“Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea!” #blideo

So, Steve Wheeler has updated the #blimage challenge to video now (a natural progression), and challenged a few people to reflect and write on what it means to them.

You can read my #bliamge and #blideo posts here, and find out more about the challenge and how to get involved (hint: find an image, write about it as part of a learning journey or story or experience).

Here’s Steve’s challenge:

Apart from the shear volume of the herd (makes me think about “following the herd’ mentality) it’s the poor lost/stuck calf at the end of the video. Whilst struggling with confidence on jumping the fence, like he’s seen all his family do, he finally tries it, succeeds, and runs to catch up with the herd. 

Here’s the bit I focussed on, the bit right at the end … the herd, or three of them at any rate, waited for him.  Or that’s my interpretation. For me that’s the beauty of a working herd, a community, or a group focussed on a shared goal (see BYOD4L or LTHEchat or FOS4L). When one is in trouble the community comes to his or her aid. Whilst elk obviously can’t encourage or instruct the calf on how to get over the fence, they are still around once he’s jumped it, and rally around when he’s close.

That’s what I believe a community (of practice) is and should be.

Now for my challenge. Using this clip from the 1969 classic Italian Job, say what it makes you think of, professionally or personally. For this I challenge everyone, but would like to hear from James Clay, Julian Stodd, and Terese Bird (quite a mix of backgrounds and perspectives from these EdTechBook authors).

“Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea!”

Image source: Stairs (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Does your avatar matter?

We all have an avatar on our social network accounts. Some of us took awhile before changing the default, others selected one and have stuck to it over the years. But what does your avatar say about you?

For many this was what people remember me on Twitter for, despite the fact he wasn’t my first avatar:

David Hopkins

Remember him? I used him for about 3 years, and was happy. Scrolling through the status updates made it easy to see and identify tweets or links or shares coming from myself. At the time he was useful as few people used illustrations, favouring more social and personal photos. He was used everywhere, except LinkedIn. For LinkedIn I used a (slightly) more professional, but stylised, B&W photo.

I fought against changing it for quite a long while, against all the posts and articles suggesting I was unprofessional or lacking in integrity or ability to be trusted for not having a ‘proper’ avatar. he is/was my brand, and it was how people knew me and how I’d grown my PLN. I was all to aware of how it could be viewed, and how it could affect how others viewed me, but I am more interested in people judging me for my actions or ability to do my job than how my avatar looked or what shoes I wear. Judge me by my posts, tweets, and what I share, not my avatar or shoes or car I drive.

When we started the BYOD4L (Bring Your Own Device for Learning, January 2014) course I wanted people to actually see me this time, not an illustration, on the course and in the tweet-chats. So, for the duration of the BYOD4L course I changed my Twitter avatar to the same as my LinkedIn one (for no other reason than I liked it):

David Hopkins

But then I realised that I didn’t need or want to hide behind an illustration any more. I kept this avatar for Twitter, and started to update my other social channels to use this one too (SlideShare, Klout, Academia.edu, Google+, etc. After a few months I wanted something a little less obscure and something a little more professional, so I tweaked it and started using this one:

David Hopkins

Same image, but actually showing me, not half of me!

Then, Christmas 2014 I made one final change. It was originally a selfie I took and messed around with in different Apps for colour, blur, etc., but I ended up liking it … and it’s stuck for the last 6 months:

avatar festive

Note: I’ve not mentioned Facebook or avatars that I’ve used. There’s a good reason, I don’t use Facebook for work or my professional activity. I have used many different avatars that often reflect where I’ve been or people I’ve met, as well as using pics of one or both of my boys. I keep my Facebook account separate to my other online activities, this is part of how I choose to use social networks.

For those of you interested, this was my first ever avatar!Muppet

So … what does your avatar say about you? Or, what makes a good avatar?

  • Real photo vs illustration / cartoon: Obviously I’d ignored this advice for many years, and i don’t think it harmed my online persona, but I have had more positive activity and engagements since showing people who I really am.
  • Show yourself: Again I didn’t do this very well, as one avatar only showed half of me, not my full face. It’s also worth noting to avoid obscure angles or facing away from the camera, or looking too far away.
  • Smile? Do avatars of people smiling make you want to find out more about them, or not? Does it matter? Some reports say a smile is better, but it depends on whether you’re a comfortable smiler (I’m not, too many chins!) or a slight smile (see above) is enough.
  • Colour? Does colour matter, are B&W avatars OK? I like the B&W look, it doesn’t bother me, but for some it’s not ‘right’ or ‘professional’ enough.
  • Staged vs natural: I have never liked staged, stock photos, anywhere. While they may suit the contact details on a website, they look out of place on social networks (note, these are social channels, the staged photos are more corporate, and this is why I tend to ignore shares or tweets from corporate looking accounts.
  • Consistency: If you use different channels then help your followers out by using the same avatar across them all. It’s not always possible to use the same account name or handle, which can make finding people difficult, but if the avatar is the same, it’s so much easier!

What about you, what do you look for in people’s avatars?

Image source: Chris Christian (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Interview with Rachel Challen, #EdTechBook chapter author

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, edited by David HopkinsAs part of a new series of posts, I will be talking to authors of The Really Useful #EdTechBook about their work, experiences, and contribution to the book. In this fourth post I talk to Rachel Challen, eLearning Manager at Loughborough College.

DH – Hi Rachel. When did you first realise that technology could have a positive effect on learning and teaching?

RC – I returned to education many years after I had first left, to do my PGCE at Wolverhampton University and did a module that was based on online resources. At that time we were only encouraged to develop PowerPoint presentations, but even so the opportunity with even the basic interactivity to engage students, blew my socks off. When I was at school, chalkboards were for dragging your fingernails down and board rubbers were for crowd control! 

I was extraordinarily lucky that my personal tutor on the PGCE was the wonderful Julie Hughes, renowned for her ePortfolio pedagogy practice and research, who gave me so much inspiration for thinking about things differently, putting the student first and just not to be scared about trying something out. I also have to admit that I used the OHT layering technique (that is technology right?!), but for me, technology isn’t just about technology, its about using the right tool for student impact, engagement and achievement.

DH – I can still remember my geography teacher at school, his drawings on the chalk board of glaciers and volcanoes were second to none, but don’t ever let him catch you talking or that board rubber would be heading straight at you … he didn’t even need to turn around, his aim was awesome!!

So, trying to ignore supersonic chalk board rubbers, what has been the ‘right’ tool in your arsenal of software/hardware box-of-tricks that has made the biggest impact for student engagement or achievement?

RC – Well, it won’t come as a surprise to my immediate team, :) but I’m not in the least bit technical: I definitely know how to use tools to their best advantage but I don’t have a clue how to make or mend them! I’m a Learning Technologist yes, but as we know that term covers a multitude of skills and knowledge, so my first thought when looking at something shiny is always ‘what value am I or the learners going to get from this’. I want something that will break down the barrier of collaboration, something that will help develop self actualisation through reflection and skills building, something that will invite students in and let them ‘be’ and something that will give students confidence in their digital skills for the workplace when they leave us. I think the right tool actually isn’t the technology itself, but the confidence as a tutor to have a go. Whether its using a webquest for flipped learning, a portfolio for reflection or a forum to create peer support, the pedagogy has to come first. I think a powerful example for impact, was a forum for PGCE teachers who when out on placement, met infrequently. They used an ePortfolio for communication and because of the ease of contact between peers and tutor, one student was able to get in touch quickly (almost instantly), resolve a serious issue that could have escalated and felt so supported that they remained on the course. One student saved…and thats amazing. But if I had to pick one specific approach, I would pick mobile technology. The affordances that this brings for interaction, collaboration, confidence building, flexibility in the classroom and instant access to knowledge should absolutely make it a teacher’s best friend!

DH – I know from my own experience that access and affordability of smart phone and tablet technology has changed how I work, and more importantly how I approach it. From sitting on the sofa in the evening and getting notifications of emails, meetings, mentions, etc. to tweeting, blogging, and collaborative efforts like #BYOD4L and this #EdTechBook project. But at times it’s also been problematic as it’s tough to form an effective strategy to manage not only your own expectations and FOMO (‘fear of missing out), but the expectations of others. Have you found this?

Interview with Rachel Challen, #EdTechBook chapter author

RC – Absolutely, we now live in a 24/7 communication society and thats my expectation as well, I’m no different – so it’s vital that expectations are clear. At any one time, I’m no more than arms reach away from a phone, tablet, laptop etc (in fact, i think they may actually be my arms!). If out of hours replies aren’t achievable, then as LTs we should be providing accessible help resources to help those tutors who start work after tea and putting the children to bed. Technology means we can work anywhere and anytime we wish but of course this can be totally overwhelming too. For me its definitely FOMO! I had a planned day away from twitter last week, but when I came back there were over 10,000 tweets. So I reevaluated my twitter COP, because I enjoy keeping up and seeing what people are researching, talking about and sharing thoughts between us but less is sometimes more! I can manage quite comfortably in a fast moving environment but I started one MOOC and in the first week, I got so many emails, tweets, G+’s, that it was unmanageable, off putting and I unenrolled. That was a lesson for me in online communication as a student – make the design, expectations but more importantly, boundaries clear…and then try and follow my own advice :o).

DH – Whilst an understanding of the ‘bigger picture’ can help direct development and progress, it can also be a distraction that, for some, could be overwhelming. I know your chapter will deal with more aspects of this ‘magic’ balance LTs have to manage between policy, management, and creativity, but do you feel the role of an LT needs to concern themselves with policy and management decisions?

RC – In my experience, not only should they be concerned with them, they should try and be part of the decision making process and have some influence on the direction. Working creatively is obviously key and coming up with solutions and ideas but we can’t work in silos otherwise nothing we do will ever be embedded and become cross institutional practice. Why develop a fabulous pilot which can’t go into full implementation because we haven’t understood the underlying strategies or concerns. As LTs, we have the absolute privilege of working with all departments (curriculum and support) and the ability to cross pollinate is key to bringing projects to the table which bring value and impact to all.

DH – Totally agree with you, but how realistic is it for that approach to work? Does it depend on team size, location (department, faculty or institution), and individuals at the different levels of management or is it the culture, where research is sometimes considered more important than teaching?

RC – Ooo, tricky question! I’ve worked in different sized teams in different sized institutions in different sectors and cross pollination, although really hard work, has worked successfully in all of those, but there has always been a good degree of centralisation or at least a hub and spoke model so maybe that is the key. Maybe it is indicative of our different experiences as LTs but my role now is in the FE sector, which is a fast moving and reactive environment and the balance of importance is definitely biased towards teaching with a heavy reliance on action research. So I can only answer from my experience but what I do believe that is that as LTs, regardless of where we are placed, the focus of our role or the sector we are in, we have to make it realistic; we should be knocking on doors, breaking down barriers, supporting communities of practice and just making things happen :o)

DH – I’ve often considered this, and tried many times to break down these barriers, but have always come up against a multitude of reasons (and plenty of excuses) that prevent progress. I thoroughly agree about knocking on doors, supporting progress and breaking down barriers, but do you think that can always be effective?

RC – I’m sure all LTs have, at some stage, heard those perceived barriers you mention ‘no time, too busy, my students don’t like technology etc’, and they nearly always mask the real problem of low confidence and maybe low digital literacy. This is our challenge as Learning Technologists and also the discussion within my chapter – how do we manage all expectations, supporting strategic direction, upskilling staff, keeping the teaching and learning at the core of everything we do and getting full staff buy in. Learning Technologists as magicians? Quite possibly!

DH – I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ll agree with you, that we do indeed need a certain amount of ‘magic’ in some circumstances! Thanks Rachel. 

More news about The Really Useful #EdTechBook will be posted here, Google +, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, and on other social media platforms using the #EdTechBook hashtag. Please follow and join in.

Image source: Magdalena Roeseler (CC BY NC 2.0)

Interview with Peter Reed, #EdTechBook chapter author

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, edited by David HopkinsAs part of a new series of posts, I will be talking to authors of The Really Useful #EdTechBook about their work, experiences, and contribution to the book. In this third post I talk to Peter Reed, Lecturer (Learning Technology) at the University of Liverpool.

DH – Hi Peter. How does the use of technology, in all its various forms, affect your day-to-day working life?

PR: Massively. Beyond it being part of the day job, I use a variety of different tools and technologies to make my work more efficient and effective. I use things like Dropbox, Evernote and Mendeley a lot as they synchronise across my devices so I can access things whenever I need to. I see my use of these tools as part of my own little backpack or toolbox to call on. Interestingly the tools I use haven’t really changed much over the past 3 years or so, which I think is because I’m quite critical about new software/technologies when my existing workflows are effective for me personally. Ultimately, I think that’s a big part of being a Learning Technologist – rather than using tools/technologies for the sake of it, there’s some thought and critique to apply the right tools for the job. 

DH – Evernote is one of those tools that I wish I knew more about – I’ve just not had the time or reason to do anything with it. But, if these tools have enabled you to improve efficiencies and your effectiveness what would be your one recommendation, or one highlight, others ought to be aware of for anyone, like me, looking to change or improve their own working practices?

PR – I think ‘persistence’. It’s so easy to just do what you’ve been doing for a long time, whereas when some things are about changing established practices, you need to go for it 100% to really see if it can be useful to you. So with Evernote for example, I use it to take notes for literally every meeting I attend (which seems a lot these days). I have a few different notebooks set up to help organise these notes into some kind of order e.g. home, work, PhD, food recipes with Evernote Food, etc. Having said that, the search feature is pretty strong (via tagging) so you could even get away with being untidy in this space. The ability to search back to meetings you’ve had is great, and for those arty types who take visual notes, then there are tablet apps such as Notability that link in well. And of course, the fact that the notes I take in meetings on my iPad are seamlessly sync’d to both my work iMac and my personal Macbook Pro. This worklflow is exactly what I need and now I’m more or less paperless. Having said all that, Evernote offers loads more features that I haven’t really explored, like Shared Notes, for example.

DH – Is it possible, in this modern world of connections and networked professionals, to be effective without these tools? Those of us who are active and engaged know the benefits of the connections and collaborations (like this #EdTechBook), but how can we engage those who, for whatever reason, shun the connected approach to their learning technology roles? Indeed, can they be effective in these roles, when students and staff are increasingly connected as well?

PR – Well they’re three difficult questions. Firstly, I do think it is possible to continue to be effective – people have succeeded through the ‘traditional’ approaches for years. After all each of us are completely unique and what fits for me might not fit for you, or similarly, the reader of this interview. However, whilst people can indeed still complete their roles without the connections and collaborations, I believe those who are engaged in this area will continue to be more ‘desirable’ in the job market.

My own role for example, employed on an academic contract at the University of Liverpool, requires me to have and develop an external identity. This external identity, largely built through (social) networking, has supported me in my role and offers a lot to the University – whether that be related to finding out what other Institutions are doing in relation to, say, Lecture Capture, or indeed in investigating how other Universities are approaching VLE minimum standards. But after all that, what’s to say someone who doesn’t engage in such networks couldn’t do the job just as well? Or even, better?

DH – I totally agree and, as someone who’s changed roles a couple of times over the past three years, I am very conscious of my profile and digital footprint. I like to think it’s had a part in getting me these roles, firstly at the University of Leicester and more recently at Warwick Business School – if nothing more than showing that I can back up my application with real-world examples and a professionalism on which they can rely or trust.

Interview with Peter Reed, #EdTechBook chapter author

Does that mean, then, that it is harder for those without an active online presence to get the roles? Whilst, as you say, they are probably just as good in the role, they are just not ‘out there’ shouting about it on social platforms, but just getting on with the job. The theme of professionalism and the ability to do the job, in whatever combination of terminology or responsibilities, is one covered by a yourself and few other author in the book, but how has your experience been altered or affected by this ‘always-available’ and ‘always-up-to-date’ CV, if at all?

PR – Well I think it depends on the role. In my chapter I’ll be discussing the variations of Learning Technologist teams as well as the variations within the Learning Technologist role itself. The external identity could be more suited to a role like mine rather than a more technical variation, but either way if you’re on an interview panel and have come across me and my work (hopefully in a positive light) through networking, surely that’s a good thing right? On the flip you touch on another important aspect – the implications that such networking has. I guess it’s evidenced none-more-so than most of this interview where we are both responding to each other on a Sunday night. Call it always-on, call it convenience. Is your glass half-full or half-empty? Many of the richest experiences I’ve come across have been during so-called, out-of-hours, such as the #BYOD4L initiatives. As a professional embarking on/in a career, this is a small price to pay in (hopefully) becoming a better learning technologist/academic/professional/person.

DH – Even better than that, as an example of remote and networked working, while you’re at home I’m sat in a hotel room, 80 miles from my home (on really really bad free hotel wifi, but a thankfully reliable Google Doc) being super quiet as I’m sharing with the kids, who’re are nearly asleep! This is a perfect example of what is possible. But is this too much, have we let this technology take over more than our working day, so it merges and blends with our family, social, or private lives?

PR – Well yes and no. Over the past few years I’ve come to believe that a career is a significant part of your life. A career isn’t ‘just a job’ so you don’t (or can’t) leave everything at the office – not “can’t” because of any requirement, but “can’t” because you’re always engaged. You read books, see programmes and speak to people, and relate all these things to your role. It’s something you care about beyond just a pay packet each month. You might get an idea that would work in implementing a strategy or a cool idea for a staff development programme. These happen at all hours of the day, on every day of the week!

Further to that, many LT roles are increasingly flexible these days. As an academic, I actually don’t have set working hours so this automatically blurs the boundaries in the work/life balance. I arrive at the office between 7.30-8am every day, and generally leave at around 4.15 (unless I have meetings, etc). Although I easily fulfill the 7.15 hours per day that non-academic staff have to work, I value this flexibility. If I have a few emails to attend to of an evening then I’m ok with that. Of course, and as I discuss in the chapter, some roles and teams are more or less flexible than others. Since my first iPhone I’ve always had my work email sync’d. Responding quickly to an email whilst waiting for Mrs R to try on a dress is nothing unusual for me. I just wonder how this approach differs as I embark both on a part-time PhD and full-time parenthood!

DH – Good luck with both Peter, we all feel your impending pain ;-) Peter’s chapter for The Really Useful #EdTechBook will look, as he says, at the structure and roles of Learning Technologists in Higher Education, touching on the aspects of institutional versus departmental perspectives. Read more about a Peter Reed on his blog (thereeddiaries.blogspot.com) or Twitter (@reedyreedles).

More news about the Really Useful #EdTechBook will be posted here, Google +, Twitter, Flickr, and on other social media platforms using the #EdTechBook hashtag.

Image source: Graham Holliday (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Tips on running a Tweet-chat

Last week I was involved in the second iteration / cohort / running of the BYOD4L short course. Along with a number of colleagues we ran a series of tweet-chats each evening along the course themes – timed between 8-9pm the tweet-chats involved facilitators posing questions and ‘facilitating’ the responses and direction the chat took.

Taking is back to the beginning … what is a tweet-chat?

“A TweetChat is a virtual meeting or gathering on Twitter to discuss a common topic. The chat usually lasts one hour and will include some questions to stimulate discussion.” – BYOD4L Tweet-chat

“A Twitter chat is a public Twitter conversation around one unique hashtag. This hashtag allows you to follow the discussion and participate in it. Twitter chats are usually recurring and on specific topics to regularly connect people with these interests.” Social Media Examiner

I thought I’d write up my experiences of running three tweet-chats now: two for BYOD4L, and one for the Leicester Forensic Science FutureLearn MOOC. Each uses a different approach, but both very valid and engaging for the students / participants as well as the course team(s).

Generic Tips:
Irrespective of the approach you take (question or ask-an-expert, see below) there are some generic tips you should be aware of, both to help you run the tweet-chat and for the participants to understand what to expect. You should also post these somewhere for the participants to view – here are the one’s for the BYOD4L course.

These include:

  • Explain: make sure you explain a little about Twitter and a tweet-chat, how it works, and why you’re doing it. Not everyone will understand it they way you might.
  • Hasthag: advertise the hashtag well in advance. Remind participants they can save the hashtag after they’ve searched for it on Twitter, it’s easier to find on multiple devices when they need it. Keep the hashtag as short and as unique as you can (remember the 140 character limit!) so as to leave as much room in your own tweet and your participant tweets for the actual content.
  • Account: Consider having a course-specific account to use for posing the questions rather than your own personal one. This is good if you will have multiple facilitators engaging the participants, but is not necessary if it’s you on your own (see support below).
  • Support: If you know the engagement level will be low you can probably handle it on your own. If you think there may be more people engaging (there is not figure here but my experience is that more than 10-20 participants will make it hard to handle on your own) then get support from colleagues.
  • Participants: participants will need an account to engage and join in the tweet-chat, but not if they just want to watch the tweets. Highlight this as not everyone has, or wants, a Twitter account.
  • Time: Try and arrange for a time suitable to your audience, remembering the differences in time zones if your audience is international. You wont find a time to suit everyone but if you show willingness to take this into account when you set it up it’ll reflect well on you.


  • Reminders: Use the accounts that will be used during the tweet- chat (your own and / or the course account) to remind those watching and using the hashtag about the event, time, etc. I like to use a few tweets in the days leading up to the event, the morning before it, one hour before and the minutes leading up to it.


  • Announce: Begin the tweet-chat with a welcome message.
  • Close: Close / end your tweet-chat with a closing message, statement, or call to complete a tweet-chat survey. If you are running these regularly then remember to highlight the next one. Don’t forget to link to or tweet about the archive.


Oh, and don’t forget .. make sure every device you are intending to use has all updates applied, is fully charged (plugged in even), and that you even have a back-up to hand in case one fails! I have used a laptop, iPad, and iPhone on all the tweet-chats I’ve facilitated and at least one has caused a problem (usually laptop) which meant I’ve had to use a back-up device.


Team-led Tips (BYOD4L)
In this approach the team develops and delivers the questions on the agreed and advertised hashtag, in this case #BYODLchat.

  • Delivery: It’s up to you if you advertise the questions in advance or use the hashtag to build up the excitement. I prefer to release the questions one at a time, leaving between 10-15 minutes for answers and engagement.


  • Questions: I have found it really useful to use a Google Doc in collaboration with the people I facilitate the tweet-chat with to generate the questions. In a one hour tweet-chat consider 4 or 5 questions, leaving about 10 minutes for each. This will enable the question to filter through the Twitter timeline (not everyone’s devices updates quickly) and for participants to engage with the question, you, and each other. Agree on who will run the official account (if you use one) and who will tweet the questions first. Get this wrong and it could be very confusing for participants.



  • Answers: In your question remind participants to start their answers with A1, A2, etc. (not forgetting the hashtag). Without either of these it’ll be difficult for you or them to keep track of the conversation.


  • Conversation: If you want to continue a conversation with an individual you can continue to use the hashtag of it’s relevant to the whole cohort of participants. If it’s not then carry on, but without the hashtag.
  • Distraction: It’s probably worth making sure everything else on your device is closed down (Facebook, email, etc.) unless you need it.
  • Links: Keep a browser open with your website and / sources already loaded. During the tweet-chat you may want to put a link in to a tweet so by having it already to hand makes it easier (and quicker).
  • Noise: Don’t try and read and reply to every tweet, you wont be able to. In one hour there can be many hundred’s of of tweets and you will end up a wreck if you try and do everything. This is why you may need to engage fellow facilitators to help the session run smoothly.

Participant-led Tips (MOOC) 
This approach is the complete opposite of the above – here the participants pose the questions in an ‘ask the expert‘ type of approach, much like a Reddit ‘ask me anything’ (AMA), in this case #FLForensicsLeic.

  • Begin: Use your own Twitter account for the answers as this is an opportunity for you to show your own ‘expert’ status. It will help build your profile and network and show your experience and expertise in the area. Make sure, in the documentation introducing the tweet-chat, you mention the names and accounts that will be used, and that the Twitter profile it up to date with both professional photo and biography.


  • Questions: The questions will come from the participants, so there is nothing here to prepare. But you do need to be prepared for anything, from any direction. You can easily manage this by ignoring tweets that are not related to the topic you’ve advertised.


  • Resources: Be ready with resources (or have someone else on hand to deal with this for you). In the case of the tweet above (ref. Jeremy Bamber) a link to background details or information will help everyone else using the tweet-chat.


  • Conversation: Considering the number of individual questions coming at you in this style approach of tweet-chat it may be worth advertising before the event that continuing discussion will only happen after the timed event has closed. This will free you up to concentrate on the event and questions, and remove any bad feeling a participant may have that you didn’t reply immediately.
  • Hashtag: The hashtag is all the more important on this approach as activity can be very difficult to follow – the more participants asking questions, the harder it will be to follow changes.
  • Team: You will definitely need a team to help you here. The more people you have asking the questions, the more cluttered the hashtag will become and the more difficult it will be to identify a conversation or continuation of a tweet. If you think you will have a lot of questions then it may be worth considering alternative technologies (e.g. Google Hangout) and not a tweet-chat.
  • Archive: Using one of the archive tools (e.g. FLForensicsLeic Storify) you can arrange the tweets in collected form, therefore question and responses (and extended conversations if appropriate) collated.

Other formats
It is possible to run other formats for your tweet-chat (open, free-for-all, etc.) but I have not run any of these. I have, however, been involved in a generic free-for-all when the community directed the questions to each other and answered them. Needless to say it was bedlam – difficult to see the questions, difficult to work out responses or answers, nye on impossible to follow a topic or conversation.

If you’ve experience in any of these please share it below, positive or negative.

Image source: mkhmarketing (CC BY 2.0)

Bring Your Own Devices for Learning: July 14-18 #BYOD4L

After such a successful run earlier this year, the team behind BYOD4L (Sue Beckingham, Chrissi Nerantzi, Andrew Middleton, et al) are working their magic again – put the dates in your diary: BYOD4L July 14-18. I have been invited back again this time to work with Sue, Andrew, and Chrissi (and the other team members) and will be engaging course participants online.

If you’re interested the details are below

YouTube: Bring Your Own Devices for Learning: July 14-18, 2014

As before the team will be online and blogging, tweeting, plus’ing, FBing, etc. in the run up to and during the course.

Details of the course:

Participants will be able to immerse themselves (students or teachers) in a range of opportunities to explore the use of smart devices for learning and teaching in their professional context in an immersive, open and collaborative environment. Each of the five themes will be explored, one a day, during the course – connecting, curating, communicating, collaborating, creating. Each day you will have an opportunity to engage us and each other in a tweet-chat (what’s that? Click here) at 8-9pm.

If you’re interested in what we did last time, here’s my recap video I produced using the VideoScribe iPad App:

YouTube: BYOD4L Reflection

“I make, therefore I learn”

Earlier this year I worked with Sue Beckingham and Chrissi Nerantzi (and others) on the BYOD4L (Bring Your Own Device for/4 Learning) short course. From this exposure to social learning  and from the shared experience in helping Sue and Chrissi run the course I was privileged to be invited  to work with them again. This time on a special edition of the online Lifewide Magazine – Issue 10 (June 2014): ‘Lifewide Learning in a World of Personal Technologies and Social Media’.

Looking back over the work on BYOD4L, my recent changes in circumstances, and my approach to the role I’m in, I was asked to write about something about the challenges of being creative (or not) in a role that doesn’t always require creative working or operation.

  • Due to the reflective nature of the post, that I am thinking and working towards being a better ‘learning technologist’, this forms the 13th part to my series of ‘what is a Learning Technologist?’

Here is my article, also available on the Lifewide Magazine website and associated PDF download (page 34):

“I make, therefore I learn”, by David Hopkins

As a Learning Technologist I tend to make or create things. Everyday I write emails, attend meetings, take notes, support staff, advise colleagues, demonstrate systems, deliver workshops, etc. .. and that’s the ‘required’ stuff that an employer would see as my role. But alongside this I make and ‘create’ far more than this: I create solutions, sort problems (even create problems that are worth sorting), collaborate with colleagues, write reports, summarise articles, manipulate images, test software, demonstrate techniques, etc. Whilst the official terminology used for my roles like mine may not look like it needs a creative person (in the traditional sense of what a ‘creative’ person is), I need to be considerably flexible on what I do, how I do it, when I do it, why I do it, and for whom.

Being creative is not a requirement to being a Learning Technologist but, for me, it has been essential to me becoming the Learning Technologist that I am. But through the creation and exploration of my role, of the environment I find myself working in, and through the connections I have made, I find myself trying more things, questioning more, being more creative, learning about my environment, and learning more about myself. I have learned to push myself and the boundaries I find myself bumping into. I have learned how to use these boundaries to my advantage. I have learned to be more creative and how to make more of this creativity to help and support others.

For me this is why I ‘make’. Therefore this is how, and why, I learn. My biggest ‘Ah ha!’ moment recently has been the discovery of Sketchnotes. Using graphics, drawing, and colour to capture the theme of an event rather than the details I have found something to rival my use of Twitter in meeting and at events.

I reviewed a book called The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde on my blog earlier this year  where I covered the new approach to notetaking, and the difference it is making to my work, my retention of information, and concentration & effectiveness at events. In May I attended the Blackboard Teaching & Learning Conference in Dublin and, for the first time, I did not tweet everything I heard. In fact I barely tweeted at all, instead using simple pen and paper and producing sketchnotes of the keynotes and sessions I attended.

Here is an example a sketchnote of Prof Stephen Heppell’s keynote.  The key is not the quality of drawing or artistic impression (for I do not claim to be any good at either) but the ability to capture the ideas and concept of the presenter in a graphical way … as Mike Rohde says in his book, a Sketchnote dog is still a dog no matter how well or badly it has been drawn.

Prof Stephen Heppell #BbTLC2014

I do not claim that sketchnotes will be for everyone, as I’m sure they won’t. I have had some amazing conversations with colleagues and peers on the concepts: some love it, some don’t. What it has done is what I believe I should be doing in my role as Learning Technologist … starting the conversation, testing the water, developing a style, and making sure we don’t get lazy and never try something new.

As I said when I started: “I make, therefore I learn”.

Combining Media
I didn’t have to use paper and pen for the sketchnotes, I could have used any one of the many Apps for my iPad for drawing or notetaking. So why did I, a self-confessed digital native (trying not to use that contentious phrase but realised that nothing else would really do) go back to basics and paper and pen? Firstly, it was only an experiment so I used the one thing I had to hand when I started reading Mike Rohde’s book, paper and pen. Secondly it has been extremely satisfying creating something like these sketchnotes that I can’t quickly edit or erase – it has helped focus the mind on getting it right the first time.

Then came the question of “how do I share these?” My first sketchnotes from the Blackboard conference were loaded to my blog and shared as part of the post outlining my thoughts and experiences from the conference. This has limitations as I quickly realised I would only have a limited audience for my work. I could have just shared the photo of the sketchnotes on Twitter, as I have seen others do with their notes, but I would have no ‘control’ over where the images went, nor would I be able to see how many views they got – I am not interested in restricting access to the images, but I wanted some way of knowing/seeing how far they travel and what kind of interest they get.

As I already had a Flickr account (and barely used it), and had seen how my peers and respected colleagues were sharing their work through this network, I decided to add Flickr to the experiment. Loading a photo of each sketchnote to Flickr was easy enough using the Flickr iPad App and I then collected them together in an album (above) to make one easy-to-share link I could use on my blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. I toyed with the idea of using Instagram  (which am I always using) but knew it wouldn’t offer me the collection/album tool for collecting them together for easy sharing.

I am still familiarising myself with the subtleties of Flickr and the way in which it works, not least the tagging and meta-data associated with each photo or album, and trying to get more individual views to the sketches. This is not a mainstream subject/topic, so the views won’t be in the hundred (I would have thought) but I am slowly understanding the value of the network.

How to: Display Open Badges on your LinkedIn profile

Here’s a short ‘how to’ guide on displaying your Open Badges, or a Mozilla backpack, on your LinkedIn profile.

There’s the simple way, which is not very visual or appealing, which is to edit your profile and use one of the three links available under ‘contact info’, which will display on your public profile like this:

Open Badges - LinkedIn ProfileI don’t know about you, but that doesn’t really do it for me. You?

  • This post has been updated to show how to display badges from either a Mozilla backpack or the Cred.ly website.

How about this … ?

Open Badges / LinkedIn

Yeah, much better – it’s also aligned to a role or time when you earned the badges. Here is is how you do it:

  • Login to your Mozilla Backpack.
  • Make sure the badges you want to showcase are in a collection.
  • Click the icon to share the backpack, and copy the page URL (it’ll look like this set from the BYOD4L course).
  • Login to your LinkedIn account, and go to the edit profile interface.
  • Find the part of your profile or work history you want to attach the badges to, and select the ‘edit’ option:

Open Badges & LinkedIn

  • Select ‘add link’ from the options presented.
  • Paste the link to your Mozilla backpack here. LinkedIn will parse the details to the link, hopefully pick up one of the badges and use this for the display. You will then have the ability to edit the title and details for this,so use this space wisely.

Open Badges & LinkedIn

  •  Save your edits and check the results.

You can also do this for other types of resources you want to show on your profile. On mine you can see links to SlideShare presentations, ebooks, etc. Try it out … it might be enough to make a difference when someone looks on your profile next time?

Update: What about if you are only using badges issued through, and stored in, Cred.ly? You can do the same too – all LinkedIn needs is the link to the badge collection. It’s a much longer process but one worth completing.

  • Login to Cred.ly website and view your badges you have earned.
  • Click the ‘Categories’ tab to view existing categories (collections, as they are called in the Mozilla Backpack). If you need to create a new category click the ‘add category’ button.

Open Bagdes, Cred.ly, and LinkedIn

  • Once you have the category created you need to add badges to the category. To do this you need to ‘manage’ each badge. Return to the the ‘All’ tab and click the ‘manage’ button on each badge when you place your cursor over it:

Cred.ly Manage Badge

  • On the ‘manage’ options you can select the category you just created, and then save the changes:

Cred.ly Manage Badge

  • Note – you can use the ‘share’ icon to send your Cred.ly badges to your Mozilla Backpack if you want.
  • Now you have badge(s) in your category, you need to get the URL to the category. Go back to the ‘categories’ tab and select the embed icon.

Cred.ly Manage Badge

  • This will not give you a simple URL, but the code to embed the badges into your website. You can do this easily if you want, but to show the badges in LinkedIn (as above) you will need to strip the code for the badge category:

Cred.ly Manage Badgeasd

  • Now continue the original guide to add this link to your LinkedIn profile. Be warned though that, when I tried this, I could not get an image associated with the link (unlike the ones produced from my Backpack).


ResponseWare / mobile Audience Response System (ARS)

For those who don’t know it, or want a brief reminder, ResponseWare is the online/mobile version of the TurningPoint in-class ‘clicker’ handsets. Prior to the lecture or class the tutor adds a slide or two to the presentation which will need the students to use the clicker handsets to answer a simple multiple choice, likert scale, or true/false answer. Providing you remember to save the ‘session’ once you’ve finished you can query the results and get reports based on a per question or per respondent. Nice!

ResponseWareResponseWare is the natural progression for this technology, using the student’s own devices (BYOD) to connect and engage with the topic, concept, or session theme, and also to provide a focus for in-class discussions before and after the polling.

What, then, is the difference to the clicker handset? Obviously the main difference is the time saved at the beginning and end of each session you run where you don’t have to distribute and collect the handsets. Provided you’ve alerted the students prior to the session that they need to (if they haven’t already done so) download the ResponseWare App (available for iOS and Android) or bring an Internet enabled device (smartphone, tablet,  or laptop) then the student can engage with the questions.

The availability of different, and more useable, questions is another obvious benefit: students can submit more than just an an answer based on a choice between A, B, C, or D – numerical answers or short (text-based) answers. You can use short answer-type questions (and specify an answer), priority rank (see below: good for revision and ‘most popular’ answer), and demographic assignment (not sure on this one), all of which enable a more meaningful interaction and conversation-starter.

If you have TurningPoint installed you will also need an account on the www.rwpoll.com website, which is where you will ‘reserve’ your session ID (course or module code?) to be used when you set up your presentation and run it.


Here are some handy hints/tips from my own testing:

  • I think it’s good practice to include a slide at the beginning of your presentation highlighting that you will use the system, and what the session ID is you’ll be using to make sure all students have the information, use it, and then test it.
  • I also strongly recommend you test your slides and connections to ResponseWare with a device (or two) yourself before using for the first time with students. Get comfortable and confident with the system so you look like you know what you’re doing in front of an audience, even if you’re not and you don’t!
  • Recommend that students, when they’re setting up their access in either the App or through a browser, use their real names when asked and their student ID. This will make it easier to spot trends in performance, engagement, and attendance in the reports.
  • On a numeric question you can specify the answer or a range of answers that are acceptable but we also found out that non-numeric answers are not captured, despite both the App and browser saying the response had been logged successfully.
  • You don’t have to show the results.
  • There are subtle differences between creating your  TurningPoint questions on a PC or Mac: not all questions listed on the TurningPoint tutorials page are available (at the moment) for Mac users, but it’s a small point.

Before looking at how the questions and answers are represented in the App and browser, how do you think this kind of interaction and engagement could be used? Here are a few ideas:

  • Gather information part way through class on how well students are paying attention and if you need to revisit or review any content to help understanding.
  • Conduct opinion surveys and provide visual representations, including time for discussion and debate.
  • Question theory or concept understanding at start of class, then review and compare at the end (hopefully the results will be better).
  • Module evaluation and feedback surveys.
  • Ask the question and get groups to debate and report back before opening the poll for answers – compare results from individuals based on group or perspective they were asked to debate/report on.

It’s a certainty that ResponseWare will be a costly investment but if you consider it you will obviously be making the comparison between the TurningPoint handsets (and replacement for lost/damaged ones) and ResponseWare. But what of other options, other solutions?  Here is a very short list (from a much larger one) of possible alternatives:

  • Nearpod
  • DisplayNote
  • Socrative
  • PollEverywhere
  • Lecture Tools

Further reading
Cliffe E.H., Davenport J.H., De Vos M., Parmar N. R., Hayes A. (2010). Using EVS and ResponseWare to Enhance Student Learning and Learning Experience. Submitted to: 11th Annual Conference of Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Information and Computer Science, 24-26 August 2010, Higher Education Academy Centre for ICS.  Available from: http://www.cs.bath.ac.uk/~mdv/HEA-EVS/Research/ICS-subject-conference/Bath-submissionV7.pdf [Accessed: June 2, 2014]

App and browser experience
Below are some like-for-like screenshots of the browser version (left, taken from an iPhone) and the App (right). This is not all the question types available (I’m sure you already know how likert scale question and answers look?) but an indication of the difference between browser-based participation and App-based participation:

  • Multiple choice question & answer:

Responseware Question

Responseware Answer

  • Ice breaker activity (analogy) question & answer:

ResponseWare Question

ResponseWare Answer

  • Priority ranking question & answer:

ResponseWare Question

ResponseWare Answer

Where would I be without Twitter?

[Read this next bit as though it's a well known Sinead O'Conner song]

It’s been 5 years, 30 days, and 53 minutes since my first tweet. Here is it:

Twitter: hopkinsdavid / David Hopkins

In that 5 years, 30 days, etc. I’ve made nearly 25,000 tweets. Admittedly not all of them are relevant, interesting, insightful, funny, or worth repeating, but some of them have been. Some of them have been ideas, sharing, conversations, photos, jokes, people I’ve met or places I’ve been, books or journals I’ve read, etc. Some are re-tweets (RT), mentions, replies, etc. And some are just banal observations for no other reason than Twitter was available and somewhere I can put a random thought, observation, rant, or other piece of useless information. 

In this time I’ve made (to date):

  • Posted or tweeted 24,885 times.
  • Followed 1,411 people, organisations, spoof-accounts, etc.
  • Been followed by 7, 145 other people, organisations, etc. (I’ve also blocked a large number of inappropriate or spam accounts, including , for example, taxi companies in places I’ve never been).
  • Been added to 662 lists, the vast majority based around EdTech, educational or learning technology, etc.
  • Been on Twitter longer than 99.5% of all Twitter users, but only 64% of the time since Twitter first launched.
  • Only had two avatars.

(These stats have come from my Twitter archive and also the Twopchart website).

But what has Twitter done for me? Or rather what have I done with Twitter?

In the beginning I didn’t understand it or know what I was supposed to do with it and, to be honest, neither did most people. After a while, and through some first contacts I made (Steve Wheeler, James Clay, Jane Hart, Lou McGill), I began to see the wood through the trees, that Twitter was only what you wanted it to be, that you would get out of it what you put in. I worked out that I wanted (needed?) from Twitter so I could learn more about the role as a Learning Technologist, make connections and find out about things, events, technology, techniques, etc. that I didn’t know about from the people I worked with. Twitter became my ‘go to’ place for everything and anything that interested me.

David Hopkins

I started by ‘hiding’ behind a cartoon (right) and by the time I thought about changing it, to come out from behind the anonymity it offered, it had become a symbol and avatar I both liked and was recognised by. Now, over 5 years later I’ve changed it (finally) and now use the same avatar across all networks. I’m still not sure if I’ll swap back, but for the moment I’ll stick with it.

David HopkinsIn May 2009 I made a presentation to the Business School at Bournemouth University about ‘Twitter in Education’ (below) and also uploaded it to SlideShare, where it has since been viewed 80,000 times, embedded on 315 websites, and had over 100 downloads. This was as much about me sharing and helping colleagues to understand Twitter as it was about me also understanding the possibilities of what it can do and how you / we can use it. The follow up – ‘Twitter in Education: what next?’ - has also been viewed in excess of 11,000 times.

Twitter in Education

For me Twitter has …

  • been somewhere I could share my thoughts and reflections, from this blog, to a wider audience.
  • resulted in invitations to present at UK and European conferences.
  • opened my eyes to critical thinking and reflection through examples and the work that other people share through Twitter.
  • enabled real time help and support when tech failed me (or I could help someone else who had had their tech fail them).
  • made some real and valuable friends that started off as 140 character online conversations and has matured and grown through face-to-face contact at events and conferences.
  • helped me focus and concentrate on what is professionally important – here I’m thinking about implication and application of an ‘appropriate’ technological implementation, making sure it’s something that will add value or increase efficiency rather than the “ooh, it’s shiny and new” approach.

Twitter is not …

  • open – colleagues and friends follow me (some interact, some do not) and therefore I cannot rant or rave or moan too openly as it would be unprofessional
  • free – see above. Sometimes it’s a curse that I can’t say what I really really want or need to, that I can’t be totally open about something that has moved or effected me. Well, that’s my choice.
  • safe – despite Twitter being something I value in my day to day life I know ‘it’, or rather the people on it, can easily turn on any one of us (there are far too many examples of trolls who deliberately make someone’s life a misery, for apparent fun. Examples include some of sports modern heroes Rebecca Addlington, Curtis Woodhouse, etc. – please note I have linked to supportive stores associated with the trolling these athletes have endured to show the positive support the Internet can provide, my little way to counteract the negative).
  • mine – despite the feeling of ownership or control over my / our network, we ought to remember it’s not, nor will it ever be. There may be guidelines in place that protects the ownership, or IP, of my tweets, but Twitter can stop all of this, at any time.

Where would I be without Twitter? Well …

  • I would not be CMALT accredited – I would not have engaged with other applicants or assessors. I would not have seen the benefit of being CMALT accredited, and I would not have pushed myself through the process.
  • I would not be anywhere near the Learning Technologist I am today without the availability of the networked knowledge I have access to – without the connections I would’t have known there was even a large and welcoming network of technologists out there, thirsty for knowledge.
  • I would not have grown or expanded my passion or enthusiasm for my role and the industry I work in.
  • I would not have self-published my own books.
  • I would still be just plodding along, being reactive in my role and waiting for ideas to come to me instead of pushing my own boundaries, and that of the people around me, in the quest (is that the right word?) to better myself.
  • I would not be presenting at a conference in Madrid in May, looking at strategies for engaging students.
  • I would not be running twitter chats with my good friends Sue Beckingham and Chrissi Nerantzi on the BYOD4L and FDOL courses.

This is what I have let Twitter do for me, or rather this is how I wanted my network of connections to affect and effect my life. I do not see any other online network having anywhere near the impact or possibilities that Twitter has offered me – to me Facebook is for my family & friends, LinkedIn is still just an interactive resumé, Google+ is growing but still un-proven.

This is the value of Twitter to my every day life, personally and professionally. What about you, what does Twitter (or any other network you value) mean to you?

At some point you will want to, or ought to, download your Twitter archive. If for nothing else it serves as a reminder that everything you tweet is still open, accessible, and shouting “this is what [insert name] thinks”. If you’re not aware of this, then you really oughtn’t to be using Twitter or other ‘open’ networks where your digital identity, your digital footprint, is so plainly available for scrutiny. In the spirit of openness, here’s mine: