Pre #bydo4l reflections on twitter, Trump and why I’m not leaving social media

I’m getting ready for the week long social media frenzy that is #BYOD4L (bring your own device for learning).  This is the 5th iteration of the open, online course and as it’s evolved, it’s becoming less about devices and more about general effective use of technology within in education.   As I’ve blogged about before, I really enjoy #byod4l and the effective way it brings people together to share practice. As Chris Jobling has done it’s a great way to reflect on how your own use of technology has evolved.

Sunday is one of the few days that I buy an actual newspaper.  I tend to consume most of my news online now.  Today I saw a couple of articles about digital detoxes, and people leaving social media. These were alongside articles about the President Elect of the USA, and of course you can’t talk about him without at least a passing reference to twitter.

I doubt that when Jack Dorsey and Noah Glass  were developing twitter, they never,  in their wildest dreams, imagined that there would come a point where their fledgling idea would become the main communication channel for a President of the United States.

The at times, bizarre and incoherent stream of consciousness from the President elect illustrates (imho)  the antithesis of everything I use twitter for. It’s  Broadcast Mode (with deliberate capitalisation), uncensored, offensive . . .   So whilst I’m not wanting in anyway to compare myself to or with “The Donald”,  his use of twitter does illustrate why many people are turning off the service.

A few years ago, when twitter was new and shiny and free from advertising and obvious megalomania, when I was explaining its use to people I often used to say “you can’t really understand it or see the point of it until you use it”.  Making and sustaining connections – and yes, I’ll admit in the beginning there was a bit of thrill  (or as the wonderful @ambrouk called in “vanalytics “) watching how many followers I seemed to be amassing.

BYOD4L is a clear illustration of the  power of twitter as an  an educational tool/technology.  It’s free and easy to use, (in the beginning) community driven by for example #hashtags, the conventions of RTs, @ messages, acknowledgements etc.

It allowed us to use SNA to understand our community engagement in ways we hadn’t been able to before (take a bow @mhawksey for inventing the wonderful Tags Explorer visualisation tool).  It allows us to save and share all kinds of “stuff”. I  am still amazed at how articulate (some)  people  can be in 140 characters.  It allows use to connect and sustain networks, which to me has been and still is the most powerful aspect of twitter for me.

Having been one of the early adopters, my use of twitter has settled from the first thrills of always checking, always sharing  to the realisation that twitter was for me mainly a work tool so I should step away from it after work, at the weekends etc.

I guess I’ve been quite lucky in that my use of twitter has always had a clear professional purpose. Once I started using it I easily started making connections and found a clear rationale for using it.  The personal benefits ( for example the Eurovision Song Contest is lifted to a whole other level via the twitter backchannel), have always been a bit of an add on.

I’ve never gone on twitter just to broadcast (though i do confess to a certain level of “shameless self promotion” through sharing links to my blog posts, presentations etc),  I don’t go on to fight with people or deliberately be offensive/aggressive/obtuse . I’ve had some great conversations. I’ve also been very fortunate in that I haven’t been trolled. I’ve only had a couple of abusive messages.  I am very aware of the bubble I exist in, and I am thankful for it.

So whilst I can see that many people now find the adverts, the aggression, the trolling, the broadcast (as opposed to engaged mode that I prefer) mode of delivery,  it still works for me. Today I had a lovely exchange of twitter with some colleagues (@carolak @sharonflynn, @catherinecronin) I would never have known, or benefited from the sharing of their work  without twitter.

I’m not giving that up just because “the Donald” is around. I won’t let him take that away from me.

#BYOD4L – a story of personal and professional needs and wants

It’s only 10 days ’til the next iteration of Bring Your Own Device for Learning (#byod4l).  Once again, along with Alex Spiers and Neil Withnell I’m facilitating the week long open event ably assisted with a team of volunteer mentors.

Now I have to confess,  I love BYOD4L.  I love the madness of the nightly tweet chats, the sharing of practice and ideas in people’s blogs, google+, in fact all over the interweb.  But harking back to my last blog post about needs and want, although BYOD4L gives me an opportunity to do many things I want to do, is it really something I need to do?

I would say the answer is categorically yes. Although this is an open, social, informal, collaborative (with a sprinkling of badges) experience it also has provided me, my department, my colleagues, my institution with an space to allow people to experiment and experience a short blast of online collaboration and learning. In terms of staff development, BYOD4L has allowed us to augment the 5c model with informal drop in sessions where we can have more contextualised discussions about practice and experiences. In addition to the 5c model that BYOD4L uses, I think there is another C that this engenders –  confidence.  If you haven’t tweeted before, haven’t used Google+,  have no idea how or what a tweet chat is, it’s a great (and safe) place to start. You don’t have to say anything – just experience the structure, pace and interactions.  I know a number of my colleagues have done this and it has given them the confidence to start to use twitter in their teaching practice.

It is really hard to unpack what the impact of the tweet chats are. We do curate every one via storify, but it there are pretty big. However, as I facilitator I can see that there are many really interesting conversations happening. This year we are encouraging people to try and do a bit of their own more reflective curation and creating by way of telling their own byod4l story. That could be in any form – a smaller storify with a bit more context or what happened next, a blog post, an image, a video, a periscope.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly it will hopefully help to unpack the experience. We hope that more  smaller digital stories, swill be really valuable in terms of open collaboration and sharing.  Secondly, we hope that these vignettes of experience and practice will help people in terms of more formal CPD opportunities.   I have very much tried to document and reflect on my BYOD4L experiences (mainly through my blog) and this has been invaluable in terms of having evidence for both my HEA Fellow and CMALT applications.

So to get the ball rolling so to speak, here is my #BYOD4l story so far (created with Sutori). Just click on the image to see the full version.




2016, the year of what you want and 2017 the year of what you need?

Having successfully switched off from work for almost 2 weeks, and as it’s  Hogmanay I thought it timely to post a quick final 2016 post.   I have been trying to think of my 2016 highs and lows, but to be honest I really don’t have the energy or inclination to trawl back through the year. But I do want to thank you, dear reader for taking the time to read my little rants over the year.

Watching/reading and listening to the plethora of yearly round ups, I keep being reminded of something a documentary producer and former boss once said to me.  He said, “the trick is to give them what they need, not what they want.”  It’s probably been one of the most useful things anyone has ever said to me.  Finding out what people need, as opposed to what they say they want has been something I’ve spent most of my professional life doing.

In 2016 the Brexit and Trump results were examples of people voting for what (they thought) they wanted, and politicians and pundits riding an easy rhetoric to appear to be giving people what they wanted but not actually explaining how they would bring about  the kind of change that is really needed.  The markets are happy just now, but how long will that last?  The complications of Brexit haven’t even begun to be understood.  The impact of the USA being run like a business (and a business from somewhere in the mid 20th century by the sounds of things) is probably not actually what the “real” people of the USA need.

I had a bizarre experience this week when listening to former Cabinet Minister Michael Gove explaining his statement about not trusting experts. Apparently what he actually meant was that there should have been more rigorous criticality of some of the claims that were made during the Brexit campaign. On that I can agree with him (another example of the madness of 2016 – agreeing even briefly with Gove!) . However I do think that he kind of missed the irony of his statement when referring to academics.  Academics based their professional lives and reputation on criticality and rigorous review.

So my new year’s wish is that everyone starts to take a bit of time to engage with trying to understand what it is we all need, be that around climate change, how to sustain our health and (national) health service, education, the role of the UN, international diplomacy, Brexit, and trying to raise the level of public debate and critical questioning of the things that really matter in life. Digital literacy, engagement and participation are going to be key to ensure that we can all do that. But in the meantime I’ll leave you with Mick and the boys to give you a little bit of what you might not either want nor need.

My idea for a marvelous,mechanical, post-truth, gaslighting, Trump-checking app/mash-up/service

A bit of a mad Sunday afternoon post inspired by the Teen Vogue Gaslighting article that has been doing the rounds on my newsfeed this weekend.

We need to do more fact checking. President Elect Trump needs to start getting some facts right, but in this post truth age, we can’t rely on human experts – what do they know?  So I have had “a really great idea” (if I say it three times, a la The Donald, then it will be true),  a really great idea, a really great idea.

I’m not sure if this is an app/mash-up/ service/iftt recipe but it goes something like this: The Donald speaks, some type of shazam like service records the words, and automagically some AI  (note my point above about not using experts) like IBM Watson does some super clever checking of facts (remember this is my fantasy so the algorithms are you know, actually based on facts, and adapt to include more facts – not Trump-isms), the then produces a fact score -with a percentage and some links to the facts, which is then retweeted to the @realdonaldtrump twitter account, and of course anyone else who wants to subscribe to the service.  The only way to get a higher score is to get some real facts. The drawing below illustrates.

Screen Shot 2016-12-11 at 4.35.51 pm.png

Anyway, crazy Sunday idea, but if anyone wants to build this, then I would for one would sign up,  contribute to a crowd fund to build and keep it going.


Reasons to be cheerful – #altc , and the rest

Let’s face it 2016 hasn’t had too much to be jolly about, but this week  during the #altc winter online conference I was reminded of the some of the good things in my  professional life so I thought I’d take five minutes and not rant.

During the open session on ALTs future strategy there was a quite a bit of discussion about the support ALT has, and continues to, offer around professional development. As I participated  (well, waffled might be more accurate) in the discussion, I was reflecting on my own career development and thinking about how I got started in the “crazy” world of learning technology. It was unplanned, unexpected but totally the right thing for me.

Like many of my contemporaries, I just sort of fell into a newly developing field. When I got a job as Learning Technologist, nobody (including me and my employer) really knew what a learning technologist was. However, I did have a very supportive boss who encouraged me to make the role my own. I will be forever thankful to Jackie Graham for giving me that opportunity.

Lots of my contemporaries have similar stories, or were working in disciplines where they saw the potential for technology to make a real difference to learning. Making that difference to learning was the key to all of us, where ever we came from.

We were all a bit different, experimental – long before edupunks were even thought of. I think most importantly we were willing  to fail  (partly because back in the day “stuff” just didn’t work very well) and laugh with and at ourselves. We often forget to acknowledge the role of fun in learning and career development.

That diversity of backgrounds is one of the things I still cherish. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with so many clever people from such a wide range of academic disciplines, and they have all accepted me and valued my opinions, and my work and in turn influenced my own development.  Long may that continue.

So, I know it’s a bit schmaltzy , but  I just wanted to say thank you to everyone (especially you, dear reader) I have worked with, and continue to work with.  In these exceptionally unstable times, our communities, our networks will be need to be stronger than ever. In these physical and metaphorical dark days it’s good to remember that there are still some reasons to be cheerful.

Open sanctuary versus cyber security

The title of this post might be a bit misleading. It’s not a “fight” situation, or playing one of the other in black and white. This post is more about me trying to make sense of some “stuff” that has been churning around in my head for the past couple of weeks about my relationship with open education and openness in general. Doing our institutional cyber security training yesterday has helped give me a (sort of) focus for the post.

So, the last couple of months, in fact the whole of 2016 has been, to put it mildly, a bit of a funny old year. In the first of her annual ed tech review posts, Audrey Watters has (as ever) accurately summarised the feelings of so many of us regarding the loss of so much and so many.

Despite the corporate driven changes to many social media platforms, and in particular twitter, I have found solace after Brexit, after the US election, from many of my friends and colleagues and others who I don’t know, as they have expressed and shared their feelings. There are too many people to mention, but Martin, Lorna, and Helen  spring to mind.

This open sharing helps keep me sane, helps me fight my despair around the post truth climate we all find ourselves in. I make no apologies for “my bubble”. I also know many people are moving to different places in protest at many aspects of social media platform management and data manipulation.

last week as I tried to follow the “cool kidz” into mastodon, I felt for the first time in a long time, isolated, unsure and really not at all comfortable in a social network -see this comment for more. Part of me wants to start an “occupy” movement in twitter, claim back our network, but I digress.

I’ve always, probably naively, tried to keep Politics our of my professional life. Dealing with internal politics has always been quite enough. But that’s no longer the case. Education, imho, has never been so Politcised. It’s never been so necessary for all of us in education to be so. We are where the fight back against post truth, the dismal of fact needs to be strongest.

The theme of OER17 – The Politics of Open  will have even greater resonance than when it was first announced. Planning a contribution to the conference is where and when the notion of open sanctuary came to my mind.

I found it really hard to come up with anything to submit to the conference, and partly that was do with internal politics. Actually sharing some of the issues I perceive in my institution openly could potentially put me in a very difficult position.

During discussion for a fingers crossed successful workshop submission to the conference, with the wonderful Frances Bell and Viv Rolfe, they reassured my that I wasn’t alone. Our open networks allow us to reach out from the institutional madness, to inspire us to keep going and do our bit to support OEP and OER to grow within our own institutions. I’m still not articulating all of this very well, but I hope you’ll bear with me.

So yesterday I had to do my cyber security training. OMG, that’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back. Now, I’m not writing this to have a go at anyone involved in producing this. It’s all standard corporate training with the obligatory “high quality” videos and quizzes. But I have a real issue with this whole cyber security thang.

It’s all about closing things down, about corporate security, about platforms vying to place themselves as the most cyber secure cloud, about shutting down our civil liberties.

I realise there are serious issues “out there in cyber space” (and is it just me or does cyber space just sound scary?) around data, information management and access. But, particularly in a university setting instead of taking the (cyber) stick, padlock, lock down approach be thinking about empowerment? About developing digital capability and capacity?

Uncertainty causes fear (hello Mr Trump, Mrs May). Uncertainty causes people to make mistakes. If you are clear and confident about “stuff” you’re going to be able to make better judgements for example not to send exam marks via email. Instead of sitting through 2 hours of videos, wouldn’t it have been better to you know, try something different? Maybe a team based scenario where you had to deal with some major data breach that was (and this is crucial) relevant to your context? Maybe look at productive failure approach (as highlighted in this years OU Innovating Pedagogy report)

It’s easier to just push out corporate style training. Isn’t it ironic that in universities where we are supposed to extend notions of learning and teaching, we can’t see past standard corporate training for our staff? Another way to turn us off, to make us disengage, to make us fear the open,  disengage from open practice, for the platforms to come in and take over?



My little bit of sanctuary  . . .


Where Sheila’s been this week: Inverness to Edinburgh#elesig, #ldcin, and delving into the digital university

Technically this post is a quick summary of where I was last week, I just didn’t quite get round to writing a post before the end of the week.

Last week I did a mini tour of Scotland, starting at UHI  (the capital of the Highlands) Inverness for the ELESIG Scotland meeting and ending up on Friday in Edinburgh (the “other” capital) for the Learning Design Cross Institutional Network meeting.  It was great to have a few days out of the office to catch up with colleagues and developments from across the Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The theme of Monday’s ELESIG meeting was that perennial favourite, Assessment and Feedback.  David Walker (University of Sussex)  provided a great start to the day with a very engaging, interactive and thought provoking keynote around driving change and challenging established assessment practice.David Walker keynote, ELESIG 21/11/16

The rest of the day was a really good balance of presentations from across Scottish Universities around different approaches to changing assessment practice.  Topics ranged from the use of wikis, to plagiarism in MOOCs, to assessment mapping to audio feedback. This storify gives an flavour of the discussions.

I stayed on in Inverness and on Tuesday morning with my colleague Bill Johnston we led a webinar around the questions of what is a digital university?  This is a questions Bill, Keith Smyth (from UHI who hosted us) have been trying to answer for a number of years now.  It was timely that a paper we wrote for SEDA last year about our work is now openly available. – hopefully next year this work will be extended into a book.  You can catch up with the webinar here.

On Friday Fiona Hale and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh hosted the 4th Learning Design Cross Institutional Network. I was so pleased that this, the fourth meeting of the was being held in Edinburgh as it meant that I could actually attend in person and not remotely.  This meeting was also much bigger that previous meetings. It was really pleasing to see around 40 colleagues coming together to talk about learning design in the lovely Dovecot which provided perhaps the tastiest sandwiches and pastries I have eaten all year!

I was delighted to share the approaches and methodologies we have been developing here at GCU.

Again this storify  of the day gives a flavour of the discussions and activities.  I was particularly interested in Mario Toro- Troconis (University of Liverpool)  Course Design Sprint Framework and the associated activity  cards which rather neatly map design approaches, Blooms taxonomy, tools, the UKPSF and Medical council descriptors.  As these are available via CC licence this is something I hope to return to in a future post as I think this could be really useful for us to adapt and use here at GCU.

Sharing practice, ideas, frustrations, challenges is so important to staff development and actually to our well being.  It’s all to easy to get caught up in the day to day of our own institutions. Now where is as challenging as our own institutions, right? But we all share common issues and can share common approaches to solutions.  Getting a bit of external validation is also really important in times where institutional thanks/validation is increasingly hard to find.  So it’s great that we are seeing more of these bottom up forums becoming more established.