Tag Archives: Academia 2.0

Online Branding for Academics

Online Branding for Academics

Every so often I’ll have a discussion with an academic around “this facebook thing” or “what’s the point of Twitter”. Each time it’s for a different reason or coming from a different perspective or background. But each time it also comes down to two main areas of interest: time and effort. How long will it take or how much effort will they need to put into it for it to become a worthwhile enterprise.

I always say it will come down to what they want to get from the experience. Do they want to get hits or recognition, do they want to build a social profile and/or ‘digital footprint’? Do they want to manage or improve an existing profile or footprint, or eradicate a negative one? Is it to be able to connect with colleagues and peers through LinkedIn or Google+, or to increase conference speaking requests? Is the reason for signing up to Facebook or Twitter for student engagement or because you can only really understand how the students use it if you use it yourself? Is their need to be ‘there’ one of inclusion or monitoring? Often the reason is just one where they see someone else using it, probably successfully, and therefore “want some of that”.

In most cases it is nearly always ‘some of the above’, and in very few cases ‘all of the above’ (even if it’s not acknowledged to be this). I can’t say “you should start here … ” as each person should start where it is more appropriate: LinkedIn for professional reputation, SlideShare for conference and/or learning resources, Google+ or Twitter for networks and Personal Learning Networks (PLN), etc.   Continue reading

Social Media in Academia

cup and tableAnnounced this week, the ETNA (Enhanced Training Needs Analysis) 2012 survey has found that “nearly three quarters of academics in further education agree that social media tools enhance the quality of the learning experience.”

The JISC news release – “Survey shows that social media has graduated to academia” – continues by saying that “YouTube is by far the most popular tool, while Facebook and particularly Twitter, lag well behind. However, the survey also identifies a strong need for staff training in the use of social media.”

Of those surveyed:

  • Academic staff seemed most in favour of social media: 70% agreed that its use enhances the quality of the learning experience and 69% agreed that students were at ease using it.
  • Some academic staff felt that social media is a distraction to learning.
  • Around half of all middle managers said their department uses social media tools for learning and teaching.
  • Fewer than 10% of staff, in any category, had received training in social media.
  • More than a third of staff identified a need for staff training.

Celeste McLaughlin, advis0r: staff development at JISC RSC Scotland said: “It’s clear from the survey that social media is now here to stay in colleges as learning tools. They offer a familiar environment for students and, at the same time, teaching staff clearly like them. In particular, the ability to share videos online has made YouTube a clear favourite. But training is patchy, so JISC RSC Scotland aims to help college staff improve their social media skills.”

Here is a link to the 2012 ETNA survey: “Growth and Development – an analysis of skills and attitudes to technology in Scottish further education”

What I’ve got from the report so far is, as always, a careful and appropriate use of social media (or technology) can enhance (not necessarily improve) the “learning experience”. So, read the report, absorb it, take from it what you will; some will matter, some won’t. But keep an open mind and see what can ‘enhance’ your learning materials or assessment strategy.

Image source: Kings Hedges by Kevin Steinhardt (CC BY-SA 2.0)

David Hopkins

Social Media and the Classroom

From Professor Kahlil Marrar and Assistant Professor Eric Landahl at DePaul University, this video is a great introduction, from the academic point of view, on why social media can or should be used in the classroom, but also how:

“I think that our role is to sort of guide students towards seeing social networking sites as not simply this implement they can use in order to discuss ideas that do not relate to their education. Rather it could be tools they can use for their education: to advance their education, to collaborate on projects, to talk about homework assignments, to perhaps engage in peer review of one anothers works.”

“The nice thing about social networking is it allows you a sort of  an early warning about problems, and it also allows you a continuous process that shows what students are learning. ”

“What we suffer from today is the explosion of social networking, the explosion of communication, and the danger with those kinds of  explosions is that we don’t know where to turn to, they have no rhyme or reason, there’s no one way to utilise them. In which case it’s up to each professor to basically understand the role in the social networking world, but also understand exactly how you want to use social networking. And this clearly begins with defining an outcome.”

YouTube: Social Media and the Classroom

AutoTweet notes from your presentation, while you present #autotweet #backchannel

Twitter is becoming an important tool for backchannel chat and information exchange in conferences, exhibitions, and classroom activities where perhaps email and/or discussion forums were used before. Twitter has also become a very useful way for those unable to attend to keep up with speeches, presentations and conversations that surround the ‘event’, and I have virtually ‘attended’ a few conferences this year already without having to book tickets or take time off work. It is not the same as being there, but it is still extremely useful.

Using a tool that can send a tweet from your presentation isn’t only useful for those unable to attend your session, it is also a good way for you to send notes into the backchannel for attendees information. I have started planning my next delivery of the Social Media & how (students) can survive online presentation to include sending tweets to the different examples I show as well as the YouTube videos and any other background information that could benefit the students in their follow-up activity (reflective blogging).

So, if you’re interested in this too, you’ll need the AutoTweet tool, which is free and easy to download from here:

You don’t have to install any other of the SAP 2.0 tools to make this work, but they’re worth a look for other aspects of including Twitter in presentations.

You will also need an account with a service like www.supertweet.net to enable the tweets to be sent due to the ‘API Proxy Account’, or something – anyway, you’ll need it. You can always revoke the application access from Twitter settings afterwards if you want.

AutoTweet will run as an ‘add-in’ in PowerPoint, which so far I have had to re-configure each time I open it to use (which makes testing the presentation a pain) but at least one option is to disable auto-tweeting until I’m ready to publish and tweet. One option available is that you can also display when a tweet has been sent (the bottom check-box in the settings image below) but I have found this slightly disruptive to the presentation but I know from colleagues that the students like it as it gives them an indication that content has been made available in the backchannel:

AutoTweet - set up the PowerPoint 'Add-in'

Now all you do is enter the hashtag in the box, as above, that you want to use and the tool will add this to the end of any text you specify to tweet from the slides.

To set the tweet content you just add the text and links (or even another hashtag) between the [twitter] [/twitter] code that you place in the slide ‘notes’ section, like this:

AutoTweet - setting up your PowerPoint slides (click to enlarge)

with the above example coming out like this:

While it takes only minutes to set up it does take longer to plan the tweets for the slides and get the shortened URLs ready but it is worth it.

I’m looking forward to testing this with the students again in a couple of weeks, I’ll let you know how it goes – via Twitter of course (@hopkinsdavid)


Twitter & Facebook use by Russell Group Universities

Here are two excellent reports on the (Institutional) use of Twitter and Facebook by the Russell Group Universities;

What I take from these two posts and the lists/stats that have been collected is that there does not seem to be a uniform approach to the way the social media are being used. Are Universities using these tools because they think they ‘have’ to in order to be seen as progressive, modern, interested, social, etc, or is there a well-defined and implemented strategy behind the decision? I fear  it is more likely to be the former than the latter.

What do you think? Do you run/maintain an ‘official’ channel?

Many thanks to Brian Kelly (@briankelly) for the posts and analysis of results.

Induction Activity

Induction Activity – “in 100 words or less …”

Induction week, for campus-based students is all about getting to know each other, getting to know the programme team, and socialising. This is also true for online students, although it is not always easy to forge the same kind of understanding, relationships and outcome; but it’s not impossible.

Working online is not often a natural feeling for students, whatever their age. To this end we, the facilitators, need to carefully design the Induction programme and activities to make the students feel at home, comfortable in the online environment, and able to comment in a risk- and blame-free environment.

This makes it all the more important to carefully design and implement the introduction, the learning environment, and the online activities you expect them to participate in. Last year I wrote about five such activities in my post Online Induction: Icebreaker Activities.

Here is another one, modified from  Ryan Watkins’ book “75 eLearning Activities – making online learning interactive” (Amazon link);

Objective: This gives the students the opportunity to share their thoughts on a  topic (decided by the activity moderator) in the VLE to encourage a reflective process about themselves and their colleagues.

This can be used with either a Discussion Board or a Blog, depending on the preference and confidence of the moderator and expected technical competencies of the student cohort.

Process: The moderator provides the topic, usually something topical to current news, the programme content or learning style (eLearning), and encourages the students to initially post their responses (100 words or less). Once all students have responded the moderator encourages further posts replying to at least 3 entries made by their colleagues, also in 100 words or less.

Additional Information: If students are new to the technology (blog, discussion board) then appropriate training material is needed.

Ideally the kind of Induction Activity you use ought to be a mixture of reflective and collaborative styles in order to get the students engaged and comfortable with each other, with you (the moderator), and in working online in what many may find a new and alien environment.

What kind of activity do you use, is it specifically designed for online students or one that can be used for campus-based as well as online students?

Benefits of Collaborative Learning

What are the benefits of collaborative learning, for the students? Well, here are my selection from the 40 or so listed on the Global Development Research Centre’s website which I had not considered before;

1. Develops higher level thinking skills

4. Builds self esteem in students

9. Promotes positive race relations

14. Involves students in developing curriculum and class procedures

22. Encourages alternate student assessment techniques

25. Students are taught how to criticize ideas, not people

34. Classroom anxiety is significantly reduced

These are good, but not aspects of collaboration I had considered. The more ‘normal’ (for want of a better word) are, for me;

5. Enhances student satisfaction with the learning experience

6. Promotes a positive attitude toward the subject matter

7. Develops oral communication skills

10. Creates an environment of active, involved, exploratory learning

15. Students explore alternate problem solutions in a safe environment

20. Students develop responsibility for each other

29. Greater ability of students to view situations from others’ perspectives (development of empathy

33. Promotes innovation in teaching and classroom techniques

36. Classroom resembles real life social and employment situations

What would you add to this list (or the original list; link above)?

Reading “Universities of the Future”

I was reading the post by @universityboy this morning and then I thought … blimey, what will out children do when they leave School? Will they go to University .. or even will there be Universities for them to go to?

Anyway, there were sections of the post that really made me think, see if they strike a chord with you too;

“But concrete does not a university make. It takes time to turn a smart school leaver into a plausible junior lecturer, and it takes time for research departments in the western model to mature and bed in. The old ‘first world’ model of the university will be hard pressed to scale to accommodate the surge of the new middle class youth of what used to be called the third world. Out of need, something new will take its place. The new ‘gigaversities’ of China, India and Brazil might not command much respect in the staff common rooms of the old NUI, but they will rise to meet that need. In time, they will enter first world markets with degrees that are faster and cheaper than anything we can deliver.”

“The death of distance as a factor in education has been predicted since the telephone was invented, but only now are remote classroom tools becoming usable, though fully immersive environments like Second Life are still fringe. Growth in bandwidth and processing power will move these tools into the mainstream over the next ten years, as telepresence suites currently sold to corporates as alternatives to private jets price down into the mass market.”

“Institutions reliant on local students and without a global draw will find themselves relegated, their reputation slowly crumbling as the cream of the crop goes elsewhere.”

And finally …

“The university my daughter attends may prepare her for a job no one today has thought of yet, working at the centre of a network of increasingly intelligent tools and services. But there is no law that says that new technology will keep creating new jobs for humans as it has in the past. It is an open question whether the university my granddaughter goes to will be able to prepare her for any job at all.”

I think (hope) that, on the whole, there will be Universities and our children will be able to attend them. I am planning that my children will have the same opportunities I was lucky enough to have … the option to take up Higher Education, even if they don’t want it!

Image Source

“Finding a Place for Twitter in Higher Education” eLearn Magazine

I received the email newsletter from eLearn Magazine earlier this week and was interested in the lead article: “Finding a Place for Twitter in Higher Education“.

The article makes some interesting points so please read the original on the link above, but I want to comment on just a couple of them;

“Twitter has various educational uses in both developing countries and more developed ones. But the real tipping point for Twitter in education will only come if teachers can manage to add Twitter to their arsenal of teaching tools. The question is can they do it?”

I would say “why would they do it” rather than “can they do it”. Surely it’s more about a considered and appropriate use of technology in the classroom rather than using it because we can?

“Despite these potential uses of Twitter in education, there are situations in which Twitter, as a medium falls short. The restricted number of characters used in a message, or tweet, limits users from explaining complex concepts or writing equations.”

Of course it falls short if you use Twitter and only Twitter; 140 characters is not designed to enable you to write a thesis or even short paragraph. I see many people (students and teachers) using Twitter as the feed in to their blog, or research profile, or Flickr account, or something similar. Indeed, you may be reading this because I tweeted from my blog when I publish(ed) this post.

“However, if you are a passionate teacher who wants to utilize new technologies in the classroom, Twitter can be an amazing, asynchronous communication medium — if and only if you have a strong network to follow.”

I don’t think Twitter warrants the label of “you must have a large network to follow and who follows you”. I think it is more appropriate that your network is appropriate to you and your subject or area of expertise.

If you have any comment on the above please let me know and let’s start the debate.

Video: Sir Ken Robinson “Bring on the learning revolution!”

This is a follow on, from Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 talk at TED ,where he “makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning – creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.”