Saturday 12 January 2019

Reflections on #SocMedHE18 and #mugafesto - Social Media for Learning in HE Conference


For those that know me, you will know that for some years now I have been an advocate of the use of social media for learning and teaching. It has provided opportunities for my own CPD that continue to go beyond my expectations. The generosity of the communities I engage with or indeed listen in to, have had such a postive impact on who I am as a professional and the work that I do. #SocMedHE18 is the conference hashtag this post is about. I have been incredibly lucky to be able to co-create, co-organise and contribute as a co-presenter at an event that brings so many wonderful people together to openly share, discuss and debate topics around social media for learning. 

So this year Rachel Challen from Nottinham Trent Uni picked up the baton and agreed to host the 4th Social Media for Learning in HE Conference. Rach made the decision to reach out to her network to look for volunteers to form the organising committee for #SocMedHE18 and I was thrilled to be asked to join her team. Her approach to leading this massive undertaking must be commended. Using social media - mostly Google Drive and a private Twitter DM group, with the odd Zoom and Skype meeting - Rachel encouraged everyone to contribute ideas. The creativity that came from this group was fantastic and the unique additional touches Rachel added were brilliant. Right at that start she involved Bryan Mathers from Visual Thinkery to help the team develop ideas for the conference themes and to help Bryan create a collection of visuals that could be made into stickers (which were gifts for delegates at the event). He also created an Inclusive Revolution remixer which was great fun to use - try it yourself.  The whole process was an incredible experience.  From start to finish Rachel made sure everyone had a part to play and inspired everyone to contribute. Meanwhile behind the scenes she worked with her wonderful NTU team to make the magic that pulls a conference together. 

The #SocMedHE18 Organising Team
Image credit Sandra Huskinson ()

The themes for the event were openness, digital identity and creativity. Deb Baff came up with the ingenious idea to ask people to tweet their proposal to make it inclusive for all to contribute something short (in 280 characters!). A great response was received and the conversation using the #SocMedHE18 hashtag was on fire right from the start! To be honest the conversation has been vibrant leading up to, during and post conference. The event included activities that enabled those who could not be there to engage. Livestreaming the keynote is one example and then there was the Mugafesto. #Mugafesto was an idea created by Andrew Middleton to develop a manifesto that could fit on a mug. Statements that could help others see why social media for learning in HE is important and something that should be supported and encouraged. See my contribition at the top of this post - my intention being to highlight the value of open sharing to encourage the making of new connections, conversations and collaborations. The more we do this, the more we can gain. The more we gain and learn through trusted networks, has to be a win win situation. 

I was delighted to have the opportunity to introduce Maren Deepwell who gave an excellent keynote on how we use social media and technology for teaching, learning and assessment by exploring three critical themes: community, equality and openness. Maren's calm approach and the ability to articulate quite often complex matters is something I really admire. She began her talk by raising something I am sure we are all semi conscious of and that is the amount of time we spend online and the value of taking time out. She recommended the digital data detox which is described as 
The Data Detox helps you look for signs that you might not be leading a healthy, balanced digital lifestyle. It gives you practical advice so you can discover what you share, when you reveal it and to whom, and what it might mean for your life.
Maren refered to social media as powerful, personal and pervasive. It is easy to get carried away with the positive outcomes of using social media, but we also need to be mindful of the dark side. Having these conversations with family, friends, colleagues and students has never been so important. 


The day continued with three sets of parallel sessions. Choosing was always going to be difficult but in a way was made easier for me as I was asked to chair three sessions in the first set and was presenting a workshop in the final set. Given the Twitter feedback all sessions brought their unique value to the day. I certainly got a great deal from all the sessions I attended. 

Reflecting on the day there is so much I could write about, but for now I will use the event themes as a useful focal point and share these thoughts:

Hearing from educators sharing their practice and being able to discuss not just what went well, but also what didn't go as planned is incredibly valuable. Providing a forum to question, discuss and offer similar experiencs or suggestions is such a helpful approach and for me the bedrock of successful CPD. Every session allowed for this and I have come away with new ideas and ways I can re-consider my own practice of using social media for learning and how to (re)evaluate it. 

Digital identity
We explored in a session what we feel it means to 'lurk' (or what I prefer to refer to as positive silent engagement), where not participating is very often because the individual is shy or just not ready to contribute immediately (if at all). I want to think more about how I can encourage and help those that want to 'cross the bridge' but also recognise that I must acknowledge others may gain as much as they wish to by just listening in. During this session I co-led with Sarah Honeychurch, Neil Withnell and Scott Turner, I was momentarily worried people were not enjoying it, mistaking the quietness. Sometimes we need quiet for thinking space. Some people may need more time to think than others. 

Secondly I wanted to mention the joy and happiness of the many first 'face to face' meetings that took place. Many selfies were posted at the start of the day! I met people I regard as friends as we have known and interacted with each other through social media for some time, yet never met in person. I'm sorry I can't mention everyone but it was a joy to meet you all. I do want to mention Hala Mansour as our friendship is deeply rooted having shared a #WOL (working out loud) experience; and also Jenny Lewin-Jones and Kiu Sum who have both been part of the LTHEchat organising team; plus Teresa MacKinnon who I've had the pleasure of meeting many times off and online but would love to see more of! I find it fascinating to observe how the use of emojis, GIFs and bitmojis can add visual cues that maybe don't make up for the face to face experience of communicating but certainly help us express emotions and facets of our digital selves! 

From the start of the day the 'build your own badge' table had everyone smiling as they happily added their own creative stamp whilst making their perosnal name badge. Andrew as afore mentioned used his creativity to create a video to introduce the #Mugafesto activity, and Bryan who made the best stickers were both brilliant; but then each and every presenter also brought a range of creativity to the way they have enhanced their practice, shared research undertaken or ongoing, and in the way they stimulated discussion around one or more of the three themes. Rachel of course has used her creative wand numerous times and made this such a special event. Thank you for making it happen. 

I really didn't want the day to end. The good (actually brilliant) news is that SocMedHE19 will take place on December 19th at Edge Hill University led by the wonderful Dawne and Sarah. If I can leave you with one bit of advice, it would be follow @SocMedHE and make sure you get yourself to #SocMedHE19!