Is LinkedIn still relevant?

I have a LinkedIn account and profile – here it is:

I think it’s OK – nothing special, nothing outstanding. I’ve put a little effort into making it what it is, making sure it’s up to date, professional, and that I have appropriate and relevant connections. I am fully aware of how this ‘shop window’ into my work can work for or against me at any time, even when I’ve been ignoring it for months on end.

Those who know me will know that I moved from Bournemouth University to the University of Leicester in 2012, and again on to the University of Warwick in 2014. I am certain that online professional persona was used as part of the interview/hiring process (let’s face it, they’d have missed a trick if they didn’t use them!) as well as my CV and application forms – my Twitter feed, my LinkedIn profile, my (under-used) Google+ stream, SlideShare presentations, published books, etc.

This is why it’s important to spend a little time keeping your profile up to date, trim the connections (or not accept those you don’t know in some way), post updates and projects, etc.

This LinkedIn Snakes and Ladders from Sue Beckingham is just perfect for anyone who has a LinkedIn profile, student or staff. Sue makes important suggestions on what will help or hinder your profile, like adding projects, publications, and a professional photo (help) or sharing trivia, posting insensitive or unprofessional updates (hinder).

LinkedIn snakes or ladders? from Sue Beckingham

My question is, do we still need LinkedIn? Are those of use who are active elsewhere (Twitter, FaceBook, Google, blogs, etc.) doing enough already, or do we need this ‘amalgamator’ that is LinkedIn to pull our work together? Do you use LinkedIn to find out about people you encounter?

Note: I don’t use the LinkedIn Premium. Does anyone?

Image source: Patrick Feller (CC BY 2.0)

Networks – establishing and maintaining them

So, how would you provide an insight into creating and maintaining a professional network, in 140 characters? This was a challenge I took up from David Walker this morning.


Actually, once I included Twitter handles of David, Sue, and Sheila, I only had 108 characters left. This is what I said:


Replies both David and I received include, from Sheila MacNeill, “the more you give the more you will receive” and  a PLN “takes time to cultivate but pays huge dividends as a forum for sharing/Q&As” from Sue Beckingham.

I’ve written previously on networks, and how they work for me:

Many of us are aware of our networks and the impact we/they have on others. For some, like me, the network has grown out of no real plan or long-term goal. For others it’s been carefully managed and nurtured to be what it is. Whichever your approach it is fair to say our respected networks are important to us, both personally and professionally. Therefore we must care for it, and how others see us through it, in order to maintain our position in other peoples network. If we don’t do we end up being removed from networks and getting ‘black flagged’ or a bad reputation?

What would you say, to David or anyone else, about how your PLN, your learning network?

Image source: Kristina Alexanderson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The intrinsic and extrinsic value of academic blogging #LTHEchat

I’m not new to running or paricipating in tweet chats, in fact I’ve done a fair few over the last few years. And loved each for their own individual characteristics – here is a write up on two particular ways of running one.

This time I took part / facilitating in the 31st LTHEchat with my good friend Sue Beckingham. The invitation was broad and open to interpretation (scary!) but with help and discussion I settled on blogging, or more specifically academic blogging. So, to come up with six questions that would enable detailed yet flexible answers, in 140 characters (minus ones for the #LTHEchat text and any @names), and in a one hour time slot.

“This LTHEchat will be as much about blogging as the process of sharing. Do you blog and if so why do you blog? Are you blogging for yourself or for your professional profile? Indeed, is there a difference? Is it for reflection or progress? Join me and the LTHEchat community to share your ideas, experiences, pleasures, pains, and purpose.”

As per previous LTHEchat sessions everything has been collated into a Storify archive, or you can try and use the Twitter search archive for #LTHEchat, for what it’s worth. 

The questions I asked, and you answered, were:

  1. Let’s start with an easy one: why do you write your blog? Conversely, if you don’t blog, why not? #LTHEchat
  2. How have you helped to inspire non-blogging peers? #LTHEchat
  3. Do you have a ‘plan’ for your blogging activity? Is there a purpose or reason for it, or just as-and-when you feel like it? #LTHEchat
  4. Are you a reflective (intrinsic) or broadcaster (extrinsic) blogger? Is there a difference? #LTHEchat
  5. Now let’s share some of the #LTHEchat … Who inspires you to blog or to contribute via comments and why? #LTHEchat
  6. Lastly for tonight, share your own blog (links pls) and why you started it? #LTHEchat

To everyone who engaged and made it a wonderful experience, thank you. If you missed it, I’m sorry, but you can gauge some of the frenetic energy and the thoroughly engaging community we inhabit on Twitter through this #LTHEchat Storify archive.

For those who asked, here are some of the blogs you shared:

Then there is this great graphical representation of the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic blogging from Simon Rae:

Banner image source: mkhmarketing (CC BY 2.0)

50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media #Jisc50social

For a month or two JISC has been asking for names and nominations to a new list they’ve been producing – 50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media. Well, the time has come and the final list has been announced.

There are some wonderful people on this list I am proud to know and call friends, and some I’m not previously aware of and will be looking at (hmm, sounds a bit stalker’ish, sorry) to learn about what they do, why, and how.

“The final line-up – chosen by a panel of social media experts, including award-winning social media editor for Times Higher Education Chris Parr, Insider Higher Ed journalist and blogger Eric Stoller, and Teacher Training Videos founder Russell Stannard, as well as Jisc’s David Kernohan and Sarah Knight – features an impressive mix of academics alongside vice-chancellors, librarians and IT and support staff.”

The final 50 features outstanding cases of social media use that others could benefit from, and we will be looking to highlight some of this excellent practice in the weeks to come.”

Even more helpful than the list is also the Twitter list, making it easier to follow the work of all those on the list.

Again, it’s an honour to be on the list, and I’d just like to sat how much I enjoy being ‘social’, talking about and sharing ideas and experiences, and above all hearing all about the wonderful things people are doing with students, learning, engagement, collaboration, technology, communication, and each other.

How Twitter can be used for informal personal learning?

I joined Twitter in January 2008 and in the last 6 years, 4 months, and 7 days since my first tweet I have made or posted nearly 33,000 tweets! As I highlighted in my post from last year I have found Twitter the single most important source of information, events, research, back-channel, inspiration, and motivation I have even come across.

Of course it’s not actually Twitter that does this; it’s the individuals I have connected with in those 6 year, from all corners of this wonderful world and from all walks of life and cultures. These people, who I’ve built my Personal Learning Network (PLN) around, have made me laugh, cry, think, reflect, criticise, critique, avoid, seek out, and generally strive to know more about myself.

The great thing is that you/they had no idea they were doing it, or even part of it. That’s because that’s what I use Twitter for. You might use Twitter for something else; running buddies, charity auctions, account complaints, celebrity stalking, coffee-shop cake comparisons. We each have our own version of the same system that offers our own unique answers or destinations. 

Perhaps this is why Sue Beckingham asked me to help her out with her MSc dissertation because of both my approach, and use, of Twitter.

Using Google docs (something I first used for interviews and to collaborate on writing The Really Useful #EdTechBook), each question was semi-structured, giving the opportunity for follow on questions based on the interviewees answers. Sue certainly got me thinking about my own use, past and present, of how I use(d) Twitter.

With Sue’s permission, here is our exchange. I wish Sue the very best with her MSc dissertation, I only hope my small contribution was of use?!

How Twitter can be used for informal personal learning?

Sue Beckingham: The purpose of my research is to gain an understanding of how Twitter can be used for informal personal learning, the context in which it is used, and the perceived personal value of this space as a learning environment. I am interested to find out how you as an Educator in Higher Education might use Twitter as an informal personal learning space and what this space affords.

Thinking about the people and organisations you follow on Twitter, how did you identify them as useful to follow for your personal informal learning?

David Hopkins: It’s difficult to remember back to when I started using Twitter but I remember being a little confused about it, and didn’t fully understand what is was and what is could be used for. After a while I focussed my tweeting and searches on my work as a Learning Technologist and then started to follow and converse with some sector leaders (Steve Wheeler, Grainne Concole, James Clay, etc.). From there I kind of followed their lead: I watched and learned, I started to blog my ideas and thoughts, I started to have people follow me and, using their Twitter bio, decided if I wanted to follow them back. At the start the number of people I followed far out weighed those who were following me, but it soon balanced out (which is key if you’re to be seen as a ‘thought leader’ and not just someone who follows everyone and anyone).

SB: Thank you. What would you say makes for a good bio? What should you include?

DH: A good bio ‘should’ include a real photo of you (although I hold my hand up and admit that I had an illustration, which looked nothing like me, for 5 years on many social media sites), link to your online ‘home’ (somewhere you are managing and collating all your network activity; blog, LinkedIn, About.Me, etc.), and a brief description of who you are or what you tweet about. I tend to ignore people who have things like ‘… father, lover, footy-mad, beer-drinking, etc.’ even if they start with a professional sounding job or bio description. Perhaps this is a true reflection of their use of Twitter, which is fine, but I’m not interested in the ‘lover’ or ‘footy-mad’ part of their activity, so that will put me off. I’ll find my information elsewhere.

SB: When you visit Twitter do you have a particular approach to finding new information?

DH: It depends where I am: at work I have Twitter open in a browser tab and flick between that and work tabs. At home I’ll be on my tablet or smartphone. Each platform means I use it differently: the browser version is easier to search, skim-read, click links, etc. The mobile versions need more attention and a clearer approach to finding information as the screen real-estate is more precious and easier to get lost in.

I use Twitter lists and saved searches a lot, but also like to just skim & scroll through my Twitter stream. I find it difficult to avoid the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but have learned over the years to just accept I will miss somethings. Then again, I’ve also learned to trust my PLN that, if it’s important or relevant or interesting, it’ll be retweeted at some point and I’ll catch it another time!

FOMO is hard to get over but as you point out the development of a PLN can alleviate this.

SB: Which of the following do you like to engage in when using Twitter and why?

  • conversations, discussions, debates 
  • answer others’ questions 
  • organised tweetchats 
  • prefer to just ‘listen in’

DH: All of the above, and for different reasons. I won’t deny thinking about each each tweet and how will this benefit my ‘brand’. By this I’m thinking about my reputation and my followers, will ‘this’ or ‘that’ appeal to them as they’ve voluntarily clicked my ‘follow’ button, so will this link, photo, article, discussion, joke, etc. mean anything, or am I going to annoy them with it.

Twitter has always been about the connections and contact I make with my PLN, those I follow and those who follow me, to the extreme that I feel responsible for the quality and quantity of posts, links, etc. If I could I’d reply to each and every tweet or mention I would, but again I have to ration myself to doing what I can. Conversations and debates are what is taking Twitter away from the superficial “here’s my morning coffee” tweets into a meaningful channel to work.

Sharing and ‘broadcasting’ is synonymous with Web 1.0, historically the realm of big business who could afford the high prices of .COM domain names. The rise of the writable-web as Web 2.0 gave everyone who wants it their own voice. The rise of social networks online crosses both of these realms, for me, with the added benefit (or complication) of the mobility and fluidity of Web 3.0 (the ‘executable’ web; Apps and the like).

There are times to listen and watch my Twitter stream, but I don’t like to take from a community without offering something back through either a tweet or some form of recognition.

SB: You mention that you have to ‘ration yourself’ – how do you do this?

DH: More often enough it’s leaving my smartphone or tablet on the side or in my bag so I’m not tempted to check it. Some days it’s easier, especially if I’m busy or engrossed in work or family and friends, other times it’s more difficult especially if I’m at a loss or in need of something more ‘interesting’ to keep my attention. There is no hard and fast rule, or even one that works, but different tactics on different days, for different reasons.

SB: Thinking about information that is shared that you engage with do you find added value where a tweet is extended by adding a link to more information? Which of the following is useful to you as a learner and why?

  • view photos, images, infographics
  • links to videos
  • links to articles, papers, books
  • anything else?

DH: Tweets that have a photo or some form of rich media are definitely more visible and engaging in a busy and sometimes frantic stream of updates, but it’s often not enough. I will usually browse the stream of tweets looking at a mixture of tweet lengths, number of hashtags used, if there are links, etc. but mostly I scroll and browse the avatars of who posted it. Some avatars are easier to spot than others, some I actively look for as I know they tweets about things that, more often than not, interest me. I’m sure I miss lots (FOMO?) but, as I said earlier, I have to accept I will miss some things.

SB: Do you think the number of people you follow contributes to this, ‘actively looking for avatars’, as opposed to reading in tweets in turn?

DH: Definately – the more you follow the larger the stream of tweets will be, and the speed in which they come. I know there are tools like HootSuite and the like to help manage these, as well as utilising Twitter’s own lists and saved searches, but these are not always easy to use, so I resort to just looking at the stream.

SB: What learning experiences using Twitter have been most beneficial to you? (i.e.. when was learning valuable, enjoyable, interesting to you?)

DH: Pretty much every time I tune into Twitter! There is always something being shared or discussed or criticised; from blog posts to news to research to opinions to jokes and personal chat. I have found the back-channel at conferences invaluable to learning and understanding so much of both the presentation, the background to it, as well as understanding the value (or lack of value) to ‘my’ community and my PLN!

Twitter has enabled me to leave my institutional network and reach further afield: nationally and internationally. This has been the single greatest achievement in my career to date, there is no way I could have become the professional I am today if I relied on my internal institutional network (I don’t know anyone who is satisfied with the career/professional development opportunities provided by their employer).

SB: How can others best be of help to you in enabling you to enhance your learning and self-development within Twitter as an informal learning space?

DH: If you take from the network, you should be prepared to give something back. I don’t like the term ‘lurking’, but it is sometimes a good title for those who take but don’t give something back. I know some who ‘listen’, but these people do sometimes give something back, even if it’s only a comment or share. If they power is in the network, any node of the network that takes and uses for its own glory, but doesn’t enhance or give back weakens the network.

Image source: Duncan Hill (CC BY 2.0)

Project: The Really Useful #EdTechBook

You know how it is … you have an idea that just won’t go away. About a year ago (January 2014) I had an idea for a third book: a follow-up to my ‘what is a Learning Technologist?‘ eBook. I wanted to continue my exploration of my role and the community of learning professionals I find myself interacting with online and in person.

But, let’s face it, you’ve probably heard enough about me. So I toyed with the idea of seeing if anyone would write it with me. After a while I figured there wasn’t one person I’d want to write it with, but a whole series of active, engaging, and trusted people who have something to add and share to the conversation. Then came the difficult (and it was very difficult) choice of who, out of this much much wider range of people to approach.

So, how did I plan and execute this massive project then? Well, firstly I had no idea how big or tiring or wonderful the experience would be. I used a multitude of tools and approaches to inviting, collection, collating, writing, designing, marketing, and generally getting this project to market and completed.

  • I won’t write about the physical process of editing and publishing and the various trials and tribulations involved, as I’ve written about it before. Please head on over to my old post written after my first two book: ‘Writing an eBook: Lessons learned on how, where, and why’. I will say one thing though, it is very much more complicated when you’re producing the same content for two different platforms (electronic and paper) as the Word file do (despite what anyone may tell you) need to be completely different formatting. It’s fine, so long as you don’t need to make any more edits … if you do, you have to do it twice!

The key to the project, as I mention in the final chapter / post-script was that the finished product, the book, was formed by the process of writing itself. I knew who I wanted involved, and I knew what I ‘hoped’ the book would be about, but I did not direct any authors on content or writing style. I am so hugely impressed that there are themes that have formed that can be read through the whole book, through each chapter … all credit to the authors who managed to do this without even realising!

Google Docs
I set up a folder in  Google Docs and invited everyone to it. I created a document for each author that they could use to write their chapter (although most chose to do the writing in private and coy-and-paste- the final version here later).

Also in the Google Docs folder were a series of files that I used to plan and inform the team – all about communication and planning the project. I wanted everyone involved to have an input, if they wanted, to help steer the final product – yes, I could have used my ‘editor’ and ‘publisher’ position to do this, but that wouldn’t necessarily have produced a worthy product that my peers and colleagues would want to either read or be involved in.

Google Docs - The Really Useful #EdTechBook

It was through this process of openness that many important decisions were made, ranging from the actual name of the book (I deliberately didn’t force a name on this, but instead asked for suggestions) as well as timing for publication and pricing. The name of The Really Useful #EdtechBook was proposed at the start, more of a ‘holding’ name than anything else, but it stuck and soon became the call-to-arms of the writing styles and approaches to the individual authors.

Three factors helped me decide to include the hashtag in the title:

  1. We are all connected: in some case I’ve only connected ‘virtually’ with some of the authors, with others it was an online connection that we’ve made ‘real’ at various events. The hashtag represents this connected world we learning-technology-people reside in.
  2. A title like The Really Useful Educational Technology Book was to long and, well, naff.
  3. The title has it’s own marketing department already in build. If anyone posts or tweets and uses the full title, on any of their networks, it’s quite easy to find, read, and RT! It also demonstrates a shift in marketing and publishing, where much of it is now online where hashtags and trends and communities grow and prosper. Including the hashtag enables and embraces this shift.

Actually working on the editing and publishing side of the book needed us to be able to to share files. Using shared folders in Dropbox  I shared images, Word files, PDFs, ePUB, MOBI, etc. among other things. I also used this to ensure that I had access to my files on which machine I ended up working on, and to be sure I didn’t loose anything if USBs got lost or other such mishaps.

Dropbox used with The Really Useful #EdTechBook

I had an idea for the cover, based on a few styles of artwork I’d seen. Through work the name of a colleagues wife came up in conversation so we had an email exchange and the cover was sent across, pretty much as you see it now! Either Claire Riley is really good at interpreting my garbled notes or she is truly a gifted artist (definitely gifted).

Note: There’s much much more on the back cover .. which you’ll only see if you get the printed copy (hint hint)!

The Really Useful #EdTechBook

I wanted to try and build a community around the project, as well as build a sense of anticipation and marketing for the eventual launch (January 28, 2015). I invited the authors to participate in a series of ‘interviews’, conducted for the most part through the Google Docs again. I started each interview with the same question – “How does the use of technology, in all its various forms, affect your day-to-day working life? ” – we we took it from there. Each interview takes very different directions to the others, based on the individual and their response to this first question.

Read the interviews here:

Book Reviews
The book was also sent to a few interested and key people for advance review (and comments). Thanks to Steve Wheeler, Maren Deepwell, Chris Rowell, Chrissi Nerantzi, Helen Blunden, and Neil Withnell.

The links below are where you can currently purchase the eBook or paper copy from:

The individual chapters have come about from a simple, and short invitation to the book. The request/instruction … write about your experiences in, and with, technology for learning:

  • Wayne Barry: “…and what do you do?”: Can we explain the unexplainable?
  • Zak Mensah: “Why do we do what we do?”
  • Peter Reed: “The structure and roles of Learning Technologists within Higher Education Institutions”
  • Rachel Challen: “Learning Technologists as agents of change? Blending policy and creativity”
  • Julie Wedgwood: “Developing the skills and knowledge of a Learning Technologist”
  • Dr David Walker and Sheila MacNeill: “Learning Technologist as Digital Pedagogue”
  • Lesley Price: “Times they are a changing …or not?”
  • Sue Beckingham: “The Blended Professional: Jack of all Trades and Master of Some?”
  • Julian Stodd: “How gadgets help us learn”
  • Terese Bird: “Students Leading the Way in Mobile Learning Innovation”
  • Inge de Waard: “Tech Dandy, or the Art of Leisure Learning”
  • Sharon Flynn: “Learning Technologists: changing the culture or preaching to the converted?”
  • Mike McSharry: “This is your five-minute warning!”

So, how can you see more of the world that surrounds the book? Try these links below:

The Really Useful #EdTechBook

I’m sure there is so much I’ve left out of the whole process, but it’s the stuff I’ve been doing daily for 8+ months that it’s all part and parcel of my daily routine.

Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the book. I finished the book with a short ‘post-script’ chapter …

“Without this book perhaps some of these stories may never have seen the light of day? I am certain there are many more stories out there that not only highlight what we’re missing or doing wrong or don’t understand properly, just as there are numerous examples of what we are doing right, where we have made a difference in just one child or one class or one school.

“Please share your stories. With me. With each other. With anyone who’ll listen.

“Use the #EdTechBook hashtag on social networks, with your Personal Learning Network (PLN), on your blog, or even on someone else’s blog. This book isn’t the start of anything new … but it could be a further catalyst to improve the use of technology for learning (all aspects of learning, in all possible locations), to highlight ‘bad’ practices and to investigate new ones.”

Please also leave a comment or review on the page where you bought or downloaded this book from. This is one small step that will bring the #EdTechBook community to the attention of your PLN and your peers. The next is, as I’ve already said, to share your story. Do it!”

2014 EduBlogs Awards #eddies14

Edublog Awards 2014Yes, thanks to Chris Rowell (and for the nomination), I’ve realised it’s that time of year again … Edublog Awards.

“The Edublog Awards started in 2004 in response to community concerns relating to how schools, districts and educational intitutions were blocking access of learner and teacher blog sites for educational purposes.  The purpose of the Edublog awards is promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media.”

A thoroughly good event to get involved in, and be nominated for too. Let’s try and get more UK nominations and success stories this year please?

I nominate:

Thank you. Nominations are open for a while longer (hint) and voting will open shortly after that (hint hint).

Interview with Sue Beckingham, #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 first post I talk to Sue Beckingham, Educational Developer at Sheffield Hallam University.

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

SB – It’s an integral part of my daily routine. By this I mean that I make use of the affordances of my mobile phone to access a wide range of apps to help organise my day, provide me with news, information as part of my research and of course social networking places where I keep abreast of what’s happening out in the field via my personal learning network (PLN). 

My day starts with a skim through Twitter and LinkedIn. Time permitting I will also take a look at Google+ and Facebook pages. As I travel to work by public transport I use this time to favourite/like/RT etc. anything I wish to save and also share information that I feel will be of interest to my PLN. Why keep it to myself?! I check my diary via my phone and can make a start on a to do list using the notes app.

DH – Have you ever got to work, or on the journey to work, only to realise you’ve left without your phone …and turned round and gone back for it? I have, many times! Can you see a positive change to your work priorities through the affordable and forever-connected device in your pocket. Have you ever felt like it’s taken over?

SB – Oh yes! Had to jump off the bus, run back up the hill to go home and retrieve my phone! I rely on it so much I’d be lost without it!

Having this mini portable device with me at all times provides me with much a computer offers. I can access email, make notes, plan a meeting or class, research a new topic, draft a blog post, and so the list goes on. These tend to be short bursts of activity. The affordances are there, however the small screen is not ideal. Where there is WiFi available, I tend to use my iPad mini. For me this has enabled me to be better organised.

Does it feel like access to my device has taken over? Well to some degree. Having access to work email 24/7 can be both a blessing and a curse! On the one side I can address the quick replies and filter out the emails I don’t need to keep each time I dip in. On the other it can prevent you from switching off from work – something we all need to do!

DH – Is this enough for the ‘blended professional’, the title of your chapter? Is there more to just being connected and having the devices? I’m sure we both know of, and see, many examples of people with this amazing technology, but not using it to its fullest potential. While I acknowledge that this world of connections is not for everyone, is it even possible to be an effective educator in this world without the connections?

SB – Yes of course we can be effective educators without the technology, but the connections with others are invaluable for our own development. In fact I’d go as far as to say connections are essential. We learn from and with each other. The technology however can help to extend those connections and provide so many new ways to communicate and collaborate.

Do we all use our devices to their fullest potential? I’d say definitely not! If we look at our phone for example, it comes with a variety of useful tools as standard, however I’d bet not many are even aware of all features and may only use text and phone calls. If it’s a smart phone, then there are literally thousands of apps to download. This is the point where as an Educator we can play a valuable role by initiating the conversation around “What do you use your phone for (besides the obvious)? Have you seen this app [demo] – I find it really useful to…” Substitute phone for tablet or laptop.

DH – I’ve followed the rise of popularity of the AppSwap Breakfast with interest, and have many discussions with colleagues to see if there is interest where I’ve worked. There is plenty of interest in the idea but not everyone is at, or near, a place where they are ready to be involved or share their App-use yet. Do you think we do enough (Learning Technologists and other interested parties) to induce staff and students to this ‘new’ approach to eLearning? It’s as much about the packaging as it is about the materials themselves these days, do you think?

Interview with Sue Beckingham, #EdTechBook chapter author

SB – My colleague Julie Gillin and I have talked about this and planned an Appy Days workshop to share favourite apps. The key obstacle is as you say not a lack of interest, it is finding a time and space that works. Maybe we need to think of other approaches to deliver any kind of technology enhanced practice, be this for learning and teaching or our own personal development. I’d like to see this integrated into CPD and aligned to ‘remaining in good standing’ for the likes of FHEA and CMALT. This could provide the incentive to engage but also recognition of what has been achieved.

DH – Do you think that us Learning Technology-type people expect too much from our academics? I know you’ll go into more of this kind of stuff in your chapter, but is is an unreal expectation, lack of interest or apathy to technology or change, or something else, that is stifling inventive and engaging learning practices? Don’t get me wrong, there are some great things happening both with and without LT involvement, but they are the exception rather than the norm – it’s the other silent majority we need to capture and talk to that eludes me.

SB – Well this is where I can empathise as the ‘blended professional – jack of all trades and master of some’! Technology can be scary and it is often easier to dismiss it than hold your hand up and say “I need some help here”. I’ve found many a new use of technology difficult, but have not been afraid to ask questions and have done this by going to trusted Learning Technologists who I know can speak in non tech-speak, who don’t tell me it’s easy, and who check that I can go through the steps needed after a demo. Taking this approach with colleagues does seem to open doors and pique curiosity to learn more. I feel they need to be reassured they will have support going forward and not just within a one off workshop.

DH – You are well known for your love of technology and no-fear attitude to what you use, and how you use it, but have we stretched ourselves too far already in directions that have made it too difficult for others to catch-up with us? In trying to see what is available, and how we can use it to make it easier and less scary for the non-technical among us, have we inadvertently made it unreachable and unfathomable for them?

SB – I think to get folks on board we need to provide opportunities to help them see how technology can help in relation to organisation of their own lifewide learning. Once they see how useful it can be, they can then have the confidence to look at how it might be applied to enhance the students’ experience as a means to both engage in learning and organise their learning.

DH – Indeed, thanks Sue. Sue’s chapter for The Really Useful #EdTechBook looks at the ‘blended professional’ who is keen advocate and early adopter of technology for learning –  “From small, centrally located teams of learning technology support to fragmented faculty or department teams, these ‘blended professionals’ often need to balance the needs of the department or faculty with the needs of the institution. Such posts are often fractional and carried out alongside a substantive role and other priorities.”

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

Image source: Alex Dulaunoy (CC BY-SA 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.