Social Outreach -what can we learn from brand marketing/blogger relationships?

On the final day of Social Media Week, I’ve been at a couple of marketing and branding sessions hosted by Equator Agency a “digitally led marketing agency” based in Glasgow. Equator have totally embraced Social Media Week Glasgow. As well running several sessions, and sponsoring the event, they are the guys behind the geek glasses and badges which I shared earlier.

It’s always nice to get out of one’s comfort zone, and be at events with different faces and perspectives on things. And this was certainly true of the “social outreach – what’s in it for me?” session. Essentially this session was an overview of how brands and bloggers can work effectively together. The presentation was very much from a brand marketing point of view. However as the session progressed, it did start to raise some questions in my mind about my own approach to not only to blogging but wider questions of innovation support and the role of JISC and JISC innovation support centres such as CETIS in developing, supporting and encouraging our blogging networks so that ideas, good practice etc are shared more widely within the HE sector. Particularly as a large part of the presentation focused on the role of blogging networks and effective brand engagement with them.

Like many of my peers I have my own personal network of blogs which I follow. It’s built up over time, is very informal, but I suspect it is very similar to other personal networks of colleagues. In turn I suspect that I am also part of a larger, informal network of edubloggers – in fact I’m probably part of several. I comment and interact with them and vice versa. In general it’s a happy, informal, serendipitous space which is great but could it be more? There are some “star” bloggers in there who have a large following, and probably don’t need any support. But there are also some other blogs, particularly project blogs which maybe could benefit from being part of a more formalised network which could give guidance and support and encourage more participation and engagement. During the session BritMums was highlighted as an example of a really effective blogging network. It has over 4,000 active bloggers, provides support and guidance to newbies, runs events to share ideas etc.

I think that with some JISC funded programmes we have probably missed a trick with in terms of really supporting project blogs. Again with some programmes/projects there has been a lot of interaction, and with some not so much. Although blogging is being seen more and more as de-facto project practice, some projects are much better at it than others. In some ways having the blog set up is sometimes seen as a project outcome in itself, and not the updating and populating content regularly bit. In terms of project support, although I do try to comment and share project blog posts, I don’t diligently read every blog post from every project (but don’t tell anyone I said that).

Again being out of “JISC world” for a large part of this week, I’ve been struck again but the lack of knowledge of all the innovation in HE that is happening in the wider world. And I know even within HE itself, a lot of the work JISC funds isn’t known about. So, as JISC moves into its next phase, and with its new focus on customer enagement would the development and support of a trusted network (written by the community for the community) of bloggers not be ideal way to a) share innovation and new practice b) build on exisiting network connections c) help share knowledge of sustainability and embedding of outcomes/outputs of funded projects d) get feedback from the ground up on what the sector would like JISC to do?

One thing the session presenter Fiona Dow, mentioned was that Equator have an ever growing database of “trusted” bloggers who they are continually communicating with, and so have a number of people to approach for various campaigns. Is a similar edublogger database something that say an innovation support centre such as CETIS should develop and maintain? Time to develop relationships with “trusted networks and bloggers” was also highlighted. So, again, should we take more time to more formally develop and share our informal blogging networks? Currently the JISC comms team sends a daily email with related press cuttings to JISC staff – should we be producing a similar email highlighting interesting blog articles from within our community?

Does this sound like something you would like to be part of ? Or should we just continue with our own informal, self forming groups? I’d be really interested to hear any views on this or any other ideas this might have triggered.

cetis @ #iwmw12

This week I’ve been in Edinburgh with a number of my cetis colleagues at this years IMWM 12 conference which is organised by our sister JISC Innovation Support Centre, based at UKOLN.

Cetis contributions to the conference included:
*Identifying and Responding to Emerging Technologies
*What Can Offer the Web Manager?, Phil Barker, workshop session
*Developing Digital Literacies and the Role of Institutional Support Services, by me – more info in the text below
*Data Visualisation: A Taster, plenary session with Martin Hawksey and Tony Hirst
*Data Visualisation Kitchen, workshop with Martin and Tony.

This is the first time I’ve attended the conference, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. It was particularly useful to have conversations with colleagues involved managing university websites, as this is a sector of the community I don’t have very much contact with. I tend to have more contact with people who are building and using teaching and learning environments, and not the more corporate side of a universities web presence.

I ran a workshop session on the first day of the conference around digital literacies and the role of institutional support services. This was very much a discussion session, based on the findings of the current JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme, in particular the technology review I undertook with projects earlier this year and the results of the baselining work the projects have all conducted, and the baseline synthesis produced by Helen Beetham. I was particularly keen bring out the relationship and potential tensions between the personal nature of developing digital literacies and the role of institutional provision. I wish I had recorded the conversation – as it was very wide ranging and I hope, it gave some food for thought for those who came along. A copy of my slides is embedded below.

#cetis10 snapshot of backchannel and amplification

Another year, another CETIS conference. Monday and Tuesday this week saw around 140 delegates join us at the National College for Leadership of Schools and Childrens’ Services Conference Centre in Nottingham for the 2010 CETIS Conference “Never Waste a Good Crisis – Innovation & Technology in Institutions.

Over the past few years, the backchannel conversations via twitter have provided a valuable addition to the conference surfacing opinions and alternative discussions, and also as a view into to conference for those not there in person. Despite some fears over the robustness of the venue internet connection, this year again saw a lot of online activity via twitter and blogs.

We utilised the twapper keeper service with the conference hash tag #cetis10 and the summarizr report it automatically generates is a useful snapshot of the conversations that took place. Our top (non CETIS) tweeter this year was David Kernohan – as he said himself nothing can stop him from tweeting.

Our top “conversation” was had between Paul Walk and @mIke_ellis. From a personal point of view, seems I tweet quite a bit but don’t really generate that much response – which is a quite like how I feel in real life at times too ;-)

Other uses of twitter came from Lorna Campbell who blogged about a twitter exchange during the first keynote by Anya Kamanetz, and James Burke who used the storify service to create a view of the collate, aggregate and locate session. (BTW I really like storify but seem to be bottom of the their invite list, so a quick plea, if anyone has spare invitations, can I have one please?). Paul walk also used flickr to create a summary of the open innovation strand, using the “picture speaks a thousand words” metaphor.

We also set up a lanyard site for the conference this year. This was quite useful for pre-conference activity but to be honest I didn’t use it during the conference so probably need a bit more reflection on how it integrated with our existing conference site. I would of course be interested to hear other’s views on it – is this something we should use for other CETIS events?

As an experiment we’ve also used the service to create an online newspaper once again using the conference hashtag. We’ll only do this for a limited time (i.e a couple of days) but I’m wondering if this might be useful for our other events which have dedicated hashtags, to collate tweet, blog posts and a some other randomly related “stuff’.

So there you have it, a short summary of some of the online activity from this year’s conference. Thanks to everyone who took the time to engage with the conference. There will be more blogs (and tweets) over the coming days posted onto our website.

Semantic technologies in teaching and learning working group – first meeting

The first meeting of the semantic technologies in teaching and learning working group took place at the University of Strathclyde on Friday 3 October.

The SemTec project outlined their project and there was a general discussion re the proposed methodology, scope and community engagement. A twine group has been established for the working group ( if you want an invitation, let me know). The next WG meeting will be in December sometime dates and location to be confirmed, followed by a public meeting early 2009.

More information on the working group is available on the intrawiki

Strategic Content Alliance Home Nation Forum

I attended the Strategic Content Alliance (SCA) Scottish home nation forum this week. I have been vaguely aware of the SCA but to be honest haven’t really looked at the work of the SCA in any depth as I had thought it was mainly concerned with procurement of content and not with content creation. However as I found out yesterday this is not the whole story.

Briefly, the SCA is a two year JISC initiative involving a number of strategic partners (BBC, Becta, British Libary, MLA, National e-Science Centre and NHS) to “build a common information environment where users of publicly funded e-content can gain best value from the investment that has been made by reducing the barriers that currently inhibit access, use and re-use of online content”. The project is currently looking at ways of “providing a set of principles and guidelines for best practice”. As part of this process the SCA are trying to get feedback from as many sectors as possible, hence the series of ‘home nation’ forums. Although most sectors are all working to a broadly defined common goals around use and re-use, there are key differences in drivers in each of the home nations – for example unique learner numbers (as outlined in Clive’s post) will not be implemented in Scotland in the same way as England. So it is crucial that these differences are recognised.

After an introduction to the SCA by Emma Beer the morning was taken up with two case studies outlining the current work of the SCA. The first of these was from Naomi Korn who, along with Prof. Charles Oppenheim, are carrying out a study on IPR and licensing work. This work will include a synthesis of existing work and the development of guidance and dissemination of good practice in this area. This of course would be of great interest to the CETIS community as the need for clear guidance was an issue which was raised at the JISC learning resources and activities event last week. Some of the deliverables outlined by Naomi were maxtrices, a terminology toolkit, template statements, exemplars and case studies – all of which would be incredibly useful for those us involved in developing, sharing and re-using learning content. These outputs should be available by early next year.

The second case study was presented by Chris Batt (former Chief Executive of the MLA) who is undertaking research on user characteristics and behaviours of the sponsoring partners of the SCA. Chris has really just started this work so wasn’t able to share many findings with us. However, he outlined the scope the study and some of its aims in trying to develop methodologies for analyzing audience behaviour and audience relationships to/with e-content. The study will to begin to create cross-audience profiles and scenarios exploiting multiple content sources to help the SCA understand who/what the users of the future will expect from content providers and what services they themselves require as content producers.

The majority of the attendees seemed to be from the library and museums sector, however there were a couple their from the education sector. There was a real feeling of willingness to share experiences, resources and develop common frameworks (which allowed for regional variation) which was very positive. The next Scottish meeting will take place on 22 May and the SCA blog has details of the other home nation events taking place over the next few weeks.

As there is obvious cross-over with CETIS communities we will keep you updated on the work of SCA and try to foster collaboration wherever possible.

What’s hot (or not) for 2008

Drum roll please, the results of the first EC SIG survey are now in. When asked what would be the “hot topics for the domain in 2008″, increased use of web 2.0, mash-ups, social networking etc was the resounding winner with almost half (48%) of the votes.

The full results are shown in the graph and pie chart below and are as follows:

*increasing use of web 2.0, mash-ups, social networking etc 48% (16 votes)
*learning design (in its widest sense) 21% (7 votes)
*the development and use of open content (e.g. OpenLearn) 12% (4 votes)
*standards such as IMS Common Cartridge;OAI-ORE 9% (3 votes)
*virtual worlds and games 6% (2 votes)
*other 3% (1 comment – “increasing uptake of all e-learning technologies across the board”

Results of survey graph

Survey results pie-chart

Now, I realise that this has been not the most scientific/rigorous of studies – more really a case of me just trying out a free service and hoping that I would get some response:-) and I c/should probably have spent a bit more time thinking of categories and not just used the ones that were top of my list that morning. However I do think the results are interesting. I can’t help wondering if I had named Second Life in the virtual worlds category would that have influenced the results. Learning design (in it’s widest sense, not just the IMS specification) is still creating a lot of interest (hopefully this is due in part to the excellent work of all the projects on the JISC Design for Learning Programme which the SIG has been involved in); but newer standards developments such as IMS Common Cartridge don’t seem to be areas that the SIG members feel will be very important in 2008.

So with the resounding vote for web 2.0 etc does that mean that our community are now really committed to web service approaches? Does the seemingly lacklustre interest in developing standards just show that people feel that there are enough standards/specs out there already and we have cracked the content packaging problem and have moved on to more exciting ways of sharing and re-using content? I’d be interested to hear any other views on this.

The other main outcome for me from the survey has been the opportunity get such quick feedback from the community and I would like to thank everyone who voted. As someone who is commonly referred to as “the one that sends out all those emails” I hope that it has added a bit more (relevant) interactivity to the mailing list. It certainly is very useful for me for planning the next set of SIG meetings.

The limits of virtual worlds in academic research

After the MUVE session at the JISC CETIS conference I was interested to see this article in the MIT Technology Review which outlines some of the problems faced by academics when trying to exploit the potential of virtual worlds and games in their research. In the article Edward Castronova outlines some of the problems his team faced when they tried to build a MMU game to test out economic theory. Although there is undeniably potential in these technologies for education and research, there a huge challenges to be faced by academics who are trying to build systems which are comparable to commercially produced ones.

As I reported in an earlier posting, Mark Bell (who worked on the Arden project referred to in the TR article) presented at the MUVE session. If you are interested in finding out in more depth about the issues the Arden project faced, then it’s worth listening to the podcast of his presentation as he gave a very full and frank account of his experiences of trying to create engaging MMUs with part time research students and a limited budget.

Multi User Virtual Environments and Games @ JISC CETIS Conference 2008

One approach to content creation and IPR

Leigh Blackall, Otago Polytechnic, is the latest contributor to the Penn State Terra Incognito series on open educational resources. In his post he describes the approaches that Otago is taking in developing and reusing educational content and the development of IPR policies to help staff use existing content. This ” acknowledges staff and student’s individual ownership over their IP, but encourages the use of a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license as the preferred copyright statement on works published with the Polytechnic’s name.” Leigh also outlines approaches to staff development in using blogs and the use of wikieducator to create and share content.

An interesting article on one institution’s journey towards creating open content and how they have integrated various technologies into staff and student practice.

We need to make more mistakes – MUVEs session @ CETIS conference

Making mistakes and sharing experiences was one of the key points made by Mark Bell at the MUVEs (multi-user virtual environments) session at the JISC CETIS conference last week.

The aim of the session was to take a closer look at some of the issues emerging in this area, “including an examination of the range of systems available, technical interoperability and the current and future challenges it poses, and whether there’s more to teaching in MUVEs than hype…” The three presenters (Daniel Livingstone, Mark Bell and Sarah Robbins) shared their experiences of working in such environments, the challenges they’ve faced and the potential for the future.

Daniel Livingstone (University of Paisley) started the session with a presentation about a SLOODLE ( Second Life and Moodle) project he is currently working (funded by Eduserv). The SLOODLE project is exploring integrating the two enviroments to see if they can offer a richer learning and teaching experience when they are combined than they currently do individually. So they are exploring how, why and where you would want a 3-D representation of a moodle course, what bits of each need to be used at what stage etc. For example should assignments be posted in SL or to in Moodle? Although Moodle is the primary focus, Daniel did explain that the project is now beginning to think in a more generic fashion about the applicability of their scripts for other environments, but this more interoperable approach is at a very early stage. At the moment the key challenges for the project are: authentication between environments and how to ensure roles are propagated properly; the need to support flexibility and what they can add to moodle to make sloodle more ‘standard’ in terms of features that can be exported into SL and vice versa.

Mark Bell (Indianna University) then gave a presentation on his research and experiences of developing rich, multiuser experiences within an educational context. The over-riding message Mark gave us was that mistakes are being made in this area, but we need to make more and share our experiences so we can all learn from them and move our practice forward. Mark has been involved in a number of projects trying to create rich and complex multiuser environments and he gave a very honest evaluation of the mistakes that had been made – like an environment not being able to support more than one avatar which kind of defeats the point of a MUVE :-)

Mark’s research is looking at testing economic theories within virtual worlds and he used the analogy of microbiologists using petrie dishes then extrapolating out findings to describe their approach to research within virtual worlds. According to Mark, there is no such thing as the real world anymore as the boundaries between real and virtual are becoming more blurred. I’m not sure if I can fully go along with that theory – but maybe that’s more to do with my personal virtual world ludditeness.

Mark argued that currently there isn’t a good platform available for academic researchers to develop large scale virtual games/simulations and that the academic development model doesn’t fit into the industry way of building things (one or two part-time developers versus teams of full time ones). So what is needed are more small scale projects/experiments – not the creation of new vast worlds and more work on co-creation and working with the commercial sector.

After the break Sarah Robbins (Ball State University) gave us an extremely informative description of her experiences of using Second Life to enhance her teaching and how harnessing students use of web 2.0 technology can enhance the learning process. One of the concepts she discussed was that of the ‘prosumer’ – the producer and consumer. With web 2.0 technologies we are all increasingly becoming prosumers and educators need to acknowledge and utilise this. Sarah was keen to stress that everything she does is driven by pedagogy not technology and she only uses technologies such as SL teach topics/concepts that are difficult to illustrate in a classroom setting. However being a keen gamer and user of technology she can see ways in which technology can enhance learning and wants to use new technologies wherever and whenever they are possible and appropriate. One example she highlighted was which is a mash up between a chat client, google maps and user profiles. A screen shot comparing that interface with a typical VLE chat client clearly illustrated how much richer the former is. Sarah’s vision of the future learning environment(s) being some kind of mash-up between things like twitter, facebook and secondlife which allowed everyone to benefit from the opportunities afforded by participatory and immersive networks.

There is clearly lots of interest in MUVEs in education, but we are still are the early stages of discovering what we can/can’t do with them. It would seem we are also just beginning to have the technical conversations about interoperability between systems and there is clearly a need for these issues to be discussed in as much depth as the pedagogical ones.

Copies of the presentations and podcasts are available from the conference website.

Design Bash: moving towards learning design interoperability

Question: How do you get a group of projects with a common overarching goal, but with disparate outputs to share outputs? Answer: Hold a design bash. . .

Codebashes and CETIS are quite synonymous now and they have proved to be an effective way for our community to feedback into specification bodies and increase our own knowledge of how specs actually need to be implemented to allow interoperability. So, we decided that with a few modifications, the general codebash approach would be a great way for the current JISC Design for Learning Programme projects to share their outputs and start to get to grips with the many levels of interoperability the varied outputs of the programme present.

To prepare for the day the projects were asked to submit resources which fitted into four broad categories (tools, guidelines/resources, inspirational designs and runnable designs). These resources were tagged into the programmes’ site and using the DFL SUM (see Wilbert’s blog for more information on that) we were able to aggregrate resources and use rss feeds to pull them into the programme wiki. Over 60 resources were submitted, offering a great snapshot of the huge level activity within the programme.

One of the main differences between the design bash and the more established codebashes was the fact that there wasn’t really much code to bash. So we outlined three broad areas of interoperability to help begin conversations between projects. These were:
* conceptual interoperability: the two designs or design systems won’t work together because they make very different assumptions about the learning process, or are aimed at different parts of the process;
* semantic interoperability: the two designs or design systems won’t work together because they provide or expect functionality that the other doesn’t have. E.g. a learning design that calls for a shared whiteboard presented to a design system that doesn’t have such a service;
* syntactic interoperability:the two designs or design systems won’t work together because required or expected functionality is expressed in a format that is not understood by the other.

So did it work? Well in a word yes. As the programme was exploring general issues around designing for learning and not just looking at for example the IMS LD specification there wasn’t as much ‘hard’ interoperability evidence as one would expect from a codebash. However there were many levels of discussions between projects. It would be nigh on impossible to convey the depth and range of discussions in this article, but using the three broad categories above, I’ll try and summarize some of the emerging issues.

In terms of conceptual interoperability one of the main discussion points was the role of context in designing for learning. Was the influence coming from bottom up or top down? This has a clear effect on the way projects have been working and the tools they are using and outcomes produced. Also in some cases the tools sometimes didn’t really fit with the pedagogical concepts of some projects which led to a discussion around the need to start facilitating student design tools -what would these tools look like/work?

In terms of semantic interoperability there were wide ranging discussions around the levels of granularity of designs from the self contained learning object level to the issues of extending and embellishing designs created in LAMS by using IMS LD and tools such as Reload and SLeD.

At the syntactic level there were a number of discussions not just around the more obvious interoperability issues between systems such as LAMS and Reload, but also around the use of wikis and how best to access and share resources It was good to hear that some of the projects are now thinking of looking at the programme SUM as a possible way to access and share resources. There was also a lot of discussion around the incorporation of course description specifications such as XCRI into the pedagogic planner tools.

Overall a number of key issues were teased out over the day, with lots of firm commitment shown by all the projects to continue to work together and increase all levels of interoperability. There was also the acknowledgement that these discussions cannot take place in a vacuum and we need to connect with the rest of the learning design community. This is something which the CETIS support project will continue during the coming months.

More information about the Design Bash and the programme in general can be found on the programme support wiki.