have the same visual cues we have when talking face to face. To be effective communicators online our messages need to be clear, and consideration needs to be given to our 'online voice'. Just as we learnt that emailing in capitals is akin to shouting, we need to develop our communication skills in social networking spaces. 

My talk went on to consider the blurring boundaries of professional and social communication, the importance of building an online reputation and developing a professional digital presence. Leading by example ensures that as educators we can go on to help our students build their online presence and see the value of digital connections, in preparation for placements and attaining graduate jobs. I shared examples of giving students the opportunity to interpret guidance on 'managing your digital footprint' and 'using social media responsibly', by creating short animations and films. Such artifacts not only help the students creating them to develop a range of skills, they are items that can be included in their own digital portfolios. The film clips can also be used as discussion points with other students and indeed colleagues. 

Question time after my talk was vibrant and continued into the coffee break and even over lunch. I was reassured that there is much yet to talk about this topic and by having these shared conversations we can start to tease out insecurities and worries relating to digital connectedness and look at how we can make more of this in a professional context for mutual benefit.  

The conference was billed as a collaborative space for educators, students, researchers, entrepreneurs, and policy makers to share their eLearning classroom successes, as well as new developments in their research and the workplace. Delegates were not disappointed and there were plentiful opportunities to network and chat between sessions. The event had a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere - credit to the wonderful organisers Chris and Jennifer. 

Saturday 25 July 2015

My reflections on #SHULT15 Sheffield Hallam University Learning and Teaching Conference 2015

The presentations, videos, photos and podcasts from the annual learning and teaching conference at Sheffield Hallam Uni are now up…

My reflections

I look forward to this annual learning and teaching conference as it gives me an opportunity to learn about good practice from colleagues across the university and to network and develop new connections, as well as build upon existing ones. I am on the conference steering group and know exactly how much work goes into the planning to make sure that a varied programme to suit all interests is achieved. Hours goes into planning the detail and there is a huge sense of satisfaction when post event their is good feedback from attendees. The success of such an event is a team effort and beyond the steering group includes colleagues from IT, Facilities and of course both presenters and participants. 

Each year I submit a proposal, sometimes on my own and other times with colleagues. I find it very rewarding to present research or project work to my peers as I can guarantee (from experience) that colleagues will question and provide feedback on the work shared. This helps to develop ideas and is always a positive experience. There is always scope to build upon what I do, learn from others' experience and to try new approaches. 

This year there were a variety of colab sessions on the programme to choose from. In contrast to discussion papers these workshops were more hands on and interactive with activities that stimulated discussions. What I especially liked was that the sessions encouraged contribution both before and after the event, and resources being co-developed that anyone can use. My colleagues David Eddy and Collette Fegan ran a colab on Online Distance Learning – Challenges, Conversations, SolutionsDavid Smith and Graham Holden co-led a colab titled Ready, Steady, Learn! There was a definite buzz in the sessions I attended and the conversations continued afterwards. 

Throughout the conference there was an encouragement to use social media and in particular Twitter with the event hashtag #SHULT15. It was great to see so many tweeting at the event and also so many who were following the hashtag or 'happening upon it' through connections who were tweeting!

What did I (re)learn? 

  • As educators we should never stop stop learning - I came away with fresh ideas to use in my teaching and new connections I can continue to learn from and with
  • Through observing others we can develop our own presence - both keynotes were wonderful exemplars of engaging speakers who made their talks interactive with the audience
  • Talking unlocks new innovative ideas - events like these bring people together and serendipitous conversations fueling great conversations are an inevitable outcome
  • Inspiration is on our own doorstep - taking the opportunity to listen and learn from peers within our own institution is something we should all value more and celebrate

Further info on the conference

Conference website can be found here:

The keynotes for the conference were Professor Simon Lancaster and Professor Liz Barnes.

Professor Simon Lancaster

Professor Liz Barnes

Becoming the LinkedIn University: Students and staff – developing our professional profiles together

My contribution to the day was a presentation with my colleague Andrew Middleton on the LinkedIn University, a HEA funded project we have been working on.

Short Abstract

Professional recognition and identity are important to all staff and students. How each of us fosters and maintains our professional identity is problematic. In this Social Digital Age maintenance of good reputation requires a fluent life-wide engagement with professional profiling as exemplified in the idea of a life-wide “LinkedIn University”.

Detailed Outline

We report on the outcomes of our HEA Employability project which sought to promote student engagement in Personal and Professional Development Planning.

Not only is engagement in PPDP important to employability, it develops a student’s learning capability, and their sense of being and becoming. The project began by questioning where PPDP sits, challenging views of it being a teaching, learner support, or career development problem. PPDP underpins all these and, reflecting on last year’s conference, is best understood as a life-wide and lifelong habit best fostered while at university to develop the reflective graduate capable of taking care of their future. This requires PPDP to be a meaningful concept to the learner. The project has sought to ‘un-problematise’ PPDP so that the learner, and all those who support learning, embrace its importance.

Thomas (2013, p.10) says, “higher education institutions should aim to nurture a culture of belonging within the academic and social community. This should be encouraged through active student engagement, across the institution…” So while PPDP remains pertinent to teaching and learning, it comes from a life-wide view of learning while at university (Jackson, 2013a; 2013b).

The project aimed to concretise this life-wide view of learning, employability and PPDP by focusing first on the ‘presentation layer’; creating and maintaining a professional profile to present ourselves to others. By establishing good presentation practice using LinkedIn (the de facto online social media professional profiling tool) the meaning of, and engagement with, PPDP becomes clearer to the aspiring and practicing professional.

The ‘professional profile’ connects strongly to ideas about professional recognition and reputation for academic staff. A mutual interest for staff and students is now envisaged in which each models good practice and supports the other in using online social media.


An audio recording for our presentation is available on the conference website.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Buck the status quo #blimage


Thank you David Hopkins for once again putting out the challenge! Your latest image from Johan Hansson is aptly named 'Stormtrooper with a camera - The sunset'

My initial reaction was: Here's a green light for horizon scanning. Permission to go out in the wild and seek innovation and innovators! You are on a mission. Bring back good practice and stories of engaged staff and students in the art of learning and teaching. 

Explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.... Ok different film but the image inspiration took me here.

Dare to be different comes to mind

Buck the status quo

Chris Guillebeau who wrote the book 'The Art of Non Conformity' suggests that we must be: 

open to new ideas
don't accept everything at face value, but do listen and question

dissatisfied with the status quo
don't be unremarkably average - challenge ideas

willing to take personal responsibility
have empathy, be honest and support those working with you

willing to work hard life is not short of challenges

determination, perseverance and grit is needed


My #blimage challenge is to consider the image below. I look forward to responses! This is open to everyone who wants to write a blog post relating the image to learning, and then pass on the challenge with an image of your own choice. Tweet the link and include the hashtag #blimage. Check the growing collections of posts from people across the globe!


Wednesday 22 July 2015

Reflections on @FOS4L Flexible Open Social Learning #FOS4L

This post is an accont and reflection of my experiences engaging with and facilitating FOS learning. Details of what FOS is and how it came about can be found in a previous post. In short FOS stands for flexible open and social learning and took place last week as a 5 day learning event. 

The co-learning experience

Months of planning and finally it was time to commence FOS. That said we had been promoting a community space on Google+ for participants to introduce themselves. I felt this worked well and gave me and the other facilitators the opportunity to welcome joining participants. The event is totally open with no registration required. This is to allow everyone to dip in and listen if they wish to, and join in when they are ready. 

On launch day we released the first of the daily posts containing signposts to the activities, resources and recommended reading. As the day progressed I was delighted delighted to find so many new posts in the Google+ Community and a growing collection of tweets containing the #FOS4L hashtag. Along with other facilitators in the FOS team we were keen to respond to posts and welcome new participants to the community. From experience when taking online courses myself, it is really important to build social presence. Letting people know you have read their contributions by responding to them is valued. 

Public domain image:
As facilitators it was important to work together and support each other too. Making use of social tools like Facebook groups, Google hangouts and Google Docs allowed us to communicate, raise questions and plan along the way. I'm constantly amazed at what people can achieve when we do work together towards a common goal. 

On the Monday we held an upside down twitter chat or 'question shower'. This was a new approach initiated by the wonderfully creative Chrissi Nerantzi. Now at this point I as an experienced partaker and lead for numerous tweet chats, started to feel nervous. Chrissi was taking away the structure of pre-planned questions and suggesting that anyone can ask a question, based on the suggested pre-reading in the blog. An hour of scattered questions! She assured me it would be fine... Now I have ultimate faith in Chrissi, so whilst it did take me out of my comfort zone I agreed to lead the first question shower - which was to introduce it and then let others jump in and question away. I can't say I didn't have a few worries but in the name of creativity the question shower was launched. And guess what?.... It was a blast. Questions darted all over the place, with answers galore in response. You can see how it went in the Storify below. It's worth a look!

Storify of the Question Shower on Twitter

Fast forward....

The week flew by and if I could have pressed pause or indeed rewind I would have done! My new experiences have been learning curves and I'm pleased I took some new challenges. It is so easy to get set in our ways. I was reminded that if a new innovation doesn't work then review it and see if it can be tweaked and try again. In the event you and your learners are still not happy you can always go back to what you were doing before or find something even better.

Before we knew it, it was Friday and the week  culminated with a 'giant hangout'. I truly felt as if I have been "Standing on the shoulders of giants". I feel privileged that in the short space of a week I had the opportunity of co-learning with so many wonderful educators. Informal learning and CPD doesn't need to take up hours and whatever time you invest, you can come away learning something new that you can apply to your practice. Building your personal learning network and connecting with other like minded people is in my mind the richest opportunity any educator can have - connections can be made both online and off.    

Review of the week

Below is a slidedeck that captures key highlights of the week. A huge thanks must go to our facilitators Neil Withnall, Stephen Powell, Mike Nicholson, Stathis Konstandinidis and Deb Baff. Our team of 7 come from 5 different institutions and I know I can speak for myself and Chrissi as organisers of this event, it would not have been possible without them. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work and learn together.    

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Fortunate Learning and Learning Fortunes #blimage

I couldn't resist taking up the challenge once again when Jane Bozarth responded to Jane Hart's #blimage challenge. Above Is Jane B's chosen image. In case you have missed this hashtag which seems to have erupted today, the objective is to write a blog post linking the image to learning and to then add your own image and share with more educators. Blog posts are being curated on Pinterest by Simon Ensor. Also check out posts by Amy Burvall and Steve Wheeler who set this going! You can get the gist from my previous blog post here.

Fortune Cookies

So my first response is I see fortune cookies. What are they? Well a little look at Wikipedia tells us that...

fortune cookie is a crisp cookie usually made from floursugarvanilla, and sesame seed oil with a piece of paper, a "fortune", on which is an aphorism, or a vague prophecy. The message inside may also include a Chinese phrase with translation or a list of lucky numbers used by some as lottery numbers, some of which have become actual winning numbers

The BBC even have a recipe to make Fortune cookies!

100g/3½oz plain flour
1½ tbsp cornflour
50g/1¾oz caster sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 free-range eggs, whites only
1 tsp water
1½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract

Preparation method
Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Line a baking tray with a silicone mat. Write fortunes on pieces of paper about 6cm x 1cm/2½in x ½in.
Sift the flour and cornflour into a large bowl then add the sugar and salt and mix well. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the oil, egg whites, water and vanilla and almond extracts.
Place tablespoons of the mixture onto the silicone mat and use the back of a metal spoon to swirl out the mixture into 10cm/4in circles. Leave space between each cookie as they will spread a little during cooking; you will get about five cookies onto the baking tray so will have to cook them in batches. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. The outer edge of each cookie should turn golden brown and the cookies should be easy to remove with a spatula when cooked.

Place a fortune in the centre of each cookie and while the cookie is still soft and pliable, fold it in half and pinch the semi circular edges together to seal. Place the folded edge of the cookie onto the rim of a cup or glass and gently pull the two corners down, one on the inside of the cup and one on the outside, to form the classic fortune cookie shape. Set aside to cool and repeat with the remaining cookies.

Fortune messages

You can download and print fortunes from various internet sites such as the Fortune Cookie Message Archive. Who'd have thought it was such a big thing? And yet the more I read, the more I recalled vague memories of weddings including these as table favours. I'm not a fan of Chinese food (as it is served in the UK, which I understand is different to China) but realise these fortune cookies are also given out at some point during the meal. 

Reading further it would seem there is a dispute with regards to the origin, with claims that fortune cookies actually come from Japan. The New York Times shares a story about Nakamachi, a folklore and history graduate student at Kanagawa University outside Tokyo, who has spent more than six years trying to establish the Japanese origin of the fortune cookie. 

"As she researched the cookie's Japanese origins, among the most persuasive pieces of evidence Nakamachi found was an illustration from a 19th-century book of stories, "Moshiogusa Kinsei Kidan." A character in one of the tales is an apprentice in a senbei store. In Japan, the cookies are called, variously, tsujiura senbei ("fortune crackers"), omikuji senbei ("written fortune crackers"), and suzu senbei ("bell crackers")."

Cookies go stale and fortunes are forever was the title of Fine Art thesis written by David Cavaliero. It is deep and may need further unpacking. However the title caught my eye. Thinking about learning approaches, there are many examples where these may be considered stale and not engaging. The materials shared in lectures can sometimes be jaded or out of date. Perhaps though at the time they were created they were 'of the moment' and captured students curiosity to learn more. The ability to learn is our fortune. Learning fortunes can be anything from quick wins and just in time learning to deep learning and life changing. I feel fortunate to have had the learning opportunities I have had and I hope I am going some way to give this back to my students and those I learn with.  

Can we make our fortune through learning? A measure of prestige in the US is being a company on the Fortune 500 list. What did it take to get there? What's your measure of success in relation to learning? 

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