Sunday 17 November 2013

Professionalism and Engagement in Customer Service Event - M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries

Professionalism and Engagement in Customer Service: M25 Customer Service Group Conference

I attended this event at Kings College, London University on 7th November 2013.
Before this event was advertised on various Jiscmail lists, I hadn't heard of the consortium or group so it was interesting to know of it's existence and their website with more information.
I was keen to go to the event because of the venue as I did my first degree at Kings College in the 80s so it was an opportunity for a nostalgic visit.

After the introduction / welcome session, the first session was a keynote from Andrew McMillan, Principal Consultant at Engaging Solutions.  He talked about staff engagement and the relevance of customer experience in libraries.  He said that if you search for results about innovation then the results are about the physical space and digitisation but we should be concentrating on 'what it feels like' and the library space as a good space to work and a social space.  Libraries can curate information and direct students to the information that is relevant.
The team is what is at the heart of customer service.

e gave quite a few examples from commercial companies with images and video clips.  He gave the example of McDonald's, not as something to be recommended, but to illustrate the idea of a transactional relationship with customers.  If we go down the digitisation route only and just supply resources then there is a danger that it becomes a transactional relationship.  
His next example was of Harley Davidson (motorbikes) - they were in a market where they couldn't compete so in order to do so and survive, they focused on the feel of the brand and product.  How people feel about the brand is important.  
The customer experience is not just a product or service.  
It is the channel - how easy are you to access?
The process - how easy are you to business with?

Concentrate on what it feels like - engagement.
This often involves a cultural and behavioural change for staff, it's about attitude and behaviour and training is not always the answer.
Take 'fluffy' customer engagement and make tangible - define, measure, communicate, reward, lead.  Take care when recruiting and inducting new staff.  Take pride in the brand you are representing.  He did make some very good points as well as some that are more difficult to transfer into the environment of an academic library and the associated ethos and staffing e.g. Hire for for attitude
I do agree that libraries should focus more on being 'the place to be' and engaging and promoting themselves as 'wow' places.  For me it is the space and the feel and the place that are as important, if not more important, than the resources. This is something for me to think about as you would think that people who are technology focused like myself would be less keen on the physical space, but this is not the case.
He also mentioned about management and leadership which gave me some points to think about before I try to articulate them.
These are the notes:

What you do (management)
The way you do it (leadership)
You should spend 20% of time talking to your team and
being with team interacting with students. Leadership is a performance. You have
to be conscious of your behaviour because everybody else is.
Need to have strength of conviction (dance on your name!!)
Manage things, lead people
Set standards by example, coaching and encouragement
?s for all of us
What is your purpose?
Why do you work here?
Why did you choose your career?
What do you most enjoy?

The next presentation was by the Kings College Libraries Customer Services Team (Lucy Royle, Vanessa Farrier and Ruth Murphy), who talked about putting staff engagement ideas into practice.  They have 5 campuses, 6 libraries.  They have an Enquiry and Site Services team - two desks. They reviewed all their procedures and policies with the customer at the centre.  They concentrated on a quality, customer service that was responsive, inclusive, friendly, knowledgeable and proud.  They aimed to embed professionalism and create an ethos. This involved a change in behaviours. 

They created a collaborative staff charter and all staff sign it as a declaration of their support. I like this idea - if you can get staff onboard with it as it gives ownership of the service and the developments to the team.  
They also highlighted the need to consider the new ethos when recruiting and inducting new staff.  
(I also have 'role play...' in my notes  - hmm, this one would be tricky with my team...)

The next presentation was by Heidi Daniell of Accelerator Solutions and was about emotional intelligence and engagement.  There was an activity that you had to do in pairs changing 3 things etc.  and the 'emotions' involved which was then linked to change management - change is uncomfortable.  You need to know why - human behaviour involves thoughts, feelings and behaviour. 
Acceptors cynics rejecters 10:80:10.  V+D+S >R Vision Dissatisfaction Steps > Resistance
Disengaged employees don't know what is expected of them - don't know what
good looks like.  Do you know what motivates your people?
Engaged employees have pride, they believe in the product/services.
The presentation was useful although it felt a little bit like a sales pitch...

Sue Downie then did a short presentation about the Institute of Customer Service and it's accreditation and training which was informative.

After lunch the focus was customer engagement.  There were a series of quick presentations on innovative feedback methods and related topics.  I thought this was a very useful part of the day.  

Hannah Thomas, British Museum Library - Anthropology library & research centre.  Their library is one of nine libraries at the British Museum.  They have an unusual situation in that they are a department and a public library.  
Ideas and problems - no captive audience, remote users.  There are no renewal dates for their books (does this mean readers could  them out for ever?).  They are not allowed to tweet - unless they book the tweet 6 months in advance! They want more people
to use ALRC.  It was an interesting talk highlighting the differences between different academic libraries.  It will be interesting to see how some of their ideas develop.  

Ian Clark, Christchurch University, Kent
He talked about the need to have two way communication, less preaching more
engaging. 87% of 18-24 yr olds use twitter, 36% use social media to contact a
large organisation so this needs to be taken into account when using social media.  Use a response on twitter to diffuse problems. Learn about students needs and build relationships.  Monitor hash tags Location services Be proactive. 

Anna Knox, University of East London talked about their new library - the process of planning and consulting with students.  

What do you want in the new library?  What don't you want in the new library?
The results from the consultation were:
Wanted : More books and journals, Silent study rooms, More PCs, More group study rooms, 24 hr coffee
Didn't want : Noise, Food eating drinking, Broken equipment, Litter, Clutter/cramped spaces
They held focus groups and the responses showed (predictably?) that students wanted different things at different times.  The architects presented draft plans to students and staff.  They involved students in all stages of the process e.g. choosing furniture and fittings

Rob Wannerton, Brunel University

Talked about 'Changing the Story'.  Traditional methods tend to be slow and take time. 
Dialogue :take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem
Since 2009 they have been using Facebook Twitter and Bookmark mentions of their library and services daily.  Include students in their library and developments e.g. Choose carpets choose bag slogans suggest names for
spaces.  Use Instagram, Storify, Pinterest, #BrunelLibrary

Jo Taplin Green, LSE Library 
She talked about how they 'Go Out and About' and this was really interesting - 'roving' outside the library. I've heard talks about this before (from Huddersfield??) and it is a great idea and useful to provide help at the point of need.  They pre-advertise the sessions to ask students at various
locations on campus.  You need to have a proactive approach to promotion of services and gathering feedback.  Choose your audience - relaxed environments - groups rather than individuals. 

The last talk in this session was by Lauren Elmore,  University of Leicester.
She talked about student feedback cards 'Happy Cards'.
Cards for students to fill in which have three questions:
Are you happy with the service today?
Staff polite and professional?
Was the information or help you received useful?

They use the feedback to improve the service.  I like this idea and have used something similar before for LRC feedback - why do you like the LRC?  It sounds as if it is too vague or fluffy but students in my experience like filling in free text (paperbased) as a change from the constant electronic surveys they get sent. 

There were refreshments and a further session but I had to leave early to make sure that i could catch my train.
And also to visit the Maughan Library

Thursday 7 November 2013

Gifford Lectures

On Monday, T2 and I went to listen to Lord Williams deliver one of the Gifford Lectures.
The lecture was entitled Representing Reality and was about language and natural theology. It was very interesting and very complex. A great speaker obviously and so clever as it felt like you were being taken on a journey through an argument and it didn't matter if you didn't understand it all but it was utterly convincing.
The only part that I made a note of was:
Think to the edge of what can be said. The edge of descriptive language. There is no answer but a mode of consciousness which eludes characterisation.
The venue in New College, Uni of Edinburgh is beautiful and peaceful. T2 is doing Classics and Divinity now so often there. It's nice to spend time with him going to events like this although it does make us seem slightly nerdy as a family.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Future of Technology in Education conference #fote13

Last Friday I attended the FoTE conference which was enjoyable and interesting. I attended in 2011 but didn't make it last year so was pleased to be able to shuffle work and travel and life to get there this time.
It is hosted by ULCC at Senate House, Uni of London. It's a beautiful building and has great memories for me as I used to spend hours in the library there in the 80s when I did my first degree at Kings College.

I like the event because it is for Learning Technologists and academics / teachers / educationalists who are involved and knowledgeable about learning technologies - it's not for the general overviewers but at the same time not cliquey. Also there is always a good back channel discussion via twitter.
The first speaker was Nicola Millard who is a futurologist. She was brilliant and engaging and talking about customers which is what I'm interested in. I do like an inspirational key note speaker to kick off an event, someone with an interesting take on the situation and with an appealing delivery. She talked about making things easy and effortless for customers and different sorts of effort such as cognitive effort. She mentioned email and that it would die out due to other channels being easier - not sure that I agree with that sweeping statement.....
A great point that she made was that you need 4 things in order to work - coffee, cake, connectivity and company. I agree entirely although would substitute tea for coffee. I think this idea is something library people should think about embracing - what sort of space is needed for you and for library users?
The next speaker was Alicia Wise from Elsevier who talked about Open Access. It was an interesting talk and quite difficult as the audience, I expect, are predominantly in favour of OA and see publishers as a barrier to it. But it was good to see them as part of the discussion.
The third speaker was Gwen Noteborn from Maastricht Uni talking about Webcasts in education: Mythbusters! It was ok and interesting but maybe covering old ground to some extent.
After the coffee break was the Fireside Chat with a real virtual fire in the background.
FOTE13 Fireside Speakers:
Yousuf Khan (Chair), Chief Information Officer, Hult International Business School
Adrian Ellison, Director of Information Technology, University of West London
Cathy Walsh, Principal and CEO, Barking & Dagenham College
Heidi Fraser-Krauss, Head of IT Services, University of York
Richard Maccabee, Head of ICT, University of London
There was some discussion around the idea that technology changes but working practices don't often change in order to develop along side. Again 'easiness' of using technology was mentioned - I agree in part, it has to accessible and available but I'm not sure it has to be simple - some of the appeal of technology is that it is challenging and complex - it can change the world, that is why it is enthralling.

After lunch Lindsay Jordan delivered a great presentation including a blue outfit and a piano. She talked about why people drop out of courses. Sustained learning needs motivation, organisation, self discipline - can we get these in an online environment? Possibly? She advocated face to face communication rather than email....again I would say it depends on the situation and the interaction.

Next presentation was by Martin King and was about diversity and connectivity - lots of interesting stuff.
Next presentation was from Kevin
Ashley from the Digital Curation Centre. He talked about the data deluge and the problem that we have is that the amount of data is outstripping the technology we have to store it.
After the coffee break, the final two presentations were about Moocs. Matt Yee-King and Marco Gillies talked about the Mooc that they created and delivered at Goldsmiths. It was a great insight into the practicalities of scaling up an online course and some of the issues and solutions they had encountered. This included changing deadlines which is easy for small cohorts but not for large numbers. Also the problems of negative comments on discussion forums - even if 1% make one comment, this can be large number of complaints.
The last presentation was by Diana Laurillard entitled The pedagogies for large-scale student guidance. The data from Moocs suggest that the majority of participants already have a degree or higher degree. This suggests that it is not for undergraduate study but for CPD. The drop out rates are high but registration is not the same as signing up. When scaling up the numbers involved in courses for Moocs, other factors have to be considered such as admin and support. Support costs are not going to go down but technology can innovate pedagogy. There needs to be investment in teacher innovation to make best use of resources and improve student outcomes.
All in all, it was a great day with lots of ideas to take away and reflect on. It's good to spend a day immersed in learning technology, listening and talking to people.

On the way back to the station I managed a very brief (10min) visit to the British Library - just time to stand and stare.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Dog food, fire hoses and asking permission - phrases overheard at education technology events

You expect to hear a certain amount of jargon and soundbites in education and technology in order to attract attention and tap into the popular culture of the day. But sometimes you hear people using phrases and wonder what they are thinking and then later, when you go back and read your notes, it seems at best slightly odd and at worst ridiculous. Two phrases that I have heard over the last few weeks at technology / educational events are 'eating your own dog food' and 'drinking from the fire hose'. I'm not a popular culture person nor a marketing person so perhaps such calls to action are not relevant to me, but what does it mean and why were they said in the context of an academic environment.
I hesitantly googled 'eating your own dog food' and according to wikipedia ">Dogfooding can be a way for a company to demonstrate confidence in its own products. The idea is that if the company expects customers to buy its products, it should also be willing to use those products". It has been a phrase in common usage since 2007 although other alternatives have been suggested such as 'drinking your own champagne'.
Presumably in the context it was used it means that educational systems / initiatives / technologies should produce an environment for learning that the developers and policy makers would be confident and happy to use themselves?
Also in my notes from another day, I have 'Drinking from the firehose?' and 'Being agile in fast waters' so presumably there is a connection. Again I hesitantly googled 'drinking from the fire hose' - and I wished I hadn't as there were quite a few dodgy results aimed at 'male gamers' as you can imagine, but it does mean 'overwhelmed by information'. My question would be 'what is wrong with using 'information overload' in this instance? The use of both these phrases in an educational/academic/technology environment is disappointing as far as I'm concerned - who is it meant to appeal to? Is it meant to be cool or business like? Or funny...and I'm not getting the joke?

On a more serious note, I have recently heard three people suggesting that in order to get things done, it is better to seek forgiveness after the event rather than asking permission beforehand. Two of the people who have extolled this course of action are quite eminent in their field and I admire them for their success. But my first thoughts were 'how high up the ladder do you have to get before you can do that?' and 'It would be great to be able to do that'. My second thoughts were 'what would happen if everyone did that' and 'is asking permission sometimes a matter of seeking consensus?'.
The third time I've noted the phrase was in a blog about productivity when it was stated that the only way to get things done was to do them and then 'seek forgiveness' if it doesn't work. But surely it is a judgement call - if you see an opportunity and think it's going to work then you should take a risk and go for it. But what happens if it doesn't.......

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Association for Learning Technology Conference 2013 - Tuesday 10th Sept #altc2013

ALT-C 2013 Tuesday 

The Association for Learning Technology conference took place in Nottingham at the East Midlands Conference Centre 10th - 12th September. It was an excellent conference, as it always is, and I would recommend it to anyone involved in education and invaluable to those involved in educational technologies.
This blog post is not a comprehensive account of the conference sessions as these can be found online via the ALT website and via the ALT YouTube channel, but is a brief summary of events and of my experience of the conference.
As usual, I never have time to prepare for my attendance at the conference as I'm always working right up to the day before and this is problematic. I would like to study in advance the sessions that I'm going to attend and contact the people I would like to meet but instead it's straight into the hurly burly.
Firstly the venue - I very much like the venue - easy to get to by car, car park right outside, conference sessions all in one building, no trekking across a campus to other buildings. Facilities good, main theatre suitable, breakout rooms ok, tea and biscuits available, places to sit, places to chat in corridors, modern decor and easy to find toilets. Wifi coverage good although I expect most people use eduroam rather than the conference wifi. Food good - lunches queue up and get served but tables to sit at thankfully none of that wandering around the exhibition space trying to balance a plate and drink etc.
The conference chairs, Malcolm Ryan and Hadyn Blackey were excellent from start to finish providing a knowledgeable and entertaining interface and appeal to all the delegates. It was a perfect balance between looking back at 20 years of ALT conferences and providing relevance to current developments.
The opening keynotes consisted of a number of speakers. There was a video from Matthew Hancock MP who talked about FELTAG and then MOOCs and the impact that MOOCs can have as they mature. He questioned what changes are needed in order to use technology for the improvement of education.
Next up was Alan Ford, Pro-Vice Chancellor Teaching and Learning University of Nottingham. He talked about blended learning, not distance learning and the importance of supporting face to face teaching with learning technologies.
Then Rachel Whenstone talked about partnerships and how educators can build cultures of partnerships with students.  Rachel is Vice-President (Higher Education) of the National Union of Students and explained that students should have opportunities to shape their learning and be empowered to determine what the learning environment looks like. Students want a change from feedback to a two way conversation about the process of change. Universities need to offer a new way for students to engage not a consumerist model, new practice not just rhetoric. It was a very interesting keynote and it was great to have the student voice and perspective but I felt she was berating us for not doing anything as far as collaborating with students is concerned. In fact lots of us are working really hard at improving the student experience and involved in lots of initiatives, projects and day to day activities to engage and empower students. I agreed with everything she said but we're already travelling down that road with good intentions.
Next I went to a session about iPads in distance learning and using a bespoke app.  The people involved were working in a peace keeping role in warzones and often did not have access to wifi.  The session was focused on digital literacy skills.
The next session was the FELTAG Open Consultation meeting which involved feedback on the FELTAG workstreams.  FELTAG is the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group which was set up by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock to find out how the FE sector could embrace different learning technologies. It aims to focus on the practicalities of working with students and employers.  There was an opportunity for people in the audience to make suggestions about the areas that the work should focus on - these included capturing innovation, examples of best practice, guided learning hours, funding (SFA), transforming and digitising the enrolment system. 
There is a review of the session and the conference which can be downloaded from
The evening involved the reception for new ALT members which was well attended and is very valuable.  I think that there was more new attendees at the conference than previous years and hopefully they were also new ALT members.  It is important to provide a networking opportunity for new people as well as current members and to ensure that the conference is a positive experience for all delegates.

Monday 2 September 2013

Moocs, Music Festivals and Cricket Matches

In July I spent the weekend at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk.  It was the first time I had been to a music festival as opposed to concerts and also the first time I had been camping in a long time.
I blogged about the weekend and very much enjoyed it.
We arrived on the Thursday night and so started to explore on the Friday.  We set off from our small campsite, through a bigger campsite, through the 'village' of shops and facilities and headed towards the arenas.
Then I was struck by the thought 'wow, this is a much bigger place than I expected' and 'I have no idea what to expect or where to find anything' and then realised that I had had this feeling before, in fact very recently.
It was the same sort of feeling as starting a MOOC……
My next thought was ok, what sort of filtering system do I have to put in place in order to make sense of this? 
This has been my immediate response to participating in MOOCs and I thought that although it wasn't exactly the same situation,  there might be some common strategies that could be used?
The similarities were that:
I was in an environment that was massive, there were thousands of people and I didn't know anyone (apart from the person I was with). Thousands of participants and no way of knowing how many or who they were.
I was in an environment that I had signed up to, entered (either physically or virtually) but didn't know what it consisted of – I didn't know the lie of the land.  I could see that the people were in the environment and interacting but didn't have an overview of the whole place.
I could see that the people involved had a purpose, they were individuals or groups and they were there to see/ hear someone or something.  There was an itinerary – i.e. it was possible to find a list of performers (lectures) and there was a list of tents / arenas (rooms) in which you could enter to see the performance.
Most importantly, there was a lot  happening, too many events for one individual to see or participate in them all – it was necessary to dip in and dip out of events and 'go with the flow'.
So that is what we did at the music festival – we picked a couple of performances each day that we wanted to see and then just wandered around and stopped to see or listen to whatever was happening – sometimes we followed the crowd to the popular arenas, sometimes we chose a less busy place in order to interact more and sometimes we went back to the campsite to get away from it all.
Obviously there were differences, one is mainly a physical environment and was entertainment (the music festival) – there were no learning outcomes that I was trying to achieve. 
I could actually see (hear and touch) the other participants, I knew they existed and we were all in the same place. It was real but I was surprised by the similarities in the experience.
Last weekend we went to the Twenty20 cricket match at Chester le Street, Durham.  It was a great day – England v Australia and England won – women's match in the morning and men's in the afternoon.
Again there were a large number of people participating in an event but this time it didn't have any of those moocish overwhelming feelings nor music festival feelings.
I think this is because everyone had a seat – there was a defined space where each individual was placed – there was no choice and no decision to make about where you would place yourself.
There was only one performance at a time, one match, everyone was watching and listening to the same thing at the same time.  There was a start and finish time and it was a performance with rules that those playing and those watching knew about and adhered to.   You could interact with other participants but only the other members of the audience not the players although I suppose by cheering (especially the barmy army) you could influence the performance.  

I don't know whether to feel 'moocish' is good or bad – I don't think it matters as long as you recognise it when it overwhelms you.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Getting to the Repository of the Future. RepositoryFringe2013

Yesterday I attended the first day of Repository Fringe 2013 and an afternoon workshop entitled Getting to the Repository of the Future. It was held at the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum.
I haven't taken part in this event before and although not a repository expert, I am keen to find out more about the current situation regarding repositories and gain an informed general overview.
The room was laid out with 6 tables of approx 6 people ( there was another workshop session being held at the same time so this was a subset of the total attendees).
The session was introduced by Chris Awre who gave an overview of the context, background and aims of the day. He mentioned that repositories need to be used for a variety of purposes to include Research Data, OER, Digital assets, MOOCs etc. He raised some questions to be considered during the workshop:
There are many repositories in place but how do we support them?
There are lots of repositories and lots of services but where do we go now?
Institutions need to be responsive
If you work with a repository, are they still the right system for managing the institutions assets?
Staffing and skills requirements?
What tools will be used in the future?
There needs to be a collaborative approach and sector wide perspective.
Then Balviar Notay from Jisc talked about the current picture with an overview of the development of digital repositories by key strategic area. This included considering what the value is of a repository to an institution. In order to help address the question 'So what can we do now?' She gave some examples of pioneering ideas including:
Uni of Hull (Hydra)
Uni of Creative Arts - creative arts repositories (ePrints). Practioner based researchers work.
Middlesex MIRAGE 2D repository of MRI scans could be turned into 3D visualisations with embedded visualisation toolkit

In a sharing economy power is moving to the edges - are repositories at the edge?

Chris Awre then added the following questions to consider
How do repositories pay their keep?
Directly through exploitation? Indirectly through lowering of costs elsewhere?
What are the current trends that influence repositories?
Social - open learning, RDM, academic shifts in need/innovation
Technological - content centric development, system integration, usability, analytical
Legal issues - licensing
Environmental - relational to other systems VLE, shared library management systems, public engagement, preservation
We then had breakout sessions which consisted of discussions on our tables to look at 2yr, 5yr, 10yr predictions for repositories - Short, medium and long term. What is the future of the repository?
There was a good mix of people on our table with different levels of expertise and experience which made for a good discussion. We looked at the functionality of repositories - what should you be able to do with a repository?
(We did have a discussion about the actual word Repository and whether it is appropriate or relevant but in the absence of any other word........)
The main points we made were:
Other systems need to be able to pull information out of a repository easily - it should be an 'invisible repository' in a good way - transparent.
There should be an automated way of getting stuff into the repository - no need to input.
Enhanced discovery - easily searchable. Different ways of visualising - clever interfaces.
Publishers? Do we still want them in 10 years? Need to have more engagement. A better relationship with publishers should be part of the infrastructure providing more ingest.
Which institutions repository should a piece of work be stored in when co-authors?
More interaction with open access repositories? What are the incentives? There needs to be a change in culture.
Is it possible to get all the repositories or silos to talk to each other and then bring data together to send out into an interface that is usable?
There was then a feedback session when the groups fed back to the whole room. The main points raised were:
Functionality of repositories revolve round three main aspects - preservation, access and diversity.
Repositories should do less but better.
Automation of management.
Should the delivery of the content be offloaded to a delivery platform rather than being a function of the repository itself.
Who decides access and how?
Interoperability - add service layers.
Diversity of content - images, videos etc
Access to ephemeral content such as blogs
Organisationally there needs to be more integration with other systems and multiple systems. Fully integrated into people's workflow.
Governance and transparency - how much does the organisation want to invest?
Two good quotes of the day were
"If everything could be automated, then that would be great"
"The future is here, but not evenly distributed".

The summary of the day was that:
Repositories are good to draw stuff together and manage it - breadth of content will grow.
Who is driving? conflict between ownerships of content and repository and those who run the institution and the requirements
A lot of what we want to do is already known about but an uncertainty how to do it. So what are the barriers? Policy? Skills? If we could identify the barriers would this help?

Wednesday 31 July 2013

ALT-S SIG Glasgow Caledonian University - 20th June 2013

A belated blog about the ALT-S SIG Glasgow Caledonian University on 20th June 2013.
This is the first meeting, apart from at ALT-C that I have attended and the first time that I've been to GCU.  It was very interesting and useful and I met and talked to quite a few people that I've not met before.  The attendees were mostly Learning Technologists.
There was a mixture of presentations and talks and then group discussions with feedback.
The presentations were the following which were all very interesting and useful.

Dr Christine Sinclair, University of Edinburgh: The Coursera Experience

Grainne Hamilton, Jisc RSC Scotland: Open Badges

Martin Hawksey, Cetis: ALT’s ocTEL MOOC experience: Designing the platform

As well as tweeting from the event, I did take some brief notes......

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Why tweet from a conference or event?

When I attend a conference or event I try to tweet as much as possible for the following reasons:
1. As a record of what is happening for myself. I really don't want to be spending time writing or typing copious notes. This might be laziness but I want to concentrate on watching and listening to what's going on. However I need a summary of important points so use tweets for that then I can refer back to them later or storify them for a record.
2. As a record of what is happening for others. I like following other events via tweets with hashtags so hope that my tweets will be useful and interesting for people who can't attend.
3. To publicise the event and raise awareness of it. That's good for the event organisers and hopefully they will do the same for you. Also as a reminder that it is happening.
4. To find out who else is attending the conference - a quick way of checking out other delegates is to see who's tweeting - anyone you know or the people who are active tweeters.
5. To interact with others at the conference - retweet and reply. Sometimes it's a good ice breaker to meeting someone at a conference if you say that you've seen their tweets and thought you'd like to talk to them.
6. To share views and add that extra dimension or channel to the main event. It's interesting, and sometimes funny, to add comments and be able to be slightly less formal.
7. To ask questions or use a polling feature. At some events you can tweet a question to the organiser or moderators and then the presenter will answer that question.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday 12 June 2013


I managed to watch / listen to one of the sessions via the live webcast of the Edinburgh Publishing Conference.
The session was: Can Blogs, Apps and Newspapers Co-exist in Harmony?

The first talk was by Bill Jamieson of Scot-buzz & The Scotsman and was entitled Media: Digital or Death?
It was interesting to hear about the drop in circulation and readership of print newspapers.  The readership has dropped dramatically in the last 5 years and the number of journalists employed by newspapers has decreased.  Bill Jamieson called the cycle that means that some businesses survive in recession, Creative Destruction.  This is part of the process of recreating the newspaper industry.   But news continues to reign supreme - the demand for news has increased and the 'Have you heard?' question will never disappear.

The second talk was by Alex Porter, Scottish Times Digital News: Trust and Profit. Opportunities & challenges for digital news outlets in a time of collapsing trust & revenues in traditional media
The basic question that was posed was how is it possible to make money from digital publishing? 

They created surveys to ask their 'readership' – I'm not sure whether there was a theme to the questions as they seemed random but presumably it was to generate a story.  They then sell the results of the reader surveys to companies.  Create joint ventures. Looking for collaboration. 

Thursday 9 May 2013

#ocTEL Effective Learning Resources - Global Citizenship

 ocTEL week 4     Effective learning resources
How can we take advantage of technological developments in order to create and source relevant learning resources for our students?
I wasn't sure what I wanted to search for but I’d just come out of a meeting about Visiting Students and Studying Abroad and how we can improve the student experience for these students.  Two of the many areas we discussed were ‘Global Citizenship’ and ‘Employability’ and how the information and support can be delivered to enhance these aspects.
So I decided to search for useful resources in one of these areas to ‘identify appropriate digital resources, including text-based, multimedia and interactive, for particular learning contexts’ although I’m looking at it from a general  HE perspective rather than a particular learning context.
Search term ‘Global Citizenship’
The top result was a resource from the University of Southampton which was relevant and part of a course Teaching Citizenship in HE.  There was lots of good resources although mainly text and images.
The second resource was a recording of a lecture from the Royal Veterinary College.  The content looked very interesting and the lecture itself would have been interactive using a voting system but the playback using Echo360 was very slow.
Open University – Open Learn
Search term ‘Global Citizenship’               
The top result was a link to a module entitled Enacting European Citizenship (ENACT).
It is part of a Money & Management course and wasn’t a learning resource.
All of the other results on the first page were part of the same module. 
So I searched on the sidebar under education and the results showed a module Teaching citizenship: Work and the economy.  Presumably to access the learning resources you have to enrol onto the module.
Search term ‘Global Citizenship’               
This search produced lots of results although not millions.  I filtered the search to include only those in the last year.  I watched two or three and they were very interesting.  There were quite a few TEDx ones.  
So the questions:
How easy was it to find a relevant resource?  It was easy to find the resources and I think that they were relevant because I managed to find course specific, sector specific resources as well as general ones. 
How could you incorporate this resource into your professional practice? For the purposes of finding a resource that could be used for Student information Points and Enhancing the Student Experience then they were suitable as a starting point and to create a general learning resource.
Which source did you find more useful (and why) – the ‘official’ resource bank or the open search?  Both the official and the open search were useful.  The official ones were very text / image based and straightforward but the Jorum ones were easy to find and relevant. The YouTube videos were more engaging but if may not match specific learning outcomes. 
Are there any limitations to the use of your preferred resource for your learners (e.g. copyright licence; login requirements)?  The Open Learn resource required a login which you would do if you knew that you definitely needed that resource and had been directed to it but when browsing it’s probably a barrier.
Would your own students agree that the resource you prefer is accessible? I think that most students would agree that the videos were accessible and the websites easy to navigate.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Catching Up #ocTEL

Catching up with ocTEL by doing the following

1. Filling in expectations questionnaire
2. Looking at the results so far from the expectations questionnaire - it's very interesting to know what other participants are hoping to achieve from the course.
It's interesting but not surprising that many of the participants are those who already have experience using TEL and in fact probably work in education with technology.
I'm not sure how this will change in the future because unless it spreads to a wider audience then is it always going to be people who are 'known knowns' who are taking part and do they want to take part in order to learn for themselves or to learn in order to then encourage others to take part
Chart showing how participants describe themselves prior to starting ocTEL
The themes of the 'big questions' is also interesting - I'm interested in quick wins, engagement and good practice examples which are common themes but also how to share information which is probably all of it.

3. Filled in some of the questionnaires from last week.
Penn State University: Online Readiness Assessment
I immediately was put off this questionnaire by the following questions - what does that mean? Pretty easily?? Learn best??
I learn pretty easily.

I have to read something to learn it best
But I did think that these were OK and the other lot would be OK if i knew how to measure pretty or comfortable :)
My computer runs reliably on Windows NT/ Vista or on Mac OS 10.4 or higher.
I have a printer.
I am connected to the Internet with a fairly fast, reliable connection such as DSL or cable modem.
I have virus protection software running on my computer.
I have headphones or speakers and a microphone to use if a class has a videoconference.
My browser will play several common multimedia (video and audio) formats.

I am pretty good at using the computer.
I am comfortable surfing the Internet.
I am comfortable with things like doing searches, setting bookmarks, and downloading files.
I am comfortable with things like installing software and changing configuration settings on my computer.
I know someone who can help me if I have computer problems.

I liked this one it was great especially the clip art picture.  The questions were fine and although I just filled in yes to them all, they were much easier to understand and answer - yes /no is fine.  It made it clear that you would need a computer, that you would have to dedicate time and effort and would have to be engaged with the course - what else do you need to know?

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Embracing the challenge #ocTEL

The challenge is not the course, the course is fine - in fact as far as MOOCs and online courses are concerned, it's great.  It's my engagement and progress that is the challenge because I am ticking all the boxes of a falling behind MOOC participant at the moment:
1. I have no idea where I'm up to with the course - Week 0 and Week 1 were ok - I managed to do some of the activities.
2. While saying that I have no idea, this is not strictly true as I know that I am not up to date, that I am definitely behind. 
3. While knowing that the idea is to pick and choose activities, dip in and out and even to the extent that I have developed my own 'filtering system' to tackle MOOCs - I still feel slightly worried about my progress and not being up to date (years of conditioning presumably)
4. Struck by indecision - do I try to catch up or do I just forget it and start from what seems like this weeks 'only do one thing' activity?
5. Not only have I not done complete activities, I have done part activities i.e. I joined in the webinar  last Wednesday for part of the time, have made some notes for a blog posting and not even finished writing up the blog.
In summary I have done a random number of incomplete activities
(due to too much work and too much socialising)

Luckily I am not entirely disheartened by this and am now going to go to the ocTEL website and do something - I think I will just pick something I like the look of.
There is very good advice by ocTEL to not worry about being behind but to "keep moving (and skipping, if necessary)".  It is essential advice I would say for MOOCs because unless you are able to spend 24/7 participating then you are never going to be on top of everything.

But how do I and the millions of other people participating in MOOCs and online courses learn how to have the sort of mindset that copes effectively with never finishing, with never completing everything and with swirling around in a slightly bizarre world of information sharing?

Thursday 18 April 2013

Week 1 #ocTEL - it's all very well but.....

Week 1 (2nd week) of ocTEL is focused on TEL Concepts and Approaches.
Using my usual filtering system, read the introduction and went to the 'if you only do one thing...' section.  There are five 'stories' about how technology has enhanced learning - the task is to look at two that interest you, decide which is most powerful and relevant to you.
The first one I looked at was
'How Sugata Mitra designed a physical and social environment around computers so that young children would self-organise and teach themselves new skills through peer interaction and ‘emergent learning’ – watch Mitra’s 2010 keynote'

This is what I wrote on my blog at the time from the ALT conference 2010.
The key note speech after lunch by Sugata Mitra was fantastic.  I have heard him speak before at the RSC Northern conference last year and it is really fascinating to see the videos of his 'experiments' with hole in then wall computers in India and other countries.  It is interesting yet disconcerting to see and hear about his work in schools in Gateshead as it is close to home.  It would be brilliant to instill that motivation and interest in all children and particularly in teenagers to strive to learn and for it to be cool to learn........

I can't remember why I was disconcerted at the time so decided to watch it again and see how I felt..
I think the reasons I had and have mixed feelings were because although it was different and extraordinary, it felt like an experiment. That the children will learn is to some extent predictable - they like finding out things, they are used to using computers, there was one each in the classroom in Gateshead. Once they've got the hang of the idea that this is a different context and they have freedom to do anything then they probably will - especially 10 year olds - they're at the ideal age to absorb stuff.
But does this motivation and willingness continue with teenagers? Sometimes, depends what they want to know, depends what they need to know, depends on the environment.
But my main thought is - hey, just a minute, we would all like to teach and indeed learn in a free and exploratory environment where you could learn what you want and spend hours learning about what you love, to find out interesting stuff.  With no rules, with 'cheating', with no time restraints but it's not like that. It's all very well advocating inspirational and disruptive methods but at the end of the day the current education system requires children to learn what is needed to gain the qualifications they need to be successful. So change the system, change the curriculum, take the pressure off teachers so that they can do their best and then let children have freedom to learn.

I meant to do more work on this this evening and spend time looking at the other videos and look at others comments - but no more time. That's the problem - i could spend hours doing online learning stuff but work and life intervene - fortunately :)

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Big ?'s about Technology Enhanced Learning #ocTEL

One of the activities for week 0 of ocTEL, in addition to writing an introduction about yourself,  is what is the most important question about TEL for you?  I'm not sure what my big question is.  Does technology enhance learning? Yes. Does technology enhance life? Yes. With the condition for both that it is used effectively and with consideration and 'for the greater good'. But that's true about everything.  So maybe the question is 'how can I/we use technology to the best effect to enable students/people to learn?'
I decided to have a look at what other people are saying about their big questions.
I looked on the ocTEL website first intending to go to the forums but got distracted by the Twitter Conversations Visualised which is 'a graph of the Twitter interactions using the #ocTEL hashtag' created by Martin Hawksey @mhawksey.  It's brilliant.
I looked through the various forum posts and picked out words and phrases that summarised the subjects that people were asking their questions about.

I then went to the jiscmail list and discovered that Tom Franklin had posted a table which summarised the recent posts of big questions and put them into categories.  Very helpful and another quick win for me.  
So here are a list of words that are the most popular big questions in alphabetical order.
It's interesting and reassuring to see that the most popular, apart from the directly relating to Moocs ones, are about engaging people either students or staff and ensuring that the engagement is effective and has impact.  
My big question is still how can we use technology enhanced learning to engage learners and enhance the student experience and this is a question shared by many other participants of this course and those involved in TEL.

Monday 8 April 2013

One thing.... #ocTEL

The induction week 'if you only do one thing...' is to write an introduction about yourself and your experiences with TEL / technology as a student / teacher / learning technologist and how it affects the way you absorb, reflect, discuss etc. etc.
I have used TEL in a variety of roles while working as an ICT teacher in a secondary school and sixth form college, as an eLearning Manager (VLE and staff ICT training), as a Head of Learning Resources (elearning and library services) in a FE College and currently as a Student Information Points Manager in a University.
I've used VLEs and learning platforms to learn including my MSc which I did online and a variety of other online courses and MOOCs.  Also as a tutor using VLEs, virtual classrooms and web conferencing facilities.
The greatest benefit of TEL is as a means of communicating and sharing.  It enables communication through email, text and social media and opens up the possibilities of working with people collaboratively.  It provides a way of learning that is accessible and inclusive. 

(This is my second attempt at writing an introduction blog post - the first one I wrote spontaneously and re reading it realised it was too 'TEL and Me' - it's still here
if you want to read it). 

TEL and Me

This post started off as the introductory activity for #ocTEL but ended up being too wordy so it's here instead.

I'm not great at drawing a distinction between TEL, eLearning, ICT, computing, technology etc. so  this post has aspects of them all - and the fact that they are all endlessly fascinating and useful.  When I first start using computers the thing that appealed most was that they could automatically work out codes and do something with a series of letters or numbers - that you could input an instruction and a task would be carried out - wow, how clever is that.  Also that you could create things that look or sound beautiful - again by inputting a series of instructions.

And, if that was not enough, you could find out about practically anything in the whole world and see a picture of it just by typing in a few letters!! Ok, so you've probably got the message by now - technology is a learning experience and learning is a better experience by using technology.
I first started using ICT when I completed my PGCE ICT and then went to teach ICT in a secondary school and sixth form college.  It was really good fun as well as lots of hard work teaching ICT even though it was mainly PC based before mobile and gadgets.  Despite the bad press lately, some of it justified, about the boringness of ICT in schools there is a lot to be learnt and gained from knowing the basics and building on those basics so that everyone has the know how and the problem solving / thinking skills to be successful.  TEL is an enabler - a way of learning that engages students and it's great to help people find out how it can work for them.  ICT / computing should have a broad scope so that it appeals to everyone from making video clips of performances to writing code to control robots - it all has value.  I still have mixed feelings as to whether it should be taught as a discrete subject. 
I then became interested in VLEs and staff training in ICT so moved onto an FE college and worked as an eLearning Manager.  The interesting aspect was seeing how the VLE could be used to provide access to learning from a variety of places and times - the 'anytime anyplace' idea.  But also how learning resources can be a variety of formats, that it didn't have to be text based in the form of a worksheet, that there could be images and sounds, that it could be dynamic and changing.  The VLE developed to include assessment and feedback and a platform for communication through discussion boards and forums and messages and texts and virtual classrooms.  My role developed to be Head of Learning Resources (eLearning and Library Services).  This opened up lots of opportunities for interacting with students and ensuring that they had access to high quality online learning resources.  The major development was the use of mobile technologies - resources that can be accessed in mobile formats and also mobile devices.
The Student Experience is the aspect of learning and student life that interests me the most and I currently work as Student Information Points Manager at a University.  The important thing is how information is communicated effectively - how can students access the relevant information in a timely manner in a suitable format?
Personally, I still think ICT/TEL/technology is fascinating and interesting and will continue to be so as it changes and develops.  Communication and collaboration using mobile devices is convenient and effective.  Learning should take place in formal and informal environments and should be accessible wherever and whenever it is needed or wanted.  
Moocs are a mixture, and reflect the advantages and disadvantages of online learning and the the use of TEL - they are easy to access but difficult to understand, they provide an environment for learning but it's sometimes difficult to work out what that learning is, there are numerous opportunities for communications but who are you communicating with and which is the best way to communicate, you can share but is there so much information it is sometimes too much to absorb or even acknowledge.  But it offers a place and an opportunity to experiment and reflect.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Anyone for cricket? First day of ocTEL #ocTEL

Today is the first day of ocTEL the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning which is being organised by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT).  I've been looking forward to it because of my involvement with ALT and also I'm keen to participate in another MOOC.  I've taken part in three MOOCs so far with varying degrees of success and engagement and have learnt a lot.  I've learnt what works for me as far as approaching an online course with masses of information and participants.  The most important thing that I've learnt is to put my filtering strategy in place straight away - there is too much information and I have too little time.  Next start selecting - select activities and people to find out about and to engage with.  It's quite liberating to dip in and drop out and to view success as a constantly changing variable.
As I've been working all day I hadn't intended to look at the course guidance and materials until now but suddenly around lunchtime I started to receive a lot of emails to my gmail account.  The first three were from ocTEL - a newsletter, welcome and week 0.  Ok that's fine, a quick glance then back to work.  I quite liked the reference to cricket 'play gets under way at the civilised hour of 11.00.....Like cricket, it's best if you don't rush.' Then there was a bit of introductory blurb to reassure people.  In the week 0 email were the week's aims and if you only do one thing.... This appeals to me as I'm always looking for the quick win first then the detail or maybe to make that sound better, looking for the essentials then the options.
However then lots of emails started flooding into my email box.  Another quick look - the emails are coming from the OCTEL-PUBLIC jisc mail list.  OK that's fine, I'll just leave them there but I don't remember signing up to a jisc mail list for this course because my jisc mail login is connected to my work email not my gmail.  What are people emailing to the list about? It seems to be the introduction contribution - obviously as I haven't read the activities at this stage I've no idea what the tasks are.  Then come the inevitable emails to the list which are unfortunately going out as emails with the subjects along the lines of unsubscribe me or I don't want these emails.  Luckily a couple of people posted useful advice as to how to unsubscribe or change the settings to receive a digest etc.  
I suspect that most people didn't remember that they must have opted in during the registration process to the jiscmail email list - I don't remember doing this.  But it's easily remedied and worse case scenario, you have a lot of emails.  
But i decided that i didn't want a constant stream of emails coming to me - I want to go and get them when needed.  I first tried through the ocTEL website in the profile section as I thought that might stop the notifications but it didn't work.
But that didn't work so I went to the jiscmail website which i was sort of trying to avoid as I had to set up a new account with my gmail so now I've got two accounts.  It doesn't really matter.  I chose to stay on the list but read the emails on the jiscmail website.
So now just time for a very quick glance through of the background information and guidance for activities.  It's useful that there is a week 0 and it is a long week.  There is lots of useful advice and help but I'm not sure why the introductions etc. weren't on the forum to start with rather than on the jiscmail list as now there are some on both.  
Tomorrow I'll go back and read a selection of other peoples posts.  For me I find it easiest to post a summary every few days on my own blog and link via twitter with a hashtag.