Aug 202015

Today I am back for another talk which forms part of the IFIP Summer School on Privacy and Identity Management hosted in Informatics at the University of Edinburgh.

Today’s talk is from Angela Sasse, Professor of Human Centred Technology at University College London, and she also oversees their Computer Security group (her presentation will include work of Anthony Morton). She is also head of the first research group in the UK researching the science of Cyber Security. Apparently she also authored a seminal paper in the ’90s entitled “Humans are not the enemy” which addressed mismatches of perceptions and behaviours. That motif, that users are not the enemy, is still something which has not quite yet been learned by those designing and implementing systems even now. 

I think my title gives you a good idea of what I will be talking about: I will be starting with talking about how people reason about privacy. That is something which is often not accounted for properly, but is important in understanding behaviours. Then I will be talking about why current technologies do not meet their preferences. Then I will look to the future – both some dystopian and utopian scenarios there.

So, how do people reason about privacy? Some work with Adams (2001) looked at this and we used the crucial subtitles “protecting users not just data”. There we pointed out that there is a real difference between how the law treats this, and how people understand privacy. Individuals are pragmatic in their choices, they are thinking about the risks and the benefits – they trade those off. Some of this stuff came out of early internet networking, video calls, etc. but it has stood the test of time as these things have become commonplace.

There has been a raft of research over the last 15 years, not just by computer scientists but also social scientists, ethicists, economists. And we have come to a place that we understand that people do trade risks for benefits but that is not always efficient in an economic sense, it is not always logical… And there are a number of reasons for this: they may not be aware of all risks and consequences – around secondary level information; and around secondary and tertiary usage, aggregation with other data sources; their perception may be skewed by hyperbolic discounting – entirely dismissing things with low risk; there is a paradox here as people do belief in privacy and security but their actions are not always reflective of this.

So, why don’t people act in line with their own preferences? Well there is “Confusology” (Odlyzko) which I’ll come back to. Hyperbolic discounting is about risk in the future and potential, vs rewards that are immediate and tangible (sometimes). Sometimes users say “they know this anyway” – there is no point obfuscating information as “they” know this stuff already – they are just testing honesty or willingness. When you have done a lot of work on financial disclosure this arguement comes up a lot there. It also comes in with ISPs and perceptions of surveillance. Sometimes this reaction is plausible and logical, but sometimes it is much more of a Cognitive Dissonance defense, something of an excuse to minimise workload. That is also why we really do need to work on the public discourse because the more false information is in the public discourse, the most this encourages individuals to make choices in that way. The more we allow that kind of nonsense to be out there, the more it undermines important dicussions of privacy. The final reason is that technology does offer protection people want – but they still want the benefits.

Back to Confusology (Odlyzko 2014), I really recommend Odlyzko’s work here. He talks about several factors: inadvertant disclosure – complex tools make consequences of actions hard to predict; there is too much work – rules and legal jargon make privacy too much work, and people are loathe to expend effort on tasks they see as secondary to their goal. Legal jargon is practically an orchestrated campaign, “I agree with the terms and conditions…” is the biggest lie on the internet!; lack of choice (so consent is not meaningful) – I challenge you to find a provider who offers genuinely meaningful terms of consent; the hidden persuaders – temptation, nudging, exploiting cognitive biases… encouraging users to think that sharing more is the preferred option. I have seen Google encouraging researchers in privacy to work on “opinionated design” because they have tried everything to get people to click through in the right way – they make warnings different every time, hide other options etc. I think this is a slippery slope. In the privacy area we see this choice as pretty fake, particularly if you hide and obscure other options.

The inadvertant disclosure stuff is still happening. Many users do not understand how technology works and that can catch users out – a key example is peer to peer file sharing, but we also see this with apps and the requests they make of your device (use of contacts, data, etc) and there will be lots more inadvertant disclosures associated with that coming out.

Too  much work leads to over disclosure. Once you are in the habit of doing something, you don’t have to think about it too much. It is less work to fill in a form disclosing information you have given before, than to stop and think about what the implications of sharing that data actually are.

We also see successful adopted technologies that fail on privacy. Platforms for Privacy Preferences (P3P) was far too much work to be useful to many people. It was only IE that implemented it, and they did so in a way that websites could systematically escape cookie blocking. It was too complex and too ambiguous for browser vendors. And there is absolutely no means to verify websites do what they say – 5% of TRUST -e “verified” websites had implementation errors in 2010. This is a place where cognitive dissonance kicks in again – people fixate on something that they see as helping with one form of security and don’t necessarily look at other risks. Meanwhile DoNotTrack – users of this are identified more quickly than those who don’t through web finderprinting. Advertising circumvent with Supercookies.

So, it really isn’t clear what you need to do to ensure that the privacy people want is enabled in websites and tools.

To change tack slightly it is worth reflecting on the fact that privacy preferences vary. It can be useful to frame this in a Technology Adoption Framework – TAM offers a useful framework but privacy needs do vary across cultures, and it varies between people. You need to speak to different people in different ways to get the message across. Westin is a three point scale around privacy that you could use, but that is too coarse-grained since it basically only differentiates between hardcore secure users, pragmatists, and those unconcerned.

However there have been various studies with the Westin Scale (see Berkeley Survey 2009; Harris Poll 2003; Harris Poll 1999) and most users fall into the Privacy Pragmatists category. But behaviours, when studied, consistently DO NOT match their preferences! So we need something better.

There have been attempts to improve the Westin scale but there has been limited scope of other alternative measures of privacy concern, e.g. IUIPC (Malhotra et al 2005) and CFIP (Smith et al 1996). And people engage in information seeking behaviours (Beldad et al 2011), since people seek trust signals (trust symbols and trust symptonms) (Riegelsberger et al 2005). Asking people about the provider of a service, and their trust in that provider is important in terms of understanding their behaviour and their preferences.

So my PhD student (Morton) looked to work on development of the Westin scale to better align preferences and behaviours, using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods, investigating subjective viewpoints. He has been interviewing people, analysing their statements, and ordering those statements with research participants asking them how well those statements reflected their views. The number of participants (31 offline, 27 online) is relatively small, but the number of statements generated by them was into the thousands – so this is a really complex picture. So, participants ranked statements as important or unimportant with a Q-sort process (a version of card sorting task).

Morton has found that people sort into five categories:

  • Information Controllers – those really aware of the data, looking at the data and what it says about them. These are skeptical people and do not have a high trust in the cloud and want control over the collection, use and dissemination of personal information. For them things that are not important include: organisational assurances; others’ use of the technology service.
  • Security Concerned – their principal focus is on security of the technology platform, providing organisation;s security processes, potential impact on personal security and finances. They are trading off the benefits and risks here. They are less interested in the technology in abstract.
  • Benefit Seekers – are those happy to trade off the risks
  • Crowd Followers – trust in others’ use to make decisions about privacy and security
  • Organisational Assurance Seekers – they look for the organisation to say the right things, disclaimers etc. They expect bad things to happen, and want assurance against that.

Now I think that work is quite interesting. And we are now undertaking a large scale study with 1000 participants in the UK and US with all participants sorted into one of these categories, and several scenarios to assess. The first 300 participants’ contributions already suggest that this is a better model for connecting preference with behaviour.

I did want to talk about why we need to make privacy more salient. Ultimately privacy is about relationships. People manage relationships with other peoplel through selective disclosure of information – that is a fundamental part of how we engage, how we present different personas. As more information is disclosed, the more that is undermined. And that is most obviously taking place in University admissions or potential employer searches for individuals. The inability to make selective disclosures can undermine relationships.

For exampe: a chocolate biscuit purchase: seeing someone buying chocolate biscuits buys the main shop on card, then buys biscuits in cash. It turns out this person’s partner is a health food nut and manages the finances tightly. So that person and their child agree to the healthy food rules at home, but then have access to chocolate biscuits elsewhere. This is how people manage relationships. That sort of lack of disclosure means you do not need to revisit the same arguement time and again, it helps illustrate why privacy is so fundamental to the fabric of society.

We do have ways of making privacy cost more salient. There is this trade off around privacy – we are often told these things are “for your own good”. And without a significant push for evidence that is hard to counter. We don’t force accountability of promised/stated benefits. CCTV in the UK is a great example. It took almost two decades for any investigation into that investment, when there was research it was all pretty damning (Gill and Spriggs 2005; Metropoliton Police Review 2008 – CCTV only contributes to prevention or resolution in 3% of crime, it is costly and there is only 1 crime per 100 cameras). And we have had misuse of CCTV also coming through courts. Investigations into inappropriate behaviour by the London Met Police over a year show inappropriate disclosure – like the CCTV case – a huge percentage of that issue.

We have the extension of the state into something of military surveillance. We see the rise of drones, robots and autonomous vehibles. There is an increasing number of networks and devices – and we see mission creep in this “deeply technophilic” industry. We also see machine learning and big data being advertised as the solve all solution here… But as Stephen Graham notes “emerging security policies are founded on… profiling” of individuals, a Minority Report state. David Murajami Wood from the Surveillance Studies Network talk about automatic classification and risk based profiling as adding up to “social sorting” and we see this with tools like Experian MOSAIC and ACLU Pizza. We must not let this happen without debate, push back, and a proper understanding of the implications.

Odlyzko raised the issue of who controls the information – it is often big global mega corps. The decline of privacy actually undermines the fundamentals of capitalism and the dynamic nature of the market system – a truly dystopian solution.

So, do people really not care? Post Snowden it can seem that way but there are signs to the contrary: the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled GCHQ surveillance to be illegal; major tech companies are distancing themselves from government, putting up legal resistance; and deploying better security (encryption) and we see talk of a Digital Charter from Tim Berners Lee, progressing this debate. Privacy protection behaviours are not always obvious though.

We also see the idea that “Digital Natives Don’t Care” – now that is not true, they just care about different things, they engage in “social steganography” hiding in plain sight (boyd 2014).

So, in conclusion: technology has profound impact on privacy, in many ways that people don’t understand – at least not immediately; people often eagerly assume and over estimate benefits and under estimate and discount risks; we need to counter this by better communication about risks and benefits; communication needs to relate to what matters to people with different preferences.


Q1) It seems to me that some of the classical social science sources about relationships, what information to ignore and which to note… It seems those sources can be updated and adapted to the modern world and that you can analogyse up to the point

A1) Yes, you look at this area and there are really three people I always go back to from the 1960s: Goffman, Lumans and Giddon.

Q1) And more recently Henry Jenkins too.

Q2) From your presentation many people make poor decisions around privacy, but those are pragmatic choices. But I really do think we don’t see people understanding the impact of surveillance – there is a lack of understanding that not only might they look for terrorists but of the other implications of machine learning, of other use of data, and that that is a level of data use that is not proportionate the problem.

A2) That is the debate we need to see in the public discourse so urgently. There is a pushing out of tools without any consideration of those implications. Using the language of cost and waste around data can be useful here, but some want a story of the negative consequences in order to make sense of this – for instance someone being denied a job because of errors or disclosure.

Q3) Do you think that education institutions in the United Kingdom have any role to set an example or themselves or others, by practicing what academics would advise.

A3) Online privacy protection is part of the national curriculum now. If I was running a school I wouldn’t want to turn it into a prison – metal detectors etc. But there is also the tracking of learning behaviours and activities, data mining to identify individual learning paths – risks there are also something to think about. It is often the most mundane and banal stories that often hit home: what if someone is worried to search for treatment for a disease, lest their own status be disclosed by that? Being tracked changes behaviour.

Q4) The detection rate of terrorism is so low that it is not just a waste of money, it is also ineffective method.

A4) But then it is more convenient to sit behind a computer than to actually be out on the street facing direct human interaction and risk, that may also be part of it.

Q5) Going back to the topic of education. there are quite a lot of primary schools in the UK where they are using apps, ebooks etc. Is there

A5) There are three technologists who did a fantastic study. They found it makes kids more obedient, and they start to behave like people in prison which is damaging to individuals as well as to society. This will foster rather than discourage criminal activity.

Comment) Emmerline Taylor, in Australia, has done a book on how kids respond to technology in schools.

And with that we close a really interesting talk with clear relevance for some of the findings and recommendations coming out of our Managing Your Digital Footprint research work.

Aug 182015

All of this week, whilst I am mainly working on Managing Your Digital Footprint research work, there is a summer school taking place at the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics on Security and Privacy with several talks on social media. This afternoon I’ll be blogging one of these: “Policing and Social Media Surveillance : Should We Have any Privacy in Public?” from the wonderful Professor Lilian Edwards from University of Strathclyde and Deputy Director, CREATe.

I come to you as a lawyer. I often say what I do is translate law to geek, and vice versa. How many here would identify themselves as from a legal discipline (about 10 are), I know most of you are from a computer science or HCI area. What I will talk about is an overlap between law and computer science.

So, a nice way to start is probably David Cameron saying: “In extremis, it has been possible to read someone’s letter, to listen to someone’s call to listen in on mobile communications,” he said. “The question remains: are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to do that? My answer to that question is: no, we must not.

I’m going to argue that encryption, privacy, etc. is a good thing and that there should be some aspect of privacy around all of those social media posts we make etc. Now, what if you didn’t have to listen to secret conversations? Well right now the security services kind of don’t… they can use Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter etc..

So, a quick note on the structure of this talk. I will set some context on open source intelligence (OSINT), and Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT). Then I will talk about legal issues and societal implications.

So, SOCMINT and OSINT. In the last 5-7 years we’ve seen the rise of something called “intelligence led” policing, some talk about this as the Minority Report world – trying to detect crime before they take place. We have general risk aversion, predictive profiles, and we see big data. And we see “Assemblages” of data via private intermediaries. So we see not only the use of policing and intelligence data, but also the wide range of publicly available data.

There has been the growth in open source intelligence, the kind of stuff that easy to get for free, including SOCMINT – the stuff people share on social media. You can often learn a great deal from friends graphs, their social graph – even with good privacy settings that can be exposed (used to always be open) and that is used in friend of friends analysis etc. The appeal of this is obvious – there is a lot of it and it is very cheap to get hold of it (RUSI and Anderson Report 2015), 95% of intelligence gathered is from this sort of “open source” origins, the stuff that is out there (ISC 2015). There have been a number of reports in the last year with increadibly interesting information included. Another report stated that 90% of what you need to know if from this sort of open source, and it’s great because it is cheap.

In terms of uses (Barlett and Miller 2013) are various, but worth noting things like sentiment analysis – e.g. to predict a riot etc, apparently very useful. Acquiring information from the public – have you seen this robber, etc. is very useful. Horison scanning is about predicting disturbance, riots etc. We are also seeing predictive analytics (e.g. IBM Memphis P.D.; PredPol in Kent) and that is very popular in the US, increasingly in the UK too – towards that Minority Report. Now in all of these report there is talk of predition and monitoring, but little mention of monitoring individuals – but clearly that is one of the things this data usage enables.

These practices are rising policy challenges (Omand 2012) of public trust, legitimacy and necessity, transparency. And there is the issue of the European Convention on Human Rights: article 8 gives us the right to a private life, which this sort of practice may breach. Under that article you can only invade privacy for legitimate reasons, only when necessary, and it the level of invasion of privacy can only be proportionate to the need in society.

So, looking at what else is taking place here in contemporary practice: we had the Summer Riots in 2011 where the security services used #tweets, BB texts etc. and post riot reports really capture some of the practice and issues there; Flickr stream of suspect photos leading to 770 arrests ad 167 charges, Facewatch mobile app During the 2012 Olympics the police wanted to use social media data, but basically did not know how. So issues here include police managerial capacity; there is sampling bias (see “Reading the Riots”) as Twitter is a very partial view of what is occuring; And there is human error – e.g. in crowdsourced attempts to identify and locate the Boston Bombings.

So I want to talk about the possibility of using public social media posts and question whether they have any protection as private material.

An individual tweets something, says she didn’t intend for it to be seen by the police, commentators online say “What planet is this individual on? Her tweets are public domain” and that is the attitude one tends to see, including in the law courts. e.g. “a person who walks down the street will inevitably be visible” (PG v UK 2008 ECt HR). In the UK that seems to be the standard perspective, that no reasonable expectation to privacy when expressing yourself in public.

In the US there is even less privacy of social media posts, e.g. see C.f. Bartow (2011) who says “Facebook is a giant surveillance tool, no warrant required, which the government can use… with almost no practical constraints from existing laws”. There is no idea of privacy in the US constitution effectively.

You’d think that the EU would be better but where are our traditional concepts of when “reasonable expectation of privacy arises?” Is it in our body, our home (Rynes ECJ 2013), car, what about our data “relating to you” vs “public sphere” (Cf Koops).

So, what are the legal controls? Well the Data Protection law seems obvious but there are strong UK exemptions around detection and prevention of crime – so there is no need for consent.

How about the European Convention on Human Rights article 8, the right to a “private life”. So, the start of my arguement is Von Hannover ECtHR (2004) about intrusion by press rather than police – Princess Caroline of Monaco was being followed by the press in all of her activities. The Court says, seminally, that this is absolutely an invasion of her private life – even though she is a public figure in a public sphere. So we have a concept of privacy being beyond the bounds of your home, of being able to have a right to privacy when out in public.

Now, that was an important case… But it hasn’t had that much impact. So you have cases where the police take photos of people (Wood v Metropolitan Police 2008) or CCTV (reapplication by JR38 for Jusicial review (2015). In the case of Wood a serial activist was going to a corporate AGM, expected to cause trouble, so police followed him and photographed him. Judge said that he was an activist and well known, and could expect to be followed. The arguement was that the image was a one off thing – that not part of ongoing profile.

The most recent case, which was in Northern Ireland, was caught on CCTV during the NI equivelent of the London Riots. The person in question was 14 year old and images were circulated widely, possibly including to the Derry Journal. Again he uses, but in an interesting way. There are at least three judgements.

Lord Kerr says “The facet that the activity… Is suspected to be criminal… will not alone be sufficient to remove it from… application of article 8”. That’s a big deal – suspicion of criminal activity isn’t enough for your rights to be exempt. However in this case the second test, whether the intrusion is justified, was found to be the case. And they took very little time to decide it was a justified act. Under proportionality of rights of individual, and rights of community to protect itself, they felt this intrusion was justified. They say that he’d benefit too – saying that that 14 year old might be diverted from a life of crime. They lay it on a bit but they are under pressure to justify why they have not stigmatised this youth through sharing his image. So, an interesting case.

So, there is some expectation of privacy in public but even so interference can be justified. Interferance must be justified as necessary, proportionate and according to law. But security usually seems to win in UK? (Wood, JR38). Even if no reasonable expectation of privacy, may still be part of “private life”. But all of this assumes that you know you are being surveilled, of your information being accessed. But you may not know if your data is being used to build up profiles, to build up an airport stop list, etc.

Now, in response to Snowdon, we have something called RIPA – an envisioned “digital” scheme to cover surveillance of personal data. This scheme covers real time interceptions of emails, warrant from secretary of state needed. But social media isn’t part of this. They just seem to be making up how they manage that data.

Now I want to argue that use of SOCMINT shouldn’t have any special excemption…

Demos in 2013 asseted “open” SOCMINT collection (and processing) needs no authorisation of any kind. Why? They argued that no expectation of privacy so long as user new from T&C that public data might be collected, especially via API. I think that is just egregiously stupid… Even if you believed that it would apply to the platform – not for the police, the rest of the world, etc.

The other argument is the detailed profile argument. And that is that even if we admit that this material is “public” there is still part of ECHR which is that detailed profiles of this sort need to be treated with respect – that comes from practices by the Stasi and concerns around the possibility of a secret police state, Juris Prudence (Rotaru v Romania) covers this.

So, my perspective is that there is a real difference between structured and unstructured data… Even if in public is SOCMINT an autoamatic dossier? With Google most of the internet is a structured dossier. With that in mind ECtHR case law has seen structured dossiers maintained ver time as a key threat – Rotaru v Romainis dictum: “public information can fall within the scope of private life where it is systematically collected and stored in files held by authorities”. So does the Rotaru distinction between structured data in files held by police, and unstructured data hold up in the age of Google and data mining (e.g. Google Spain (ECJ 2014), UK RIPA case (2015).

As we move into the internet as the main site for key publishing of data, and as the internet of things and smart cities come online


Q1) Should we be able to do data mining on large sets of social data?

A1) Big data, data mining and the internet of things can be seen as the three horsemen of the apocalypse in a way. And that’s the other talk I could have given. The police, using this sort of data are using data in a different context, and that isn’t ok under ECHR art 8.

Q2) I remember a paper about a year ago about the distinction between what an individual can do in terms of asking about others etc. They have more right that the police in some contexts.

A2) There is this weird thing where if you are not looking at specific people, you aren’t as restrained. That’s because it used to be the case that you could find out very little without investigating an individual. That has changed considerable but he law hasn’t been updated to reflect that.

Q3) A lot about us is public, so don’t we just have to deal with this. I see the concerns of a police state, but I don’t understand where you are drawing the line on legal controls on policing. If they can only do the same as a member of the public then there shouldn’t be an issue there…

A3) You’ve given that answer yourself – the power dynamic is asymmetrical. They have capacity to join data up to their own databases – which may include your being a witness or victim of crime, not always suspect or perpetrator. There is a lot of black boxing of data here…

Q3) What controls are you proposing?

A3) Honestly, I don’t know if the quick answer. But if we look at the requirements for intercepting letters, email, telephone are strict, searching homes, pretending to be friend etc. are less strict… But that scooping up of mass data is something different in terms of implications and we need some form of safeguarding around that, even if less strict than some other approaches/interceptions.

There is overwhelming evidence that young people don’t realise the potential implications of their sharing of data, and see these spaces as a private space away from other areas of their life in which they find themselves surveilled. So there is a reasonable presumption of privacy there.

Q3) I think there is a need for appropriate controls on police activities, I agree with that. If I share things only with friends on facebook and police look at that, that is an investigation. But if I tweet something it is public

A3) This is the classic liberal argument I don’t agree with. Tweeting is a bit different. Facebook is the new mall, the new social space, they use openness to serve them socially, believing it will only be read by peers. So they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Part of Bartett and Millar work is about the use of the word “rape” – in gaming culture it is being used to take a game. Imagine that being crunched. That’s the sort of issue that can arise in big data. I’m not saying police needs a warrant for all Twitter data capture, I’m saying we need to think about what is appropriate.

Q4) There is a perspective that taking the UK out of the EU Human Rights Act is a red herring to distract from other legislation.

A4) Even if we left the EU Human Rights Act, the UK Government would find many of its protections are embedded in other part of EU law, so it would still require appropriate respect of individual rights to privacy. But that’s a political conversation really.

Q5) So, in terms of the issues you have raised, how do we understand what is private and what is public data?

A5) I think essentially that we need to safeguard certain points in what has become a continuum in privacy around human rights, something that will set some barriers about the types of interventions that can occur, and what kind of oversight they require.

And with that Lilian’s excellent and information-packed talk is done. Really interesting and there were clearly plenty more questions arising. Particularly interesting for me thinking about the Digital Footprints work, and the legislative context for the research we have been undertaking on student expectations, experiences, practices. 

Aug 162015
Image of Nicola Osborne and Helen Aiton from Fringe 2015 brochure

What is it like to write a show for the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (#codi15)? Well, as I make the final preparations for my own show, Back to the Statistical Future (26th August, Stand in the Square, 3pm, just £8 per ticket!), I thought I would share some reflections on the process of developing a show for the Edinburgh Fringe that is based on academic and research areas, but is accessible to a wider audience. And also on the nerve-jangling experience that is selling real tickets to real punters – and using social and other media to help with that!

So, firstly a wee bit of background.

Back in 2013 Beltane Public Engagement Network – of whom I am a long term fan/member/participant/event junkie – decided to create a new show for the Fringe. It was to be a light hearted academic and research led strand of one-off events for smart audiences. And this “Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas“, was to be a co-production with the lovely experienced production company Fair Pley and the unstoppable ball of energy and obscure facts that is Susan Morrison (stand up, Bright Club compere and enthusiast, and Director of the Previously… History festival). You can hear the original pitch, filmed outside that first venue, here:

YouTube Preview Image

That first year was an experiment (read more about our EDINA show at CODI13 here) that led to an amazing CODI (as it became known to insiders/Twitter) run in 2014. Having rushed through prep for our first CODI show, we were keen to be better prepared and planned for our 2014 show, What Skeletons Are in Your Closet?. Looking across the EDINA activities we were keen to highlight and thought would be of interest to Fringe audiences we decided that the Statistical Accounts of Scotland were an ideal candidate.  The show sold well, got some lovely comments and attention, and was great fun, and so for 2015 we are going Back to the Statistical Future, and here’s how we are doing it…

Where do you start?

The whole idea of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas is to actually have a “dangerous idea” – something challenging or provocative. Last year we – myself and my lovely co-host and Statistical Accounts of Scotland editorial board corresponding member Helen Aiton – focused a lot on the forgotten members of society, and the ways in which the Statistical Accounts capture and share their lives. This year we wanted to do something a wee bit different, but we also wanted to be able to build on the best bits of the 2014 show, things like the background to the accounts including, as Susan calls it “the world longest letter” – our enormous physical list of all the questions that had generated the Accounts in the first place (indeed we discovered 6 additional questions last year when researching the show!).

"The World's Longest Letter" being shown off at CODI 2014 (image copyright Edinburgh Beltane Network)

“The World’s Longest Letter” being shown off at CODI 2014 (image copyright Edinburgh Beltane Network).


So there we were, in autumn 2014, trying to think about what might make for a good show… because planning for a Fringe show really has to start about a year ahead to make the various deadlines. At this point we knew the Scottish Referendum result but we also knew that there would be a general election before the Fringe and that the Fringe programme deadline would pass before we knew the impact of that. Now, why would that matter for a show about 18th or 19th Century Scotland? Well, for our ideas to be dangerous and engaging they also needed to be timely and that meant making some sort of connection to the current context.

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

One of the brilliant things about CODI is that the production team have set a lot of early deadlines to make sure those terrifying Fringe form deadlines start to look easily achievable! This year pitches for show were due in person by the end of November or by video in early December. That means you need to know roughly what you want to talk about and roughly how you plan to do that 9 to 10 months ahead of your show. It means much of the hard work is done long before you officially start writing.

So, in November Helen and I started thinking about ideas and decided to take a wee risk. We decided that such was the focus on austerity and cuts that, no matter what the election outcome, there would be a great social policy angle tying the historical picture in the Accounts to modern day Scotland.

But then we needed a name…

Thankfully all of the buzz around the upcoming anniversary of Back to the Future inspired us. The film had been interesting partly because 50s fashions and mid-80s tailoring actually has a lot in common, which meant that whilst social attitudes and pop music provided fun contrasts, a lot of what makes that film great is the familiar being re-experienced in an unfamiliar context. With what we had found in the Second Statistical Accounts on part time librarians, pressures to pay to school your children, gentrification, increasing scrutiny of those receiving poor relief and the help of the parish, we knew we had some parallels and a perfect simple title: Back to the Statistical Future!

The next stage was to get all of our expression of interest paperwork together for the CODI producers and, once our show was selected/accepted (yay!) we needed to ensure we had all our details for the Fringe programme. Because the Fringe deadlines are very early – the final deadline for totally finalized copy, images, URLs etc. for the programme and website hits as early in January – we also had to make sure we had everything finalized. That included the modest funding to cover registering our show in the guide, in key programmes, on posters in St Andrews Square, etc. The CODI producers, being fabulous, bundle this all together into a very affordable fee that doesn’t even pretend to cover all their serious hard work supporting the shows and working to get potential audiences, as well as University press offices and local and national press aware of the strand.

So, we had a show title and basic idea… And an official listing imminently going live… What next?

Northern Exposure

Never mind writing the show itself, the next priority is actually writing the stuff to promote the show: news items for websites, tweets, blog posts, emailing contacts or nudging the press. Because if there is an audience all booked in, we not only need to have the show written but there’s a good chance it will go well. If there is no audience the best written show in the world won’t be nearly as fun.

Tickets for CODI have been priced this year at £8. That is a marker of the confidence the CODI producers have in us lot – the writers and performers – but it is also something of a challenge. If I can go see Bridget Christie for only a few more pounds, or something at the book festival for a similar price, my expectations as an audience member are set high. But I’m also really invested in what I’m about to see or be part of. Psychologically paying for stuff makes us value it more than free stuff. There is a whole free fringe, and there are also quite a lot of free events led by academics and researchers, which are frequently excellent.

A Yurt full of CODI attendees watching last years show.

Motivation to do a good job: a yurt full of expectant CODI attendees watching our show last year (image copyright Edinburgh Beltane Network).

There are other reasons to charge £8. Our venue this year and last has been a yurt in St Andrews Square, part of the Stand in the Square, one of the offshoot venues from legendary comedy club The Stand. So there are promotion costs, the venue costs (hire of space, yurt, power etc), and the costs of having an (excellent) technician keeping our mics and music working as expected – and those apply to every show no matter how famous you are.

Thus, as August draws closer you find yourself logging in daily, checking ticket sales, panicking, and working out how to make your show better, how to let people know about it in a new way, how to tell all of your friends that really, they are better booking early. Every ticket sale is a victory as well as a reminder that your show really really better be good… And so…

Writing the show itself

So, as I post this it is mid August and our show, taking place on 26th is coming together but isn’t finished yet.

Back in November, when we were preparing our pitch Helen and I both scoured the Statistical Accounts for what we call our “snippits” file – highlights, quotes, interesting leads, stories and statistics that we think might make a show. Once we had that clearer idea of what to focus on we started looking for more, digging deeper into some of our key topics: libraries; schools; literacy; public housing; disability and poor relief.

Notes from the writing process - snippets, leads, and nineteenth century finances...

Notes from the writing process – snippets, leads, and nineteenth century finances…

There were also Boot Camps to help us along – CODI gatherings in which all participants are encouraged to come along and share advice and in-progress show ideas. Some of these are in the Stand, which comes with the bonus of letting you tread the hallowed 4 feet of plywood that is their tiny stage. And for the last of these, in June, we were expected to give our 3 minute presentation outlining not just the topic, but also the structure of our show. Which means you have to have one. And even if that structure is only finalized late the night before the bootcamp, it’s still awfully useful to have. Because with that title, description, structure and a slowly booking audience all in place you have at least a full skeleton of your show, and plenty of time to flesh it out properly.

With CODI now in it’s third year there are some golden rules about what makes a CODI show too. It isn’t a presentation; it’s about interacting with the audience and engaging them. It isn’t about being the cleverest person in the room but it is about sharing and enlightening the audience with what you know. You need to be prepared but you can also count on Susan, now the compere for all CODI shows, to manage anything really challenging for you. As a bonus she’ll also dress as a minion, or a penguin, or a hurricane, or, for our show, impersonate a judgmental 19th century Minister of the Church of Scotland.

So the final stage is writing that script down. Which doing Bright Club has taught me is always worth doing for a performance where timing and wording will matter (so this is not always the case for presentations elsewhere). And that structure will get rejigged, and new data may need gathering – for instance in the last week Helen has been gathering data on average pay in 1835, whilst I’ve been scrutinizing the finances of an Edinburgh workhouse. As Helen and I are in different geographical locations emails and google docs and Skype calls have been happening to check in. And finally, as I am currently doing, it will all get into a finalized script, then read through and changed and made funnier. Then we’ll need to think “is that clear enough” and “can I back that up”…

And then, on 26th August, we will go into a wonderful and hopefully full yurt, and anything could happen… we may forget half of the content, we probably will be taken in whole new directions by the audience, why not join us and find out?

Aug 122015

Today I am at the West College Scotland Information Technology Symposium at the Erskine Bridge Hotel in Paisley. I’ll be part o the e-Resources break out sessions this morning, and this afternoon but when not talking about MediaHub or Digimap for Colleges, I’ll be blogging the keynotes and presentations that are taking place in the main conference room.

As usual, because this is a live blog so there may be typos, spelling issues or the occasional error – please do just let me know if you have any corrections etc. 

Welcome – Audrey Cumberford

I am delighted to welcome you all here today. We are also videoing the event for some of your colleagues who are unable to attend as student inductions are also taking place today. Using innovative technologies is core to what we do and we want to lead in the use of technology to enhance how students learn, that’s our ambition and today is all about that. And if we do not do that we may end up with disengaged students and we don’t want that to happen, so we want to give you a sense of what is possible but also to show you what we are already doing in this area. We are already doing a lot and you can see what others are doing, and how you might do that too. For instance this afternoon we have a session on Augmented Reality, and there are some schools and colleges already exploring how augmented reality can transform learning.

I know there are challenges about how we do this, we have challenges here around skills, competence, experience so we need to ensure that you are trained, equipped and supported to be able to take on those challenges. But those challenges are not an excuse not to take this innovation agenda forwards!

I also want to thank the team behind the event today, to Erskine, and to our sponsors. So, enjoy today and thank you!

As we turn to our next session my Twitter handle has been spotted on the event hashtag: #WCS_WITS.

Putting the “e” into e-learning – Becky Barrington, Head of e-Learning and Innovation at The Cornwall College Group

I have been at Barrington just a week, so much of what I say today will be reflecting my previous experience, most recently at South Devon College. I’m going to talk about a lot of possibilities but these are free, easy to use and very practical things! And this will be an interactive session – with some paper and device stuff.

I’ll mostly be talking about Enabling, but I will also be talking about Exciting and Extending.

I was going to use an app called Remote Mouse but due to wifi issues that won’t happen. However, I recommend it!

So, first up I am going to ask you to play “barrier bingo” – this is about removing barriers… We’ll draw a 2×2 grid and I have some things we hear a lot about barriers:

Access – “I am never in a computer room”

Skills – “I don’t know how to do it”

Time – “I don’t have time to do it”

Confidence – “It always breaks for me or goes wrong”

Ideas – “I don’t know what to do”

Now, I’ve loaded those five terms into a tool called class that will let you randomly pick a term… And the virtual fruit machine picks… 


Often people want to know everything first… But that much information in a training session, that’s too much to take in sometimes. So you need to start small – don’t try and learn everything at once! You can also put the students in control, letting them work together to figure thing out – so you both do the things you have expertise in.

Another tool you can use here – Quizmasters (like Block Busters) allows to create games and quizzes for the classroom. The way that it works is that you have 2 teams. Team 1 have to get four questions right, team 2 have to get five questions right – works well for different abilities of students or unequal group sizes. So, when I use it teams take turns to ask each other questions…

Back to the fruit machine… 


The confidence bit is about practising an knowing the its you want to do well, rather than trying to know everything. You can also get yourself a buddy – a student or a colleague. That can build confidence in the sense of “I will be there in case it goes wrong”.

Back to the fruit machine… 


Try to do things that don’t require huge amounts of work ahead of time. Getting students making resources for you can be really useful. I have split classes into groups to create different quizzes, games, etc. It’s great for them as they have to think about the questions, and want to find difficult questions. Another great tool is the glossary tool in Moodle – a searchable bank of information that students can add too. So I will give students common words that will come up in a class. And they can then type in the information – whether to a light or very complex level of detail. That then becomes a resource for the rest of the year, but students also retain their understanding of the word(s) that they have looked up and added. And the glossary does automatic linking, so pop ups show up whenever that word occurs.

Also think about group working that you can just get up and go with. So two I’d recommend there are Padlet and Twiddla. Paddlet is a virtual pin board basically – can be used in class or as pre-work/homework. It embeds nicely into Padlet too. I can plan and create in advance, but I can create a Padlet ad hoc. And anyone can access that, either from their own device, or from a shared main computer/presentation machine in the room. Twiddla is similar – this can work better for remote activities as it has a chat room and has a white board type space. You can make private Twiddla spaces, but you can also do this ad hoc too.

Back to the fruit machine… Possibly someone will shout Bingo! now… 


An IT room enables use of IT, but not necessarily needed for learning technology. You don’t always need one computer per student. Most teaching rooms will have a computer and projector these days, and there is a lot you can do with that. Again some games activity work well for this sort of set up, for instance Penalty Shoot Out (£250 for a site license) lets you set up a multiple choice question as part of a “penalty shoot out” – getting a question right, lets you attempt to score a goal!

Another tool you can use is Flip Quiz… This lets you set up a quiz with various scores available…

Our side of the room picks General Knowledge for 500 points… And the question is “What does SQA stand for?” (deemed a wee bit too easy!). The other side picks Technology and also 500 points and gets the question “Name your plagiarism software?”. Now back to our side… Teaching and Learning for 500 points, the question is about which theorist has a taxonomy based on levels of understanding, which is of course Bloom. Back to Team 2 – which is the closest loch to the hotel? It’s Loch Lomand… And then get a bonus question to which the answer proves to be Jisc. A nice illustration of the engagement of these quizzes. 

So, that’s one way to deal with access. You can also get students to use their own devices. There can be concerns abut risk, but you can work around that. If you are worried about distractions, only use it at the end of the lesson. Or you can get students logged in early, then leave them on the table and only have them pick them up again as needed.


This is what today is all about!

So, how do we Excite our students? Lots of options. I’ve been working on gamifying lessons. For some students they can only aim for an A as the highest achievement, but for students for whom that isn’t a realistic goal gamifying means you can use class points, issue badges for achievements etc. to put people on a more level playing field in terms of motivation, and highlighting and celebrating students’ skills. And in general that highlighting and celebrating has huge value for students, and for potential employers.

So, another thing you can use here is You set up a game. To set up a game you go to – you add in questions and answers to automatically create a game. Players use their own devices to login, using a pin, and then questions appear on phones, and you find out if you are right or not. (Number of players in this room is 136 ish). So a question shows up, you pick a colour on your device… And on the main screen the number of correct/incorrect answers shows… What happens at the end is you can download the results and see who has gotten which question right or wrong – it means students are not embarrassed by what’s on the big screen but you get a sense of how students are getting on. (Cue questions whizzing past). At the end of the quiz each player sees their score, and then as asked for feedback on how the quiz worked. That’s all free, very easy, and works well but relies on access to the internet via mobile devices or computers.

I also wanted to mention which enables students to use in their own work and self-assessment. You don’t get feedback but students get feedback on their performance. You can provide questions etc. and then the student can choose which of several games to engage with those questions.

So, thinking about Extending learning, I want to talk a bit about Moodle. Moodle really can extend learning beyond the classroom. You can set things for the student to get on with. We tend to think about putting content online in Moodle, but there is much more you can do. For instance depending on grade you can release additional information to the learner. You can track progress, to manage students learning, and for students to understand their own learning. Particularly for Flipped Learning model, where homework is ahead of class, you can see how students do ahead of the lesson to inform your teaching and to understand what the students are and are not understanding.

So, the things we’ve seen:

  • Teachers Direct
  • Gamesbusters
  • Kahoot
  • Padlet
  • Twiddla
  • Poll Everywhere

I’m going to finish with Poll Everywhere. This is again completely free – for up to 40 responses. You can pay for more but for most classes 40 is a reasonable number. So, for our example, which idea will you be using in your classroom? The answer resoundingly seems to be Kahoot.

And with that Rebecca concludes her presentation and hands over to… 

RSA Animates – Jamie Cook, Head of RSA Scotland

It sounds grand, but I am the only member of staff at the moment! As an organisation we have been around for over 200 years, and have fellows across the World. We have many interests but pinning it down I would say we are fascinated by ideas, and how we respond to problems. It emerged from the coffee shops of the Enlightenment. We used to set “premiums” – prizes to solve those problems that arose – for instance successful growth of particular crops; machinery to clean chimneys so that children did not have to do this, etc.

We want to use technology, and innovative ways to solve problems. But how can we take the ideas we have and share them to maximum success. One of our solutions to this came from sitting down for a coffee. At our headquarters in London we have over 150 talks a year from experts on a variety of topics, they are live streamed to the world but that is not particularly innovative. We were wondering how to engage people with these ideas – there is so much to engage with, how do you identify which ones you should engage with yourself. Those videos are maybe 40 minutes, and although we have an app, they are not always as easy to access. Sitting and listening to talks on complex ideas are not always the best way to get information flowing. At that coffee meeting someone suggested that it would be lovely to just draw the talks, and one of our fellows, an artist, said “yes, I could do that”. And that has become our “RSA Animate” videos. These are the idea of taking lectures, condensing them, and putting them across to a condensed form. The speaker is still there, in edited form, but you also have a visual way in.

My favourite is “21st Century Enlightenment’ and our director Matthew Taylor used his annual talk in 2010 to talk about this concept of a 21st century take on the enlightenment. There was a really interesting reaction about the balance of philosophical and political content in his talk. They didn’t entirely get it. We then produced the animate, of 10-15 mins and what was interesting was that the use of those cartoons made all the difference, they got what he was talking about.

We have hundreds of staff, thousands of fellows – we are not that big – but we now have the most YouTube subscribers of any non-profit organisation. We have over 484k subscribers, and nearly 70 million YouTube views. These videos are being used in classrooms, apparently Yoko Ono tweeting about us, and the US Department of Defence is now using animate as a form (but we are not sure what they use them for).

That has been a fantastic success, but the popularity of Andrew and his team, who makes these, means we can only really do 2 animates a year. But also like anything we have to keep innovating… What is the next animate? So we now have a new series called “RSA Shorts” – these are even shorter videos (2.5-3 mins) to summarise key ideas coming out of key pieces of work. One of the key aspects of the shorts is that they can be a variety of formats and styles. We have had competitions at RSA to produce these. This is an interesting way to engage people who would not otherwise engage with us. Those shorts are, as we put it, an “espresso of the mind”.

These shorts are also changing how we present ourselves to the world. What we do is now set out in a short video. It’s not just about portraying information or being gimmicky, but also to explain what we do and what we are about not only to the outside world, but to ourselves. These are snapshots that capture what we do.

Please do have a look and feel free to make use of these resources in your own work.

And with that, we head to a quick coffee break… 

WCS Showcase – WCS Staff

YES: Your Essential Skills – Grant Taylor, Head of Essential Skills

I’ve created a short here to explain why we do… This is for the 7 people who didn’t know what YES was earlier on.

The video is outline the portal, which is system that West College Scotland students can use to understand required essential skills, that matter as much as academic and subject areas to employers. We use a universal language of skills, having that universal skills of what are important, that covers these 40 skills areas, enables a really global language.

The portal acknowledges that students learn in different ways, at different paces. Students have different skills, they may coach each other, they may do something more practical… They may all have the same lesson but we all experience that differently, so the ability to self reflect and your experience of learning at that moment, gives you a real chance for ownership and understanding. And you can articulate your skills in the language of the wider world, of employers etc. Students have ownership and puts learning back in the hands of owners. We want to try to change educational culture, a long term view across the whole of Scotland. Those essential skills have parity across the board, and are so important for jobs and for employers.

A student notes that it is hard to know you have those skills, but reflecting on those enables you to say what skills you have, to understand those skills, to tell employers what you can do.

WCS Sport: how we use Turnitin AKA The Helensburgh Incident – Pat Shearer

The Helensburgh Incident was known locally as “Hurricane Bawbag”… At the time we had a student that took about 2 and a half hours to get into college through all the disruption just to hand in a piece of written coursework. I felt really bad for them and so we started looking at an easier way for them to do that. So, we started off looking at Turnitin software, which is a tool for “fighting against the internet” and the plagiarism it had enabled.

I’m a bit of a pragmatist: technology has to help the student, and has to help me otherwise it would be a waste of time. We’ve now been using Turnitin for the last 4 or 5 years but I was surprised that few in the college use it yet. We use it particularly in HNC and HND work, particularly for the written assignments, reports and presentations. We use it conveniently enable them to upload their assignments so that they can submit 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world.

Once they have submitted we do 4 or 5 things. We don’t have huge amounts of paperwork for our subject, this system helps us capture all of our students work in one easy to explore place. It also means our wonderful course admin Debbie doesn’t have to be inundated producing time and date evidence. And actually this system helps us reduce paper and printing costs. The last thing we really use it for is to check for people trying to cheat – and that isn’t just about catching them, it’s about helping them to understand that they can’t just paste text from the internet, and to understand why. Before Turnitin we were finding that issue arising more, and being more challenging to do that. So we use Turnitin as a reference, so they understand how an assignment should be putting together an assignment, what’s expected of them at university etc.

So we use it for sustainability and for plagiarism detection and education. I also have a break out room – come and find out more!

Weekly Class Websites – Riona Rushton

Weebly is a way to build websites, for students to build websites. It’s a free tool –  as long as you go to – and you get 40 student accounts for free (so you have to delete and start again each session or use the paid for version). You can manage those sites but students can create sites, show evidence of research, etc. You set up your own account, set up classes and students within each class. And you have control of what they can and cannot post.

Once you have set up your account you can use templates and PowerPoint like tools. Students can create a blog, share things they have made, add content etc.

So, you set this up yourself – so good to have a standard format for naming those students in a consistent way. Students can change their password, but you can also reset as needed.

It’s a very simple process to use. Students take ownership and do their own creative thing… And students enjoy using it.

You can choose whether you want those sites to be public, or private which means behind a password. Students can only set up 5 pages – but they can be quite substantial, for instance one page can be set up as a blog. Students can choose the format they use – whilst a lot is in written form they can also embed and link to other types of materials.

Using Weebly as a reflective portfolio space encourages self direction and organisational skills, how to group information by topic etc. And provides some IT skills and experience for students.

Viewing a student site here we can see a student of Games Design share their five pages, things they are experimenting with, etc.  (and it looks lovely).

The Use of Virtual Patients in Pharmacy Education – Suzanne Thompson, Science Team 

Our pharmacy education course at Greenock requires students to ask patients about their needs, but many students do not like role play, which is what we would usually do. So, in 2013 I undertook some work to look at alternatives and I will be talking about some work, based on Keele University tools, that enable students to engage with real patients. These enable students to consider the interaction, the way that questions were asked. There are also activities to test and use underpinning knowledge. They can also then use that knowledge and experience to decide what kind of medication a patient requires. This helps students improve their knowledge and understanding but also to understand patients ongoing needs.

At the time of the study there was huge use of this tool – including away from the classroom. And these activities improved confidence in role play – which helps to prepare students for assessment which includes aspects of role play. Students also understood the reason for those role plays, and how to engage in them more effectively. And that tool is now embedded in the course as a core tool, and the students are really enjoying and benefitting from that.

And an excellent use of Powtoon for that presentation there!

Breakout 1 

I’m presenting in the e-Resources session but will summarise anything exciting later.

What do our students want? – Goerge Jonson, WCS

We ran a survey of our students and had a very good response of 685 participants, it was a really good sample from across the college and included both full time and part time students. I’m just going to talk a bit about some of those responses.

We asked students what type of learning students wanted, and they were keen on some or wholly online, that’s a priority for them. In terms of supporting their learning students want to use their laptop in class, online activities, but also face to face interaction. They want to use smartphones in class (about 85% have smartphones) and to use social media in teaching and learning.

There is a fair amount of blended learning going on – and about 66% of students felt their area of learning used technology effectively. We also saw that 75% use Moodle and most were very positive about this experience. We also asked about devices and 75% had a laptop, 58% owned a tablet, 88% owned a smartphone (fairly even iOS and Android split, a few other operating systems in minority use). The students did identify opportunities but also barriers for the use of smartphones (slow network connection and battery life were top concerns there).

In addition to the survey we also ran focus groups with our students and messages coming through there included: issues with reliable access to IT; lack of awareness of Office365 and their cloud storing there; effective use of Facebook groups – this came out of every campus.

So, some conclusions: there is demand among students for a blended approach to learning and teaching; there is widespread but not universal ownership of smart phones; and there is opportunity to do more with students own devices.

Angela Pignatelli – Creative Industries, WCS

I am going to talk a bit about the experiences our students have, and drawing upon Marc Prensky’s work on Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, but first a show reel here about how technology is the norm (Currently watching this – sequence of images collaged together and making effective use of the Humans title theme music).

[Note here that, as usual, I’m capturing the speakers comments in this post, something that mention of Marc Prensky always reminds me to flag up as I share the widespread concerns about the problematic nature of the Natives/Immigrants work. It’s worth reading some of that critical commentary, not least Prensky’s own more recent writing].

So, we have 3D printing becoming commonplace, robotics and augmented reality are all here. We were all raised in an education system with a start, middle and end, but these students coming in have a very different experience… As they arrive take a moment to see that you are tapping into those students cognitive processes: we have an unprecedented level of technological development, we need to make sure students are learner centred, are able to contribute and share their own voices. In some work we’ve been doing with Glasgow University, we’ve found that “digital natives” have “twitch speed” – swiftly understanding ideas; random access; parallel processing; image first; play orientated.

There is huge amounts of theory on games design and the theory of game design. I’m not a gamer but we apply that experience of being a gamer to their educational experience, to our curriculum design. Complex levels, structures in gaming are familiar and comfortable with. So how can we give them ownership to understand short, medium and long term goals. And we talk about pedagoguey, but we also need to talk about whotagoguey.

This image shows my 9 year old relative who is creating their own exercises whilst face timing her friend. We have to be prepared for students who operate like this.

There are various tips and techniques for dealing with digital natives. But be professionally discerning about what is applicable to you and your teaching and learning context.

And I’ll end on a quote from Steven Johnson, author of “Everything bad is good for you” who points out that many of the new technologies make more demands on us, improving our capabilities.

Making a difference in the short term for today’s and tomorrow’s students – Jason Miles Campbell, Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland

I’m not particularly an expert in teaching and learning but I can tell you, from my perspective as Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland, what others are doing, what works well…

So I will talk about how you can make a difference in your students’ lives. So…

1. Take the quick wins

Do the things that are achievable. One small change that is put in place can make a huge difference. For my example… Is an image of the three rail lines that run near Edinburgh Airport… Can you get a train there? No! There was a huge expensive diversion plan that didn’t happen but if they’d just put in a path or a shuttle bus, that would be great. So… Do what you can! Do what makes sense!

2. Rely on the Internet

Things can go wrong with technology, and sometimes you have to find a work around, but as long as you can divert, adjust, be flexible, it will be fine.

3. Listen to your IT people

Jisc, as you may be aware, provides the internet for your college. Your needs change and so we are always working to ensure we are fit for the future. And I would say that you should listen to your IT people. There are a huge amounts of attempted hacks etc. so if someone tells you that you should change your password every 6 months, then there’s a reason.

4. Use what you’ve got

We have students with smartphones and tablets, there are cheap tablets available… use what you’ve got. And there are Jisc resources you can use, there is Creative Commons stuff you can use, there are free things – like Beccy said, that you can use.

5. Take Risks

There are many ways we take risks every day… We do it when we speak in public. We do it when we use technologies that can fail. Sometimes we can be far too risk averse, when we are better benefitting from what we have available. We allow power tools on College campuses, but can be over restrictive on copyright?! I’d rather take my chances with copyright than power tools!

6. Immersion therapy

Try things out, experiment, immerse yourselves and see what ideas comes to you. My colleague spent an hour with Google Cardboard triggering huge amounts of ideas and excitement. You can use these sorts of tools to more literally immerse yourself – to look virtual patients in the eye for instance.

7. Use your students

Ask them how they want to learn, what they want to do. A great source for ideas, inspiration, etc. is to just directly ask your students. Students can also tell you the tools that they like using, and which are suitable and accessible to them. One of the advantages of Bring Your Own Device lets the students decide what they need, and set up in the way they like.

8. Embrace shared services

Now I would say that, Jisc is essentially a huge set of shared services. They enable co-operation, shared use of technologies etc. Even quite simple technology can be useful.

9. Enable, enthuse, inspire

There is so much potential in smart phones and there are such ideas there to play with. Mobile and home internet connections enable virtual meetings, web cams, mics, etc. You can access the world essentially, without even needing to travel. Technology can free you up to focus on what matters.

And that’s me… To find out more do get in touch!

Now onto Joe Wilson, who our compare feels strongly has the best Twitter avatar in the world… 

Open, Collaborative, Sharing Practice in the FE Sector – Joe Wilson, Chief Executive of CDN

I’m an old codger in FE terms (I remember working for local authorities), which means I’ve seen lots and lots of changes and I’ve always used technology. I started off with photocopiers, OHP projectors, epidiascopes, electronic typewriters…

But soon word processors arrived and, soon after, similar commands let me use webpages… So back in 1996 I was able to share links and presentations and materials on my ( website. By 2000 I was playing with Blogger, to blog to share ideas… All I do, maybe once every two months, is sit and reflect on stuff. Sharing what I’ve learned, what I’ve taken away… You build up a community. I started to work with Jisc and started using Jiscmail in 2001. It amazes me how few colleges who don’t know or engage with the communities on Jiscmail. You will find a huge range of communities who are sharing resources all the time…

All the things on my list here, I still use now. So I am still using delicious to capture groups of links… Built up over time… collected and curated. Pinterest is great – my kids do it all the time. Think of the subjects that showing a good weld, or a merit in cake decorating might look like… This is all about co-creating. Your head would spin if you looked at it all. I always think free is good. I started off as an adult literacy in Arden, outside of Comely Bank. They were quite cut off… But this isn’t about being technology, but what you do with it. I think that you should be on Twitter to build up a personal learning network – share good stuff, you get better stuff back. It’s about sharing and working globally, not only engaging locally.

Looking at the NMC Horison Report 2015 highlights major developments. The future, at the moment, are blended learning. All the statistics here about the take up of smart phones, tablets, broadband.. the challenge for us and our learners is to address the issue of the digitally excluded – those without internet, tools etc. But that should not hold us back, even if we are also looking at how we bridge that gap.

If you think about where learners are going, and what they want… Students want learning on demand to fit work and life schedules. They want self paced learning, and learning from home. They want to know that what they are learning is relevant to their career and life now and for the future. We need to reflect global learning and local needs, which means it has to be more collaborative. And we need to be meeting and listening to experts – high value but good value.

We also need to take our heads out of the sands and address the facet that education is changes. In terms of who is doing best Universities probably lead right now. Colleges were doing well, with VLEs, but all the changes and restructuring they fell behind  little. Schools are moving on now, Glow is getting bigger and can be a great way to build a personal learning network.

So, for an example, I’m going to mention the Glasgow ? of Art. You also have things like Phonar – an open undergraduate photography class – not a Scottish example but a great one, this guy just opened up his class online.

Another example, Tute… When I was a head of education you’d get asked to tutor struggling students. I have a friend in Glasgow, and this example down south, who provide tutoring online, they pay the same as other tutors, they work through Skype etc. So questions that might have come to you, may be going there already.

I also wanted to talk about OER and ukoer vision, and I’d like to encourage you to share your learning resources online. But it’s not just Scotland or the UK, it’s global. The drivers are various but the idea of education as a common good. If I can share my materials and benefit other people for free, that’s great. And there is loads of content coming, I want Scottish content in there. I chaired the UK FE Skills Window down south, and I’ve seen some of the content that is coming.

We also see the FELTAG objectives pushing a strong aspiration for content to be partially available online. That is making a big difference even though theses sorts of top down initiatives are not always successful.

There is so much out there already, and we should use them, but it should be us creating soon.

Open Scotland is a cross sector initiative that aims to raise awakeners of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefits all sectors of Scottish Education. Universities in Scotland will be capturing lectures and sharing on YouTube, and there is so much you can do with this.

And Opening Educational Practices in Scotland – this is from Caledonian University, take a look. Publications are increasingly open, and teaching materials can also be shared that way, and should be.

See also: Re:Source – a repository to deposit and find stuff; glow; ushare – collecting useful websites etc; Mozilla open badges.

But what can you do in the future? What can you do this sugar to provide additional support for your leaners? How can students create things themselves. I think in the the University of West of Scotland might be useful here. I suggested they should talk to West College Scotland… And I’ll say the same again – why don’t you start that conversation.

Think about what you can do to promote open practice across institution and figure out business model? And as an individual practitioner, how do you start the learning journey, and building your personal learning network.. How do you begin that process? In this college you have three big sites, so you are part of the way there already! For me, on Twitter, I’ll ask a question and all these people come back and tell me, it’s brilliant!

Things you need to think about, are you ready? Do you have a social software policy – and which are yours (and your students) personal and professional digital identities; think about digital literacy and digital participation for all – thats the closing the gap part (and students can tell us their needs here); think about who your digital leaders are? Some will be leaders in the staff room, some will be leaders in the classroom but this is less about learning technologists and more about social learning. Do you have any open practitioners? Which apps do you use? (There are some great ones out there!). And where and how do you share, reuse and remix? It’s not about trying to copy Harvard, it’s about smart reuse and remixing of relevant materials.

Now, I have to do the promotional thing for College Development Network – we can help you get there! Increasingly you don’t need to come in person to Stirling to see us, as we will have lots of online webinars and other ways to engage. We have 31 development networks all connected up here, and those communities can all help and support you and share experience. And colleges are in a great place – that’s been clear today. As colleges we make people who fit into the future… You can do this.

Through places like Re:Source locally, and other things beyond, we can crack this.

Going back to my hardworking classes in Arden, we created a local history book and they got communication by stealth around communication! But what would they do now? Well they would have a choice of any book they wanted quickly. That information would be through Wikipedia pages, and they would be talking to the world. They would be doing something real. Some would be engaging with blogs but all would be participating and creating. We might even have a YouTube or similar. It would be so different – and we can do this now! So, do it! We will be with you all the way, hopefully leading with you all the way!

Breakout 2

Again, I’m presenting in the e-Resources session so the blog will go quiet for a bit…

Plenary and Q&A – John Collins, Speakers and WCS Senior Management Team

Q1) Becky, you showed us loads of examples today, where can we find those all?

A1 – Becky) I’ll send my slides to WCS and then that includes all of those resources.

And with that we are out of questions, mainly because things a somewhat overrunning, so finally it is back to 

Thank you to our main sponsors Prometheus, to our other sponsors. Thanks also to our guest breakout session presenters from Borders College and EDINA, to all of our external speakers, and to all of our West College Scotland presenters. And thank to John for his MCing today. Last but not least thank you to George Johnson and his team working to organise today.

Today is just the beginning!

And with that, we are all wrapped up… Thanks to West College Scotland for having me along to talk about MediaHub today, and to all who came along to those sessions! 

 August 12, 2015  Posted by at 9:45 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with:  No Responses »