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.  

Saturday 16 January 2016

#BYOD4L Day 5 - Creating and being Creative

A creative evening creating

The final #BYOD4Lchat was led by Chrissi Nerantzi and Alex Spiers. Early in the day the daily blog post was posted and this included some 'homework'. The logos of a few apps can be seen in the image below. 

Whilst I love creativity I have never developed the skill of drawing or painting, however I do like to dabble in the abstract and have found that the apps now available can provide inspiration to do this. Don't get me wrong, my creations are truly very basic (see the one at the top of this post), but the process of making can stimulate my thinking and reflecting. Many never see the light of day! 

In response to the the BYOD4L challenge I created and shred this visual. On the left I aimed to depict the connections I had made and opportunities to do so through following the tweets containing #BYOD4L and #BYOD4Lchat. Irrespective of whether participants followed each other, within Twitter it is possible to communicate and many short exchanges took place. Some of these led on to further dialogue and I observed quite a few that resulted in colloborations. Some of these were then curations of the conversations taking place within the chats, as well as shared resources created. 

It was a thought provoking exercise as it highlighted that the linear approach to the 5Cs (connecting, communicating, curating, collaborating and creating) is one way of using the framework, however in reality if we reflect on the way we use social spaces it is more likely to be a zig zag and intertwined approach that we take.     

What was most enjoyable about the activity was Task 2 and that was to look at and comment on the creations of the BYOD4L community shared during the tweetchat. Kandy admitted she had not had time to do the homework and then using the Bamboo Paper app came up with this brilliant creation! It just goes to show what we can do when given the encouragement to do so. 

The activity was great fun. I'm now pondering on how I can use some of these ideas in my own teaching. There are so many free apps that can be used to sketch, draw, and even annotate photos and images. How the use of visuals can be used to express ideas, concepts or reflections is limitless, or at least as far as out imaginations will take us. 

I love that we can now be both creative and co-create with others online. It extends the possibilities of working together to take seeds of ideas and turn them into innovative reality.

The ecosystem of the social age

Julian Stodd has written a post called 'A Guide to the Social Age' which I highly recommend. His work goes hand in glove with an array of visuals that highlight his thoughts. This sketch resonates with me as Julian refers to storytelling and reminds us that this is an activity that can be co-created. There are many examples where we can build on the stories of others and add our own experiences and reflections. What makes this so different today is the ease and speed we can share stories with others, through social media. 

Storytelling can be augmented with images, video and audio - all created from our own devices be this a tablet, laptop or even a smartphone. 
"The ‘Broadcast’ model of communication has been trumped by the co-creation of stories that are themselves co-owned." (Stodd 2016)
Julian Stodd 2016

BYOD4L Summary

Chrissi created this wonderful summary of BYOD4L capturing some wonderful highlights of the week many created by the participants taking part.


Friday 15 January 2016

#BYOD4L Day 4 Collaborating or Cooperating?

Continuing the daily BYOD4L themes, day 4 was collaborating. One definition of collaboration is 'united labour'. Others include 'to work, one with with another', 'work jointly on an activity or project' or 'to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something'. 

The first question raised during the BYOD4L tweetchat led by Neil Withnell and Alex Spiers was:

This got us all thinking and also inspired me to look again at the differentiation between these two words after the tweetchat. I've often seen them used interchangeably, which is understandable as there are overlaps.  

Definitions for cooperation include 'work jointly towards the same end', 'to ​act or ​work together for a ​particular ​purpose, or to be ​helpful by doing what someone ​asks you to do', 'act together or in compliance', 'to associate with another or others for mutual benefit'. An example given in use is 'staff need to cooperate with each other'.

So whilst there are similarities we might consider 
  • to cooperate as the process of working together to the same end
  • to collaborate as working jointly on an activity to produce or create something 

Within the word cooperate we see co and operate, which indicates a process, whereas within collaborate we see co and labor, which indicates working together. Cooperation may therefore be considered as simply splitting up the work and getting it done. Collaboration however is when individuals consider the process and together go on brainstorm how they might achieve a desired outcome. This might be to create something or to collectively share possible solutions to a problem. 

Ashkenas takes this further looking at how collaboration can break down in the work place. 

"Everyone seems to agree that collaboration across functions is critical for major projects and initiatives. The reality, however, is that meshing the skills and resources of different departments, each focused on its own distinct targets, to achieve a larger organizational goal is much easier said than done. In fact, it takes much more than people being willing to get together, share information, and cooperate. It more importantly involves making tough decisions and trade-offs about what and what not to do, in order to adjust workloads across areas with different priorities and bosses. And despite all the well-meaning cooperative behaviors, this is often where interdepartmental collaboration breaks down." (Ashkenas 2015)
The second part of the question was how co-create differs from collaborate and co-operate. Going back to the dictionary it is defined as 'creating jointly'. An article in Technology Innovation Management Review offers this

"Co-creation is a very broad term with a broad range of applications. We define co-creation as any act of collective creativity that is experienced jointly by two or more people. How is co-creation different from collaboration? It is a special case of collaboration where the intent is to create something that is not known in advance. The concept of co-design is directly related to co-creation. By co-design we refer to collective creativity as it is applied across the whole span of a design process. By these definitions, co-design is a specific instance of co-creation." (Sanders and Simons 2009)

Collaborative Tools

Coming back to collaboration, during the tweetchat there were a number of tools shared that can be used for collaborative working. These included:

Further reading 

There’s a Difference Between Cooperation and Collaboration. Ron Ashkenas, Harvard Business Review

A Social Vision for Value Co-creation in Design. Liz Sanders and George Simons, Technology Innovation Management Review

Thursday 14 January 2016

#BYOD4L Day 3 Curating Digital Narratives

What is curating

Curating might be associated with Museums and Galleries and the curation of artifacts. The Institute for Cultural Practices offers these definitions:

  • “Curating is the process by which a physical or virtual space is designed and formulated to include a collated, selected, interpreted and intended concept, which can be articulated through a variety of media”
  • “The organisation, discussion and presentation of information including objects, facts and opinions, in order to create value and meaning to be understood by the public”
  • “Curating is examining, researching and documenting a collection with the aim of making it accessible to the public. This is done through careful interpretation of the objects, space and text to curate an informative exhibition”

Digital curation is the curation of digital artifacts. In much a similar way, items can be gathered or curated and saved in a digital space. However to add further value, the digital curator can add information as a digital narrative to add context and detail. In a previous post I talk about making and telling a good story with the curation tool Storify. 

Prof Simon Lancaster raises the distinction between sharing and hoarding

Curation tools

At their simplest curation tools can provide the means to create collections. These can be themed by topic. In some spaces, collections can be tagged to provide a useful way to re-find things you have curated. Examples might include: 

I have to say that the majority of my curations are simply collections, albeit fairly well organised into themed topics. What stops me from adding extra value - for example adding a narrative - is the old chestnut 'time'. One of the values of curation tools is the ease and speed you can 'save' things and so often this is done in the moment where you don't have the time or head space to reflect on the item but want to save it to come back to. I'm pretty certain we are all guilty of collecting things we don't go back to for a long time, if ever! 

There are a number of curation tools above I have yet to experiment with. I've found it useful thus far organising 'stuff' in different spaces and actually enjoy the variety. One thing I would say is not to overload your chosen space as a) it is overwhelming and b) you can never find anything. 

Some examples of curations 

Elizabeth Charles has a page on Information and Digital Literacy in Education via the Digital Path. She curates links to articles and adds a short narrative to provide her insight. Her page has received in excess of 36.5 K views.  

Chris Jobling decided to curate the tweets and add his own comments using Storify

Wednesday 13 January 2016

#BYOD4L Day 2 Active Communicating

I was late finishing work and on my commute home as #BYOD4Lchat was about to start. Accessing the chat via my phone was quick and easy so whilst I was on the bus I knew I could keep up with the questions posted and the conversations. However once my bus had reached my destination, I still had a short walk to my home. I have not developed the coordination to read, type and walk, so I had to catch up with what I'd missed when I got in the house. 

Neil Withnell suggested I could have used Siri. I have to admit I don't make enough use of this feature on my phone. I was inspired to explore how this could be used with Twitter. Here's what I did: 

  • I asked Twitter to "Open Twitter" (feeling somewhat guilt I didn't add please, but though extra words might confuse). Siri did just that. 
  • To progress you need to 'call' Siri again. I then said "Send a Tweet" and Siri opened the dialogue box.
  • At this point I said "Tweet [add a sentence]" but realised that I had more to say but had not completed this. You do get the option throughout to edit by typing, but I would have like to have added by voice the remainder of the message. Perhaps I just didn't do it correctly. 
The conclusion to this mini experiment is that I need to explore more! I expect once you get the hang of it, it could be very useful. 

The #BYOD4Lchat

The tweetchat this evening explored the following questions on the topic of communication:

  • How do you communicate using your mobile devices? 
  • When have you failed to communicate in the classroom
  • How can mobile devices aid communication? 
  • How can mobile devices hinder communication? 
  • Do you have one top tip for effective communication?    

As per usual the conversations were curated as a Storify which can be found below.

Top tips for effective communication

Below are a few snippets that particularly resonated with me in response to this final question of the chat. 

1. David Hopkins reminded us of the following important points when communicating 

2. A super example of digital communication was shared by Malcolm Wilson, where tools like AudioBoom and SoundCloud are being used in schools to capture the voices of students to share what they are learning. 

Below is a quote from the ICT for Teaching & Learning in Falkirk Primary Schools website
"Podcasting, or online radio, is a way of schools sharing audio recordings of pupils talking about their learning, their discoveries, or discussions about class topics. The voices of the pupils, recorded and shared, speaking about the learning going on in their classroom provides a powerful way of engaging pupils – knowing that what they say they can hear played back to themselves, and also to an audience wider than the confines of their own classroom teacher or peers."

Podcasting is something I'd like to consider doing with my own students. Audio sees to be less invasive in so much as the focus is on the voice, rather than the person and the background and other aspects that need to be considered when taking a video.  

3. The tweets below are thought provoking and again resonate with my own experience and preference. During the chat it was mentioned by a few that online communication gives us thinking space - time we don't naturally have when conducting a face to face conversation. Reflecting on the tweets below which make the suggestion that the tweetchat questions are shared prior to the chat, I think this is a good idea.

The question made me think if this is this something I do often enough with my students? Secondly providing them with an opportunity to respond in class by using tools like Twitter or Socrative has proven to be of value by many colleagues, in place or in addition to answering questions out loud. 

There is a lot to consider around the topic of communication in its many forms. I suspect I will come back again and again to reflect on this.

Visualisation of our communication paths 

Finally more visualisations capturing the growing communication taking place within our growing BYOD4L community.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

#BYOD4L is back for the 4th time: Day 1 Making Connections

The open bite-size 5-day learning event is back and will take place over the next five days 11-15 January 2016. Each day participants will focus on a different topic. BYOD4L is short for 'Bring Your Own Device for Learning' and is an engaging CPD activity that will help you make better use of those mobile devices we all seem to have with us. Using the 5Cs Framework, the topics that form the focus over the five days are: connecting, communicating, curating, collaborating and creating. 

This iteration of BYOD4L is being led by three wonderful members of the community: Neil Withnell (@neilwithnell), Sheila MacNeill (@sheilmcn) and Alex Spiers (@alexgspiers). I highly recommend you reach out and connect with all three and my dear colleague Chrissi Nerantzi (@chrissinerantzi). Chrissi and I came up with the idea of BYOD4L sat at a train station in 2013 and have continued to bounce (what initially might seem carazy) ideas off each other ever since! Being connected to all four of these people has without doubt helped me to develop my thinking and each are valued members of my personal learning network.  

Day 1 - Connecting

Key to developing a rewarding social learning experience is the people you can co-learn with. By connecting with like minded educators you can develop your own bespoke personal learning network. This takes time but is worth the investment. Who you connect with is a personal choice, but as Prof Simon Lancaster tweeted, a good place to start initially is the people who are taking part in #BYOD4L.

Kandy shared a great visual which really does sum up how Twitter can contribute to professional development and informal learning.  

The #BYOD4L will build as the week develops. Martin Hawksey's tagsexplorer provides a great visualisation of the emerging connections.

I've shared tips on getting started with Twitter and as Twitter forms one of the key spaces for making connections during #BYOD4L these might be helpful to new users of Twitter. My advice on making connections is to start by 'listening in' to Tweets during the evening #BYOD4Lchats (8-9pm GMT) and follow those people you find interesting. The next step would be to explore who they follow and see if there are other educators you feel would add value to your personal learning network. 

Building networks to exchange information is not new. We benefit from connecting and whether this is for short periods, as communities or established tribes, together we can always learn and develop our thinking. In the words of Seth Godin:
"What tribes are, is a very simple concept that goes back 50 million years. It's about leading and connecting people and ideas. And it's something that people have wanted forever. " Seth Godin
If you are blogging about your experience during BYOD4L don't forget to add the Community Badge and let others know!

Saturday 9 January 2016

A Digital Narrative of the MELSIG event at NTU #melsigntu

Public domain image: Pixabay

I think this has to go down as one of favourite MELSIG events. My only wish is that every one of the sessions could have been recorded as I would have liked to have gone to all of them! What I get most from the MELSIG events (aside from the brilliant presentations and workshops) is the openness and willingness to give things a try; the way all the delegates support each other and share their highs and frustrations when working with technology. MELSIG events are a great space to share news ideas and approaches, as by the end of the session you can guarantee there will be valuable suggestions to develop it further, make it better or even take it in a different direction. 

As Prof Simon Lancaster (S_J_Lancaster) says:

I also love the opportunity to meet the people in person, that I have been having conversations with on Twitter but have never met, as well as catching up with those who are regular attenders of MELSIG events. The community just seems to grow and grow!

For those of you who don't know MELSIG, this is the Media Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group founded by my colleague Andrew Middleton, Sheffield Hallam University. I joined the steering group a few years ago but have been a big fan of the regular events for some time. MELSIG have held many different workshops relating to media enhanced learning and these have been hosted at universities across the UK.

To find out more follow @melsiguk on Twitter and the MELSIG blog.

Digital Narratives

The event was hosted by Nottingham Trent University and their excellent NTU Digital Practice Team. The focus for this event was Digital Narratives: (re)storying learning experiences for a digital age. The event is described as:

"MELSIG recognises the enormous potential of digital and social media for sharing experience, bringing the real world into the classroom and taking learning to the outside world. During this event, we will explore the role of digital narratives as a part of learning, teaching and practices in a range of contexts. Consideration will be given to the place of digital narratives as part of digital pedagogies aimed at creating flexible and diverse learning experiences. This will involve reflecting on how digital and social media are challenging dominant narratives to shape our understandings of learning spaces. We will discuss the potential and challenges that digital narrative approaches present for not only teaching, learning and assessment practices, but also staff development initiatives aimed at supporting educators support their learners in these areas."

The full programme can be found on the MELSIG blog, however here are the headlines of the sessions that were on offer:

The day began with a welcome to Nottingham Trent University by Elaine Swift (@elaines), Head of the Digital Practice Team and an introduction to MELSIG by Andrew Middleton {andrewmid). Andrew then talked about the ‘Telling Different Stories’ – the Storify Challenge’ for the day where volunteers Rebecca Sellars (@becksell2001), Neil Withnell (@neilwithnell) and Graham McElearney (@GrahamMacca) have been tasked to 'storify' the event.

A rich and vibrant programme followed: 
  • Dawn of the Unread – a cross-disciplinary approach at creating multi-layered digital stories offering readers/viewers opportunities to construct their own narrative paths through the content – James Walker, Lecturer, Nottingham Business School
  • Digital storytelling to support reflective practices – this is an assessed piece of work final year students on a Health and Social Care module are asked to complete – Jane Challinor, ( Principal Lecturer, Social Work and Health.
  • Using Immersive Technologies to Demonstrate Theories of Self in the Landscape, Rob Higson (Learning Technology Advisor, Learning Enhancement, University of Derby) & Jo Bishton (Lecturer in American Studies, University of Derby)
  • The Collector: desire, research and digital curation, Jill Lebihan, Principal Lecturer, English, Sheffield Hallam University
  • #Phonarchem  - making a lab session an event and sharing it with the world, Professor Simon Lancaster, (@S_J_Lancaster), University of East Anglia
  • Bits, bobs and digital sticky tape: using what you have to create digital stories - Charlie Davis, NTU
  • The Social Life of a Note - Andrew Middleton(@andrewmid), and Helen Kay, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Setting your stories free – Chris Thomson (@cbthomson), Jisc.
  • Making and telling a good story with Storify - Sue Beckingham (@suebecks), Sheffield Hallam University
  • #DS106 Learning as a digital story - Viv Rolfe (@VivienRolfe), University opf the West of England
  • Telling Different Stories: Storify Activity - Rebecca Sellars (Leeds Beckett University), Neil Withnell (University of Salford) and Graham McElearney (University of Sheffield)
  • Social media portfolios: building the digital toolbox using social media: - Sue Beckingham (@suebecks), Sheffield Hallam University

The day ended with a Plenary led by Andrew Middleton. This included an audio roundup which every delegate contributed to - each giving one point on what they will take away from the day. This is a classic end to a MELSIG event and a brilliant way to reflect on the highlights of others.

Crowdsourcing Digital Narratives #MELSIGrecipes

In the lead up to the event a crowdsourcing activity on Digital Narratives was run. The aim is to build a set of ‘recipes’ on approaches people have taken to incorporating ‘the narrative’ in digital pedagogies. These are being collated in Google Presentation and is still open for more contributions.

You can access the digital narrative recipes here.

My favourite quote

Telling Different Stories: Storify Activity

Andrew Middleton put out a call for the challenge to Storify the event. The three volunteers were Rebecca Sellar, Neil Withnell and Graham McElearney. Here are their wonderful digital narratives using Storify. 

Rebecca Sellar

Neil Withnell

Graham McElearney

My contributions

Making and telling a good story with Storify

The workshop looked at Storify and how it is has being used to support learning and teaching. Typically those of us using Storify are more familiar with the curation of tweets for events and tweetchats, however with deeper exploration I have found that the range of social media that can be used to pull into the storyboard plus the ability to add a textual narrative, Storify has the potential to be much richer. During the session I introduced the  Storify bookmarklet and how this can make storytelling both easier and more compelling.

The final part of the workshop was an activity where participants worked in small groups to plan new ways Storify could be used for learning. These plans were captured on Google Docs and then shared via Twitter using the hashtag #melsigstorify. After the event I curated these tweets and created a digital narrative using Storify.  

Social Media Portfolios: Building the Digital Toolbox using Social Media

The second workshop I led introduced the ongoing 'The Connected U' project I have been working on with Andrew Middleton and Kelly Snape. 

This session looked at how we can enhance our digital profiles and professional online presence by drawing from a digital toolbox using social media. Participants contributed to the conversation by providing their own ideas for additional tools to add to the digital toolbox.

Useful resources

These are just a few that I have gathered from the #melsigntu tweets. I will no doubt be adding to them as I go back through the tweets and colleagues share digital links to their workshops and other useful resources. 

....and no event could be complete without a visual from the wonderful Simon Rae (@simonrae)!