#BYOD4L reflections, adding another “c” to the mix – custodian v (re) designer

A large part of my last week was taken up with the Bring Your Own Device for Learning (#BYOD4L). Along with my co-organisers Alex Spiers and Neil Withnell, and our lovely team of mentors (couldn’t have done it without you guys).  I was connecting, communicating, curating, collaborating and creating all over “t’interweb”. Well, to be more accurate I was actually active on twitter with a wee splash of periscope. I glanced a bit a google+ but it’s only really today that I have been able to make some time to reflect on the week.

One area we wanted to try and engage our community with this year was reflection,  the notion of developing their own (digital) stories of their experiences. You can see some stories here, and this blog post which explains our thinking in a bit more detail.

We really hoped that this approach might help share some of the conversations and practice sharing that take particularly in the tweet chats.  Also from a more pragmatic point of view, due to my departmental restructuring, I have had to articulate the value of my participation in the event and the value of running f2f drop in sessions during the week. Being able to describe how this informal learning experience can be valuable for formal CPD has been slightly higher on my agenda than on previous years.

It’s probably too early to say if/how this approach has worked, but both online and in our f2f session colleagues were talking about how they were going to try new  their own contexts. I’m certainly going to try mentimeter for feedback.

Looking at the google+ community I was taken by this post from Józefa Fawcett. Apart from really liking the format of the post.  It really got me thinking about my role in the event and some of the opportunities and challenges of taking over the running of an established open course.

BYOD4L was created by Chrissi Nerantzi and Sue Buckingham. They have published widely and openly about the underpinning pedagogical model they developed and used to design the course.

BYOD4L has always embraced a number of online spaces – the main site (which is a wordpress blog), twitter, google +, Facebook (though that community has kind of naturally come to an end).  This can be overwhelming and confusing for many, but for people like me ( a bit of a digital flibbertigibbet ) it’s not a problem, from the beginning I embraced the chaos challenges of communicating across multiple platforms.

This is the second year that Neil, Alex and I have been in charge of the event. And it strikes me now that we haven’t really ever had a big discussion about changing the design.  It’s not that we’ve not talked about it, we just haven’t haven’t had a big chat around the design and any potential re-design. We all, I think,  take comfort from the “if it ain’t broke . . .” adage. We are all also limited by amount of time we can spare to actually make any substantial changes.

Today I’m  wondering have we been subconsciously acting more like custodians of the event, the original learning design and web design.  Not wanting to change the original design in case we offended Chrissi or Sue by changing their design. Which is odd really as it is an open resource, we all claim to be open practitioners, and both Chrissi and Sue I’m sure would be delighted if we did.  Any changes, like adding daily periscope broadcasts, the idea of personal stories have maybe been more like tinkering round the edges.

One of the perennial challenges of getting people to use OERs is that of context.  Early studies such as the Good Intentions report highlighted that.  People can feel it’s almost easier to create their own resource than to edit an existing one.  For me, with BYBO4L it has almost been the opposite. The overall design works (despite some of the confusion that some people feel) so why change it?

Perhaps we should have made the time to really edit and update, in particular, the blog. But part of me feels like that is the history of the event which should be shared and I don’t actually have the right to significantly change it or archive it.  Or is that just an excuse for bad resource and archiving management on my part (aka laziness)?  I thought writing this post my help me with this conundrum, but I think I need a bit more time. If you have any suggestions or thoughts then I’d love to hear them.

Ring for Custodian

Is it really all about the deal?

We are now truly in the post-truth era. With Brexit becoming a reality and  today’s inauguration of “the Donald”, we are also firmly in the age of ‘’the deal’.

Life, democracy, world peace, nuclear weapons, courgettes – everything we know is about doing deals.  Just how these deals will pan out remains to be seen.  Britain may be “open for business” and ready to do deals; the new US Presidency may be headed by a self proclaimed King of the deal. But from where I’m sitting I am very skeptical about both.

Deals are about about negotiation. Call me crazy, but I’m just not convinced the business aka bullying tactics of the boardroom are really appropriate for nuclear arms negotiations for example. Similarly vacuous soundbites from Mrs May do not really convince me of any strong negotiation position for the UK with the EU and the rest of the world.

But she needs to walk the deal maker walk.  The image of the deal maker is all to often associated with stereotypical (male ) power and imho bullying tactics.   More than ever the deals will spun to suit to political ends and egos.  Winning, or the perception of winning, will be all important.

So where does this leave us in education?  Will we need to embrace ‘the deal’ in new ways? What negotiation tactics can we employ to ensure our future? Consolation which is all were are really offered by governments  around any major change in our provision, structure and funding is not negotiation.

Negotiated Learning is not new, it quite rightly permeates many of our university level  programmes. Education should always be a negotiated process. Education is not about telling people what to do or what to think. Equally it can’t all be customer driven. Part of the joy of being a student is actually not knowing what you need to know. But you don’t realise that until well after you finished particularly any formal education.

Education is about providing learning environments that support engagement and foster confidence, understanding, knowledge sharing, extension and growth.  But that’s really hard to measure. It’s hard to broker a deal based on fuzzy stuff (hello TEF). Easier to tell universities, schools what they need to measure, produce some league tables, give out some medals and let the politicians do their deals.

It’s really hard to know what do write, or say today of all days, maybe this is the start of the end of days.  But I do think what we can and should do as educators is to help empower everyone in our society to articulate and understand the process of negotiation. To question bland, meaningless statements made by politicians, to demand evidence not “gut instinct”.  Most of all we can’t be silent we need to be able to bring the deal makers to task and make sure that the are constantly engaged in meaningful negotiations with us, the electorate.

I still don’t understand what the Brexit deal is for the UK – a direct result of the  failure from both sides during the referendum to engage effectively and meaningfully with the electorate.  Just now all I can see is a few people wanting more of something from the past, but leaving the rest of us with less than we had for the future.

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.