Wednesday 21 January 2015

Creative Self Expression for Digital Scholars

One of the profound changes that is taking place at the start of the 21st century is the creation of many new affordances for creative self-expression brought about by the technological revolution that is carrying us into a new Social Age of learning and a new culture of participation, creation and co-creation. Aided by the internet and its associated technologies we are changing our habits of communicating and interacting through the on-line environments we increasingly inhabit.
Fundamentally, as a society we are changing the way we find, share and co-create information to develop new knowledge and meaning. The world is full of content creators and people offering their unique perspectives on anything and everything and full of opportunity to collaborate to co-create new knowledge, objects and relationships. The very act of communicating in the Social Age offers new affordances for creative self expression and examples are given below of some of the ways in which social media can encourage and enable creative self-expression for all digital scholars working in higher education.

Traditional channels to share achievements

The CV or resume has been used for many years as a means of sharing work experience, skills and qualifications. Typically the 2-sides of A4 paper CV is used as a means of selecting applicants for job interviews. In the last two decades we have seen a growth in the Company website which may offer a Who’s Who gallery. The purpose of these is to showcase the skills of those who work for that organisation. The digital CV for many is now having a LinkedIn profile and using the affordances for professional networking and publication that LinkedIn provides. This professional networking site has provided the space to host these since 2003.

Traditional channels to express scholarly activity

In the main these have been peer reviewed journal articles and books. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. Whilst providing valued benchmarking information and reputational yardsticks, for use within the higher education (HE) sector and for public information, we must also consider how to highlight the excellent work that doesn’t make the dizzy heights of the REF. A further consideration is the time it takes for research to actually be published.
Professor Patrick Dunleavy argues that “a new paradigm of research communications has grown up -  one that de-emphasizes the traditional journals route, and re-prioritizes faster, real-time academic communication”. He goes on to introduce the blog as a useful mechanism to share a synopsis of your article, book or chapter. The likes of Wordpress and Blogger offer free blog sites and are supported with excellent online help guides to get you started. Web 2.0 drag and drop technology also enables us to very easily create our own websites to curate the products of our research (See for example Weebly).

Using social media to become and sustain yourself as a digital scholar

Social media is what it says on the tin. It is digital media that enables you to share information socially. By social this means enabling opportunities for interaction and dialogue. It goes beyond text as multimedia can be shared in the form of images, video and audio.
In a recent open lecture on Social Media and the Digital Scholar I suggested that providing bite sized links to your scholarly work can be helpful to others, highlighting topics of mutual interest. Examples might include:
  • writing a LinkedIn post and updates which include links to useful content
  • adding presentations to SlideShare and sharing also on your LinkedIn profile
  • adding your publications to your LinkedIn profile: articles, press releases, papers, books and chapters
  • adding projects you are involved in along with the names of those you are collaborating with
  • writing guest posts for other peoples’ blogs, websites and digital magazines
  • writing your own blog and sharing a link via Twitter
Taking this a step further and considering the technology so many of us have at our fingertips and contained within the mobile devices we carry with us, there are now so many more opportunities to become more creative in the way we share our scholarly work. Beyond text we can now easily capture images, video and audio using our mobile devices and share these on a variety of social media channels. Thinking about utilising a variety of rich media to express ourselves is the first step and will provide the means of adding your own creative mark to the work you are sharing.

Ten creative ways social media can be used:

1. Twitter

Having only a maximum of 140 characters per message (tweet) brevity is the word!. Adding hyperlinks to websites can provide the reader with more information. These links could also be to videos, audio or images. In addition you can upload an image of your choice and this will appear below the tweet. This is where you can become creative as you can design your own images. There is now an option to pin a tweet to the top of your profile page. Selecting one you wish to promote along with an image can be very useful. Opportunities for creativity abound in the messages and images you create, and the way you engage with others using this medium.

2. Slideshare

You can upload PowerPoint presentations, documents and infographics to Slideshare. If you are on LinkedIn you can choose to auto-add these to your profile. This adds a visual aspect that stands out amongst the text. You can also capture the embed code and display your slideshares in your blog or website.

3. Screencast-o-matic

Create guides in the form of a screencast video. Tools such as screencast-o-matic capture anything on your screen from a PowerPoint set of slides, a word doc, a photo, diagram or drawing along with a recording of your voice over. The recording can be uploaded to YouTube or saved as a file. It can then be shared via your chosen social networks.

4. Pinterest

Pin your visual assets - photos, drawings, sketches, diagrams of your work, book covers, presentations - on to a virtual pinboard. The image maintains the link to the site it was pinned from. You can create as many boards as you wish on Pinterest.

5 QR Codes

Add a QR code to your business card that links to your blog, website or LinkedIn profile. These can be made easily by using the URL shortener. Paste the URL you want to link to - click shorten and then click on details to reveal your QR code. Save this as an image. There are a number of free QR code reader apps that can be downloaded on to your smartphone.

6. Video

Capture short video clips about your work. These could be demonstrations of practical activities, talking head interviews or exemplars of student work. You could create a video biography or CV and then share on your blog, website or LinkedIn profile. If uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo you can capture the embed code and simply paste this into a blog post or on your website.
You may also want to experiment with Vine to create mini 6 seconds video clip. This is long enough to capture the cover or title of your book or any other artifact you wish to share. Vines can be shared via social media or embedded into a blog or website.

7. Podcasts

Tools like Soundcloud and AudioBoom are easy to use to capture audio narrations. Consider recording a synopsis of something you are working on. Share the recording via Twitter.

8. Images

An image can add context to an update shared via any social network. This could be a photograph or a digitised drawing, sketchnote, mindmap, diagram, CAD drawing and more.
Curate scholarly related images you create by adding to Flickr or Instagram. Go a step further and use them to create a collage using PicMonkey or an animated slideshow using Animoto or Adobe Voice.
Consider giving your images a Creative Commons licence so that others may use too. Also make use of the Creative Commons search facility for your own work to find images and music.

9. Host a Google+ Hangout

A Google Hangout is very similar to Skype enabling you to have a live video conversation with one person or a group of up to ten people. Google Hangouts on Air give you the opportunity to publicly share the hangout conversation that takes place and will auto record and publish this on YouTube.
Sharing a discussion is an excellent way to introduce others to research, teaching innovations, student work or anything else you think would be of interest to others.

10. Infographics

These are a great way to visually portray information including stats and data in the form of a digital poster. You can use PowerPoint or Publisher to create or tools like Piktochart or Infogram which give you a lovely choice of templates. Infographics can also be used to create visual CVs using VisualizeMe.

Useful background reading
1) Using Social Media in the Social Age of Learning Lifewide Magazine September 2014 Available on line at:
2) Exploring the Social Age and the New Culture of Learning Lifewide Magazine September 2014 Available on line at:
Re-blogged from a post published on the Creative Academic

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