Dec 182015

Today I’m here at Sheffield Hallam University today for Social Media for Learning in Higher Education 2015 (follow #SocMedHE15) where myself and Louise Connelly (from UoE Royal (Dick) Veterinary School) will be presenting some of our Managing Your Digital Footprint research later today.

I’ll be liveblogging but, as the wifi is a little variable, there may be a slight delay in these posts. As usual, as this is a liveblog,


At the moment we are being welcomed to the day by Sheffield Hallam’s Pro Vice Chancellor who is welcoming us to the day and highlighting that there are 55 papers from 38 HEIs. The hope is that today will generate new conversations and communities, and for those to keep going – and the University is planning to run the conference again next year.

Keynote by Eric Stoller

We are starting with a very heavily Star Wars themed video introducing Eric and his talk….

When he thinks about his day it has no clear pattern, and includes a lot of watching videos, exploring what others are doing… And I’m a big fan on Twitter polls (he polls the room – a fair few of us use them) and when you poll people about how universities are using social media we are seeing use for marketing and communications, teaching and learning, a whole range of activities…

There are such a range of channels out there… Snapchat, how many of you are Snapchatters? (fair few) and how many of you take screen shots? How about Reddit… yeah, there are a few of us, usually the nerdy folk… YikYak… I’m avoiding that to avoid Star Wars spoilers right now… Lots of sites out there…

And now what we say online matters. That is game changing… We have conversations in this auditorium and that doesn’t get shared beyond the room… But online our comments reaches out beyond this room… And that can be where we get into trouble around our digital identity. We can really thank Marc Prensky for really messing things up here with his Digital Natives idea… Dave White brilliantly responded to that, though few seemed to read it!

But there are some key issues here. Social media blurs professional and personal identities…

My dad was checking out Facebook but he’s not on Facebook, he was using my mothers account… My parents have given me a range of interesting examples of people blurring between different spaces… So my mom added me on Facebook.. Is she my friend? I think she has a different designation. I got on there and she already had 8 friends – how did they get there first? Anyway she is experiencing Facebook in a way that I haven’t for years… My mom joined Facebook in 2014 (“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fad”) and when you have 8 friends you truly see everything… She sees people that she doesn’t know making fun of, saying snarky things to, her child (me)… We’ve never really had a space where we have that blurring of people. So, my mom hops into a comment thread to defend me… And then people make fun of her… So I have to defend her… We haven’t really adapted and evolved our ways of being professional, of managing relationships for this space yet.

One thing we haven’t come to terms with is the idea of leadership in social media. No matter who you are you can educate, promote, etc. One of my favourite leaders on social media is in the US, president of the University of Cincinnati (@PrezOno). He has a lot of followers and engagement. Typically if your academics, your leaders, are using social media and sharing their work and insights, that says a lot about the organisational culture you are trying to build and encourage.

When you are thinking about employability (and man, you can’t miss this University’s employability office)… It’s about personal brand – what you post and say matters… It’s being human.

Facebook has been around 11 years now, it’s massive… There are over 1 billion users… In fact in September there were over 1 billion in a single day. But people don’t use it in the same ways they did previously… Look at institutions with an older cohort age then Facebook is where it’s at.

I have this quote from the University of Edinburgh’s Managing Your Digital Footprint account that 90% of bosses use Facebook to vet candidates… Which is potentially an issue… As students don’t always post that carefully or with an awareness of how their comments appear later on…

As a consultant I tell people not to fall in love with one platform, but I’m a little in love with Twitter. And there are really interesting things taking place there. We have things like #LTHEchat – a discussion of technology in education. And this is a space where comments are kind of preserved… But that can include silly comments, things we don’t want to stick around. And I love when universities connect students to alumni… We have to think about criticality and digital literacy in these spaces too…

Different spaces also work for different uses… Some love Vine, those 6 second videos. And when we think about teaching we want to talk about story telling some of the YouTube vloggers are a create place to learn about creating narrative and story. So, for instance, Casey Neilson, a vlogger who has also directed commercials for brands like Nike, is a great person to watch. For example his video on Haters and Losers… [we are now watching videos]

How many of you are on LinkedIn? [we mostly are] I assume those not on LinkedIn don’t have a job… There is huge amounts of useful stuff on there, including organisational pages… But it doesn’t always have a great reputation [shows a meme about adding you as a connection]. This is a space where we get our recommendations, our endorsements. Right now LinkedIn is a powerful place. LinkedIn is the only major social media site where there are more users ages 30-49 than 18-29 year olds [stat from Pew Research]. How many here work in employability or careers? You get that thing where students only approach you 5 minutes before they leave… They should really be getting on LinkedIn earlier. People can be weird about adding their students – it’s not about adding your students as friends, its an opportunity to recommend and support each other – much better there than Rate My Professor.

I wanted to show this tweet from the Association of Colleges that “soft skills should be called human skills. Soft makes it sound inferior, which we all know they’re not”. Those soft skills are part of what we do with social media…

When I moved to the UK – my wife got a promotion – and I, as a consultant, had all my networks in the US… But I also had social media contacts in the UK… And I was able to use LinkedIn groups, connections, etc. to build relationships in the UK, to find my way into the higher education sector here. I was talking to a LinkedIn rep last week at Princeton… What do you think the number one activity is on LinkedIn? It’s lurking… And I did a lot of strategic lurking…

So, we have these new spaces but we also have some older online spaces to remember…. So, for instance, what happens when you Google yourself? And that’s important to do… Part of what students are doing when they build up their profile online is to be searchable… To have great presence there.

And email still matters. How many of you love email? [one does] And how many of us have checked email today? [pretty much all]. We are all professional email checkers in a way… Email works if we do it right… But we don’t. We send huge long messages, we reply all to unsubscribe… It’s not surprising if students don’t get that [cue a tweet that shows an email tactically bearing a subject line about free football tix miraculously was received by students].

How many of you are concerned about privacy on social media? It’s always a huge concern. We have spaces like Snapchat – ephemeral except some of you take screen shots – and Yik Yak. We’ve already had issues with Yik Yak – a lecturer walked out when she saw horrible things people were posting about here… But Yik Yak tends to be sex and drugs and Netflix… Also a lot of revision…

And we have Periscope. Twitter owns it now, so who knows where that will go… It’s a powerful tool to have… You can livestream video from anywhere, which used to be hugely difficult and expensive. And you get comments and discussion.

And you don’t need to always do social media by posting, there is so much to listen and learn from…

The student experience is holistic. Social media, just like it blurs personal and professional selves, the same thing happens with teaching and learning and higher education. There are not separate entities in an organisation now… academic advising, careers services, induction/orientation, first year success, mental health/wellness…. So much learning happens in this space, and it’s not necessarily formal…

There is no such thing as a digital native… there are people learning and trying things…

So, now, some Q&A.


Q1) When you see lecturers named on YikYak… Can you really just ignore it?

A1) On YikYak the community can downvote unpleasant bad things. In the US a threat can be prosecuted [also in the UK, where hate speech laws also apply]. But if I say something insulting it’s not necessarily illegal… It’s just nasty… You get seasonal trolling – exam time, venting… But we have to crack the nut about why people are doing and saying this stuff… It’s not new, the app just lets us see it. So you can downvote. You can comment (positively). We saw that with Twitter, and we still see that on Twitter. People writing on pointed issues still get a lot of abuse… Hate speech, bullying, it’s not new… it’s bigger than social media… It’s just reflected by social media.

Q2) On the conference hashtag people are concerned about going into the open spaces… and particularly the ads in these spaces…

A2) I am a big fan of adblock in Chrome. But until this stuff becomes a public utility, we have to use the tools that have scale and work the best. There are tools that try to be Facebook and Twitter without the ads… It’s like telling people to leave a party and go to an empty room… But if you use Google you are being sold… I have so much commercial branded stuff around me. When our communications are being sold… That gets messy… Instagram a while back wanted to own all the photos shared but there was a revolt from photographers and they had to go back on that… The community changed that. And you have to block those who do try to use you or take advantage (e.g. generating an ad that says Eric likes University of Pheonix, you should too… ).

Q3) I find social media makes me anxious, there are so many issues and concerns here…

A3) I think we are in a world where we need discipline about not checking our phone in the middle of the night… Don’t let these things run your life… If anything causes you anxiety you have to manage that, you have to address that… You all are tweeting, my phone will have notifications… I’ll check it later… That’s fine… I don’t have to reply to everyone…

Q4) You talked about how we are all professional emailers… To what extent is social media also part of everybody’s job now? And how do we build social media in?

A4) In higher ed we see digital champions in organisations… Even if not stated. Email is assumed in our job descriptions… I think social media is starting to weave in in the same ways… We are still feeling out how social media fits into the fabric of our day… The learning curve at the beginning can feel steep if everything is new to you… Twitter took me a year or two to embed in my day, but I’ve found it effective, efficient, and now it’s an essential part of my day. But it’s nice when communication and engagement is part of a job description, it frees people to do that with their day, and ties it to their review process etc.

Workshops 1: Transforming learning by understanding how students use social media as a different space – Andrew Middleton, Head of Academic Practice and Learning Innovation, LEAD, Sheffield Hallam University

I’m assuming that, having come to a conference on social media in learning, you are passionate about learning and teaching… And I think we have to go back to first principles…

Claudia Megele (2015) has, I think, got it spot on about pedagoguey. We are experiencing “a paradigm shift that requires a comprehensive rethink and reconceptualisation of higher education in a rapidly changing socio-technological context where the definition straddles formal and informal behaviours” [check that phrasing].

When we think about formal, that tends to mean spaces like we are in at the moment. Michael Errow makes the point that non-formal is different, something other than the formal teaching and learning space. In a way one way to look at this is to think about disruption, and disrupting the formal. Because of the media and technologies we use, we are disrupting the formal… In that keynote everyone was in what Eric called the “praying” position – all on our phones and laptops… We have changed in these formal spaces… Through our habits and behaviours we are changing our idea of formal, creating our own (parallel) informal space. What does that mean for us as teachers… We have to engage in this non-formal space. From provided to self-constructed, from isolated to connected learning, from directed to self-determined, from construction to co-construction, from impersonal to social, and from the abstract and theoretical to authentic and practical (our employers brief our students through YouTube, through tweet chats – eg a student oncology tweet chat, sharing content themselves but academic names coming in as well), moving from the taught to the learnt – and the learner-centred environment.

Social media is about transforming habits…

We see heterotopia – displacement; hybridity – mutation or disruption of spaces… These are the in-between spaces and liminality. And we see combinations of rich digital media, user generated media (including that oncology tweet chat), bring your own device, mobile learning, openness, social media for learning, all coming together in a transformational space… And you start to see conceptual lines between these areas that reinvent the notions of the formal and the informal…

So we see change happening… But do we all understand this different learning environment? I think a principle based design approach is what is needed here… Lets get back to the basics, the clear, the clarity, the principles… And I’d like you to explore the room, with various principles dotted around it, about how we’d bring this in to practices around social media for learning… And I’d like you to note those down…

[On which note… I’m going to sneak away into the session on Copyright…]

Copyright education in the age of social media – Chris Morrison @cbowiemorrison – University of Kent and Dr Jane Secker @jsecker – London School of Economics  

[Obviously I’ve joined this session late, so apologies for any lack of context here… ]

Jane: We have developed Copyright: the card game which we are using in training sessions, and I’m now regularly seeing 20-25 people at copyright sessions. In the game we explore, in this order: Works; Usages; Licenses; and Exceptions. We want to encourage the use of licenses first, only relying on exceptions later (as they can be more complex, making licenses a better place to start).

So, you have a deck of cards, you have a card handler, and you talk through scenarios which means you share experience – with more experienced and less experienced colleagues able to share and discuss…

Now, this game wasn’t originally designed for social media but we are going to try using the game in relation to social media content. So, each table gets a set of cards and in a moment I’ll give you examples about what type of work it might be…

Why consider copyright work? It’s a starting point to understand what a copyright object is, to understand the phrasing in the law… And to think about different durations, different layers of rights, different owners within content etc… So we have cards for e.g. artistic, performance, musical, etc.

And what I’d like you to do is identify what types of works are in the following… (1) a tweet (2) a blog post (3) a photo on Pinterest and (4) a photo on Facebook.

We are now discussing our objects… We (“Team Rudolf”) had a blog post – a literary work, with images (artistic work), and could potentially include typography and database works [although for me the database part is more of a stretch when looking at the post itself]. Across the post there are also moral rights as author to be asserted. We also had a Facebook photo – an artistic work, but there is also a text post there (literary or database work), and also trademarks and typography – though Facebook is relaxed about sharing of that…

The other group in the room (“Team Copycat”) includes a Tweet – a literary work but is it for copyright reasons? Maybe depends on the content. They also had pinterest – an artistic work but you are collating them… So it is a database… and those images are a more complex aspect of this as multiple owners and copyright implications [and across different territories].

Back to Jane…

So, I want to turn to usage, and what someone is doing… There are a series of restricted acts around copyright objects. So, I’m going to give you some more cards here, on usage.

So, what types of usages apply when…

(1) a colleague at another university retweets your tweet which includes a photo of the outside of the British Library

Much discussion… We generally think Communication with the Public, and Copying [we also discussed Issuing copies to the public… thinking about case law on retweets as a new publication around libel]. If the text were tweaked, or text added (e.g. a quoted tweet) it might also be Adaptation… But the wording of the law is very much geared to traditional formats, rather than social media.

(2) You Photoshop a picture of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood to include your work colleagues and share on Facebook…

Here we think that Communication to the Public, Adaptation, Copying, and potentially also [I’m arguing] Performing, showing or playing in public might apply if the image is a screen capture from a TV programme – which would be a performance. But also noting that a parody is, now, allowed as an exception under the Copyright law.

So… We can see that the law is not well worded for social media and there are some really interesting challenges for this reason. Licenses (terms of use) govern much of what you can and can’t do on social media websites. When is sharing not sharing – how social media changes our understanding of rules and cultural practices… In traditional senses sharing diminishes the size of the whole… It’s very different in social media contexts where there is no limit on available copies. There are social norms and practices that may not be legal but are understood to be how the world works… For instance that comment on Facebook and their design – and their happiness to share their trademarked stuff.

To finish we have a game to match up copyright positives, and copyright negatives with a social media source… Based on a game designed to teach students about understanding resources, and quality of resources… So far it’s untested – you are the first!

Also, Jane is noting that all of the cards used today are CC-licensed. [Check them out, they seem really useful!]

To finish Jane shares her and Chris’ top 3 tips…

(1) Think about the value of the content you want to use (to you and the person who owns it) – the issue of risk.

(2) Then consider licences/terms of use for social media sites.

(3) You always need to make a risk assessment.

You can find everything at (see also Jane and Chris’ blog)

The cards can be found on Jorum… But also on our website too.

Jane’s slides – which will be shared via SlideShare (see conference hashtag) – includes a lot of references… including the new UCISA social media toolkit.

Short Papers 1Experiences of social media in higher education: Barriers, enablers and next steps
Alison Purvis @DrAlisonPurvis, Helen Rodger @HelenRodgerSHU and Sue Beckingham @suebecks – Sheffield Hallam University

Alison: We started looking at institutional barriers to use of social media, to understanding how we could enable use of social media. We undertook a survey on institutional practice in social media to understand strategic support and development activities. We started with 200 academics who had already attended social media workshops – those already interested. We also put the survey on our intranet as well. We got 50 academics involved in our survey, 70% were already using social media in learning and teaching, 60% wanted to give it a go. And the biggest barrier for them was time to do this…

We asked respondents what they used social media for… they indicated sharing work or information, collaborating with students, gathering information, etc… And the drivers behind their usage included usage in the sector, the technology enabled something not otherwise possible, pedagoguey driving the technology was a significant driver, but also strategic, colleague driven, student driven, and (most of all) seeing clear benefits from using social media in learning and teaching.

Barriers, well we’ve already mentioned time. But support, colleague confidence, own confidence to play with things, understanding the tool, not having kit or software, students not having the confidence (perhaps perception rather than reality given some other research we’ve been working on), and also cost and management buy in came into the picture.

Helen: We identified three rough themes that came out of our survey responses around why staff felt unable to use social media in learning and teaching. One of these was the tools themselves…

We named some of the big tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), including social bookmarking (which we knew people would be less familiar with). We did ask about use in personal life, professional working lives, and teaching lives. YouTube is pretty much ubiquitous in personal, professional and teaching arenas… We don’t think they are using these sites as content creation, instead they are mining it as a resource – because its easy to do. When you look at social bookmarking – we mentioned Diigo – hardly anyone had heard of it, but as educators you’d expect that approach to be better used and better known… What we think that is about is the fact that these tools aren’t as much part of the popular culture as those other spaces, they are not as sexy. And they are not as easy to pick up and use…

We also identified a theme of attitude… Not of being anti technology or social media but they had clear rationale for what they were and were not using.

Our third theme was about benefit – if people saw the benefit, they were more likely to use these tools… They were seeing the pedagogic relationship and benefit, that was what made the real difference for those using social media in learning and teaching.

Sue: So, next steps… We’ve taken two focus groups and transcribed. They need to be evaluated. We want to follow up with interviews in depth. We have more work to follow and write up. The group we have researched is still quite a small pool… We’d like to do more and get management buy in for institution-wide research. And if you look to the US there are number of yearly surveys and maybe we also need to look to that, to get the broader picture…

We also want to think about more of an appreciative enquiry approach, what are the good things coming out of social media… There is a lot of sharing but that is often also in social media – and if you don’t yet use those spaces you can miss those conversations.

And we are also looking at development of a crowd sourced toolbox. We’d like to gather what others in the sector are doing. We mentioned at the beginning about social media guides… We gave that a creative commons license so others can use them. The other thing being done here that will extend beyond are links to three main questions… on myths of social media, on writing guidance – what works for your students, and challenges. Those tweets with those questions link out to Padlet where you can add your comments (you can also find the links on the conference website).

One of the things we’ve been really conscious about is that when people are using social media, and they start as personal users, then become professional users, it is more likely that they will go on to use social media in learning and teaching. As people become confident in these spaces, they engage their students in them. For instance in computing we have content on communication, for professional communication. LinkedIn is now a key space to be part of that classroom experience – to share their profile as a role model, the sharing of their work, being a case study for students to look at and learn from.

So I think the key take aways here are… We have a lot more questions than answers! We want to take that out to the community and find out more. And we have a few questions:

  • Are individuals in HE who are non users of social media at risk of being marginalised by increasing digitisation of academia?
  • To what extent is digital identity and practical application of digital capabilities of educators significant to potential and existing students.
  • What support is required to develop the digital capabilities of both staff and students? And that’s fundamental.


Q1) How do you address the issue of time?

A1 – Helen) A perrennial issue in academia… Not specific to social media… No easy answers! Seeing the benefit helps people make time…

Comment) It’s easy to say you don’t have time, it’s about prioritising… People don’t want to say they don’t have the skills.

A1 – Sue) People find time for all sorts of other things… They learn how to use new things…

Comment) It’s complex but it’s about replacing something too… Sometimes it replaces something else in your approach… But takes time to acquire.

Comment) Promote the benefits and bait the hook… Find out what’s resource specific, subject specific etc. to save time, get buy in… You find managers and leaders and find them ways of doing what they do. One or two at higher levels has a ripple effect.

Comment) I think you gave the answer in another section… If people use this stuff personally they are more likely to use it professionally… That reason and motivation lets them see the application in an academic context. And I think that observation of starting in a personal space, then professional leading to teaching… I think that’s true… I think the reverse may be true of students as a tactical decision to separate personal from learner identity. And we can be hard on learners for making these choices… I’m interested in the idea of LinkedIn etc. Because there is a thing of using the right tools for the job.

Comment) On time… I’d say that Twitter saves me loads of time in discovering things… then prioritising.

Q2) You mentioned reticence to use, and it not being a kneejerk thing… So what is it?

A2 – Helen) They don’t see the need basically. Their comments suggested more flexibility though… they were open to using in the future if they could see the benefit of that.

Short Papers 2: Student identities in transition: social media experiences, curation, and implications for higher education – Nicola Osborne @suchprettyeyes and Louise Connolly @lconnelly09 – University of Edinburgh

This was our session so, for now, here was our abstract (slides will follow):

Students are increasingly likely to use social media in a range of contexts, from socialising, informal peer support, and formal academic tasks to building complex networks of potential employers and contacts.

Research conducted as part of the University of Edinburgh’s Managing Your Digital Footprint research project, funded under the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme, has been investigating how students across the University use social media, how they manage and curate their online presence, and the extent to which they encounter both risks and opportunities.

Two surveys (n=587 and n=870) from across the student body (UG, PG, PhD) have provided a vivid picture of the student experience of managing their digital identities. Ethnographic tracing work (n=6) has explored students’ personal approaches and conceptualisation of their digital footprints in more depth.

In this paper we will discuss some of the relevant findings of the Managing Your Digital Footprint research around current student use of social media, approaches to managing their representation of self, and their experiences of both negative behaviours, and positive support and opportunities in these spaces. We will also discuss how social media is enabling peer support and fostering learning.

We will discuss how these current student practices have implications for the use of social media in teaching and learning contexts. In particular we will discuss policy, support and the role of student handbooks and skills needs that arise from the use of social media in formal teaching and learning contexts, as well as some of the challenges and risks associated with informal social media use in HE (e.g. Student Facebook Group).

This work will be presented with reference to the wider context, including professional bodies’ guidance, and the current support paradigm locally at University of Edinburgh (e.g. Your Digital Edge) and as captured in e.g. Jisc Digital Student case studies.

Managing your digital footprint website

The Managing your digital footprint website includes ”Resources for educators” and “Resources and guidance” sections, both of which we think will be of interest to #SocMedHE15 participants. These sections are being updated as we publish resources created for this research project and University of Edinburgh service, and as we develop new resources, for example a new “e-professionalism” guide which will be going live in the coming weeks. We also welcome requests for new materials that might be useful.

Managing your digital footprint blog

This blog, aimed at students and university staff, shares updates from the Managing your digital footprint campaign and the associated University of Edinburgh, including news, key events, updates, practical tips, guest posts, etc.

Workshops 2Applying critical digital literacy to social media practice – Juliet Hinrichsen @juliet_hin – Sheffield Hallam University and Antony Coombes – University of Greenwich

Juliet begins by switching off the projector – despite being a digital literacy session, they won’t be running the session with technology. When you look at digital literacy there is a huge range of what is included… But when you look at literacy you see two strands: functional literacy – the skills and functions that are curriculumised for a particular person, skills that employers need is often the framing; and critical literacy – which is much more about agency and ownership of those skills, and empowering individuals in the society and culture they are in. And it was a set of intellectual skills. With social media there are sets of intellectual skills that are coming in, around academic skills, notions of what graduate skills are. And we wanted to find a common approach across different disciplinary contexts, a commonality of approach that could be taken and worked into the curriculum. So we’ll be showing you what we’ve come up with here.

Antony: We’ll be showing you the sorts of activities we proposed to do with staff – initially at Greenwich – and hopefully you’ll see how this could work in your own context… So we will give each table a card – either an artefact, a challenge or a scenario.

Juliet: We’d like you to identify skills, competences, knowledge, etc. that you’d need for the task or to avoid a particular scenario [we’ll be doing this with post it notes… so I’m pausing my typing… We have a challenge for a student to organise, publicise and disseminate a lecture series].

Juliet and Anotony note that these are discussion and diasnosis tools. The cards etc. are available openly on the web under CC licence – search for “The Five Resources Model of Critical Digital Literacy”.

Juliet: A lot of people have an agenda to try things out… But our students can feel like guinea pigs so sometimes that thinking is “is this a fair expectation etc”. On the project we used the tool with a series of senior university managers, and also e-skills people, because there are lots of stuff about skills students need in the workplace… But there are competing and conflicting discourses. Sometimes employers want competence with the software… Want the organisation not to get into trouble… Want creative solutions… It means different things to different people… And different things at different times. So the idea of this approach is to develop a common language – including the option not to engage.

Comment) How much have you thought about this as a student employability resource tool… Although some of that language won’t be familiar.

Anotony) At the moment these resources were created for a Jisc Developing Digital Literacies programme, and designed for a particular set of stakeholders but it would be great to see students using this themselves, but also to understand the phrasing and language used.

Juliet) We did run this workshop with some students and that seemed to work once we’d gone through definitions, as we do anyway… On the website you can see further definitions here to help with terminology…

Antony) There is also an element that in a workshop… By creating a closed framework, and a game… understanding and questioning that lets you work through ideas, understanding, etc. It helps make it an exploratory playspace in a way.

Juliet) Normally we’d expect the academic to use this tool and how to facilitate those needs… But it can be used by students too. The idea is to think through the dimensions, and as an academic to look at your module, your curriculum, and whether you are actually addressing all the key elements – you can use it as a type of diagnostic.

Comment) I’d almost use this as a marking framework for creation of a digital artefact… This could be a brilliant way to build a marking framework around a new assignment…

Juliet) That would be brilliant – let us know if you do that too! We’d love to share more examples, ways in which this has been useful. The resources online include a workshop schedule, etc. Some of the work we also did was around group work in the curriculum, and facilitation through social media. And also around assessment and social media use there. And this tool is adapted from a model in Canada that is well established with teachers, with a practical provenance to draw upon – “The four resources model of digital literacy”. We have a paper here that you are welcome to grab as well…

Antony: I have some reflections on running these workshops… There are a number of very visual card based resources out there… It’s an approach that gathers momentum. It’s very useful… It has that play aspect, and it seems to be a real catalyst for discussion – especially if we pull together colleagues from different disciplines, triggering discussion and engagement. It allows you to think through issues in this whole area in collaboration with others…

That first activity, without the model… That’s deliberately to avoid people who want to work sequently and might cause the process to be less discursive and more predictable. When you pull the model out then it triggers spotting of gaps, questioning, and pulls in deeper discussion. On a very pragmatic level the more space you can have physically in the workshop, the better… So you can see and move around between tables.

Juliet: If you do find ways of using it, just let us know… We are still finding things out ourselves…

Comment) What is the next step after the use of the model? How do you move this to the next step? You could, for instance, define learning outcomes from that…

Juliet) It’s a conceptual framework around a text that is complex, particularly because of the technologies and multiple media and narratives involved. It is hard to cover all the aspects, so there is a lot of flexibility… But a shared notion of the scope, and a responsible attitude to developing student skills is really ensuring that that full circle is there… It is about the wider picture… Who has power, who doesn’t. What discourses are inherant in this… How does group size fit in… How do I engage? And what do I want to project? About judgement and analysis… Our concern was that that whole critical discourse, so central to graduateness, has been missing since the 1980s in our use of technology in education… Interesting to hear Eric raising issues that weren’t in a presentation I saw of his two years ago, because that criticality is moving into the mainstream. The resistors, that divide, can be around those who use but don’t act critically with technology, and those that don’t engage but do critically engage and examine. And we didn’t use technology today – something that many have been really valuing that…

Comment) That polarisation of users and non users seems a real risk…

Juliet) Everybody has expertise they can contribute to doing digital literacy practically.

Short Papers 3Bridging the gap between student learning and professional identity: Using Twitter to promote engagement in education policy – Damien Fitzgerald @teacheruni and Ester Ehiyazaryan-White – Sheffield Hallam University

Damien: We are going to go relatively quickly through the presentation as we’d love to focus on your questions and discussion at the end.

The module we’ve used Twitter on is a policy module… Students hate looking at policy. We work with early childhood development students and no matter how up to date the literature is, it won’t be totally up to date. And we wanted students to engage in policy, to be part of what is going on… To be active rather than passive recipients. And to have them understand that they have something to say that is relevant to other people. In our experience as practitioners we can find ourselves moaning about what happens to us… But do we do enough to shape the policy agenda? And we wanted students to understand they can have a role in shaping it.

We had an SIOE Conference and there Twitter (#SIoEARC) was used as a space for discussion, for capturing that discussion and resources, and as a CPD space.

I’m going to jump forward to a conclusion here… We decided we would use Twitter if it would add something to the learning, and only then. So we had this 140 student, first year HE module on child and family policy. There is a real push for more interactive sessions – a managerial and pedagogical push I think… Students sometimes voice that they find lectures as a format boring… And no-one wants to give a boring lecture! And we also have an expectation for online input. We have (to a degree) increased use of social media by young people. And we wanted interaction with current policy makers and practitioners – and that’s why we picked Twitter, because that’s where those conversations are.

So, we collected and analysed the data through a survey aproach to data collection, in a mix of open and closed questions via Google docs. Pedagogically we used Twitter as part of lectures, as parts of seminars, and also in their own time – as part of that independent study time. We wanted to get students to follow us, to look at who we follow… It was interesting hearing from Eric earlier… He said there perhaps shouldn’t be a divide between the personal and the professional. But we absolutely want to make a divide. We make it clear to students that they should build a professional identity. They have a right to a private life though… so is that the right thing to say… Our own (myself and Ester) Twitter presences are very much professionally orientated. In addition we had group posts, we engaged specifically with a policy debate.

We used two hashtags (#epeshu and #epeshuCD), if we do it again, we’ll make it very specific to individual sessions. Students posted policy, documents, posts, etc. as part of a tweet, others also shared work in progress – pictures etc. to share with fellow students. One of the things we found useful was that if students worked together in one seminar they would share that work, as a group, on Twitter – to keep the posts to a managable useful number. We also saw students independently pick up on issues like tuition fees (this was during the election debate), bringing those policy debates in. We also saw students finding current debate, news, etc… And bring that together…

The other way students engaged was in discussions and exchange, particularly one to one responses from tutors. They liked that direct responses. If they weren’t responded to, that wasn’t making them happy but on a practical basis that isn’t always possible… That reflects the real world of Twitter… But we don’t know really how to manage that expectation/need.

Some figures here… About 56% of students use Twitter weekly usually – which is what we were requiring them to do (to respond at least once a week – 68% did this) although really it should have been daily… few did that (3%). We asked them to create a professional Twitter account with their student email account… Not sure what works well for that… is that the right approach, should we make them use their own Twitter account? The majority of students (90%) used mobile phones to use Twitter. There was a preference for group use of Twitter as a response (51%) and/or as part of lecture/seminar (39%) as we did for the all party parliamentary paper that Damien spoke about.

Some points about what we think students learnt from using Twitter… Learning from each other, forming their own opinion, understanding the global nature and what happens elsewhere and that it can be accessed in this medium. And to understand what can be learned from others. They also developed digital literacy skills, their footprint, how they choose who to follow, what that means, who follows them… And how to take part in an interactive debate, and to engage online. Includig sharing and engaging in research.

Some of the challenges… Not everyone agreed that bring your own device works… Many bring a phone but you can’t assume access. We had a real amount of noise – so much information and they found that confusing, that they have to sift, that they have to use the hashtag wisely… So we probably need more targeted support in our seminar sessions to help with that.

Surprisingly students felt it didn’t count as legitimate teaching and learning… A few felt that online and social media wasn’t legitimate. We need to address that, to understand it as a course… This is a face to face course so this is fairly new… Perception of not legitimate is therefore perhaps natural…

In terms of pedagogy we found help and guidance from the tutor are key. Composing a tweet was what led to learning was key – so authoring mattered, it forced them to understand how to summarise and understand the content shared. The Twitter lecture format was unpopular – we probably won’t do that again. Students appreciate when the activity is structures, interactive and they are guaranteed a response – as in the Northampton uni task. Need more help and instruction on how to use it. Group tweets work well… But also students need to compose directly.


Q1) What was the Twitter debate?

A1 – Damien) It was about current policy…. But we have students with different digital literacy and skills… They expect chalk and talk… It didn’t work… They want us to be the experts…

Comment) We did similar… with about 10 out of 110 taking part…

Comment) They are paying for that expertise I guess…

A1 – Damien) It worked in a structured space… We wanted students to be empowered…

Comment) Could that be to do with what looks like legitimacy  in schools students come from…

A1 – Damien) Possibly… But we also had Twitter here as a standalone aspect, in a course that is otherwise face to face… Maybe as part of a blended course it would be find…

Comment) How many tutors were on this course?

Damien) There were four but two of us were much more engaged and thats an issue too…

Comment) I don’t particularly see Twitter as a discussion board… It’s an information space… I’m here because BlackBoard isn’t good enough for students anymore, you need new spaces… But also policy is pretty new and unfamiliar for students. You could use Twitter polls, e.g. for election debates might have been interesting…

Damien) The polls are new… But Twitter was brilliant for sharing new policy papers that came out that day, into your lecture and discuss it right away. That was fantastic.

Comment) If you have discussion, then a tweet you have instant feedback.

Damien) And you can take those comments away. We were in a session on accessibility earlier… recapping and summarisation with Storify.. Using that hashtag help with summaries and students like that…

Q2) I was wondering about using student email addresses – which won’t persist beyond their studies – for a professional presence? Are students still using Twitter now the course has finished?

A2 – Ester) We don’t have that data yet, but we want to run another survey soon…

Short Papers 4Heart and mind: Student Facebook groups emphasise that learning is emotional as well as cerebral – Tony Coughlan @tjcoughlan and Leigh-Anne Perryman @laperryman – The Open University

Leigh-Anne: We were interested in seeing how some of our concerns and perceptions of Facebook Groups may connect to actual practice – of interest in our research but also as teaching staff. The OU has thousands of Facebook groups but we focused on 10 groups, 4 disciplines, and 2600 members looking at whether these are learning spaces, how learning takes place, what happens there. We did some capture of number and types of posts etc. But we also did qualitative analysis on the posts. We used Galley’s Community Indicators Framework (Galley et al 2010) which proposes community indicators of participation, cohesion, identity and creative capability – Galley defines that last aspect the pinnacle of group formation and community. We used that framework in our analysis.

Tony: We quickly realised that there were three entirely different types of groups… The first one we found were “Umbrella Groups” that are discipline wide, e.g. Psychology, to discuss study routes, career patterns etc. Then we had “Module Groups” – where students are part of the same 9 month module – it is common for students to in several groups, which might be one umbrella group throughout your studies, but then module groups changing year by year. Then the third type of group are Student Life Groups – this is where you find kitten pictures, social activities, exchange of books etc, a really strong disabled students groups, etc.

And are these truly educational groups? Well they varied greatly… We gave scores from 0-100% and we found that they became more educational, the later in the programme students were. And we also saw extended educational discussion – around career paths, sharing insights into the career and jobs market – very high level and valuable stuff. So, overall, definitely educational.

In terms of practices we saw that they facilitated learning and inclusion through peer guidance around academic practices, study skills, extensive emotional support, discussion of module content. They complement formal tuition, improving retention. That peer guidance around academic practices etc. is really really valuable, and uptake was very high… There were more students in groups than were studying – it included current, previous, and future students (assessing the module, thinking about it) and all taking part. There was extensive emotional support… We have seen amazing threads where people are about to drop out and the group piles in to support them, to help them stay on board. But as students progress it moves from emotional content towards more content driven discussion. So, yes, overall we think they complement formal tuition and the practices we witnessed would be helpful for student retention.

In terms of bad practice… We just didn’t see any at all. I’ve since joined a group of Facebook Group moderators. The percentage of rude comments, slating tutors etc… We see very little of it, and we suspect that actually that happens in small private spaces.

Leigh-Anne: The groups we looked at are all public and open, and that may be part of the reason for that…

Tony: These groups are also very inclusive, which really opens education to those with less experience, those who traditionally may be excluded from learning – which is in contrast to MOOCs, for instance, which seem to benefit elite well educated people.

Leigh-Anne: We were also really interested in implications for institutions. There is hostility from institutions about risk, poor practice… At best they want to take over, bring them into the fold… Our argument is that they work well because they are not like that, it is student led, needs led, bottom up. They work with each other to meet each other needs of various types… We saw a parallel with student societies… At the OU we offer £100 set up costs for new student societies. We think as institutions we need to recognise the value of these groups – they are helping with retention, with student skills… That helps the institution no doubt. We need to help and support – perhaps through moderators – but not step in and take over.

We said already that this is a small snapshot, to get more of sense of working like this. We need to build a bigger picture… The body of evidence to counter the institutional imperative to control things…


Q1) Can you say more about those careers discussions that were taking place?

A1 – Tony) Some of the strongest were in the law groups – these are students wondering where they will practice, what topics to pick for essays, what combinations of routes will lead to what types of roles… One of the nice things there is turning students into consumers into creators and sharers of knowledge – their placements, their experience.

Q2) How applicable do you think your research with OU students – who are very deliberate students, choosing to study, they have reputation already… that is different as a context to an on-campus undergraduate student perhaps… Giving those organisational concerns potentially a very different context.

A2 – Tony) We looked at 10 groups, we started with more than 10… One was an OU nursing group… And only late on did we realise that it was Ohio University in the US… But Eric was saying that US students are more like OU students than UK on campus students.

A2 – Leigh-Anne) A comparative study with the same method applied to another space…

Comment) All of our OU Masters programmes have (closed) Facebook groups… Also for those professional reasons etc…

A2 – Leigh-Anne) And that issue of understanding the privacy and ethics of those groups comes in there too, about being public and private.

A2 – Tony) About 5% of OU groups are public. We didn’t feel we needed to ask permission to use these spaces.

A2 – Leigh-Anne) In our ethics session earlier, we talked more about this but… We’ve anonymised everything here. In the UK the rules are quite conservative, the US veers towards public domain…

Comment) The Association of Internet Researchers guidance are lovely for that subtlety of public, expectations etc.

Comment) I’ve just done some research on undergraduate pharmacy students and their use of a Facebook group – and it reflected much of what you’ve found here… That’s an on-campus course. I purposely didn’t talk to these students earlier… Their activity has changed over time and has tailed off now the cohort is coming to the end of the degree. When I asked about this it came down to concerns about sponging off colleagues, focusing on jobs etc… But for me personally I’m more self-directed as I mature as a student… That was pure students perspective.

Q3) When I was a student we had a Facebook group but were asked not to use it… But we found it useful to share discussion, to share across cohorts… My main question to you is how you are branding this to those who are against their students using these spaces?

A3 – Tony) We identified a role in many of these groups where one student would make a connection between the university and the Facebook Group – a go between alerting friends to changes, updates, etc.

Comment) That’s an interesting issue… When a student emails… I assume it is for that student… I might answer it differently if intended to be broadcast.

[We are having some interesting discussion of barriers and privacy… short summary: stuff gets shared, students attitudes vary].

And with that, the event is finishing… A really interesting and stimulating day but would be great to have had more space for discussion of some of the interesting points raised…


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