Aug 022017
 
The digital flyer for my CODI 2017 show - huge thanks to the CODI interns for creating this.

As we reach the end of the academic year, and I begin gearing up for the delightful chaos of the Edinburgh Fringe and my show, Is Your Online Reputation Hurting You?, I thought this would be a good time to look back on a busy recent few months of talks and projects (inspired partly by Lorna Campbell’s post along the same lines!).

This year the Managing Your Digital Footprint work has been continuing at a pace…

We began the year with funding from the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme for a new project, led by Prof. Sian Bayne: “A Live Pulse”: Yik Yak for Teaching, Learning and Research at Edinburgh. Sian, Louise Connelly (PI for the original Digital Footprint research), and I have been working with the School of Informatics and a small team of fantastic undergraduate student research associates to look at Yik Yak and anonymity online. Yik Yak closed down this spring which has made this even more interesting as a cutting edge research project. You can find out more on the project blog – including my recent post on addressing ethics of research in anonymous social media spaces; student RA Lilinaz’s excellent post giving her take on the project; and Sian’s fantastic keynote from#CALRG2017, giving an overview of the challenges and emerging findings from this work. Expect more presentations and publications to follow over the coming months.

Over the last year or so Louise Connelly and I have been busy developing a Digital Footprint MOOC building on our previous research, training and best practice work and share this with the world. We designed a three week MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that runs on a rolling basis on Coursera – a new session kicks off every month. The course launched this April and we were delighted to see it get some fantastic participant feedback and some fantastic press coverage (including a really positive experience of being interviewed by The Sun).

The MOOC has been going well and building interest in the consultancy and training work around our Digital Footprint research. Last year I received ISG Innovation Fund support to pilot this service and the last few months have included great opportunities to share research-informed expertise and best practices through commissioned and invited presentations and sessions including those for Abertay University, University of Stirling/Peer Review Project Academic Publishing Routes to Success event, Edinburgh Napier University, Asthma UK’s Patient Involvement Fair, CILIPS Annual Conference, CIGS Web 2.0 & Metadata seminar, and ReCon 2017. You can find more details of all of these, and other presentations and workshops on the Presentations & Publications page.

In June an unexpected short notice invitation came my way to do a mini version of my Digital Footprint Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas show as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. I’ve always attended EIFF films but also spent years reviewing films there so it was lovely to perform as part of the official programme, working with our brilliant CODI compare Susan Morrison and my fellow mini-CODI performer, mental health specialist Professor Steven Lawrie. We had a really engaged audience with loads of questions – an excellent way to try out ideas ahead of this August’s show.

Also in June, Louise and I were absolutely delighted to find out that our article (in Vol. 11, No. 1, October 2015) for ALISS Quarterly, the journal of the Association of Librarians and Information Professionals in the Social Sciences, had been awarded Best Article of the Year. Huge thanks to the lovely folks at ALISS – this was lovely recognition for our article, which can read in full in the ALISS Quarterly archive.

In July I attended the European Conference on Social Media (#ecsm17) in Vilnius, Lithuania. In addition to co-chairing the Education Mini Track with the lovely Stephania Manca (Italian National Research Council), I was also there to present Louise and my Digital Footprint paper, “Exploring Risk, Privacy and the Impact of Social Media Usage with Undergraduates“, and to present a case study of the EDINA Digital Footprint consultancy and training service for the Social Media in Practice Excellence Awards 2017. I am delighted to say that our service was awarded 2nd place in those awards!

Social Media in Practice Excellence Award 2017 - 2nd place - certificate

My Social Media in Practice Excellence Award 2017 2nd place certificate (still awaiting a frame).

You can read more about the awards – and my fab fellow finalists Adam and Lisa – in this EDINA news piece.

On my way back from Lithuania I had another exciting stop to make at the Palace of Westminster. The lovely folk at the Parliamentary Digital Service invited me to give a talk, “If I Googled you, what would I find? Managing your digital footprint” for their Cyber Security Week which is open to members, peers, and parliamentary staff. I’ll have a longer post on that presentation coming very soon here. For now I’d like to thank Salim and the PDS team for the invitation and an excellent experience.

The digital flyer for my CODI 2017 show - huge thanks to the CODI interns for creating this.

The digital flyer for my CODI 2017 show (click to view a larger version) – huge thanks to the CODI interns for creating this.

The final big Digital Footprint project of the year is my forthcoming Edinburgh Fringe show, Is Your Online Reputation Hurting You? (book tickets here!). This year the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas has a new venue – the New Town Theatre – and two strands of events: afternoon shows; and “Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas by Candlelight”. It’s a fantastic programme across the Fringe and I’m delighted to be part of the latter strand with a thrilling but challengingly competitive Friday night slot during peak fringe! However, that evening slot also means we can address some edgier questions so I will be talking about how an online reputation can contribute to fun, scary, weird, interesting experiences, risks, and opportunities – and what you can do about it.

QR code for CODI17 Facebook Event

Help spread the word about my CODI show by tweeting with #codi17 or sharing the associated Facebook event.

To promote the show I will be doing a live Q&A on YouTube on Saturday 5th August 2017, 10am. Please do add your questions via Twitter (#codi17digifoot) or via this anonymous survey and/or tune in on Saturday (the video below will be available on the day and after the event).

So, that’s been the Digital Footprint work this spring/summer… What else is there to share?

Well, throughout this year I’ve been working on a number of EDINA’s ISG Innovation Fund projects…

The Reference Rot in Theses: a HiberActive Pilot project has been looking at how to develop the fantastic prior work undertaken during the Andrew W. Mellon-funded Hiberlink project (a collaboration between EDINA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics), which investigated “reference rot” (where URLs cease to work) and “content drift” (where URLs work but the content changes over time) in scientific scholarly publishing.

For our follow up work the focus has shifted to web citations – websites, reports, etc. – something which has become a far more visible challenge for many web users since January. I’ve been managing this project, working with developer, design and user experience colleagues to develop a practical solution around the needs of PhD students, shaped by advice from Library and University Collections colleagues.

If you are familiar with the Memento standard, and/or follow Herbert von de Sompel and Martin Klein’s work you’ll be well aware of how widespread the challenge of web citations changing over time can be, and the seriousness of the implications. The Internet Archive might be preserving all the (non-R-rated) gifs from Geocities but without preserving government reports, ephemeral content, social media etc. we would be missing a great deal of the cultural record and, in terms of where our project comes in, crucial resources and artefacts in many modern scholarly works. If you are new the issue of web archiving I would recommend a browse of my notes from the IIPC Web Archiving Week 2017 and papers from the co-located RESAW 2017 conference.

A huge part of the HiberActive project has been working with five postgraduate student interns to undertake interviews and usability work with PhD students across the University. My personal and huge thanks to Clarissa, Juliet, Irene, Luke and Shiva!

Still from the HiberActive gif featuring Library Cat.

A preview of the HiberActive gif featuring Library Cat.

You can see the results of this work at our demo site, http://hiberactive.edina.ac.uk/, and we would love your feedback on what we’ve done. You’ll find an introductory page on the project as well as three tools for archiving websites and obtaining the appropriate information to cite – hence adopting the name one our interviewees suggested, Site2Cite. We are particularly excited to have a tool which enables you to upload a Word or PDF document, have all URLs detected, and which then returns a list of URLs and the archived citable versions (as a csv file).

Now that the project is complete, we are looking at what the next steps may be so if you’d find these tools useful for your own publications or teaching materials, we’d love to hear from you.  I’ll also be presenting this work at Repository Fringe 2017 later this week so, if you are there, I’ll see you in the 10×10 session on Thursday!

To bring the HiberActive to life our students suggested something fun and my colleague Jackie created a fun and informative gif featuring Library Cat, Edinburgh’s world famous sociable on-campus feline. Library Cat has also popped up in another EDINA ISG Innovation-Funded project, Pixel This, which my colleagues James Reid and Tom Armitage have been working on. This project has been exploring how Pixel Sticks could be used around the University. To try them out properly I joined the team for fun photography night in George Square with Pixel Stick loaded with images of notable University of Edinburgh figures. One of my photos from that night, featuring the ghostly image of the much missed Library Cat (1.0) went a wee bit viral over on Facebook:

James Reid and I have also been experimenting with Tango-capable phone handsets in the (admittedly daftly named) Strictly Come Tango project. Tango creates impressive 3D scans of rooms and objects and we have been keen to find out what one might do with that data, how it could be used in buildings and georeferenced spaces. This was a small exploratory project but you can see a wee video on what we’ve been up to here.

In addition to these projects I’ve also been busy with continuing involvement in the Edinburgh Cityscope project, which I sit on the steering group for. Cityscope provided one of our busiest events for this spring’s excellent Data Festread more about EDINA’s participation in this new exciting event around big data, data analytics and data driven innovation, here.

I have also been working on two rather awesome Edinburgh-centric projects. Curious Edinburgh officially launched for Android, and released an updated iOS app, for this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival in April. The app includes History of Science; Medicine; Geosciences; Physics; and a brand new Biotechnology tours that led you explore Edinburgh’s fantastic scientific legacy. The current PTAS-funded project is led by Dr Niki Vermeulen (Science, Technology & Innovation Studies), with tours written by Dr Bill Jenkins, and will see the app used in teaching around 600 undergraduate students this autumn. If you are curious about the app (pun entirely intended!), visiting Edinburgh – or just want to take a long distance virtual tour – do download the app, rate and review it, and let us know what you think!

Image of the Curious Edinburgh History of Biotechnology and Genetics Tour.

A preview of the new Curious Edinburgh History of Biotechnology and Genetics Tour.

The other Edinburgh project which has been progressing at a pace this year is LitLong: Word on the Street, an AHRC-funded project which builds on the prior LitLong project to develop new ways to engage with Edinburgh’s rich literary heritage. Edinburgh was the first city in the world to be awarded UNESCO City of Literature status (in 2008) and there are huge resources to draw upon. Prof. James Loxley (English Literature) is leading this project, which will be showcased in some fun and interesting ways at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August. Keep an eye on litlong.org for updates or follow @litlong.

And finally… Regular readers here will be aware that I’m Convener for eLearning@ed (though my term is up and I’ll be passing the role onto a successor later this year – nominations welcomed!), a community of learning technologists and academic and support staff working with technologies in teaching and learning contexts. We held our big annual conference, eLearning@ed 2017: Playful Learning this June and I was invited to write about it on the ALTC Blog. You can explore a preview and click through to my full article below.

Playful Learning: the eLearning@ed Conference 2017

Phew! So, it has been a rather busy few months for me, which is why you may have seen slightly fewer blog posts and tweets from me of late…

In terms of the months ahead there are some exciting things brewing… But I’d also love to hear any ideas you may have for possible collaborations as my EDINA colleagues and I are always interested to work on new projects, develop joint proposals, and work in new innovative areas. Do get in touch!

And in the meantime, remember to book those tickets for my CODI 2017 show if you can make it along on 11th August!

Mar 142017
 

Today and tomorrow I’m in Birmingham for the Jisc Digifest 2017 (#digifest17). I’m based on the EDINA stand (stand 9, Hall 3) for much of the time, along with my colleague Andrew – do come and say hello to us – but will also be blogging any sessions I attend. The event is also being livetweeted by Jisc and some sessions livestreamed – do take a look at the event website for more details. As usual this blog is live and may include typos, errors, etc. Please do let me know if you have any corrections, questions or comments. 

Plenary and Welcome

Liam Earney is introducing us to the day, with the hope that we all take some away from the event – some inspiration, an idea, the potential to do new things. Over the past three Digifest events we’ve taken a broad view. This year we focus on technology expanding, enabling learning and teaching.

LE: So we will be talking about questions we asked through Twitter and through our conference app with our panel:

  • Sarah Davies (SD), head of change implementation support – education/student, Jisc
  • Liam Earney (LE), director of Jisc Collections
  • Andy McGregor (AM), deputy chief innovation officer, Jisc
  • Paul McKean (PM), head of further education and skills, Jisc

Q1: Do you think that greater use of data and analytics will improve teaching, learning and the student experience?

  • Yes 72%
  • No 10%
  • Don’t Know 18%

AM: I’m relieved at that result as we think it will be important too. But that is backed up by evidence emerging in the US and Australia around data analytics use in retention and attainment. There is a much bigger debate around AI and robots, and around Learning Analytics there is that debate about human and data, and human and machine can work together. We have several sessions in that space.

SD: Learning Analytics has already been around it’s own hype cycle already… We had huge headlines about the potential about a year ago, but now we are seeing much more in-depth discussion, discussion around making sure that our decisions are data informed.. There is concern around the role of the human here but the tutors, the staff, are the people who access this data and work with students so it is about human and data together, and that’s why adoption is taking a while as they work out how best to do that.

Q2: How important is organisational culture in the successful adoption of education technology?

  • Total make or break 55%
  • Can significantly speed it up or slow it down 45%
  • It can help but not essential 0%
  • Not important 0%

PM: Where we see education technology adopted we do often see that organisational culture can drive technology adoption. An open culture – for instance Reading College’s open door policy around technology – can really produce innovation and creative adoption, as people share experience and ideas.

SD: It can also be about what is recognised and rewarded. About making sure that technology is more than what the innovators do – it’s something for the whole organisation. It’s not something that you can do in small pockets. It’s often about small actions – sharing across disciplines, across role groups, about how technology can make a real difference for staff and for students.

Q3: How important is good quality content in delivering an effective blended learning experience?

  • Very important 75%
  • It matters 24%
  • Neither 1%
  • It doesn’t really matter 0%
  • It is not an issue at all 0%

LE: That’s reassuring, but I guess we have to talk about what good quality content is…

SD: I think materials – good quality primary materials – make a huge difference, there are so many materials we simply wouldn’t have had (any) access to 20 years ago. But also about good online texts and how they can change things.

LE: My colleague Karen Colbon and I have been doing some work on making more effective use of technologies… Paul you have been involved in FELTAG…

PM: With FELTAG I was pleased when that came out 3 years ago, but I think only now we’ve moved from the myth of 10% online being blended learning… And moving towards a proper debate about what blended learning is, what is relevant not just what is described. And the need for good quality support to enable that.

LE: What’s the role for Jisc there?

PM: I think it’s about bringing the community together, about focusing on the learner and their experience, rather than the content, to ensure that overall the learner gets what they need.

SD: It’s also about supporting people to design effective curricula too. There are sessions here, talking through interesting things people are doing.

AM: There is a lot of room for innovation around the content. If you are walking around the stands there is a group of students from UCL who are finding innovative ways to visualise research, and we’ll be hearing pitches later with some fantastic ideas.

Q4: Billions of dollars are being invested in edtech startups. What impact do you think this will have on teaching and learning in universities and colleges?

  • No impact at all 1%
  • It may result in a few tools we can use 69%
  • We will come to rely on these companies in our learning and teaching 21%
  • It will completely transform learning and teaching 9%

AM: I am towards the 9% here, there are risks but there is huge reason for optimism here. There are some great companies coming out and working with them increases the chance that this investment will benefit the sector. Startups are keen to work with universities, to collaborate. They are really keen to work with us.

LE: It is difficult for universities to take that punt, to take that risk on new ideas. Procurement, governance, are all essential to facilitating that engagement.

AM: I think so. But I think if we don’t engage then we do risk these companies coming in and building businesses that don’t take account of our needs.

LE: Now that’s a big spend taking place for that small potential change that many who answered this question perceive…

PM: I think there are saving that will come out of those changes potentially…

AM: And in fact that potentially means saving money on tools we currently use by adopting new, and investing that into staff..

Q5: Where do you think the biggest benefits of technology are felt in education?

  • Enabling or enhancing learning and teaching activities 55%
  • In the broader student experience 30%
  • In administrative efficiencies 9%
  • It’s hard to identify clear benefits 6%

SD: I think many of the big benefits we’ve seen over the last 8 years has been around things like online timetables – wider student experience and administrative spaces. But we are also seeing that, when used effectively, technology can really enhance the learning experience. We have a few sessions here around that. Key here is digital capabilities of staff and students. Whether awareness, confidence, understanding fit with disciplinary practice. Lots here at Digifest around digital skills. [sidenote: see also our new Digital Footprint MOOC which is now live for registrations]

I’m quite surprised that 6% thought it was hard to identify clear benefits… There are still lots of questions there, and we have a session on evidence based practice tomorrow, and how evidence feeds into institutional decision making.

PM: There is something here around the Apprentice Levy which is about to come into place. A surprisingly high percentage of employers aren’t aware that they will be paying that actually! Technology has a really important role here for teaching, learning and assessment, but also tracking and monitoring around apprenticeships.

LE: So, with that, I encourage you to look around, chat to our exhibitors, craft the programme that is right for you. And to kick that off here is some of the brilliant work you have been up to. [we are watching a video – this should be shared on today’s hashtag #digifest17]
And with that, our session ended. For the next few hours I will mainly be on our stand but also sitting in on Martin Hamilton’s session “Loving the alien: robots and AI in education” – look out for a few tweets from me and many more from the official live tweeter for the session, @estherbarrett.

Plenary and keynote from Geoff Mulgan,chief executive and CEO, Nesta (host: Paul Feldman, chief executive, Jisc)

Paul Feldman: Welcome to Digifest 2017, and to our Stakeholder Meeting attendees who are joining us for this event. I am delighted to welcome Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of Nesta.

Geoff: Thank you all for being here. I work at Nesta. We are an investor for quite a few ed tech companies, we run a lot of experiments in schools and universities… And I want to share with you two frustrations. The whole area of ed tech is, I think, one of the most exciting, perhaps ever! But the whole field is frustrating… And in Britain we have phenomenal tech companies, and phenomenol universities high in the rankings… But too rarely we bring these together, and we don’t see that vision from ministers either.

So, I’m going to talk about the promise – some of the things that are emerging and developing. I’ll talk about some of the pitfalls – some of the things that are going wrong. And some of the possibilities of where things could go.

So, first of all, the promise. We are going through yet another wave – or series of waves – of Google Watson, Deepmind, Fitbits, sensors… We are at least 50 years into the “digital revolution” and yet the pace of change isn’t letting up – Moore’s Law still applies. So, finding the applications is as exciting and challenging as possible.

Last year Deep Mind defeated a champion of Go. People thought that it was impossible for a machine to win at Go, because of the intuition involved. That cutting edge technology is now being used in London with blood test data to predict who may be admitted to hospital in the next year.

We have also seen these free online bitesize platforms – Coursera, Udacity, etc. – these challenges to trditional courses. And we have Google Translate in November 2016 adopting a neural machine translation engine that can translate whole sentences… Google Translate may be a little clunky still but we are moving toward that Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy idea of the Babelfish. In January 2017 a machine-learning powered poker bot outcompeted 20 of the world’s best. We are seeing more of these events… The Go contest was observed by 280 million people!

Much of this technology is feeding into this emerging Ed Tech market. There are MOOCs, there are learning analytics tools, there is a huge range of technologies. The UK does well here… When you talk about education you have to talk about technology, not just bricks and mortar. This is a golden age but there are also some things not going as they should be…

So, the pitfalls. There is a lack of understanding of what works. NESTA did a review 3 years ago of school technologies and that was quite negative in terms of return on investment. And the OECD similarly compared spend with learning outcomes and found a negative correlation. One of the odd things about this market is that it has invested very little in using control groups, and gathering the evidence.

And where is the learning about learning? When the first MOOCs appeared I thought it was extraordinary that they showed little interested in decades of knowledge and understanding about elearning, distance learning, online learning. They just shared materials. It’s not just the cognitive elements, you need peers, you need someone to talk to. There is a common finding over decades that you need that combination of peer and social elements and content – that’s one of the reasons I like FutureLearn as it combines that more directly.

The other thing that is missing is the business models. Few ed tech companies make money… They haven’t looked at who will pay, how much they should pay… And I think that reflects, to an extent, the world view of computer scientists…

And I think that business model wise some of the possibilities are quite alarming. Right now many of the digital tools we use are based on collecting our data – the advertisor is the customer, you are the product. And I think some of our ed tech providers, having failed to raise income from students, is somewhat moving in that direction. We are also seeing household data, the internet of things, and my guess is that the impact of these will raise much more awareness of privacy, security, use of data.

The other thing is jobs and future jobs. Some of you will have seen these analyses of jobs and the impact of computerisation. Looking over the last 15 years we’ve seen big shifts here… Technical and professional knowledge has been relatively well protected. But there is also a study (Frey, C and Osborne, M 2013) that looks at those at low risk of computerisation and automation – dentists are safe! – and those at high risk which includes estate agents, accountants, but also actors and performers. We see huge change here. In the US one of the most popular jobs in some areas is truck drivers – they are at high risk here.

We are doing work with Pearson to look at job market requirements – this will be published in a few months time – to help educators prepare students for this world. The jobs likely to grow are around creativity, social intelligence, also dexterity – walking over uneven ground, fine manual skills. If you combine those skills with deep knowledge of technology, or specialised fields, you should be well placed. But we don’t see schools and universities shaping their curricula to these types of needs. Is there a concious effort to look ahead and to think about what 16-22 year olds should be doing now to be well placed in the future?

In terms of more positive possibilities… Some of those I see coming into view… One of these, Skills Route, which was launched for teenagers. It’s an open data set which generates a data driven guide for teenagers about which subjects to study. Allowing teenagers to see what jobs they might get, what income they might attract, how happy they will be even, depending on their subject choices. These insights will be driven by data, including understanding of what jobs may be there in 10 years time. Students may have a better idea of what they need than many of their teachers, their lecturers etc.

We are also seeing a growth of adaptive learning. We are an investor in CogBooks which is a great example. This is a game changer in terms of how education happens. The way AI is built it makes it easier for students to have materials adapt to their needs, to their styles.

My colleagues are working with big cities in England, including Birmingham, to establish Offices of Data Analytics (and data marketplaces), which can enable understanding of e.g. buildings at risk of fire that can be mitigated before fire fighting is needed. I think there are, again, huge opportunities for education. Get into conversations with cities and towns, to use the data commons – which we have but aren’t (yet) using to the full extent of its potential.

We are doing a project called Arloesiadur in Wales which is turning big data into policy action. This allowed policy makers in Welsh Government to have a rich real time picture of what is taking place in the economy, including network analyses of investors, researchers, to help understand emerging fields, targets for new investment and support. This turns the hit and miss craft skill of investment into something more accurate, more data driven. Indeed work on the complexity of the economy shows that economic complexity maps to higher average annual earnings. This goes against some of the smart cities expectation – which wants to create more homogenous environments. Instead diversity and complexity is beneficial.

We host at NESTA the “Alliance for Useful Evidence” which includes a network of around 200 people trying to ensure evidence is used and useful. Out o fthat we have a serues of “What Works” centres – NiCE (health and care); Education Endowment Fund; Early Intervention Foundation; Centre for Ageing Better; College of Policing (crime reduction); Centre for Local Econoic Growth; What Works Well-being… But bizarrely we don’t have one of these for education and universities. These centres help organisations to understand where evidence for particular approaches exists.

To try and fill the gap a bit for universities we’ve worked internationally with the Innovation Growth Lab to understand investment in research, what works properly. This is applying scientific methods to areas on the boundaries of university. In many ways our current environment does very little of that.

The other side of this is the issue of creativity. In China the principal of one university felt it wasn’t enough for students to be strong in engineering, they needed to solve problems. So we worked with them to create programmes for students to create new work, addressing problems and questions without existing answers. There are comparable programmes elsewhere – students facing challenges and problems, not starting with the knowledge. It’s part of the solution… But some work like this can work really well. At Harvard students are working with local authorities and there is a lot of creative collaboration across ages, experience, approaches. In the UK there isn’t any uniersity doing this at serious scale, and I think this community can have a role here…

So, what to lobby for? I’ve worked a lot with government – we’ve worked with about 40 governments across the world – and I’ve seen vice chancellors and principles who have access to government and they usually lobby for something that looks like the present – small changes. I have never seen them lobby for substantial change, for more connection with industry, for investment and ambition at the very top. The leaders argue for the needs of the past, not the present. That is’t true in other industries they look ahead, and make that central to their case. I think that’s part of why we don’t see this coming together in an act of ambition like we saw in the 1960s when the Open University founded.

So, to end…

Tilt is one of the most interesting things to emerge in the last few years – a 3D virtual world that allows you to paint with a Tilt brush. It is exciting as no-one knows how to do this. It’s exciting because it is uncharted territory. It will be, I think, a powerful learning tool. It’s a way to experiment and learn…

But the other side of the coin… The British public’s favourite painting is The Fighting Temorare… An ugly steamboat pulls in a beautiful old sailing boat to be smashed up. It is about technological change… But also about why change is hard. The old boat is more beautiful, tied up with woodwork and carpentry skills, culture, songs… There is a real poetry… But it’s message is that if you don’t go through that, we don’t create space for the new. We are too attached to the old models to let them go – especially the leaders who came through those old models. We need to create those Google Tilts, but we also have to create space for the new to breath as well.

Q&A

Q1 – Amber Thomas, Warwick) Thinking about the use of technology in universities… There is research on technology in education and I think you point to a disconnect between the big challenges from research councils and how research is disseminated, a disconnect between policy and practice, and a lack of availability of information to practitioners. But also I wanted to say that BECTA used to have some of that role for experimentation and that went in the “bonfire of the quangos”. And what should Jisc’s role be here?

A1) There is all of this research taking place but it is often not used, That emphasis on “Useful Evidence” is important. Academics are not always good at this… What will enable a busy head teacher, a busy tutor, to actually understand and use that evidence. There are some spaces for education at schools level but there is a gap for universities. BECTA was a loss. There is a lack of Ed Tech strategy. There is real potential. To give an example… We have been working with finance, forcing banks to open up data, with banks required by the regulator to fund creative use of that data to help small firms understand their finance. That’s a very different role for the regulator… But I’d like to see institutions willing to do more of that.

A1 – PF) And I would say we are quietly activist.

Q2) To go back to the Hitchhikers Guide issue… Are we too timid in universities?

A2) There is a really interesting history of radical universities – some with no lectures, some no walls, in Paris a short-lived experiment handing out degrees to strangers on buses! Some were totally student driven. My feeling is that that won’t work, it’s like music and you need some structure, some grammars… I like challenge driven universities as they aren’t *that* groundbreaking… You have some structure and content, you have an interdisciplinary teams, you have assessment there… It is a space for experimentation. You need some systematic experimentation on the boundaries… Some creative laboritories on the edge to inform the centre, with some of that quite radical. And I think that we lack those… Things like the Coventry SONAR (?) course for photography which allowed input from the outside, a totally open course including discussion and community… But those sorts of experiments tend not to be in a structure… And I’d like to see systematic experimentation.

Q3 – David White, UAL) When you put up your ed tech slide, a lot of students wouldn’t recognise that as they use lots of free tools – Google etc. Maybe your old warship is actually the market…

A3) That’s a really difficult question. In any institution of any sense, students will make use of the cornucopia of free things – Google Hangouts and YouTube. That’s probably why the Ed Tech industry struggles so much – people are used to free things. Google isn’t free – you indirectly pay through sale of your data as with Facebook. Wikipedia is free but philanthropically funded. I don’t know if that model of Google etc. can continue as we become more aware of data and data use concerns. We don’t know where the future is going… We’ve just started a new project with Barcelona and Amsterdam around the idea of the Data Commons, which doesn’t depend on sale of data to advertisors etc. but that faces the issue of who will pay. My guess is that the free data-based model may last up to 10 years, but then something will change…

How can technology help us meet the needs of a wider range of learners

Pleasing Most of the People Most of the Time – Julia Taylor, subject specialist (accessibility and inclusion), Jisc.

I want to tell you a story about buying LEGO for a young child… My kids loved LEGO and it’s changed a lot since then… I brought a child this pack with lots of little LEGO people with lots of little hats… And this child just sort of left all the people on the carpet because they wanted the LEGO people to choose their own hats and toys… And that was disappointing… And I use that example is that there is an important role to help individuals find the right tools. The ultimate goal of digital skills and inclusion is about giving people the skills and confidence to use the appropriate tools. The idea is that the tools magically turn into tools…

We’ve never had more tools for giving people independence… But what is the potential of technology and how it can be selected and used. We’ll hear more about delivery and use of technology in this context. But I want to talk about what technology is capable of delivering…

Technology gives us the tools for digital diversity, allowing the student to be independent about how they access and engage with our content. That kind of collaboration can also be as meaningful in the context internationally, as it is for learners who have to fit studies around, say, shift work. It allows learners to do things the way they want to do it. That idea of independent study through digital technology is really important. So these tools afford digital skills, the tools remove barriers and/or enable students to overcome the. Technology allows learners with different needs to overcome challenges – perhaps of physical disability, perhaps remote location, perhaps learners with little free time. Technology can help people take those small steps to start or continue their education. It’s as much about that as those big global conversations.

It is also the case that technology can be a real motivator and attraction for some students. And the technology can be about overcoming a small step, to deal with potential intimidation at new technology, through to much more radical forms that keeps people engaged… So when you have tools aimed at the larger end of the scale, you also enable people at the smaller end of the scale. Students do have expectations, and some are involved in technology as a lifestyle, as a life line, that supports their independence… They are using apps and tools to run their life. That is the direction of travel with people, and with young people. Technology is an embedded part of their life. And we should work with that, perhaps even encouraged to use more technology, to depend on it more. Many of us in this room won’t have met a young visually impaired person who doesn’t have an iPhone as those devices allow them to read, to engage, to access their learning materials. Technology is a lifeline here. That’s one example, but there are others… Autistic students may be using an app like “Brain in Hand” to help them engage with travel, with people, with education. We should encourage this use, and we do encourage this use of technology.

We encourage learners to check if they can:

  • Personalise and customise the learning environment
  • Get text books in alternative formats – that they can adapt and adjust as they need
  • Find out about the access features of loan devices and platforms – and there are features built into devices and platforms you use and require students to use. How much do you know about the accessibility of learning platforms that you buy into.
  • Get accessible course notes in advance of lectures – notes that can be navigated and adapted easily, taking away unnecessary barriers. Ensuring documents are accessible for the maximum number of people.
  • Use productivity tools and personal devices everywhere – many people respond well to text to speech, it’s useful for visually impaired students, but also for dyslexic students too.

Now we encourage organisations to make their work accessible to the most people possible. For instance a free and available text to speech tool provides technology that we know works for some learners, for the wide range of learners. That helps those with real needs, but will also benefits other learners, including some who would never disclose a challenge or disability.

So, when you think about technology, think about how you can reach the widest possible range of learners. This should be part of course design, staff development… All areas should include accessible and inclusive technologies.

And I want you now to think about the people and infrastructure required and involved in these types of decisions…  So I have some examples here about change…

What would you need to do to enable a change in practice like this learner statement:

“Usually I hate fieldwork. I’m disorganised, make illegible notes, can’t make sense of the data because we’ve only got little bits of the picture until the evening write up…” 

This student isn’t benefitting from the fieldwork until the information is all brought together. The teacher dealt with this by combining data, information, etc. on the learner’s phone, including QR codes to help them learn… That had an impact and the student continues:

“But this was easy – Google forms. Twitter hashtags. Everything on the phone. To check a technique we scanned the QR code to watch videos. I felt like a proper biologist… not just a rubbish notetaker.”

In another example a student who didn’t want to speak in a group and was able to use a Text Wall to enable their participation in a way that worked for them.

In another case a student who didn’t want to blog but it was compulsory in their course. But then the student discovered they could use voice recognition in GoogleDocs and how to do podcasts and link them in… That option was available to everyone.

Comment: We are a sixth form college. We have a student who is severely dyslexic and he really struggled with classwork. Using voice recognition software has been transformative for that student and now they are achieving the grades and achievements they should have been.

So, what is needed to make this stuff happen. How can we make it easy for change to be made… Is inclusion part of your student induction? It’s hard to gauge from the room how much of this is endemic in your organisations. You need to think about how far down the road you are, and what else needs to be done so that the majority of learners can access podcasts, productivity tools, etc.

[And with that we are moving to discussion.]

Its great to hear you all talking and I thought it might be useful to finish by asking you to share some of the good things that are taking place…

Comment: We have an accessibility unit – a central unit – and that unit provides workshops on technologies for all of the institution, and we promote those heavily in all student inductions. Also I wanted to say that note taking sometimes is the skill that students need…

JT: I was thinking someone would say that! But I wanted to make the point that we should be providing these tools and communicating that they are available… There are things we can do but it requires us to understand what technology can do to lower the barrier, and to engage staff properly. Everyone needs to be able to use and promote technology for use…

The marker by which we are all judged is the success of our students. Technology must be inclusive for that to work.

You can find more resources here:

  • Chat at Todaysmeet.com/DF1734
  • Jisc A&I Offer: TinyURL.com/hw28e42
  • Survey: TinyURL.com/jd8tb5q

How can technology help us meet the needs of a wider range of learners? – Mike Sharples, Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University / FutureLearn

I wanted to start with the idea of accessibility and inclusion. As you may already know the Open University was established in the 1970s to open up university to a wider range of learners… In 1970 19% of our students hadn’t been to University before, now it’s 90%. We’re rather pleased with that! As a diverse and inclusive university accessibility and inclusivity is essential for that. As we move towards more interactive courses, we have to work hard to make fieldtrips accessible to people who are not mobile, to ensure all of our astronomy students access to telescopes, etc.

So, how do we do this? The learning has to be future orientated, and suited to what they will need in the future. I like the idea of the kinds of jobs you see on Careers 2030 – Organic Voltaics Engineer, Data Wrangler, Robot Counsellor – the kinds of work roles that may be there in the future. At the same time of looking to the future we need to also think about what it means to be in a “post truth era” – with accessibility of materials, and access to the educational process too. We need a global open education.

So, FutureLearn is a separate but wholly owned company of the Open University. There are 5.6 million learners, 400 free courses. We have 70 partner institutions, with 70% of learners from outside the UK, 61% are female, and 22% have had no other tertiary education.

When we came to build FutureLearn we had a pretty blank slate. We had EdX and similar but they weren’t based on any particular pedagogy – built around extending the lectures, and around personalised quizzes etc. And as we set up FutureLearn we wanted to encourage a social constructivist model, and the idea of “Learning as Conversation”, based on the idea that all learning is based on conversation – with oursleves, with our teachers and their expertise, and with other learners to try and reach shared understanding. And that’s the brief our software engineers took on. We wanted it to be scalable, for every piece of content to have conversation around it – so that rather than sending you to forums, the conversation sat with the content. And also the idea of peer review, of study groups, etc.

So, for example, the University of Auckland have a course on Logical and Critical thinking. Linked to a video introducing the course is a conversation, and that conversation includes facilitative mentors… And engagement there is throughout the conversation… Our participants have a huge range of backgrounds and locations and that’s part of the conversation you are joining.

Now 2012 was the year of the MOOC, but now they are becoming embedded, and MOOCs need to be taken seriously as part of campus activities, as part of blended learning. In 2009 the US DoE undertook a major meta-study of comparisons of online and face to face teaching in higher education. On average students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face to face online, but those undertaking a blend of campus and online did better.

So, we are starting to blend campus and online, with campus students accessing MOOCs, with projects and activities that follow up MOOCs, and we now have the idea of hybrid courses. For example FutureLearn has just offered its full post graduate course with Deakin University. MOOCs are no longer far away from campus learning, they are blending together in new ways of accessing content and accessing conversation. And it’s the flexibility of study that is so important here. There are also new modes of learning (e.g. flipped learning), as well as global access to higher education, including free coures, global conversation and knowledge sharing. The idea of credit transfer and a broader curriculum enabled by that. And the concept of disaggregation – affordable education, pay for use? At the OU only about a third of our students use the tutoring they are entitled to, so perhaps those that use tutoring should pay (only).

As Geoff Mulgan said we do lack evidence – though that is happening. But we also really need new learning platforms that will support free as well as accredited courses, that enables accreditation, credit transfer, badging, etc.

Q&A

Q1) How do you ensure the quality of the content on your platform?

A1) There are a couple of ways… One was in our selective choice of which universities (and other organisations) we work with. So that offers some credibility and assurance. The other way is through the content team who advise every partner, every course, who creates content for FutureLearn. And there are quite a few quality standards – quite a lot of people on FutureLearn came from the BBC and they come with a very clear idea of quality – there is diversity of the offer but the quality is good.

Q2) What percentage of FutureLearn learners “complete” the course?

A2) In general its about 15-20%. Those 15% ish have opportunities they wouldn’t have other have had. We’ve also done research on who drops out and why… Most (95%) say “it’s not you, it’s me”. Some of those are personal and quite emptional reasons. But mainly life has just gotten in the way and they want to return. Of those remaining 5% about half felt the course wasn’t at quite the right level for them, the other half just didn’t enjoy the platform, it wasn’t right for them.

So, now over to you to discuss…

  1. What pedagogy, ways of doing teaching and learning, would you bring in.
  2. What evidence? What would consitute success in terms of teaching and learning.

[Discussion]

Comments: MOOCs are quite different from modules and programmes of study.. Perhaps there is a branching off… More freestyle learning… The learner gets value from whatever paths they go through…

Comments: SLICCs at Edinburgh enable students to design their own module, reflecting and graded against core criteria, but in a project of their own shaping. [read more here]

Comments: Adaptive learning can be a solution to that freestyle learning process… That allows branching off, the algorithm to learn from the learners… There is also the possibility to break a course down to smallest components and build on that.

I want to focus a moment on technology… Is there something that we need.

Comments: We ran a survey of our students about technologies… Overwhelmingly our students wanted their course materials available, they weren’t that excited by e.g. social media.

Let me tell you a bit about what we do at the Open University… We run lots of courses, each looks difference, and we have a great idea of retention, student satisfaction, exam scores. We find that overwhelmingly students like content – video, text and a little bit of interactivity. But students are retained more if they engage in collaborative learning. In terms of student outcomes… The lowest outcomes are for courses that are content heavy… There is a big mismatch between what students like and what they do best with.

Comment: There is some research on learning games that also shows satisfaction at the time doesn’t always map to attainment… Stretching our students is effective, but it’s uncomfortable.

Julia Taylor: Please do get in touch if you more feedback or comments on this.

Dec 052016
 
Image credit: Brian Slater

This is a very wee blog post/aside to share the video of my TEDxYouth@Manchester talk, “What do your digital footprints say about you?”:

You can read more on the whole experience of being part of this event in my blog post from late November.

It would appear that my first TEDx, much like my first Bright Club, was rather short and sweet (safely within my potential 14 minutes). I hope you enjoy it and I would recommend catching up with my fellow speakers’ talks:

Kat Arney

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Ben Smith

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VV Brown

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Ben Garrod

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I gather that the videos of the incredible teenage speakers and performers will follow soon.

 

Dec 052016
 
Preview image of the Crowd Power: the COBWEB Guide to Citizen Science comic

Last weekend (Sunday 27th November) I gave a talk at the Edinburgh Comic Art Festival 2016 on what it’s like to turn research into a comic book.  We made a (low tech) recording of the talk (watch it here via MediaHopper, or embedded below/on YouTube, see also the prezi here) but I also wanted to write about this project as I wanted to share and reflect on the process of creating a comic book to communicate research.

So, how did our comic, “Crowd Power: the COBWEB Guide to Citizen Science” come to happen in the first place?

Meet COBWEB

As some of you will be aware, over the last four years I have been working on an ambitious EU-FP7-funded citizen science project called COBWEB: Citizen Observatory Web. We have, of course, been communicating our work throughout the project (in fact you can read our communications plan here) but as all the final deliverables and achievements have been falling into place over the last few months, we wanted to find some new ways to share what we have done, what we have accomplished, and what the next steps will look like.

Whilst we are bringing COBWEB to a close, we are also now taking our resultant citizen science software, Fieldtrip Open, through an open source process and building new projects and sustainability plans (which also means considering suitable business models) around that. Open sourcing software isn’t just about making the software available, or giving it the right license, it is also about ensuring it has a real prospect of adoption and maintenance by a community, which means we are particularly keen to support and develop the community around FieldTrip Open. And we want to bring new people in as users and contributors to the software. So, for both dissemination and open sourcing projects we really need to inspire people to find out more about the approaches we’ve taken, the software we’ve built, and to explain where it all came from. But how could we best do that?

During the project we had developed a lot of good resources and assets, with a lot of formal reporting and public deliverables already available, and accompanying engagement with wider audiences (particularly co-design process participants) through social media and regular project newsletters. Those materials are great but we wanted something concise, focused, and tangible, and we also wanted something more immediately engaging than formal reports and technical papers. So, this summer we did some thinking and plotting…  My colleague Tom Armitage joined COBWEB partners in the Netherlands to revisit our geospatial software open sourcing options with the OSGeo community; Tom and I met with the fantastic folk from the Software Sustainability Institute for some advice on going (properly and sustainably) Open Source and building the software community; and my colleague Pete O’Hare looked at the videos, demos, and footage archive we’d accumulated and suggested we make a documentary on the project. After all of that we not only had some solid ideas, but we’d also really started to think about storytelling and doing something more creative for our current target audiences.

Across all of our conversations what became clear was that real need to inspire and engage people. The project is complicated but when have shared our own enthusiasm about the work and its potential, people really take an interest and that open us longer and (sometimes) more technical or practical conversations. But we can’t get everywhere in person so we needed some cost effective ways to do that excitement-building: to explain the project quickly, clearly and entertainingly, as a starting point to trigger follow up enquiries and those crucial next step conversations. So, In August we did follow up on Pete’s suggestion, commissioning a documentary short (that’s a whole other story but click on that link to view the finished film, and huge thanks to our wonderful filmmaker Erin Maguire) to give an overview of the COBWEB project, but we also decided we’d try something we had never done before. We were going to try making a comic…

Why a comic? 

Well, first lets talk terminology… And I should note that if this blog post were a graphic novel, this would be a little side note or separate frame, or me explaining a pro tip to the reader – so imagine that as our format!:

Is it a comic, or is it a graphic novel? I think a lot of people will think about “comics” as being The Dandy, The BeanoManga titles, or one of the long running mass market series’ like The Avengers or Archie. Or maybe you’d think of a comic strip like Peanuts or Calvin & Hobbes. Similarly “graphic novel” seems to be tied to the idea of long form books which look more like literary fiction/non-fiction, with well regarded titles like Fun Home or Kiki de Montparnasse or Persepolis. The difference is hard to explain partly because when you make that sort of distinction, clearly there are a lot of boundary cases… Is it about audience (e.g. teens vs adults), or aesthetic, or page format or critical response or some other criteria? Calvin & Hobbes deals wittily with matters of philosophy, but is widely read by children who engage with its (deceptive) simplicity, charming aesthetic and warm tone and deceptively simple story telling. By contrast, the new The Story of Sex: From Apes to Robots has a lively and pretty course – even for the subject matter – aesthetic (it’s authors are French and I would put the drawing mid-way along the AsterixCharlie Hebdo tastefulness continuum) and it is aimed at a wide audience, but it is co-written by an academic, has been well received by critics, and you’ll find it shelved in the graphic novel section. Comparing these works on any kinds of comic vs. graphic novel grounds won’t tell you anything very useful about style or quality, although it might reveal the personal preference of the reader or reviewer you are talking to…

So, Before I began this project I was pretty sure that what I read are graphic novels – yes, snobbery – but, when you actually talk to people who make these wonderful things, the term – especially for shorter works – is “comics” and that’s accepted as covering the whole continuum, with all the styles, genres, print formats, etc. that you might expect (yes, even graphic novels) included. So, taking my lead from those that write and draw them, I will be using “comic” here – and next time you are discussing, say, female self-realisation in Wonder Woman and the Nao of Brown, you can go ahead and call both of them comics too!

Definition of a comic from the OED online.

Right, back to the topic at hand…

One of the reasons that a COBWEB comic seemed like it might be a good idea is that I really enjoy reading comics, and I particularly love non-fiction comics as a form because they can be so powerful and immediate, bringing complex ideas to life in unexpected ways, but which also leaves you the space to think and reflect. Comics are primarily a visual form and that enables you to explain specialist technologies or sophisticated concepts, or take people on flights of fancy offering creative metaphors that allow you to explain but also re-explain and re-interpret an idea lightly and engagingly. Your audience still need to think and imagine but in a great comic the combination of text and visuals brings something special to the experience. Comics can be more playful, colourful and bright than a formal report, and also much less constrained by physical reality, budget and location than a video or an event. And whether in digital or print form comics feel really pleasingly tangible and polished; they are designed, story-boarded, they feel like a special and finished product. From the non-fiction comics I’d read I could see that comics would work well for talking about technology and research, so they could be a good fit for our project if we could be confident that our target audience and our type of research would be a good fit for the possibilities and restrictions of the form.

For the COBWEB project we wanted to reach out to researchers, developers, and future project partners which are likely to include software and digital companies, NGOs, SMEs, as well as non-professional researchers (community groups etc), and others interested in working with – and hopefully interested (in some cases) in contributing to our codebase – for our open source software. This is defined set of audiences but each audience (and individual) holds highly varied interests and expertise: COBWEB is a complex project, with lots of different components, which means our audiences might be new to all of the concepts we are presenting or they may, say, know a great deal about coding but not environmental projects, or all about the environment but not about using mobile technologies… But we do know these audiences – we already work with developers and researchers, we’ve been working with potential users and contributors throughout the project so we have some idea of interests, aesthetics, etc. We felt pretty confident that many of those we want to reach do read and engage with comics of various types, from web comics like xkcd to beautifully published books like The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. That overlap and interest helped us feel confident that a comic would be a good fit for our audience, and a really great fit for telling our story.

Finding a comic artist to work with

We now had the bare bones of the idea, and we had a solid idea of our target audience. But we weren’t totally sure about which aspects of our story to draw out, what parts of the COBWEB story we wanted to tell, although we knew it had to inspire, entertain, and be accessible. We also really didn’t know what we wanted our comic to look like. As I started to think about possible collaborators (we knew we needed others to work with/commission) I remembered that very many years ago I’d seen a flyer – in the form of a comic book – for Glasgow Comic Con in a hotel. I did some searching around and found BHP (Black Hearted Press) Comics, an independent comics publisher based in Glasgow that creates their own comic books, but had also recently completed a project with the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum. Looking around their site I also found The Mighty Women of Science, another book where the subject and aesthetic suggested a good fit with COBWEB (and it was. Spoiler: Mighty Women author Clare Forrest illustrated Chapter 2 of our book). I had no idea what to expect in response but there wasn’t a way to find out if this idea was viable without getting some advice, so I fired off a quick email to BHP Comics…

Screenshot of the BHP website featuring Mighty Women of Science

Screenshot of the BHP website featuring Mighty Women of Science

I had a really swift reply from Sha Nazir from BHP. Sha was interested to talk more about the idea so we set up a meeting and, ahead of that, I trawled through my favourite comics to find some examples of the kind of idea I had in mind. On the day I brought in a few books that I thought did this sort of storytelling well, including: The Influencing Machine, Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld’s overview of the (US) media ecology and culture; The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage – a fictionalised steam punk re-telling of the lives of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, with great technology descriptions and lots of (factual and referenced) footnotes; Filmish – the book of Edward Ross’ critiques and explorations of cinema and film making (in the mould of Scott McCloud’s classic Understanding Comics). I also brought in a copy of Taylor & Francis’ Cartoon Abstracts – scientific papers which have been turned into 1 page cartoons – which is one of the very few examples I have seen of scientific and technological research being adapted into comics.

That initial conversation with Sha was a long and honest chat about the kind of idea we had in mind. Sha had brought his own selection of books – copies of The Mighty Women of Science, Comic Invention, an issue of Rok of the Reds, and Plagued: The Miranda Chronicles – to give me a sense of what BHP work on, the kind of writers and illustrators they work with, the sorts of formats, sizes and print styles we might want to consider. We talked about timelines: ours were really tight. Sha and I met in August and we needed to have a digital copy available and all work invoiced by the end of October (the print copy could follow). The comics could then be used to extend our dissemination and sustainability work, helping us share what we’d accomplished and support keeping that work and code a going concern. That timeline we requested was ridiculous and I am eternally grateful that Sha even considered taking it on (he was optimistic in our meeting but very wisely went away to think about it before we finalised anything). However, to make that timeline work he was clear from the outset that someone (me) would need to be available to check in regularly, to feed into and look over the script, the storyboards, the draft versions – Sha and his colleagues at BHP would take on the work but we also really had to commit to it to. I was up for that although I had a three and a half week holiday to the US scheduled for September so, with the caveat that we’d have to work around time zones, it all looked doable and we started scheduling some check ins.

So, what else did we need to discuss to get this started? Well, I needed to actually describe and give some background to COBWEB. I told Sha about the project in our meeting – and followed up by sending him some of the key project technical documents and reports that summarised our work. Sha was entirely new to the project – like many of those we want the comic to reach – so asked lots of really useful questions that really did highlight the complexity of describing COBWEB. To give you a sense of that: COBWEB has been a 4-year, €8.5 million project with 13 partners in 5 countries; we’ve had 9 workpackages and many more deliverables, we’ve worked with over 1000 volunteers and 7 co-design projects as we developed our software – for which there are 6 separate GitHub libraries. There is a lot there. And there are important unique aspects to the work: the compliance with EU and international standards, including INSPIRE compliant metadata; our focus on UNESCO Biosphere areas; the access management controls in our software; the involvement of policy makers as project partners; the contribution to empowering of citizens in Europe. At the same time our comic didn’t need to be encyclopedia, it just needed to have enough focus on what was important to give a broad picture and to excite people!

On which note… We talked about the audience, who they were, and what messages they should take from the comic. We were very clear from the outset that we were using comics as an engaging medium, but that we expected our audience to have some fairly serious interest in the project, which meant that although nothing should be inappropriate for children, our target audiences were adults and mainly quite technically literate adults. We wanted to explain the work of the project and assumed not prior knowledge of COBWEB, but some (useful) complexity and detail was going to ok where it felt appropriate. And we felt we could assume that readers of the comic may follow up by reading one of the more traditional publications if they then had a specific technical or policy interest to follow up.

At that initial meeting we also talked a bit about artists and art work. With our (crazy) timeline Sha recommended we break the the comic into a small number of chapters and that, once a script was written, these would be illustrated by different artists meaning that we’d get a really lovely variance of styles across the comic (something you’ll see in a growing number of comics, including Kiki de Montparnasse where drawing styles change when “Kiki” works with different artists). Using several different artists was also practical, as it meant that those chapters could be illustrated in parallel by different people – shortening those restrictive publication times.

Initial art work for the COBWEB comic by Kirsty Hunter

Initial art work for the COBWEB comic by Kirsty Hunter

We also talked about formats. The weekly comic book style of Rok of the Reds was going to be cheap to print and it would be easy to hand out – it could almost fit in a pocket – but it didn’t look quite as polished as we wanted. But The Mighty Women of Science had a great format – substantial and beautifully finished thick/card cover and binding, with matt finish pages, in A4 format (useful since all of our display stands, envelopes, etc. are designed for A4 reports/promotional items). It looked like a book, a thin but high quality finish book and, better yet, it was a budget-friendly format for a small print run.

And, as the ideas took shape, Sha and I discussed cost, and an initial estimate of the work to do the digital comic, plus a price for a print run of 1000 A4 copies. A quick sketch of costs came out of that meeting, which allowed me to  talk to my COBWEB colleagues and to check that our budget could accommodate the project. I don’t think it is appropriate to share that price here but it was very reasonable for this much work and, particularly given the timelines we were working with, was enormously good value. Why tell you this? Well, if you are thinking of doing your own comic then I highly recommend talking to some comic artists or publishers before you (potentially) rule it out over costs, since (for us at least) those costs were very fair but were also dependent on things like number of pages and chapters, print formats, etc. so were also (somewhat) within our control.

So, we now had some solid ideas and a plan. We exchanged emails to work out the details, check costs (and check budgets), and get both informal and informal agreements to proceed (which we did quickly because, again, timelines were really tight). A standard contract was prepared and work began immediately at BHP, with me sending over information, background documents and diagrams etc. so that Sha and his colleague Kirsty Hunter could begin to get a script worked out – and could ask any questions as they arose. And, at this point I am going to embed my Prezi from my ECAF16 talk, which covers the production process stage by stage:

Throughout September Sha and Kirsty worked on the script, sending me drafts to comment on, tweak, correct, etc. We arranged several calls from a range of unusually exotic locations – a check in from Seattle, from Davis (California), and then – as I headed off to AoIR – from Berlin. We agreed focal areas early on, with the script starting as a skeleton in four sections:

  1. An introduction to COBWEB and the core concept of citizen science – ensuring all readers share some background knowledge but also making the comic a useful resource to those curious about crowd sourcing and citizen science in general.
  2. Highlights from the co-design work including several real world examples of people and projects who have shaped and been part of the COBWEB community. Much of this came from our co-design project reports, highlighting real challenges and feedback (good and bad) from our volunteer community.
  3. Our “under the bonnet” chapter, on the more chewy technical aspects of the project and including a very cleverly conceived double page spread on quality assurance processes.
  4. What happens next with COBWEB and our software now that the project is over and the open sourcing takes shape, but also where technology is going and how citizen science may fit in to e.g. smart cities.

Those sections were broken into pages and the script rapidly took shape. As the sections and pages were agreed, text for each page was drafted and tweaked. And storyboarding began in earnest…

, but also with the citizen science in a European context

Draft layout sketch for the COBWEB comic (by permission of Sha Nazir/Kirsty Hunter/BHP Comics).

By mid September I had started to receive initial visual ideas and sketches (a delightful treat in a Monday morning inbox!), and, in parallel, the wording and detail of the script was getting finalised. By the end of the month the script and initial drawings were ready enough to share with COBWEB colleagues for their checking and feedback – they did a brilliant job helping me ensure we were using the right types of terminology, not missing anything important, and also catching the less exciting but very important spelling issues, corrections etc. (having many eyes to check a script at several stages was very useful indeed and definitely recommended).

Once the wording was (pretty much) finalised and the storyboards ready, the comic went into the illustration process – seeing those storyboards turn from sketches to fully fledged characters (including a few fun references/”Easter eggs”), then those characters started to gain colour, backgrounds. Drafts were shared and commented on, and finally the final started to take shape. This part of the process followed a different sort of process: it required less input from me at first – a few checks of the pages and visuals – as the work went out to different illustrators for completion. However, once lettering was done there were a few crucial tasks to do: checking all of the text for content, spelling, etc. (which is surprisingly tricky when you’ve been seeing drafts for weeks, you have to adopt a whole different proof-reading level of engagement); building a glossary page for some of the technical terminology (in retrospect this is something I should have done right after that first meeting when the unknown words and acronyms were most obvious); and, because somehow we just hadn’t gotten to it yet, we actually had to think of a title…

A page from Crowd Power: the COBWEB Guide to Citizen Science, featuring real feedback from real co-design project volunteers.

A finished page from Crowd Power: the COBWEB guide to citizen science, featuring real comments from real co-design project volunteers.

What the heck do we call this thing?

In late October, several weeks after beginning work on the comic, we still didn’t have a title. Sha asked me to think about some ideas, and I sketched a few out but also started asking colleagues… We played with variants on the key aspects of citizen science, crowd sourcing, empowerment, etc… We wanted to get COBWEB mentioned, to give a sense of the content, but also to have a title that had a more catchy ring to it. After lots of chats and several lists of possibilities pitching back and forth, “Crowd Power: the COBWEB Guide to Citizen Science” emerged as a winner.

We then had to think about covers. Sha sent through several ideas but one of the most appealing – bringing together an image of a protest march with an image inspired by the Shepard Fairey “Hope” poster for Barack Obama – started to look less than ideal in a post-Brexit context, and with Trump newly elected president. Protests as a shorthand for people power are great, but at a time of genuine political complexity, polarisation, and a high likelihood of real protest movements, we decided that this was an image for the book and promotion, but not for the cover. Some other ideas looked good, but didn’t seem to bring forward the idea of real people, and environmental research as successfully. In the end we settled on an image that is, essentially, a cut scene from the comic, featuring a group of friends using COBWEB out in the wilds, as seen by our (nameless but brilliant) narrator:

Crowd Power: the COBWEB Guide to Citizen Science cover image

Another opportunity to look at our cover art. Eagle eyed cartoon fans may note a certain similarity between our curious walkers and the Scooby Doo gang…

One of the things I was asked early in the process had been “do you want the narrator or main characters to be human? Or can they be animals? Or giant floaty heads?”… I said that anything was fine, as long as it made sense – so a duck or a seal or some sort of animal that would appear in our actual co-design projects were fine, but not a penguin or dragon (or anything that wouldn’t make sense in that context). One of the things I loved about Sha, Kirsty and Clare’s illustrations was that they responded to that flexibility by building in diversity, quirkiness, and little in-jokes (indeed there are several “Easter eggs” in Crowd Power).You’ll notice from the cover that our narrator (throughout) is female. Sha and I had talked about women being well represented in the comic but I was also delighted, when the more finished version of the illustrations came through, to see a range of racial and ethnic diversity quietly represented in our book. The project was diverse in many ways, and we also want to be entirely welcoming to anyone who would like to be part of the COBWEB and FieldTrip Open community. The range of people in the comic subtly reflects that desire to include and engage and is, I think, one of the reasons that comics can be so powerful for messaging values, beliefs, and intentions as part of and alongside the core narrative.

With the title and cover art completed, and a further final proof read. Make that two. Make that three… And a few very last minute corrections… the COBWEB comic went off to the printers and the digital copy immediately went live on the COBWEB project website.  Now, to get the comic out to our audience…

Finding our audience

As soon as the digital copy of the Comic went live we tweeted and shared it with project partners and those interested in the project.

The feedback within the project team was excellent, with some of the team keen to use pages from the comic in their own presentations as an introduction or overview of their work. For the team I think the comic – and the documentary that went live shortly afterwards – provided some sense of stepping back and reflecting on what had been done. At the end of a four year project it can be much easier to know what wasn’t completed, or didn’t go to plan, or didn’t develop as you’d expect. Looking over the story of the project, what had been achieved, how much work had taken place is very rewarding and reminds you of all the excitement and accomplishments of that project.

Feedback from our wider contacts and social media communities was excited and interested. We have shared the comic openly on the website and explicitly state that it can be downloaded, circulated, kept, used elsewhere… We are keen that it is seen and read and used by whoever wants to do that. If I have one regret it is that in all of our conversations we didn’t agree to make the book available under a Creative Commons license – more by omission than because of any particular issue with doing that. Sha has been great about us using images of work in progress – you’ll see a series of sketches, etc. in that Prezi – and shares our keenness that the book is seen and accessible. We commissioned it to be free to access – whether download or print – but it would have been wise to agree licensing terms more directly to avoid any possible doubts.

Then, the week of the Edinburgh Comic Art Festival 13 boxes of comics appeared at the EDINA offices in Argyle House and they looked absolutely glorious! The print copies triggered a ripple of excitement through the office and also generated lots of interest at ECAF – which seemed like a great place to see how our comic fared with a mixed but interested audience.

As the year comes to a close we will be circulating copies to our COBWEB project partners but also that core target audience as we go out and about developing the FieldTrip Open community, sharing copies with developers, researchers, etc.

So, what do you think? 

If you would like a (print or digital) copy, and/or would like to talk to us about how we can support your citizen science project, please do get in touch. I would also love to hear your feedback on the comic and any suggestions you may have about communities that may like to work with us in turning FieldTrip Open into a really vibrant open source project in the future. Do leave a comment here or email me.

Some important acknowledgements

Enormous thanks to Sha Nazir and Kirsty Hunter, who created the fantastic Crowd Power comic with Clare Forrest, Jack Lothian and Kirk Kristofferson. Sha and Kirsty explicitly gave me their permission to share images of works in progress for this post and my ECAF talk this weekend, which I hugely appreciated. It has been an absolute delight to work with all at BHP Comics and I would recommend contacting them if you are considering embarking upon/commissioning a similar piece of work.

Further resources

Some useful links are provided here so that you can quickly access our materials, the comic, or any of the COBWEB project website or code:

Update: Video now available via YouTube

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 102016
 
Wikipedia Editathon Poster for ILW 2016

For the last few years the University of Edinburgh have run an “Innovative Learning Week” in which no traditional lectures or tutorials take place, instead students (and staff) are encouraged to experiment, to engage in new ways, to participate in events and teaching activities beyond their usual discipline or subject areas. It is a really lovely concept and I am always amazed at the range of events and collaborations that take place in that very busy week.

This year Innovative Learning Week runs from Monday 15th to Friday 19th February and I am involved in a few events that I thought I would share here for those based at Edinburgh (do sign up!) and for the interest of others who may be curious about what an ILW event looks like…

History of Medicine Wikipedia Editathon

This event, a follow up last year’s very successful editathon, is something I have been involved in the planning of (and will be baking for) although I’ll only be able to be there on the Thursday. However, a fantastic group of information services, academic and Wikipedian in Residence folks are making this event happen and it should be both fun and really interesting. Great for those wanting to brush up their Wikipedia skills too. 

Join the Innovative Learning Week History of Medicine Wikipedia Editathon (open to students, staff, and all others who are interested), where you will have an opportunity to edit Wikipedia and meet our new Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew. Join us in re-writing the Wikipedia pages of Edinburgh’s infamous medical figures including body-snatcher William Burke, the intriguing Dr. James Miranda Barry, or choose to enhance and create content for notable University of Edinburgh alumni (see the list under the How do I prepare section http://bit.ly/ILWEditathonEventPage).

Wikipedia training provides staff valuable digital skills to support CPD as well as hands on experience using an open access educational repository. No experience necessary as each session will offer Wikipedia editing and publishing training and the opportunity to observe online collaboration, public engagement, knowledge exchange, and scholarly communication in action.

Join in for one session, a full day, or for all three (sessions run in David Hume Tower, Teaching Studio LG.07):

  • TUESDAY 16                       Session1: 2pm-5pm
  • WEDNESDAY 17                S2: 10am-1pm; S3: 2-5pm
  • THURSDAY 18                    S4: 10am-1pm; S5: 2-5pm

Sign up: http://bit.ly/ILWEditathon2016 and/or follow us and share on Twitter: #ILWEditathon @LTW_UOE. If you are attending please bring your own personal laptop or tablet if you are able.

Creating an Effective Presence (Engineering)

I will be leading a section in this workshop on managing your digital footprint, developing and effective online presence, managing social media settings and options, as part of a wider session that looks at what it means to present yourself as a professional engineer and to evidence your skills and experience. 

This workshop on Tuesday 16th February (2-5pm), jointly hosted by the School of Engineering, the Careers Service and EDINA, will focus on Digital Footprint Awareness and creating an effective online presence to support summer internship and placement applications.

The session will include:

  • advice on using LinkedIn effectively;
  • an introduction to PebblePad for online portfolios;
  • guidance on managing your digital footprint.

Before attending, make sure you’ve registered for an account on LinkedIn. This is a BYOD session (bring your own device e.g. laptop or tablet).

Sign up (students in the School of Engineering only): http://www.innovativelearning.ed.ac.uk/creating-effective-online-presence-engineering

Communicating science to non-academic audiences ? who, what, why and how.

I have been involved in the planning of this session which I am contributing some social media, copyright/licensing and science communication expertise and resources to.

This science communication workshop explores how critical it is to identify your target audience and tailor your Open Educational Resource accordingly. The group will identify audiences and explore what their specific needs are before creating an interactive, web based, Open Educational Resource.

Sign up:

Other events worth noting include… 

The ILW newspaper (below) includes some highlights or you can search the programme in full here: http://www.innovativelearning.ed.ac.uk/ilw-calendar

And I’ll be sharing some of the resources from the sessions I’m involved with here on my blog (likely on the Publications and Presentations page).

Feb 072016
 

This afternoon I’ve popped in to see the presentations from this weekend’s EdinburghApps event, being held at the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum. As usual for my liveblogs, all comments and edits are very much welcomed. 

EdinburghApps, which also ran in 2014, is a programme of events organised by Edinburgh City Council (with various partners) and generating ideas and technology projects to address key social challenges. This year’s events are 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).

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be part of the full weekend but this presentation session will involve participants presenting the projects they have been coming up with, addressing health and social care challenges around five themes (click to see a poster outlining the challenge):

And so, over to the various teams (whose names I don’t have but who I’m quite sure the EdinburghApps team will be highlighting on their blog in the coming weeks!)…

Meet Up and Eat Up

This is Ella, an International Student at UoE. Meets people at events but wants to grow her network. She sees a poster for a “Meet Up and Eat Up” event, advertising food and drinks events for students to get together. She creates a profile, including allergies/preferences. She chooses whether to attend or host a meal. She picks a meal to attend, selects a course to bring, and shares what she will bring. She hits select and books a place at the meal…

So on the night of the meal everyone brings a course… (cue some adorable demonstration). And there is discussion, sharing of recipes (facilitated by the app), sharing of images, hashtags etc… Ratings within the app (also adorably demonstrated).

So, Ella shares her meal, she shares the recipe in the app…

The Meet Up and Eat Up team demonstrate their app idea.

The Meet Up and Eat Up team demonstrate their app idea.

Q&A

Q) Just marketed to students or other lonely people?

A) Mainly at students, and international students in particular as we think they are particularly looking for those connections, especially around holidays. But we’d want more mixing there, might put it into freshers week packs, introductory stuff…We might need to also arrange some initial meals to make this less intimidating… maybe even a Freshers week(s) event – there are five universities in town so opportunity to have mixing across those groups of students.

Game of Walks

Our challenge was to encourage walking to school so our audience was children, parents but also schools. We have turned our challenge into Game of Walks…

So, we’d find some maps of good walks to schools, routes that are longer but also safe… And along the route there would be sensors and, as you walk past, an image – appropriate to a theme in the curriculum – would appear on the pavement… So the kid will be a team and looks for an image appropriate for their team (e.g. sharks vs jellyfish).

Now, when we tested this out we discovered that kids cheat! And may try to rescan/gather the same thing. So it will randomly change to avoid that. And each week the theme will change…

So, there is also a tech angle here… We would have a wide field sensor – to trigger the device – and a narrow field sensor would enable the capturing of the thing on the walk… So that’s arduino operated. And you’d have 3D printed templates for the shape you need – which kids could print at school – so you’d just need a wee garden ornament type thing to trigger it. And once a week the kids would gather that data and see who won…

 

The Game of Walks team demo their idea for gamified school walks.

The Game of Walks team demo their idea for gamified school walks.

 

Q&A

Q1) How expensive will these be?

A1) Tried to pick sensors and devices that are cheap and cheerful. Arduino nanos are very inexpensive. LEDs probably more expensive… But keep it cheap, so if vandalised or stolen you can either repair or deal with loss.

Q2) How would you select the locations for the sensors… ?

A2) We thought we’d get parents and schools to select those… Encourage longer routes… The device will have that badge until collected… If lots of kids in the same place there’ll be a constant procession which could be tricky… Want, in a zone around the school, where you’d have smaller groups this would trigger.

Q3) Who programmes the Arduino

A3) Lots of schools teach Arduino, so could get the kids involved in this too, also the shapes, the data collection and users. And you will have footfall data as part of that capture which would also be interesting… Maybe get kids involved in potentially moving the sensors to new places because of lots/not enough footfall…

Comment) I think that’s exciting, getting the kids involved in that way…

Team Big Data

Note: this is almost certainly not their name, but they didn’t share their team name in their presentation.

So, I’m a user for our system… My mum has just recovered from cancer and I’m quite concerned about my own risk… So my friend suggested a new app to find out more… So I enter my data… And, based on a bigger data set my risks are calculated. And as a user I’m presented with an option for more information and tips on how to change… The database/system offers a suggestion of how to improve his practice… And maybe you reject some suggestions, so receive alternative ideas… And the app reminds you… In case you forget to cut back on your sausages… And based on those triggers and reminders you might update your personal data and risk… And the user is asked for feedback – and hopefully improves what they do…

Team Big Data demo their idea for an app nudging good health and personal care through an app and big data risk/suggestion database.

Team Big Data demo their idea for an app nudging good health and personal care through an app and big data risk/suggestion database.

Q&A

Q1) What stuff is going to be worked on… What would be held?

A1) We did a demonstration with a computer sharing all of your data in one place… It’s currently in lots of different places… We did a few simple designs that holds all the data of the users… Not trying to be the big brothers… We presented the user experience… But not so much the behind the scenes stuff…

Q2) How does the app know about the beer count? (part of the demo)

A2) We demonstrated this as an app but it could be a website, or something else… You can perhaps get that data based on purchase history etc. The user doesn’t have to do anything extra here, its using existing data in different places. Also people often share this stuff on Facebook.

Comment) You have tackled a really difficult problem… You’ve made a good start on this… It’s such a massive behavioural change to do…

Comment) Many people are happy to volunteer data already…

Q3) How do you convince Tesco to share data with this app?

A3) I think you’d need to have an agreement between NHS and Tesco… For a new form of membership where you opt into that sharing of data.

Comment) Might be a way to encourage people to sign up for a ClubCard, if there was a benefit for accuracy and advice in the app.

A3) Maybe also there are discounts that

Comment) Maybe bank cards is a better way to do that. So there may be a way to join up with those organisations looking at being able to link up with some of these…

A3) This idea isn’t any kind of competition… Might give you ideas about data access…

Comment) I was just wanting to raise the issue that if you were working with, e.g. Tesco, you’d need to also get data from other large and small companies and working with one company may put others off working for you – incentivising users to, e.g. get a ClubCard, isn’t going to incentivise, say, Sainsbury’s to work with you with the data they hold. There are also data protection issues here that are too complex/big to get into.

Simply SMS

Note: this is a charming father/son team including our youngest participant, a boy named Archie who seems to be around 9 or 10 years old (and is clearly a bit of a star).

So this is an app to help people with cognitive impairments to engage and communicate with the younger generation. Maybe a teen, Billy Boy, wants to help out his Grandad, who has had a stroke… So Grandad has an app, and Billy Boy has a reciprocal App. They have slightly different versions.. And they can exchange pictograms… Billy Boy can prompt Grandad to brush their teeth, or do other things to keep in touch and check in… Grandad can ask Billy Boy how he’s doing…

The Simply SMS team demo their idea for an app connecting lonely people across generations through pictogram messages.

The Simply SMS team demo their idea for an app connecting lonely people across generations through pictogram messages.

Q&A

Q1) How do you get this working over SMS?

A1) Would actually be messaging system, which could use words as well as pictures… Perhaps as time goes on you could change it so different people with different cognitive impairments could use it – e.g. number of stars so you could indicate how well you were eating. Also there would be some messaging between, say, carer, homehelp, relatives etc. So that all of those engaged in care can share updates, e.g. that Grandad has been taken to hospital…

Q2) What do you want to do next?

A2) We were looking at Meteor that lets you chain server, iPhone and Android apps together and they have a really nice chat room style system, for public or private chat rooms. So we would look to create plugins for that for pictograms and the right sort of mix of public and private messages. And bring together people involved based on the care package that person has.

Q3) Can this be done so that Billy Boyd can use his existing messaging apps could tie into that?

A3) It may be that there are ways to do that. Often there are things to integrate things together… Tools to post to multiple sites at once, so could maybe use that…

Q4) Could you compare our big data approach to yours?

A4) This isn’t really big data. The intelligence isn’t really in the application, it’s in the people who are involved in the care and using the apps who have the intelligence.

Q5) Do you think people would be able to learn these sorts of pictograms?

A5) We’d have to see… But there are some simple things you can do – like the stars. But people retiring now include those used to working with technology… So pensioners are getting more adept at these things. People will adopt new technology.

Q5) Have you heard of a thing called Talking Mats. It’s a communication tool for people with dementia using pictures. Would be good to look into that, and how that could fit together.

A5) There are lots of things out there… Doing parts of this. And part of this idea is about getting teenagers involved too.

Q6) How about animated gifs?

A6) Lots of the development would be about what people actually need to know… Have a friend who calls to check her ageing relative has had a shave, or what they did today.

Comment) One nice next step might be to test out that pictogram language, see if they find that works, including teenagers and older people…

A) Debating what a bank or a school or shop might look like, for instance…

Closing Comments – Keira (We Are Snook) and Sally Kerr (Edinburgh City Council)

Keira: We have so many new ideas, and we started yesterday with our challenges but nothing else. Obviously a two day hack has its limitations… It’s not the way to get things perfect. But we have the opportunity now to come together again in a few weeks time (27th Feb)

Sally: So our next event is here (University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum) as well, on Saturday 27th February. Then after that midway event there will be pitch session on Sunday 13th March. We’ll contact you all, share information on the blog, get challenge owners on the blog… And get you to the next stage.

Keira (We Are Snook): So I’m going to hand out a wee plan for the next few weeks so that you can get your ideas ready, the milestones for your journey, who the key actors are, who will do what. You should have left team outlines to me, and forms that will help us share your ideas with others too. And we’d welcome your feedback on the event as well. And finally I have one of our Snook plywood phones for Archie (our very youngest participant at around 10) for prototyping lots of app ideas!

And with that, the day was done – although conversations continued over coffee and KitKats. A really interesting set of ideas though, and I’m told there is another team who will be along at the next sessions but weren’t able to make the show and tell today. I would recommend keeping an eye on the EdinburghApps website or @EdinburghApps on Twitter for more updates. I’ll certainly be eager to find out if we (my colleagues at EDINA and I) can offer any technical help as some of these ideas progress further. 

Related links

Oct 202015
 
Digital Footprint campaign logo

I am involved in organising, and very much looking forward to, two events this week which I think will be of interest to Edinburgh-based readers of this blog. Both are taking place on Thursday and I’ll try to either liveblog or summarise them here.

If you are are based at Edinburgh University do consider booking these events or sharing the details with your colleagues or contacts at the University. If you are based further afield you might still be interested in taking a look at these and following up some of the links etc.

Firstly we have the fourth seminar of the new(ish) University of Edinburgh Crowd Sourcing and Citizen Science network:

Citizen Science and the Mass Media

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 12 – 1.30 pm, Paterson’s Land 1.21, Old Moray House, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.

“This session will be an opportunity to look at how media and communications can be used to promote a CSCS project and to engage and develop the community around a project.

The kinds of issues that we hope will be covered will include aspects such as understanding the purpose and audience for your project; gaining exposure from a project; communicating these types of projects effectively; engaging the press; expectation management;  practical issues such as timing, use of interviewees and quotes, etc.

We will have two guest presenters, Dave Kilbey from Natural Apptitude Ltd, and Ally Tibbitt from STV, followed by plenty of time for questions and discussion. The session will be chaired by Nicola Osborne (EDINA), drawing on her experience working on the COBWEB project.”

I am really excited about this session as both Dave and Ally have really interesting backgrounds: Dave runs his own app company and has worked on a range of high profile projects so has some great insights into what makes a project appealing to the media, what makes the difference to that project’s success, etc; Ally works as STV and has a background in journalism but also in community engagement, particularly around social and environmental projects. I think the combination will make for an excellent lunchtime session. UoE staff and students can register for the event via Eventbright, here.

On the same day we have our Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme seminar for the Managing Your Digital Footprints project:

Social media, students and digital footprints (PTAS research findings)

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 2 – 3.30pm, IAD Resources Room, 7 Bristo Square, George Square, Edinburgh.

“This short information and interactive session will present findings from the PTAS Digital Footprint research http://edin.ac/1d1qY4K

In order to understand how students are curating their digital presence, key findings from two student surveys (1457 responses) as well as data from 16 in-depth interviews with six students will be presented. This unique dataset provides an opportunity for us to critically reflect on the changing internet landscape and take stock of how students are currently using social media; how they are presenting themselves online; and what challenges they face, such as cyberbullying, viewing inappropriate content or whether they have the digital skills to successfully navigate in online spaces.

The session will also introduce the next phase of the Digital Footprint research: social media in a learning & teaching context.  There will be an opportunity to discuss e-professionalism and social media guidelines for inclusion in handbooks/VLEs, as well as other areas.”

I am also really excited about this event, at which Louise Connelly, Sian Bayne, and I will be talking about the early findings from our Managing Your Digital Footprints project, and some of the outputs from the research and campaign (find these at: www.ed.ac.uk/iad/digitalfootprint).

Although this event is open to University staff and students only (register via the Online Bookings system, here), we are disseminating this work at a variety of events, publications etc. Our recent ECSM 2015 paper is the best overview of the work to date but expect to see more here in the near future about how we are taking forward this work. Do also get in touch with Louise or I if you have any questions about the project or would be interested in hearing more about the project, some of the associated training, or the research findings as they emerge.

Oct 062015
 
Jisc's #jisc50social branding

Today I am delighted to share the news that I have been included in Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media! I am also very pleased to see others on this list whose work I follow and admire, including Jennifer Jones and Sue Beckingham.

The list of 50 influencers forms a really useful array of snapshots of practice and mini case studies of how social media is being used across UK Higher Education and I’d recommend taking a look for inspiration and ideas. It would be lovely to also get more great people and social media best practice shared, so I would recommend sharing your own additions and tips to the hashtag, #jisc50social, as there is such a rich variety of use that a list of 50 people cannot, of course, capture that is taking place in the sector.

My write up in the Jisc list of influencers particularly talks about the Managing Your Digital Footprint work, which is progressing well. If you missed my posts from the European Conference on Social Media you can get a good sense of how the project is developing from my paper with project lead Louise Connelly, “Managing your digital footprint: possible implications for teaching and learning“. We are in an exciting phase of the project so do look out for new resources appearing on the project website very soon, and further research publications in the months to follow.

Finally, as the individuals who nominated me for this list did let me know that they would be putting me forward I would like to share my thanks to them for their support and enthusiasm. I feel honoured to have been regarded so highly by colleagues from the University of Edinburgh who are engaged in their own wonderful, creative, critical and playful use of social media in their day to day practice.

#codi15 update

Finally, and on a somewhat unrelated note, you may remember that I blogged earlier this summer about writing our Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas show, Back to the Statistical Future. The show took place on 26th August and I’m delighted to say that both a follow up blog post and a video recording of the full show are now available so, if you have an hour spare, do have a watch and let us know what you thought of it!

 

Oct 282014
 
Screenshot of Page 65 of latest University Business magazine

Last month I had a request through for an interview on social media for University Business magazine, which focuses on (as the title suggests), the business and administration side of universities. That request proved to be a really good opportunity to look back and reflect on what has been happening with social media across the last 5-10 years, including some awesome innovative activities at the University of Edinburgh, many of which – such as social media guidance and advise – EDINA have been part of.

Front cover image of University Business Magazine.

The front cover of the latest issue (81) of University Business magazine.

I’m really pleased to see that some of my comments on the use of social media at Edinburgh and in the wider HE sector have made it into the latest issue (Issue 81, pp 65-8). And I’m particularly glad to see that the Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign is part of those comments as it is a really ambitious project that will hopefully have findings of use for the much wider sector.

You can read the full article – which looks at social media at a number of institutions – online here (pages 65-68).

 October 28, 2014  Posted by at 12:20 pm Social Media at EDINA, Week In the Life Tagged with: ,  No Responses »