As part of a series of posts, I will be talking to authors of The Really Useful #EdTechBook about their work, experiences, and contribution to the book. In this fifth post I talk to Sharon Flynn, Assistant Director at the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, National University of Ireland, Galway.
DH – Hi Sharon. How does the use of technology, in all its various forms, affect your day-to-day working life?
SF – Almost everything I do, on a daily basis, is affected by technology. From the radio alarm waking me in the morning, the coffee machine that provides the kick to get me started, the always-on aspect of my mobile phone, the constant expectation of availability by email/phone during (and outwith) office hours, my almost constant presence on twitter, my new slow cooker that allows me plan family meals, through to the glorious availability of anything I want to watch on sky+, my day is mostly ruled by technology. And that’s before I get into the proper work aspects of technology for teaching and learning! Continue reading →
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 →
So, you can make a tweet that people will (statistically) read, re-tweet, reply, share, save, or ignore, and here’s the proof.
If, like the original article suggests, you are an academic using twitter for academic use (and many do, successfully) then there are a few ‘styles’ of tweets that you need to be aware of, and how your audience, your network, your PLN (Personal Learning Network), will view them.
“Broadly, we found that a little more than a third (36 per cent) of tweets were considered worth reading, while a quarter were not worth reading at all. (39 per cent elicited no strong opinion). Despite the social nature of Twitter, current mood, activity or location tweets were particularly disliked, while questions to followers and information sharing were most worthwhile.”
PS. it’s quite a small graphic so I’ve enlarged it slightly, hence the fuzzy writing/outlines.
Lewis, B. and Rush, D. 2013. Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education. In Research in Learning Technology 2013, 21: 18598 – http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v21i0.18598
“This article presents the results of a case study of the use of a microblogging tool by a university academic to increase their knowledge and experience of social media for educational purposes. The academic had the role of digital steward in a university and attempted to use microblogging (Twitter) to increase professional contacts within the framework of a community of practice. Several types of data were collected and analysed. These included the structure of the network arising from the links formed with others by microblogging, the similarity of stated interests between the academic and others in the network, and the contents of postings such as their external references. It was found that a personal network had been established, with some of the characteristics of a community of practice. The activity demonstrated the utility of social media in supporting the professional development of academic staff using technology.”
Announced 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.”
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.
2012 has been a challenging and adventurous year for me and I planned to round it off with another post in my series of “What is a Learning Technologist” articles (this is number 8 – read the others from the list here).
For me 2012 was a year of change, not only a change in outlook and attitude (personal stuff) but also in circumstances: I applied for a new job, got it, left Bournemouth University and joined the University of Leicester, sold one house and bought another, and moved myself and family to a part of the country I do not know. To some this is familiar and you’re nodding in appreciation of what I’ve done and put my famly through. To others you may be thinking ‘fool’ or “been there, done that, waasn’t that bad”. To me this was a huge decision after being at BU for over 5 years and living in Bournemouth for nearly 30 (minus years at University) – a big upheaval in more than just my professional life, and such a difficult choice to make (again, more personal stuff).
As with all these things, by the time I sorted through my thoughts and started to note them down … someone else publishes along the same lines and did a really good job of it too! So this post is in honour of Sarah Horrigan’s article, in the way of “what she says …”
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.”
I’ve been looking into presenting and presentation techniques recently. Not everything is as straight forward as it may seem, yet other aspects seem so basic it’s a wonder how people cant’ see them themselves.
So, what are the techniques that could make you more effective, and possibly more interesting?
Visual impact Pictures paint a thousand words, so use them if you can. Whether it’s to explain data, or results, or to describe a situation, using pictures can double the chances of meeting your objectives.
KISS – ‘Keep it Short and Sweet’ (or ‘Keep it Simple Stupid’) Apparently no one ever complains when a presentation is short. Conversely, everyone will complain when you take 10 minutes to explain/describe something that could have been done in 2 (see above about visual impact).
In the academic world there will often be grades attributed to the presentation so marks could be deducted if you go over the allotted time.
Practice Practice the presentation. Find a quiet space (or put some music and headphones on if you share an office) and rehearse what you will say. When you’re ready with this rehearse at least once out loud, even better if you can do this to a ‘friendly’ audience who can give some honest and constructive feedback.
Bullet points Excessive bullet points are the kiss-of-death for a presentation. People use bullet points as a form of speaker notes; to make your presentation more effective put your speaker notes in your notes and not up on the screen.
Know your work You should always know when presenting which slide is coming up next. It sounds very powerful when you say “On the next slide [Click] you will see…”, rather than than a period of confusion when the next slide appears.
Have a back-up ready
You know the scene; big presentation and nothing works – power cut, projector blows a bulb, coffee spilt down your tie, not enough power leads, no loudspeakers, no power lead for the laptop which has no charge … we all know someone who has something like this happen to them at one stage or another.
Have a back-up plan. Take with you the following items – a printed out set of slides – (you can hold these up to the audience if you need to), a USB stick with your presentation, a laptop with your slides on it.
Check out the room and equipment If you can, make sure sure you arrive early and check out the presentation room. Load the presentation up, run through the slides (with the projector working) to see any animation and audio/visual guides work.
How about using something other than PowerPoint? What about using different software to create the presentation, give the audience something different – see my post on “Alternatives to PowerPoint in the classroom”. Here’s a really good demonstration of Prezi working … it might not float every one’s boat, but it has visual impact and , providing the real-world presenter is able to back the ‘slides’ up with effective content, is surely a good presentation?
Once people have found out I’ve been using Twitter for all of about 4 months now they think I’m an expert (I’m not, and do not profess to be) and keep asking me; what is it all about, then?
Good question, and not one I’ve really been able to answer for myself, let alone answers for someone who hasn’t spent time trying different things to see if it works for them or not.
So, in an effort to work through my own thoughts, and to provide something for others to benefit from, here are some ‘top tips';
Work out what you want to get out of Twitter. If you don’t do this, then Twitter will be a waste of time. if you are an eLearning specialist, or you are developing new mobile learning (mLearning) technology, or you just want to talk to people who like to run marathons, then these are the kind of people you should be looking for. Use the Twitter Search to find instances of that word, and use the Profile Search to find people with interests that match or complement the reason why you are on Twitter. Without a purpose you will find Twitter confusing and worthless. Read this: Twitter Search to Become Real Search
Make sure you put some relevant and interesting information in your Twitter profile. I often ignore and block people who put things like “mum, sister, daughter, and friend to everyone” as it means nothing to me and why I might want to follow you. I am using Twitter to find like-minded professionals (and amateur eLearners) so look for people who use the profile to advertise their eLearning prowess.
You can put a picture of yourself in your profile, use it wisely! I don’t like seeing pictures of people drunk, so it isn’t a good look on your profile. Also, using a picture that looks like you’ve taken it from your passport may not be the best way to ‘advertise’ yourself (unless it’s the best picture you’ve got). Read this: 6 Tips for Using Your Twitter Profile to Get New Followers
Share and share alike. When you find something that you like, and want to share it with your own network of followers, don’t be selfish and pass it off as your own work, use the ‘RT’ (re-tweet) and acknowledge the originator. This ‘kindness’ will also mean that people will click through to you if someone retweets one of your post … thus you will gain more followers as a result. Read this: The Infectious Power Of Word Of Mouth
Use URL shortening service. There are a few services online that will give you a new URL that is shorted than your original, much better for using when you’re limited to 140 characters (see above image for example). Good services to use are TinyURL and Bit.ly.
Look at people who follow someone in your network. Look at the people who follow someone who you already follow, there could be a few good contacts for there too.
Don’t be afraid to ‘block’ people who you don’t think you want following you. These can be anything from businesses trying to sell something, automated accounts that don’t have any visible purpose, someone who has nothing in common with you. You can identify these kinds of accounts by looking at their follower/updates list; if they are following 10,000 people, have 20 followers, and only 1 update then I’d safely say it’s an automated account and can be ignored!
Don’t worry about numbers. Don’t worry about the fact you have only 5 or 6 followers, this will grow the more you use Twitter, the more people you follow, and the more you use/post to Twitter. Remember that everyone started off with no followers at the beginning. If you know colleagues or friends on Twitter then find them and start testing things with them.
Use a desktop service to manage your Twitter account. I use Tweetdeck as I can have some ‘searches’ saved that pull back results from Twitter (not just those people I follow) on any search term (eLearning, mLearning, Blackboard, etc) as well as quickly and easily see retweets , mentions, and messages. I can also group my followers into different colums so I can follow different people from different specialities.
Do more than just tweet about yourself. If all you do is tweet about yourself and what you’ve just done (work, home, hobby, etc) then you will probably find your list of followers drop. By engaging your followers on their content, by retweeting (see above) and adding links to web articles you find you will be “adding value” to your network and the people in it.
Be polite. No one likes a smart-arse, and no one likes to be flamed. You will make contacts and a network from all around the world, but it takes time and this relationship is likely to be tentative for longer than a traditional networking opportunity that was made face-to-face.
OK, that covers the ‘how to use it’ elements of twitter .. now on to the ‘why should I use it?’
Bring student ideas, reading, emotions, etc into your world. Whether Twitter is used in the classroom or just around each timetabled seminar/lecture time, Twitter and it’s use can add value to the contents or your teaching, and you’ll end up learning from your learners.
This has been brewing for some time now. I don’t apologies in advance if you see yourself in what I’m about to say.
You know what really gets my goat? It’s when people keep talking about eLearning when they actually mean ‘distance’ learning, or ‘online delivery’, or computer-based training (CBT). In the same way that everything has suddenly become ‘2.0’ (Web 2.0, Learning 2.0, Academia 2.0, University, 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, etc, etc) they think that by including the ‘e’ before the word it means the same as paper post (mail) to electronic post (email).
Do you know the difference, would you like a recap?
Distance Learning is defined as a “branch of education in which teachers and students are at remote locations rather than in direct contact.” [Google definition] This can include instances where materials are printed and posted to the students (e.g. Open University).
Computer-based Training (CBT) and Web-based Learning (WBT) is defined as an “interactive instructional approach in which the computer, taking the place of an instructor, provides a series of stimuli to the student.” [Google definition] This is often a complete ‘module’ or ‘subject’ loaded to a PC or a CD ROM, delivered via a web browser but not necessarily online, and the student works away in their own time or tested using CD ROM (e.g. Driving Standards Agency Theory test).
Online Learning is defined as a context “associated with content readily accessible on a computer. The content may be on the Web or the Internet, or simply installed on a CD-ROM or the computer hard disk.”
eLearning “can be used to deliver online courses and/or establish online learning communities. It supports flexible learning anywhere, anytime.” [Google definition] The term often encompasses all the above styles and techniques, but also goes so much further than just basic ‘study-materials-delivered-by-electronic-means’.
By putting the ‘e’ in front of ‘Learning’ just because you used a computer to type it up or send it to the student does NOT make it eLearning! Please stop using the term unless you know what it actually means.
eLearning utilises all the power of the web to not only deliver the materials as text, images, interactive flash or audio/video, etc, but also for tests (MCQs), assignments (report, essays, projects, etc), collaboration (discussion boards, wiki, etc), reflective journals (blog, etc), feedback, grades, etc.
So what is the difference;
eLearning is all about the ability to update and keep the materials fresh and vibrant; once the materials are loaded to a disc for posting out, they’re out of date and redundant (Distance Learning). It is also about joining other learners online, in an environment that is enabling them to engage each other as well as the instructor/trainer; the community.
CBT and WBT is often a module or nugget of learning materials pre-loaded to the specific machine the learner sits. It can be delivered over the Internet and Intranet and does not engage the learner in any interaction past the ‘click to continue’ or small MCQ. CBT is mostly used in large corporations where the learner can sit at their machine and take a 20 minute lesson on health and safety instead of hiring a H&S executive to give a 2 hour talk; saving time AND money.
Online Learning relates more to online help, online documentation, and online services, than to the act of learning and gaining feedback and access to a Community.
So please use the term eLearning wisely. It is a wonderful term that can encompass so much but is often used badly to simply convey an idea or technique that doesn’t befit the term;