Monday 7 November 2016

Reflecting on my experiences of digital transient CPD #sedaconf #seda_nets

For some years now I have engaged in online CPD. My exploration of Twitter opened up a wide range of opportunities to engage in conversations with fellow educators and professionals in a wide variety of roles. 

My interest in social media and how it was being used by businesses was an eye opener. As a result I've engaged in numerous tweetchats with marketing specialists and recognised that this mode of communication opened up so many opportunities for interactive dialogue that went beyond text. The ability to link to other resources or add images, audio or video added a new richness. Being able to filter tweets through a shared hashtag opened up the opportunity to curate collections of tweets. My network grew as I connected with professionals sharing and discussing useful information. However this didn't happen overnight and as I often say a personal learning network is just that - personal. I have connections that add value to my own CPD, but these may not all be of value to everyone else, simply because we have different as well as potentially shared interests.

Over the last two years I have engaged in the weekly #LTHEchat - a weekly chat about topics relating to learning and teaching in higher education. Prior to that tweetchats in the online course Bring your own device for learning brought great value to the learning experience. They work and provide numerous opportunities to co-learn with others. Conferences provide another space to extend the conversations beyond the face to face. Last week I engaged with the SEDA Conference that was using the #sedaconf hashtag as a virtual participant. However what brought it alive was the organised tweetchat within a workshop. Andrew Middleton (@andrewmid) and Sue Moron-Garcia (@DrSueCELT) through Twitter invited people to join what was going to be a live chat the following day. They shared a specific hashtag #seda_nets and tweeted the time the chat would take place. I was thrilled as it fell between my teaching and I was able to block out the hour in my diary. I wasn't able to attend the full conference because of my teaching commitments this year and this gave me an opportunity to be a part of it. 

Reflecting on the experience

As a result of Andrew's post on weaving across the digital physical space and then the invite to myself and Chris Rowell (@Chri5rowell) to respond as digital participants to present our view from the other side of the physical-digital tweetchat - I was prompted to reflect on my experience. 

Chris reflected that his engagement with the workshop chat was purely serendipitous. He was on his way to a hospital appointment via public transport and had via his phone checked in to the SEDA conference hashtag #sedaconf. He picked up on one of Andrew's tweets and caught the additional hashtag linked with the proposed tweetchat. He was then able to reply to each of the questions. He used the retweet with comment option and nested his answer above each of the questions Andrew posted. This is a useful way to do this as it keeps the answer with the question, however you can't include images. 

For me the experience was immersive. I felt a sense of belonging with the group that were at the conference and in this workshop. Those there that also tweeted the answers to the questions (they had been given post-its), also interacted with myself and this led to interesting discussion around the topic shared.  

Why transient CPD is important

This short opportunity to engage in CPD through this tweetchat was valuable as

  • It provided a space to discuss an interesting topic with people I may not have otherwise been introduced to. 
  • Whilst the tweetchat is short-lived, I've been able to make new connections with whom I can continue the conversations if I choose to do so. 
  • I didn't have to travel to a venue, and was able to take part in the space I was in at that time.
  • The duration of the CPD activity was less than an hour and it fitted into my busy schedule. 
  • The experience added value to my working day and I thoroughly enjoyed it.    

Why it can be difficult

Through sharing Andrew's blog post with our comments with my own network it stimulated discussion around personal space. I had shared that my CPD experience had been interrupted when a colleague had come into the office and asked to speak to me. Despite explaining that I wasn't able to at the moment as I was online, the person insisted on trying to tell me what he wished to discuss. 

I think the 'issue' was that it is hard to give the visual cues to demonstrate you are engaged in a CPD activity of this type. Had I been wearing headphones and engaging in a webinar this may have been more apparent. However this was a tweetchat and I was not actually taking to anybody but preparing to answer the question. My computer screen displayed a SlideShare presentation. I had been searching for an image in a prior presentation I had given that would help me to answer the first question. I felt rude saying I couldn't continue the discussion at that moment. Perhaps I should have been more explicit and said I was involved in a tweetchat, but at that time I didn't think this would have helped. 

I felt my space had been invaded at a point where I had given myself an hour to engage in CPD. As I mentioned a short discussion took place about this on Twitter last night. One person mentioned that she no longer took part in lunch time tweet chats, because of interruptions in her shared office space. So is it that we should move to another space to take part in this transient form of CPD or are there ways we can make it clear we are engaged online and prefer not to be disturbed? My office colleague suggested I put on my headset as a means of signalling this. I'd be interested in your thoughts and experiences.  

Friday 4 November 2016

Happy Birthday #LTHEchat: an invitation to the community

Created by @simonrae 

This week we celebrate the 2nd Birthday of #LTHEchat, the tweetchat about Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Now into the third academic year, and a programme planned that extends well into 2017 with volunteer guests offering to lead themed chats, it is truly something to celebrate! In 2014 my dear colleague Chrissi Nerantzi and I via a skype call were reflecting on other shared projects and we came up with the idea of running a weekly chat as a pilot for a few months and see what happened. Well as you can see #LTHEchat is still here. What has made this work and become a sustainable model is the community that has grown to be #LTHEchat. The community not only spans the UK but also has participants from Europe, the US and Australia. Some are active participants and others 'listen in'. Every single one of you are valued members of the #LTHEchat community.

The community not only take part in the chat, some have contributed to the organising team. This group of people have worked incredibly hard behind the scene and are what makes the chats happen week on week! There are also four colleagues who who have shown sustained engagement, commitment, insight and open sharing to the LTHEchat community and they have been awarded the #LTHEchat Golden Tweeter Award: Professor Simon Lancaster, Neil Withnell, Simon Rae, Hala Mansour and Chris Jobling.

In December a group from the #LTHEchat community who have contributed to the organising team will be presenting at the 2nd Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference 2016 which takes place at Sheffield Hallam University. The paper is called:

‘With a little help from my followers’ – Facilitating the #LTHEChat

The presenters representing the organising team (yes there are more amazing people!) at the conference will be:

Chris Rowell – @Chri5rowell
Regent’s University London

Debbie Baff – @debbaff
Swansea University

Neil Withnell – @neilwithnell
University of Salford

Kate Soper – @KatesSoper
Manchester Metropolitan University

Chris Jobling – @cpjobling
Swansea University

Ian Tindal – @iantindalAnglia Ruskin University

Sue Beckingham – @suebecks
Sheffield Hallam University

Your invitation to contribute
This is where you as members of our #LTHEchat community can help us. We would be very grateful if you could complete this short online survey. Thank you!

Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference 2016

It would also be wonderful to see you at the conference! You can find out more about the event by following @SocMedHE on Twitter and how to register here:  

This paper and the other shot papers, workshops, thunderstorms and poster abstracts can be found here: 

‘With a little help from my followers’ – Facilitating the #LTHEChat

This short paper will share the evaluation of the #LTHEchat and the impact of this on professional development for the organising teams and the chat participants. The twitter chat has shown there is demand to focus conversations on Teaching and Learning (T&L) in Higher Education (HE). The research will include results from a survey and semi-structured interviews, to identify the impact and value gained by active or silent participation, for the organisers and participants. In addition the chats themselves and the learning analytics of the Storify will be monitored and analysed to evaluate asynchronous engagement with archives of live chats.

The #LTHEchat, created by the community for the community, is a collaborative project on T&L in HE via tweetchats. “A tweetchat is a virtual meeting or gathering on Twitter to discuss a common topic. The chat lasts one hour and has questions to stimulate discussion” (Beckingham 2014). Each week there is a pre-determined topic with guests leading the chat.

Through #LTHEchat an online community of practice has evolved, including educators with a variety of roles. Drawing upon the literature, Wenger, Traynor and De Laat (2011) discuss five cycles of value creation in networks and communities, suggesting value can be:
  • Immediate: answering/being answered. The #LTHEchat has created synchronous, Twitter activity. The discussion is right when you want it and, when a link is shared to a blog or article, the depth and breadth of shared knowledge increases. 
  • Potential: gaining skills/knowledge/connections which we may call upon in future. The #LTHEchat provides a fertile ground for sharing learning experiences and forms collaborative working relationships. 
  • Applied: taking something and applying to practice. Every conversation is applied to the HE context. 
  • Realised: reflecting on new implementations. The chats allowed for the sharing of reflective practice in an open forum. 
  • Reframing: in light of value gained, how does that impact on our view of success. While this is less easy to measure, the #LTHEchat has impacted on practitioners thinking about T&L. 
Wenger’s (2002) concept of ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ is relevant as the #LTHEchat facilitators ‘bounce’ from the edge to the centre of the community and from live participation to catch-up via the tweets. The #LTHEchat guests join the community in the ‘hotseat’ to develop the conversation which encourages the community to grow (Ultralabs, 2015)

The joining of chats, e.g. #HEAchat and new initiatives such as #HEStudentQ have opened the chats to both staff and students providing new opportunities for informal learning.

This short paper will share some case studies and short vignettes from the research undertaken to highlight how #LTHEchat empowers a community of practice to embrace informal learning and has supported co-learners to take ownership of their continuing professional development. Finally it will provide participants with ideas on how they could develop their tweetchats for informal learning.

Beckingham, S. (2014). Introducing tweetchats using #LTHEchat as an exemplar. Accessed 27th May 2016

Ultralabs (2015) The online communities. Accessed 27th May 2016

Wenger, E., Trayner, B., & de Laat, M. (2011). Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks : a conceptual framework. Open Universiteit. Accessed 27th May 2016

Wenger, E., Lave, J. Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (2002) Legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice. Eds Julia Clarke and Anne Hanson in Supporting Lifelong Learning, Vol. 1: Perspectives on Learning: Learning and Teaching Vol I. London: Routledge

Thursday 20 October 2016

Citations in CPD for the Career Development Professional

CPD for the Career Development Professional

I received a complementary copy of CPD for the Career Development Professional written by Siobhan Neary and Claire Johnson, in which the authors have cited one of my conference presentations and the Social Media for Learning blog I write. A first for me to be in the acknowledgements, within a chapter and in the index of a book

Work cited

Social Media for Learning blog

Social Media and CPD? You can't be serious...

Wednesday 31 August 2016

What can we learn from a pencil?

I came across the essay 'I, Pencil' written by Leonard Read in 1958 via Maria Popova's blog Brain Pickings. There are many lessons to be drawn from this piece as it follows the production of an ordinary pencil. You are invited to consider what may appear as just a simple pencil, but we are reminded that we take this item for granted and in the main, most of us are probably completely unaware of how a pencil is produced and who is involved. 

Leonard Read writes... 
"But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, the wise G. K. Chesterton observed, 'We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders'.” 

Below is a powerful animation based on this essay. 

Some thoughts that resonated with me as I reflected on this essay were about the value of connectivity and communication and through this opportunities for collaboration and cooperation, and what we can achieve with others. It goes without saying the creativity the written word can produce and of course the images as sketches in a multitude of ways. 

When we work for the mutual benefit of others we can all benefit more. Sharing the outcomes so others can learn can ad further value. Technology allows us to not only 'listen in' but also to interact and communicate with others from across the world, thus opening opportunities to question, to learn, and to help others learn. Those who are open educators and learners are providing new windows for others to look through and in doing so are helping to stimulate curiosity and a wonder for learning. Yes we can Google practically anything we want to but in limiting ourselves to just this, we can often miss out on the chances to question and discuss the detail of the hows and whys. 

My take away? We must remind ourselves to enjoy the wonder of learning in its many shapes and sizes - formal, non formal, and informal. Sharing these experiences can only benefit others. 

Saturday 20 August 2016

Academic fitness: Is your writing flabby or fit? #Acwri

I came cross an article that is titled 'Ask the Professor about academic style'. This was written to respond to the question: 
"Why is so much academic writing stodgy and unreadable? To be taken seriously, do I have to write like that too?"
The author Dr Helen Sword begins by asking academic peers what they personally thought a stylish academic writer would produce. These are the responses: 

  • express complex ideas clearly and succinctly
  • write with originality, imagination and creative flair
  • engage and hold their reader’s attention through relevant examples and anecdotes
  • convey a sense of energy, intellectual commitment and even passion
  • produce elegant, carefully crafted sentences, using language appropriate to the audience, discipline and subject matter
  • tell a story
  • provide their readers with aesthetic and/or intellectual pleasure
  • avoid jargon, except where specialised terminology is essential to the argument.  

I for one have laboured over academic papers with a dictionary at hand to attempt to make sense of the heavy text, jargon and often staid approach to writing that is impersonal and frankly not quite capturing my imagination. 

In Helen's paper she says that "'academic style' need not be an oxymoron". She goes on to advocate those writers who do truly have their readers at heart. 

Verbal fitness

Helen provides some excellent tips in the article and one of these is 'verbal fitness'. Aside from using stodgy prose, she highlights the redundancy in the way we write and over use of 'waste words' such as it, this, that, there. 

Now what really caught my eye was the Writer's Diet Test Helen has created, where you can submit between 200-2000 words and it will score your prose as lean, fit & trim, needs toning, flabby or heart attack. Words are analysed and colour coded as verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs, or waste words. 

The Writer's Diet Test comes with the caveat that it is an automated feedback tool, not an assessment tool. The test identifies some of the sentence-level grammatical features that most frequently weigh down academic prose. It is not designed to judge the overall quality of your writing — or anyone else's.  

However the test is useful and Helen's book complements this. When writing, the word count can often be an issue. The test at the very least can help you weed out those waste words.  

Helen Sword


Sword, H. (2008) Ask the Professor about Academic Style. MAI Review, 2008, 3, Writing Workshop 7. 

Sword, H. (2016) The Test. The Writer's Diet [website] 

Sword, H. (2016) Writer's Diet: A Guide to Fit Prose. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

You can't eat an elephant whole #wol

A few weeks ago I had a nice surprise when I received a comment on my blog post which was not spam. I choose to monitor comments and whilst they are few and far between, I delete those that have no relevance. Well this comment was relevant. I confess to doing a little happy dance whenever a comment leads to an extended discussion, no matter how brief!

Simon Fogg  took the time leave a comment  on my last post to say:

"... just to encourage you, people are reading :) ... I am up to nearly a million page views on my blog and have never written for an audience (as you will quickly tell from older posts), mainly as a place online to host my content that is accessible wherever I am connected to the internet ..."
I then of course checked out Simon's blog, which was an interesting journey in itself (lots more to learn from Simon, but that's scope for another post). The immediate connection was 'working out loud' and I noted a post he had written which included Michelle Ocker who instigated the #WOL circle I am now involved in. 

Simon also tweeted a post in relation to my blog post

The elephant technique Simon referred to is useful when you are faced with very large tasks, i.e. elephant sized tasks. In my previous post I had talked about taking small steps and celebrating these as progress. 

So what are elephant tasks? I looked up TMI's Elephant Technique to remind myself. They give examples like:

  • Overwhelming tasks demanding prolonged effort
  • Tasks in which little progress can be seen after each stage
  • Tasks often put off or reduced in priority in the short term.
I could certainly relate to these, the treadmill being a personal one and the juggling of multiple projects in my working life. The advice given is to:

  • Divide the elephant into "bite-size" pieces.
  • Schedule regular "bites" of the elephant as "task of the day", "task of the week", etc.
  • Make sure you "eat" a bite every day in addition to completing your other routine tasks.
  • Make sure you finish the elephant.
  • Concentrate on no more than 1 or 2 elephant tasks at a time. 
I think I would add try not to be eating too many different elephants at any given time....

Mastering the Elephant Technique enables you to progress from a 'maintenance' person (just getting by to maintain the status quo) to a 'development' person (embrace learning new skills and ensuring goals are translated into actions).

When I met with my #WOL circle we talked about some of the things we could do to make sure we recorded the progress of the tasks we were setting ourselves. The examples we shared included:
  • Having a pocket notebook as an ongoing to do list
  • Getting a good old fashioned diary that has a week to a page on the left and a notes page on the right.
    Tip: Moleskin do a great 18 month diary July-Dec. 
  • Using our smartphone and the Notes app
  • Using an app like Todoist via your phone, tablet, or desktop.    


The Elephant Technique 

Friday 22 July 2016

Reflecting on #WOL

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

We are now into week 5 of our #WOL circle and weekly blogging for a number of reasons has not become a habitual activity for me... 

Why? Because life things get in the way. Things happen that you don't expect that can impact on your life and work. I ask myself does it really matter that I have not blogged. I'm writing for me with no expectations others will read to be honest. This blog is after all a random collection of my thoughts in relation to activities, course and presentations I have been involved in. For me though this is one of the ways I practice working out loud. It is not always reflective and this is an area I need to focus on. So whilst it doesn't really matter if I blog weekly or every few weeks, developing the habit will I know help me capture my progress.

This week our tetrad of four met via Skype and we discussed the week's topic which was looking at the challenges we were facing relating to the achievement of our chosen goal. As a group we have bonded quite quickly and I think we all felt comfortable admitting that due to various factors our progress was perhaps slower than we might have liked. Indeed we seemed to make a pact that this was actually ok! All progress is good and small steps should be seen as a positive. We agreed that meeting as a circle kept our goals as achievable, but the suggested time span might well be extended. By discussing this together there was a sense of relief that we had not let ourselves down or each other. We teased out the blocks we had experienced and made suggestions to each other where appropriate. 

Unsurprisingly one of our challenges was time. However through talking we recognised that our use of time can be measured in different ways from clear outputs but also thinking and planning time. We had all devoted time to this and as such realised we had achieved more than we thought. 

We talked about the John Stepper's blog post 'Touching the treadmill' which highlights the importance of breaking your goal down into small steps. (Which reminds me I need to start doing this and get back into running to achieve another goal!)

"Can’t go for a run 4 times a week for an hour? Try once a week. Still too much? Go for 5 minutes. Not working for you? Walk to the treadmill and touch it. Every day."

Helen Crump introduced us to BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits method. This advocates:

Only three things will change behaviour in the long term.
  • Option AHave an epiphany
  • Option BChange your environment (what surrounds you)
  • Option CTake baby steps

The first option is less likely to happen, so focusing on small steps and creating an environment that can help you feel comfortable working is something that resonated with me. Secondly allowing for space to think and rest may mean moving and taking breaks. I came across John Fawkes Medium post on 20 little habits that will help you live a better lifewhich refers to the need of practising good habits. It's worth reading the whole article but one of the habits looks at the value of the pomodoro technique. Essentially this suggests you 

work for 20–30 minutes, then take a break for 5–10 minutes.

Repeat a few times, then take a longer 30+ minute break. 

When we are working it is easy to lose focus. Once we recognise this and plan in breaks, it is likely our productivity will increase. 

So coming back to my goal, I had originally chosen to learn programming. I quickly felt overwhelmed as this was to broad. Where should I start? I began by looking what my personal learning network had to say in a variety of social media spaces - Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It didn't take long to discover a course on Creative programming (aimed at those with no prior experience) and another on Social Media Analytics. Both are online and free through FutureLearn and each runs for about 3 weeks. The ethos of the courses evidence 'learning out loud' and engagement in open conversations/discussions is asynchronous so I know I can contribute at times that work for me. These course feel doable and time will tell whether this satisfies all I want to achieve. The important thing for me is that I will have made a start. I need to carve out some dedicated time for this study, and I think early mornings will work best for me. 

In preparation for next week's WOL circle we are encouraged to develop our networks. The guide suggests one way to accelerate developing our own network is to leverage networks that already exist. I need to draw upon my connections and develop a list of people I can reach out to. There may be other learning opportunities I can engage in. 

Working out loud guides:

Sunday 12 June 2016

Joining my first #WOL Circle and reflections on week one

Digital Identities 

The use of smart technology (aka mobile phones, tablets and laptops) has gone from being esoteric and newfangled to ubiquitous and everyday. So many of us now use these devices on a daily basis to access, create and interact with information. Social media has enabled users to become the producers, and through these social spaces widen the connections we have, eliminating what may previously have been geographical barriers. Interactions can be real-time or as and when. We each get to choose who we connect with and when we want to interact.

So what does this have to do with 'working out loud'? Well a few weeks ago I gave a guest talk on Shareology and Social Media at the University of Sussex. Essentially the focus of the talk was about the value of sharing and the networks we can develop by doing so. The talk was being live tweeted and live streamed via periscope.

Within this talk I made reference to John Stepper's book Working out Loud 
John describes this concept as follows:
“Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.” 
During the event as participants tweeted aspects of my talk, some of these tweets were picked up by John Stepper (yes the author) and Helen Crump. Having online identities through the use of social media enabled these connections. As Isabel points out in her tweet above "Working Out Loud helps us to find our voice". Clearly both John and Helen as I later discovered had an interest in the conversations relating to 'working out loud' and I later engaged with their comments. 

However what happened next was totally unpredictable. These tweets continued and led to two fascinating conversations about working out loud (WOL). The first with John started with direct messages on Twitter and then a conference call where we talked passionately about networking, digital identity and open learning and reflection for more than an hour. Never in a month of Sundays had I anticipated the generosity of John to organise a call from New York with me in Sheffield. The second conversation with Helen (who I have met once some years ago at a conference in Plymouth) again started with tweets and was followed by a great Skype chat where we shared our common interests in open and social learning, and the concept of working out loud. As luck would have it Helen had just started a WOL circle and invited me to join this. More about this in a moment.

Making a new commitment

For some years now I have benefited from developing online networks. Some of these networks overlap, others don't; some are temporal and others ongoing; some are discipline/topic related, and others have come about through perhaps a little luck and serendipity. Within these networks I have developed a rich set of connections and expanded what is referred to by many as 'personal learning networks'. Some of these blossom into ongoing learning communities. On reading 'Working Out Loud' I could see the connection between these learning networks and the potential of working out loud circles. Becoming part of a circle I discovered was a 12 week commitment. Was I ready to make such a commitment?

Now I will be honest I had a conversation with myself and one voice was asking, can you fit another something into what is already a busy life overflowing with projects? However another voice was saying follow your instinct - this is a commitment that is for me, an opportunity to choose a personal goal and through a WOL circle the potential to be encouraged to fulfill this over 12 weeks and hopefully a chance to help others to do so too. 

I made the decision to commit, although it wasn't initially straight forward. Emails went back and forth and as one person dropped out, another joined our little fledgling group. It took a few weeks before we could get together online but we now have a wonderful circle of four that includes Helen, Robyn, Hala and myself and have successfully held our first meeting via Skype. 

What’s a Working Out Loud circle? 

To explain this a bit further a WOL circle is described as a peer support group of 4-5 people, one that helps you make progress towards a goal by building relationships related to that goal. Groups meet for an hour a week for 12 weeks. By the end, you’ll have developed a larger, more diverse network, as well as habits and a mindset you can apply towards any goal. 

Essentially we each have three questions to personally consider:
  1. What am I trying to do?
  2. Who is related to my goal?
  3. How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationships?
This initially sounds very deep and it took quite a while of soul searching to come up with a meaningful goal.

Week 1: Choose a simple goal and list people related to it   

For our first meeting we spent much of the time introducing ourselves and teasing out our thoughts on a personal goal as well as our motivations for joining the circle.  Our task for the first week following our online meeting was to firm up our goal and then begin a list of about 10 people or organisations that might help with this. One suggestion is to create a relationship list on Twitter. This resonated with me as I have a rich collection of Twitter lists and have found these to be a valuable way to group connections who have specific shared interests. 

The hour online flew by and I enjoyed it immensely. As an avid user of social media, where much of this is text based, it is good to be reminded of how easy and rewarding an online conversation can be when you use tools like Skype or Google Hangouts. For me this is the next best thing to having a face to face conversation. 

So where will this lead me? John Stepper talks about the 5 elements of working out loud in his book and these are: 
  • purposeful discovery
  • relationships
  • generosity
  • visible work
  • a growth mindset
I can already envisage that having chosen a goal, the sense of belongingness within this group, even at this early stage, will encourage me to seek out information and this will result in purposeful discovery. As we get to know each other better our circle relationships will develop and potentially the connections we seek to make in relation to our personal goals will too. The generosity within the group is already evident and through sharing our experiences as we make sense of this new journey I anticipate we will all grow as individuals. My plan is to blog my experience as I go along, for myself really but in the spirit of working out loud I will share my personal journey and discoveries along the way.    

To add, there are many working out loud circles going on across the globe! To find out more you can search for other conversations on Twitter via the hashtag #WOL or the stories shared on the Working Out Loud website


Saturday 30 April 2016

Shareology and Social Media - Invited Speaker at the University of Sussex TEL Seminar Series

On 27th April I had the great pleasure and privilege as an invited Guest to lead a seminar on the use of social media in academia. Inspired by a book I had recently read called Shareology, I looked at how we are using social media to share, what value this can bring and some of the hurdles that can sometimes get in the way. 

Below is the Slideshare presentation I gave

Shareology and Social Media in Academia #SussexTEL from Sue Beckingham

Prior to, during and after the event participants (both present and those engaging virtually) shared comments, thoughts and questions via Twitter adding the event hashtag #SussexTEL. These were curated by the Sussex TEL Team using Storify. The 'story' can be found below.  

Wednesday 6 April 2016

BCS Women Lovelace Colloquium 2016 #BCSLL16

Ada Lovelace

Last week I was privileged to both attend and present at the 9th BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium hosted this year by Sheffield Hallam University. You can follow @bcs_lovelace on Twitter. The chief organiser and founder of this annual initiative is Hannah Dee and this year Deborah Adshead pulled out all the stops to make sure the event at SHU was a great success. 

This is a national one-day conference for women students of computing and related disciplines. The aim of the event is to bring women students from around the UK together for networking, talks, and career development advice from successful women in computing. There are speakers from both industry and academia, and a poster contest for the students to show off and talk about their own work. 

If you have never organised a conference it is hard to imagine the hours of work that goes into the planning and delivery of a big event. The team included academic staff and students who were involved throughout. Below is a photo of the students from Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) who presented or helped. They are members of the student led SHU Women in IT group. A big thanks also goes to every single student or member of staff that contributed to the day.

Deborah Adshead and Students
Sheffield Hallam Uni

Women in IT at Sheffield Hallam 

There are more photos on Flickr and Hannah Dee has blogged a brilliant summary of the day. This includes the list of student poster presentation winners and I include them below. There were so many good posters it made the judging very difficult! 

Here’s the full list of student winners

The first year contest, sponsored by JP Morgan, had the following winners:
  • First place (£300) went to Ruth Sartain of Sheffield Hallam with a poster entitled “Could programmers become the next Bach?”
  • Second place (£200) went to Mollie Coleman and Hollie Baker, of Bath University with a poster entitled “How the Arduino inspires creativity in Computer Science”
The second year contest (also open to students on a year in industry, or in their third year of a four year degree) was sponsored by GE, and had the following winners:
  • First place (£300) went to Margaret Carlin of Queens University Belfast, with a poster entitled “Time critical applications in the healthcare industry”
  • Second place (£200) went to Olivia Ruston of Bath University, with a poster about “The future of wearables”
The final year contest (also open to students in the penultimate year of integrated Masters, e.g. an MEng course) was sponsored by EMC, and had the following winners:
  • First place (£300) went to Jessica Lettall of Liverpool University with a poster entitled “An app to promote resilience in home carers”
  • Second place (£200) went to Imogen Gough of Manchester University, with a poster about “Models for Neurons and Neuronal Networks”
The contest for MSc students (or students in the fourth year of an integrated Masters, e.g. an MEng course) was sponsored by SAP, and the winners were:
  • First place (£300) went to Rachmawaty Sudirman of Manchester University, with a poster about “Mobile expert system for Cacao pests and disease diagnosis”
  • Second place (£200) went to Preethi Jayaraj of Hertfordshire University, with a poster entitled “Software Testing – a myth or a priority?”
All attendees are asked to vote for the people’s choice award by selecting their two favourite posters. These votes are tallied up and the top two or three get awards, sponsored this year by TigerFace games. This year there was a tie so we have three winners, each getting £50.
  • Jane Parker of the University of Bath with “The creativity in computer science”
  • Leah Clarke of Durham University with “Detecting hidden data in images: Steganalysis vs Steganography
  • Didi Gradinarska of Aberystwyth University with “Can Hololens be the industry’s augmented reality game changer?”


The programme included 4 slots for invited speakers, plenty of time allocated to the poster presentations so everyone had the opportunity to get around them all and talk to the presenters. And there was lots of cake!

  • 09.30 Registration
  • 10.00 Welcome
  • 10.20 Keynote: Sarah Winmill, Director of IT services, UCL 
  • 11.20 Coffee break, with posters going up
  • 11.40 Open Source Intelligence: A Double Edged Sword, Shahrzad Zargari and Sue Beckingham, Sheffield Hallam
  • 12.10 Lunch - Poster judging happens over lunch
  • 14.15 Technology for Social Good, Carolyn Johnson, J.P. Morgan
  • 14.45 Brain Computer Interfaces. Mahnaz Arvaneh, University of Sheffield
  • 15.15 Coffee break, posters coming down
    15.45 Employer Panel session on Computing Careers
  • 16.30 Close & Prizes
  • 17.15 Social - in the Phoenix Bar, the Hub, Sheffield Hallam Students Union    


I presented with my colleague Shahrzad Zargari on Open Source Intelligence: A double edged sword. We used Emaze to create this so I've been able to grab the embed code to add to this post. You can see our presentation below. 

Powered by emaze

Storify of the #BCSLL16 Tweets

Finally here is a curation of the tweets brought together using Storify. This captures all tweets that included the event hashtag #BCLL16. There are some great photos and interactions shared aobut the event as it unfolded. You can also find a summary of the day on the BCS Women website.

Sunday 31 January 2016

The four dimensional conference #HEASTEM16

This post captures a collection of activities leading up to the Higher Education Academy (HEA) STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) Conference that took place in Nottingham. One of the key organisers was Dr Kay Hack who also tweets from @HEASTEM


One of the invited keynotes Professor Simon Lancaster who is an esteemed colleague of mine, was asked by Kay Hack from the HEA to write a blog post to precede the conference. He wanted to promote the use of social media (focusing on Twitter) in a way that would help other educators understand the value it can bring to the way we engage with conferences before, during and after an event. I was delighted when he contacted me to see if I was interested in co-writing this post. The result is 'The four dimensional conference' where we explored how Twitter can add additional dimensions to the conference experience. Both advocates of Twitter as a means of connecting and communicating with peers, it was interesting to explore our own use in relation to educational conferences. 

  1. Presenter and audience interactions Twitter can render any presentation a communal event where the presenter encourages participants to tweet answers, comments, corrections and to engage in discussion. The participants themselves are able to use Twitter to crowd-source a rich and lasting record of the session.
  2. Interconnected audience interactions Twitter can thoroughly intertwine the threads of parallel sessions creating interconnected collections of stories across the conference. Analogous information between different sessions can be picked up and synergies formed to take the discussions forward online and arrange face to face meetings. Imagine a set of threads constantly colliding in a ball of twine.
  3. In person and virtual interactions
    The use of an event hashtag means that Twitter can facilitate the participation of people who could not attend the physical venue. By following the aggregated tweets, anyone can respond, raise questions, and provide links to associated information. Even the passive observer has an opportunity to develop their network by following interesting contributors to the conference Twitter stream.
  4. Multiplicity of pre and post event interactions
    The conference does not need to end after the closing remarks. Twitter can keep the discussion going and through tools like Storify keep it accessible and alive for years to come. Presenters can tweet links to their presentations uploaded to Slideshare and indeed openly share via other social networks. Participants may choose to blog about the event and embed key Tweets to emphasise points made. Within this space readers can be encouraged to interact with the blog post by ending with a question or call for feedback/opinion using the comments. 
You can read the complete post here:

#HEAchat / #LTHEchat

Wednesday 27th January saw the inaugural pairing of #LTHEchat with the monthly #HEAchat. This new partnership I am certain will help to bring together even more educators to share their experience, practice and ideas; as well as provide a forum for discussion and debate. The theme chosen for this chat was 'the four dimensional conference'. During the hour the conversation was stimulated by the following six questions:

  • Do you use social media at conferences? Tell us why & how or why not!
  • What benefits have you experienced from using social media as a delegate or a presenter?
  • What benefits have you experienced from using social media after events?
  • How could organisers maximise the value of the 'social' at conferences? 
  • What's your experience of attending conferences ‘virtually’ via hashtags/live-streams?
  • How will you prepare for your next conference? 

Simon and I both interacted with the participants, and I hope added value to the dialogues as the questions were addressed. As a facilitator of this chat I sought to answer the questions myself but also to probe deeper the answers of those taking part. Keeping an eye open for new participants finding their feet in the conversation is also key. When you first start to take part in chats you can feel is if your tweets are simple disappearing into the noise. Having someone respond to your posts can make you feel welcomed and provide a sense of belonging. 

Aiding conversation

The chat was busy as participants replied to the questions and engaged in side conversations. For anyone joining part way through it was quite difficult to find the questions. I would always recommend during a chat that the Twitter account posting the questions does 'just' that and is not also used to retweet or respond to questions. That way participants can easily find the latest tweets which contain the questions.


The entire collection of tweets is captured in the Storify curated by Kandy Woodfield.


Leading on from the tweetchat was the #HEASTEM16 conference itself. Below is Professor Simon Lancaster's keynote which did not disappoint. It's just a shame it wasn't live-streamed.

Simon also went on to capture the tweets containing the conference hashtag using a tool called SocioViz. It was exciting to see new people tweeting and the network developing during the duration of the conference. I hope the blog post, the tweetchat and the encouragement during the HEA STEM Conference has given people both the confidence and enthusiasm to continue using Twitter beyond the activities this week.