Mar 232016
 
Screen Capture of the Data Design and Society website

Today I attended the University of Edinburgh Data, Design & Society (DDS) course’s final presentations session, having been invited by Ewan Klein, who is the course organiser.

Data, Design & Society is an innovative programmes across three departments of Edinburgh University: the School of Informatics; the School of Social and Political Studies; and Design Informatics. Students on this programme (which is a 20 credit bearing Level 8 course) have been focusing on specific real world projects which, this time, have been focusing on food and food sustainability. All of the course materials are available publicly online, along with more information on all of the projects.

The format for this session was group presentations of the projects and for each of these I’ve captured the group name and comments, but not all of the students names. If you are interested in following up with any of these do feel free to contact the teams via Ewan (ewan [AT] inf.ed.ac.uk).

Please note: I took these notes live during the presentations so please do be aware that there may be some corrections to come, and that there is much more information about all of the challenges and responses on the DDS site

Good Eats

Good Eats wants to encourage students to consume healthy wholesome food. On the whole students are not getting the nutrition they need. The Healthy University Project found that only 25% of students at UoE get five fruits or veg per day. They ran their own survey on undergraduates and postgraduates. We looked at factors influencing decisions and found that price was by far the most important factor (over 80%) but convenience was also important (45%). We did find interest in healthy eating though, and around 50% of students were preparing food at home for themselves at least 5 days a week.

Good Eats also ran a focus group. There is general concern about their food and would like healthy and sustainable eating. But they consider eating healthily is more expensive, takes more time, and energy. So we wanted to ensure that we designed a solution that was healthy, quick and cheap. We looked at ways to convey information – brochures, website etc. But we thought that a tailored personal solution was going to be key, including some interaction, so we focused on an app. The app would enable convenience, it would be accessible, versatile to engaging on different levels, interactive, and it also allowed us the potential to include other types of media.

So, the app would act as “a cookbook in your pocket” with interactive shopping list, and a wide variety of information suiting students from different backgrounds and cultures.

So, we started to design the app. We had a main screen, and you could look at settings – metric and currency conversion; favourites list. For each recipe there is an ingredients list, methods list with integrated timers, and there is also a shopping list that you could customise – or add directly to from the recipes.

We then ran a participatory design session with users. We had really good feedback – they particularly liked the idea of being able to add ingredients to their shopping list, and the convenience. We asked students if they would really use this app and they indicated that they would look up recipes, and prepare lists the night before cooking so that they could pick up ingredients around lectures.

During the project we looked at lots of ideas, we built on our feedback from our survey and focus group and also from our mock presentation. We think this has great potential and really enjoyed working on this project.

And finally, a quick demo of the app store listing, the main menu, the settings screen, the recipe pages – that helps you navigates. There is a favourites list. And we have an information on recipes – cost per serving, timing, etc.

Q1) Can I download it?!

A1) Not yet but, we wish!

Q2) Did you look at other food and recipe apps and resources to build that and were there particular things you chose to take or not take from those?

A2) We did look at other apps and sites but didn’t directly take anything from that. We did use Spoon University, which is sort of a similar idea as a website, but that is focused on cooking and eating at college and not so much focused on nutrition. So we kind of used that and other sites as foundation for what we wanted to do.

Q3) How much of a behaviour change did this involve? Are students cooking?

A3) That first survey indicated 75% of students were cooking 5 times a week or more. So we wanted to improve the cooking, not change how often they cook. Talking to our focus group we asked what they cooked… They said easy things like macaroni cheese, cookies, burgers – things they could make for friends so we specifically looked for healthy recipes.

Q4) You said that students are not getting enough fruit and veg – did you integrate ways to encourage this in your design of the app?

A4) We looked at using the database to recommend healthy ingredients and alternatives. We also talked to food managers about improving on e.g. Sainsbury’s recipes.

Q5) Content – recipes customised like that. Also financial sustainability.

Q6) Might be good to talk about how to find some of the healthy food – so you don’t waste time on trying to find kale etc…

A6) We did discuss what could be in there… Like social media and local settings, stores to buy healthy foods etc.

Save the cups!

Right now, as consumers, we knew that coffee cups are not being recycled. More than 3bn coffee cups are thrown away in Britain each year, and fewer than 1/400 are recycled. So we wanted to see what we could do to address that, and also to look at what University of Edinburgh could do.

At University of Edinburgh over 2 million coffee cups are sold, only 2000 keep cups are sold. Coffee cups are not recyclable, keep cups are not well publicised.

From our focus group we found people are concerned at the situation but they are also not clear on what to do – they have to dry out a cup before putting in the recycling. We considered adding a 5p charge for cups, or to decrease the cost of keep cups. Give discounts on keep cups or give first years a coffee cup when they begin their studies. But we were told that making policy changes can be slow so we focused on behaviour change. So we decided upon a poster, which would highlight the 20p discount per drink sold if you use a keep cup.

So, for our design ideas we got together a group of four people to critique our design ideas. Our first posted highlighted that if you took all disposable cups wasted at University you could make 200 keep cups – that was a bit too bland. We also tried to focus on what happens to coffee cups after being wasted – that coffee cups thrown away a year could fill a whole classroom – but that was too abstract. We had a further design focused on global impact of waste – featuring a polar bear – and people cared but felt it was far disconnected from coffee cups.

So our next poster design was “Do you like coffee?” and highlighted the 20p saving. People felt motivated by saving money – it was the most effective of the posters – but they felt 20p was too little. But we knew we couldn’t change pricing. So we decided to focus on the economic angle but highlight the savings more clearly. So we developed a poster that continued that message, saying “if you drink coffee every day you save over £50 a year”. And our previous posters were on a brown paper background, that was associated with environmental issues, so we went for a cleaner look and feel more in line with economic angle.

So, if we compare our final design with a current UoE design… That highlights waste and cost (£7) of a keep cup. From our research we think our poster would be more effective. Our participants thought £7 sounded expensive so could be a deterrent rather than a motivator, whereas we highlight savings per year.

So our conclusion is that by putting up more and particularly better posters the University could do more to contribution to waste, and maybe make a dent in that 2bn coffee cups wasted per year.

Q1) Did you think about using the poster in a virtual space such as Facebook – where you could click to buy… Maybe removing barriers to buying.

A1) We didn’t think about that. The one that is up in the library is actually in the queue area in a cafe… You see it as waiting in line, highlighting what you could save.

Q2) The numbers are kind of staggering, so if you get it right it could really make it a different. Did you think about that price – it does seem a lot – but also on carrying keep cup around and that being a potential behaviour change that is needed.

A2) In our research we did talk to people who had keep cups… a lot did it for financial reasons and a lot of buyers are staff members who using them on desks. Students can be more reluctant to do that, concerned with spills in laptops. And we did ask about policy change – e.g. for disposable cups being recycled cups – but that is really slow. But we did suggest reducing the keep cup price, or handing out to first year.

Q3) Do you think students would actually carry these around?

A3) We think so and they indicated that they might.

Q4) What about the branding of the cups themselves – there are lots of coffee shops in Edinburgh, each with their own branded keep cups. Did you look at all at the branding of the cups, or of the issue of people actually using their cups across different shops – since students (and staff) don’t just frequent one place.

A4) Looked at reduction of usage of cups, we focused on within the university and policy in place… Didn’t think about interacting with the city as well as the university.

Pimp My Pollock

Pollock halls is the main catered residence halls for UoE students, serving around 2000 students a day in a buffet style self-service restaurant (JMCC). They have a number of initiatives to try and eliminate food waste. They have a zero waste to landfill policy, they compost and use that on campus. They do good stuff but they don’t engage students in that. So our goal is to foster student awareness and engagement.

There is an issue to solve here, There is a cost of around £2000 and 8000 kg (the weight of a Tigon!) waste per month because students put too much food on their plate. They are cooking almost twice the food that is eaten. They do try to highlight waste on screens – but that isn’t totally credible and the maths isn’t quite correct when comparing waste to number of food items.

So we looked at 9 different ides – including things like smaller plates or no trays – but the feedback was that change like that is difficult and slow to do. So we looked at communicating to and involving behaviour change in students. Our focus groups fed back though that being served food might help with the waste, that the environment looking better might make the difference too. Students also said that they didn’t know what a good job the university already does with waste, and again talked about the environment. And that they wasted food because it didn’t taste good. So we need to change environment to change behaviour. So, we decided on… drumroll…

Pimp My Pollock. A video/presentation, social media campaign and redesign of JMCC to change attitude and behaviours. We wanted a video that could be played during freshers week, to include RAs (staff/senior students that support students in the accommodation), to help raise visibility of staff and the good work already being done. The social media campaign would build upon existing interest. There is already a very popular @sexdrugsjmcc Instagram account with images of the food that is used playfully and is managed by the community – definitely not the university. So we thought of perhaps using Facebook to highlight reductions in food waste, fun images, maybe Spotify playlists for the JMCC too, to engage students more.

There is also a perceived behavioural control issue if you have two conflicting views of the same thing so that our impressions match up with positive work taking place – hence redesigning the space. We also want to make the space itself so it is more inviting, makes better use of space, and help highlight waste through infographics/posters etc.

Q1) Is anyone working on behaviour change in the management of this space? I am particularly surprised about the size of plates thing – that’s a proven thing.

A1) I work at the sustainability department and what we’ve tended to find from accommodation services, managed separately and differently. Trying to manage infrastructural changes are not met well. So with coffee cups… When we found recyclable coffee cups they said not cost effective. Haven’t personally tried with plate size but happy to feed that forward to that team…

Q2) Had you thought about ambassadors approaching people when eating about how much on their plate – I know staff do that sometimes when trays are put away…

A2) We thought about that… Hence the idea of the Facebook page… Hopefully that would help without that issue of it being staff. In terms of the policies already in place students don’t know about that so an induction, and engagement with food waste issue coming from students rather than staff would be more effective.

Q3) On small plate and trays I know that the service team see the plate size as reasonable… And they see that plate size as reasonable… and returning going up again when having so many students going through, student satisfaction.

A3) RAs who have lived there longer they didn’t think that plat size etc – popular in focus groups – was realistic. They felt that being served was more likely to be successful as then you can take smaller portions without needing to negotiate that.

Trayless Dining in Pollock Halls

Our idea is trayless dining in Pollock Halls. They have 2000 students eating at the JMCC dining room but they are currently catering for nearer 4000 because of waste. We wanted to help address that, and reduce the waste going to compost. There are some pre-existing initiatives. The JMCC Love Food Hate Waste initiative – more for retailers and producers – so we wanted to focus on students.

We canvassed student opinion. Many didn’t know how much they were wasting, even returning a second time with trays. So our idea is simple but there is supporting evidence that removing trays would have an impact. We had a focus group of 4 students at Pollock Halls – they weren’t aware and didn’t care, there was apathy to waste. Students were more positive to outsiders changing their behaviour, rather than coming from them. We wanted changes to environment. Students in our group saw plate size changes as too aggressive. Removing trays seemed acceptable.

So, we did participatory design process with 20 volunteers and got them to photograph their results. We asked them to go trayless and we did see a reduction in food waste… But there were logistical challenges. We think a few days of doing this would get them to adapt. We followed up with an online survey – 40% were happy for that change; 25% didn’t care; 35% were unsure. That seemed prety good compared to initial apathy.

Generally students were willing for some changes, and would have little influence on dining experience as they get the same product, and this could have a long term impact. The American University saw a major improvement on waste and washing trays etc. San Diego State University saw a 4.9% cost reduction from going trayless – including food waste and cleaning. And this can have a health impact too.

But we did see some contrasting opinions. We asked about whether removing trays would be inconvenient – we did have someone saying that multiple trips back and forth would be inconvenient. A staff member suggested that JMCC is too small of an area to implement trayless dining compared to US food halls. Main issue was behavioural changes towards waste from front of house. And their conveyor belt is build for trays not plates.

We didn’t see immediate fixes here so we thought about implementation – could be trickle down and trickle up. For Trickle Down we found a 6 point plan for going trayless: keep them available in case required; provide trays for disabled students; convert staff and employees – they must be onboard; gather feedback – there are concerns to hear and engage with; create a smooth transition – we think that implementing programme at the beginning of the academic years because that will be their first experience, as freshers, with JMCC; audit – and make available so students and staff can actually see the impact and the positive impact.

Bottom up implementation is preferred by the staff… It is supposedly already happening in Love Food, Hate Waste campaign… But we didn’t see much evidence. So, in conclusion… Trays are the solution to the JMCC waste problem because its easy and cheap to implement.

Comment 1) I think these suggestions are great and I’ll feed them back to colleagues, will keep trying to persuade people to pilot schemes…

Q2) You talked about starting at the beginning of the year – that’s more bang!

A2) Actually when change is implemented mid year, students are initially upset. Think you can avoid that when no other experience…

Q1) So maybe a pilot in Freshers week

Q3) You guys took on feedback from previous session for today, really great.

Q4) The comment about JMCC being too small to go trayless was intriguing… Was there any evidence of the actual layout in use at the US universities cited, or of the size of some of these and why that makes a difference?

A4) Evidence of smaller cafeterias that have successfully implemented this. One of us has personal experience

Ewan) Part of argument was throughput… As for 2000 students they need 3 sittings.

A4) Staff were happy for students to lead the change themselves, they were fine with that so if we can persuade students to do that that could work!

For these last three presentations there was no time for questions after all of the earlier discussion and engagement – but there were definitely people keen to ask questions and discuss all of the projects presented. 

Healthy Meal Deals

We wanted to increase consumption of healthy packaged foods on campus. We looked at several solutions: healthier alternative meal deal; adapting store layouts; healthy loyalty cards. There are meal deals on campus but we wanted to add to these with healthy meal deals. There are various current surveys that find students gaining weight during their university time, and the food and behaviours during this time guide them later in life. And surveys have shown that students relied too heavily on convenience foods because – grabbing food between lectures etc.

And in the UK there is a well known health crisis around BMI, it’s across all classes – it’s not as high in highly educated groups but still highly effected.

So, before we introduce our suggested deal we want to show you current meal deals. Currently you can select a sandwich from a range, crisps from a range, and sugary and/or caffeinated drinks. The meal has more sugar and fat than you should, but most calories come from the crisps and sandwiches. The sandwiches are high in fat but many are actually proportionately low in calories. Similarly sugar and calories – way worse. 30g is maximum sugar per day, many options have more than the appropriate 10g/meal. Looking at nutrition labels you can see those sandwiches are high in fat and sodium.

So, we wanted to look at switching out options here using what’s already easy to supply. So we considered alternatives where sandwiches are wholemeal bread – not ideal but more balanced; water or tea and maybe fresh juice; and fruit or yoghurt instead of crisps.

Promotion wise we wanted to persuade students to make those healthier choices, and to have that campaign actually across campus, not just in shops/cafes. We tweaked designs a lot with focus groups. The price isn’t concrete – couldn’t chat with manager until today – but likely £3 area and students indicated willingness to pay up to £4. And we also found good responses to comparing the healthy meal deal to the standard meal deal on nutrition rather than price basis. Then in-store we wanted to promote e.g. mixed nuts (rather than chocolate) they’d give protein and good fats – with a wee monkey but also a real citation – which students said they wanted as evidence. We also had some playful posters highlighting the benefits of fruit, of tea, etc. As well as promotion of wholemeal bread, to make it healthier….

So, our next step is to have discussion with retail managers – we meet him today! So that will be in our report. But we wanted to find out if it was realistic enough. But we expect obstacles to be commercial interests – if school has contract with providers of goods in the deal that good be a barrier; bureaucratic procedures; price.

In conclusion we wanted to include a meal deal that was inclusive of healthy options and that would increase demand for convenient but healthy food options. And it competes with but doesn’t replace current meal deals.

FoodHub

We will talk about the fast hack (all teams took part in) at the beginning and how we progressed from there. We were given the task of increasing the rate at which students select healthy food options on campus and engage with sustainable food initiatives. During our work we had a three part survey – two parts focused on our ideas, a third part focused on awareness. That awareness section was where we had most interesting data – there was apathy, the campaigns felt quite insular in terms of who was aware and engaged etc. We felt there was poor promotion on campus and students couldn’t name sustainable food initiatives on campus. We also found students had a lot of priorities and sustainable food wasn’t high on that list.

We suggest FoodHub, a united front for all of the many existing initiatives around sustainable cheap healthy food on campus. We thought about delivery through Facebook, app, text, etc. And we also wanted to consider active vs passive information – looking information up is time consuming, but prompts can be invasive. We went into a participatory design process with this in mind. So, we ran a trial text service as part of this, sharing messages from existing initiatives on campus. Then we did one to one feedback with participants.

We had great focus group qualitative data but we wanted something more quantitative data too, and to understand how texts might work and how. Our survey showed that a third of students don’t plan food but buy on the day; but we also wanted to accommodate those planning in advance. People found finding cheap food on campus relatively doable, cheap sustainable food more challenging.

So, we ran this for a week and we had results. 37% attended 1 or more event and all said they’d attend again; 100% would recommend to friends; 91% thought it provided a cost effective alternative; 63% indicated they might seek out food themselves. But what didn’t work? Well we sent 14 notifications and one 1 to 2 responses – this was either people who already had plans, or who were out at KB where events were less accessible. But we also saw 100% no change in attitude towards sustainable food options. People have busy schedules, we had a number of individuals already engaged in sustainable foods already in our group – so events not novel.

When we went into participatory design process we were thinking about an app, but actually texts seemed more effective – more embedded in day etc. And for an app they would have to download, use, keep on phone. In terms of active vs passive platforms. The majority of people wanted Facebook for more passive service, and text for more active materials. The combination was definitely the most possible. People also wanted some sort of review of events that could help guide peers (Yelp style), probably part of the Facebook component.

So, where to go from here? We are running it for a month to see if attitudes change; we want to add more features; and we want to promote and share the service to a wider range of students on campus.

The RA Connection

We are going to talk about what we did, the way we approached this. We made a toolkit for RAs (Resident Assistant) to help them support students to make healthy decisions on campus. We talked to students, RAs, Foodsharing, SRS office, and we engaged with surveys, focus group, informal interviews, and participatory design workshop with RAs.

When we throw away food we could be eating it has a financial and environmental impact. The University has a policy for zero food waste – but students are not included in that. Students care about this but when asked what they consider when purchasing foods students say convenience and costs are main concerns when considering buying sustainable food. So, our idea was to work with Edinburgh Food Sharing. So, what is Food Sharing?

Food Sharing takes unused or unsold food from individuals and businesses, that is passed to Food Sharing, is then redistributed to Food Sharing. This is mostly still edible (e.g. day old bread) – half of all food waste is edible, and 40% of UK students report skipping meals because of costs – so these can be complimentary issues. In terms of changing behaviour there are personal, social and material environment aspects. We thought that changing individuals isn’t the best route, but that changing social would be more effective, hence using the RAs.

The RAs help students when they first arrive at university. 170 RAs are based at 35 sites across the University and they are obligated to run at least one sustainability event per year. And free food is a great way to engage students. So we decided to educate RAs with sustainability by helping them running their events, we used our participatory design session to engage with RAs. We set SMART goals for this: Engage 50 students from multiple halls in (1) food collecting and distribution based on but not overlapping with FoodSharing (2) events to cook, prepare and share that food.

To help RAs we wanted to do some work for then – handouts, posters, and event forms for their Learn space run by ResLife. The handout explains food sharing. The event forms cover Cooking from Scraps – a workshop attendance followed by running their own; and Food Sharing Month – to raise awareness. The posters highlights workshops. The second is about food sharing to raise awareness.

So, we wanted to raise awareness, support RAs and make it easy for them to do more. And it was received really well by the RAs we spoke to.

And with that all the presentations were concluded and we’d hit our 11am finish time.

Huge thanks to Ewan and the whole DDS student and staff community for having me along – there were some fantastic ideas presented and I really enjoyed seeing the different approaches taken – some much more design orientated, some much more technical. The projects will now go on to write up their work into reports and the projects will be shared on the course website.

Mar 142016
 

Back on 2nd December 2015 I attended a Digital Scholarship event arranged by Anouk Lang, lecturer in Digital Humanities at the University of Edinburgh.

The event ran in two parts: the first section enabled those interested in digital humanities to hear about events, training opportunities, and experiences of others, mainly those based within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; the second half of the event involved short presentations and group discussions on practical needs and resources available. My colleague Lisa Otty and I had been asked to present at the second half of the day, sharing the range of services, skills and expertise EDINA offer for digital scholarship (do contact us if you’d like to know more), and were delighted to be able to attend the full half day event.

My notes were captured live, so all the usual caveats about typos, corrections, additions, etc. apply despite the delay in me setting this live. 

The event is opening, after a wee intro from Anouk Lang, with a review of various events and sessions around Digital Humanities, starting with those who had addtended the DHOxSS: Digital Humanities Summer School at Oxford in summer 2016.

Introduction to Digital Humanities – Rhona Alcock

Attended with bursary from College. Annual event for a range of interests and levels. Was an introductory strand on DH. Then another ~9 that were much more specialist. The introductory session was for those new to the field, or keen to broaden understanding. Gave an overview of other strands (some quite technical). Learnt a huge amount for that week. Came back and write up notes – 25 pages of them and I’ve referred back to them a huge amount. Main topics I benefited from was on planning DH research projects, on light weight usability testing (and QA). Great session on crowdsourcing and comining in your research area. Also some great sessions on knowledge exchange and engagement. More than anything what I had was the sense of connecting with others interested in DH and what they could get from it and do with it. And loads of new ideas for what I do, new audiences to take it to. Ractical advice to take it forward, tools etc. So, highly recommended.

David Oulton, College Web Team

I went to the summer school too. Found a big gap in the range of tools and resources (WordPress, Drupal, ESRI, ArcGIS, etc). There are so many tools that are just out there and can be used for all sorts of things, that can be downloaded, etc.

I’ve created a list on pbworks (dhresourcesforprojectbuilding.pbworks.com). And there are lots of resources listed there. I’m keen to encourage academics to just go and try these things, that can be set up quickly and easily.

Digital Medieval – Jeremy Piercy

Worked with new digital Bodleian interactive tools. Interactive scans of images that allow you to see hidden writing with a varieties of light – often can’t do on an artefact. Also learned a lot about ArcGIS, and how useful that can be. Also curation issues – many of our documents will eventually cease to be. This allows ongoing curation of those items. We have various high quality images and scans that will “always be accessible”. Portability of data is a key issue – not tying your work to a particular interface that may later fail/change/etc. Need to be able to move information around. I wasn’t the only person at that…

Gavin Willshaw, Digital Curator at the Library

I also went to Dig approaches to medieval and renaissance studies. Was quite specialist in many ways. Lots of hard work but learned a lot. I was also keen to understand how DH researchers work and what the library can do to support that with collections and tools. Was also some sessions on DIY digitisation – mini projects around doing that, managing that data. Tools such as Retro Mobile – ways to see what lies beneath images. Also some quite good introductory overviews of areas like TEI and IIIF for interoperability etc. Also several workshops to try stuff out directly. Really enjoyed seeing new stuff – e.g. hyperspectral imaging. Also a session on how museums can use wifi signals to track visitors movements and tailor what they do to that experience. And fed into discussions we’ve been having about Beacons and Blue Tooth in the library. From my point of view it was a really interesting mixture of tools and skills and experience. And I’m now looking for how the library can get more involved. Again, would highly recommend.

Humanities Data: Curation, Analysis, Access and Reuse – Rocio von Jungenfeld

I work in the data library, but am also finishing my PhD at ECA. I was looking at data tools and analysis tools. To compare what we do to what others do. And the recommendations from other places. Had very interesting speakers. Combination of HATHHI trust, and also OxII. They gave really practical advice on software out there, schemas, metadata, methodology, great insights to data tools and analysis. New tools to me, e.g. Gephi, and was very useful. Good experience overall – was a big Edinburgh contingent there, stuff done together. Interesting people and good lectures. Would recommend. My notes are available.

Harriet Cornell, Edinburgh Law School

I’m a post doc in HCA, and project officer for the political settlements programme. It was a complex workshop. Went for this one not introduction as I felt up to date. But this was at the sharp end in terms of the technical stuff. Galloped through technical stuff, would have liked more time on software. But reflecting afterwards it was great. Trying Open Refine – that I didn’t know about it – but also how we label and tag data and research. Really useful. Four things I took away:

  1. The capacity for DH projects – having that director of the HATHII Trust was great that that could happen
  2. Tools, particularly Open Refine – so useful. I know that Anouk and Anna have run workshops on this but it’s brilliant.
  3. Labelling and tagging. I do lots of blogging on WordPress and thinking about SEO, and just thinking about that in a different way was great.
  4. Design, Curation, Research and Longevity – thinking about the time and cost of planning and making things properly sustainable, after e.g. 10 years.

If I did it again I’d have done the introductory workshop. But this was great if you were happy to get down with Owl, ontologies, Python etc. I was tweeting from the session with the #dhoxss tag.

Linked Data for the Humanities – Anouk Lang, School of Literature, Languages and Culture

When you are a researcher your data is your baby. My lovingly curated research database with rich information about which historical figures were writing to whom, from which places, at which times. The problem is that if you want to share that data, your stuff is hard for others to use. The solution is ontologies and linked open data.

So what is an ontology? It is a structured way of understanding the context of an object – e.g. for the British Museum it might be where it was from, who acquired it and where and when, when it is from, where is it located, what is it made from. So we have linked data. Which we express as a “triple” – a subject, predicate, and object. So for a James Joyce letter then you have a lot of known individuals already – James Joyce is out there. And then locations wise there are lists of locations – you want an authority list (someone elses ontology of places). And then the predicate (e.g. when James Joyce was born) is also already available…

So, data is stored in a “triplestore” and you can query it using SPARQL, which lets you ask about name, place, location etc. There is a structure for SPARQL queries. That lets you query stuff within others databases.

So, if you are interested in using stuff in others’ databases or how to share your data with others, then you want to learn about Linked Open Data and SPARQL.

DHSO – Jim Mistiff

PhD student in English Lit. Went to the summer school and did the Linked Open Data and RDF course. Before PhD I was a Drupal developer, so had an interest from that so interesting to see it from another angle. I’ll be looking at specific application of LOD. Specifically for a text heavy usage for my own PhD. Not a perfect solution but an interesting starting point for a conversation.

Getting some definitions out of the way. LOD is a scary term for literary humanists. Any texts I’m using is a data object really. Breaking a long text up is a more useful way to think of it. Open Data helps you share data with others (and vice versa). The Linked part lets you interlink stuff. So if, say, a DB at Edinburgh (modernist data), and one at UVIC (who have modernist correspondence) you can link those together to form one complete set.

One of the results of doing LOD is that your dataset or database or a version of the internet that is easier for machines to read. Right now the internet is a set of dumb links – LOD allows text data objects to be more machine readable. I think it will be easier to explain that through an example.

So, I’m writing my PhD on Hugh MacDiamid. I’m interested in later stuff, particularly a poem called In Memoriam James Joyce. I’m interested in the construction. He wrote the poem through borrowing/plaguerising from other sources which are not credited. E.g. from an ad in the Writers and Artists Yearbook 1949. I’ve gone through that poem and found about 60% of the sources. That is a very interlinked text that maps nicely onto the idea of LOD. So, what I’d like to do is to datafy MacDiarmid. What I propose in terms of what Anouk covered is to take the text, word by word… and take the two lines from the poem, break them into triples… Can do it character by character… can automate… Can then apply Stanfords NLP to it… and then identify automatically when you’ve got a name of a real person in there, the name of a text… A very vague linked data model here… Bits in boxes (in his diagram) that are in other sources. So a mention of Pape – means Capt A.G. Pape and we could grab info from DBPedia. And then a text by that author could be pulled in/connected to. Etc. This makes assumption about what else is out there. But what it gives us is a rich version of the poem. We tend to read many texts in these ways – looking up definitions, references etc. Not suggesting change in core tasks, but using technology to enhance what we do. We could turn a LOD version of the poem into a hyperlinked version that pops up those obscure references etc. Much of what we already do, but in an automated way.

My suggestion expects and relies on other people doing parts of the work. What we can all do is get it closer to LOD than it is. There are five steps (see 5stardata.info by Tim Berners-Lee). Step one is get it online – e.g. a PDF on the web. The next step is to structure that data – a table rather than an image of a table for instance. Next step is open format – so that table in CSV rather than Exel. Next step is using RDF to point to things. Final step is LOD – the stuff of linking from proper names and quotations to other names and data stores. And then we have LOD.

DHSI, University of Victoria, Canada – Anouk Lang

This is premier DH summer school but costly to get to. Cheaper with student membership of computation in humanities(?).

I did three workshops – there for 3 weeks. I’m going to talk about Programing for Human|ist|s. My area uses R, Python etc. I did an intense week long Python course. So you start with a spec. For us we decided to construct a script that will visit a website and pull out certain bits of information relating to discussion posts (username, data of posting, content) and write those to a spreadsheet so they can be used for analysis. So, a web scraper.

Then you write Pseudocode. And that includes pulling in other people’s stuff – loads of Googling Stack Exchange for code and libraries.

So, Beautiful Soup does loads of web scraping. Then wanted it to write to a file. So then, you can build the code and run it. Then creates a file. Now when I did that I did pull out the appropriate text. It looks like a mess, but that’s a starting point. I spent the rest of the summer consolidating things, and doing some other things. So that included building something fun using a Markov Chain Generator – to feed text in, and produce lovely parodies. Can then use Python to automate Twitter posts. So we did a fun PatrickTwite Twitterbot (to go with a book launch).

Programming History Live – Anna Groundwater, History, Classics and Archeaology

I’m a historian. I’m here to talk about Programming History Live, which I attended in London in October. My first encounter was with the website. And that is a fantastic website (programminghistorian.org) – free, open, very enabling. It takes you through tutorials in lots of software you can use. Great range from Zotero, Antconc to do corpus analysis tool, to Python. Stuff on data cleaning, network analysis. Using Omeca to do online exhibits – will be used for a masters renaissance course. Comes from best DH ethos. I recommend W3C for LOD and Open Data. Also clear tutorial on SPARQL on Programming Historian. Also has web scraping tutorials.

My interest is network analysis. Martin During uses Palladio – free online network analysis tool which visualizes those networks. The site takes you through step by step. Gives you working examples with data from the website so that you do it yourself. Actually doing stuff is a great way to learn. Now recommended to several dissertation students who will use Palladio and then on Gephi. One thing to add is that these amazing exciting tools are compelling and exciting but there is theoretical underpinning that you need to understand if you use them. And Programming Historian also covers areas of that.

So, fantastic resources here (and Anouk also gave a lovely plug for EDINA’s geospatial tools and expertise, including my colleagues QGIS training).

Session on BL was led by James Baker (now at Sussex, was at BL). He’s also an SSI fellow – gives you £3k for DH work and profile there. I learned a lot on Antconc, on TEI, shell and widget for web scraping.

Antconc was with Anouk, and the tutorial written by Anouk and Heather Froehlich at Sterling. Antconc helps you analyse a corpus. It’s free to download to look at your corpus. So, for example a set of movie reviews (test data from Programming Historian) that has “shot” marked up across the reviews. I like this because it combines the patterns of big sets of data, with the ability to see the exact context. Combines distant and close reading concepts. And here “shot” is shown in its many definitions and uses. Concordance is seeing that word with surrounding words (and you can choose surrounding number of works). I’m interested in this because of cognitive geography of James I and VI using text analysis with Antconc. Some work already done on Agatha Christie using Atconc (in a paper on language and dementia by Ian Lancashire [PDF]).

Other useful resources: James Baker did a great reflective post on his blog, Cradled in Caricature. Also there are a range of people I recommend following on Twitter around digital scholarship, digital humanities, etc. including: @heatherfro, @williamjturkel, @adam_crymble, @ruthahnert, @melissaterras.

And that brought Section 1 to a close. Section 2 of this event – which I was presenting at – was collaboratively noted. See: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1U1CTcTi7hC-1gVq5HD762k2MCgSXaXDfPp5KsDNfOlk/

Mar 132016
 

This afternoon I’m at the EdinburghApps Final Pitch event, being held at the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum. As usual for my liveblogs, all comments and edits are very much welcomed. 

EdinburghApps, is a programme of events organised by Edinburgh City Council (with various partners) to generate ideas and technology projects addressing key social challenges. This year’s Edinburgh Apps event has been themed around health and social care (which have recently been brought together in Scotland under the Public Bodies Joint Working Bill for Health and Social Care Integration).

The event has run across several weeks, starting with an Inception weekend (on 6th & 7th Feb, which I blogged some of here), then a midway catch up/progress day (held on 27th Feb – you may have seen me tweet from this), and culminating in today’s final pitch event, at which we’ll hear from previous winners, as well as this year’s teams. The challenges they have been addressing around health and social care challenges fall under five headings (click to see a poster outlining the challenge):

Sally Kerr, Edinburgh City Council

Welcome to our final pitch event!

EdinburghApps is designed by the Council to explore how new approaches and new ideas can inform what we do. So, to start with, we are going to hear from some of our previous winners.

ARC-Edinburgh – Anne Marie Mann & Ella Robbins

Anne-Marie: We started this app to address Addiction recovery back at Edinburgh Apps in October 2014 – which we won!

So our app – a smartphone app just called ARC  (http://www.arcapp.co.uk) – is  an App to support those in Addition recovery, helping them to track progress, boost motivation, and connect to the Recovery Network in Edinburgh.

Key features of our app are a guide to local meetings, AA, NA, etc. We also have a motivation and reflection section which includes motivational quotes, mindfulness resources, and we also have a “Need Help?” section which connects the individual to our Emergency section. In this section we connect the user to their key contacts, they select these at set up and can send a pre-populated text asking for support.

But there is more here. We had an idea, now we have an app, a company, a community… And Robin is going to talk more about that.

Ella: I don’t think when we first had our idea we knew what would happen next. We worked with Jana at the City Council to create a proposal for a developer – we aren’t developers we just had an idea. We hired a developer – through Anne Marie – and he’s been the third part of this project the whole way through, and that’s Dave Morrison, University of St Andrews.

When we had the team we researched the market. We had access to a close friend with addiction issues who was able to give us an insight into needs and requirements. But we looked at what else was out there. We connected to Dave Williams at the council who connected us to Serenity Cafe, which helps addicts in recovery.

We then set up our company, which we run outside our full time work and care responsibilities. We then went into an intenside user requirements and design process – drawing out every screen of our app before anything was built. We created a project plan, we worked out a marketing plan, and we set about launching our app.

The Council’s role was funding – which was great – but also project management. We had regular meetings to check in and check progress. The council were also essential to that relationship to Serenity Cafe, and that local and specific expertise of Dave Williams. Those contacts, access to market research, and knowledge and experience helped us hugely, particularly to overcome challenges as we went along. The Council provided guidance. On a practical level the Council also undertook printing and distribution of marketing materials and crucial advocacy.

In terms of our reflections on this process… It has been hard work and took longer than we thought. I work in marketing in my day job so this was a huge change and learning opportunity for use. We’ve had to manage a whole range of stakeholders who we wouldn’t normally have worked with, managing expectations, undertaking user requirements, etc. was a huge opportunity. It was a real chance to help people of Edinburgh and has been enormously rewarding.

So, the app is out now and we’ll be giving it a big proper launch very soon!

Q&A

Q1) Can you see yourself doing another app now that you’ve done this?

A1 – Anne Marie) Ella just had a promotion at work, I’m just finishing my PhD, so not right now but I can see us doing more in the future.

A1 – Ella) Absolutely, sometime in the future, but not right now.

Run the City – Jenny Tough

This came out of Edinburgh Apps 2015, our team was Kate, Jenny and Hilde (aka Small, Medium and Tall). We all lived in different cities and had travelled to other places a lot so had lots of ideas about what we might do – probably 8 ideas, a bunch we pitched, but the one we settled on was Run the City…

So the idea was that running can be a brilliant way to explore a new city and get to know it, and as a traveller it would be great to have some guidance on the best routes etc. So, we proposed a mobile app that would be engaging, and have a minimum of 5 routes through the city, and would interoperate with other running apps – so you can capture all your running stats as you normally would. It was going to need to work on iOS and Android, and be easy to add these routes to.

So, myself and Jamie Sutherland (@Wedgybo) eventually took things forward – both of us are seasoned international runners.

We did some scoping on what runners would want and they really wanted a mixture of green routes and city routes, to not just be the key tourist areas. And that there needed to be different distances and difficulties, as well as th ebest local spots to run. I started out dropping key pins on the map based on Council data. But we also tried lots of routes out – running those routes, testing them out, making sure that worked.

The kind of data we were using was data on monuments in Parks and greenspaces. There were also trees with stories, parks in the city (with opening hours etc) and we came up with five routes…

The first of these routes is the City Centre Highlights and History, which starts on Calton Hill but also takes in Grassmarket etc. The second route is Edinburgh Green Route – for those wanting to enjoy great places to run but not neccassarily interested in the history. The third is around Hermiston Gait, which is actually beautiful. The fourth is the Water of Leith – and we had audio we could draw on here which was brilliant. And finally we had the Seven Hills of Edinburgh – a really difficult route but essential as an unofficial race does this route every year.

Jamie used Ionic framework which is based on AngularJS and ues Cordova for hybrid app. And we used FireBase to create the routes – and that looks really simple for me editing routes in the app.

We rang weekly test runs – in place of meetings! Edinburgh Apps gets you fit!

We sent the app to beta testers as it was, without instructions for accurate results. And there was mixed feedback on the runs and on the technical side of the app too.

In terms of what we found were difficult, and what we learned. We found audio placement difficult to define for different paces (i.e. walkers vs very fast runners) – and that only worked by testing it at those paces. The catchment area of audio points was also extremely hard to fine tune (e.g. which side of the road). But there was also the issue of the seasonability of Edinburgh – daylight time being an aspect, but also things like differences in route for festivals etc since footfall changes a lot. We also found that app simulator really didn’t give us a good idea of what worked and what didn’t – th eonly way to do that was test it with running.

The future for run the city. The MVP was recently launched and is available in the App Store right now. We have route development in siz new international cities currently underway. But doing more here is really a challenge when fitting this around other day jobs and responsibilities. So we are also testing monetisation strategies – events, in-app purchases, advertising to make that development work possible.

So, do try the app, give us your feedback.

Q&A

Q1) What is the audio?

A1) It’s the directions – turn left, turn right, etc. But also the things you are seeing and experiencing.

Q2) And how easily could that be changed? Is the audio geocoded? Have you considered iBeacons if they become more popular/available?

A2) The audio is tied to pins on the map added in FireBase. We have been considering iBeacons certainly.

Q3) Could you crowdsource the routes?

A3) Sure, but it can take a lot of work to develop the routes. But the running community online is big and active so I definitely think that that’s the way forward.

Sally: And now we have the really exciting part of the day, the pitches from our teams! So, lets start with Game of Walks…

A Game of Walks (#agameofwalks) – Gary

The team for this project was Elena (@atribeofneli), Katie (@hiccuo42), Lorna (@LornaJa23511553), Mischa, Gary (@garycmartin), Mohammed.

The project we were walking on with Sustrans was to encourage children to walk more. The idea is that with a school groups we gamify the walk to school. And to also include some level of STEM, as well as art as they get to design some parts of the system. The second weekend was rather fun as we prototyped the system.

The idea is that children are in different team groups, collecting a particular animal shape. Then they get to choose the animal shape for the next week’s challenge. The idea is that you place these devices across the walk to school you encourage walking to school, use of safe walking routes, and some gameplay.

So we are using Arduino with sensors… And walking part triggers the light. The units wait a set period, then select randomly but equally a shape to show (of three). And then triggering will show another shape. Each animal shows around 10 minutes – and you need to collect it. If it’s someone else’s shape then you don’t collect it. So other walkers, cats, dogs etc. may trigger the system but it should be random and unbiased. And when they capture that shape maybe they share it on their blog, league tables within the school etc. And the units use little gobo selectors so you can theme and change those as you want (e.g. easter, christmas, halloween), etc.

So the units are all 3D pieces (18-20 hours per unit and all the pieces). They aren’t quite ready for outdoors yet, but the battery life isn’t bad – 35-45 hours right now but could easily be set up to do a week. And you could also set up the units to only capture/be active during school run hours.

So, where we are now is that we want to do some school events – fairs or festivals or similar – to test them in a contained environment. But I’d be keen for feedback from teachers, teaching assistants, etc. who would be keen to use these with kids in a real environment.

Q&A

Q1) You said they aren’t waterproof at the moment?

A1) Not at the moment… You could take these and insulate the electronics on the inside so that they don’t corrode. If you wanted them more long term you could do more. The idea is to make these cheap and accessible – it’s about £12 in 3D printing material, and about £10 electronics, so relatively cheap and therefore not a big deal if they go missing. But actually you could fit most of the electronics in a poster boards – on a single image on the paper with a wireframe in that poster – which would be lovely. So, the form factor (units) isn’t essential.

Lots you could do here, like installing units that capture footfall data when game isn’t in place so that you have a baseline of data to give you some idea of how busy it is on a given route, and if the Game of Walks is making a difference.

Sally: We did test these units with colleagues at the council… And discovered just how competitive our adult colleagues were!

Meet & Eat: A recipe for Friendship – Beata and Annabella

Beata: The idea is basically dinner for strangers! Our mission statement was to help prevent loneliness amongst Edinburgh’s student population. The challenge owner was the NHS who highlighted the issue of loneliness, and that that is often about transitions in life of all sorts, including moving away from home/becoming a student. And this is a big problem. 68% of adults say that they feel alone, either often, sometimes or always. And 18-34 age group is most affected. Lack of personal contact can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So we really wanted to find a way to help.

Annabella: We thought that a great way to address this would be through food – as we all need to eat. So, our example Meet and Eat user is Jin. Jin is a 20 year old engineering student at Heriot Watt. Studies are fine, but he misses his family and friends from home. He sometimes finds it hard to make friends outside of class – initially language was an issue but it isn’t now… But he doesn’t have that network of friends and support. But Jin walks through university and sees a poster on the wall for Meet and Eat. He signs up and decides to join a dinner at his student union. He feels safe going to an event there and decides, being Japanese, he’s going to take sushi as his dish for the dinner. He meets new friends with things in common, and they can take it from there.

So, that’s the idea basically. Students are often early adopters of tech but we wanted to have a location for events that was safe and neutral – and accommodating of students who don’t have room for, say 5 people.

So, we tried to run two test events. The first was to be at Glasgow School of Art but that was in reading week. We ran another in Fountainbridge. We only had one student along but he gave us great feedback. He said first years are much much more open to this. Freshers week is when people are open to meeting people, starting events there would make people more likely to come. And we need better advertising.

Moving forward we would like to popularise the concept using existing social media, university intranet and forum platforms. We’d like to create a welcome pack for partnering with universities and include that in freshers week. And maybe that could lead to student Meet & Eat societies. If we get that buy in we think we could go forward with the app idea, but we need more market research and marketing support.

What we need is marketing assistance, links to universities – we have links with GSA and Napier. But we also need business advice, and we’d like more people for our team. We have work, university… a cat… But not sure how best to fit this in – although we’ve been inspired by the presentations that we’ve already seen.

Q&A

Q1) At least some students in first year of Edinburgh have catered food, not as likely to be able to participate.

A1 – Annabella) That’s a good point, which we hadn’t considered.

Q2) The office for social responsibility and sustainability in Edinburgh sponsored Global Sustainability Jam which led to an app called Fridge Friend – aimed at reducing waste by sharing with others.

A2 – Annabella) When we did some market research we also looked at supermarkets who recycle or discount food. We thought offers etc. might be encouraging and motivating.

Q2) There is also a thing called Food Share in Edinburgh who you might want to look at.

A2 – Beata) We looked at that but we think we need people engaged before we can do some of those partnership. In our research we came across Freedom who also use food waste in their cooking.

Q3) How do people get in touch if interested?

A3 – Annabella) We have meetandeatscotland@gmail.com

A3 – Beata) And a Facebook group as well.

Chattercare – Archie and his Dad 

This was initially designed to address people with cognitive issues… We are all social hubs, connecting with friends and families and neighbours… But when people have cognitive disadvantages they lose connections, those bonds are broken… People lose touch..

So, our idea is to enable communication between different people. So, the person with cognitive disadvantages can connect, but those people can also connect and exchange information between each other. We were really thinking about informal communication. From my perspective, when my great aunt had a stroke, you find yourself looking after someone with no idea of where to start… How do you wash a person in a wheelchair? What’s the new medication and possible side effects – how do I share that with others involved in care? For my great aunt she kept saying “miss miss” and had no idea what that meant – but actually she was wishing people a “Merry Christmas”.

So, how do you share that information? There are interest groups across similar carers; there are people caring for an individual – often many people involved; and messaging for one to one engagement; and we wanted some adaptive technology enabling the individual with cognitive difficulties to take part to. And so, that’s our idea.

And now… A live demo…

We are using a platform called Rocket Chat (Note: this looks like/may be a close relative to Slack) which is available for PCs, Macs, Web browsers, Tablets, Mobiles (iOS and Android). But we require lots of modifications… We will just show some examples here…

Lets call our home help “Jane Austen”. So Jane subscribed to a general #wheelchairusers channel, but she also is part of a homehelps private chat group for more specific questions.

“Mary Shelley” is our supervisor for home helps… And she subscribes to #wheelchairusers as well as #strokerecovery. But she is also part of direct message conversations with “Barbara Cartland” – the daughter of a patient who is interested in pensions. And also a private group for “Jack Faust” – an individual who needs care and help, this would be private to those caring for him. So Barbara Cartland asks for an update and his grandson “Billy Boy” sends an update and image from his visit.

So, what is ChatterCare since there is an application already there? Well it would be about customisation, and the idea would be that all communications are in one place; there is an opportunity for some oversight – so for instance the Stroke Recovery group could be monitored by the Council, to share authoritative information, expel myths, share resources known to be good. And eventually we’d really want some adaptive tech. It would be great to have the individual with cognitive difficulties directly involved, but they will all have very different needs and requirements, which is why that would be a later thing requiring further development.

Note: no questions here, so onto our final team… 

Open Doors – Laura & Team Open Doors

Loneliness is a huge issue in the UK and it needs to be dealt with soon. Over 1.7 million people over 65 can go a week without having contact with someone they know, of these 1.1 million can go a month without that sort of contact. So, our idea is an app called OpenDoors which will be simple and intuitive and is designed for older people.

Elderly people are quite keen to use new technology, but modern technology can have too many confusing functions and applications that they will never need. So, for this app we plan to use very large icons, make it visual and intuitive, add only the necessary functions and features. And we want it to be very consistent so the users always know what they are doing.

We talked to people who tried to do this before and we think the biggest challenge would be getting people to join this sort of social network. There are now 11 million people in the UK over 65 (AgeUK 2016) but only 28% using social media. So, we want to start with Elderly people in Edinburgh, working with family members as elderley people are more likely to use technology if a family member uses it and introduces it. We also plan to promote our service and network at offline events, including those run by the council. And we plan to have a listing of local events to encourage meeting and engagement. We will also look at TV ads, as TV is used by older people to manage loneliness.

We think this idea also has the potential to save the NHS money, since loneliness can have such detrimental mental and physical health effects.

Our initial idea was that we would create a simple button-like device to access Open Doors but, for safety reasons, we decided a standard tablet or mobile app would be more productive. The users of our app will be both the elderly individuals and anyone who is familiar with the mainstream mobile devices.

We haven’t tested the app yet but we have interviewed elderly people, researchers, and UX experts to get their input. We also have an event coming up at the end of the month. And we have designed the prototype app, to include clear easy to use functions, chat, etc. But to make our idea a reality we would need to develop our OpenDoors app to also work offline, so that it is more flexible.

Rahma: The app is very simple, big clear icons, and you can look at family members, view our friends very easily, make a call, or view chat. And, for the keyboard we have bigger icons/keyboard so it’s easier to type. Personal profiles let you add information. But this is a prototype…. We want to make it a real app that could be sold or available for free. So, for now we will develop the app and

Q&A

Q1) I would imagine that for your audience typing could be a challenge so autocomplete could be useful. Have you thought about customising that autocomplete/autocorrect for your users? My phone has autocorrect and autocomplete options… But those are biased to the model of what they think the user will say – so Californian tech comes up high in the options list. For your target population could you create a more appropriate model?

A1 – Laura) That would be possible. We were thinking of having voice commands for those with visual impairments. We haven’t considered what you were saying exactly, but it’s a really good piece of advice.

Q1) There is a team at Cambridge who helped Steven Hawking with this.

Q2) Most of us use a whole variety of tools right now… There is quite a wide list of tools in use in our family circle. If we all had to use one tool, we probably wouldn’t do that, but if that could stitch together existing tools that might work…

A2 – Laura) That’s what we want to do, to connect up some key tools but make it easier to engage with and use, making it more simple to use.

Q3) Great presentation. I have a comment about your user base… How will you develop your user base here? You need to think about how you get those early adopters first, to build up that interest to get to first 100 or 1000 users. Relying on Facebook or Twitter to find those family members won’t work.

A3 – Laura) Our marketing strategy is, for early adopters, to engage with the city, with the Council, and find users there. For app development and testing, and hopefully then expand out from there. Perhaps starting with computing clubs etc.

Sally: We have sadly reached the end of Edinburgh Apps and all the pitches will be on YouTube, and with the Council and Challenge Setters. My next step is to connect you to the right service owners, to help with next steps etc.

I want to thank all of the teams who took part. I know how much work it takes to get to this stage. I want to thank you personally for that work. And I also want to thank everyone who came along to support, to listen, etc. And, what we have for all the teams are some goodie bags. And I’d like all of the teams to come up here for huge round of applause!

Thank you again to you all! And do keep an eye online for all the videos!

And with that (and much rustling of goodie bags) we are done… ! 

Mar 032016
 
Jisc Digifest conference pass.

Today I am in Birmingham for day two of Jisc Digifest 2016 (catch up on Day One here). I’m particularly hear wearing my Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media hat, helping to share the event with the wider sector who aren’t able to be at the ICC.

There is also an online programme so, if you aren’t here in person, you can not only follow the tweets on #digifest16 and the various blogs, you can also view special online content here.

As usual, this is a liveblog so all corrections, additions, comments, etc. are very welcome. 

At the moment my expected schedule for day one (this will be updated throughout the day) is:

9.00 – 10.00 Plenaries – the power of digital for teaching and learning

The chair for this session is Sarah Davies, head of change implementation support – education/student, Jisc.

Heather MacDonald, principal, Loughborough College

I have missed the beginning of Heather’s talk, so catching up as she addresses the issue of Area Reviews in FE… Heather is talking about the uncertainty of mergers, and of needing to be confident going forward, ready to embrace a technology led future.

Technology, however, is also a real and substantial job threat. But this intelligence is only artificial – until recently it took huge amounts of computation to recognise an image of a cat. We need to get out there and teach to create the next generation of creative and innovative future employees. We need to address the needs of this changing world through chnging pedagogies, through empowering students – perhaps to organise and teach themselves. But what would Ofsted say about that? Well, it matters, a good Ofsted report is very important for FE Colleges, but I would rather have creative and innovative teaching methods. That means we have to, as Tim Marshall said last night, bring the regulators up to speed more rapidly. We should be looking for solutions through the digital lens of technology

Professor John Traxler, professor of mobile learning, Institute of Education, University of Wolverhampton 

Prior to today some of what I will say has been pre-trailed on the blog. I was quoted as saying that “mobile learning” has stalled… But I essentially want to raise the issue of “mobile learning” and just the regular matter of learning with the tools that we have. I was making that distinction around a couple of issues… One is that the money had run out, and that money and that will had fuelled the rhetoric of what we did with innovation in the first decade of this century; the second is the developments and changes in mobile technology itself. About 15 years ago mobile was delicate, fragile, expensive, scarce, something for institutions, and to promulgate their solutions. But the money ran out. And we also focused too much on what we were building, less on who we were building it for… But meanwhile mobile has made the transition to cheap, robust, easy, universal, personal. It’s hardly notable anymore. And whatever constitutes mobile learning now is not driven from the top, but by our students. And the technology moves fast but social practices and behaviours moves even faster, and that’s the harder thing to keep up with. People share, disrupt, discuss… That happens outside the institution…Or inside the institution but on an individual basis.

This technology is part of this fluet, transient, flexible, partial world. It enables people to help each other to learn. And web access is significantly moving to mobile devices rather than desktop machines. But what does that do for the roles of educational designers, teachers, etc. What people call “phone space” is very different to cyber space. Cyber space is a permitted space, back to the world. Whereas phone space is multimodal, you are having conversations, doing other things, crossing roads, travelling… And this is a very different learning space from a student sat at a computer.

Now, looking back I’d consider “mobile learning” rather backward looking, something of the last decade. I think that we, as professional educators, need to look outwards and forwards… And think about how we deal with this issue of abundance – how do we develop the criticality in our students to manage that. And we should question why they still come to us for face to face experiences, and to think about what that mean. Hence, I’m not that bothered if mobile learning actually is dead.

Ian Dolphin, executive director of the Apereo Foundation

We are a registered not for profit in the US, we have been described as an Apache Foundation for Education – that’s not quite right but gives an idea of what we do. We provide software including SAKAI, Xerte, and OpenCast (capturing and managing media at significant scale). But enough about us…

Next generation digital learning environment… Lots to say there but I will be focusing on a conversation that has opened up in the United States, and the relationship of that conversation to developing the discussion around Learning Analytics.

That conversation was started by Educause, which looked at the VLE – the benefits but also the drawbacks of being inflexible, of being very course or teacher-centred. And that work highlighted what a new VLE might want to look like – flexibility for different types of courses, that it should support collaboration across and between institutions, that it should support analytics for advising, and that this new environment should be a much more personal environment than what has gone before.

The analogy here perhaps is of Groundhog day. These are issues we have heard before over the last 10 years. But why do I think the environment is different now? Well, we are are more mature in our technology. We have gotten smarter and better at lightly working tools in and out of different environments. We are pragmatic about bringing functionality in pragmatically. And, lastly, we are starting to learn and develop a practical use of big data and learning analytics as a potential tool for personalisation.

I just want to pause to talk about academic analytics – about institutional trends, problems, etc. versus learner analytics – which are specific and personal, about interventions, retention etc. And we are already seeing some significant evidence about the effectiveness of learning analytics (see recent Bricks and Clicks report), with examples from the UK and US here. If one looks at the ends of the continuum here we are starting from prediction for retention intervention, but moving towards predictions for personalised learning.

There are several approaches to learning analytics at the moment. One is to buy in a system. We are taking a very different approach, developing a platform that uses various flexible components. That helps ensure data can move between systems, and that’s an issue Jisc has been raising – a national and international issue. And I think yesterday’s opening session was absolutely right about the importance of focusing on people, on humans. And if you look at the work Jisc has done, on ethical issues and informed consent, that is having an impact nationally and internationally.

We work with the society of analytics research. And there is a Solar analytics maturity framework. We have partnered with Solar and Jisc on our work and, to finish, I’d like to make a shameless plug for our Solar colleagues for LAK’16 which takes place in Edinburgh this summer.

Chrissi Nerantzi, principal lecturer in academic CPD, Manchester Metropolitan University

I asked all of you, and those online, to help me to design the cover for “Wandering While Wondering” and I want to thank you all for that. We are doing a speed chat on Twitter and I’d invite you to participate there.

My background is in languages, and in being a translator. But mostly in the world of books… I felt privileged when authors of books I was translating were alive, and available to talk to – but usually asking for help wasn’t possible. Reference books are still important for me… But the world of web 2.0 has changed how we can ask for help, the resources we have to hand. And I stopped working in translation when the world of digital became much more exciting. I’m now a learning developer working with colleagues to do exciting things with technology.

I’ve been asked about my work on playful learning… technology shouldn’t be driving but we should be able to play with new things – like Google Cardboard – and discover how to use these things in teaching! But not everyone feels playful… And sometimes people’s wings are cut by the culture, by experience… Sometimes we have to remember that we are physical beings, with room to play and discover (Chrissi is throwing balloons around the room and walking the auditorium at this point).

We are very lucky in my university to have real support for creativity… We have a creative module, where teachers and learners work and learn together, locally and globally on projects. We can be tempted to put our learners and academics in boxes, but we have to get out of our silos, put our egos aside, and work for the common good. We all want to do it but often the fear is there, colleagues play it safe because they don’t know what is going to happen (by genuine coincidence one of the circulating balloons pops at this point!). Being silly, being playful, gives us that freedom to get out of our boxes, to engage, to empower, to educate.

Sarah: How do you give staff the space and encouragement and permission to play, in such a time-pressured environment.

Chrissi: We need to make that space by getting rid of stuff, to encourage experimentation. We stuff the curriculum with stuff… But that space to play is essential, we need space to play, to experiment, to think of new ideas…

Heather: I fully agree with that. You need to understand what happens in your organisation, and highlighting and encouraging good practice. Build models of DNA, rather than studying them. Go outside, rather than doing everything in the lab…

Chrissi: That is really important, that need to use the space creatively. We have outside spaces we can use… Even a change of scenery can refresh our minds. We have to have that openness.

Ian: I tihnk this is also true in digital space. One of the problems for staff in digital spaces is that you need to make business cases to the IT department, get approval, and then you can do something… I think moving to something like the App Store for educational technologies, where you can experiment more.

John: I’m nervous that for students being on campus endorses their identity as students – being a distance learner or part time learner is a very different identity – and play might not do that for them. Students can have more serious conceptions of learning. But I’m also nervous of play as prescriptive practice – our students come from a huge range of cultural backgrounds and in some of those contexts play is seen as frivolous, we have to be aware of that and not go in too fast and miss the opportunity to engage.

Q&A

Q1 from David on Twitter) You haven’t talked much about the purpose of education, can you say a bit more about this.

A1 – John) If we are merely serving the economy in our work with students, we have to be aware of that, what that means etc. And that’s a concern about VLE – they won’t use those spaces as soon as they graduate. And that’s also part of criticality – our students have to have the skills to adapt and develop, to manage their

A1 – Sarah) They say that we can expect to have

Q2 from John Kirrimuir on Twitter) When the evidence for a technology is scant, how do we manage the risk of playing with it.

A2 – Heather) Use your nouse, but it is about risk taking.

A2 – John) We had a lot of small or limited experiments without evidence bases… But you do create that in those experiments…

A2 – Sarah) And it’s weighing up what you want to do in your teaching and learning.

Q3) I work in academic development around criticality and digital literacy skills, and this is very much about teaching students how to learn. That goes ok. But how about dealing with CAVEs: Colleagues Averse to Virtually Everything… those who don’t want to learn.

A3 – Chrissi) I think we need to immerse colleagues into these possibilities, being part of that community, not just modelling practice. If it’s something we look at rather than trying and engaging, then it doesn’t work. It’s hard to do but  if we work together we can change everything. There are habits, including bad habits, but it takes time and can happen.

A3 – Heather) It’s also about providing a safe environment to experiment and take risks. A number of institutions have created “learning laboratories” to trial ideas, to film or share those… A safe space which can work well. There is also quite a bit of student pressure, in FE at least, as they are getting something different down the hall.

A3 – Ian) I think that criticality and willingness to fail is absolutely essential for creativity, for many forms of learning… That has to permeate the institution.

A3 – John) I’m nervous that we are too introspective, deciding what learning is or is not… that we should not define this.

Comment, Sarah) In that context where learners have so many tools and opportunities in their own hands, what is the role of the university?

A4 – John) Well we can give them a degree, a crude generalisation but still true.

And, with that slightly controversial comment, we are done for this session. 

New directions in open research

Chairing this session is Neil Jacobs, head of scholarly communications support, Jisc.

Neil: We have a very distinguished panel for this session on new directions for open research: Tom Crick, Ross Mounce, and Cameron Neylon. We’ll have all three talks and then opportunity for discussion and questions.

Cameron Neylon, professor of research communications, Curtin University, Australia

I’ve been involved in open research practices for a long time now but I think things have really started to change. Open data was fringe, maybe 5 years ago, now mainstream. Open research is increasingly of interest. And we are starting to think more about open source software, to deeper engagement. We started with people outside the standard practice, and it has now moved into the mainstream of what the institutions we work within do. Institutions are academic institutions, but also funders, also institutions in terms of the way that we communication what we do.

We have seen a move towards institutionalising these practices, primarily towards Open Access. And I’m sure many of you have faced your institutions trying to institutionalise those processes of open access… And as we do that it’s important to think about what we want these institutions to be in the future, what that should look like. We’ve been retrofitting this stuff into institutions, what they do, mechanisms for recognition and reward. What does it mean to institutionalise these things? What happens when we haven’t thought about the unexpected consequences of this. And I’m as guilty of this as anyone… Maybe those mandates haven’t played out how we’d expect in how researchers do their work.

I have moved from being at a publisher and back to being a researcher. And I’m now a researcher in a cultural studies department rather than my original research area in the sciences. And seeing the world through that cultural lens changes things. I can see the ways in which we see things as “cultural challenges” in particular disciplinary communities… In doing this… Well we say it’s cultural… Maybe it’s digital… But  I think we’ve also used that as an excuse not to probe too deeply what’s going on. To ask about the culture of the research administrators in our community… These staff are familiar with traditional platforms, and publishers, and mechanisms… As we institutionalise open access practices, what does that mean about the cultures are, and how they can change. How do we move beyond “this is a cultural clash” to asking the question of how different cultures are in play, and how they might (and might not) change.

Ross Mounce, postdoctoral research associate, University of Cambridge

I’m going to talk about some of the tools and facilities already available for open practice. And I’ve been part of setting up the Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) Journal (riojournal.com), so I’m going to show you a promotional video for this. (The video is highlighting that the platform publishes research proposals, but also supports openness throughout the process of research. Whilst this plays I’m also going to note that I’m delighted to see that Ross is sporting a Software Sustainability Institute T-shirt today. Find out more about SSI’s brilliant work on openness and open software here, and through the JORS journal).

So, 90% of research proposals are never funded. And even those that are funded you see only a small part of that – maybe an abstract. As a researcher that makes it hard to see what is going on, to avoid repetition, and to collaborate. So RIO has been set up to share research proposals, as well as data, traditional papers etc. We aren’t the only ones – there is also F1000 Research and ThinkLab. And to find out more I’d recommend Mietchen 2014 (The Transformative Nature of Transparency in Research Funding).

Tom Crick, professor of computer science and public policy, Cardiff Metropolitan University

That was a really good framing from Cameron and Ross on the larger institutional stuff. We know that there are bigger funding and sustainability issues. But I wanted to come at this from a more personal perspective… As an academic and researcher I’ve always cared about openness and cross-fertilisation, at a personal level but also on a bigger governance and policy level. Openness promotes excellent research and science. How do we make sure that we know… There are clear economic levers, and broader economic and societal levers… So how do we ensure this approach is both top down and bottom up, and that that all works.

My job combines this odd combination of computer science and public policy, working with Welsh Government, with NESTA on data-driven policy making, particularly in Wales… Looking at how governments can do much more bespoke and evidence based policy making. Wales are keen to be a more agile economy, but how to do that. We have looked at available data sets – real time effective data for public policy making – and that is very hard. There’s a lot of “Open” out there, but having skills, tools, infrastructure and ability to use this effectively is harder. There is a UK Government push to openness, there is a big Welsh Government push to openness… And this work was only possible because there is so much open data out there… That’s a great way to look, to find structures and infrastructures that have impacts on us as academics but how do we really promote interdisciplinary practice, to have that funded without having to shape specific angles for funding from specific research councils.

We need to think about funding, reward, recognition, and governance structures that really can promote open research. Ross is actually wearing a t-shirt for the SSI, who I was going to mention, and they are supporting the research base, the openness of software. How can we embed a culture of openness throughout academia? I look forward to your questions and comments?

Q&A

Q1 – Amber Thomas, Warwick) I have questions about drivers for openness. In sciences you talked about reproducability, in social sciences it’s about data literacy perhaps, in Humanities it’s much more about collaboration… How do you see this playing out?

A1 – Cameron) I think that thing of cultures, and of social as well as disciplinary and community drivers. I think we need to think about the stories that researchers are telling themselves. As someone new to humanities research I find discourse analysis really powerful, getting those things to align will get us towards progress.

A1 – Tom) A month ago I was chairing a panel at a Jisc/AHRC Digging Into Data workshop, that’s a clear interdisciplinary initiative. We had a data scientist, a poet, and a German Central Banker, all talking about projects funding under the DiD call… But there were some issues of common language or understanding but there was a commonality of what they wanted to find out. When you find cross cutting things – and data can be a great focus for that – you can find alignments of culture, a common aim to solve common real world problems. Maybe one of the things we can pitch openness as is for the greater good, but that doesn’t always work… But open can mean new possibilities and opportunities and solution.

A1 – Cameron) It can be tempted to talk about the objects, but actually we need to talk about who we want to talk to, why, what the research is… less about data etc.

A1 – Ross) Disciplinary boundaries really don’t matter that much, they are quite artificial. Some of the most creative and brilliant academics I know are totally interdisciplinary. I’m an SSI fellows, I can talk to other fellows who are historians, or are in totally different areas, but we find common interests and concerns.

A1 -Tom) Universities try to pump prime this stuff with early career researchers, but there has to be more fostering of that across the board, at other levels.

Q2 – Adrian Stevenson, Jisc) You gave examples of research, but I wonder if you have good examples of research being done in different ways because of the open agenda.

A2 – Ross) Yeah, there’s Timothy Gowers Polymath project, who put out his questions, did the work with the community, and entirely bipassed traditional examples.

A2 – Cameron) A classic example was the e-coli outbreak where raw data was released to GitHub, and all started working collectively on that. Similar has happened for Ebola and Zika. But those have been “turning on the open thing” as needed. But the real examples are often from open source software which have been built that way to avoid a lack of funding for anyone else to do it. If you take that radically open approach you can find you are outside the traditional reward and recognition structures. I know people in this room have been frustrated by people publishing on things which have already been shared/blogged before but not noted in the same way for being in that format. So that is a challenge.

A2 – Tom) As Cameron said, we can get too focused on data/DOI etc. when actually you need that big challenge, that big goal, that research that you are working towards. It’s not just to tick a box on a form. Whether that scales up and down, looking at standard research models that’s more challenging, but if you can start to tackle this super-nationally and nationally that gets things moving… Need that shift before we see things as out there, as radical.

A2 – Cameron) I am part of a project called the Open Collaborative Science in Development project, where we do research, we go to communities to find the needs. But when we say “open” we have to think about “to whom” and “to do what”. And that matters as openness can hit local political agendas at odds with the research agenda – for instance over water quality. But there are increasing numbers of examples, in different ways.

Q3 – Daniela, Jisc) Cameron, you were talking about institutionalising practices, and I was wondering if you could say more about your vision for what this is, and the better practices that could be institutionalised.

A3 – Cameron) Let me start with something that hasn’t worked as well as it should have, the RCUK open data requirements. The mandate there was ahead of where the institutional support and resources were in place. We can’t always build platforms to respond to change rapidly enough. Framing things as compliance issues created a compliance culture, and that doesn’t engage researchers to actually engage and change things. So, what could we do or should we do? We have to build institutions better. Our institutions were build for mid century needs and they need to change in terms of governance and structures. I think we have to look very closely at the way that institutions administratively engage with researchers. We need more research to actually understand what is happening there. I see a culture of researchers, administrators, and funders that are seemingly at odds, even though they don’t want to be… We have to dig into that before we can improve structures. But that’s a hard problem. Within the frameworks we have, what can we do to ensure researchers and administrators both meet each others needs, and can understand those needs. Administrators have to engage in compliance, standards etc. Researchers have a different set of concerns. How can we align, and do that at scale, to find how we can collaboratively work to solve these problems… Rather than fight based on misunderstandings and misconceptions. More collaborative practice would be really powerful, and that really changes the way that senior university administrators see their role – away from CEO type roles towards Community Leaders.

A3 – Tom) I can give an institutional profile. I am half time academic, and half time working on our university’s commercialisation and enterprise work. I have access to some of the levers. A lot of this working is about promoting the benefits of collaborative research, research tools… Understanding that collaborative models lead to funding, that there are easy workflows and infrastructures – I write all of my papers on GitHub with other people… Once you make it easy to do this, you can promote that and cascade it down as well. We care about compliance, but also try to be proactive in changing research culture across the institution and disciplines.

A3 – Ross) Collaboration is easier when you share research easier – the proposal, RDM plan, the data… Right now research proposals are really quite closed, and researchers want to keep it that way for competitive reasons. But actually sharing early helps with compliance.

A3 – Cameron) Compliance is a useful lever… But researchers tick the boxes and then forget about them… In the case of DMPs, how do we make those collaborative between the researcher, funder, and institution, so that they are part of the record of what is expected, what happens, part of the manifest of data at the end of the project. So, this stuff depends on local context but also DMPs can be dead ends now, we need to make them a real living breathing part of the conversation.

A3 – Ross) DMPs aren’t open, and that’s the issue… I am a data parasite, I use other people’s data… I’m a bioinformaticist. And if I see that data is being generated, and will be released… I will look for that data, I’m contributing to that compliance data and I’ll report that if the data isn’t available. We really have to open up DMPs.

Q4 – Rob Johnson, Research Consulting) Tom, I was really interested in your enterprise director role… And in my own work I speak to different communities but opening up data and research opens up lots of enterprise  opportunities.

A4 – Tom) Actually I’m deputy enterprise director. Now enterprise can look like consultancy – which many academics don’t feel interested in that – or in commercialisation which can seem far from their research and teaching. But it’s about not being bogged down in terminology, but understanding the challenge you want to solve, the people you want to talk to… But not badging that in ways that may put people off. It’s hard though. I got involved through research data management… That’s tricky but means you can kick interesting projects together.

Q5 – Paul Stokes, Jisc) We’ve heard a lot about enterprise, economics… But ultimately someone has to pay for all this. Do you have examples of direct economic benefits of open work that helps make the business case.

A5 – Cameron) I can give small scale examples. I left PLoS a year ago and have become a consultant half time, that’s very

Public Genome Project – massive economic activity from that. But we keep missing the big things… GeneBank, PubMed etc. as they are so big and important, forgetting that they had to be fought for. And it can be hard to look at smaller stuff, and to account for that impact. But I also want to push back a bit about the economic impact for each part of the research, perhaps we should make the case that some infrastructure is not about a clear financial return – greater participation in democracy has an economic impact but not a clear financial one. So we should think beyond the financial ROI. But, that said, there are big examples, there are big platforms, there are great REF Case studies… But we have to be wary of focusing on financial ROI.

A5 – Tom) Thinking about open data in government, and in Wales we have projects around innovation in public services. If thinking of open data as financial ROI for private sector, that’s tricky and requires finesse. But there is public infrastructure that others can build upon… It’s a non zero cost but it doesn’t have to revenue generating, or producing financial ROI.

Q6 – Dashia, Cambridge) I am a PhD student and there seems to be a trend for publishing papers into social media – what does that mean for openness… Rather than repositories. People want research visible, not as clear if open.

A6 – Ross) ResearchGate and Academia.edu are not open and not the same as a repository… Many researchers don’t understand that difference between free and open. And they are indicative of a failure from institutions to present repositories in easy to use, beautiful looking ways…

A6 – Cameron) It’s symptomatic of failures of institutions and join up in institutions. There is a kind of Napster for research at the moment which is similarly emerging from disruption from an unmet demand. There are opportunities around that demand, and that could be met by the community at low cost… But we often miss that opportunity and that’s where those commercial platforms set up. The outreach director at Mendeley says “Academia is unwilling to invest in anything until it’s so important they can’t afford it”! And that usability etc. is part of that. What do we need to do to invest properly, particularly to move away from direct immediate financial ROI as the requirement.

A6 – Tom) Social media is another way to facilitate and enable openness in a general sense. For my discipline we have preprints in ArXiv. It seems crazy to write a paper collaboratively and openly and not put it there. But I use Twitter, I blog as an academic – good practice myself – but five years ago that was generally seen as a waste of time. Now we’ve seen a step change of the perception of the researcher. Social media is being promoted in institutions through courses etc. But those tools connect you to networks, to those beyond your discipline, and it makes your work visible.

Introducing the UK research data discovery service

Christopher Brown, senior co-design manager, Jisc

The context for data discovery here is that there is CKAN, but also an Australian national data discovery service. So, in this project we looked at what else was out there, and we selected CKAN as the solution. The aim was for a UK data discovery service to meet Jisc customer requirements. And this is a project of Jisc, the Digital Curation Centre and the UK Data Archive and their UK data centres.

We have 9 HEIs (including University of Edinburgh) and six data centres engaged in this project. And we have a governance structure and a researcher group advising us to ensure our solution meets researcher needs. Why do this? Well to make data more visible and transparent, to promote the HEI or Data Centre research, to encourage re-use and sharing of data, to validate research, but also to support various mandates on the sharing of data. And this sharing creates the potentiall for greater cross-disciplinary and cross-institution collaboration.

So, we gathered user stories through workshops, for instance around the researcher, the project manager, the machine (as user of M2M services), the data repository, the system manager, the funder. So, this accommodates a range of use cases, for instance discovering data or a lack of data as a researcher, to inform the shape of future research.

In order to make this happen we are aggregating metadata around a core schema that maps individual data repositories to the UK National Repository Discovery Service. We engaged with participants in workshops and online meetings, gathered those stories, selected CKAN software (used for CKAN and ANDS) and created a statement of requirements. And we now have a publicly abailable alpha site: http://ckan.data.alpha.jisc.ac.uk/.

There are a number of issues, including the quality of data, the completeness of the service – as you want a service like this to be as complete as possible. There are issues around open access, licensing, copyright. There are copyright issues around some metadata too. Access to external data may require a log in. And we need to ensure functionality meets requirements.

So, we have an alpha site, and we are using a rapid development cycle towards a Beta. To ensure we don’t leave system testing until the end, and to ensure our system meets user requirements. It’s all open and acceptable. There is an open metadata schema document (http://bit.ly/1QZVMCo) and you can also see the scope of the datasets in a shared document.

The timeline here is that we will be working on the business case and Beta site in Spring, before possibly going into production.

And now, for the demo. And, as I say, this is clearly an alpha site.

Chris: I’m Chris, developer for this project. We decided to use CKAN… The landing page presents a search of datasets, you can also explore by organisation – which shows all of those involved, including universities, research centres, data centres. You can search the data sets by keywords, and filter those by various things – institution, license, tag or format. When we look at a particular example we can see a description, the associated resources, the tags for that data, and then you have the additional information here. In a future version we’ll add four more metadata fields as well.

If we take an example document, you can either preview or download the data. The preview uses a plugin to let you take a quick look at the data, as well as a description of the data. And then, if you want to download the data you can download the file(s).

Christopher B: We don’t store the data, we just aggregate the metadata, the download link will take you to the data in the host data repository – whether at an HEI or data centre.

Chris: Some of the data we have has geospatial coordinates and you can use a map to select a region to explore/filter the search results to a particular area.

On the site, in addition to the pages shown, we also have About and FAQ sections.

Christopher B: That FAQ section is being populated as we go, with questions about the data, the metadata, etc.

Q&A

Q1) How are licenses handled?

A1 – Chris) We are looking to have a standardised list to filter by.

A1 – Christopher B) We are working with existing data and that creates challenges – as there are different versions of the same licenses, and different licenses all in place. So we are trying to encourage standardisation.

Q2) Is the widget that previews files limited to specific files?

A2 – Chris) Yes, limited to PDF, excel and CSV files right now. There are other plugins that could be brought in for other formats potentially. I’m working on a visual search, using thumbnails – the VADS data set will support that. When we preview that there will be images.

A2 – Christopher B) Again, that’s about available metadata – VADS has that, but not all services do. Have to balance what we can do for some data with what can be done across all data sets.

Q3) Could you explain what needs to happen technically for an organisation to take part in this?

A3 – Christopher B) Mostly OAI-PMH.

A3 – Chris) Mainly harvested by CSW – Catalogue Service for the Web. Also supports OAI-PMH – a common standard for harvesting metadata, that supports a range of common metadata schemas including Dublin Core. And we set up periodic parses of data. Large data sets are checked every week, smaller data sets are updated every day. The metadata shown is what we can work with from organisations involved, and working with organisations to standardise.

A3 – Christopher B) There will be requirements for organisations of what is needed to supply data – like the European Data portal – but that guidance isn’t there yet. Coming soon though. There will also be the ability to search for any metadata field from the advanced search feature – coming soon.

Q4) Is it intended to be entirely open access to search?

A4 – Christopher B) Interesting question. Lots of additional functionality that could be solved by institutional login. But yes, right now, it’s open to use and search. But for the data download you will need to login.

Chris: I should say that there are different levels of production of metadata, depending on the institution. Is there anything else that people would like to see. That complex search functionality for instance?

This is available online already so do use it, test it, and give us feedback. And understand that it is in alpha. But it’s all open – CKAN is in GitHub, our schema is open, and as it develops we’ll be publicising the service more.

Q5) Do you have any way to check that the data archives being harvested are actually live an online?

A5 – Chris) That’s a great question. I do check the output from the harvest and any issues are automatically emailed to the admins at the appropriate organisation.

A5 – Christopher B) We are also producing reports, for instance of duplicate titles. And again the reports are being emailed back to the appropriate organisation responsible for that metadata. Also, one last thing… People have asked if you can save search results and you can do that through the URLs for those search results.

A5 – Chris) The reports are in development at the moment. I can show you a preview of these… These include duplicate titles – no good having the same data titles several times – so this flags all data of the same name, and can work with institution to resolve that. And other reports include view reports for the service.

Q6) Is there anything that indicates that data is open access before I download it?

A6 – Christopher B) Yes, you can filter by that, like you would on Flickr. But that will be in a later version as we need that data from the various contributing organisations.

Do keep an eye on the project as it develops and thank you all for coming!

13.30 – 14.30 Plenaries: the power of data

What can data mining the web tell us about our research?

This session is chaired by Dr Paul Feldman, chief executive, Jisc.

Euan Adie, CEO, Altmetric 

I’m going to be talking about the power of data, specifically data that can support the research process. I work for a company called Altmetrics (which around half the room indicates they’ve head of).

Data can help us capture several aspects of research:

  • Quality – is this good research? Is it well researched? Is it reproducable?
  • Engagement – is this research reaching it’s audience, the people it should reach.
  • Impact – what do the audience do with that research once they encounter it.

These three things are different… They are related but not all one thing. You can have a great piece of work that gets no attention, that’s valid, that happens. And you can have a terrible piece of work that gets lots of attention – happens particularly in mainstream media coverage of science.

Today, I won’t talk about quality but will instead focus on engagement and impact. What I will say is that quality is often best assessed by someone who knows.

Impact is hard to define… It’s a bit like obscenity… You know it when you see it! And impact has different meanings for different people. For researchers it can be about reaching peers, for funders it is often about reaching out more widely thoug. As a very broad definition, impact is about showing that your work makes some kind of difference. And that matters in the REF because people want to know what has happened as a result in funding and investing in research. We have a responsibility in the academic and research community to show how our work has impact.

So, how do we know if our work has impact? Well it has impact if it is cited in Science or Nature of PNAS. But citations are just one measure of impact, that doesn’t account for wider practical applications of our work. So if I publish in Nature, I’ll get picked up by all kinds of citation tools. But what if my research is published in a document like the World Health Organisation Guidelines for the treatment of Malaria? It’s research based work, developed by a panel of experts. Why should you get credit for a journal article, but not a policy document?

Maybe you publish in humanities or social scientists… What if your work becomes a book like “Thinking, fast and slow” or “Freakonomics”? If my work is cited, is a chapter etc. why does that not count? What about patents? Shouldn’t I get credit for that impact? So, all of this data can be collected, as can Social Media and discussion of work there… There are traces that act as an indicator that can be presented to individuals for them to make a decision on what matters.

Now, I left social media until last because people often think of Altmetrics as being about tweeting and blogging and so on. It’s a very high volume source, but not always the most important for impact (more so for engagement perhaps). But there is value there too – tweets about a research paper by Greenpeace and Barak Obama shows real impact for that publication.

The data is online, there’s a lot of it to draw upon. But it’s not always immediately useful. The right tools, plus human context, moves us towards something useful and important. And so, we come back to altmetrics and the altmetrics manifesto… This document was written in 2010 by several people, including Jason Preen, Cameron Neylon, and was about these tracks and traces, it talks about recommendations and discovery and understanding that too. And various people are looking at this… Altmetric (that’s me), Impact Story, PLOS, and Plum Analytics.

The Altmetric journal is now on about 6000 journals and will let you explore the usage of the academic work… That brings together newspapers, magazines, tweets, blogs, etc. For example, we can look at the Gravitational Waves article that came out recently.

Now, I should talk about numbers. The score isn’t so important, it is the pooling of the data which you can then look at and explore in more detail. Only you know what impact you are really looking for.

Another solid example was on UAVs and drones, and in Altmetrics they found that their work was being cited in a government document. That’s impact and engagement and useful to know about.

Now, I’ve said this is all good but you have to be cautious about quality. Knowing the Altmetrics is just a starting point… The data needs critical engagement. And these measures are complimentary to the traditional measures – if peer review is the bread and butter, Altmetrics is the jam. And Alt suggests alternative… but it’s complementary. Metrics suggests quantitative as the focus but that’s not right either.

And when we talk about Altmetrics we need to be cautious of not making the same mistakes others have made before… With Bibliometrics we can all things of examples where they have been used poorly, but also good usage too. The Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics was a Comment piece in Nature that I recommend reading and engaging with, it talks about what you should (and should not) focus on.

You’ve heard me talking, but the best way to understand this stuff is to try it for yourself – look up your work or that of your researchers. Look at http://altmetric.it/. And if you are a librarian you can access a bigger tool, free for libraries, http://www.altmetrics.com/.

The fourth paradigm: Data-intensive Scientific Discovery and Open Science – Tony Hey, chief data scientist, Science and Technology Facilities Council

Nice to be back at a Jisc event, 10 years ago I used to chair a Jisc Committee on research. Jisc have done some great work in supporting research – this conference is more on teaching and learning but they still play an important role in research.

Research is increasingly moving towards data intensive research, and in fact about 10 years back the UK had the eScience initiative which put us ahead for being part of this. Much of science is now Data-Intensive. The Higgs Boson researchers, your Bio Informatics folks are intense data users, with petabytes of data. But we have a long tail of science and many use off the shelf tools with discreet data sets. But in those data intensive space we see not only scale but variety, combining of data from different sources and specialists. We also have data from sensors. And we have volume but also velocity of data accumulating.

Probably one of the easiest ways to start is to talk about the Sloane Digital Sky Survey, which kicked off in 1992 and “finished” in 2008. That project took surveys of more than 1/4 of the night sky, producing 200 GB of data per night. It was two surveys in one – images and spectra. There were nearly 2m astronomical objects captured. But astronomers haven’t the time to look at all of that…. And that data had “absolutely no commercial value” so the data was published openly on the web and was published before the research was really done.

This project led Jim Grey from that project to consider an idea like eScience (but not). And I’d talk about this as the Fourth Paradigm. We started in science with Experimental Science, describing natural phenomena; then we had Theoretical Science – Newton’s Law, Maxwell’s Law etc; Computational Sciene emerged in the last few decades accommodating simulation of complex phenomena. Now we have Data-Intensive Science. That started at the beginning of the 2000s and is about scientists dealing with data from instruments, networks, sensors…

So, for instance… Genomics and personalised medicine. You can use genetic markers (e.g. SNPs) to understand causes of disease. My old team at Microsoft Research looked at SNPs working on Wellcome Trust data for second complex diseases… And analysis with state of the art machine learning enabled some valuable insights into causes and patterns of disease.

Another example… I live in Seattle, which is on the edge of an earthquake zone. There is an electro-optical cable on the sea bed which captures data from a network of sensors etc. The issue is no longer too little data, but so many sources that it is hard to know what to analyse and explore in more detail. And researchers like John Delaney do work on oceans, volcanos, and the ecosystem that exist around that. That data is transforming ocean sciences.

Latestly, and this is where I work, we have CEDA: the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis, which pools data from different sources. And there we have the JASMIN infrastructure, which puts petabyte data storage next to petabyte flop processing.

If you want to know more, this book, The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery, is (as far as I know) the only book by Microsoft published under a Creative Commons license.

So, that’s data intensive science. But we are moving to a more open world too…

My colleague Jim Grey works with the National Institute of Health in the US. They mandated that you should deposit the data from your research in the US National Library of Medicine. When that was a recommendation they had about 25% of data, when it became law it went up to nearer 60-70%. Now they withold the next grant on condition of data deposit and that is driving deposit more and more each month. So data is increasingly being openly shared.

Now there are problems… Amgen identified 53 landmark publications in bioinformatics and tried to reproduce them. Only 7 could be replicated with similar findings, the rest could not. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just that it can’t be reproduced. So that’s kind of an existential crisis.

Now, in February 2013 there was a US White House Memo on increased public access to the results of federally-funded research. This was a directive requiring that federally funded research had to be publicly available, and that the data also has to be publicly available.

Meanwhile the EPSRC has high expectations for Data Preservation. There the requirement is that research data is securely preserved for at least 10 years after it has been shared. Also the Digital Curation Centre, established 2004, was set up to give guidance and advice, and they are key to some of Jisc’s work in research data management, and will remain important.

There is also an issue with the maintenance of data links. We need sustainable links which endure. Research from early 2000s, according to a specific piece of research, was in 44% of cases already unreachable due to broken links. And we see tools like ORCID helping you find specific work, identified consistently and clearly.

Last year I presented at IDCC and Jim Frew, who was presenting there, talked about progress in data curation in the last 10 years. He said the biggest change is funding agency mandate, there are better curated databases and metadata now – but not sure that the quality fraction is increasing. Frews laws of metadata: First law: scientists don’t write metadta; Second Law: scientsts can be forced to write bad metadata! I would say that physicists are a bit ahead of the game here… But still much to do.

So, I hear a lot about libraries. I personally think they should be central to the university. But as Dean of engineering my students hardly went there (other than to study and have coffee), so what is the function of the library? I’m going to talk about their role a bit… I think they need to be central to provision to teaching and research as much as possible. In research I believe the library should be ensuring they keep a copy of the research output (another Jisc example, OpenDOAR).

So, what are we lacking? Is it true that the UK is world leading? Having spent 10 years in the US… Well when I went to Caltech for my PhD, they barely knew about the US, let alone Oxford where I had previously been. So we have to be cautious of statements of world leading.

So, in the US the NSF Task Force on “Campus Bridging” (2011) have been establishing a vision to ensure there is speed in the network as if the data and the processing were next door to each other. This is Science DMZ architecture is a network design pattern, improving the baseline end-to-end performance through ongoing global adoption. That connects universities across the States, but I haven’t seen that done here. There has been an attempt to implement Science DMZ approach, but there is a need for universities to support that too.

Also in the US there is a Pacific Research Platform which is developing infrastructure to achieve data transfer speeds comparable to being located in the same place.

So, moving into the final part of my talk… What is a data scientist? Well there are at least three skills that make up at that role (not that all data scientists have to have all of these) but we need scientist career paths, for data scientists not just PhDs and PostDocs… The final vision, like the National Library of Medicine and PubMed Central (the version adopted in the UK), is that of Jim Gray who has the vision for All Scientific Data Online, that allows reuse of data, and use across disciplines and increase scientific velocity. I see Jisc doing good work there, but I am concerned about that end to end aspect.

Paul Feldman

Over the last two days we have been looking at the power of digital. I have been in awe of the innovation and passion I’ve seen over the last two days. Digital is disruptive, but education hasn’t seen that disruption in quite the same way. Only 15% of businesses turn to UK universities for support and training in digital skills. There are huge opportunities – are you ready? It’s imperative to understand the opportunities for digital transformation across the organisation in all aspects of the organisation in teaching, learning, research but also operational aspects. With the right leadership we can be great, perhaps the best in the world. Now either we can grab that opportunity or it will be lost. So, how do we win it:

  1. Digital Learning
  2. Data
  3. Digital Content

World class research can’t flourish without the Janet Network – we believe it’s already world class but also investment to get to that full vision (as is the case in the US). We are investing in higher bandwidth, in reimagining the network. But there are opportunities to make the best of data, skills, and to ensure use and reuse across disciplines and boundaries.

Digital Learning is transforming everything we do… Have you heard of Colin Hegarty, a maths teacher at Preston Manor school in London. He is in the running for a million dollar prize for his YouTube videos teaching maths to secondary school kids. The sector needs to develop this kind of process so it is not limited to pockets of best practice.

Our learning spaces have to be fit for purpose… Learning spaces must blur boundaries between learning, working, and leisure. Connectivity and wifi is keen – that’s especially a challenge in the workplace. So, can we make Eduroam ubiquitous outside academia, so it’s there in coffee shops, in apprentice employers.

We are at risk in not investing enough in learning and skills. We are paying special attention to FE, for FELTAG, but also have to focus on HE and Research. But back to Apprenticeships. Digital Learning is key to delivering the ambitious apprenticeships the government wants to establish by 2020. Apprentices can feel quite lonely on placement, so we’ve been working to develop a social network for apprentices to help them feel supported and connected.

Turning to data we need to engage with learning analytics – the UK can’t afford to overlook this. We are setting up – a world first – a UK National Learning Analytics service and framework for HE and FE. Wouldn’t it be great if all organisations in HE and FE took part in this, so that we can understand pathways and their role especially for widening participation.

Finally securing access to the best Digital Content is key. You will have heard from my colleagues this week on negotiations around journals, and working with SCONUL on the UK National Digital Library. We are on a real cusp of something here… The future of Digital is in your hands. Digital changes lives. Technology enables students like Alex (featured in a video yesterday) find it life changing for what it enables him to do and participate in. We have huge opportunity and we have to make use of it.

And with that we finish with another view of the new Jisc video, More Power to You. 

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Responsible metrics for research

Chairing this session is Catherine Grout, head of change – research, Jisc.

Catherine: My role is to deliver innovative and smooth services for research data. Before our speakers I’m just going to give you a brief overview of the importance of metrics. Using metrics in an appropriate and responsible way, underpins the research process, grant applications, resource allocation, research assessment, research impact etc.

Advances in technology enable us to use other types of data – sometimes under the heading of altmetrics. But there are potential pitfalls. The HEFCE Metric tide report: http://bit.ly/hefce_metrictide/ was really important in setting out a future where traditional peer review could sit alongside new metrics. It made recommendations about how metrics which might be deployed more effectively. But there are many challenges and pitfalls along the way…

Stephen Curry, professor of structural biology, Imperial College

I was part of the steering group for that HEFCE Metric tide report, which I’d encourage you all to read if you haven’t already. That report certainly reinforces that metrics are here to stay. Quantitative measures are part of all we do, including research.

We did, in working on the report, questioned even using the word metrics. Metric suggests you know what you are measuring. I personally prefer indicator. But “metric” was the brief given to us by the minister.

If we do need to use metrics they must not stand alone. Metrics are informative but must sit alongside peer review. And institutions need to be transparent about use. That means being transparent and properly engaging staff in metrics. They must clearly state principles for assessment. They must not delegate measures of excellence to league tables or journals. And metrics must be put in place with staff. Data should be transparant – one of the biggest isues of league tables etc. And it must build on DORA and the Leiden Manifesto, about the principles for the responsible use of research metrics.

So, this was a great document that I was proud to be part of this. But words are just words. And we have a deep cultural issue with metrics. Despite the REF not intending to force researchers towards high impact journals, our researchers certainly feel that pressure. There are difficulties to be resolved. And the best way to do this is to clobber people with the evidence to make your case. The impact factor number is something simple to mask something complex. Data on Nature Materials citation performance shows how variable impact really is. 50% of citations came from a very small number of journals – it’s a long tail… And that happens across journals. ALL journals publish papers with high citation counts, ALL journals publish papers with low citation counts. Citation distribution data should be shared for all publications – I’m very pleased to see the Royal Society doing this, others are following, all should.

We also need to understand that the correlation between JIF (Journal Impact Factor) and article citations for individual scientists are poor (Seglen 1997, BMJ, 314, 498-502). That paper is 20 years old but it isn’t known and we have to ensure that is known. We don’t want to reinforce the unintended and bad effects of metrics. This isn’t the fault of those who publish metrics’ fault but we have to reimagine what we do in academia.

We should be working towards high quality research that is highly reproducible, not just novel or shaped for high JIF journals. I’d like to see open publishing and efficient publishing at all stages of the process. And I’d like to see mentoring and citizenship recognised – e.g. contributions to peer review. I take Ron Vale’s cue that

“as stewards of our profession, academic scientists have a collective responsibility to consider how to disseminate knowledge through publications and how to advance (careers)…”

Cameron Neylon, professor at the Centre for Culture and Technology, Curtin University, Western Australia

I guess we should check our metrics for this session in the form of social media sharing… Or maybe even email sent (a negative measure).

Now, I’m going to disagree somewhat with my learned colleague here. We know that metrics are very flawed. The data we have are largely meaningless.. They don’t tell us what we say we need to know about, or indeed what we do know about. As scientists we are supposed to be testing what is known. So two words for you… Excellence and Quality… Try and define them in your head without using either of them… I think you’ll find that difficult.

Everyone wants to be Excellent… But at the root of this is not just numbers that are inaccurate or unhelpful, but it’s also about a system of research and research funders who don’t know what we’re talking about. In Ewan’s talk earlier he referenced Justice Potter’s comment of not knowing what pornography is, but he knows it when he sees it. And Excellence and Quality are assessed in a similar way. Researchers either know Excellence or Quality when they see it, or can point to those who can identify that. That’s ok in a small community. But that’s a problem and loses meaning when we try to communicate that more widely to funders, to policy makers etc. Applying those ideas to all research is just nonsense… But we’ve internalised this very deeply. Stephen said this is a cultural issue…. A very deep cultural issue…

So, again, think… Can you rank two universities? Two researchers? Two papers? Two grants? You probably said “no” at first… But actually for grants it must be true as we do that. Imagine a world where that is not true. Where proposals are purely about allocating funding to all, not competing in these ways. The idea of ranking is so deeply felt but actually when you pick that apart it just isn’t true. We believe it because we think we have limited resources… I’m not even sure that’s true… The assumption that we only fund the best best is political but deeply embedded.

Lets go back to Justice Potter… He said something that was actually a bit different from the well known quote. He says “It is not possible to explicitly define something as obscene, as there are too many things that might be obscene” but that “for a certain set of agreed principles advanced, I can assess that this doesn’t meet any of them”. So he actually said, he can see when he doesn’t see it.

Now in research we are great at knowing what should not be funded, but we are terrible at knowing what should be funded. We have different priorities. We have to think in terms of qualities, not quality… But that is challenging… That’s about changing research funding, the shape of careers… And that’s pretty impossible. But what can we do?

Well we can move – using my new humanities view on the world – from people to peoples, from quality to qualities… Pluralising changes how we think about the sentences we use – try it! It changes the way we think, The stories we tell ourselves, our narratives, the way we think… that changes… So changing the words is the start to change the culture… Supported by evidence, supported by analytics.

And we have to ask ourselves again and again what we are measuring as performance. The idea of being good researchers and good scholars.

Semantometrics – Dr Petr Knoth, research fellow, Knowledge Media Institute (KMi), The Open University

I would like to talk about an idea we had at the Open University about two years ago, which came out of frustration at current research metrics. We wanted to gamify this a bit. We wanted to find a way to do this in a way that wouldn’t change their work. The metrics should adapt for different behaviours in which we work. One way to do this is to use the full text but I’ll get to that in a moment…

At the moment we have many metrics, but the main advantages of these is that they are very explicit and easy to calculate… But there is insufficient evidence that they measure quality at all. They all developed in an axiomatic way… No one queries the way they are calculated and we need to… We need to move to more data driven model.

So, I just want to show you the rejection rates for peer reviewed journals (n=570) with impact factors. This shows no correlation between rejection and impact factor. And one of the challenges of peer review is that in ranking papers the reviewer cannot read absolutely everything – as Cameron said it’s easy to reject the poor quality work but much harder to understand good quality work.

Metrics are also difficult because there is a time delay. The REF takes publications only from the last 5 years. Citation based metrics are almost impossible to use well for, say, the work published in the last year. Altmetrics are useful but they are measuring popularity, for understanding interest, but is that appropriate for decisions on career progression?

The problem with all these metrics is that they measure interactions (in different ways), without qualifying how important the interactions are. They are very limited. So the idea of Semantometrics is to judge the full work – we are asking them to be good communicators rather than good researchers. So, we can take full text and use NLP to detect good research practices followed, we can detect paper types, we can analyse citation contexts – tracking the progression of facts. We can detect the sentiment of citations. We can normalise by the size of the community who will access the research.

So we have developed an approach for Semantometrics… Each publication builds on prior knowledge and by analysing text we can measure the link to the discussions in the past and those going forward. The higher the distance from previous work, the more impactful the publication. This can be measured, and is natural – it doesn’t distort science. You can find out more at our website semantometrics.org.

To finish I want to talk about what I think we need to do with research metrics. We need to take a data driven approach, where we see how we can test impact metrics on data sets. In data retrival there is the concept of the “golden set” or “ground truth” and we need that to take this approach. But there are also human judgements to be made here. And then there are many factors to take into account – financial impact, etc. as well.

On a related note we did work on the WSDM Cup which was work on new research metrics based on the Microsoft Academic Graph (>120m papers). There is no full text there but the judging of that prize was online through Bing search engine, and through human judgement. This type of model for advancing research metrics seems like a good approach.

So, to summarise, full-text is necessary for research evaluation. Semantometrics are a new class of methods. We are studying on method to generate new metrics, but there isn’t only one solution so we need to explore further.

Q&A

Q1 – Neil Jacobs, Jisc) Really interesting to hear the different perspectives today… So how do we have this conversation, do we have shared vocabulary even?

A1 – Cameron) It’s the same class of problem as any interdisciplinary approach. It’s actually worse than you suggested: we have some common vocabulary but we mean different things by it! We need deep questions: why do we use public funds for research? What do we expect to get out of that? And how do we assess our performance against that to enable us to do better in the future? We need to have the fights and create new ways to do this… In my head I hear my inner-researcher say “this is interesting, we need to do more research” and that doesn’t seem right either.

A1 – Stephen) Cameron’s point on quality over quantity is well made. It’s so hard to compare work across disciplines… You can’t choose but actually we have to… Right now our society chooses to spend a lot of money on biomedical research, reflecting society’s values. There is a wider public conversation to be had about what we do fund. That conversation has to include historians, it has to involve the public… Part of that process has to include numerical evaluations, and I think that’s ok as long as it’s only part of the criteria.

A1 – Petr) In terms of shared vocabulary, I particularly think thats about impact, rigour, etc. We don’t know what we value at the moment. We have to understand that researchers – especially early career researchers – don’t always choose their work, they are often assigned to it or taking the available role. And they are rewarded based on that. Maybe we should reward quality for their actual work instead. We have to break impact down into what we actually value, and how we will use them for specific purposes.

A1 – Cameron) Stephen, those of us in this space though that the Metric Tide report was excellent, but presumably you had that conversation on vocabularies…

A1 – Stephen) We did and there was disagreement. In natural sciences there was some sympathy for citation counts, but in the humanities you can be looking at an artistic performance where citation count simply isn’t relevant. In Australia they used metrics for sciences, not for other things… But we saw that two-tier approach that can value one side of research more than another as being quite dangerous. The impact element of the REF has been interesting first time around, and good for the sector… But we could see no consistent pattern that could be pulled out as metrics to use consistently in the future. But it’s good that there are so many potential types of impact that can come out from research.

Q2 – Catherine, Jisc) In that Metrics Tide report the findings are quite wide ranging. How do you feel about the next steps? What are the most important recommendations with highest priority to take forward now?

A2 – Stephen) We have 20 recommendations in total. Some of them are cultural. We did aim to draw a line in the sand about where we are and where we want to be for best practice. Some are straightforward and technical – data formats, encouraging all to sign up to ORCHID etc. But we didn’t see an easy alternative to REF peer review panels. Some of the other recommendations around transparency and conversations within universities, those can start right away. At Imperial these conversations have already begun – triggered by the unfortunate suicide of Professor Graham. We have talked about what should be incentivised, where we wish to see contribution. So we are having those conversations and want to take those forward, and I hope other universities do that too.

A2 – Cameron) I think the report did all it could in terms of recognising and pushing those cultural shifts. But an aspect that is needed is the data structures and infrastructure, how things have been calculated, and ensuring that data is available for access for the full range of scholarly criticism and engagement – to apply the same standards to our metrics as we should do for any other scholarly data set.

A2 – Petr) I think that this shows that impact is not just economical, but has real impact on people’s lives. The other thing is transparency. I have experience of comparing just citations. We did work comparing Google and Microsoft citation data and they were totally different, so the transparency is the critical bit. If people are judged on data that is incomplete that is hugely problematic. And if you do research on data sets, you are often not cited (the data set is instead) and that also needs to be taken into account. The ability to go back and recalculate values is important. So I support the infrastructure issue too.

Q3 – Catherine, Jisc) I wanted to ask about “snowball metrics”, which weren’t recommended in the report. I was wondering what your view of snowball metrics are, and it’s place in this sort of area. If there is scope for that.

A3 – Stephen) I don’t know a lot about snowball metrics. We had a submission from John Green, who heads up that approach for a collaboration of universities and Elsevier. We didn’t want to back any single approach but this one has a degree of openness, so healthy to that degree. But it is a project pushing the line that just adding up the numbers tell you all you need to, to shape the strategy of the university etc. And this is where I really encourage universities to have those sorts of discussion of what this means.

A3 – Cameron) There is some underlying issues here. It comes back to public infrastructures for information too. The good thing is that it is a set of recipes – analytical recipes for normalising citations to the income of the university, etc. I have to be honest that the measures available there aren’t that useful for strategic decisions. I’m sure the snowball people would suggest that I create those recipe. What concerns me is that that is a collaboration between universities and a single data provider, so it relies on a specific data structure (Scopus). It is different than Thomson Reuters. And this is no use of public data yet. We need that data to be publicly owned and available and we need to be able to scrutinise that.

A3 – Petr) I’m not familiar with that project as much, but I would say that when I compare data from Scopus and Mendeley – different data sets from the same supplier – they do not match up or agree. And that is one supplier. So what happens when we compare data from different sources?

And with that, and a closing thank you from Catherine, Digifest is a wrap for 2016. Thanks to all at Jisc for organising and to all the lovely speakers, fellow delegates, etc. that I had the pleasure of seeing/meeting/catching up with this week!

 March 3, 2016  Posted by at 8:17 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Mar 022016
 
The stage at Jisc Digifest 2016

Today and tomorrow I am in Birmingham for Jisc Digifest 2016 which I’ll be liveblogging here. I’m particularly hear wearing my Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media hat, helping to share the event with the wider sector who aren’t able to be at the ICC.

There is also an online programme so, if you aren’t here in person, you can not only follow the tweets on #digifest16 and the various blogs, you can also view special online content here.

As usual, this is a liveblog so all corrections, additions, comments, etc. are very welcome. 

Plenaries: the power of digital for change

Dr Paul Feldman, chief executive, Jisc

Good morning and warm welcome from me and the whole Jisc team to Digifest 16. A warm welcome to those, like me, here for the first time. Digifest is all about the power of digital in education. That video of More Power to You is all about a subtext coming from Jisc over the next few months about people and technologies.

Now I’ve been in post only a few months and in that time I’ve been finding out about how you are using digital. And Digifest 16 is all about seeing the power of digital in practice. You, as well as others not able to be here today, and our online audience will do just that. Some of those articles we shared ahead of today have already had 800 views, and we want to carry that conversation on after today.

Before I hand over to our Jisc Chair I also want to thank our sponsors and partners for Digifest: Pervasive, Danny Boyle, ITR, Optix, Saville AV.

And with that, I will hand over to David Maguire, Chair of Jisc, to talk a bit more about Jisc and what we do.

Professor David Maguire, chair, Jisc

Welcome from me, and from all members of the board to Jisc Digifest. I will be talking about the power of digital, and that you have to have vision as well as pragmatism.

So, Jisc, the body for further and higher education which represents all things digital. We represent shared digital infrastructure, services, advice and expertise. We work with around 1000 organisations around the country. We have a national network infrastructure with about 18 million users in any given year. That is well known. It is perhaps less well known that over 50% of all UK library spend on e-resources comes through Jisc. And we save the sector around £203M annually – about twice what Jisc actually spends to do that.

Jisc is of the sector, for the sector. We do three main things for you. We run shared digital infrastructure and services – including the Janey network but also things like learning analytics, research data management. We provide Sector Wide deals with IT vendors and commercial publishers – examples here include Microsoft 365, Amazon Web Services, Prevent web filtering. And we provide expertise and advice.

One of the challenges we face is the huge growth in interest – a six-fold growth in traffic in the use of Janet since 2010. That growth means we also need to invest in the infrastructure, to ensure that we update our infrastructure to keep it suitable to meet those needs.

I also want to talk about University digital challenges.

Right now there is lots going on – a Digital Wild West. We have BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) – easy to desire but hard to deliver well, Wikipedia Scholars – everybody can find out everything now, limited IP respect – and as custodians we have responsibilities to the IPO, to copyright holders, for things that happen on our network.

We see students moving faster than university policies/systems/practices/staff. The answer isn’t to slow students down, but to be ready to do that.

We have to keep up with demand – building industrial strength solutions. We’ve all heard of academics building something in a weekend, but it takes a huge amount of work to take an idea and turn it into a robust and flexible solution. That’s a challenge across MOOCs, VLEs, student systems, Learning Analytics.

Breadth vs Depth are also challenges for us to address. How do we cater to specialists and generalists at the same time?

Now, the education sector is rather a small technology sector for vendors to create appropriate robust solutions for. We need common information systems to reduce the cost of building systems that meet the sectors requirements.

So, Jisc is working on some ideas and solutions to address those challenges. Right now there is a Janet mid-term upgrade to ensure we can continue to meet that rising demand on the network. We are looking at Learning Analytics. We are also working on more technology and content agreements – to reduce the cost of delivering the same services to you. We are looking at Open Access – currently costing more to access content in Open Access journals than in old proprietary systems. We have FE area reviews. Big push on research data management in readiness for the next REF. And Paul and I are keen to ensure Jisc remains at the heart of Technology-enhanced learning.

Paul Feldman: On technology-enhanced learning there is no point doing that unless you think about the context and the spaces that that learning takes place in. Which takes us to our next speaker…

Professor Andrew Harrison, professor of practice at University of Wales Trinity St David and director, Spaces That Work Ltd

I’m delighted to be here to talk about the interaction of space and pedagoguey. I’m a psychologist by training but I’ve been working in education for the last 20 years. The internet has changes notions of place, time and space. What excites me particularly is I see more blurring between learning, and working, and leisure, blending in new ways.

Now, some people are predicting that these changes make physical campuses unsustainable – there is a famous quote from Peter Drucker on this. Now I don’t believe that but I think that traditional categories of space are becoming less meaningful as space becomes less specialised. I could give you a 30 minute talk on the importance of corridors! The meaning and function of spaces are being challenged. We are under more pressure to use spaces more effectively. And we are really bad at utilising spaces. The typical space usage in HE is 25-30% so we need to try and use space more intensively, and to make that space flexible for less specialised use. So we need some specialised learning spaces, but more generic learning spaces and also more informal learning spaces.

So, how can space support learning and teaching? Ideas about learning and teaching are changing, so what sort of space do we need to create to support interaction and active participation? How do we make spaces integrated, multidisciplinary? How do we support distributed learning that can take place anywhere, any time. And how does that physical space relate to our digital spaces? We need to create spaces that support the pedagaguey – thinking spaces, designing spaces, creative spaces, etc.

But, where I get really excited is your world. Where digital is not just equipped by technology but informed by it. Virtual and physical are not opposites – they are part of the same thing. Even when you are in a virtual space you are still situated. And we have to acknowledge that and respect the continuing usefulness of face to face experiences. My own work particularly looks at spaces that support blended learning. Universities regularly have to reshape campuses to support these types of activities – typically spaces are bigger, with better lighting, acoustics, technology. In HE shared learning spaces tend to be boring – they seem to be thought of as a neutral rather than telling stories, rather than being designed and that’s an integral part of the space.

Now this image (three images of classrooms) is here to scared University Estates teams. A traditional didactic learning set up means rows and rows of students – very efficient. More participative spaces maybe enable pair working. But a more active pedagoguey means a room that seats fewer people in clusters. As we move to this type of teaching and learning we may need fewer spaces, but larger spaces. And this shows the importance of estates and teaching staff working together to design learning spaces.

Some of my favourite examples of great spaces are the Melbourne University Learning Lab – a flexible, adaptable space, and the IED Blended learning classroom in Karachi. At the moment I’m working on the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea. We have an amazing opportunity there to entirely redevelop a quarter of the city. Part of that relates to understanding the UWTSD library offer, and a VLE that enables on campus and off campus experiences that are comparable. And Wales is leading the world in moving to a single VLE so that all universities and libraries will be connected.

When we talk abot the creatoin of learning-centred communities we can see different levels and types of learners as very different, but I’m excited to think about hybrid spaces blending schools and museums together. There are huge opportunities to explore what that mean.

To summarise I think the future learning experience is much more layered. It is about flexible activity zones to support learning, living and working. And it is about users choosing appropriate settings and technology for the tasks they want to achieve (a study by a US chair supplier years back found students sitting on the tables more than the chairs!). Needs for spaces change throughout the day. Those needs also change depending on the learners context, background, mode.

So, successful digital learning spaces are about:Space; Place; Process; Experience – including those moments before and after class, how do we create a student journey that celebrates learning and its place within wider society.

Paul: This takes us to our next speaker Donna Lanclos – it’s her third Digifest and she is here to provoke us, as I’m sure she will!

Professor Donna Lanclos, associate professor for anthropological research,UNC Charlotte

I was really interested in what Andrew said. We today, just like our students, are here benefiting from being face to face as well as the digital being available. That digital possibility doesn’t take away from that shared experience.

We do need to think about digital as a space. Society-wide we have to think about what does it mean to do the things that we do face to face, when things can be done online. What does it mean for teaching and learning when we can take those spaces around in our pocket. Teachers can worry about attention… But that misses the point, it’s about where people are, what they are doing. That concern about attention is the outcome of a flawed system of handing out tools and telling people to use it. Instead we have to understand what these different experiences means.

What does it mean for those without access to these digital places? When really important stuff happens in those spaces, but not everyone can have access to. It’s not the “digital divide”, it’s segregation. We have to deal with that. We have to move the conversation away from tools and practice. We have to talk about place and experience. Lets talk about people… They can be present, they can be online… they can be engaging multimodally. What does the existance of these digital spaces mean for engagement. What is happening in this room is more than you just sitting there. How does what you do on your life make you more here? That’s something we can leverage, and use. We have to not be afraid of that… Asking students to switch off devices is the modern equivelent of “look me in the eye young man” – and that never worked either!

The theme over the next few days is about leveraging the digital for change. And I’d ask you to question why change, for whom are we changing. When I run a workshop we often end up talking about tools – people are comfortable about talking about that. But at some point the conversation moves from the tools, to the people being engaged through those talks. And we don’t signal that, it just happens. It naturally falls out of that chat, and we quickly turn to ideas of presence and community. So, think about who you engage with in digital spaces… And that will vary hugely depending on your experience (as is the case for engagement in any space).

We have to think about, if we want to change the nature of engagement, then we need to think less about what you have to do, and more about with whom you have to speak. If you don’t want to change, then that is valid and you have to make that case. Likewise, if you want to change things, make that case. Ensure you have moments of reflection to think about that. More than that we need to think carefully about the roles of leaders to make space for that kind of reflection and change, and for there to be safety around the risks of change. Change happens because you are willing to take risks and see what comes next. Predicting the future locks us into something, blocks off other possibilities.

We were asked to to say what we thought you could do to get the most from Digifest. So, I recommend the mapping sessions, as I love those. But make sure you engage with human beings. I’d encourage you not to get out there to talk to people who hand you a tool and tell you how to do it, instead engage with those people asking you what you need to do, who you need to connect to. I would like these sorts of events to be about intention and purpose. You can go to any trade show, you, the online participants, this is the core of Digifest. I would frame this event in terms of the human experience that you can engage with, and not digital as a tool.

So, eventually technology will come into the conversation… But not starting with that gives you a much more interesting conversation to have.

Q&A

Q1) About the flexible spaces, and the need to include technology… Actually that’s difficult in terms of challenges around power. Moveable flexible furniture makes power hard to manage.

A1 – Andrew) Power is an issue. Battery life helps, tablets help. We also have trolleys for device charging as well, and floor boxes can help. But not all sessions need technology… You can have technology zones around the edge, and flexible space in the middle.

A1 – Donna) Ideally you’d be supported to develop a pedagoguey that works whether or not the power comes up… I spoke with someone who hit a power issue and noted a colleague “taught anyway, without a powerpoint” as if that was extraordinary. We have to manage the untethered spaces… And reassure colleagues who are nervous of failure. No matter what happens you still teach and your students still learn.

Q2) I’m just having difficult visualising students you are talking about. You seem quite generic about different students you are talking about… Thinking about FE and HE I don’t hear cultural inclusion in any of your talks. We have such a variety of competencies and confidence… Can you give me a dimension of different types of students… You all seem to be talking about young students.

A2 – Andrew) I agree completely. The average age of students here is over 21, in New Zealand (where I’m from) it’s 25. The reality is that we have a much more complex set of students, expectations, skills that the institution needs to embrace.

A2 – Donna) My institution has a very diverse student body. Institutions have responsibility to have intentions around what they want their students to achieve. Of course they come in with a wide variety of preparations and experiences, but that shouldn’t mean we don’t have expectations for them. Funding can of course limit the degree to which we can target our work. We have a responsibility to teach the students that show up – not just providing technology support but also teaching and learning support. We should be less driven by student expectations coming in, and be more driven by our intention and ambitions.

A2 – David) I’m not aware of any technology that asks the user what age they are. Technology is neutral in this. And there are real opportunities for all kinds of students here.

Q2) We are seeing grants for disabled people coming in in September, and it would be really interesting to see how we can do more to assist them.

A2 – Paul) Absolutely and Jisc have a real role in promoting inclusion, including accessibility technologies. You’ll have seen in the video an example of inspiring use of technology to widen participation. One of the things that worries me about social inclusion. The first place I visited in this role was Sheffield University. I was incredibly impressed with the quality of technology kit that students had. One of the things we included in our submission to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, is the need to ensure that we are socially inclusive and that it is not just well off middle class kids who have access to great kit.

Q3 – Dave Starkey, Portsmouth) You talked about collaborative learning spaces and that they take up more space. We have some flexible spaces at Portsmouth and they don’t seem to take up more space.

A3 – Andrew) Yes, on a student number basis they do take up more space – just to have desks, to have space between groups for group working. That’s less densely packed than rows of chairs with flip desks. The way Universities handle this is to timetable more intensively but having fewer bigger spaces. We are planning on 2.7m per student in teaching studios like this, rather than the typical 1.8m per student in traditional classrooms.

Q3) For us we do see some aoustic blend across groups, but that can be beneficial as they learn from each other…

A3 – Donna) We are seeing a huge demand for these types of rooms – asking to teach at 8.30 in the morning to get into the rooms. Making these active spaces available has huge impact. I mean, in what universe did we think densely packed spaces were a good ideas.

Q4 – Brian Kelly, UK Web Focus) Based on those presentations I’m not sure what this event is selling, the talk of a single infrastructure… 20 years ago we had a focus on national provision…

A4 – Paul) Yes, we have national provision to an extent, but we are here to help you do this stuff.

A4 – David) Yes, we provide infrastructure nationally. And there are some economies of scale. But we are very much about promoting best practice and opportunities. We don’t have an agenda here, other than what you as a community tell us.

A4 – Paul) Generally Jisc is moving away from big services. Janet is really important but generally we are focusing on best practice, on tools and expertise that you couldn’t afford as individual institutions, but which you can take and adapt and embed in your organisation. We want to know the spaces you want, the investments we can make to support you to teach your students, whether in HE or FE. Helping us understand what we can do to help you, for you to employ locally in your organisation, is what we want to understand.

Q5 – David White) To what extent do you think digital can make people better teachers or researchers?

A5 – Donna) It can’t.

A5 – Andrew) I think I agree. It can enable and enhance things.

A5 – Donna) Digital doesn’t do anything. It’s people that do things.

A5 – David) I basically agree but for some people digital can capture the imagination and motivate teachers and learners. It can in that sense make people better teachers. If we think the solution to all known problems is digital, that’s not the point. You still need good pedagogies, good learning objectives, etc.

A5 – Donna) I think technology can’t be seen as the solution, and we shouldn’t think of teaching and learning as a problem. It’s a process.

A5 – Paul) I think I would disagree to an extent. The student experience was so much about capturing information when I was a student. Now there is such availability of information that there is that space for discussion, for participation. You need great inspiring lecturers and teachers. But technology enables even less good lecturers and teachers to do a better for their students.

Q6) You’ve talked about the learning experience. But digital is transforming the research experience. There is such increasing availability of data. Digital is transforming the way we do research and that wasn’t reflected in those talks.

A6 – David) Absolutely. I touched on data access and research data management – where Jisc is hugely active. We are looking at informing the next REF and how we can play a role in that. Some of the things going on in Janet are focused on support for big data, for CERN, shared data centres for High Performance Computing, for the Crick centre, etc.

A6 – Andrew) From a space point of view research spaces are changing just as radically. The interdisciplinary drive is a big part of that too.

A6 – Donna) There are absolutely parallels between teaching and research staff. Again that issue of dealing with people through digital places to do the work they need to do with their research, but those motivations are still the same, even as technologies change.

Q7) The best practice you are advocating goes against the government’s practice to fit students in like sardines, to save money per head.

A7 – Paul) I’m not sure I’d agree that that is the agenda…

A7 – Andrew) All the universities I work with are trying to do more for less. But there is also a rebalancing of use of space… And reimagining or reinventing existing spaces to deal with larger numbers, to improve occupancy. But financially that is challenging too. The fee structures coming in does seem to have really changed the importance of the estate to attract good students and staff. Space is getting more attention at all levels.

A7 – Donna) I hate that particular government agenda. In fact I’m a bit “from the future” in that respect as we’ve had that in the US for longer. I would like to see more support and advocacy from Jisc for the sector for better teaching and research spaces and practices. There is a role for advocacey… So that collectively we don’t agree to do more with less, but to leverage shared agendas to push back on that. Or at least to call governments on their claims that they care about education.

A7 – David) It was ever thus. We have always asked for more. I would say that technology can be beneficial helper here, to reduce costs of delivery, to be more effective in what we do. Operating in the virtual world is more cost effective than a physical space. We can bring in wider audiences, and we can reach more people digitally.

A7 – Paul) My view, having come from the commercial world, is that the government is trying to apply the values of the commercial world on the education sector. But I would ask you to put pressure on your own organisational decision makers as they have a lot more power to make opportunities and to show leadership within that agenda.

Paul: And on that controversial question we are done here. So, go out and use our 30 minute break to engage with people!

Improving digital technology skills in FE: the CPD serviceAdvice and practical assistance  – Sarah Dunne, senior co-design manager, Jisc; Clare Killen, consultant; Peter Chatterton, consultant; Georgia Hemings, co-design support officer, Jisc

After an introduction from Sarah, Claire is kicking off the session with feedback from students at college who are keen to make better and more effective use of technology. Teachers are looking to engage learners, to do that wherever they learn – whether classroom or home. But teachers are always short on time. For some traditional teaching modes are still their focus.

The sector is also facing challenges: FELTAG suggests the sector moves 10% of guided learning hours online – but who will create the content. There has to be motivation and support for staff in moving to  a blended model. We also need to make space for elearning development, providing flexible training. In house access to training and support varies. Lots of content is available but there are challenges about making that work.

Peter: We are keen to hear your views, starting with the question: What are your biggest challenges in developing digital capabilities and opportunities?

Comments from the audience include: an abundance of strategies but not necessarily the time and resources to make that happen. And the challenge when things dont work all for 100% of the time – ensuring confidence and trust aren’t negatively impacted by that. 

Peter: What about content?

Comment: Theres information out there… but you cant just take that and put it up on the VLE. So you have to make it c;ear what can be used, how to make that easy, and what you have to do to use this sort of content. 

Sarah: Im going to talk about what we are planning to do, this is ore aspirational at this stage as this session is part of our planning process.

So, FELTAG is informing our work – it isn’t the sole driver but it is useful, particularly the findings on digital capabilities. Indeed Jisc has been doing work already in this area, underpinned by our framework for capabilities, which breaks this area into six key aspects.

So, to address some of these needs we will have a discover tool which enables you to assess your own digital capabilities, to understand which resources will be of most relevance, where there is scope to develop your skills. And this will helppeople access advice and support.

Second, we will have a Learn area, directing you to resources, with community ratings and reviews. This will be frames around specific digital capabilities and themes.

And we will have Build activities – an online activity builder app – a tool to assist with embedding digital approaches to learning and lesson planning. This will be later in the year, but will let you upload content, choose materials by level, etc.

And we are supporting Meet opportunities so that you can review and rate apps and learning resources, to develop your knowledge base and contribute resources, providing opportunities for collaboration and sharing of experience.

And finally, we are very conscious of the need to Find and Reuse a route directly through to learning objects and instruction on how to repurpose and reuse objects on various platforms – and we are currently working with organisations to identify those resources.

And with that Sarah hands over for questions, and Im switching sessions as the sound levels in Hall 3 are making it hard to hear this session – especially audience comments. 

Showcasing research data tools

I have snuck into the Showcasing Digital Research Tools demo session as there are a number of interesting speakers lined up here. At the moment John Casey is talking about the Clipper project. As I’ve recently blogged a workshop on this project I recommend reading that post for the background. 

John Casey is now doing a live demo – you can explore the demo site at: http://reachwill.co.uk/clipper2.1/clipper-editor/.

The Clipper tool uses APIs from major video platforms such as YouTube. I can search for a video, select it, and make it part of my project. I can choose to select a clip from that video – based on time markers. And I can title and annotate that clip. And because you access the player from the site these videos come from, you can use only videos you have appropriate access rights to. So, for instance, I’ve tried this with Jisc MediaHub and it works as playing a video in Clipper will direct you to login then view the content.

Giving researchers credit for their data – Neil Jeffries, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University

This is a project aiming to encourage researchers to deposit their data in repositories, but also to get more value out of their data and other shared data. We have several partners in this work, including organisations focused on sharing methodologies rather than the research data itself, and those working with publishers.

The idea is that this tool is a “carrot” for data deposit. There is a “submit data” button in the repository – this means that repositories get more data deposits and better metadata. And the researcher gets an additional publication/citation possibility – and preservation of that data. Publishers working with this syetsm get more data paper submissions, etc. And we know that connecting that deposit to publishing can be a powerful motivator for researchers.

So, to make this happen we have various connectors built (or planned) to tools where data will be coming from. Within the repositories a deposit generates a page, QR code, links to data etc. And we have a “Data Paper Companion” space. When a researcher submits data we connect that to their Orchid ID, their data is viewable and explorable by journal, project, etc. For any data set supporting licenses, declaration of interests, metadata, etc. is shown on the page, along with a summary of data. As a user you can elect to download a sample or the full data. When you find a data paper (e.g. The Elton Archive) you can find the data associated with that, you can also find the information on publications etc.

As the publisher of that data you can also edit the record, add new associated data sets, etc. And, once everything is organised you can choose to submit your data paper to a journal such as F1000 Research. If you choose to do that your data and details are pulled through to their submission system, where you can make edits, add content, etc. but all of your data assets have been brought through for you making this quick and easy.

So, the idea is to encourage greater deposit of data, and the

We have various data sharing and publicatoin platforms…  Mendeley, FigShare, DSpace repositories, etc. on board.

Q&A

Q1) Is that Bodleian project live yet?

A1 – Neil) No, we aren’t scheduled to be done with phase 3 for another 6 months but we should have an update then. The idea that this is a route through to publishers though. We have made our source code available already, though we still have some work to do on connectors – Sword connectors will be build by the appropriate module owners though. And I know that Jisc is looking at a centrally provided service to enable this.

The Jisc project manager in the Pod also notes that there will be a showcase for this work, and you can follow #dataspring for further updates on all the projects.

Having had a chance to chat with the lovely folk at Guidebook (info, etc. on their website if you are curious) I’ve headed to a slightly different session, on open citation. 

Introducing the open citation experiment – Drahomira Herrmannova, doctoral researcher, Knowledge Media Institute (KMI), The Open UniversityVerena Weigert, senior co-design manager, Jisc

Verena: I’m here to introduce Drahomira who has been designing the open citation experiment, to test a new approach that evaluates the full text – the meaning of the citation. The idea is to overcome draw backs of conventional citation metrics, and takes advantage of the availability of full text.

This project was the first large scale analysis of this new type of metrics, based on over 1 million articles. Drahomira will say a bit more about the approach taken, and show a demonstrator website.

Drahomira: Thank you for the introduction. This experiment uses full text methods to understand research metrics – using Semantometrics.

So, what are Semantometrics? They are a new class of metrics for evaluating research. This is different from research metrics and altmetrics, both of which measure engagement. Whilst those counts have been widely used and adopted, despite criticism, but technology and the availability of full text make different metrics possible, that look at the full text rather than just the usage/engagement from outside sources.

So Semantometic contribution measures are based on the idea of measuring the progress of scholarly discussion. The hypothesis states that the added value of publication p can be estimated based on the semantic distance from the publications cited by p to the publications citing p. So this measure traces development and bridging of ideas and concepts (http://semantometrics.org/).

This work with Jisc was a comparative study with analysis carried out to investigate the properties of the contribution measure. The experiment were carries out on a dataset obtained by merging data from the Connecting Repositories (CORE), the Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG) and Mendeley. After merging the datasets there are 1.6 million publications (though 12 million starting data set).

So, I will now show you the demonstrator website – already online and public. We’ll also share our research around the project on the same site. What I’m going to show you is the visualisation made possible through semantometrics. So, we can, for instance, look at network diagrams showing nodes and networks across publications. And in this model the mode important paper is the one which bridges two different communities or areas of thought. We measure the distance of publications cited by a specific publication, and we look for the contribution value to a particular domain, and more broadly. We look at specifics of groups or clusters of publications, and the distribution between them.

So, papers in both sets may be dispersed… and that isn’t necessarily impactful. But a paper with a very narrow range of citations that opens ideas up to a much wider range of papers and communities may be very impactful.

I prepared some examples on some publications, with visualisations that put the paper at the core, then show linkages out to papers… And distance is semantic distance between ideas. Those visualisations show the links between papers, but also indicate the field itself – the diversity of the areas in which the publication sits.

I selected examples which generate interesting graphs… But there is more detail in the report, which is available on the website. Two of these graphs address contribution and citation count. These show a big difference… Very few papers have high citation counts but many papers have high contribution. We were looking at correlations between the datasets… We were interested in looking at readership – using Mendeley data. Citation count and readership have a high correlation – not surprising. On the average values we see that above a certain value of citations, publications receive always above average contribution scores. That confirms what we might imagine to be true – that impactful papers are cited more. But it also reflects that lower citation scores may represent smaller more specialist research communities.

Q&A

Q1) Have you factored in negative citations – citing papers that are being critiqued or argued against?

A1) No, but that is citation sentiment and that is a research area that we know about and are interested in.

Q2) Do you factor in the age of a citation?

A2) No, not at the moment, but again something to consider.

Q3) An observation. I’m glad you’ve done this observation on an open data set, as Thomson Reuters impact scores for REF are hopeless, as they are closed and proprietary. Your work finally opens that up, and that’s great. There is some discussion on the REF, and the cost of running that. And discussion of whether there is a light touch REF – with more metrics and less human time. What impact could you see this work having in a lighter touch REF?

A3) One of our motivations here was to see how metrics could be use. A big advantage here for REF. Whilst there are issues – like negative citations etc. It can be hard to compare publications. But we need to better understand what exactly research metrics capture, whether metrics are stable – whether recently after publication is representative or not. We can develop new metrics that takes account of time. Lots of promise… But we really have to understand what the metrics tells you. On the openness I agree with you. What really helped us was that… Originally we missed the citation network so I have to say Microsoft really helped. But Mendeley is very managed by people, Microsoft is very noisy data.

Q3) At the moment we have to take publishers word for it..

A3) Sure, but we have to be aware of the downsides of public data sets.

Q4) I’m assuming this was a global corpus – how did you account for language as that can be so difficult to do with semantic processing and analysis?

A4) That would be really interesting. My colleague is an expert in this area and we hope to do more work on that.

Q5) What do you see as important next around the stability of the metrics?

A5) We are looking at the stability of the metrics at the moment. But we believe they should be more stable for citations, but contribution we think that that will change more over time. One of the other challenges here is how one handles uncited publications… The advantage of semantics is that the data is there from the moment of publication, so in terms of understanding contribution that’s immediately available. I think this can be used to distinguish key papers, and to understand distance between publications. We can place a value on each citation already.

Verena: We have arranged a workshop in March with domain experts, and a report will be coming out at the end of March. And we’ll tweet some of those links.

Jisc’s investment in digital content for humanities: understanding the impact on research outcomes – Paola Marchionni, head of digital resources for teaching, learning and research, Jisc; Peter Findlay, digital portfolio manager, Jisc; Professor Eric T Meyer, senior research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute; Dr Kathryn Eccles, research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute.

Paola: Welcome to this session. We will hear first from Eric Meyer at OxII at some work on Early English Books Online and House of Commons Parliamentary papers which really shows the impact of those resources. Then we’ll hear from my colleague Peter Findlay on the portfolio of services, and how things are changing going forward, and hwo we are looking for new ways of teaming up, and we’d love your feedback on that.

Eric Meyer: The project I’ll be talking about was funded by Jisc and ProQuest but I just wanted to start with a bit of background on our work. So in 2008 – but updated since – we created a toolset called TIDSR, supported by Jisc, to understand the impact that various digitised resources were having. Jisc had digitised a whole series of collections and wanted to understand the impact they were having. I won’t go into details but this includes quantitative and qualitative methods for assessing impact. This isn’t a downloadable thing, it’s instructions to do these things no matter how much experience you have (or don’t have) in doing this. You can see case studies there and explore those citing and using the toolsets.

So, back to the current study. The thing about measuring impact is that the size of the audience isn’t the only thing you want to look at, a small audience that is the right audience might be big impact. It is not easy to compare the impact of different resources for some of these reasons. In this work we looked at Early English Books Online and House of Commons Parliamentary papers, and we’ve looked at these collections before in different ways. These are quite different collections in lots of ways and we wanted to see what kind of impact they were both having on teaching, learning and research.

So, the first highlight may be obvious but is worth stating: the context of the use of digital resources is changing but these changes are incremental and have a long development cycle prior to the realisation of impact. But one of the interesting things about digital resources for humanities is that they seem quite familiar. So a scanned page is similar to physical page in many ways. It’s not like in the social sciences where an analysis, a network diagram, etc. might be something quite different. It’s also worth noting that EEBO enables studies that wouldn’t be available in the same ways before. So, if you were an undergraduate humanities student you might not be able to access special collections, to private materials at all – possibly not until well into a PhD – but now these digitised copies do give you that access.

We also saw that, whilst the serendipity of the previous space didn’t happen, new types of serendipity occur digitally. And having these resources available allow people to wander beyond their direct focus and explore related areas for new possibilities and directions to look in.

So, we also found that usage of both EEBO and HCPP has been increasing over the past decade. But HCPP has seen a less steep incline – and that is because it seems to have found it’s audience more quickly, whereas EEBO has only found it’s audience gradually. EEBO released full text relatively recently – that will be a factor – but has also been used more creatively, which we will come to later.

While researchers at top universities are most likely to use EEBO and HCPP, less research-intensive HE institutions also benefit from both collections. We knew that usage was high (particularly for EEBO) in research intensive organisations and we wanted to explore if that was just the “rich getting richer” or if those benefits were more widely spread. In fact the resources are used across HE and, to an extent, FE. One of the interesting aspects was that the ordering of (anonymised) institutions varied between the two services, this isn’t just about departments but also because of the type of usage.

One of our case studies is Open University and they are very high HCPP users but are not high EEBO users. And my colleague Katherine spoke to them and we found that HCPP materials were invested into other courses – around information literacy for instance – which made a significant difference to their use. We also saw usage from less expected subject areas of these collections, for instance literary heritage, conservation, preservation etc. courses also using materials in EEBO.

Researchers rely heavily on specific digital collections that they return to regularly, which is resulting in incremental changes in scholarly behaviour. Now Google was important but specific databases and collections was ranked much higher than any other way of finding resources. Users of HCPP and especially EEBO gave us lots of feedback on what the resource could and couldn’t do, and what they liked about them. Lots to learn from how you embed these tools in universities.

Resource use in the humanities is extremely diverse, and this makes providing access to needed resources and tools particularly challenging – we asked researchers to list some of these and there were so many resources there. The thing about EEBO is that it’s something that stakeholders in particular areas that have come to rely upon it. By contrast HCPP is an important secondary resource for many people who use it in a really different way.

The citation evidence that is available shows a growing literature that mentions using EEBO or HCPP, and these publications in turn are reasonably well-cited. Now we looked across lots of publications and citation data here, but these databases take a while to be updated. We see spikes of citations – outliers – but generally there has been an upwards direction of publications etc. But humanities publications have a long gestation period – it can be 8 years for history for example – but the number and growth look pretty good across both resources.

The number and range of disciplines that refer to EEB and HCPP is much more diverse than expected. We have visualisations here that help illustrate the spread. The ideas move beyond core humanities disciplines – for instance HCPP publications in medical and medical history areas for instance.

Researchers are more concerned with the content and functionality of the digital collections than in who provides access. That’s a challenge. The library is invisible for many students and researchers… They say they don’t use the library and then when you highlight subscription collections they aren’t aware these come from the library – they think it’s Google. So, that’s a problem as that isn’t transparent until users lose access, change organisation etc.

The UK is unusual for providing national-level access across institutions through Jisc’s national purchasing. Now we know that the UK punches above its weight in terms of academic impact. This obviously isn’t down just to this set up, but that national purchasing agreement and access to resources does contribute to the UK’s global prominence. And they have potential democratising effects – you may see some institutions, some FE institutions too using these resources less, but still using them. And there is opportunity to encourage greater use of resourcing in teaching.

Shifts to humanities data science and data-driven research are of growing interest to scholars, although there is still plenty of room for growth in this focus on digital humanities, particularly in teaching. For EEBO that usage increase really reflected that opening up of xml texts, the hack events and social media presences around that change which really encouraged use – projects such as Trading Consequences.

Digital collections have become fundamental to modern scholarship – for the summary and full report see: http://microsites.oii.ox.ac.uk/tidsr/case-study/2016-idc.

Please do take a look at the full report, give us your comments and questions. Do read the report and feedback.

Q&A

Q1) We did a digitisation project of Newton’s notebooks and they were being used but the citations are citing the paper copies as if they’ve seen them physically – which they haven’t – rather than digitally, so how do you deal with that.

A1) That is really a big issue. There are scholars on both sides here… Some claim they wouldn’t cite the library they used for a book… And MLA’s advice to cite “online” not URLs isn’t helping any. We did a previous report of splashes and ripples suggested human readable, easy URI’s as mattering. But this idea of there being something dirty about digital is still there… There is less bias maybe but the confusion remains. Some resources give helpful suggested citations with URIs, but not all by any means.

Q2) How do you compare the kind of data mining impacts and the other direct impacts of resources? I was involved with the Trading Consequences project and I know those data mining projects use a lot of data and look quite different, but how does that compare with more direct impact.

A2) Direct and qualitative projects aren’t really comparable. So it’s about individual resources demonstrating what they can do. We did some work on a very niche resource a few years ago, with very low usage, but for teachers this resource on how dancers built a portfolio was invaluable. So it’s being able to assemble a bunch of different kinds of imapcts a resource can have, and demonstrate to funders etc.

Comment) That matters when looking at subscriptions and the value of those.

A2) We have built this toolkit and over the years people almost without exception come back and say how fun it is to use the toolkit, to find out more about their users, to think about how they use these things, to reflect their usage and interest. So this is an opportunity to reflect. The other quote I remember from years ago from a humanties scholar was that “this is the first time I’ve studied anyone who could talk back to me” as she was used to working on dead people, so she found this really exciting.

Comment) The other aspect of EEBO was, when we got the service, it saves time and money. This researcher was absolutely thrilled by it.

A2) The speed and volume of these things was the initial easy sell of these things, then we’ve tried to layer additional things beyond that.

Q3) We are looking at impact of our resources, are you still working on this?

A3) We have done lots of work before, hope to do more. One of the reasons I hired Kathryn back in 2007 was that she was a proper academic historian but she was new to this online world and her impact has been absolutely vital to this sort of work.

Q4) How about aggregated search points… Sometimes when staff and students search for resources they often get multiple materials, they find other ways in… How do you tae account of this.

A4) This is the stuff we tend to get from interviews. In a previous study we found that people were often arriving relatively deep in their website – coming through discovery tools – so we did work with them to help ensure users understood what to do next, to make their site more sticky by changing the page set up so you were signposted to the next issue, the context, the stuff to carry on exploring. We often think of people arriving at a website front door, but often they find a much less expected way in.

Q5) I work for a publisher like ProQuest and today someone asked me about the Return On Investment of our services… Is that something you have looked at?

A5) We’ve tended to shy away from that as you’d have to make so many assumptions. Maybe if we had an economist on board… We have looked at some to see how income related to impact but that’s the nearest to that idea.

Paola: The nearest thing that we have seen is to try to represent how much it would cost to visit physical resources, travel etc.. But of course if that was the requirement they might not access them at all.

A5) We also have services where two resources from across the world are compared side by side – that’s not something you can do any other way.

Q6) I wanted to ask a question about creative digital reads, by artistic rather than academic communities – particularly thinking of CC licensed and public domain resources. I work with the BL finding out how people use public domain collections in innovative ways. People sometimes thing that having the freedom to do things makes them concerned they might be doing something wrong… But we are really interested in creative use.

A6) You could compare images to see usage.

Q6) Peter Balnam(?) has been doing something like that.

A6) We do ask people in our surveys whether they have reused or repurposed resources… But there is lots of scope for that though – hence that EEBO hack event etc.

Q6) At British Libary Labs we expected lots of academic engagement and we have unexpectedly had a big response from artists and creative professionals.

A6) And i think that’s a thing you can think about… Hack events, Wikipedia editathons, etc. can also show real impact on the greater world.

Peter Findlay: Showing the impact of digitisation Jisc has funded over the years has always been a big challenge… When we had proposals in for this sort of work we did’t know what would happen… So this is all really exciting. We are now in a position where we can see this kind of impact but with the current changing public sector funding, the ability to do this has become a real challenge. The overarching question for us is about the future business models for digital resources.

The focus of institutions is also shifting. Even when value is demonstrated it can be hard to get that message across to decision makers in those institutions. And I’d like to explore with you how important it is to have access to these kinds of collections. These resources are part of people’s work every day… To make this happen again we have to work more closely together, in terms of what we do and in terms of how we fund it.

We’ve also been thinking about what kind of models we might contemplate. We’ve been thinking of a sort of Kick Starter for digital content – with Jisc as negotiator for collections. So, less about digitisation, more about collectively purchasing and finding mechanisms to select and identify content together so that they can be purchased. Not just a purchasing consortium, we are also interested in tools for analysis of content. So Jisc Historic Text is a platform for instance where we’d like to put more content.

A slight adjustment for that would be Jisc seeking core funding to kick that off. We could go to charities, foundations, etc. Essentially we are talking about us together purchasing content or, if you have it, distributing content. We have also been thinking of Jisc as publishers – for institutions together as a collective to enable reduction of costs, a bit like the open platform for the humanities ideas. AGain, this would focus on platform, development, and ongoing support through, say, some form of subscription (for want of a better word). We’d also need to think about cost recovery for any platfrom that is set up, so that it can be sustained

Our third model is Jisc becoming more a supporting institution for the development of tools around the analysis of content, lab activities, mechanisms for small initiatives that can be followed up afterwards.

We’ve been having some great discussions, I’m just nothing the feedback to the rest of the room. 

Group 1: If digital collections were not available, nothing comparable would be available – they enable courses and work not otherwise available. For the BL where impact is hard to demonstrate in general, can be easier for some specific resources though. Impact of individual services is possible, and works – as per Eric and Katherine’s work. Humanities researchers often aren’t aware that resources cost money, they don’t think about costs often. Archives do get switched off and disappear. Legacy resources sometimes get ported to institutions who when they can no longer resources – opportunity there. There are resources available, and they can be marketed to students, but they aren’t always what is wanted. Cambridge commented that the impact stimulates funding. Preservation can be a motivation for sustainability – so others preserving content takes burden off institution. Crowd funding good but may mean small voices and needs may get crowded out. Concern from institutions about content on others’ platforms. Idea that institutions could support platforms… They digitise then share centrally would be one model – making things more effective for institutions, easier to promote, and brings platforms and content together, enabling publishers to put content on platforms too.

Group 2: We thought about current models… For my institution – we just had one or two of us from libraries. In a library, for us, buying a one-off is better than an ongoing subscription in hard economic times. That way you can keep it, rather than adding to yearly subscription burden. Pitching at the end of the financial year might be best, as that is when budget may be available. Over 90% of budgets year on year is committed to journals, databases, ebooks, we have very limited funds for new stuff. And we are keen for more materials to be online, for teaching and learning as well as research. We were quite keen on Kickstarter model… Mixed opinions on whether you need finance directors on board to make that work – although library directors have some autonomy. So, if you had a Kickstarter type website were libraries could show interest in new resources, but also offer a way to suggest ideas, capture gaps in provision etc. Also thought about ad hoc models… Pay per view being one option. Also talked about car leasing – lease then option to buy… Trying to borrow ideas from different sectors.

Group 3: Not a huge amount of library experience on our table either. Talked a bit about how we use wishlists (collections development request list) for new things to buy. So many new things appear and we always need to prioritise wishes. Jisc Colletions is crucial to a lot of what we do – the NESTE2 agreement for purchasing for example. We are also part of other consortiums for purchasing as well. We thought one way to think about material for digitisation might be to share wish lists, in an anonymised way to help deal with competitive drivers that can make collaboration more tricky. Also larger scale digitisation projects as a possibility here. Going back to wish lists those could also come out of a collective gap analysis, rather than looking at products already on the market. And demand is key to securing funding for any kind of digisation project, and we need to think of sustainable business models, and the ability for institutions to articulate what is important to us.

Peter: That was very interesting. Thank you very much for those insights, and we will continue to have those conversations with you. Thanks to all of our speakers and to ProQuest for co-funding this work.

 

The case for learning analytics – Phil Richards, chief innovation officer, Jisc; Michael Webb, director of technology and analytics, Jisc; Niall Sclater, learning analytics consultant

Phil: I’m chief innovation officer for Jisc and we are here to talk about the case for Learning Analytics… To start with I want to talk about what we mean by learning analytics. Google and Facebook track our actions, our interactions, etc,, using that to attract advertisers etc. as they are hugely revealing. Learning analytics is a bit like that, it’s about patterns and understanding data from our interactions with VLEs, library accesses, etc.

Michael: We really are talking about using the kind of big data that Phil was describing. We are looking, in our project, at areas such as improving retention but we also want to move towards adaptive learning.

Predictive learning analytics are statistical analysis of historical and current data derived from the learning process to create models that allow for predictions that can be used to improve learning outcomes. Models are developed by mining large datasets and seeking patterns of behaviour. That’s quite different from the “have they logged into the VLE in a week” type approach.

So, just a moment on retention. We have a huge number of students dropping out at various stages of their education and that recruitment and loss of students is expensive and problematic. 70% of students reporting a parent with HE qualifications achieved an upper degree against 64% if students reporting no parent with HE qualifications for instance. But we can address some of those issues.

I wanted to talk about some US examples that have inspired us. Marist College in the US, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, undertook work supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They investigated how use of academic early alert systems impact on final course grades and content mastery. The outcome was interesting… Analysis showed positive impact on final course grades. But they also found that any intervention that alerted students they were at risk was effective.

The New York Institute of Technology also found a successful way to predict students at risk. And there has been the building of a Predictive Analysis model built for US universities which seems to have a high level of identification of at risk students. At Purdue University the signals project, based on performance, background, etc. was effective but that work has been critiqued. University of Maryland found that students being able to compare VLE activity with that of other students were 1.92 times more likely to be awarded grade C or higher compared to students who did not use it.

So, there is clear evidence of the usefulness of predictive models and their potential benefits for student outcome. And Jisc have a learning analytics project which has three core strands: Learning analytics architecture and service; Toolkit; Community – we have a mailing list and blog you can follow. The toolkit includes two main activities: the code of practice and the discovery phase. The Code of Practice was one of our most successful early pieces of work for this project. Failed learning analytics projects tended not to be down to technical issues but for ethical issues. And that code of practice has had great reception, including from the NUS.

We have done some research, which was in the Times Higher, that shows that students are happy to share data for learning analytics. We have a good reason for doing this, a clear code of practice and that means students will buy in.

So, what are we doing? Well we are building a national architecture, defining standards and models and implementing a core service. Why do that? Standards mean that models, visualisations and so on can be shared; lower cost per institutions through shared infrastructure; and this lowers the barrier to innovation, as there is consistency.

Our architecture is built around dashboards; but also alert and intervention system – we’ve defined an API that ensures interventions are captured and feed into the data store; we have student consent app – for how their data is used, preferences etc; and a student app. Then, at the centre we have a learning records warehouse – cloud based system built on open standards – and the learning analytics processor that sits on top of that. The kinds of data we are collecting includes self-declared student data; student information system; VLE; Library; and other things that may be useful (“???”).

To do this work we are partnering with the commercial sector, and our partners are Unicon (on open source stuff), Marist, Blackboard, Tribal, TherapyBox, HT2 (cloud solution provider). And that partnership has led to some really useful things already, including Blackboard making data more available.

So, the service includes dashboards – visual tools to allow lecturers, module leaders, senior staff and support staff to view. This includes student engagement, cohort comparisons, etc. Based on other commercial tools from Tribal and Marist. The student app is bespoke development by Therapy Box, and this interface is very much based around fitness apps. The first version will include overall engagement, comparisons to others including other high achieving students, self-declared data – including student-defined goals, consent management. We are inspired by gaming too – you get trophies for cool stuff!

The Service alert and intervention system, based on open source tools from Unicon/Marist (Student Success Plan) allows management of interactions around alerts.

The data collection falls into two types… Relatively static student record data, and the big ever changing activity data. We’ve taken slightly different approaches to those two data sets. So we have information on the student (ETL) based on HESA and FLR(?) in FE space and consistent with HEDIIP, and you can see our work on there on GitHub. For the activity data we are collecting via TinCan (xAPI) which lets you get quite detailed data. We’ve commissioned a Blackboard module, have supported a Moodle plugin etc.

Now the idea of an xAPI “recipe” is a shared way of describing activities. So the data from accessing a course is the same whether Moodle or Blackboard is used. So, same holds true for “borrows a book” etc.

We have had 72 expressions of interest from the sector. We have 26 organisations, across a diversity of organisation types are engaged in the activity. We have over 1 million records collected in real-time. We needed historic data for this project so we’ve also working on historical data collation from Moodle and Blackboard to enable those predictive models that require data to work on.

Across different stakeholders there are different priorities. For Russell group universities it may be about widening participation and support for students achieving 2.1 or better. For a teaching lead organisation it may be about focusing on interventions in teaching and learning, to improve retention.

Phil: Every year universities have to make around 7000 different measures reporting to HEDIIP. And this project can help aggregate that data, and to give back analytics to the individual institutions based on the architecture we have come up with. And this is the first project to create something like this which provides access to all the information needed for a HEDIIP return. One of the concerns about HEDIIP future reporting is that it may become more frequent… Currently that’s annual. If automated these returns could be quarterly or more regularly. Now learning analytics is a great reason to upload data more regularly for HESA and other agencies, and to benefit from learning analytics as part of that.

The way we’ve set this project up is very similar to the way UCAS has used Amazon Web Services. Until a few years back their website spiked dramatically on A-Level results day and the cloud scaling makes that possible without issues on their server.

Part of making this work is about keeping data private and carefully managed. They want to benchmark and compare. The way we have addressed this is by having users declare that they are happy to share their data if aggregated and anonymised into pools of, say, 10. But we need to have data in place to do that. We need to build up number of contributors.

Now you can look at this for interventions for individual students, or explore by cohort or background etc. Maybe there is potential for new metrics like this to feed into the new proposed TEF.

Some interesting potential in the medium term. Just to talk more about unified data definitions… Our basic standard for that more general data is the HESA model. And we’ve done some work with HESA on the national HE business intelligence service – a fully live production service that has been available from Autumn 2015.

The government is scrutinising subscription organisations like Jisc, like HESA, ever more so, and there are some real opportunities here. We took part in a HEFCE learning gain call in May 2015, which was around standardised tests, etc. and we have work to do there at the moment.

A quick move to genomics…

In Iceland everyone knows their ancestry and the Iceland government has gathered all the genomic data into deCODE and Iceland’s genetic data bank. This system uses reference data, undertakes analytics number crunching and outcomes include understanding the pathways and outcomes.

So, just to borrow that model… Maybe our learning analytics warehouse can be our DNA bank for higher e-learning. The background data would include demographics, early learning and employment outcomes. The analytics and number crunching, towards deeper understanding of elearning, metrics for engagement learning gain, personalised next generation e-learning.

In a recent report with pro Vice Chancellors said that HE was getting more global, more digital, more competitive. But none claimed the UK was taking a lead here. In universities we still use tools we have been using for decades, but the rest of social sciences have moved leaps and bounds ahead… Why not do this with our data?

So, Micheal talked earlier about personalised learning. So, right now we do capture data on how we learn, how your brain works, etc. And maybe sharing that earlier enables a truly personalised next generation elearning that helps you determine the pathways you need to take – for instance a student with low social capital wanting to study architecture might see what the different paths might be… That could really improve social mobility and close some gaps.

In the short term we’ve seen that interventions for not dropping out… seem to really help at risk students who are particularly likely to be widening participation students, which could really help bridge some of those gaps. Maybe this is the kind of work that can put the UK out there as leaders in this field.

I hope that’s given you a good case for why we are doing this work now. Where it might lead in 2 years, and where it might lead in 5 years.

Q&A

Q1) Why has Jisc decided to do learning analytics from ground up, rather than work with an existing provider. And I was disappointed not to see UK examples in that mix – we have good examples, some better than US examples shown there.

A1 – Micheal) We aren’t building from ground up, we are combining existing tools and components. We are putting architecture together to make things work better.

A1 – Phil) We have put together an open architecture, but we have worked with providers… Those were selected through a public sector procurement process (as we are duty bound to do, at least until the referendum) and these are the companies that came out. And some companies have approached us wanting to take part, and we will open up the project to more commercial companies later this year. We want to help you avoid vendor lock in but to work with as many providers as possible. Why are we doing that? It’s what over 1000 people we spoke to in the scoping process ranked most highly.

A1 – Michael) Why US examples – just wanted to use some different examples and I’ve shown the UK ones before – you’ll find them on the website.

Q2) I work at a learning analytics start ups, really great to hear what Jisc are doing, and great to hear about that focus on widening participation. I’m really interested in what the big barriers are: is it cultural, ethical, technical?

A2 – Micheal) It’s a mix of all those things. Some can be solved relatively easily – getting data in and out. Student records systems still tricky but will get easier. Senior staff buy in really matters, a key part of our discovery phase was getting buy in and understanding their system. The pattern is that there is no pattern…

Q3) A follow up question… You spoke about Russell Group universities and the possibility of a positive effect on widening participation, can you say more about that?

A3) We ran a scoping process and one of the use cases presented by this type of organisation was specifically about widening participation and also narrowing that gap between those achieving 2.2 versus 2.1.

Q4) You mentioned models elsewhere being mappable to here… library data and VLE data. What about other types of explicit engagement like citations etc.

A4 – Micheal) Yes, want to do that. But actually assessment data is an important early start there.

A4 – Phil) Some commercial companies aren’t interested in shared or common metrics but we saw evidence in the States that it can work, and enable benchmarking. We think that has real value and that that doesn’t preclude commercial vendors from also providing more granular and bespoke solutions.

And, with that, day one at Jisc is done. I’ll be tweeting to #digifest16 for the remainder of the evening for the dinner etc. I will be back on the blog again tomorrow.

 

Feb 262016
 

Today I am at the British Library (BL) Labs Roadshow 2016 event in Edinburgh. I’m liveblogging so, as usual, all comments, corrections and additions are very much welcomed.

Introduction – Dr Beatrice Alex, Research Fellow at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

I am delighted to welcome the team from the British Library Labs today, this is one of their roadshows. And today we have a liveblogger (thats me) and we are encouraging you to tweet to the hashtag #bldigital.

Doing digital research at the British Library – Nora McGregor, Digital Curator at the British Library

Nora is starting with a brief video on the British Library – to a wonderful soundtrack, made from the collections by DJ Yoda. If you read 5 items a day it would take you 80,000 years to get through the collections. One of the oldest things we have in the collection are oracle bones – 3000 years old. Some of the newest items are the UK Web Archive – contemporaneous websites.

Today we are here to talk about the digital Research Team. We support the curation and use of the BL’s Digital collections. And Ben and Mahendra, talking today, are part of our Carnegie Funded digital research labs.

We help researchers by working with those operating at the intersection of academic research, cultural heritage and technology to support new ways of exploring adn accessing the BL collections. This is through getting content into digital forms, supporting skills development, including the skills of BL staff.

In terms of getting digital content online we curate collections to be digitised and catalogued. Within digitisation projects we now have a digital curation role dedicated to that project, who can support scholars to get the most out of these projects. For instance we have a Hebrew Manuscripts digitisation project – with over 3000 manuscripts spanning 1000 years digitised. That collection includes rare scrolls and our curator for this project, Adi, has also done things like creating 3D models of artefacts like those scrolls. So these curators really ensure scholars get the most from digitised materials.

You can find this and all of our digitisation projects on our website: http://bl.uk/subjects/digital-scholarship where you can find out about all of our curators and get in touch with them.

We are also supporting different departments to get paper based catalogues into digital form. So we had a project called Collect e-Card. You won’t find this on our website but our cards, which include some in, for instance, Chinese scripts or urdu, are being crowd sourced so that we can make materials more accessible. Do take a look: http://libcrowds.com/project/urducardcatalogue_d1.

One of the things we initially set up for our staff as a two year programme was a Digital Research Support and Guidance programme. That kicked off in 2012 and we’ve created 19 bespoke one-day courses for staff covering the basics of Digital Scholarship which is delivered on a rolling basis. So far we have delivered 88 courses to nearly 400 staff members. Those courses mean that staff understand the implications of requests for images at specific qualities, to understand text mining requests and questions, etc.

These courses are intended to build capacity. The materials from these courses are also available online for scholars. And we are also here to help if you want to email a question we will be happy to point you in the right direction.

So, in terms of the value of these courses… A curator came to a course on cleaning up data and she went on to get a grant of over £70k for Big Data History of Music – a project with Royal Holloway to undertake analysis as a proof of concept around patters in the history of music – trends in printing for instance.

We also have events, competitions and awards. One of these is “Off the Map”, a very cool endeavour, now in its fourth year. I’m going to show you a video on The Wondering Lands of Alice, our most recent winner. We digitise materials for this competition, teams compete to build video games and actually this one is actually in our current Alice in Wonderland exhibition. This uses digitised content from our collection and you can see the calibre of these is very high.

There is a new competition open now. The new one is for any kind of digital media based on our digital collections. So do take a look of this.

So, if you want to get in touch with us you can find us at http://bl.uk/digital or tweet #bldigital.

British Library Labs – Mahendra Mahey, Project Manager of British Library Labs.

You can find my slides online (link to follow).

I manage a project called British Library Labs, based in the Digital Research team, who we work closely with. What we are trying to do is to get researchers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, and anyone really to experiment with our digital collections. We are especially interested in people finding new things from our collections, especially things that would be very difficult to do with our physical collections.

What I thought I’d do, and the space the project occupies, is to show you some work from a researcher called Adam Crymble, Kings College London (a video called Big Data + Old History). Adam entered a competition to explain his research in visual/comic book format (we are now watching the video which talks about using digital texts for distant reading and computational approaches to selecting relevant material; to quantify the importance of key factors).

Other kinds of examples of the kinds of methods we hope researchers will use with our data span text mining, georeferencing, as well are creative reuses.

Just to give you a sense of our scale… The British Library says we are the world’s largest library by number of items. 180 million (or so) items, with only about 1-2% digitised. Now new acquisitions do increasingly come in digital form, including the UK Web Archive, but it is still a small proportion of the whole.

What we are hoping to do with our digital scholarship site is to launch data.bl.uk (soon) where you can directly access data. But as I did last year I have also brought a network drive so you can access some of our data today. We have some challenges around sharing data, we sometimes literally have to shift hard drives… But soon there will be a platform for downloading some of this.

So, imagine 20 years from now… I saw a presentation on technology and how we use “digital”… Well we wont use “digital” in front of scholarship or humanities, it will just be part of the mainstream methodologies.

But back to the present… The reason I am here is to engage people like you, to encourage you to use our stuff, our content. One way to do this is through our BL Labs Competition, the deadline for which is 11th April 2016. And, to get you thinking, the best idea pitched to me during the coffee break gets a goodie bag – you have 30 seconds in that break!

Once ideas are (formally) submitted to the BL there will be 2 finalists announced in late May 2016. They then get a residency with some financial (up to £3600) and technical and curational support from June to October 2016. And a winner is then announced later in the year.

We also have the BL Labs Awards. This is for work already done with our content in interesting and innovative ways. You can submit projects – previous and new – by 5th September 2016. We have four categories: Artistic; Commercial; Research; and Learning/Teaching. Those categories reflect the increasingly diverse range of those engaging with our content. Winners are announced at a symposium on 7th November 2016 when prizes are given out!

So today is all about projects and ideas. Today is really the start of the conversation. What we have learned so far is that the kinds of ideas that people have will change quite radically once you try and access, examine and use the data. You can really tell the difference between someone who has tried to use the data and someone who has not when you look at their ideas/competition entries. So, do look at our data, do talk to us about your ideas. Aside from those competitions and awards we also collaborate in projects so we want to listen to you, to work with you on ideas, to help you with your work (capacity permitting – we are a small team).

Why are we doing this? We want to understand who wants to use our material, and more importantly why. We will try and give some examples to inspire you, to give you an idea of what we are doing. You will see some information on your seat (sorry blog followers, I only have the paper copy to hand) with more examples. We really want to learn how to support digital experiments better, what we can do, how we can enable your work. I would say the number one lesson we have learned – not new but important – is that it’s ok to make mistakes and to learn from these (cue a Jimmy Wales Fail Faster video).

So, I’m going to talk about the competition. One of our two finalists last year was Adam Crymble – the same one whose PhD project was highlighted earlier – and he’s now a lecturer in Digital History. He wanted to crowdsource tagging of historical images through Crowdsource Arcade – harnessing the appeal of 80s video games to improve the metadata and usefulness fo historical images. So we needed to find an arcade machine, and then set up games on it – like Tag Attack – created by collaborators across the world. Tag Attack used a fox character trotting out images which you had to tag to one of four categories before he left the screen.

I also want to talk about our Awards last year. Our Artistic award winner last year was Mario Klingeman – Quasimondo. He found images of 44 men who Look 44 with Flickr images – a bit of code he wrote for his birthday! He found Tragic Looking Women etc. All of these done computationally.

In Commercial our entrant used images to cross stitch ties that she sold on Etsy

The winner last year, from the Research category was Spatial Humanities in Lancaster looking for disease patterns and mapping those.

And we had a Special Jury prize was for James Heald who did tremendous work with Flickr images from the BL, making them more available on Wikimedia, particularly map data.

Finally, loads of other projects I could show… One of my favourites is a former Pixar animator who developed some software to animate some of our images (The British Library Art Project).

So, some lessons we have learned is that there is huge appetite to use BL digital content and data (see Flickr Commons stats later). And we are a route to finding that content – someone called us a “human API for the BL content”!

We want to make sure you get the most from our collections, we want to help your projects… So get in touch.

And now I just want to introduce Katrina Navickas who will talk about her project.

Political Meetings Mapper – Katrina Navickas

I am part of the Digital History Research Centre at the University of Hertfordshire. My focus right now is on Chartism, the big movement in the 19th Century campaigning for the vote. I am especially interested in the meetings they held, where and when they met and gathered.

The Chartists held big public meetings, but also weekly local meetings advertised in the press and local press. The BL holds huge amounts of those newspapers. So my challenge was to find out more about those meetings – how many there were advertised in the Northern Star newspaper from 1838 to 1850. The data is well structured for this… Now that may seem like a simple computational challenge but I come from a traditional research background, used to doing things by hand. I wanted to do this more automatically, at a much larger scale than previously possible. My mission was to find out how many meetings there were, where they were held, and how we could find those meetings automatically in the newspapers. We also wanted to make connections between papers, georeferenced historical maps, and also any that appear in playbills as some meetings were in theatres (though most were in pubs).

But this wasn’t that simple to do… Just finding the right files is tricky. The XML is some years old so is quite poor really. The OCR was quite inaccurate, hard to search. And we needed to find maps from the right period.

So, the first stage was to redo the OCR of the original image files. Initially we thought we’d need to do what Bob Nicholson did with Historic Jokes, which was getting volunteers to re-do them. But actually newer OCR software (Abbyy Finereader 12) did a much better job and we just needed a volunteer student to check the text – mainly about punctuation not spelling. Then we needed to geo-code places using a gazeteer. And then we needed to use a Python code with regular expressions to extract dates and using some basic NLP to calculate the dates of words like “tomorrow” – easier as the paper always came out on a Saturday.

So, in terms of building a historical gazeteer. We extracted place names run through: http://sandbox.idre.ucla.edu/tools/geocoder. Ran through with parameters of Lat and Long to check locations. But we still needed to do some geocoding by hand. The areas we were looking at has changed a lot through slum clearances. We needed to therefore geolocate some of the historical places, using detailed 1840s georeferenced maps of Manchester, and geocoding those.

In the end, in the scale of this project, we looked at only 1841-1844. From that we extracted 5519 meetings (and counting) – and identifying text and dates. And that coverage spanned 462 towns and villages (and counting). In that data we found 200+ lecture tours – Chartist lecturers were paid to go on tours.

So, you can find all of our work so far here: http://politicalmeetingsmapper.co.uk. The website is still a bit rough and ready, and we’d love feedback. It’s built on the Umeeka (?) platform – designed for showing collections – which also means we have some limitations but it does what we wanted to.

Our historical maps are with thanks to the NLS whose brilliant historical mapping tiles – albeit from a slightly later map – were easier to use than the BL georeferenced map when it came to plot our data.

Interestingly, although this was a Manchester paper, we were able to see meeting locations in London – which let us compare to Charles Booth’s poverty maps. Also to do some heatmapping of that data. Basically we are experimenting with this data… Some of this stuff is totally new to me, including trialling a Machine Learning approach to understand the texts of a meeting advertisement – using an IPython Notebook to make a classifer to try to identify meeting texts.

So, what next? Well we want to refine our NLP parsing for more dates and other data. And I also want to connect “forthcoming meetings” to reports from the same meeting in the next issue of the paper. Also we need to do more machine learning to identify columns and types of texts in the unreconstructed XML of the newspapers in the BL Digital Collections.

Now that’s one side of our work, but we also did some creative engagement around this too. We got dressed up in Victorian costume, building on our London data analysis and did a walking tour of meetings ending in recreating a Chartist meeting in a London Pub.

Q&A

Q1) I’m looking at Data mining for my own research. I was wondering how much coding you knew before this project – and after?

A1) My training had only been in GIS, and I’d done a little introduction to coding but I basically spent the summer learning how to do this Python coding. Having a clear project gave me the focus and opportunity to do that. I still don’t consider myself a Digital Historian I guess but I’d getting there. So, no matter whether you have any coding skills already don’t be scared, do enter the competition – you get help, support, and pointed in the right direction to learn the skills you need to.

Farces and Failures: an overview projects that have used British Library’s Digital Content and data – Ben O’Steen, Technical Lead of British Library Labs.

My title isn’t because our work is farce and failure… It’s intentionally to reference the idea that it can be really important early in the process to ensure we have a shared understanding of terminology as that can cause all manner of confusion. The names and labels we choose shape the questions that people will ask and the assumptions we make. For instance “Labs” might make you imagine test tubes… or puppies… In fact we are based in the BL building in St Pancras, in offices, with curators.

Our main purpose is to make the collections available to you, to help you find the paths to walk through, where to go, what you can find, where to look. We work with researchers on their specific problems, and although that work is specific we are also trying to assess how widely this problem is felt. Much of our work is to feed back to the library what researchers really want and need to do their work.

There is also this notion that people tell us things that they think we need to hear in order to help them. As if you need secret passwords to access the content, people can see us as gatekeepers. But that isn’t how BL Labs work. We are trying to develop things that avoid the expected model of scholarship – of coming in, getting one thing, and leaving. That’s not what we see. We see scholars looking at 10,000 things to work with. People ask us “Give me all of collection X” but is that useful? Collections are often collected that way, named that way for adminstrative reasons – the naming associated with a particular digitisation funder, or from a collection. So the Dead Sea Scrolls are scanned in a music collection because the settings were the same for digitising them… That means the “collection” isn’t always that helpful.

So farce… If we think Fork handles/4 Candles…

We have some common farce-inducing words:

  • Collection (see above)
  • Access – but that has different meanings, sometimes “access” is “on-site” and without download, etc. Access has many meanings.
  • Content – we have so much, that isn’t a useful term. We have personal archives, computers, archives, UK Web domain trawl, pictures of manuscripts, OCR, derived data. Content can be anything. We have to be specific.
  • Metadata – one persons metadata is anothers data. Not helpful except in a very defined context.
  • Crowdsourced – means different things to different people. You must understand how the data was collected – what was the community, how did they do it, what was the QA process. That applies to any collaborative research data collection, not just crowdsourcing.

An example of complex provenence…

Microsoft Books digitisation project. It started in 2007 but stopped in 2009 when the MS Book search project was cancelled. This digitised 49K works (~65k volumes). It has been online since 2012 via a “standard” page turning interface ut we have very low usage statistics. That collection is quite random, items were picked shelf by shelf with books missing. People do data analysis of those works and draw conclusions that don’t make sense if you don’t understand that provenance.

So we had a competition entry in 2013 that wanted to analyse that collection… But actually led to a project called the Sample Generator by Pieter Francois. This compared physical to digital collections to highlight the issues of how unrepresentative that sample is for drawing any conclusions.

Allen B Riddell looked at the HathiTrust corpus called “Where are the novels?” in 2012 which similarly looked at the bias in digitised resources.

We have really big gaps in our knowledge. In fact librarians may recognise the square brackets of the soul… The data in records that isn’t actually confirmed, inferred information within metadata. If you look at the Microsoft Books project it’s about half inferred information. A lot of the Sample Generator peaks of what has been digitised is because of inferred year of publication based on content – guesswork rather than reliable dates.

But we can use this data. So Bob Nicholson’s competition entry on Victorian Jokes led to the Mechanical Comedian Twitter account. We didn’t have a good way into these texts, we had to improvise around these ideas. And we did find some good jokes… If you search for “My Mother in-law” and “Victorian Humour” you’ll see a great video for this.

That project looked for patterns of words. That’s the same technique applied to Political Meetings Mapper.

So “Access” again… These newspapers were accessible but we didn’t have access to them… Keyword search fails miserable and bulk access is an issue. But that issue is useful to know about. Research and genealogical needs are different and these papers were digitised partly for those more lucrative genealogical needs to browse and search.

There are over 600 digital archive, we can only spend so long characterising each of them. Microsoft Books digitisation project was public domain so that let us experiment richly quickly. We identified images of people, we found image details. we started to post images to Twitter and Tumblr (via Mechanical Curator)… There was demand and we weren’t set up to deliver those so we used Flickr Commons – 1 TB for free – with the limited awareness of what page an image was from, what region. We had minimal metadata but others started tagging and adding to our knowledge. Nora did a great job of collating these images that had been started to be tagged (by people and machines). And usage of images has been huge. 13-20 million hits on average every month, over 330 M hits to date.

Is this Iterative Crowdsourcing (Mia Ridge)? We crowdsource broad facts and subcollections of related items will emerge. There is no one size fits all, has to be project based. We start with no knowledge but build from there. But these have to be purposefully contextless. Presenting them on Flickr removed the illustrations context. The sheer amount of data is huge. David Foster Wallace has a great comment that “if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything”. We have a fear of imperfection in all universities, and we need to have the space to experiment. We can re-represent content in new forms, it might work, it might not. Metaphors don’t translate between media – like turning pages on a screen, or scrolling a book forever.

With our map collection we ran a tagathon and found nearly 30,000 maps. 10,000 were tagged by hand, 20,000 were found by machine. We have that nice combination of human and machine. We are now trying to georeference our maps and you can help with that.

But it’s not just research… We encourage people to do new things – make colouring books for kids, make collages – like David Normal’s Burning Man installation (also shown at St Pancras). That stuff is part of playing around.

Now, I’ve talked about “Crowd sourcing” several times. There can be lots of bad assumptions of that term. It’s assumed to be about a crowd of people all doing a small thing, about special software, that if you build it they will come, its easy, its cheap, it’s totally untrustworthy… These aren’t right. It’s about being part of a community, not just using it. When you looka at Zooniverse data you see a common pattern – that 1-2% of your community will do the majority of the work. You have to nurture the expert group within your community. This means you can crowdsource starting with that expert group – something we are also doing in a variety of those groups. You have to take care of all your participants but that core crowd really matter.

So, for crowdsourcing you don’t need special software. If you build something they don’t neccassarily come, they often don’t. And something we like to flag up is the idea of playing games, trying the unusual… Can we avoid keyboard and mouse? That arcade game does that, it asks that idea of whether we can make use of casual interaction to get useful data. That experiment is based on a raspberry pi and loads of great ideas from others using our collections. They are about the game dynamic… How we deal with data – how to understand how the game dynamics impact on the information you can extract.

So, in summary…

Don’t be scared of using words like “collection” and “access” with us… But understand that there will be a dialogue… that helps avoid disappointment, helps avoid misunderstanding or wasted time. We want to be clear and make sure we are all on the same page early on. I’m there to be your technical guide and lead on a project. There is space to experiment, to not be scared to fail and learn from that failure when it happens. We are there to have fun, to experiment.

Questions & Discussion

Q1) I’m a historian at the National Library of Scotland. You talked about that Microsoft Books project and the randomness of that collection. Then you talked about the Flickr metadata – isn’t that the same issue… Is that suitable for data mining? What do you do with that metadata?

A1) A good point. Part of what we have talked about is that those images just tell you about part of one page in a book. The mapping data is one of the ways we can get started on that. So if we geotag an image or a map with Aberdeen then you can perhaps find that book via that additional metadata, even if Aberdeen would not be part of the catalogue record, the title etc. There are big data approaches we can take but there is work on OCR etc. that we can do.

Q2) A question for Ben about Tweeting – the Mechanical Curator and the Mechanical Comedian. For the Curator… They come out some regularly… How are they generated?

A2) That is mechanical… There are about 1200 lines of code that roams the collection looking for similar stuff… The text is generated from books metadata… It is looking at data on the harddrive – access to everything so quite random. If no match it finds another random image.

Q2) And the mechnical comedian?

A2) That is run by Bob. The jokes are mechanically harvested, but he adds the images. He does that himself – with a bit of curation in terms of the badness of jokes – and adds images with help of a keen volunteer.

Q3) I work at the National Library of Scotland. You said to have fun and experiment. What is your response to the news of job cuts at Trove, at the National Library of Australia.

A3 – Ben) Trove is a leader in this space and I know a lot of people are increadibly upset about that.

A3 – Nora) The thing with digital collections is that they are global. Our own curators love Trove and I know there is a Facebook group to support Trove so, who knows, perhaps that global response might lead to a reversal?

Mahendra: I just wanted to say again that learning about the stories and provenance of a collection is so important. Talking about the back stories of collections. Sometimes the reasons content are not made available have nothing to do with legality… Those personal connections are so importan.

Q4) I’m interested in your use of the IPython Notebook. You are using that to access content on BL servers and website? So you didn’t have to download lots of data? Is that right?

A4) I mainly use it as a communication tool between myself and Ben… I type ideas into the notebook, Ben helps me turn that into code… It seemed the best tool to do that.

Q4) That’s very interesting… The Human API in action! As a researcher is that how it should be?

A4) I think be. As a researcher I’m not really a coder. For learning these spaces are great, they act as a sandbox.

Q4) And your code was written for your project, should that be shared with others?

A4) All the code is on a GitHub page. It isn’t perfect. That extract, code, geocode idea would be applicable to many other projects.

Mahendra: There is a balance that we work with. There are projects that are fantastic partnerships of domain experts working with technical experts wanting problems to solve. But we also see domain experts wanting to develop technical skills for their projects. We’ve seen both. Not sure of the answer… We did an event at Oxford who do a critical coding course where they team humanities and computer scientists… It gives computer scientists experience of really insanely difficult problems, the academics get experience of framing questions in precise ways…

Ben: And by understanding coding and

Comment (me): I just wanted to encourage anyone creating research software to consider submitting papers on that to the Journal of Open Research Software, a metajournal for sharing and finding software specifically created for research.

Q5) It seemed like the Political Meetings Mapper and the Palimpsest project had similar goals, so I wondered why they selected different workflows.

A5 – Bea Alex) The project came about because I spoke to Miranda Anderson who had the idea at the Digital Scholarship Day of Ideas. At that time we were geocoding historical trading documents and we chatted about automating that idea of georeferencing texts. That is how that project came about… There was a large manual aspect as well as the automated aspects. But the idea was to reduce that manual effort.

A5 – Katrina) Our project was so much smaller team. This is very much a pilot project to meet a particular research issue. The outcomes may seem similar but we worked on a smaller scale, seeing what one researcher could do. As a traditional academic historian I don’t usually work in groups, let alone big teams. I know other projects work at larger scale though – like Ian Gregory’s Lakes project.

A5 – Mahendra) Time was a really important aspect in decisions we took in Katrina’s project, and of focusing the scope of that work.

A5 – Katrina) Absolutely. It was about what could be done in a limited time.

A5 – Bea) One of the aspects from our work is that we sourced data from many collections, and the structure could be different for each mention. Whereas there is probably a more consistent structure because of the single newspaper used in Katrina’s project, which lends itself better to a regular expressions approach.

And next we moved to coffee and networking. We return at 3.30 for more excellent presentations (details below). 

BL Labs Awards: Research runner up project: “Palimpsest: Telling Edinburgh’s Stories with Maps” – Professor James Loxley, Palimpsest, University of Edinburgh

I am going to talk about project which I led in collaboration with colleagues in English Literature, with INformatics here, with visualisation experts at St Andrews, and with EDINA.

The idea came from Miranda Anderson, in 2012, who wanted to explore how people imagine Edinburgh in a literary sense, how the place is imagined and described. And one of the reasons for being interested in doing this is the fact that Edinburgh was the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. The City of Literature Trust in Edinburgh is also keen to promote that rich literary heritage.

We received funding from the AHRC from January 2014 to March 2015. And the name came from the concept of the Palimpsest, the text that is rewritten and erased and layered upon – and of the city as a Palimpsest, changing and layering over time. The original website was to have the same name but as that wasn’t quite as accessible, we called that LitLong in the end.

We had some key aims for this project. There are particular ways literature is packaged for tourists etc. We weren’t interested in where authors were born or died. Or the authors that live here. What we were interested in was how the city is imagined in the work of authors, from Robert Louis Stevenson to Muriel Spark or Irvine Welsh.

And we wanted to do that in a different way. Our initial pilot in 2012 was all done manually. We had to extract locations from texts. We had a very small data set and it offfered us things we already knew – relying on well known Edinburgh books, working with the familiar. The kind of map produced there told us what we already knew. And we wanted to do something new. And this is where we realised that the digital methods we weree thinking about really gave us an opportunity to think of the literary cityscape in a different mode.

So, we planned to textmine large collections of digital text to identify narrative works set in Edinburgh. We weren’t constrained to novels, we included short stories, memoirs… Imaginative narrative writing. We excluded poetry as that was too difficult a processing challenge for the scale of the project. And we were very lucky to have the support and access to British library works, as well as material from the HathiTrust, and the National Library of Scotland. We mainly worked with out of copyright works. But we did specifically get permission from some publishers for in-copyright works. Not all publishers were forthcoming, and happy for work to be text mined. We were text mining work – not making them freely available – but for some publishers full text for text mining wasn’t possible.

So we had large collections of works, mainly but not exclusively out of copyright. And we set about textmining those collections to find those set in Edinburgh. And then we georeferenced the Edinburgh placenmmaes in those works to make mapping possible. And then finally we created visualisations offering different viewpoints into the data.

The best way to talk about this is to refer to text from our website:

Our aim in creating LitLong was to find out what the topography of a literary city such as Edinburgh would look like if we allowed digital reading to work on a very large body of texts. Edinburgh has a justly well-known literary history, cumulatively curated down the years by its many writers and readers. This history is visible in books, maps, walking tours and the city’s many literary sites and sights. But might there be other voices to hear in the chorus? Other, less familiar stories? By letting the computer do the reading, we’ve tried to set that familiar narrative of Edinburgh’s literary history in the less familiar context of hundreds of other works. We also want our maps and our app to illustrate old connections, and forge new ones, among the hundreds of literary works we’ve been able to capture.

That’s the kind of aims we had, what we were after.

So our method started with identifying texts with a clear Edinburgh connection or, as we called it “Edinburghyness“. Then, within those works to actually try and understand just how relevant they were. And that proved tricky. Some of the best stuff about this project came from close collaboration between literary scholars and informatics researchers. The back and forth was enormously helpful.

We came across some seemingly obvious issues. The first thing we saw was that there was a huge amount of theological works… Which was odd… And turned out to be because the Edinburgh placename “Trinity” was in there. Then “Haymarket” is a place in London as well as Edinburgh. So we needed to rank placenames and part of that was the ambiguity of names, and understanding that some places are more likely to specifically be Edinburgh than others.

From there, with selected works, we wanted to draw out snippits – of varying lengths but usually a sensible syntactic shape – with those mentions of specific placenames.

At the end of that process we had a dataset of 550 published works, across a range of narrative genres. They have over 1600 Edinburgh place names of lots of different types, since literary engagement with a city might be a street, a building, open spaces, areas, monuments etc. In mapping terms you can be more exact, in literature you have these areas and diverse types of “place”, so our gazeteer needed to be flexible to that. And what that all gave us in total was 47,000 extracts from literary works, all focused on a place name mention.

That was the work itself but we also wanted to engage people in our work. So we brought Sir Walter Scott back to life. He came along to the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2014. He kind of got away from us and took on a life of his own… He ended up being part of the celebrations of the 200th aniversary of Waverley. And popped up again last year on the Borders Railway when that launched! That was fun!

We did another event at EIBF in 2015 with James Robertson who was exploring LitLong and data there. And you can download that as a podcast.

So, we were very very focused on making this project work, but we were also thinking about the users.

The resource itself you can visit at LitLong.org. I will talk a little about the two forms of visualisation. The first is a location visualiser largely built and developer by Uta Hinrichs at St Andrews. That allows you to explore the map, to look at keywords associated by locations – which indicate a degree of qualitative engagement. We also have a searchable database where you can see the extracts. And we have an app version which allows you to wander in among the extracts, rather than see from above – our visualisation colleagues call this the “Frogs Eye View”. You can wander between extracts, browse the range of them. It works quite well on the bus!

We were obviously delighted to be able to do this! Some of the obstacles seemed tough but we found workable solutions… But we hope it is not the end of the story. We are keen to explore new ways to make the resource explorable. Right now there isn’t a way where interaction leaves a trace – other people’s routes through the city, other peoples understanding of the topography. There is scope for more analysis of the texts themselves. For instance we considered doing a mood map of the city, scope to see that. But we weren’t able to do that in this project but there is scope to do that. And as part of building on the project we have a bit of funding from the AHRC so lots of interesting lines of enquiry there. And if you want to explore the resource do take a look, get in touch etc.

Q&A

Q1) Do you think someone could run sentiment analysis over your text?

A1) That is entirely plausible. The data is there and tagged so that you could do that.

A1 – Bea) We did have an MSc project just starting to explore that in fact.

A1) One of our buttons on the homepage is “LitLong Lab” where we share experiments in various ways.

Q2) Some science fiction authors have imagined near future Edinburgh, how could that be mapped?

A2) We did have some science fiction in the texts, including the winner of our writing competition. We have texts from a range of ages of work but a contemporary map, so there is scope to keying data to historic maps, and those exist thanks to the NLS. As to the future…  The not-yet-Edinburgh… Something I’d like to do… It is not uncommon that fictional places exist in real places – like 221 Baker Street or 44 Scotland Street – and I thought it would be fun to see the linguistic qualities associated with a fictional place, and compare to real places with the same sort of profile. So, perhaps for futuristic places that would work – using linguistic profile to do that.

Q3) I was going to ask about chronology – but you just answered that. So instead I will ask about crowd sourcing.

A3) Yes! As an editor I am most concerned about potential effort. For this scale and speed we had to let go of issues of mistakes, we know they are there… Places that move, some false positives, and some books that used Edinburgh placenames but are other places (e.g. some Glasgow texts). At the moment we don’t have a full report function or similar. We weren’t able to create it to enable corrections in that sort of way. What we decided to do is make a feature of a bug – celebrating those as worm holes! But I would like to fine tune and correct, with user interactions as part of that.

Q4) Is the data set available.

A4) Yes, through an API created by EDINA. Open for out of copyright work.

Palimpsest seeks to find new ways to present and explore Edinburgh’s literary cityscape, through interfaces showcasing extracts from a wide range of celebrated and lesser known narrative texts set in the city. In this talk, James will set out some of the project’s challenges, and some of the possibilities for the use of cultural data that it has helped to unearth.

Geoparsing Jisc Historical Texts – Dr Claire Grover, Senior Research Fellow, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

I’ll be talking about a current project, a very rapid project to geoparse all of the Jisc Historical Texts. So I’ll talk about the Geoparser and then more about that project.

The Edinburgh Geoparser, which has been developed over a number of years in collaboration with EDINA. It has been deployed in various projects and places, mainly also in collaboration with EDINA. And it has various main steps:

  • Use named entity recognition to identify place names in texts
  • Find matching records in a gazeteer
  • In cases of ambiguity (e.g. Paris, Springfield), resolve using contextual information from the document
  • Assign coordinates of preferred reading to the placename

So, you can use the Geoparser either via EDINA’s Unlock Text, or you can download it, or you can try a demonstrator online (links to follow).

To give you an example I have a news piece on the buriel of Richard III. You can see the Geoparser looks for entity recognition of all types – people as well as places – as that helps with disambiguation later on. Then using that text the parser ranks the likelihood of possible locations.

A quick word on gazeteers. The knowledge of possible interpretations comes from a gazeteer, which pairs place names to lat/long. So, if you know your data you can choose a gazeteer relevant to that (e.g. just the UK). The Edinburgh Geoparser is configured to provide a choice of gazeteers and can be configured to use other gazeteers.

If a place is not in a gazeteer it cannot be grounded. If the correct interprestation of a place name is not in the gazeteer, it cannot be grounded correctly. Modern gazeteers are not ideal for historical documents so historical gazeteers need to be used/developed. So for instance the DEEP (Directory of English Place Names) or PELAGIOS (ancient world) gazeteers have been useful in our current work.

The current Jisc Historical Text(http://historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/) project has been working with EEBO and ECCO texts as well as the BL Nineteenth Century collections. These are large and highly varied data sets. So, for instance, yesterday I did a random sample of writers and texts… which is so large we’ve only seen a tiny portion of it. We can process it but we can’t look at it all.

So, what is involved in us georeferencing this text? Well we have to get all the data through the Edinburgh Geoparser pipeline. And that requires adapting the geoparser pipeline to recognise place names to work as accurately as possible on historical text. And we need to adjust the georeferencing strategy to be more detailed.

Adapting our place name recognition relies a lot on lexicons. The standard Edinburgh Geoparser has three lexicons derived from the Alexandria Gazetteer (global, very detailed); Ordnance Survey (Great Britain, quite detailed), DEEP. We’ve also added more lexicons from more gazeteers… including larger place names in Geonames (population over 10,000), populated places from Natural Earth, only larger places from DEEP, and the score recognised place names based on how many and which lexicons they occur in. Low scored placenames are removed – we reckon people’s tolerance for missing a place is higher than their tolerance for false positives.

Working with old texts also means huge variation of spellings… There are a lot of false placenames/false negatives because of this (e.g. Maldauia, Demnarke, Saxonie, Spayne). They also result in false positives (Grasse, Hamme, Lyon, Penne, Sunne, Haue, Ayr). So we have tried to remove the false positives, to remove bad placenames.

When it comes to actually georeferencing these places we need coordinates for place names from gazetteers. We used three place names in succession: Pleiades++, GeoNames and then DEEP. In addition to using those gazeteers we can weight the results based on locations in the world – based on a bounding box. So we can prefer locations in the UK and Europe, then those in the East. Not extending to the West as much… And excluding Australia and New Zealand (unknown at that time).

So looking at EEBO and ECCO we can see some frequent place names from each gazeteers – which shows how different they are. In terms of how many terms we have found there are over 3 million locations in EEBO, over 250k in ECCO (a much smaller collection). The early EEBO collections have a lot of locations in Israel, Italy, France. The early books are more concerned with the ancient world and Biblical texts so these statistics suggest that we are doing the right thing here.

These are really old texts, we have huge volumes fo them, and there is a huge variety of the data and that all makes this a hard task. We still don’t know how the work will be received but we think Jisc will put this work in a sandbox area and we should get some feedback on it.

Find out more:

  • http://historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/
  • https://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/software/geoparser
  • http://edina.ac.uk/unlock/
  • http://placenames.org.uk/
  • https://googleancientplaces.wordpress.com/

Q&A

Q1) What about historical Gaelic place names?

A1) I’m not sure these texts have these. But we did apply a language tag on a paragraph level. These are supposed to be English texts but there is lots of Latin, Welsh, Spanish, French and German. We only georeferenced texts thought to be English. If Gaelic names then, if in Ordnance Survey, they may have been picked up…

Claire will talk about work the Edinburgh Language Technology Group have been doing for Jisc on geoparsing historical texts such as the British Library’s Nineteenth Century Books and Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership which is creating standardized, accurate XML/SGML encoded electronic text editions of early print books.

Pitches – Mahendra and co

Can the people who pitched me

Lorna: I’m interested in open education and I’d love to get some of the BL content out there. I’ve been worked on the new HECoS coding schema for different subjects. And I thought that it would be great to classify the BL content with HECoS.

Karen: I’ve been looking at Copyright music collections at St Andrews. There are gaps in legal deposit music from late 18th and 19th century as we know publishers deposited less in Scottish versus BL. So we could compare and see what reached outer reaches of the UK.

Nina: My idea was a digital Pilgrims Progress where you can have a virtual tour of a journey with all sorts of resources.. To see why some places are most popular in texts etc.

David: I think my idea has been done.. It was going to be iPython – Katrina is already doing this! But to make it more unique… It’s quite hard work for Ben to support scholars in that way so I think researchers should be encouraged to approach Ben etc. but also get non-programmers to craft complex queries, make the good ones reusable by others… and have those reused be marked up as of particular quality. And to make it more fun… Could have a sort of treasure hunt jam with people using that facility to have a treasure hunt on a theme… share interesting information… Have researchers see tweets or shared things… A group treasure hunt to encourage people by helping them share queries…

Mahendra: So we are supposed to decide the winners now… But I think we’ll get all our pitchers to share the bag – all great ideas… The idea was to start conversations. You should all have an email from me so, if you have found this inspiring or interesting, we’ll continue that conversation.

And with that we are done! Thanks to all for a really excellent session!

Feb 102016
 

Today I am at a Supervising Dissertations at a Distance workshop, co-hosted by eLearning@ed and the Institute for Academic Development. The session is based on a research project and is being facilitated by Dr Jen Ross, Dr Philippa Sheail and Clara O’Shea.

As this is a liveblog the usual caveats apply – and corrections and comments are welcome.

Jen Ross (JR): This event came about from some research that myself, Phil and Clara have worked on looking at online distance learners going through the dissertation process at a distance. So we will talk a bit about this, but also we have an exciting new development that we’ll be showing off: a board game based on our research!

So, myself, Phil and Clara worked on this project, funded by the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme, with our colleagues Sian Bayne, Erin Jackson and Gill Aitken.

This work was done with 4 online distance programmes – clinical education, clinical management of pain, digital education and law. We had 18 semi-structured interviews conducted with graduates almost all via Skype. We undertook thematic analysis of transcripts. We also had 3 focus workshops/conversations with supervisors which enabled us to trigger reflection on the interview data.

So, to start with I want to talk about the “campus imaginary”, after Taylor’s idea of the “imaginary”, and Goggin’s definition of shared beliefs and understandings (rather than imaginary imaginary). Drawing on these we came up with the idea of the “Campus imaginaries” – the shared understanding of the campus and the organisation for those not physically here. We have nick-named this “when it was good it was very very good, but when it was bad it was the internet”. Why? People had lovely things to say, but when they didn’t they often attributed this to being an online distance learner, even when describing quite common dissertation experiences.

For instance June talks about struggling with time to do her dissertation around full time work – she attributes this to being an online distance student. Eva felt she had a good experience but that the supervision wasn’t great, it was adequate but she felt that it could have been better. And she also attributed this to being a distance student.

Terry says: “If you are full time you can just pop in and see your supervisor, or you speak to his secretary and book an appointment to see him. I don’t think there is a limit for a full time student.” [this gets audible laughs in the room given the realities of supervision on and off campus]

Now, that is funny but it is also poinagnt. That imagined idea of the physical space isn’t helpful for Terry and his expectations around supervision, of the support and time available, and those perceived differences between (idealised) physical and distance experience.

Arnott, meanwhile had a poor experience with their supervisor and felt that maybe being able to talk face to face might have helped that.

Nieve didn’t complete the dissertation, exiting with diploma. She felt (in retrospect) that doing some of the degree online, and some on-campus would have helped her as she felt lonely during her dissertation, and wanted to have the opportunity to share experience with other dissertation students. But again we can recognise that as a concern of many on campus students too.

So the themes that came up here, specifically in relation to online distance dissertations are also very familiar: unexpected obstacles; issues with motivation; supervisory relationships; time and space to focus; isolation; doubt. I think we have to do better at being supervisors helping students to understand what they can expect, that they can talk to us about all of these things, that we can support them (and that we don’t have secretaries!)

Phil Sheail (PS): I’m going to talk about the sense of “hospitality at a distance” – of hosting each other as distance students and supervisors, in learning spaces that overlap with homes.

Ruitenberg (2011), drawing on Derrida, in a great paper called “The empty chair: education in an ethic of hospitality” in Philosophy of education. She talks about hospitality as a demand for openness to the arrival of something and someone we cannot forsee: a demand that is impossible to fulfil, but that confronts all of our decisions and actions…”

I think this concept is relevant as whilst I was doing interviews there were so many different students, from different backgrounds and cultures… and it forces us to question some of our ideas of hospitality and of being a good host. Ruitenberg also talks about the figure of the teacher in “at-home” education. And the ethics of the university, the spaces of education are not the teachers

Amplification – you have to amplify yourself to put across your normal sense of enthusiasm, and that works well online.

One of the other things I did on a project with support services – disability office, careers, etc. and that connects to this idea of hospitality, and very particularly the idea of arrival, of welcome. So, we’ve been thinking about

Q: For intermittent learners, students might be engaged in a programme that they started 6 years ago, and starting a dissertation in that context.

A: Well when you start dissertation you may have a supervisor that hasn’t taught you… And there can be a dependency in that relationship between student and supervisor which can be challenging…

Q: Some of our supervisors are not Edinburgh staff members but those from NGOs etc.

A (JR): That was the case with one of the programmes we looked at. There it’s almost a welcome for supervisors too, and what does that mean in terms of making a space for dissertation, and establishing that complex relationship.

A (PS): Even if you are away from the institution, your supervisor is in a hospital etc. it’s important that the University does welcome you, particularly if things go wrong in that relationship, so they know where else to turn.

Martin, a supervisor, talked about the importance of a good and deliberate welcome for students.

In the example you just gave, of students who take a long time… Some students have complex care requirements. June again comments that she had gone through marriage breakdown, family crisis, health issues, but that for her, the degree was actually useful as a consistent presence in her life.

Now we’ve talked about welcomes and being supportive… But not all students actually want that. Terry comments that he wasn’t keen for hand holding and wouldn’t be whether he was full time, part time or online. And we have to remember that not all students want the same thing here.

JR: So we are going to turn now to how we can think of other ways to imagine the campus, alternatives that make students welcome. And also around fostering connections and counteracting negative disconnections. So, over to Clara…

Clara O’Shea (COS): The Dissertation Festival is an idea that Marshall and I came up with and made happen. We started this in 2011 – so reading Jen and Phil’s work backwards into what we do. This idea came out of the experience of loneliness and disconnection which can take place as a student going through the dissertation. We wanted something to support students through the dissertation process.

So, we try to run this festival 6-8 weeks before dissertations are due (usually August) so the festival is generally in May/June. The festival runs in Second Life – so we meet in a virtual space with sunshine, beach, virtual champagne and sushi. And this is just to be welcoming, warm, to make students feel comfortable.

So, the idea is that students come into the space, they present their work – 2 or 3 in an hour or hour and a half period, usually somewhat themed to foster connections, allow sharing of resources, etc. We checked student availability but also tutor availability – and opened the sessions up to others on the programme, and those beyond the programme. Participants do their presentation on voice chat for about 15 minutes. Questions come in in text chat – the presenter may reply during the talk or afterwards, which we also help facilitate.

So, last year we had some sessions on game based learning, multimodality, etc. We also had some tutor and alumni sessions on academic writing, on surviving and thriving through the dissertation, and also literature hunting. All of these sessions are synchronous but they are also recorded. Those recordings and the sessions are also complimented by a wiki (on PBWorks) where comments, further information, etc. can be shared. Each student has a page on the wiki with video, transcript, etc. But they also played with other ways to articulate their idea… We have them write haikus – they hate writing them but then find them really useful. They also play with images as well.

We also have a new innovation since last year called “The Visualisations Gallery”. This is to encourage students towards multimodality… We had tutors, current students, alumni all sharing visual ways to imagine their research.

And, even if a visitor can’t access that wiki, you can leave comments in Second Life.

The dissertation festival gives students a few things. It gives students a touchstone when things are quiet, a way to stay connected with the community. Students not yet at dissertation stage have the opportunity to see what that looks like, how that works. We’ve had students making connections, reading over a draft for each other. It gives students a chance to touch base with other supervisors… Which means accessing other expertise, to fill the gaps, to suggest other content.

So, when Jen talked about campus imaginaries, I think maybe this gives an imaginary that is more realistic and helpful. Places like Second Life give a useful, shared delusion of the campus. We all experience that very differently depending on their own timezone, location, the version of software they are running… It’s an illusion we all buy into. But arguably that is the experience of being on campus anyway.

On a practical basis we move those virtual logs, we adapt the voice presentation to the speakers needs, etc. But every time people come into Second Life they bring in their home space – the sounds, the distractions – and share that. It makes that special overlapping space. The space changes every time anyone comes in and out, and the dialogic space that participants create. And I think that’s where hospitality fits in.

Q&A

Q1: Can you say more about the interviewees – how many students, how many supervisors. I would like to know more about similarities or differences between supervisors and students.

A1 (JR): The interviewees were all students. The supervisors gave input through workshops, where they reflected and responded to student comments. Those haven’t been written up as quotes yet but inform our understanding here. One thing that struck me was that supervisors often also feel a sense of dislocation from supervisees… For instance maintenance of an authoritative supervisory role when you and the student are Skyping each other from home, you see the students kids running about, etc. And that giving those relationships a different character and nature perhaps.

Q2: For us the distance is often not as important about the fact that they are intermittant adn part time.

A2: That longer process does mean more can happen… Which can mean more likelihood to need to take an interruption of studies, and struggle to fit things in.

Q2: As a coordinator one of my challenges is managing supervisor expectations – that students don’t work full time for 10 months.

A2 (PS): Certainly some students took a while to get going… Changes in work or work priorities can impact on projects, especially work-based projects. One of our students had moved through 3 continents whilst doing their work.

A2 (COS): The festival can be useful for providing an additional deadline. Students often struggle to prioritise their own research over their work commitments etc. Students can also have unrealistic idea of their own – and their supervisors – availability during the dissertation process. When my students start we talk  through those things that

A2 (PS): We did have students feeling they were out of sync with other students. In one programme regular Skype chats were available but being ahead or behind made that chat less useful… They got into this idea that only students at the same pace/stage can share. There was also that issue Clara mentioned about being unclear on how much time they could expect from supervisors, or how much they were allowed. More clarity there might help.

A2 (JR): One of the most interesting things for me was seeing the difference in practice between programmes. Some started at the same time, some were rolling… But no matter how rigid the system some students always went out of sync. It was interesting to see how many ways there are to organise a programme and a dissertation process, you can only organise so far.

Q3: Are there resources we can give supervisors meeting students for the first time that they haven’t taught before?

A3: We have a dissertation planner that is for students to adapt, to help them manage the process, to understand availability of students at a given time, etc. These are on the website too. So things like work commitments, times when supervisors are away…

Q3: That sounds more like its for students. What about supervisors.

A3: There are resources for PhD supervision but if you talk to Velda (IAD) she will be able to comment.

A3 (PS): I think for student services it is important to have routes for students to access them online. Careers, counselling, disability and chaplaincy all have some some of page for what they can do for online programmes now, and are looking at ways to offer services online. I had a student I spoke to in this research who had a horrible personal time, and she was surprised that counselling was never suggested

Comment (LC): There are resources you can embed in Learn for your courses that point to those support services.

Q4: Is 6-8 weeks really enough time for capturing the problems?

A4: I think it’s about right. We’ve tried later – and that’s too late. We’ve tried earlier but students get nervous about what they can present. It seems to be around 8 weeks is about right. And, if they aren’t ready at that point then students are in trouble and need to have conversations with supervisors. At that stage they can’t change methodologies though… But our research methods course ends with an assignment which is a proposal for research which triggers those sorts of theoretical and methodological conversations early, and raise any major concerns on timing etc.

JR: And now…. We will have a short break but then when we come back we will be playing Dissertation Situation: the board game based around our work! This is a primarily discussion based game.

So, the thing that is useful to know is that the scenarios in the game have come from data generated in this project. So these are real world problems (slightly fictionalised). They have happened, they are likely to happen again.

Cue board games… 

Q&A

Q1: We want an online version!

A1: We did talk about that – either to share and then print off, or to play online.

Comment: We should get students to play too!

Comment: I think that this would be really useful for supervisors, to know they are not alone, but also for students to understand what can arise.

Q2: I was also going to say that students should place. For us we didn’t get through the whole game in the time… And that was fine… But for me it wasn’t important to finish necessarily – that’s a game design thing perhaps, and a timing thing.

A2: I did some rough calculations… But it was guesswork.

PS: Any areas that weren’t useful for particular disciplines?

Comment: Yes, the data question doesn’t really apply to psychology in the same way, or for law. But literature related question on losing data would apply.

PS: One of things we were aware of was that some online distance learners wouldn’t have bandwidth – eg programmes with students in sub-Saharan Africa – to play this game online – or only a simple version. But actually a download version might work.

Comment: Would also be good to share this, or a list of scenarios to supervisors off-campus, not affiliated with the University.

Comment: I think it might be easier to get to students than supervisors…

Comment: And concerned it could be seen as patronising… But you could call it a simulation.

Comment: For new supervisors etc. you could set up a wiki with the questions, and have discussion there…

Comment: I think it would be interesting to know what potential there is for moderating, fact checking, or connecting this to other resources, things that new or outside supervisors just may not know are there. Some pragmatic solutions also potentially put a supervisor at some risk, or raise controversial issues, so knowing where to put those, flag those up… What to do next etc. would be great.

And with that we are done with a really interesting session. Huge thanks to Jen, Phil and Clara for this workshop. Do feel free to follow up with them about that game – it was a really useful tool for discussion. 

Related Links

 

 

Jan 192016
 

This evening I’m at Open Knowledge Edinburgh Meet Up 19, at the National Library of Scotland on George IVth Bridge, organised by OK Scotland.

I’ll be liveblogging so, as usual, any corrections, tweaks, comments etc. are very much welcome.

Tonight’s event has a number of lightning talks including:

  • Gill Hamilton (NLS): Welcome
  • Pippa Gardner (Urban Tide): Scottish Government Open Data Training Pilot
  • Allan Brown/Gill Hamilton: Identifying People in Scotland’s Post Office Directories
  • Ewan Klein: The UK Local Open Data Index
  • Fred Saunderson: The NLS Open Data Strategy
  • Akiko Kobayashi: The Fountainbridge Community Wikihouse
  • Jeremy Darot: Data Linkage in Scotland / Greener Leith‘s Edinburgh Open Data Map

Gill is starting us off with an introduction to the venue and the meet up – which is number 19. She is also giving a shout out to two Wikimedian’s in Residence: Sara from Museums and Galleries Scotland; and Ewan from Wikipmedian in Residence for Edinburgh University. And now over to Ewan Klein

Welcome to old faces and new. We have four talks today, then a break, then three more talks. It’s very informal, you can ask questions and obviously there is chance to discuss and ask more later on…

Pippa Gardner (Urban Tide): Scottish Government Open Data Training Pilot

This is Pippa’s first visit to OK Edinburgh – I’ve been to the Glasgow one before a few times though. So this is basically a big plug for #scotopendata, https://scotopendata.eventbright.co.uk.

ScotOpenData is a free open data training pilots for public sector organisations across Scotland, funded by Scottish Government. We are running 28 courses over the pilot year and this is a pilot – we are interested in content, style, duration, everything. It’s being handled in a very open way. We can get round about 560 people in that year but that’s just a drop in the ocean of the sector and the people working with open data. We’ve run 5 courses so far, two more this week (Aberdeen and Inverness) so do pass on the message.

At the moment there is a 1 day course: Open Data Opportunity – an introduction to what open data is, the cultural changes not just the technical issues. That’s covering background, strategy, aims of Scottish Government, engagement. The 2 day course then goes into much more detail and covers more technical aspects.

The 1 day course is designed with the needs of public sector leaders, senior managers and data owners in mind – although we see a wider range of people coming along. It’s quite high level, not technical at all but talk best practice and engagement.

The 2 day course is about the publication process, the publication chain, platforms to use, APIs, licensing, etc. And one of the things we are finding already is that the 2 day course is more popular than the 1 day course. There is a massive appetite for this throughout the country, for that detail not just the “what is” aspect.

A really interesting journey so far. Started in October, running until September… Have first quarterly reporting coming up in the next few weeks. We have had 52% take up already. We have had strong representation form local authorities, NHS and a range of other public sector bodies so far. And we have used networks and social media to spread the word but do share onwards, all are welcome.

Feedback so far has included a lot of people reassured by knowing that there are others in the same boat as them – commenting that they feel they are “Not alone”, “struggling with limited resources”, and that there is a “great deal to gain from greater collaboration”. There is a particular interest in making business cases etc. We think the exchange of ideas and experience and networking is a hugely valuable part of these sessions and we need to think about how to sustain that network on an ongoing basis.

Q&A

Q1) What are the reasons people are giving for coming along?

A1) For the 2 day course the technical aspects have been really important, there is a real appetite for that. They want to know how to do it and how to coordinate across Scotland. The 1 day course is a lot about people starting out, de-mystifying, and really wanting a focus on benefit and business case – what can I use to take to my senior managers to make my case?

Q2) What is the eligibility here? Are community councillors eligible?

A2) As long as you have an association with an eligible public sector body it should be fine, but I can check. There is a list you can look at too. The only people we’ve had to turn away so far have been academic sector – their training is funded separately.

Q3) Has there been any follow up with participants?

A3) We ask questions through eventbright at sign up, we ask again at the end of the course, and then we do 3 month follow up. Some show a dip after the course – we think that may be about them judging their own skills and then reassessing them in light of learning more. But they are quite engaging workshops, getting people talking about what they will do when they go back…

Allan Brown: Identifying People in Scotland’s Post Office Directories

I’m going to be talking about my honours project using the OCR data from scanned historical Post Office Directories (PODs). And taking those original directories and making them into a searchable database – looking for surname, first name, address, business name etc.And I am using machine learning to do this.

So we wanted to identify feature vectors – what a forename looks like, what a surname looks like etc. so that the system can use that as a training set to learn what those features look like, so that it has a mathematical model to predict what kind of word new ones might be.

So, an example of doing this would be to take feature vectors of the form [cloud coverage, temperature, wind speed] and to predict if it will rain. The system looks for features that can differentiate rainy and non-rainy days…

So, we are doing that sort of prediction for the PODs. Why use machine learning for this? Well it handles format differences between directories well – which is good as the directories from across 100 years vary here. It handles format differences within directories… and ambiguities. OCR errors mean its not just a case of looking up words in dictionary (70% accuracy when we tried that) and our machine learning is hitting about 80% accuracy.

The benefits of this project is to provide historians with open source tool for exploring Scotland’s history. And a free resource. It serves as a springboard for further work with similar data. And demonstrates what can be done with open data and a broad range of experts from different field – showing the benefit of using this data beyond historians so that more can be done with the data, making it more useful.

Q&A

Q1) This is important stuff. Are the NLS, and are you, relaxed about copyright and open data?

A1 – Allan) The data we are using is already open source. But the format isn’t that searchable or sortable. So the idea is to attribute metadata to it so we can attribute people to it. I think it will be almost entirely open source.

A1 – Gill) We license transcriptions as CC0, images as CC-BY-NC. But we are using the giant XML transcriptions.

Q2) If you took current valuation data rolls, could you do the same thing? The valuation rolls of commercial properties etc. the NRS data.

Comment) Better to ask for the current owner of the data.

A2 – Allan) This is very much designed for Edinburgh post office directory. Very

Q3) How far through?

A3) About half way through… Can take a page, identify people in that data… Looking to de-depulicate data across directories…

Q4) We worked with these same directories a few years ago (for AddressingHistory), looking for locations based on file structure rather than machine learning but that work might be of interest to combine with the person work you are doing.

Comment) I think you already have the POD Parser from that

A4) Yes, but would be useful to discuss.

Ewan Klein: The UK Local Open Data Index

The UK Local Open Data Index is part of a wider OK Foundation project looking to measure and see how mature, and how open countries are.

So, you can look at the US City Open Data Census and this compares data sets deemed important, then ranked (with a traffic light colour system) by openness.

So, if you want to run a census for your country you can do that nationally or locally. The community agrees the key data sets. Then we have a hack or sprint event doing some leg (desk) work to see what is available – what open data is available on crime in LA, say. And then from that the ranking by importance is done.

A census was started for the UK but it didn’t get that far. Nottingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester etc. were looked at but the data gathered wasn’t terribly thorough. The default data sets include things like real-time transit; air quality etc. These are reasonable… But are they useful for Scottish cities? For instance:

  • Real-time transport data – is controlled by transport operators
  • Air quality – is published by Air Quality Scotland, collected locally
  • Transport timetabled – again, transport operators
  • Crime statistics – collected by police, published by Scottish Government
  • Procurement contracts – published by Scottish Government
  • Food Safety inspections – published by Food Standards Agency
  • Traffic accidents – Published by UK Dept for Transport

Many of these data sets are not at city level, and many cities in scotland will have the same data available so not useful to compare.

In Australia they used different data choices: public amenities; addresses; trees; garbage collection times and places; bike paths and footpaths; ward boundaries; property boundaries; public buildings; building outlines; etc.

I think it is up to the community to decide those data sets that matter, that have relevance and meaning to those communities. I’d like this community to be involved in that. Saturday 5th March is International Open Data Day and I’d like to do a sprint and to carry out an Open Data Census for Seven Scottish Cities! Join me!

Q&A

Q1) Aren’t there standard city measures?

A1) There is an ISO standard for city indicators – with about 400 measures.

Q2) Can you find those automatically with web crawlers etc.

A2) There are limits – for instance on whether the license is machine readable. And whether available for download, or by API etc. I’d be happy to sit down and look with you at the data sets… Doing some of this automatically is useful to a point, but you need human judgement too. But first you have to decide what is important.

Q3) Are there clear requirements for openness?

A3) There are quite specific criteria to use.

Q4) It’s maybe dull at city level but it’s a good thing that Scottish Government is ensuring data is comparable across cities. That’s a good thing. And there are things that aren’t being done nationally that could be done more, collected more…

A4) I think that’s important and you could argue that having green all the way down might be a good thing.

And we’ve just had a wee break here… Now onwards… 

Fred Saunderson: The NLS Open Data Strategy

We published our NLS Open Data Publication Plan last week. This comes out of the Scottish Government Open Data Strategy which builds on the principles of open data by default, quality and quantity, usable by all, releasing data for improved governance, releasing data for innovation.

That Scottish Government strategy calls particularly on public sector organisations to publish their data in a format more appropriate for reuse – 3* or above on Tim Berners-Lee’s Deployment Model. So this is really exciting for us, it’s a really strong encouragement and a reason to talk to senior managers, to get buy-in on a plan. There is an appetite for better understanding, better structure, it’s a really nice way to go about it.

So, last month we published our Open Data Publication Plan (http://www.nls.uk/about-us/open-data/). And our plan is to provide our data in 3* and above. Unlike many public bodies we are set up to provide information, we have been thinking about this for a long time, so we are in a good place to get our data to a good standard. We benefit from already having the culture and mindset of data and data sharing.

Fred is explaining Berners-Lee’s deployment model.

So, our plan lists the data we have and will make available and two major priorities:

  1. To make available as 3* open data the data that we already make available
  2. We can also identify what we aren’t yet supplying at that level. And we aim to publish appropriate non personal and non sensitive data as 3* open data.

So, we want better data. But we also want better reuse which will benefit us but also will benefit wider society.

Generally we wil be licensing under CC-0 or CC-BY for data. And we aim to release as CSV, EAD (Encoded Archival Description) and MARCXML. We may release in other formats but those are our main formats.

We will have 14 datasets opened by the end of 2016; a further 8 identified by the end of 2017. We have a list of the datasets – it is online – but I wanted to point out that it’s an amalgamation of collections metadata and corporate information. For instance the Emigrants Guides to North America, the Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation (BOSLIT) – these are things we collate or use. But we also have datasets like Payments with a value in excess of £25,000 – much more data on the running of the organisation.

In terms of other datasets we need to identify those datasets that we can open up. We have that list of what is already available, but we will be adding to that. We will release this data on our website to start with. But I know that the Scottish Government is also working on a data discovery site where it will also be discoverable.

Q&A

Q1) You mentioned some difficulty identifying non personal, non sensitive data… I was wondering if you’d seen the ODI Data Spectrum as that helps a lot with clarifying that.

A1) I’ll take a look!

Q2) What about 4* or 5*?

A2) We haven’t done any yet, so we want to get some institutional buy-in early, and get to the 3* place first.

A2 – Gill) We will get there… But it’s a step process. We have to do what the government recommends first, and then move onwards.

Q3) Isn’t this a legal requirement? There is a directive… I thought it was a mandate to publish a plan.

A3) That’s different, that’s an EU directive perhaps…? The Scottish Public Sector has a different specific requirement on public sector bodies, which is what we are working towards.

Akiko Kobayashi: The Fountainbridge Community Wikihouse

I’m an architect and I’m going to give you an overview of a project I worked on last year. The site is in the Fountainbridge area. The council acquired the land for Boroughmuir High School and, once it acquired that land, we ased if we could set up a community project. So, our project is Fountainbridge Community Initiative, and brings in the Community Garden and The Forge. The Wikihouse was a project undertaken for £3500 of public and housing association funding.

For me a Wikihouse is about open source design – a whole other talk on the meaning of that. It is also about digital fabrication; and the ease of assembly.

So, Open Source Design… There are hundreds of projects on the Wikihouse website. Earlier designs formed portal frames with two layers sandwiched together – still in use but now the design uses box beam… (cue exciting presentation of samples!). So, you have one layer, with sides, build of plywood to create a very strong cross-section.

I used the design, with some additional privately shared designs, and some hacks. So we have a frame design that builds a strong building but, as it is temporary, we don’t have foundations but instead use breeze blocks as ballast to help hold it down. Then throughout the structure we have a waterproof membrane to keep it water tight.

So if you go to the ecommons folder the models and designs are provided in SketchUp – as that’s free. It’s fascinating to explore and play with those designs. There is little documentation so you have to pick apart the design that way anyway, and you have to personally take responsibility to decide if that’s a sensible approach.

In SketchUp you can then explode the design to see the components and use a tool (e.g. AutoCAD) to make changes etc. Then you use ? software to allocate the pieces to your plywood. That is then turned into instructions for a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) router to cut and create those pieces. I’m sure many of you love learning new things – and what I love about new things is sharing that with people. I loved learning how to use the CNC machines, so I trained a bunch of people (from all sorts of backgrounds) to do that to, to help fabricate the pieces.

To me open is also about ease of assembley… Making this as easy as possible means as many people as possible can get involved and be part of the process. To find out how easy it was to do I tried a test assembly of one 1-1 frame to see how long it took, if it worked, was it easy enough to do. The version (v.4.2) I was basing my wikihouse on hadn’t ever been built before so it was a major test. And I was feeding back to the Wikihouse Foundation a lot on that. And we got a lot of feedback from the community on how they found the process.

There was one sequence issue – not readily obvious in the 3D model – that I found in building this. So I fed that back to the form for version v.4.2… But no one saw it unfortunately (but it was fixed another way!).

We also did some load testing (with human and a keg of Guiness!) and alongside design and fabrication I undertook some 1:3 scale workshops (for context Akiko’s model along today is 1:10) to get a sense of how this would work – with community members, with Primary 2 students, with structural engineers (very competitive but also very lovely in coming up with fun and useful testing suggestions!) etc.

The event and build took place in October. There is one other building on site, the Rubber Mill (shortly to be the home of Edinburgh Print Makers), where we were allowed to store components.

So, we began the project building frames.. We had half our volunteers from Canmore Housing Association, school children visiting… We built the frames, lifted them and made connections with pin connectors and joints. We had a rockclimber on roofing duty… Companies donated some of the materials. The developers provided a camera to take images of the building. My favourite picture is one where an early mock up was pretty much happening during the build!

One of our participants said: “I can’t believe I helped to build a building. I thought only professionals could do that.”. Now, obviously there are some things that only professionals should do but there are lots of things we can all build, do, and be part of. I’m interested in self-build houses and that idea of how much you can do yourself is part of that.

So, take a look at #wikihouseEDIN (@fountainbridgec; @WikiHouse) – do get in touch and use the space – we have community stuff taking place there, Collective Gallery’s Marxist reading group meets there!

Q&A

Q1) Is the issue with self-build homes that we don’t have the land?

A1) The land is there for developers to use. There is a bigger policy issue around land banking.

Q2) What are the future uses for the system?

A2) People see this in different ways. Alastair Parbin, who leads Wikihouse, he’s in touch with development companies. There is wastage. As nice as digital fabrication is… I had a nightmare founding an affordable CNC machine I could use affordably… For remote spots, non developed countries… CNC is a big ask. I don’t know how he’s getting on with that. The strongest feature for me is ease of assembly. My idea for this site was as a catalyst to help people to understand that they could get involved in their own self-build house, or whatever… Self-efficacy. Maybe even just for confidence in building a piece of Ikea flat pack furniture…

Jeremy Darot: Data Linkage in Scotland / Greener Leith‘s Edinburgh Open Data Map

My day job is as a statistician at the Scottish Government working on making data available as Linked Open Data. Up until now it has been difficult to link data sets together to get the maximum value from open data sets. So the Scottish Government has put together a framework to make that happen, particularly for research and statistics purpose. So, if you are researcher and have a question that you think would be answered by combining several data sets, and would benefit Scotland, we can offer some support. So please come and speak to me.

Outside of work I work with a charity called Greener Leith with a crazy plan to plant 1000 trees in Leith, but we are also working in sustainable communities and sustainable development. It can be really hard for individuals to track planning, to engage with it, and to have a voice in that. Happily Edinburgh Council are getting better at making data available as open data on their website though.

So, I decided to take this data and create a map of Edinburgh… This is a really simple map, created in R (used in academia and government) and it’s a little bit of server side and client side. I didn’t even have to use a GIS to do the spatial data analysis with this. So, I started taking a small data set from the Leith community council – a curated database of major projects. For each project – such as the tram extension – we have status, information, a link to the Council website and any consultation links. Ideally I’d like to do this for all of Edinburgh. I know the Improvement Service will be launching a website to do this for all planning applications… But some manual curation is needed… Actually things are only going to be in there when an application is made, and often as a community one wants a voice before that stages, before an application is made.

So, that was my starting point… I have also brought in the Local Development Plan… Protected areas (including listed buildings). This is a framework… But also with planning you need to understand infrastructure. For instance, in Leith we are a highly populated and growing area… but if anything access to GP surgeries has been decreasing… So I wanted to map GPs (and ideally catchment areas – I have a request in for that), dentists, care homes, and also things like shops. And i have also added options for air quality, based on the University’s air quality monitoring station. It’s possible to add lots of things to this map… One thing that is quite useful is to view administrative boundaries. And you can search the map.

I provide links on the map to the Greener Leith site, and a page with much more information, the data sources etc.

So, this was a weekend pet project… I want to add census data, data on population health, Council Tax paid… And will also use a MungoDB to let people save views, add data, etc. I’ve no idea if this is useful and usable so do play around with it and let me know any feedback, bugs etc.

The map that Jeremy built can be found here: https://myleith.shinyapps.io/myedinburgh/.

Q&A

Q1) How will all this information, these maps help developers? And infrastructure shown?

A1) Ideally I’d want it to be useful. I’d like to think developers will look at this stuff when planning. I got some early data under a data sharing agreement… The Council holds this data but not all open. The idea is that this sort of data levels the playing field a little bit for consultations and planning processes.

Q2) Can we get access to the R code that drives this?

A2) Yes, I’ll ping the code on GitHub… And my code is built on that.

Q3) A lot of this data is available on Edinburgh’s atlas actually…

A3) A lot of open data is available, but

Q4) Did you say that you did this over a weekend?

A4) I did, yes. And for free – thought it costs me $9 a month to host. I used CartoDB and Leaflet, etc.

Q5) Could this be your day job?

A5) I have a day job! But I know that the Scottish Government has a great open data portal that is really lovely.

Ewan: I should note the MESH project and the contributions to Open Street Map for that, and we have Richard Rodger, the leading light of that there.

Richard: Indeed. We have what will be the most detailed map in Europe, and we want that to be 100% accurate. So when Jeremy zooms in you can see every single garden… Every house number. They will all be there and that work continues. All of the plots in huge detail. And every business listed is actually accurate at the moment – it’s really really useful. You could use that for checking what else is already open/nearby etc. (e.g. to find the best place for a new pharmacy near a GP’s surgery etc).

And policy isn’t best made with contemporary data, but with 5 years or 10 years’ data. I would like to take the last 10 years of planning data, put in a georeferenced database… And contact community and community organisations to see what is happening, and the upcoming planning proposals. Most importantly it would be great to know if data sets would have 5 or 10 year back projections – so useful for policy making.

Jeremy: There is data going back to the 80s on changes of use that could be useful…. Would be great to work together actually.

 January 19, 2016  Posted by at 5:52 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jan 062016
 

Today I am delighted to be hosting – in my eLearning@ed Convener hat – a talk from Martin Hawksey, from ALT.

Note: this is a live blog so apologies for any typos, errors etc – corrections always welcome.

I am one of about four members of staff at ALT – the Association of Learning Technologists. How many of you are ALT members? (a good chunk of the room are) And how many of you have heard of our conference? (pretty much all). I’m going to talk today about what else ALT does, where there are opportunities to take part etc.

A key part of what we want to do is improve practice, promote research and influence policy around information technology. We support learning technologists of course, but our members cross a wide range of roles reflecting the range of learning technology use. ALT itself was established in 1993 – before the internet which is an interesting marker. ALT has 1700+ individual and 180 organisational members at present. ALT works across sectors including Further Education, Higher Education and research, and ALT is also an international community. And, as you are all part of the University of Edinburgh you can join ALT for free as an associate member. To become a voting member/get involved in governance etc. you do, however, need to apply for full membership.

Before I worked at ALT I didn’t really appreciate that ALT is truly a membership organisation – and governed by its members. And that genuinely drives the organisation.

In terms of the benefits of membership there are three areas particularly relevant: keeping pace with technology; developing skills; recognition for your work. We also have the ALT-MEMBERS list (a Jiscmail list) and that is a really rich resource in terms of people posing questions, receiving feedback on what they are doing. You obviously have elearning@ed giving you a great insight into your local community, that ALT-MEMBERS list does some of the same stuff on a wider/global scale. For instance discussion on VLE Review (a conversation including 24 replies); tracking Twitter hashtags (a conversation including 14 replies); a post on appropriate use of social media and advice on inappropriate behaviour (had 15 replies and became a blog post drawing resources together); review of web conferening tools had 23 replies. So you can see there is huge interaction here, content to draw upon, trends to pick up, information being shared. If you aren’t yet a member of that list then you can sign up – it is a closed list and you need to be an ALT member to sign up.

Do you have any feedback on the mailing list?

Comment: It is just too busy for me, too many emails.

I think it is useful to have that health warning that there is a lot of traffic. You can manage that with filters, subscribing to the digest etc. But you need to be aware of the volume. In terms of posting we’d recommend a good subject line – to catch those eyes – and as with any list it’s good to do a bit of research first and share that in your post, that makes it more likely that you will have replies and engagement. Despite all the other technologies we have available email is still suprisingly important.

ALT also has Member Groups and SIGs (Special Interest Groups) on areas such as games and learning, open education, MOOCs, FELTAG.The SIGs tend to change as different trends go in and out of popularity – the open education group is especially busy at the moment for instance. There is also a specific ALT-Scotland group. So, for instance ALT-Scotland recently held a policy board with funders and policy makers to understand what they are thinking and doing at the moment which was hugely valuable.

In addition to email we are also using Twitter. For our conference and events we’ve moved away from specific hashtags for each towards a since hashtag – #altc – and that’s a great way to share your message with the community. We monitor and retweet that hashtag – and we have around 7000 followers. That hashtag can be used for projects, events, blog posts, etc. It’s pretty all encompassing.

As I mentioned ALT is your organisation, as a member. Our governance model is that we have a board of trustees including ALT members in Scotland – currently we have a member from Glasgow Caledonian, and another from Heriot-Watt. Our current vice-chair is Martin Weller, OU, our chair is ? and our current president is ?. We also have operational committees – a rewarding thing to do, enabling you engage with the community and good for your CV of course. And we have editors for the ALT journals as well.

I also mentioned recognition… How many of you have heard of CMALT – Certified Membership? (pretty much all in the room have) What do you want to know about it? It is a portfolio-based accreditation – you submit electronically and you can do that in whatever electronic format you like. That portfolio is certified by peers, and you can nominate one of your assessors. And they will give you feedback. There is a cost – about £150 – but if a group of you want to submit there is a reduced group rate.

Because there are a range of roles within ALT the skills assessed cover a range of core areas (operational issues; teaching, learning and assessment, wider context, communication), and specialist areas (such as leadership, tech development, administration, research, policy). The key thing is to certify your commitment to learning technology. It can feel like saying what you do but it is also about successes, reflection on success and failure, and working with feedback and support – about being a better learning technologist and making you have that professional journey. It isn’t just about the achievement of the certificate.

Question: How long does this take?

Once you are registered you have up to a year to complete and submit your portfolio. Obviously it doesn’t take that long to do. Maybe a few hours per area is sufficient – 20 or 24 hours perhaps for portfolios. There are examples of submitted portfolios and guidance on the ALT website. We also try to run regular CMALT webinars where you can talk to other candidates about the process and the detail.

Question: What are the benefits of doing CMALT?

Interestingly CMALT has been running for around 10 years now. We just passed our 300th CMALT certified members. And we have increasingly seen ALT members looking for CMALT as a desirable qualification for roles, which is obviously helpful for job prospects. The main benefit though is that process itself -the reflection, the capture of that experience, the opportunity to develop your practice.

Additionally CMALT maps to UKPSF and HEA Fellowship. We have mapped the requirements of UKPSF onto CMALT so that if you do either of those you may be able to reuse that work in applying to the other – there is more about this on the website.

Also we have the annual Learning Technologist of the Year Awards (#LTAwards), to recognise excellence in the sector. The awards are open internationally but most applicants are UK based. You can nominate someone else, or yourself. We normally announce these in April, so watch this space. Again, this is a great way to boost your CV but there is also a cash prize. This year the winner has been working on using Minecraft in teaching.

We have run ALT publications for years – we used to have the ALT Newsletter which we have now rebranded as the #ALTC Blog – anyone can contribute to this and we have editors who are all ALT members. We have around 225 posts and counting and look for posts of around 500 words each. Again, a great way to get information out.

We also have Research in Learning Technology (used to be known as ALTJ), and a great way to get full on research publications out there. It is a peer reviewed open access journal. It is rolling submission – although we have the capacity to do special issues. Again this publishing schedule fits with the roles and schedules of ALT members. There are no submission fees like some other open access journals – so little overhead to submitting. And the process can be very useful for preparing to submit to elsewhere. We have a bit of a boom at the moment so we currently have a call out for new editors – so if you are interested do take a look. Full details of submission processes can be found on the journal website.

As I mentioned we also have the annual conference, which is a really interesting conference but can melt your brain slightly – 3 very busy days! How many here have gone to the ALT conference? And how do you find it?

Comment) I find every second year works well. I like that you get a broad overview of what is happening in the sector, and a way to take the temperature of the sector in a fairly unique way.

Even if you can’t make it in person we do livestream a lot of the keynotes and plenary sessions, so we haven’t announced our keynote speaker. Last year we have Laura Cernovicz from Capetown, South Africa on ethics of education, open access, open education etc. We also had Jonathan Worth from University of Coventry, who has experimented with opening up courses to wider audiences and the challenges on informed and implied consent around use of social media in these. We also had Steve Wheeler. In the plenaries we had Rebecca ? from Oxford University on scaling learning analytics there. The videos of sessions are all available online on the ALT YouTube channel. It’s worth looking back to 2014 as we had some great speakers then including Audrey Walters, Catherine Cronin and Jeff Hayward.

In terms of other events note that OER16 is in Edinburgh next April – here at University of Edinburgh and co-chaired by Lorna Campbell and Melissa Highton.

Lorna: This year we are focusing on open cultures and making connections to galleries, museums. Submissions are closed at the moment – we are marking those right now. In terms of speakers we have Catherine Cronin, University of Galway; Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh; John Scally, NLS; Emma Smith, Oxford University on Open Shakespeare work; and Jim Groom from DS106 – a MOOC or perhaps a cult – and the forefront of open higher education. The conference is on 19th and 20th April and registration will open up shortly. And it would be great to see a good cross-section of Edinburgh folk there.

Martin: ALT’s work with OER is a more recent thing, in terms of supporting its’ running. And that is in recognition of the importance of openness. And it’s worth noting that the call for OER17 chairs is now open.

The other thing to be aware of is the ALT Online Winter Conference 2015 – a free conference online, open to anyone to drop into and participate. Presenters all needed to be ALT members. And we hope to run this again this year. The call will go out in September so keep an eye out for that.

Something else ALT does is the policy side. So, a big plug here for our ALT Annual Survey – which is our opportunity to understand current and future practice, to enable us to represent our members needs. And this information helps us understand those needs for policy responses as well, for instance on the development of the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. Currently ALT is preparing a response to the TEF as well.

One of the things I wanted to talk about was… last night I tweeted that I’d be talking here and was looking for what the benefit of being a member of ALT is… Originally I asked about technology and I realised there were technologies I wouldn’t have had access to without being part of ALT… For instance last year we ran an event here at the Informatics Forum where we got to use a real Oculus Rift – certainly at CES VR is supposed to be the big thing. Also John Kerr at Glasgow Caledonian had Google Glass along to see how his projects with it worked. There are opportunities to be introduced to new technologies. Also BuddyPress was something that in 2009 at the ALT Conference Joss Winn was experimenting with BuddyPress and finding it useful… Fast forward and we use BuddyPress in ALT activities, online courses etc. And it was that connection and chat that led to that solution… Again these are part of the benefits of being part of this lovely melting pot of people, contributing to the ALT community… Less about what than who in many ways.

Other benefits include discounts for the ALT conference (a big one), we also negotiate with other conferences – e.g. Online Educa this year.

Finally… Emerging areas and my advice on this…

This is related to the ALT community/membership thing. Throughout my career I have gotten the most out of technology by being flexible in what I focus on – but you do need to focus on things in some depth. A benefit of being part of a wider community means they can filter through those a bit, making you aware of them as they do. I have at various times worked on voting systems, peer instruction, Twitter, learning analytics… So, my advice is… With such a broad field keep half an eye of what is going on – and the ALT community is great for that – but also delve in and get lost in…

And with that Martin is done… and we open up for some discussion on emerging areas… this group suggests they include: policy; what an institution is and what its bounds are in the face of online education; teacher presence in various contexts, including the impact of MOOCs on student expectations.

Martin: Expectations are a really interesting area… In peer instruction you move things out of the classroom. Back when we trialled some of those approaches and moved a lecture out, the students resisted… They wanted that lecture, and to be in that room.

Comment: I think that depends on trust in peers… My undergraduate experience involved trusting some but there were also risks of social bullying dynamics and I would have had real concern about that.

Martin: The social aspect of being at an institution is a high priority… Whether an online experience can replicate that is interesting. And digital identity and the transitions between one form of digital identity to another, the move to professional attributes. Which is why learning technology is never dull!

And with that we broke for lunch and discussion. You can explore Martin’s magic live tweets and Lorna Campbell’s (less automated but no less impressive) live tweets in the Storify below:

You can also view the full story “Martin Hawksey talk on ALT for eLearning@ed (6th Jan 2016)” on Storify.

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,

Welcome

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.

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 http://ukcopyrightliteracy.wordpress.com (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.

Q&A

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.

Resources:
Managing your digital footprint website
http://www.ed.ac.uk/institute-academic-development/about-us/projects/digital-footprint

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
https://uoedigitalfootprint.wordpress.com/

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.

Q&A

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…

Q&A

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…