Interview with Santanu Vasant (Senior Learning Technologist at the University of East London) about using social media to discuss learning spaces in higher education.
I did an interesting workshop on social media and digital identity for our staff Learning and teaching conference here at Regent’s University this afternoon. I started off with a brief introduction explaining why I think the issues of online identity are becoming more relevant to academics. It’s not just one reason but several; they want to make their research more visible, some are using social media in their teaching and classroom activities, lecturers themselves want to increase their personal profile (and brand), and even those who don’t want to participate get ‘dragged’ into other people’s social media whether they like it or not!
The first activity was to look at their digital footprint so I asked them to search for themselves on Google using first just their name, then their name and home town and finally their name and ‘Regent’s University London’. We repeated the exercise using DuckDuckGo (another search engine that doesn’t keep your search data). We then had a short discussion on the results and any surprising findings that we found.
The second task was based around a ‘typical’ lecturer at Regent’s called Dr. Jane Doe. I had a bit of fun with this. I got my colleague Steve Dawes to create a photofit picture in Photoshop, based on some of the participants who I knew were attending the workshop. Here is the finished version:
Here is Jane’s Facebook profile:
“Jane primarily uses Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family. Jane has a lot of Facebook ‘friends’ from school and her days as a university student, many of whom are people that would still be considered ‘real friends’. However, some of her ‘friends’ she no longer has regular communication with and does not share any life/interests with them. In the past Jane has accepted friend requests from people, some of whom she has not met in person. She has a great profile picture from her pre-wedding celebrations in Paris but she has made her privacy settings on Facebook so that only her ‘friends’ can see the photos that she shares.”
We spent a little time looking at this facebook profile and discussing if there was anything we would change. We then looked at the other social media sites Jane is using, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Academia.
Finally I went through some general points about maintaining an effective online presence base on advise from The Institute of Academic Development at Edinburgh University:
Thanks to Zubin in particular for his comments about his own experiences of using these sites:)
Coming soon Social Media and Digital Identity workshop … Friday 9th June 14.45 Room TBA
Go to Regent’s Uni intranet to book your place.
Just starting to investigate the recent literature on Facebook and HE. These are the results of a very quick research. Any comments greatly appreciated.
Cuesta, M; Eklund, M; Rydin, I; Witt, A (2015)
Using Facebook as a co-learning community in higher education. Learning, Media and Technology Vol 41,Issue 1
Donlan, L.(2014) Exploring the views of students on the use of Facebook in university teaching and learning. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 04 July 2014, Vol.38(4), p.572-588. Routledge
Grosseck, G ; Bran, R ; Tiru, L. Dear teacher, what should I write on my wall? A case study on academic uses of Facebook. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2011, Vol.15, pp.1425-1430
Kent, M, & Leaver, T. (eds) (2014) An education in Facebook? : higher education and the world’s largest social network. Abingdon : Routledge
Blaine A. Legaree; Considering the changing face of social media in higher education. FEMS Microbiol Lett 2015; 362 (16): https://academic.oup.com/femsle/article/362/16/fnv128/2131698/Considering-the-changing-face-of-social-media-in
Muhammad Kamarul Kabilan , Norlida Ahmad, Mohamad Jafre Zainol Abidin (2010) Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Muhamad_Kabilan/publication/222250561_Facebook_An_online_environment_for_learning_of_English_in_institutions_of_higher_education/links/55374f080cf218056e9552ea.pdf
Sharma, S K. ; Joshi, A ; Sharma, H. (2016) A multi-analytical approach to predict the Facebook usage in higher education. Computers in Human Behavior, February 2016, Vol.55, pp.340-353
VanDoorn G. and Eklund, A.A. (2013) Face to Facebook: Social media and the learning and teaching potential of symmetrical, sychronous communication. Available at: http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1268&context=jutlp
Wise, L., Skues & Williams, B. (2011) Facebook in higher education promotes social but not academic engagement. Available at http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/hobart11/downloads/papers/Wise-full.pdf
Last Friday I attended a #FuturesHappens Hack at the LSE organised by Peter Byant, Dave White and Donna Lanclos. I originally saw the event advertised on Twitter some time ago and immediately signed up for it as I have an interest in different ways Social Media can be used in education. To be honest I wasn’t really sure what a ‘Hack’ is so I was intrigued as to what the event would involve.
The event started with food which is always a good move and then the organisers introduced the how the hack would work. Basically a hack is getting everyone together to brainstorm questions, issues and possible solutions on a specific topic. I was impressed with the level of organisation of the hack. We were quickly put into groups and and then had fours hacks to discuss – the groups were changed for each hack and we captured our discussions using a collaborative Google Docs form.
There were some clear ground rules established at the start of the hack and we were given a simple definition of what social media meant in terms of our discussion:
For the purposes of this hack, we define social media as being digital platforms that allow the creating and sharing of information, ideas, and other forms of expression related to identity in forms visible to others. These platforms provide the potential for connections, dialogue and discourse through online communities and networks.
Also before we started our discussions Bonnie Stewart joined us via Skype from Canada and gave us a short presentation on issues to do with social media and online professional identity. She has talked about these issues elsewhere – where she has highlighted the issues relating to personal/professional identity especially for academics working in the field.
Once we got into our groups we were given our first question and asked to come up with two principles that would help us to answer this question. I didn’t take any notes at the time so this summary is a bit sketchy!
Hack 1 – How can social media practices help us to:
After our introductions we started off our discussion by trying to discuss what we meant by our online identity. We didn’t really come up with any clear definitions but roughly it was how were seen by others in an online environment. It is clear that we all have multiple identities now especially when using social media (our identity on LinkedIn is often very different from our Twitter or Facebook personas) but this is also true for our real lives too. We came up with at least two principles; 1. Staff and students have the right to privacy using social media – its up to them what they disclose. 2. Social Media has the potential to create useful collaborative learning spaces.
Hack 2 – How can social media practices help:
Here there was a consensus that social media can create a greater diversity of conversation – as we can go beyond the classroom walls. Again we agreed on two principles; 1. Social media can cross disciples, continents and even different cultural backgrounds. 2. Social Media can give us a space to reflect before we make contributions – which we cannot always do in a F2F situation
Then the organisers gave our table a ‘Challenge – Social media creates echo chambers of like opinions’ to discuss
We discussed a number of points here. Echo chambers not necessarily negative – sometimes there is a reason why we all agree!
Hack 3 – how can social media practices help: Defining and understanding authenticity – Generating and sharing creativity
Our discussion here focused on that social media can expand the room for discussion and opens up constrictions of the traditional educational environment. We also agreed that social media can increase levels of creativity because it encourages greater diversity of opinion(potentially) – Wikipedia was given as a good example of this.
Hack 4 – Have the principles we have developed helped? What additional things can we do?
The final hack was a bit more open ended. Because our earlier discussions had looked at the positive aspects of social media we discussed the more negative issues such as online sexism and bullying that can happen
This final part of the day was for us to think about what we could take from the day’s event back into our institution. It certainly got me thinking about my own practice. For me personally I thought Bonnie’s Skype talk about digital identity was the most interesting part of the day. I have now proposed and been accepted to do a workshop on Social Media and Online Identity at our own Teaching and Learning Conference here at Regent’s. It would be great to do our own mini-hack too but this might have to wait for the time being.
Finally thanks to the organisers of the hack for a thought provoking event about the shapes and things to come regarding social media and education.
Just signed up for the 2016 Social Media for Learning HE conference in December. Along with my colleagues from the #LTHEchat we will be presenting a paper ‘With a little help from my followers’ – Facilitating the #LTHEChat. “The #LTHEchat is a lively twitterchat that explores important issues in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, for staff and students. This short paper will share how #LTHEchat empowers a community of practice to embrace informal learning and supports co-learners to take ownership of their continuing professional development”.
Here is the proposal in full:
This short paper will share the evaluation of the #LTHEchat and the impact of this on professional development for the organising teams and the chat participants. The twitter chat has shown there is demand to focus conversations on Teaching and Learning (T&L) in Higher Education (HE). The research will include results from a survey and semi-structured interviews, to identify the impact and value gained by active or silent participation, for the organisers and participants. In addition the chats themselves and the learning analytics of the Storify will be monitored and analysed to evaluate asynchronous engagement with archives of live chats.
The #LTHEchat, created by the community for the community, is a collaborative project on T&L in HE via tweetchats. “A tweetchat is a virtual meeting or gathering on Twitter to discuss a common topic. The chat lasts one hour and has questions to stimulate discussion” (Beckingham 2014). Each week there is a pre-determined topic with guests leading the chat.
Through #LTHEchat an online community of practice has evolved, including educators with a variety of roles. Drawing upon the literature, Wenger, Traynor and De Laat (2011) discuss five cycles of value creation in networks and communities, suggesting value can be:
- Immediate: answering/being answered. The #LTHEchat has created synchronous, Twitter activity. The discussion is right when you want it and, when a link is shared to a blog or article, the depth and breadth of shared knowledge increases.
- Potential: gaining skills/knowledge/connections which we may call upon in future. The #LTHEchat provides a fertile ground for sharing learning experiences and forms collaborative working relationships.
- Applied: taking something and applying to practice. Every conversation is applied to the HE context.
- Realised: reflecting on new implementations. The chats allowed for the sharing of reflective practice in an open forum.
- Reframing: in light of value gained, how does that impact on our view of success. While this is less easy to measure, the #LTHEchat has impacted on practitioners thinking about T&L.
Wenger’s (2002) concept of ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ is relevant as the #LTHEchat facilitators ‘bounce’ from the edge to the centre of the community and from live participation to catch-up via the tweets. The #LTHEchat guests join the community in the ‘hotseat’ to develop the conversation which encourages the community to grow (Ultralabs, 2015)
The joining of chats, e.g. #HEAchat and new initiatives such as #HEStudentQ have opened the chats to both staff and students providing new opportunities for informal learning.
This short paper will share some case studies and short vignettes from the research undertaken to highlight how #LTHEchat empowers a community of practice to embrace informal learning and has supported co-learners to take ownership of their continuing professional development. Finally it will provide participants with ideas on how they could develop their tweetchats for informal learning.
Beckingham, S. (2014). Introducing tweetchats using #LTHEchat as an exemplar. http://www.slideshare.net/suebeckingham/introducing-tweet-chats-using-lth-echat-as-an-exemplar Accessed 27th May 2016
Ultralabs (2015) The online communities. https://sites.google.com/site/ultralabprojects/home/talking-heads/communities/presentation Accessed 27th May 2016
Wenger, E., Trayner, B., & de Laat, M. (2011). Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks : a conceptual framework. Open Universiteit. http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/11-04-Wenger_Trayner_DeLaat_Value_creation.pdf Accessed 27th May 2016
Wenger, E., Lave, J. Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (2002) Legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice. Eds Julia Clarke and Anne Hanson in Supporting Lifelong Learning, Vol. 1: Perspectives on Learning: Learning and Teaching Vol I. London: Routledge
Full details on #SocMedHE16 are now available on the conference website.
The video above gives a really good introduction to Rise and I’ve just seen a nice example of the York St.John’s University using ‘Rise’ as part of their Twitter course https://www.rise.global/display/view/8196/2331413/full :
Last week Lindsay Jordan from the University of the Arts gave a presentation on what academics could be blogging about. This week’s guest blogger James Leahy (VLE Content Developer at Regent’s College) gives a excellent summary of the talk:
Lindsay began blogging in 2006 whilst undertaking an MA in Education at the University of Bath on blogging in the context of education as part of an “Understanding Learning and Learners” module, specifically how the process of writing and consuming blogs can affect academic thinking.
Touching on the work of Lev Vygotsky and cultural development Lindsay has been able to blog about blogging (meta blogging) and articulating thoughts and writing for the public domain. She found that at first she had only a handful of people as an audience, (if you only have 2 people reading your posts, can it still be termed “public domain”?) but that even so the process itself can be extremely useful.
Lindsay’s presentation was focused on blogging for academics and she had four main areas that lecturers may wish to focus on when thinking of potential posts…
Firstly a good topic for a post is the first time you try something as an academic. A new teaching style; a new area of the syllabus; a new formative or summative assessment technique. Evaluating how this new approach went can be useful, especially as it’s likely to generate plenty of comments from the wider community
Another good example of this style of “firsts” is that of meeting a new class or study group for the first time.
Secondly a good area for a blog post is to compile notes on a recent class or event subjectively as a way of eliciting a similar response from others to gain feedback. Linday has found that this technique has proved a particularly effective “survey tool”, better than a formal on-line questionnaire, less restrictive, and much more likely to get a response!
Thirdly a blog post is a great way of using notes an academic has made from a recent lecture or conference and, by blogging, actively turning these notes into actions. The act of publishing the blog and the responses it creates are much more likely to translate the ideas to actions the blogger will then follow up on. This has been made even simpler with the growth of tablet devices where notes can be emailed to desktop machines to be worked up into a draft post next day or even edited on the train on the way home and then published before any of the other audience has arrived home, thoughts still fresh…
The fourth area for generating material is the practice of a person documenting and reflecting on their own formal and informal learning. This is different to a journal as the content and the blogger’s style of writing is altered by bearing in mind that what they write will be publicly accessible but Lindsay reminded us that with enough consideration, there is always a way of saying something that readers will be able to accept.
As an additional way of generating blog postings, and in the same way as it’s possible to “re-tweet” something on Twitter, it is now possible to “re-blog” an article on your blog. A number of blogging sites and web sites allow for content on your blog to be created by aggregating other people’s content. This increases the variety of content and the number of voices that will appear in one place whilst also increasing awareness of the wider blogging community through social networking and linking to other sites.
Lindsay followed up with a few further hints and tips:
- Do try blogging before you knock it!
- Do try showing your post to people you trust and ask for feedback before publishing it if you’re concerned.
- Do keep at it – sometimes it helps to combat “stage fright” if you try to consider the potential audience a bit less.
- Don’t overestimate how many people will read the article! It takes time to build up a following and a blogger might find it counter-productive to allow thoughts of a wide readership hamper their output.
- Don’t underestimate the power of talking to yourself! The process of writing and publishing, even if no one reads the post, can be helpful for exploring and developing ideas
- Don’t expect posts fully developed at first. People who are new to your blog are unlikely to read long articles and it takes a while to find your “voice”. The style will not be like writing an essay or an email and a diary doesn’t force you to articulate in the way a blog posts demands.
The only way to produce quality blog posts that reach large audiences is to spend the time and effort keeping at it.
We brain stormed quite a few ideas but eventually settled on “Is the Personal Professional? A look at how we use social media” as our title for the forthcoming meeting, in other words “how the line between professional and personal becomes blurred”.
We had a good discussion around several issues, and Andy summarised the main points as:
What are the potential implications of social media use on recruitment?
Should there be – and can there be – separation of one’s personal and professional identity online?
What should Learning Resources’s (LR) policy be regarding our use of social media?
How can LR guide users of the social media resources we provide to use them wisely?
What branding should there be of our official LR social media identities, and what “voice” should they have?
What is needed to maintain an individual or organization’s successful social media presence? (e.g. Having enough content, monitoring responses and replying)
What are the legal implications of social media use? (e.g. contracts, HR issues)
Implications for organizations in general and Regent’s College Learning Resources in particular.
Finally we agreed to do a short presentation each focusing on 3 examples of social media that LR could use:
Andy – Twitter
Using own Twitter feed and other examples, looking at the balance between personal and professional content, the user’s “voice”, advantages and risks of tweeting.
Chris – blogging
Using this blog and other examples, looking at similar issues as above. Andy also supplied me some recent examples (not just from HE), such as, La Petite Anglaise http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/mar/30/news.france. and Dooce, – on losing her job over her blog http://dooce.com/about/
Tom – Youtube
Using own videos plus other examples, looking at setting access levels, some legal issues, how content can be re-transmitted once it is uploaded.
I think I need to look at these issues in more detail once I’ve done a little more research. Hopefully once I’ve done this it will form the basis of Part 2 of “Is the personal Professional”?
Nb Many thanks to @fechbuch for summarising the discussion and recording it in such a precise and systematic way (ever thought of doing that as a job?).