@jisccetis – how others see us

Those of you who follow the @jisccetis twitter account will have probably noticed that it is very much a broadcast channel, used to send updates on our latest news, features and events. Those of you who don’t , or no longer follow the account, will probably have noticed that too, and that’s why you don’t /no longer follow it. Over the coming weeks we’re going to be making some subtle changes, and this post will try to outline our rationale.

As I’ve commented before, use of the @jisccetis account has evolved more by accident than by design or any kind of strategic planning other than “we should have one of those twitter accounts shouldn’t we”. Partly this is due to the number/ and activity of individual cetis staff on twitter; partly due to resource issues. We have been quite content with the neutral (or perhaps more accurate, silent) voice of the account, and not following back. We don’t see it as the “face” of Cetis, or want to spend time developing a corporate personality. However it’s always good to get some feedback.

Now Martin Hawksey is part of the Cetis team, we’ve been having some really interesting conversations around the @jisccetis twitter account – backed up of course by some of Martin’s google spreadsheet analytics. So whilst we’ve been content with our automatic workflow, from the other side it’s not always that useful for others. As Martin pointed out, he’s un-followed and re-followed the account several times, mainly because there needs to be some reciprocation. Why follow an account that doesn’t follow you back? What do you get out of that? It’s not great for your vanalytics.

So, change number 1, @jisccetis is following people now. Armed now with our found new twitter and google intelligence, we have a much clearer idea of who is retweeting our posts and driving traffic to our blogs and generally sharing our “stuff”. A pause here to say a big thank you to @nopiedra, @sarahknight, and @drdjwalker! Change number 2, we’re going to make concerted effort to say thank you to people more often for sharing our work.

@jisccetis isn’t about to becoming a coffee drinking, weather sharing kind of account tho’ ;-) It will still be primarily informational, but we are now also going to start listing followers where possible, and hopefully make the @jisccetis twitter page a bit more useful too.

We’re not concerned with measuring our twitter activity based on solely on increasing numbers – we don’t need half a million followers. What we are concerned with is ensuring that we are engaging with key members of our community, and also discovering what other communities we are tapping into, or not tapping into. Martin’s spreadsheets, and the announcement from Google about integrating social network data into google analytics earlier this week will invaluable for us evolve our approach to using twitter more effectively both for us and our followers. We’ll also be sharing our experiences, and our thoughts on using the data we’re collecting over the coming months.

My open education week

As you are now doubt aware, this week is Open Education Week. I’ve been enjoying following various activities, including some great contributions and thoughts from JISC colleagues. But on a more personal level, I was delighted to get an confirmation email yesterday that the Stanford open course on Natural Language Processing is starting next week.

I signed up for this course, as I thought their first course on AI (see Adam’s interview with Seb Schmoller for more details ) would be beyond my capabilities. I’m also becoming more and more interested in NPL, through conversations with my David Sherlock around techniques for getting more analysis and visualisations from the data in our PROD database; and also from Adam’s recent presentation and blog post around his experiments with Cetis staff blogs.

I’ve just watched the introductory video, which simultaneously excited and slightly scared me as there are weekly programme tasks – looks like I’ll need to catch up on my open code academy lessons too.

One man and his spreadsheet, a gephi wizard and the voice of reason

Is how I would sum up the speakers at the Social Network Analysis session at #cetis12.

I started the session by giving a very brief overview of SNA and tried to highlight why I think it is important, particularly to an organisation such as CETIS, who stakes quite a bit of of its reputation on its ability to network (see this post for some more of my thoughts around this). Using SNA we are now able to actually see and share our existing connections and, potentially any gaps.

I am always inspired by (and slightly in awe of) the work of both Tony and Martin in visualising communities, however I am always aware of the skills gap between their levels of competency and my own. So, I also wanted to raise the issue of “just in time/just enough” tools. Sometimes a quick snap shot of activity is really effective and all that’s needed. There’s also the issue of interpretation and common understandings.

Whilst visualisations can in many cases illustrate complex connections more eloquently than words, there are also cases, particularly around more complex visualisations where some common understandings of the models being used to create the visualisations and the data sources are required. A case in point was Adam Cooper’s opening presentation at the conference where he showed some examples of text mining and analysis of CETIS blog post. This provoked quite a bit of chin stroking twitter back-channel activity. I think this illustrats some of potential dangers around presenting what can appear to be an objective view of things which is based on subjective data. As I knew more about the data Adam’s presentation raised lots of really interesting questions for me, but another danger of social media is that twitter is often not the best medium to have an informed discussion.

Martin Hawskey’s (a man quite possibly on a mission to take over the world via google spreadsheets) presentation opened up the session from just SNA to a wider data discussion by highlighting some examples of data journalism, which have very effectively combined visualisation techniques and contextualisation. Martin then took us through some of the work he has recently been doing for JISC and CETIS in visualising activity around the UK OER projects.

Tony Hirst, aka the gephi wizard, then gave us a masterclass on data visualisation techniques, showing us how visualisations can provide “at a glance or macroscopic” views of huge datasets; which he encapsulated by the d3i model – data,information, intelligence, insight. As well as a sharing variety of examples from MPs expenses to Formula 1 racing to Brian Kelly, Tony has also been working with Alan Cann (University of Leicester) to visualise connections between students using Google+. Unfortunately Alan couldn’t be attend the session in person but he did share this video about their work. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this use of SNA in a real teaching and learning context.

Amber Thomas followed with a very balanced presentation “Lies, damed lies and pretty pictures” which gave a very balanced and but still thought provoking view on how we should be thinking about using the network and data analysis techniques. My colleague David Sherlock has blogged some thoughts on Amber’s presentation too. Amber highlighted some key tactics which included:
*reducing our fear of numbers
*being generous with our data ( and remembering who actually owns the data)
*combining data and effort to work faster /more effectively across the sector

We then had some live analysis of data being driven via the conference #cetis12 hashtag – again what one man can do with a spreadsheet is quite amazing! You can see the results in the CETIS 12 TAGSExplorer.

TAGSExplorer of #cetis12

TAGSExplorer of #cetis12

More information on the session, and links to all the presentations are available by following this link.

Summary of technologies in use in the JISC Developing Digital Literacies Programme

The JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme is now well underway. As I reported from the programme start up meeting last October , the aim of this 2 year programme is too

” . . .promote the development of coherent, inclusive and holistic institutional strategies and organisational approaches for developing digital literacies for all staff and students in UK further and higher education.”

with projects:

” . . .working across the following stakeholder groupings in their plans for developing digital literacies: students, academic staff, research staff, librarians and learning resources and support staff, administrators and managers and institutional support staff . . .”

As part of the programme support project, over the last couple of months I’ve conducting our usual technical audits with the projects to get a picture of what technologies and standards they are using/considering to use at this stage. The results of these conversations are recorded in our PROD database.

The projects are due to complete their baselining phase at the end of January, so it has been timely to discuss some of the wider issues around using various technologies with each of the projects. The rest of this post gives a snap shot of the range of technologies the projects are currently using. NB Unfortunately I haven’t been able to speak with the UCL team, but once they have completed their baseline report we will be meeting and I’ll update the data, however don’t expect the general trends outlined in this post to change much.

The map shows the locations of the 12 projects, with links to the prod entry for each. As the programme progresses, I’ll be adding a links to the design studio pages for each project too.

Map showing locations of DDL projects

Map showing locations of DDL projects

The mindmap below gives an alternative view of the data entries for each project (if you click on the picture it will take you to a live version, NB the mind map will be open so you may find it easier to close nodes before exploring it in full).

Mind map of PROD entries for DDL programme

Mind map of PROD entries for DDL programme

The focus of the programme is more on the effective use of technology rather than as with other JISC funded work, the development of technology. On saying that, there are a couple of projects who are planning to develop some mobile applications and there are strong links between the work of the W2C project at MMU in relation the provision of mobile services, particularly with the SEEDPod project, University of Plymouth who have been working with MMU in conducting surveys of students uses of mobile devices. There are a number of approaches to mobile provision. The Developing Digital Literacy as a Post Graduate Attribute project is providing students with ipods to record and share their learning journeys, and to some extent leaving it to the students to find what works/doesn’t work for them. Whereas other projects (SEEDPod, InStePP) are developing more holistic, device and location agnostic approaches to provision of services/content.

So far we have 94 individual technologies and standards. The wordle below gives an overview.

Wordle of technologies & Standards in DDL progamme (Jan '12)

Wordle of technologies & Standards in DDL progamme (Jan '12)

This bubblegram gives another view of the range and instances of technologies and standards. Again if you click on the picture you’ll go to a larger, interactive version.

Bubblegram of technologies and standards in DDL, Jan 2012 (v4) Many Eyes

The projects area all blogging (you can access aggregated feeds here) and WordPress is top of our chart with 8 projects using it, the majority of these are also using institutionally hosted versions. What is also noticeable, is the (relatively) high instances of non- institutionally based services such a social networking sites – particularly twitter and Facebook. At the moment the main (and anticipated) use of both is for general project dissemination, however a number of projects are both to communicate with staff/students e.g. to get people involved in focus groups. The PADDLE project are planning to use existing facebook groups as collaboration/communication point with some of their focus groups.

Other external services such as drop-box (for document sharing), doodle for arranging meetings and a range of google apps (docs, calendar etc) are also being widely used. For the later there is a mix of institutional provision and more general use of, for example google docs for sharing project team related information. As with other programmes and the following a general sector wide trend, Moodle comes out as the most common VLE across the programme.

In terms of standards, the main focus was on packing formats with IMS CP, IMS CC and SCORM all getting one mention each. As we are still in early days, most projects haven’t got a clear idea of what format they will release any content in, however there was an overall interest in, and indeed knowledge of OER (i.e. the DIAL project is building on experiences from a previous UK OER project) and most projects expressed an desire to release any relevant content as OERs.

A number of projects (e.g. The Exeter Cascade Project, InStePP) are looking at greater integration of digital literacies into wider competency frameworks through for example making more explicit curriculum links to institutional graduate attributes; and also through working with other wider programme related stakeholders such as SCOUNL and ALT.

As mentioned earlier, projects are just coming to the end of their baselining work, and at this stage they are keen not to be prescriptive about the technologies they will be using, as they want to be as flexible as possible. Also, key to number of the projects is the exploration of the how, what, where and why of technology use (both hardware and software) of staff and students and then making appropriate interventions/recommendations for wider institutional policies.

When I repeat this exercise next year, I have a suspicion that there may be a subtle shift to more institutionally based services as more content will have been created and being used/shared within VLEs/repositories. As any changes to curriculum provision, and institutional policies, if not in place, will be fairly well scoped by then too. I am wondering if we will see, similar to the Curriculum Design programme, an increase in the use of Sharepoint for more formal documentation and a decrease in use of more informal sharing services such as drop box. At the moment there the project teams are using drop box primarily for the convenience of any time/where/device access.

One of the things I was curious about was if these projects would be more “literate” in their choices of technologies to use, and what would be the balance between use of institutionally based services and more general web based services. I don’t think I have an answer to the question, but I have seen a healthy sense of pragmatism displayed by all the projects in terms of their approaches.

I’ve had some really interesting discussions with projects (particularly Digitally Ready) around the definition of technology and what it was I really wanted to record i.e. everyday /commonplace technologies like email, calendars etc; was I interested in what the project team were using for project management or more what they were using for stakeholder engagement? In fact it’s all of the above – which probably goes some way to explaining the number of different technologies recorded to date. I feel it’s also worthwhile every now and again just stepping back and reflecting on how our expectations of peoples and projects use of technologies (JISC programme digital literacy perhaps?) have evolved. A few years ago, we’d be lucky if we got all projects to have a blog with more than 2 or 3 entries by the end of a programme – now, it’s one of the first things on a projects to do list, and most institutions provide some kind of hosted blogging service.

When we were developing PROD originally it was to record the tools, standards outputs and development processes of very technically focused projects. However as we’ve started to use it more widely across the JISC elearning programme, we’ve used it not just to record what projects are building, but the what, how and when of technologies projects are actually using. In the not so development focused projects such as DDL this is central. I think that this is starting to give us some real evidence of the diversity and commonality of approaches within and across programmes, and give us greater understanding of how actual use of technologies is being enabled and embedded both from the bottom up and top down.

As they move into the next phase of the programme it will be fascinating to see how the projects start to use the findings from their baselining and how that will impact on their next phase of development.

Programme Maps ( or even more maps . . .)

Following on from David’s post on Getting Useful Data out of Prod and its linked data store this post shows a couple of examples of creating programme level maps.

David and I have spent a bit of time over the past week going through some of Martin Hawksey’s ideas, working out what we felt were useful queries to use with the linked data store, and creating some simple how to guides. As someone who is not at all familiar with writing queries, we reckoned if I could it, then just about anyone could :-)

To prove that this does all work below is a screen shot of map of the JISC Curriculum Design Projects including links to their individual PROD entry pages and to their Design Studio pages (which includes links to outputs/further information for each project).

Curriculum Design Projects map

Curriculum Design Projects map

You can view the interactive version by following this link.

We found a few issues when we were trying things out. As well as deciding on what mapper template to use, I found things to be a bit temperamental when cutting and pasting data between sheets. In fact at one point I had to download a google spreadsheet containing the data I needed to my desktop and then cut and paste data from it back into the template spreadsheet, as I couldn’t seem to cut and paste data from sheets within the template. However, I have now got it all down to a matter of tens of minutes minutes instead of what felt like tens of hours.

Whilst were were working on this, Wilbert Kraan also reminded us of work he had been doing with Sgvizler using data from PROD to create visualisations (including maps). Here’s another map example, again of the Curriculum Design programme.

Curriculum Design projects map  (sgvizler)

Curriculum Design projects map (sgvizler)

If you follow this link, you can see the map and the query used to generate it.
If you wanted to create a map for another programme e.g. Curriculum Delivery, then you would just change the name in this line of the query:

?Link prod:programme “Curriculum Design” to

?Link prod:programme “Curriculum Delivery”

which would give you a map showing the Curriculum Delivery projects.

As we were exploring these approaches, and particularly when I was doubting my sanity and my ability to undertake simple cut and paste actions, we did have a number of “is this really all worth it?” moments. But on the whole, we think that it is. As well as providing us with another example of how we can re-present data in PROD (other examples are available here and here), it does give another example of how having openly available (linked) data allows for this kind of data manipulation.

Once you have a query, the sgvizler approach is very quick, however you do need to have server hosting facilities to use it (Wilbert has used his own). We are discussing if it is worth us setting up something a bit more permanent for our own uses. The google KML template approach (based on Martin’s work), doesn’t need any server side set up, just a google account. Although creating maps is a bit more time consuming at moment, imho, it gives slightly more attractive results in terms of map layout.

We’ll be doing some more experimentation over the coming weeks, but in the meantime if you want to have a play, then just follow the how to guide and we’d love to hear your thoughts and see any examples you come up with.