Friday, September 30, 2011

Discussions on Google+

Google+ Term has not yet begun but I'm looking back at what our students shared on Google+ over the last week. Not including regular housekeeping type communications, they talked about:

  • The new timetable for the coming term
  • Initial reflections on an industrial placement year
  • The student peer mentor scheme
  • CV updates
  • Turnitin
  • Pets
  • The Leicester Award
  • Careers Advice
  • Aging

Google+ is working well already - and we haven't formally begun yet :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bye Bye Billy

To see how profoundly the book business is changing, watch the shelves. Next month IKEA will introduce a new, deeper version of its ubiquitous “BILLY” bookcase. The flat-pack furniture giant is already promoting glass doors for its bookshelves. The firm reckons customers will increasingly use them for ornaments, tchotchkes and the odd coffee-table tome - anything, that is, except books that are actually read.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Still Delicious?

Delicious I've been wondering what to say about the relaunched delicious, but I don't have much to add to what I have already written here:
I'm sad, loss of a beautiful model due to "feature" bloat.
What did I like about delicious? Simplicity, a respite from the cacophony of the Internet, and the fact that it "just worked". Mostly, that's gone now. The current iteration of delicious (Fisher Price Edition) is no longer social, it is now about curation. However, the fact is that we have gone back to beta, so I'm prepared to cut Avos some slack for a little while to see if they reinstate the lost functionality - especially the network (social bookmarking) and RSS everywhere. Already RSS feeds are reappearing, so there's evidence that Avos is listening to user input.

So over to you Avos...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Google+ Peer Mentors

Peer mentors I'm in the process of trying to move as much as possible of our existing student network from Friendfeed to Google+.

Over the summer I've been working with a group of students to try to figure out the affordances of Google+ as it evolves. I know that we won't be able to simply port our existing network from one host to another, but one of the most important features thankfully turns out to be one of the easiest to transfer - the student peer network which has been so important in supporting students and amplifying staff time.

These peer support volunteers will be vitally important in ensuring success as we roll out Google+ to all our students over the next few weeks.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guardianistas! This is beneath you!

I put out a man's eye once. He was the abusive boyfriend of a friend and we knew he'd never be caught. So we burned down a candle, formed the shape of a man, carved his initials into it, stuck pins in it and buried it. Next time I heard about him he'd lost an eye clean out of his head. I call that anecdote The Eye of Natural Justice. I've always been a believer in psychic stuff. I have prophetic dreams, read Tarot cards and spend hours on horoscope sites.

Sigh. Why does The Guardian print this crap?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Using social media to enhance student experience seminar: Twitter round-up

With a programme great speakers and an audience packed with social-media savvy attendees, it's little wonder our 'Using social media to enhance student experience' seminar generated a lot of discussion on Twitter. Via the #studentexp hashtag we were inundated with delegate updates and observations alongside questions and contributions from those who couldn't make it on the day, so to archive some of that discussion before it starts dropping off the Twitter timeline we have storified some of the highlights. If you want more than the updates curated in our Storify feed below, here's a link to the full #studentexp thread on Twitter.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thought for the day

Traditionally in education expertise is analogous to talent in the music industry – it is the core element of scarcity in the model. In any one subject there are relatively few experts (compared with the level of knowledge in the general population). Learners represent the ‘demand’ in this model, so when access to the experts is via physical interaction, for example, by means of a lecture, then the model of supply and demand necessitates that the learners come to the place where the experts are located. It also makes sense to group these experts together, around other costly resources such as books and laboratories. The modern university is in this sense a solution to the economics of scarcity.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reflective Social Portfolios for Feedback and Peer Mentoring

Cover It may not have escaped your attention that this week is The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice week on SoTI. If you haven't read it yet, you're missing out ;-)

While reading it over the weekend I found a small error in one of the references cited - Cann A. and Badge J., 2010 Reflective Social Portfolios for Feedback and Peer Mentoring  which was listed as "Forthcoming" did not, for various complicated reasons, exist in a public form. Well now it does so that Martin can correct the next edition:

Cann, A.J. & Badge, J. (2011) Reflective Social Portfolios for Feedback and Peer Mentoring. Leicester Research Archive.
Abstract: This paper describes a process of migration from formal, paper-based, institutionally owned processes towards informal, social, student-centred personal development. In terms of tool use, this journey involves moving from isolated personal silos to flexible online networks which attempts to use social tools to increase engagement with education. We describe here the evidence we have collected and analyzed which shows that social network portfolios allow powerful yet highly granular feedback loops and encourage the emergence of peer support and mentoring networks. The only useful web tools are those which students choose to use. By harnessing the attraction of social networks, we are attempting to claw back a segment of the attention economy from the purely social and direct the focus towards socially-constructed reflection and engagement with education.

And some thoughts on the process:

After the difficult gestation of this paper, it was a joy to get the manuscript published on the LRA just a few hours after submission. I initially planned to simply publish it here ("green OA", a.k.a. self-archiving), but I didn't because:
  1. By publishing it in the repository I get the prestigious LRA handle, plus a few casual browsers.
  2. Unlike the LRA, this blog is not currently indexed by Google Scholar, although I could easily change that with a single line of metadata (but I don't want all the contents of this blog in Google Scholar).
So what is the downside? The LRA is a repository intended to freeze information in time. That's fine for some purposes, but it removes, or at least reduces, the possibility of post-publication peer review in this case. If substantial comments or problems were raised after deposition, could I revise the paper, and if I could, would it keep the same URI?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reward and/or Recognition - for digital scholarship?

This morning I attended a workshop on Promotions Relating to Teaching and Learning as part of the ReSULT (Research and Scholarship Underpinning Learning and Teaching) research theme. The meeting considered evolving institutional criteria for teaching related promotions. Many aspects of best practice were discussed, including peer mentoring, evidence, portfolios, etc, but at one point the discussion veered to towards the nature of scholarship, which immediately brought to mind Martin Weller's new book The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice:

Recognising and rewarding digital scholarship is significant for two reasons. The first is the message it sends to individuals within the university. Because they operate in an open, digital, networked manner, digital scholars are often well known in their institution (e.g. many of their colleagues will read their blogs). If a well-known digital scholar struggles to get their work recognised, then it sends a message to the rest of the university that this is not the type of activity that is likely to be rewarded, with a subsequent decline in its uptake. The reverse happens if that digital scholar is rewarded; it sends the positive message that academics should engage in this type of activity.
The second reason to recognise digital scholarship is to encourage institutional innovation. For example, universities are beginning to explore the use of Facebook to support students, or the use of blogs to disseminate research findings to the public, or new models of course development based on third-party content and crowdsourcing. There are very real benefits to the institution from these approaches, for instance reaching new audiences, increasing the university's profile without advertising, increasing student retention through improved peer support, lowering the costs of course production, developing new research methodology and so on.

... the resistance to recognising digital scholarship reflects a more intractable problem – one has to experience the use of these technologies over a prolonged period to appreciate their value and the nature of interactions. In short, you have to do social media to get social media. Given that many senior managers and professors in universities are not people who are disposed towards using these tools, there is a lack of understanding about them at the level which is required to implement significant change in the institution. The membership of promotion committees is most likely to be drawn from senior academics, who have largely been successful with the traditional model of scholarship. Although these academics will have a wealth of experience, they come from a background that may have a limited understanding of the new forms of scholarly practice that utilise different media and technologies.

Weller goes on to describe a number of metrics operated by universities and organizations by which contributions via digital scholarship can be recognized. Reward is, of course, a matter for the employer.

What is digital scholarship?

A simple definition of digital scholarship should probably be resisted, and below it is suggested that it is best interpreted as a shorthand term. As Wittgenstein argued with the definition of ‘game’ such tight definitions can end up excluding elements that should definitely be included or including ones that seem incongruous. A digital scholar need not be a recognised academic, and equally does not include anyone who posts something online. For now, a definition of someone who employs digital, networked and open approaches to demonstrate specialism in a field is probably sufficient to progress.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Running scared

I've been following facebook's defensive anti-Google+ moves with some amusement, but I'd missed out on a significant change - Facebook has gone asymmetric, i.e. people can "follow" you without being your "friend" - if you let them:

What does it mean? It means the stuff your write about your colleagues on facebook may not be "private" any more...


This'll cheer you up. I read an article about advertising the other day and stumbled across a concept that seems so nakedly evil, I was amazed it exists. Particularly because it's embraced by the makers of Weetabix.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice

Cover Martin Weller has published his new book The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice in a variety of formats. You can buy hardcover or paperback versions from Amazon, or get the Kindle version if you prefer. But Martin has also arranged for a free, open access version of the book to be published online via Bloomsbury Academic.

Since Martin was generous enough to give me an acknowledgement, I'd like to advise you to buy a copy, but either way, make sure you read it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Choices, choices

Samsung N120 Over the past week I've done most of my "computing" (Internet access really) on four devices, giving me a good opportunity to compare them:

iPhone: I love my iPhone. It's the best phone I've ever owned. Battery life is good. But it's not a computer and I'm severly limited as to what I can do on it (teenagers can do far more :-)

iPad: I love my iPad. Battery life is superb. I've downloaded loads of free books and enjoyed reading them via iBooks or Stanza (but I still prefer print for recreational reading). I'm still quite limited as to what I can do on the iPad, and in the thick and fast of sessions at ALT-C or when Skyping to Birmingham, it couldn't compete with:

Samsung N120 note book: I love my N120. It's the best laptop I've ever owned. The batter life is superb. In spite of Windoze XP, I can do most of what I need to do on this machine. It's my roadwarrior workhorse.

Macintosh Air: I'm jealous of my son's new Mac Air. (Whisper it soft: I quite like OS X Lion - especially the gestures). OS X is superb - I can do everything I need to do on this machine. But the battery life sucks, even with everything non-essential turned off.

And The Winner Is: Samsung N120. I wouldn't buy an Air. It's overpriced and compromised by the poor battery life. The next generation will be better, as the convergence between netbooks and tablets continues. It's been an interesting week.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Going forward

What's a few wrinkles between friends? I was sitting in the Refectory at Leeds when I found out Focus would be playing a few miles away from me soon. My first thought was Definitely, but I've had second thoughts since then.

I don't want even to run the risk of diminishing my memories of my teenage peddlers of pure joy, lightening the darkness of Emerson Lake & Palmer.

The point of history is the future.

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Night Of The Long Knives

Klout is b*llocks At Solo11 there was a discussion about the validity of Klout which annoyed me to the extent that I set about a week long experiment to manipulate my Klout "score" by:
  1. Not blocking spammers
  2. Trawling for spam followers by tweeting selected text
  3. Generally being a spammy as my ethical principles would allow.
Whaddya know, it worked. I manipulated my Klout "score" by +16% in one week using these undesirable tricks. So Klout is b*llocks, right? I have no problem with anyone who wants to use Klout as a game layer, just don't ever think it has any analytical validity.

The experiment is now over and it's time for The Night Of The Long Knives. I'm coming for you, spammers.

#altc2011 Day 3

ALT-C 2011 I woke on the last day bright eyed and bushy tailed, which was a good thing, as the morning passed in a blur of iTunesU and OER. Suddenly, it was time for the last keynote from John Naughton. Which I am in two minds about. While the content was excellent, the delivery was monotonous, and as Donald Clark pointed out on Twitter, there was no originality - this keynote was an expertly done rehash of previous thoughts. Nevertheless it was thought-provoking and I enjoyed it, and came away with one main question in mind:
Is Wikipedia the missing model for OERs?

Overall, ALT-C 2011 was more fun than I was expecting it to be. Something old (friends), something new (pecha kucha), something borrowed (John Naughton's keynote) and great swag ;-)

ALT-C 2012 anyone?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

#altc2011 Day 2

ALT-C 2011 Wednesday started on a high note for me with @amcunningham's talk on professional identity online. Immediately after that I had to shoot back to my room and Skype to CfBReps11 in Birmingham (emergency YouTube backup is here if you're interested). Ethernet did not let me down! After a quick coffee, it was off to Are we in Open Country? Full marks for effort guys, but I felt the extra layer obscured rather than helped the discussion, which only got going after the "fun" theme was dropped.

After lunch was Karen Cator's keynote via Adobe Connect. Karen has a Klout score of 10.

ALT-C 2011 I sat in on the ALT AGM. Congrats to Matt Lingard and Malcolm Read. After that I was pooped, so I talked to the family and vegged out for a while reenacting the opening scene of Apocylapse Now (the one with the helicopter montage), until Google kindly bought me a drink. An enjoyable surprise came at the end of the evening when my pecha kucha presentation was voted one of the best at the meeting. It was an honour to stand on the same stage as Led Zepplin, The Who, Bob Marley and The Clash, and to receive the freedom of the city and 50,000 Google Shares.

What's that? Oh, OK then, well in that case, it was an honour to stand etc etc.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me and congratulations to everyone who won awards.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Where is the cutting edge in learning technology? #CfBReps11

Short talk for Centre for Bioscience Reps meeting, 07.09.2011:

#altc2011 Day 1

ALT-C 2011 I left Leicester ridiculously early to get to Leeds before nightfall but arrived in good time for the start if the conference. It's a nice change to be back at a conference on university campus rather than all these swanky conference centres (although the facilities in Leeds are good). Sponsor notice: The Google trade stand has the best swag ;-)

The opening keynote was interesting, but I'm still not convinced about simple technical fixes for complex problems, from holes in the wall to OLPC programs. After a brief interlude of HallMk1's deranged Maoist raving (love and kisses Rich ;-), I waffled about Project SOAR in a Pecha Kucha stylee (ePoster here):

Later I went to the launch of the Inclusion Accessability SIG, then dinner, some nice chats and an early night (after testing the Skype connection from my room with a borrowed ethernet cable for a conference presentation to Birmingham today). This is the life.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Important paper, please read

"This article proposes a continuum of ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ as a replacement for Prensky’s much‐criticised Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Challenging the basic premises upon which Prensky constructed his typology, Visitors and Residents fulfil a similar purpose in mapping individuals’ engagement with the Web. We argue that the metaphors of ‘place’ and ‘tool’ most appropriately represent the use of technology in contemporary society, especially given the advent of social media. The Visitors and Residents continuum accounts for people behaving in different ways when using technology, depending on their motivation and context, without categorising them according to age or background. A wider and more accurate representation of online behaviour is therefore established."

Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement
First Monday, Vol. 16, No. 9. (5 September 2011)

Monday, September 05, 2011

Sigh, in which I give in

You do know that Klout is completely bogus, right? But there's a strong message coming through that some idiots seem to act on Klout scores. So I've given in and am now playing the Klout game, no longer deleting all those spurious spambots and marketeers that follow me in order to artificially inflate my Klout score. I feel dirty. Graph shows how much I was able to manipulate my Klout "score" in the last 36 hours by simply not blocking spammers:



Sunday, September 04, 2011

#solo11 Day2

Solo11 Science Online London, September 2-3, 2011 — British Library


Day 2 opened with a pane1 discussion on dealing with data. After day 1 I was dreading this, but in fact this was the best (of far too many panels). The discussion covered interesting aspects of curation and abundance, and examples of graphics as curation.

The panel was followed by a "keynote" designed to set a theme - spinal muscular atrophy - intended to nucleate activity for the rest of day. I thought this was an interesting and worthwhile idea, although in fact it didn't work out.

Most of the rest of my day was occupied by the "Online Communication Tools" workshops, which were enjoyable for me personally and seemed to be well received, as demonstrated by the Storify below (one of the tools we talked about). The only problem was that sticking to the SMA theme was not really possible with the participants who attended this workshop (so we didn't, unfortunately).

At the end of Day 1, I was asking, Has Solo jumped the shark? By the end of Day 2, the answer to that question was no, but it has moved a long way from that original exciting event back in 2008.

My personal thanks to the organizers, especially Lou Woodley for inviting me to participate in the Online Communication Tools workshop, and to Brian Kelly for contributing.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

#solo11 Day 1 - rough thoughts

Solo11 Science Online London, September 2-3, 2011 — British Library | Programme

The conference got off to a great start with Michael Nielsen's Opening Keynote. In contrast, the first panel discussion stalled the momentum, with a worthy but misplaced discussion of the #arseniclife story. For me, the take home from this session was to establish links back to journal website from the online ecosystem and not simply link out from the journal as platforms such as Highwire and Wordpress allow.

Breakout 1: National Undergraduate Bioscience Research Journal
Problems with takeup of Bioscience Horizons indicate student engagement via social media is not working? Clash between the social ecosystem of Facebook and "real" journals? Is this an opportunity for post publication peer review arXive style?

Breakout 2: Microattribution
I enjoyed this session a lot since it goes to the core of the Internet - small pieces loosely joined

Breakout 3: Storytelling
Like most people, I didn't know what to expect from this session, but @Boraz did a great job of pointing out the significance of narrative in forfmal scientific publication, as well as education/blogging - facts are a minor component of the finished object.

The final panel discussion was disappointing yet again - not about open science or science online, just funding. At the time, it felt like this was the year that Solo may have jumped the shark, but hopes are high for day 2.

Friday, September 02, 2011

#solo11 - Science Online London

Solo11 Science Online London, September 2-3, 2011 — British Library


The conference is full but there are lots of opportunities to participate online, via the #solo11 Twitter hashtag, and via Google+.

I'll be blagging talking about Google+ in the Online Communication Tools workshops on Saturday 3rd, so if you're in my Circles, you're likely to feature, and I may ask you to participate if you're online :-)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Job: Web Resources Development Officer

Web Resources Development Officer
Ref MBP00401
Department College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology
Full Time Open Ended
Salary Range £30,870 to £35,788
"As a Web Resources Development Officer, you will build on existing activities to support the implementation of the University’s Learning & Teaching Strategy through the authoring and translation of on-line teaching materials. These materials will be disseminated through the VLE and will promote the development of students’ learning and transferable skills as well as facilitating the sharing of good teaching practice throughout the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology.
The principal accountabilities of this role will primarily remain as outlined here however it is likely that you will be required to undertake supervision of other staff with associated responsibilities within the College in the future.
Informal enquiries are welcome and should be made to Jon Scott, Academic Director on or 0116 252 3083.
The closing date for this post is midnight on Sunday 2nd October 2011.