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LILAC 2014: Preparing Our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 April 2014

Preparing Our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution

Jenny Evans, Maths and Physics Librarian, Imperial College London and myself have had a poster presentation accepted for the LILAC 2014 conference which will be held at Sheffield Hallam University on 23-25 April 2014. The title of the poster is “Are institutions preparing staff for digital life beyond the institution?” We had originally submitted a proposal for a symposium which would be based on a survey of institutional policies on digital literacy related to use of Cloud services and invite LILAC 2014 participants to discuss the survey and the implications of the findings. However the reviewers accepted the proposal as a poster which would focus on the survey findings. This blog post summarises the background to this work, outlines the findings of the survey and poses questions on the role of university libraries for preparing staff and researchers for use of networked technologies to support their professional interests once they have left their host institution.

Background

The background to this work was the presentation I gave at the LILAC 2013 conference entitled “When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution“. The short summary for the presentation provided the context for the talk:

In this talk Brian Kelly describes the challenges to be faced when, due to withdrawal of funding, one is faced with the challenge of continuing one’s professional interests when a local institutional IT infrastructure is no longer available.

The presentation was prepared whilst I was preparing for redundancy, following the announcement of the cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN, my host organisation. As can be seen from the slides (which are hosted on Slideshare) I gave a personal account of the challenges to be faced when the IT infrastructure, the support services, the email addresses and the means for authenticated with Cloud services is about to be lost. However since I was an early adopter of a wide range of Cloud services I found myself in the fortunate position that I was not over-reliant on institutional IT services. I also had the time to migrate content and services so that I did not lose the ability to continue my work once I had left my institution. I should also add that since most of my content is licensed under a CC-BY Creative Commons licence there should not have been licensing barriers to my continued use of content I created. When I gave the presentation I asked if my comments on the importance of preparing members of staff and researchers with the skills and confidence to make use of Cloud services when they leave their current institution especially if, for example, they are being made redundant or their funding finishes and they wish to continue to make use of their professional skills. There seemed to be agreement that information literacy (or digital literacy) should encompass this area. Howe er there was also a recognition that none of the institutions represented in the session a year ago were addressing this area.

Surveying the Community

In light of last year’s presentation it was felt that it would be useful to provide a more comprehensive survey across the sector to determine the extent to which institutions’ informal literacy policies and practices address use of Cloud services and whether support is given for staff and researchers when they are about to leave their host institution. Jenny Evans, Maths and Physics Librarian at Imperial College London agreed to submit a proposal for the LILAC 2014 conference based on this work. We submitted a proposal for an hour-long symposium with the intention of using the findings to stimulate discussion and debate. However the proposal was accepted as a poster display so it will not be possible to address the implication of our work in a formal context at the conference. This blog post summarises the survey and the findings. Comments and feedback are welcomed.

The Survey

The survey was carried out using SurveyMonkey. An initial prototype was set up and modified in light of the feedback. The survey was launched on 3 March 2014 when it was announced on a number of mailing lists, both in the UK (the lis-infoliteracy and lis-link lists) and in the US and Australia. We are grateful to Michael Stephens who publicised the survey on his Tame the Web blog. The survey was also announced on this blog and was also mentioned in the CILIP Update magazine. The survey was closed on 17 March, having been open for a period of 2 weeks. The survey provided the following background information:

This survey aims to identify institutional policies and practices to support use of Cloud services by staff and researchers. Cloud services can be defined as ‘web-based software’ hosted in ‘the cloud’ (on web servers outside your institution). This survey is being carried out by Jenny Evans (Imperial College London) and Brian Kelly (Cetis, University of Bolton) to support a contribution for the LILAC 2014 information literacy conference. The aim is to identify current institutional policies and practices for staff and researchers before they leave their host institution (e.g. due to redundancy, retirement or to take up a new post) who wish to continue to make use of IT services and digital resources. The findings will be published in a poster on “Preparing our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution” to presented at the LILAC 2014 conference. Note: this does not cover use of cloud services by taught course students.

The Findings

We received 89 responses during the 2 week period. A poster has been prepared based on the findings which is illustrated (and is available from Slideshare). This post provides additional information. The majority of responses (54 or 63.5%) were from the UK with 20 (23.5%) from Australia, 11 (13%) from the USA and Canada and 3 from other countries. [85 responses; 4 respondents did not answer this question]. The vast majority of responses (80, 96.4%) were from staff based in libraries with 2 responses from researchers, 1 from IT Services staff and 6 from other departments. [83 responses; 6 respondents did not answer this question]. In response to the question “What forms of support are provided to staff and researchers in the use of Cloud services?” it seems a diversity of approaches are taken as shown in Table 1. [58 responses; 31 respondents did not answer this question].

Table 1: What forms of support are provided to staff and researchers in the use of Cloud services?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Formal face to face training courses 12
2 Formal online training courses 5
3 Documentation 10
4 Other online resources 11
5 User support (in case of queries) 23
6 Integration of Cloud services with in-house services 13
7 None 31
8 Other 11

We went on to ask “Who provides formal training and support for members of staff and researchers in the use of Cloud services?“. From the results given in Table 3 the most interesting observation is that the vast majority (66%) of respondents report that no formal training or training is provided. [56 responses; 33 respondents did not answer this question].

Table 2: Who provides formal training and support for members of staff and researchers in the use of Cloud services?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Staff Development Unit courses  0
2 Library courses 10
3 IT Services courses  8
4 Training from other providers?  2
5 Provision of documentation  9
6 Online support 12
 7 No formal training or support provided 37
8 Other (Further Information)  8

We sought a context to these questions when we asked “Does your institution have a formal information/digital literacy policy?” The findings are given in Table 3.

Table 3: Does your institution have a formal information/digital literacy policy?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes 19
2 No 24
3 Not sure 15

Since only 19 of the 89 responses (21%) have a (or are aware of) their institutional formal information/digital literacy policy the answers for the following questions will only be relevant to a minority of the respondents. We asked “If you have an institutional information/digital literacy policy, does it cover use of Cloud services?” and “If information/digital literacy policy, does it address the needs of staff and researchers who wish to continue using IT services when they leave the institution?“. The findings are given in Tables 4 and 5.

Table 4: If you have an institutional information/digital literacy policy, does it cover use of Cloud services?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes  6
2 No 18
3 Not sure 16
4 Further information   4

 

Table 5: If you have an institutional information/digital literacy policy, does it address the needs of staff and researchers who wish to continue using IT services when they leave the institution?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes  2
2 No 20
3 Not sure 17
4 Further information  4

We were interested in the extent to which institutions had institutional licences for Cloud services such as Google Apps for Education, Microsoft Live and Dropbox. The findings are given in Table 6.

Table 6: Does your institution have a formal institutional licence for Cloud services for use by your user community?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes – Google Apps for Education   7
2 Yes – Microsoft Live   2
3 Yes – Dropbox   1
4 No 19
5 Not sure 19
6 Other   3

The context for this questions was the potential danger that content hosted in a Cloud service managed by the institution may not continue to be available to the content owner after they leave their host institution. From the findings given in Table 7 it seems that content will not be accessible in this situation or the status regarding continued access is uncertain.

Table 7: Will access to content held on Cloud services continue to be available when staff leave the institution?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes, as access is available to their personal account  2
2 No, as access is coupled to an institutional account 18
3 Not sure 22
4 Other  7

Use of Cloud servicesThe survey provided an opportunity to understand current policies and practices taken regarding use of Cloud services. As can by seen from the findings in Table 8 and illustrated in the accompanying diagram there appears to be no consensus across the sector on policies and practices.

Table 8: Use of the Cloud services (if any) mentioned in Table 7
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Encouraged where such use is appropriate? 10
2 Supported, with help and advice provided?  9
3 Discouraged due to concerns regarding privacy, sustainability, etc. 13
4 No formal policy provided? 15
5 Policies devolved (e.g. IT and Library may have different approaches)?  1
6 Other  6

 

Table 9: When staff/researchers leave your institution do you provide any formal training/support?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes   2
2 No 36
3 Not sure   7

Reasons forlack of formal training/support?What are the reasons given for the lack of formal training or support to prepare staff and researchers for digital life beyond their current institution. When asking the general question why new areas of work are not being addressed there are a number of responses which might be expected including a lack of time; a lack of staff resources; a lack of relevant expertise or “it’s not our responsibility”. As can be seen from Table 10 and the accompanying image, in this case providing formal training in use of Cloud services for staff and researchers who are about to leave the institution is not the responsibility of the Library.

Table 10: If you do not provide any formal training/support, why not?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Time   4
2 Staffing   5
3 Lack of expertise   4
4 Not our responsibility 28
5 Further information   9

 

Conclusions

The survey findings include additional responses which have not been mentioned in this blog post but which may provide further insights into institutional approaches to support for Cloud services, especially to support the life-long learning needs of staff and researchers. However for this post I will conclude by inviting responses to the following questions:

  • Do the findings reflect the policies and practices for your institution?
  • Would you agree that it is not the responsibility of library staff to provide such support and training?
  • If it is not the responsibility of the library, then who, if anyone, should provide such support?

If you have an interest in this subject and are attending the LILAC 2014 conference to be held at Sheffield Hallam University on 23-25 April 2014 I will be providing a poster display about would during the poster exhibition which will take place from 11.00-11.45 on Thursday 24 April. I’d be happy to chat.


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Posted in information literacy | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

IWMW 2014: Programme Launch

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 April 2014

IWMW 2014

IWMW 2014 home pageI am pleased to announce the launch of the IWMW 2014 Web site.

The year’s event takes place at Northumbria University on 16-18 July. As has been the case for the majority of the previous 17 IWMW events, this year’s event will last for 3 days.

The price for attendance at this year’s event is unchanged from recent years: £350 which includes two nights’ accommodation or £300 with no accommodation.

The event this year is being provided by myself, Jisc Netskills and Cetis.

IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web

The official title of this year’s event is “IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web“. The idea for the title came from a suggestion made during the feedback we received at IWMW 2013, when we asked participants for their thoughts on whether the event should continue in light of the cessation of Jisc core funding for UKOLN. The answer was unanimous: there should be a IWMW 2014 event but perhaps the event could benefit from a ‘reboot’.

Organisational changes, in particular the large-scale redundancies at UKOLN following from the cuts in funding, necessitated rethinking for how the event was to be organised.

Due to the Jisc financial support for the event in previous years we sought to ensure that the event provided an opportunity for Jisc services and development programmes were able to describe their activities. Although these sessions have been useful the funding changes provided an opportunity to ensure that the talks and the sessions were more directly aligned with the needs of those responsible for providing and managing large-scale institutional Web services.

A Summary of the IWMW 2014 Programme

Perspectives from Outside

We had been told that the event would benefit from talks by charismatic speakers with a proven track record of delivering talks at prestigious national and international events. Since it had also been suggested that we should look for insights from outside the higher educational sector the opening session, Perspectives from Outside, provides the opportunity to hear the opening talk from Tracy Playle, founder of HE Comms, an online social network for Higher Education communications and marketing professionals who regularly speaks at conferences and seminars in the UK, mainland Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Tracy will share her reasons “Why you don’t need a social media plan and how to create one anyway”.

The other plenary talks on the opening day are provided by two regular speakers at IWMW who, based on the feedback we’re received, are always successful in stimulating discussion and debate.

Paul Boag has been working with the web since 1994. He is now co-founder of the digital agency Headscape, where he works closely with clients to establish their web strategy. Paul also speaks extensively on various aspects of web design both at conferences across the world and on his award winning web design podcast boagworld. Paul will give a plenary talk on “Digital Adaptation: Time to Untie Your Hands“.

Ranjit Sidhu (or Sid) is founder of statistics into Decisions (also known as SiD!).  Ranjit has worked at several Internet based companies, but has found his niche in analysis and helping clients understand what is going on in the internet ether and how to use that information to improve what they do. Ranjit, who is currently working with 15 UK universities, will give a plenary talk on “‘You are ALL so weird!’ University sector analysis and trends”.

I’m particularly pleased that IWMW 2014 will feature three speakers who not only have spoken at conferences around the world but also have a good knowledge of the higher education sector.

Institutional Case Studies

IWMW 2014 programmeHowever if high profile speakers form outside the sector are valuable in getting the event off to a good start, provide challenging insights and stimulating discussions, the main focus of the event is in providing an environment for sharing institutional practices. Therefore this year  there will be two plenary sessions on Institutional Case Studies which will feature presentations from institutional Web managers on “Building cost-effective, flexible and scalable education resources using Google Cloud Platform”, “Using the start-up playbook to reboot a big university website”, “Marketing is dead, long live UX”, “Adding Analytics to the University Portal” and “Allocating Work: Providing Tools for Academics”.

Technical Perspectives

No IWMW event would be complete, however, without sessions which explore the opportunities which technical developments can provide for the provision of institutional Web sites. This year the session on Looking To The Future features two plenary talks on  “Hyper-connectEd: Filling the vacuum by switching from blow to suck” and  “What Does The Data Tell Us About UK University Web Sites”.

Workshops and Birds-of-a-Feather Sessions

When the name “IWMW” was first used for the Institution Web Management Workshop series the final “W” was meant to signify the importance of participative sessions. Although the plenary talks provide a shared experience which enables all participants to hear about and learn from institutional case students and practices, technical developments and perspectives form outside the sector,  the parallel workshop sessions provide an opportunity for more active involvement and group discussions. This year’s workshop sessions cover a range of areas including the usability (“Making Personas Work”), content (“Reframing Content Strategy” and  “Learning to COPE – Create, Once, Publish Everywhere”), metrics (“Google Analytics For Beginners”) and technical sessions on “Rapid Development: Analytics reporting powered by Google Apps Scripts”, “Working with data.ac.uk: Creating your Institution’s OPD (Organisational Profile Document)”,  “WordPress as a CMS” and  “How to Buy Free Software”.

As well as these workshop sessions we will also be providing an opportunity for participants to organise their own birds-of-a-feather sessions.

Providing Value for Money

We are very aware of reductions in staff development budgets which institutions may now be facing. The feedback received at last year’s event showed that participants were very aware that the event did provide value-for-money, with a recognition that if the cessation of Jisc funding necessitated an increase in the cost of attendance this would be understandable.

However I am pleased to say that we have been able to keep the cost of attendance at the event down to the same price as last year. Indeed as shown in Table 1 we have kept that price at the same level over the past five years, with the exception of 2011 when the event was reduced to a 2-day event.

Table 1: Attendance costs at IWMW 2010-2014
Year 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Cost
(including accommodation)
£350 £350 £350 £250 £350
Length 3 days 3 days 3 days 2 days 3 days

We are able to keep the prices down to a very affordable level due to a combination of the support of the event sponsors  and the willingness of the event speakers and facilitators to provide their sessions for free, in order to support the community.

We do still have opportunities for additional sponsors who would like to be associated with a successful event which is now in its 18th year. For further information please get in touch.

I hope to see you in Newcastle in July.

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ILI 2014: Call for Submissions Close on 11 April 2014

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 April 2014

About ILI

ILI 2014 logoILI, the Internet Librarian International conference, is my favourite library conference. I’ve attended (and indeed spoken at) all but one of the conferences since it was launched in 2000. In recent years I’ve also shared my thoughts on aspects of the conference on this blog including posts since 2011 on Twitter Archives for the #ILI2013 ConferenceILI 2013: The Future Technologies and Their Applications WorkshopSharing (or Over-Sharing?) at #ILI2012“Making Sense of the Future” – A Talk at #ILI2012What Twitter Told Us About ILI 2011Learning Analytics and New Scholarship: Now on the Technology Horizon and ILI 2011 and the ‘New Normal’.

I should also add that for several years I have been on the ILI advisory group. I am also one of the ILI blog supporters.

ILI 2014

ILI 2014 will take place at the Olympia Conference Centre, London 21-22 October 2014 with a series of pre-conference workshops taking place on 20 October. The theme this year is “Positive Change: Creating Real Impact“.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 11 April 2014. As described on the conference Web site:

This year, Internet Librarian International will present an exciting selection of session formats so that delegates can make the most of all the learning opportunities on offer. We are looking for speakers who can share their experiences in one of several formats:

  • 30-minute scene-setting themed papers
  • 15-minute case study presentations (as part of a themed session)
  • Teachmeet/unconference contributors
  • Workshop leaders
  • Panellists

The Call for Speakers has four main categories:

  1. Transforming library and information services and roles
  2. Innovation in content
  3. Innovative technologies
  4. Innovation in search and discovery

I intend to submit a proposal related to my work as Innovation Advocate at Cetis, possibly on my work with Wikipedia or perhaps on the implications of technological developments for librarians. But when I noticed the invitations for panel sessions I wondered whether a panel session might provide a useful mechanism for airing a diverse range of views. Back in 2005 I gave a talk on Folksonomies – The Sceptics View in a panel session on “Folksonomies: Community Metadata?” which provided an opportunity to raise concerns about the possible pitfalls and limitations of folksonomies.

When I took part in the Hyperlinked Library MOOC last year I felt there was an uncritical acceptance of the role of social networks in a library context. I therefore wrote a series of blog post which challenged the consensus positive view on the library of the future: The library of the future (part 1): a privatised future; The library of the future (part 2): services for the self-motivated middle classes?The library of the future (part 3): because we’re right!The library of the future (part 4): a dystopian future? and The library of the future (part 5): everyone’s a librarian!.

As described in the initial post on The library of the future (part 1): a privatised future a YouTube video used in the MOOC entitled “Library of the Future in Plain English” could be interpretted as a right-wing vision of the future of libraries, with a significant deterioration in the pay and working conditions for librarians (see the accompanying table which was included in the blog post).

As Ian Clarke commented on the post:

The video clip employs much of the kind of language we have come to expect. As always, it paints things in a way that, on the surface at least, seems agreeable and non-controversial. Of course, once you read between the lines it is clear that it is not necessarily a benign vision.

Would anybody be interested in taking part in a panel session which sought to explore the diverse visions of the future of the library in an Internet environment? If so, feel free to get in touch.


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Emerging Best Practices for Using Storify For Archiving Event Tweets

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 March 2014

“Embrace open practices which you are comfortable with; share your open practices with others”

In a post entitled Reflections on the #openeducationwk Blog Posts I summarised the guest posts published on this blog during Open Education Week. My post concluded with my thought’s on Sheila MacNeill’s post in which she gave her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“. I agree with Sheila’s view that “in reality things are more nuanced” than is suggested by the soundbite “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’“. My post concluded with the suggestion that you should:

Embrace open practices which you are comfortable with; share your open practices with others and be willing to learn from the open practices used by other. But don’t be dismissive of those who don’t share your beliefs and practices.

 As part of that philosophy in this post I will share the open practices I use to ensure that the ideas and discussions shared at ‘amplified events’ can reach a wide audience, beyond those physically present at the event.

Developing Guidelines for Use of Twitter at Amplified Events

Since January one significant new area of work I have been involved in is leading the Communications, Dissemination and Knowledge Management work package for the EU-funded LACE project, a project which “brings together existing key European players in the field of learning analytics & EDM who are committed to build communities of practice and share emerging best practice“.

The LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project is funded by the European Union in order to help exploit the opportunities afforded by learning analytics (LA) and educational data mining (EDM). A particularly important aspect of the LACE work will be in making effective use of online tools in order to help to build a community with interests in learning analytics and facilitate discussions, sharing of resources and awareness of the project,

Various guidelines for use of social media and other online tools and services are being developed. Since LAK14, the Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference takes place in Indianapolis next week from 24-28 March this will provide an ideal opportunity to evaluate use of our emerging guidelines for use of social media at events.

Tomorrow morning we will have a LACE project team meeting to discuss our plans for the conference and, in particular, use of social media to support workshops at the conference which LACE team members are involved in: the Second International Workshop on Discourse-Centric Learning Analytics (#dcla14); Computational Approaches to Connecting Levels of Analysis in Networked Learning (#lak14cla); Learning Analytics and Machine Learning (#lak14ml) and the LAK Data Challenge 2014 (#lakdata14).

In order to gain further experience of use of the tools which will be used to support these sessions and to provide examples of the approaches to be taken, earlier today a Storify summary of “What I Know Is: #WIKIsymposium” was created as described below.

Experiences from the #WIKIsymposium

Storify summary of #wikisymposium  tweetsThe WIKIsysmposium was held at the University of Stirling earlier today (19 March 2014). The symposium was part of the Research Seminar Series organised by the Division of Communications, Media and Culture, University of Stirling which was made possible with the generous support of Wikimedia UK.

Since I have an interest in the use of Wikipedia in an educational and research context I had an interest in following the event tweets and possibly developing my Twitter network if I identified relevant new contributors to the Twitter stream for the event.

The Storify summary of “the What I Know Is: #WIKIsymposium” was therefore of personal interest to me as well as in providing an example of the approaches which are proposed for next week’s LAK14 conference.

The Storify summary is intended to be self-documenting. In brief here are the proposed approaches:

  • Create archive(s) of event tweets in advance: In this case a Twubs archive of #WIKIsymposium was created.
  • Create a Lanyrd entry for the event: In this case the Lanyrd entry was created earlier today and speakers, participants and those with an interest in the subject area were invited to register using their Twitter ID in order to be able to easily identify others who attend or follow events of mutual interest.
  • Nominate or encourage live tweeters who will tweet consistently through an event: During today’s event at least two participants ensured that a full coverage of the talks was provided.
  • Identify emerging best practices for live tweeting at events: Useful practices identified at today’s event included:
    • Providing a meaningful summary of the event with appropriate links in advance
    • Announcing participation at the event on the morning of the event in order that interested parties are made aware of the event and the event’s hashtag
    • Providing a timestamp and, ideally, a photograph at the start of each talk
    • Flagging the name of the speaker in Twitter summaries of talk which enable readers to be able to identify reported commentary (e.g.”Murray: Putting content in Wikipedia can challenge the unassailable voice of the academic, but this is no bad thing ” or “RM: Putting content in Wikipedia can challenge the unassailable voice of the academic, but this is no bad thing “).
    • It can be helpful to clearly signal the end of a talk and the event with an appropriate tweet (e.g. thanks speakers at the end of the event).

I hope these examples are useful to others. I’d welcome further suggestions on best practices to help provide meaningful and useful archives of tweets at events.


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Reflections on the #openeducationwk Blog Posts

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 March 2014

Summary of Open Education Week Blog Posts

Last week as part of the third Open Education Week event a series of blog posts were published daily: guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog and posts by Cetis staff which were available from the Cetis blog aggregator.

In total ten posts were published. These were, on the UK Web Focus blog:

and via the Cetis blog aggregator:

It is interesting to look at the different descriptions of open educational activities which have been described in these posts.

A number of the posts provide a generic overview on aspects of openness: Scott Wilson in “5 lessons for OER from Open Source and Free Software” looks on how those involved in OER work should reflect on the similarities with the development of the open source software movement; Doug Belshaw in “What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?“reflects on the open practices which are embraced by those working for Mozilla and Simon Grant in “The growing need for open frameworks of learning outcomes” covers openness in the context of frameworks for learning outcomes.

Gillian Fielding provides an institutional focus in her post on “Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford“.

A national perspective in provided by Lorna Campbell in her post on “The Scottish Open Education Declaration“.

International perspectives are provided in Marieke Guy’s post on “Open Education Data” and Irina Radchenko and Anna Sakoyan’s post on “Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian“.

Two Personal Perspectives

However it is the personal perspectives provided by Li Yuan and Sheila MacNeill which I found to be particularly interesting. In Li’s post on “A personal reflection on Open Education”  she shares “some thoughts and reflections on Open Education through my personal learning journey and some of the work that I have been involved in with OERs, Open Online Learning and MOOCs“; a journey which began back in 1985 when, as a school teacher in China, she signed up for a Self Study Higher Education Programme; continued after joining Cetis in 2008 and was involved in supporting the UK OER programme and her early involvement in MOOC work including development of an Open Online Course for Masters students studying educational technology in China and delivered it in partnership with a Chinese university. Li is currently involved in preparing a bid to address some of challenges in open education and help institutions develop new models for sustainable open online courses.

Sheila MacNeill: Topsy commentsSheila MacNeill’s post, in which she gave her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“, generated the most interest on Twitter as can be seen in the accompanying image of the Topsy archive of the comments on Twitter about the post. In addition more detailed feedback has been provided in comments on the post.

Sheila reflected on her previous role at Cetis and her work in open education:

A large part of my work with Cetis was increasingly predicated by engagement in open, online communities. My visibility in a number of networks was a key part in me getting my current position. Openness, from open software to OER to open educational practice was and continues to be a core value not only for Cetis but for my own professional practice and values. 

However Sheila is very aware of the dangers that the “echo chamber” may lead one to believe that open practices are being widely adopted:

Over the past few years, I’ve heard in various places (both online and offline) that the “battle for open” has been won, or that open education is now “ mainstream”. I’ve always been slightly skeptical about such grand claims. Whilst the open education movement has made considerably inroads in the past decade, OERs and open educational practice are still not universally known about and used. Now, I’ve not started to work at some backwater on the edge of civilisation but believe me there are people here who aren’t even aware there has been a battle let alone have any idea of who/what has won, and what the legacy of the war is. Perhaps the greatest Trojan horse for open education has been MOOCs, as nearly everyone has heard about them.

Sheila concluded by critiquing the sound bite “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’”:

Last year at the Open Scotland summit, Cable Green gave a great line “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’.” However good a line that is, in reality things are more nuanced. In trying to support others to be open I may for a time, appear closed, and may even feel a bit broken and bruised. I’m not working with broken people or systems, just ones that need time and support to be comfortable with being open in ways that work for them. It is my open practice and the support from my open networks that continues to give me the support I need to continue to be open and contribute to our collective development and understanding of what being open actually means.

I would agree. As I would put it: “Embrace open practices which you are comfortable with; share your open practices with others and be willing to learn from the open practices used by other. But don’t be dismissive of those who don’t share your beliefs and practices.


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Guest Post: Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian

Posted by Irina Radchenko on 15 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The fifth and final guest post in the series published on the UK Web Focus blog is written by Anna Sakoyan and Irina Radchenko. In this post Anna and Irina describe “Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian“.


Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian

As the availability of education enhances internationally, in particular through the development of OERs and informal educational projects, predominantly in English, similar trends appear in other language environments. By their nature, they are less available for the contributors from all over the world, but at the same time, they often provide the only participation opportunity for those who for whom the English-language sources are not an option due to the language barrier. What seems important here is to create such projects in a way that makes them both their language audience-oriented and integrated into the international knowledge exchange.

Our online educational project DataDrivenJournalism.RU and its data expeditions are an example of an attempt to adopt this approach.

Context

Before we discuss the details of this particular project, we find it necessary to introduce the context, in which it was born and is currently developing. Basically, there seem to have been three deficiencies, or aspects to the problem, that we tried to address in this way.

First off, in the spring 2013 there was a surge of interest in open data among the Russian media, primarily due to the fact that the government was about to open its data officially. Many journalists turned to this subject, simply because it was promoted and supported by the state, so it was a discussed topic by default. Following the coverage, their audience was becoming aware of this kind of developments, but there was little understanding of what exactly it was about. Before the official move, there was some Open Data movement in Russia, but it was mostly promoted by a relatively small group of citizen activists and IT-developers with little response from the broader audience. All in all, by the moment when open data were about to be introduced officially, the bottom-up initiative was really scarce and with deplorably weak horizontal connections.

Second, there is a lack of Russian-language projects for those who might be interested in learning how to deal with data from scratch. Clearly, there were programmers’ communities and some of those were rather enthusiastic about building open data-based applications. But outside this scope, there were journalists, citizen activists, and scholars who could well make use of the new developments, but had no sufficient technical skills, nor even the idea of where to start acquiring them. While there are numerous international English-language learning projects of this kind, they are hardly available for those with a considerable language barrier. So there was a need for translated or newly created Russian-language manuals, as well as some supportive environment, which would encourage people to learn something really new.

Third, and most general, the project seems to comply with the trend all over the world. When there is a considerable number of open materials (books, manuals, tutorials), as well as open/free tools, and there are people who are trying to use them, at a certain stage there is also a demand for further structuring and adaptation of such materials and tools for learning. This means not only collecting relevant links in one catalogue, which is sometimes very helpful by itself, but creating something more interactive that could provide more comfortable learning facilities.

DataDrivenJournalism.RU and its data expeditions

DataDrivenJournalism.RU

DataDrivenJournalism.RU was initially created as a blog to accumulate translated or originally written manuals on working with data. Its mission was formulated as promoting the broad use of data (Open Data first of all) in the Russian-language environment. As the number of the published materials was growing, it was necessary to structure them in a searchable way, which resulted in making it look more like a website. After almost a year of its existance, the functioning of the project appears basically twofold. On one hand, it operates as an educational resource with a growing collection of tutorials, a glossary and lists of helpful external links, as well as the central platform of its data expeditions; on the other hand, as a blog, it provides a broader context of open data application to various areas of activity, including data driven journalism itself.

First Data Expedition

Being inspired by the School of Data example, we decided to try such format as online data expeditions soon after the blog was created. The first Russian-language Data Expedition (DE1) was launched in July 2013. It was a week long and its objectives were searching, processing and visualizing datasets on universities, both Russian and international. The review of DE1 was published on DataDrivenJournalism.RU http://datadrivenjournalism.ru/2013/08/04/first-russian-data-expedition-report/ (in Russian). Its English version can be found on Anna’s blog http://ourchiefweapons.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/first-data-expedition-in-russian-mission-complete/.

Our Second Data Expedition (DE2) launched in December 2013 was based on working with data collected in 2013 within a survey that was conducted by PSRAI Omnibus (http://www.psrai.com/omnibus.shtml). This dataset can be found at PEW Internet & American Life Project site: http://pewinternet.org/Shared-Content/Data-Sets/2013/July-2013—Online-Video-%28onmibus%29.aspx. It was chosen due to its clear structure and lots of variables in the first place. DE2’s main idea was to get beginners to try working with data in a friendly and encouraging environment. Unlike DE1, which heavily relied on self-organisation, DE2 had a ready-made scenario for those who might find it difficult to conduct their own research.

The review of DE2 can be found at DataDrivenJournalism.RU: http://datadrivenjournalism.ru/2014/01/02/de2-report/ (in Russian) and on Anna Sakoyan’s blog: http://ourchiefweapons.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/second-data-expedition-in-russian-mission-accomplished/ (in English).

Data Expeditions

Our most recent Data Expedition (DE3) had a special feature. This Data Expedition was dedicated to researching the subject of orphan or rare diseases. DE3 was organised in a partnership with NGO “Teplitsa of Social Technologies” so it was a joint project. They helped us to involve experts in the fields of rare diseases. The active participation of experts was an invaluable part of the research, because they provided extremely helpful navigation on the subject. This was the first time we have seen the combination of peer-learning and research in action. We are planning to publish the review of this DE3 in the near future. Right now, its participants are working on creating the follow-up digital story based on the findings.

Conclusions

Undoubtedly, data expeditions being a combination of a peer-learning project and a hackaton can be an extremely helpful tool not only for learning (and teaching) data processing techniques, but also for researching particular areas of knowledge or life posed as the subjects of these expeditions. In this respect, data expeditions could be a very flexible promising format equally applicable to things like an activist campaign or an educational project.

DataDrivenJournalism.RU was created as a response to the two former challenges, because it was designed to accumulate and generate the Russian-language learning materials and also to contribute to building a community of people interested in learning more about making sense of data. As to the latter, an interactive approach was implemented through the Russian-language online data expeditions as a subproject of DataDrivenJournalism.RU.

However, this is only one side of the project. Like any other open educational resource, DataDrivenJournalism.RU can’t exist in a vacuum. It needs to be integrated in broader OER networks and open data communities, both Russian-language and international. It might be some interaction on the basis of knowledge or experience exchange; it might be participation in international data expeditions or other project-based peer-learning projects. Due to the flexibility of open projects, the variety of cooperation formats is virtually great.


About the authors

Anna Sakoyan Anna Sakoyan is a co-founder of DataDrivenJournalism.RU. Anna is currently working as a journalist and translator for a Russian analytical resource Polit.ru and is also involved in the activities of NGO InfoCulture.

Twitter: @ansakoy
Facebook: anna.sakoyan
LinkedIn: Anna Sakoyan
Blog (English): http://ourchiefweapons.wordpress.com/

Irina Radchenko Irina Radchenko is consultant on Open Data at NGO Infoculture and Associate Professor at Higher School of Economics. She is co-founder of DataDrivenJournalism.RU and lecturer at Open Data School.

Twitter: @iradche
Facebook: iradche
LinkedIn: Irina Radchenko
About.me: Irina Radchenko
Blog (Russian): iradche.ru


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Guest Post: Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken

Posted by sheilmcn on 14 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The fourth guest post in the series published on the UK Web Focus blog is written by by Sheila MacNeill. In this post Sheila gives her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“.


Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken

When Brian approached me to write a guest post for Open Education week, I was flattered particularly when he told me about the other guest bloggers he had lined up. And I was relieved that my last excursion onto his blog hadn’t put him off! But more seriously it seemed to the perfect opportunity for me to share some of my recent experiences of open education and open educational practice. Later today, along with Catherine Cronin, I’ll be taking part in a webinar latsr today (from 13.00-14.00 on Friday 14th March) organised by David Walker, University of Sussex as part of their open education week activities. This post will hopefully complement the webinar, as well as contributing to the discussions on this blog this week.

The title of our webinar is “Open and online: connections, community and reality“. It will give us an opportunity to explore the research and realities of open education, online identities, networks, communities and connections.

As some of you may know, I have fairly recently changed jobs from Assistant Director with Cetis to a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University. A large part of my work with Cetis was increasingly predicated by engagement in open, online communities. My visibility in a number of networks was a key part in me getting my current position. Openness, from open software to OER to open educational practice was and continues to be a core value not only for Cetis but for my own professional practice and values. However I am increasingly conscious that my practice is changing in response to my institutional role and new physical networks. This ties in really well to Catherine’s research on open online identity and the role of the networked educator.

When Brian and I were talking about this post, I half jokingly said to him that I felt a bit like a time traveller and a bit like Marty McFly was experiencing some back to the future moments. At other times I feel a bit like one of the Tomorrow People, who has to be very careful about where and when to use their special powers, particularly in relation to open education.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard in various places (both online and offline) that the “battle for open” has been won, or that open education is now “ mainstream”. I’ve always been slightly skeptical about such grand claims. Whilst the open education movement has made considerably inroads in the past decade, OERs and open educational practice are still not universally known about and used. Now, I’ve not started to work at some backwater on the edge of civilisation but believe me there are people here who aren’t even aware there has been a battle let alone have any idea of who/what has won, and what the legacy of the war is. Perhaps the greatest Trojan horse for open education has been MOOCs, as nearly everyone has heard about them.

Of course we do have some pockets of excellent activity not least from our library who are currently developing an institutional OER policy. But open practice, and to take an important step back to just sharing “stuff” doesn’t feature on the radar of many of my colleagues. It’s not because they are anti-open, or closed, it’s just not their practice. They haven’t developed open practices or habits in the way I have over the last however many years. And you know what? I think some of us in our open, care-y, share-y, OER-y community forget how hard it can be to start being open and develop open habits. I am getting a bit of a reputation here for saying (perhaps slightly flippantly) “just slap a CC licence on it”, and then more importantly “stick it somewhere other people can find and use it”. It really is that simple. However I am still being met with wide-eyes and doubting, knowing faces. Sharing and being open is a great thing in context, but the benefits aren’t always obvious and there is a lot of confidence building and hand holding to be done yet. And that is always the part of “the war” that seems to be forgotten about. Developing people and habits is where any education battle is really won or lost.

I have come from an incredibly privileged position where I was able to be in on almost at the start of developments, particularly in the UK, around OER and open practice. I had time to explore the issues, play with open playgrounds, build my online networks , be a very small part of the twitterati, build up my confidence around blogging and sharing my thoughts with others, sharing slides with images attributed, try things just because I could. Most jobbing academics, learning technologists, librarian and other support staff don’t have that luxury. I now have even more respect for those who do make time to engage externally. With cut backs to funding from bodies like Jisc, experimentation and risk taking opportunities are becoming less and less common. However I can (and am) doing as much as I can to support open-ness across our institution – from policy to hand holding level.

The irony of this is that as I am connecting and sharing more with my new internal networks I feel that I am sharing less and less with my external networks. I certainly don’t spend as much time on twitter, which maybe isn’t such a bad thing . . . In preparation for this week, I was heartened to see that people in my twitter network do still consider me an open practitioner (this storify collates a few responses). My former Cetis colleague David Sherlock in this response to a tweet from me point out another side to why people might not be open, that of who controls our open communication networks and who owns our data? That hadn’t been on my mind thinking of this post, but it is a crucial point. Our networks and data aren’t only valuable to us, they have other economic values. We do need to remember that seemingly open and free services do have economic models.

Last year at the Open Scotland summit, Cable Green gave a great line “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’.” However good a line that is, in reality things are more nuanced. In trying to support others to be open I may for a time, appear closed, and may even feel a bit broken and bruised. I’m not working with broken people or systems, just ones that need time and support to be comfortable with being open in ways that work for them. It is my open practice and the support from my open networks that continues to give me the support I need to continue to be open and contribute to our collective development and understanding of what being open actually means.


Biography and Contact Details:

Sheila MacNeill

Sheila is UK Learning Technologist of the Year, 2013.

She is interested in all aspects of the development and use of technology in education. She is a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Over the past 10 years her work has centred on developments in the Higher Education sector through her work with CETIS.

For further biographical details please see Sheila’s About.me page.

Sheila MacNeill
Senior Lecturer
Blended Learning
Glasgow Caledonian University
Glasgow

Blog: How Sheila Sees It
Twitter: @sheilamcn


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Guest Post: Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford

Posted by gdfielding on 13 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The third guest post in the series is written by Gillian Fielding of the University of Salford. In this post Gillian reports on “Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford“.


Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford

Thanks to Brian for asking me to write a guest blog. Being ‘open’ I’ve never written a guest blog before so it’s a bit scary. Also thanks to the thought-provoking guest bloggers: Doug Belshaw who posted yesterday and Ross Mounce who wrote a guest post during Open Access Week 2012. Ross’s comment: “things were different before the Internet!” made me smile, and Doug’s suggestion of writing a policy openly are both things I shall return to later.

I am not going to debate definitions “open” etc, These been discussed elsewhere. I am going to focus on our staff development activity in open educational practice and on how the Internet has changed that.

I’d like to also say a thank you Tim Berners-Lee for the Internet (Happy 25th). It has not only kept me in work the last 22 years but it has made my work in learning and teaching even more interesting. Looking back I have loved (almost) every moment of it and I still feel as passionate about it today as I did in the early 1990s. Open education/al practices, elearning, collaborative learning, blended learning, interactivity, multimedia, mobile learning, … all open up new opportunities, debates and challenges. Sometimes we struggle to keep up, or should that be we always struggle to keep up? For example, it was only last year when we introduced a staff development workshop on Twitter, Twitter was launched in 2006. We do not have a social media policy yet. We just do it and to great effect I might add. Salford is in fourth position in “theunipod” national university rankings on social media use. Is that because we don’t have a policy I wonder? Similarly we do not have a University policy on open education practice/resources staff just do “it”.

We are currently developing both policies, better late than never. And I feel we need these policies to endorse open practices and social media use. To say to staff yes it’s great, embrace it, do it, it has huge benefits for you, your students and the University. (Just pay regard to the potential risks and drawbacks). In our development sessions we illustrate the benefits with a case study from one of our Professors. The month the Prof set-up social media accounts, he saw his open access article downloads triple (stored in the University’s Institutional Repository), he has seen other tangible benefits too. (Incidentally I am going to pass on Doug’s suggestion of open policy making to the teams concerned).

The other staff development workshop we offer in this area is “Managing Your Digital Identity” (introduced late last year). Next month, we are introducing a Facebook session and hopefully later in the year, other workshops too. We have always supported individual requests for support.

Last year we introduced a new module on the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PG CAP) called, Flexible, Distance and Online Learning (FDOL). This embedded Social Media and included a unit on open educational practices.

The module was 13 weeks in duration. Eleven “classes” were delivered fully online (synchronously using Collaborate). However the initial class, and week 6 class, were an on-campus physical session (apart from the three students joined virtually – how flexible was that!?). It was only open to our PGCAP students, it’s not an open course. The original module designer has an open version available. We used a variety of tools used, both synchronous and asynchronous: Twitter, Google+, Google Hangouts, Blackboard, Skype, YouTube, WordPress, Collaborate, etc. (“Things were certainly different before the Internet!”). The module used online problem-based learning (pbl), the groups decided amongst themselves what problems to solve, their roles in the group, what learning technologies to use, etc.

During the module we held two “Twitter Journal Clubs” (twjc). A new concept introduced to me by a student (Chloe James). A twjc is generally open to anyone to join in on a discussion (via Twitter) of a journal. These are in a defined time period of an hour or up to 24 hours. The benefits are it was: open, educational, concise (140 characters forces that) though it can be challenging putting deep thought into 140 characters; it was fun and innovative but could be frustrating for others especially if they were new to Twitter or the session was unstructured (it works best if you go through the journal in order and the facilitator keeps time and people on topic. For more information on our first twjc see my post on Using a Twitter journal club for learning and teaching (and my first foray into twjc’s)The second twjc was more exciting as the journal’s author saw this as his opportunity to start using Twitter and joined our debate. “Things were different before the Internet!” that wouldn’t have happened.

Assessment of the module was the creation of a reflective portfolio (in WordPress). Students were encouraged to be innovative and creative and to use tools they had not used before. Examples included: cartoons, images, videos, even a specially written and performed song. In the spirit of the open educational practice, students were encouraged to make their portfolios open to the world, however this was not compulsory. Publishing on the web can be a very daunting undertaking, publishing your reflections on your own professional practice is even more daunting to those newer to this publishing medium.

With that note it seems entirely appropriate to finish with links to some of my students portfolios. These include their reflections on open educational practices and on using Internet tools, and how they are applying/will apply what they learnt in their own professional practice. Note that the unit included a webinar on open educational practices led by Brian. This can be viewed in the recording of the webinar and Brian’s reflections were given in a post on Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them

Links to students’ portfolios are available below:

Paul Crowe http://cpdpaulcrowe.wordpress.com/ 
Alex Fenton http://cpdalexfenton.wordpress.com/
Natalie Ferry http://nferry2013.wordpress.com/
Liz Hannaford http://pgcaplizhannaford.wordpress.com/
Joe Telles http://jtee78.wordpress.com/
Nadine Watson http://cpdnadinewatson.wordpress.com/
Juliette Wilson https://cpdjuliettewilson.wordpress.com/

Biography and Contact Details

Gillian FieldingGillian Fielding is responsible for the development of digital literacies of staff at the University of Salford. She is also a PhD candidate at Lancaster University. Gillian has a background in lecturing and has a strong passion for enhancing the student and staff experiences by using open access, the Social Web, learning technologies, mobile devices, etc.

Gillian has presented on learning technologies at conferences including: SOLSTICE, CLTR, LILAC, ECE, UCISA, and Blackboard World.

Twitter: g_fielding
Facebook: Gillian D Fielding
Email: g.d.fielding@salford.ac.uk
Telephone: 0161 295 2451

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Guest Post: What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?

Posted by Doug Belshaw on 12 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week  (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The second guest post in the series is written by Doug Belshaw whom I’ve known in Jisc circles for several years. Last year Doug, who now works for the Mozilla Foundation, was a plenary speaker at the IWMW 2013 event. In this post Doug asks “What does working openly on the web mean in practice?“. This is a very timely post in light of today’s Guardian article on “An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web“.


What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?

I’m what’s known as a ‘paid contributor to the Mozilla project’. You may think that’s just a quirky way to describe being an employee of the Mozilla Foundation but I think it highlights something important that I’d like to explore in this post.

Open
Image CC BY-NC-SA mag3737

Mozilla is a mission-driven organisation. You can read the manifesto here. But it’s not only Mozilla’s mission that makes it different. After all, there are plenty of charities, NGO’s, and even for-profit organisations that aim to change the world for the better. Something fundamentally different about Mozilla is a commitment to ‘working in the open’.

There are many definitions of what ‘open’ means. At one end of the spectrum are those who use the term to mean nothing more than something being ‘accessible to everyone’. People who take this approach allow you to access their resources if you have the required hardware and/or software. At the other end of the spectrum (where you will find Mozilla) is what might be called ‘open practice’. This goes several stages further. You may access the resource and use it under the terms of an open license. You may remix (or ‘fork’) the resource to improve it or better fit your context. And you may discuss and suggest changes to the resource with those responsible for maintaining it.

Many of Mozilla’s working practices are heavily influenced by the Free Software Definition. However, it’s applied more widely then just to the creation of software. For example, Mozilla uses it when creating teaching resources as part of our Webmaker programme. It’s used when planning the future of the Open Badges Infrastructure. Mozilla chooses open source tools and protocols like BugzillaIRC and Etherpad that default to publicly-accessible outputs. Unless there’s a very good reason for doing otherwise, anyone can see what’s going in within Mozilla projects.

Working open is not only in Mozilla’s DNA but leads to huge benefits for the project more broadly. While Mozilla has hundreds of paid contributors, they have tens of thousands of volunteer contributors — all working together to keep the web open and as a platform for innovation. Working open means Mozilla can draw on talent no matter where in the world someone happens to live. It means people with what Clay Shirky would call cognitive surplus can contribute as much or as little free time and labour to projects as they wish. Importantly, it also leads to a level of trust that users can have in Mozilla’s products. Not only can they inspect the source code used to build the product, but actually participate in discussions about its development.

There’s a well-known saying called Linus’s Law that states, “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” In other words, problems can be fixed if you get enough people to work on solutions. Of course, there needs to be an architecture of participation to make the process distinct from chaos, but get this right and — like Wikipedia and Mozilla’s Firefox, you end up with a competitive advantage. The cognitive surplus can be channelled away from TV watching towards things that benefit humankind.

In practice, working open for Mozilla looks like this: if you’re interested in something (whoever you are and wherever you’re from) you can turn up and get involved. If the community find your input useful, then you are likely to be given more responsibility. There are many ways this can happen, but becoming a module owner is a good example. Module owners are people in charge of a module or sub-module of code within a particular codebase. They have responsibility and authority that has been earned through a meritocratic system. For more on this, I’d highly recommend reading Peer Participation and Software: What Mozilla Has to Teach Government (it’s a free download).

But what does all this mean for education? As someone who’s worked in both schools and universities, I know how different the brave new world of the web can feel from the lived reality of institutions. One way to shake things up is to continually ask the question, “can we make this public?” And if that’s too radical, how about “is there any reason why this shouldn’t be shared with everyone at the institution?” It’s a truism that innovation comes from the edges; you’re unlikely to know where the best ideas are residing unless you give people a platform to share them. And one of the easiest ways to provide such a platform is to use the web.

I won’t deny that there may be legitimate reasons for sometimes restricting access to resources, using closed-source software, and privileging top-down decision making. However, I’d suggest that these cases are probably rarer than we collectively admit. Why not try inviting comments from everyone connected with your institution or organisation next time you’re drafting a new policy? How about throwing open the doors (perhaps virtually?) of your next meeting? Next time you’re choosing a digital tool, is it worth considering privileging Open Source software?

There’s much to say on this issue, but if you’ll excuse me I’m going to have to go. A Mozilla contributor is pinging me on IRC…


Biography and Contact Details

Doug BelshawDr. Doug Belshaw, Web Literacy Lead for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation is an educator, researcher and writer.

Contact details:

Email: doug@mozillafoundation.org
Website: http://dougbelshaw.com/
Twitter: @dajbelshaw


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Guest Post: Open Education Data

Posted by mariekeguy on 11 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The first guest post in the series is written by my former colleague Marieke Guy. After working at UKOLN for 13 years Marieke moved to the Open Knowledge Foundation last year. In this post Marieke reviews her work at the Open Knowledge Foundation on open education data.


Open Education Data

Hi, I’m Marieke Guy and I work for the Open Knowledge Foundation, a global not-for-profit organization that want to open up knowledge around the world and see it used and useful.

My main area of interest is open education, I co-ordinate the Open Education Working Group and I work on a project called LinkedUp. LinkedUp is an EU-funded project that aims to push forward the exploitation of public, open data available on the Web, in particular by educational institutions and organizations. It is doing this through a series of competitions aimed at developers called the LinkedUp Challenge. For the challenge we ask developers to create interesting and innovative tools and applications that analyse and/or integrate open web data for educational purposes.

Defining the terms…

Within the project we use terms like ‘open education data’, ‘open educational data’ and ‘open data in education’ fairly loosely, partly because the terms themselves are ill-defined. For the sake of this post I want to drill down and consider one particular characterization of open education data, and consider its use.

Open education data can refer specifically to the open data that comes out of educational institutions. By educational Institutions I am here referring to all physical places of study from schools to further education and universities. One could broaden this out to include data from online courses, though that is a topic for another post!

So we are really talking about administrative data, which could include:

  • Reference data such as the location of academic institutions

  • Internal data such as staff names, resources available, personnel data, identity data, budgets

  • Course data, curriculum data, learning objectives,

  • User-generated data such as learning analytics, assessments, performance data, job placements

Naturally these types of data can be classified in a variety of different ways, so you can think of them in terms of content, but also in terms of provenance, openness (some are more openly available than others), granularity, legal restrictions and so on. The World Economic Forum report Education and Skills 2.0: New Targets and Innovative Approaches sees there as being two types of education data: traditional and new. Traditional data sets include identity data and system-wide data, such as attendance information; new data sets are those created as a result of user interaction, which may include web site statistics, and inferred content created by mining data sets using questions.

Whatever their classification it is clear that open education data sets are of interest to a wide variety of people including educators, learners, institutions, government, parents and the wider public.

Open Education Data Sets

Here in the UK you could start thinking about some of the datasets that fall under this definition, many of them are held by the government, such as school performance data, data on the location of educational establishments and pupil absenteeism. There is also data from individual institutions such as that collated on linked universities and on data.ac.uk and from research into education, such as the Open Public Services Network report into Empowering Parents, Improving Accountability.

Previously much of the release and use of open educational data sets has been driven by the need for accountability and transparency. A well-cited global example has been the situation in Uganda where the Ugandan government allocated funding for schools, but corruption at various levels meant much of the money never reached its intended destination. Between 1995 and 2001, the proportion of funding allocated which actually reached the schools rose from 24% to 82%. In the interim, they initiated a programme of publishing data on how much was allocated to each school. There were other factors but Reinikke and Svensson’s analysis showed that data publication played a significant part in the funding increase.

However recent developments, such as the current upsurge of open data challenges (see the ODI Education: Open Data Challenge and the LAK data challenge), have meant that there is an increasing innovation in data use, and opportunities for efficiency and improvements to education more generally. Their potential us is broad. Data sets can support students through creation of tools that enable new ways to analyse and access data e.g. maps of disabled access and by enriching resources, making it easier to share and find them, and personalize the way they are presented. Open data can also support those who need to make informed choices on education e.g. by comparing scores, and support schools and institutions by enabling efficiencies in practice e.g. library data can help support book purchasing.

Education technology providers are also starting to see the potential of data-mining and app development. So for example open education data is a high priority area for Pearson Think tank, back in 2011 they published their blue skies paper How Open Data, data literacy and Linked Data will revolutionise higher education. Ideas around how money, or savings, can be made from these data sets are slowly starting to surface.

Application of Data Sets

Some of the interesting UK applications of these data sets can be see through services like Which? University which builds on the NSS annual survey held in Unistats, the Key information sets and other related data sets to allow aid students to select a university; Locrating, defined as ‘To locate by rating: they locrated the school using locrating.com’ which combines data on schools, area and commuting times; London Schools Atlas, an interactive online map providing a comprehensive picture of London schools; equipment data.ac.uk – which allow searching across all published UK research equipment databases through one aggregation portal.

The UK is not alone in seeing the benefit of open education data, in Holland, for example, the education department of the city of Amsterdam commissioned an app challenge similar to the current ODI one mentioned earlier. The goal of the challenge was to provide parents with tools that help them to make well-informed choices about their children. A variety of tools were built, such as schooltip.net, 10000scholen.nl, scholenvinden.nl, and scholenkeuze.nl. The various apps have now been displayed on an education portal focused on finding the ‘right school’.

Further afield in Tanzania Shule.info (see accompanying image) allows comparison of exam results across different regions of Tanzania and for users to follow trends over time, or to see the effect of the adjustments made to yearly exam results. The site was developed by young Tanzanian developers who approached Twaweza, an Open Development Consultant, for advice, rather than for funding. The result is beneficial to anyone interested in education in Tanzania.

The School of Data, through their data expeditions, are starting to do some important work in the area of education data in the developing world. And in January the World Bank released a new open data tool called SABER (The Systems Approach for Better Education Results), which enables comparison of countries education policies. The web tool helps countries collect and analyze information on their education policies, benchmark themselves against other countries, and prioritize areas for reform, with the goal of ensuring that in those countries all children and youth go to school and learn.

All over the world prototypes and apps are been developed that use and build on open education data.

Data Challenges

However there are still challenges that those keen to develop applications using open education data face. Privacy and data protection laws can often prevent access to some potentially useful data sets, yet many data sets that are not personal or controversial remain unavailable, or only available under a closed licence or inappropriate format. This may be for many reasons: trust, concerns around quality and cost being the biggest issues. Naturally there is a cost to releasing data but in many cases this can be far out-weighed by cost-savings later down the line, so for example a proactive approach will save time and effort when FOI requests are made.

Open Education

So while you may find this all very interesting (I hope!) it’s possible you could still be asking how does this all relate to open education?

My answer would be that firstly Open education is fundamentally about removing barriers to education, this could be barriers to entry, or barriers to content, data or knowledge. Opening up data of any sort fits with this agenda and activities around open licensing in particular are both important and hugely supportive. But secondly, and possibly more importantly, opening up education data gives us the potential to see education and its components differently. This new perspective provides us with an opportunity to revolutionise education and make it better.

As David Lassner, Interim president and former chief information officer at the University of Hawaii explains:

Our opportunities for improvement are immense, and data provide a powerful lens to understand how we are doing internally and relative to our peers. This applies across all segments of what we do, from teaching and learning to administrative support. Performance metrics and dashboards are the beginning, but using data to understand deeper correlations and causality so we can shape change will be critical as we strive to advance our effectiveness.”

The movement for open education is ultimately about wanting better education for all. Open education data is proving to be an important instrument in achieving that goal.

If you would like to participate in more discussions around open education data and its role in open education then do join the Open Education Working Group mailing list.


Biography and Contact Details

Marieke GuyMarieke Guy is a Project Co-ordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation. She leads on dissemination and community building on the LinkedUp Project and co-ordinates the Open Education Working Group.

Prior to joining the Open Knowledge Foundation she worked at UKOLN at the University of Bath on a number of digital information projects focussing on digital preservation, e-learning and social networking for communities such as the cultural heritage sector. She spent two years supporting higher education institutions with their research data management via the Digital Curation Centre institutional support work.

Marieke writes a blog about remote working.


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Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Cetis staff are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. Cetis have had long-standing involvement in open education and have published a range of papers which cover topics such as OERs (Open Educational Resources) and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

The Cetis blog provides access to the posts which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. My contribution to the series covers Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK.


Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK

About This Post

As I explained in a post which asked “How Are You Using Wikipedia?” I will be giving a presentation on use of Wikipedia in the UK’s higher education sector at the Eduwiki conference to be held in Belgrade on 24 March 2014.

Since this post is published in a series on open education it seems appropriate to adopt open practices in the preparation of the talk. I am therefore ‘flipping’ my talk and have made my slides available on Slideshare (and embedded below)  in advance of the Eduwiki conference.The slides are accompanied by this blog post which summarises the key points I intend to make in the talk. I welcome comments which I may be able to incorporate in the talk when I deliver it in a few weeks time.  The availability of this blog post may also provide a complementary perspective on the slides which may be helpful in expanding on points which may not be obvious from viewing the slides in isolation.

A Wikipedia Approach to the Presentation

Opening slides for talkIt seems appropriate for a talk about Wikipedia which is being hosted by a Wikimedia chapter to adopt Wikipedia principles of openness and citation of sources in the talk itself.

The slides will therefore be available under a Creative Commons (CC-BY) licence. In addition the delivery of the slides will be available under the same licence, with recording or broadcasting of the talk being explicitly welcomed.

The slides themselves will be made available in advance. The slides will contain embedded links to resources mentioned in the talk or supplementary evidence or assertions made.

Slow Acceptance of the Value of Wikipedia in Higher Education

I will describe the initial resistance to  use of Wikipedia in higher education. However we are now seeing growing acceptance of its value with recent editing sessions for groups such as research scientists and librarians indicating the growing interest. Ironically the title of a talk at the LILAC 2014 conference  (“Wikipedia: it’s not the evil elephant in the library reading room“) suggests there is a need to address concerns that Wikipedia is an “evil elephant” which we may know exists but are reluctant to acknowledge. The title of an edit-a-thon session at the conference (“Improving the Information Literacy entry on Wikipedia: LILAC’s first edit-a-thon!“) again shows that this is a new area   Progress is happening, but Wikipedia, and especially updating Wikipedia articles, should not, yet, be considered a mainstream activities in higher education.

The Eduwiki 2013 Conference

The Eduwiki 2013 conference took place in Cardiff on 1-2 December 2013. This was the second such conference hosted in the UK. I have previously provided a report on the conference. In this post I will highlight two of the talks:

  1. Safe Use of Wikipedia in the Transition from School to University by Lisa Anderson and Nancy Graham, University of Birmingham.
  2. Introducing Students to Independent Research through Editing Wikipedia Articles on English Villages by Humphrey Southall, University of Portsmouth

These two talks addressed complementary aspects relevant to use of Wikipedia is higher education: how librarians can address information literacy by explicitly covering the strengths and weakness of Wikipedia and ways in which students can update Wikipedia articles as part of a formal assignment.

The presentation will go into more detail of the key aspects of these two talks. I should add that the slides used by Humphrey Southall in his presentation are available on Slideshare.

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador

The funding of a Wikimedia Ambassador for the period July 2013 – March 2014 by the Jisc was a welcome development which demonstrated how a funding body was willing to fund an initiative aimed at encouraging take-up of Wikipedia within the UK’s higher education sector. The work of the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador has included delivering six sessions and supporting three edit-a-thons, a Jisc infoKit on Crowdsourcing: the Wiki Way of Working and a project blog as well as a series of reports on the work.

Looking to the Future

Wikimania web siteThe Wikimania 2014 event will take place in London on 6-10 August 2014. As described on the event web site:

Education will be a key theme throughout the whole event, and while we will be honouring past achievements, this year Wikimania will always be looking forward to the Future of Education.

The key areas to be addressed at the event are:

  • Overcoming friction: “librarians and educators are starting to teach students how they can use Wikipedia effectively. Like any other encyclopaedia, students are being shown how to use the site to find the helpful links to primary and secondary sources that are precisely the material students should be citing in their research”.
  • Knowledge is produced, not consumed: “Instead of being passive receivers of information, students become the creators and curators of knowledge. Wikipedia becomes an opportunity, not a threat, to formal education, and the educators’ role becomes facilitating a shift from simply teaching answers, to teaching how to ask questions”.

These two areas reflect the topics of the talks given by  Lisa Anderson / Nancy Graham and  Humphrey Southall which I highlighted earlier in this post.

Since the Wikimania event is still inviting submissions (the closing date is 31 March 2014) I am not able to speculate on the issues which will be addressed  at the event. Instead I’ll give my thoughts on important areas which will build on existing activities:

Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers

The article goes on to explain how “the term “crowdsourcing” is a portmanteau of “crowd” and “outsourcing“. However the relevance of crowdsourcing is not widely appreciated in higher education, with the word “outsourcing” possibly leading to concerns due to its political  connotations. One of the significant deliverables from the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador project was the production of a Jisc infoKit on Crowdsourcing. Resources such as this should help to provide a better understanding of the theories behind crowdsourcing and its relevance to Wikipedia.

  • Promoting Wikipedia editing by ensuring there are well-trained trainers: Back in October 2013 an article entitled “The Decline of Wikipedia” argued that “The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage“. The article concluded:

But that community also constructed barriers that deter the newcomers needed to finish the job. Perhaps it was too much to expect that a crowd of Internet strangers would truly democratize knowledge. Today’s Wikipedia, even with its middling quality and poor representation of the world’s diversity, could be the best encyclopedia we will get.

Participants at Training the Trainers course

Training the Trainers course, Cardiff, 1-2 February 2014. Licernsed under CC-BY-SA.

Concerns over the alleged “abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia” are being addressed. Wikimedia UK runs a Training the trainer course which aims to:

  • Recognise the importance of diversity in the training context
  • Respond appropriately to the needs of volunteer trainers
  • Understand the impact of different learning and communication styles when designing and delivering training
  • Use active listening to guide their interaction with participants
  • Give effective and appropriate feedback to other participants

I should add that I attended theTrainer the Trainers course which was held in Cardiff on 1-2 February. The accompanying image (taken from the Wikimedia Commons web site) shows the participants at the course.,

  • Maximising the pool of potential contributors: Last week an article in the Guardian pointed out that “It is thought that only around one in 10 of its editors are female“. In another article published the previous week in the Guardian entitled “Stop female scientists being written out of Wikipedia history Dame Athene Donald, fellow of the Royal Society & Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge University went on to point out that “Many female scientists are either not there at all on Wikipedia or just [have] stubs.

The concerns regarding lack of female involvement in Wikipedia editing are illustrated by the photograph of the participants at the Training the Trainers course, with the only woman in the photograph being the course trainer.

However such concerns, together with concerns regarding the lack of content about noteworthy females, are being addressed. In March there are no fewer than six events which are addressing these issues: Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thon; Women’s Art Practices editing eventWomen Archaeologists editing eventScottish Women in Contemporary Art Edit-a-thon and Scottish Women in Computing Edit-a-thon.

As well as the need to increase the pool of female contributors to Wikipedia there is also a need to make it easier for people with disabilities to create content in Wikipedia.  The Accessibility of the Wikimedia UK website project focus is on making Wikipedia resources more accessible for people with sight problems; hearing problems; mobility problems and cognitive impairments. However in conjunction with the WikiProject Disability project which aims to “co-ordinate the improvement and creation of articles related to Disability” we might expect to see edit-a-thons being organised which aim to provide people with disabilities with the the skills needed to contribute to Wikipedia.

Education Strategy

I’ve given a brief view of various Wikipedia developments within the UK’s higher education sector and provided suggestions on further developments which would help to take Wikipedia beyond the early mainstream adopters and become more embedded within the higher education sector.

WMUK education strategyBut such issues need to be consider at a strategic level. Wikimedia UK are working on an Education strategy but, as illustrated, this is currently under development. As might be expected in a Wikipedia environment user input into the process of development of the strategy is encouraged, with the Education Strategy talk page currently having brief sections on:

  • OER university model
  • Primary and Secondary schools
  • Language learning
  • Theory of Knowledge

Would anyone like to contribute further suggestions for the development of Wikimedia UK’s education strategy?


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Preparing our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 March 2014

About This Post

This blog post provides background information on digital literacy and argues that digital literacy needs to go beyond student teaching and ensure that staff and researchers, who may wish to continue their professional activities when they leave their current institution, are able to migrate content and services to the Cloud, so that content and tools can be reused once access to institutional services is no longer available.

The post concludes with an invitation for those with responsibilities for or interest in digital literacy to complete a survey which aims to gather information about current work in providing digital literacy support for staff and researchers, especially in preparing for digital life outside the host institution. The results of the survey will be presented at the LILAC 2014 information literacy conference.

Common Craft and LILAC on Digital and Information Literacy

Digital literacy by Common CraftI recently came across an animated cartoon on Digital Literacy published by Commoncraft. The cartoon explains that:

… there is a new kind of literacy that touches almost everyone in our modern world. It’s not related to a specific industry or job title. This literacy matters to both young and old and has become more important as computers and electronic devices have become more of a necessity in daily life.

I’m talking about digital literacy – the ability to use technology to navigate, evaluate and create information. 

LILAC, the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference, defines information literacy as ‘the ability to find, use, evaluate and communicate information’. I find this latter definition more useful, as it includes the importance of using and not just evaluating information. However I prefer the term ‘digital literacy‘ as this goes beyond information and can include digital services and not just digital content.

The LILAC Web site goes on to describe how information literacy is “an essential skill in this digital age and era of life-long learning“. This emphasis on the importance of use of information to support life-long learning highlights the need to be able to use and manage digital information – and the digital services which manages the digital information – throughout one’s life, and not just when one if studying or working within an education institute.

SCONUL, the main representative body for academic libraries in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, uses the term ‘Digital Literacies‘ in a page on the Jisc Web site. This describes how the SCONUL Working Group on Information Literacy has developed the 7 Pillars of Information Literacy through a Digital Literacy ‘lens’ (MS Word format) which includes the ability to “Use a range of digital retrieval tools and technology effectively“, “Use appropriate tools to organise digital content and data” and “Manage digital resources effectively taking account of version control, file storage and record keeping issues“. This emphasis on the need to be able to use tools to organise and manage digital resources is important. I therefore find a definition of digital literacy as “‘the ability to find, use, reuse, evaluate, manage and communicate digital information” helpful. I’ve expanded ‘use‘ to ‘use and reuse‘ to highlight the importance of addressing the life cycle of digital content, in which content may migrate to new services.

Digital Literacy for Members of Staff and Researchers

Many staff and researchers in higher educational institutions will make use of digital content and services and would regard themselves as digitally literate. Within the context of the services they use within their host institution this may be true. But what happens when they leave their host institution (which we all will at some stage) and wish to continue using content and services and their online communities? This may be particularly relevant for researchers on short term research contracts.

The ability for highly skilled academics and researchers to be able to continue to be productive members of society is important when one considers that “Universities in the UK contributed £3.3 billion to the economy in 2010-11 through services to business, including commercialisation of new knowledge, delivery of professional training, consultancy and services” – might the commercial value to the economy provided by the sector be undermined if members of staff leave their host institution and are hindered from continuing to make use of their digital content due to a lack of expertise?

Ensuring that staff and researchers were able to continue to make use of their digital content and manage their online communities was probably not of great importance in the past, when one’s content could often be transported on floppy disks or memory sticks and the digital services which were used were could only be accessed within the institution’s network. However there is now a need to be able to respond to the radically changed environment in which Cloud services can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, there is a much greater volatility in the job market and the increasing important of open content, open data and open source software is minimising licence barriers to reuse of digital content and tools.

What Should Be Done and Who Should Do It?

Last year, in the run-up to my redundancy following the announcement of the Jisc cessation of core funding for UKOLN, I gave a talk on When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution at the LILAC 2013 Conference. The talk was based on personal experiences and described my views on the importance of researchers profiling services, such as Academia.edu and Researchgate, not only for providing a record of my research outputs but also  osting the content so that I could continue to manage the papers and the metadata once I lost the ability to manage information for my content hosted on Opus, the University of Bath repository.

Who is Responsible?

Vitae's Concordat

But what is happening across the sector in terms of ensuring that members of staff and researchers are being provided with the skills and expertise needed to continue to be effective professionals when they leave their host institution?

Should it be the responsibility of the Library, who have responsibilities for information literacy? In light of the importance of digital tools and services, perhaps it should be the responsibility of IT Service departments? Or maybe research support units or careers advisory services? In cases in which staff are being made redundant, perhaps the UCU or other unions could have a role to play in ensuing that union members are provided with appropriate training.

National Strategies?

If it is felt that there is a need for approaches provided at a national level perhaps SCONUL should look to ensure that their 7 Pillars of Information Literacy through a Digital Literacy ‘lens’ goes beyond undergraduate teaching.

For researchers, it might be appropriate ensure that Vitae’s Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and, in particular, the Concordat’s support and career development:

Principle 3: Researchers are equipped and supported to be adaptable and flexible in an increasingly diverse, mobile, global research environment

is implemented across the sector to address researchers ability to manage their digital content in a Cloud environment.

What is Being Done?

Ubfirmatuion Literacy Policy SurveyJenny Evans, the Maths and Physics Librarian at Imperial College London, and myself have had a proposal accepted for the LILAC 2014 conference entitled “Are Institutions Preparing Staff for Digital Life Beyond the Institution?” This will be based on a survey of institutional practices in providing support for staff and researchers so that they will have the skills needed to make use of digital content and services when they leave their current institution. We have created an online survey in which we invite staff across the sector who may have responsibilities for developing policies in this area and delivering the appropriate training and support to summarise their current practices or their plans. Since we appreciate that there may be a number of groups with interests in this area, including:

  • Library departments within institutions.
  • Library organisations such as SCONUL and CILIP.
  • IT departments within institutions.
  • IT organisations such as UCISA.
  • Staff development departments within institutions.
  • Academic departments.
  • National bodies such as Jisc, Vitae, etc.
  • Research funding organisations.
  • Unions.
  • The BCS (British Computer Society) and its Digital Literacy for Life programme.

We invite feedback from anyone with strong interests and involvement in this area; it would be better to get duplicate information than to have gaps in the information we gather. We would also invite those working outside to UK to provide information in related activities happening outside the UK. We will, of course, provide a public summary of our findings. In addition to the invitation to complete the survey, comments on this topics are also welcome on this blog post. The comments may address the topic area, but suggestions on ways of sending an invitation to complete the survey to relevant groups would also be welcome.


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How Are You Using Wikipedia?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 February 2014

My Involvement With Wikipedia

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

I signed up to Wikipedia in 2004 in order to create an entry for my hobby: rapper sword dancing. I saw the value of the service in providing a easy-to-use content creation tool which would benefit from crowd-sourcing content in order to maintain the content. However such ease-of-use and the crowd-sourcing model, in which anybody could edit the content, was initially not appreciated by many in the educational and library sectors. So although I created a small number of articles related to my professional interests (including Amplified conference and Microattribution) and encouraged use of Wikipedia (in blog posts such as Having An Impact Through WikipediaHow Well-Read Are Technical Wikipedia Articles? and How Can We Assess the Impact and ROI of Contributions to Wikipedia?) I felt that such work was not appreciated as having value in promoting innovative use of technologies within the sector.

It was therefore only after having received notification of the cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN, my host organisation, that I took advantage of our funder’s agreement that we could spend some time developing our professional skills to prepare for life after redundancy, that I became more involved with Wikipedia activities. This included joining Wikimedia UK and taken part in two Wikimedia UK events: the Queen Victoria’s Journals University of Oxford editing day which provided an initial opportunity to familiarise myself with the format of an editing workshop and participation in a Sphingonet Wiki workshop (see accompanying photograph), which provided me with initial experience in working with other Wikimedia experts.

Since leaving UKOLN I have continued by involvement with Wikipedia including taking the lead role in Facilitating a Wikipedia Editing Session at the SpotOn 2013 conference and attending the EduWiki 2013 conference. I will also be running a Wikipedia editing workshop session at the LILAC 2014 conference and supporting an edit-a-thon at the conference.

Such work is appropriate for my new role as Innovation Advocate at Cetis, since my work encourages use of innovative practices as well as innovative technologies. Interestingly the value of Wikipedia is now being appreciated by Jisc who, in conjunction with Wikimedia UK, are funding a Wikimedia Ambasssador.

I’m pleased that this post has been funded and that Jisc are helping to promote take-up of Wikipedia and related Wikimedia services across the sector. I hope this will help in seeing active use of Wikipedia move beyond the early adopters and become mainstream.

What Else Is Happening in the UK Higher / Further Education Sector?

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador post has been funded from July 2013 to March 2014. There will therefore be a need to ensure that sharing of approaches taken to use of Wikipedia continues to take place after the funding for the post finishes.

The Eduwiki 2013 conference held in Cardiff 0n 1-2 November 2013 provided a valuable opportunity to hear about ways n which Wikipedia is being used across the broad educational sector. I was particularly impressed by talks on Introducing Students to Independent Research Through Editing Wikipedia Articles on English Villages by Humphrey Southall and Safe use of Wikipedia in the transition from school to University by Lisa Anderson & Nancy Graham.

But what else is happening in the sector? I have to admit to a personal interest in this question as, as described on the Wikimedia UK blog, on 23 March I will be giving a talk at the EduWiki Serbia 2014 conference on educational use of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia tools in the UK. I would like to include further examples of work taking place which I am unaware of. If you are working in this area I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment on this post or get in touch. Thanks.


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What I Noticed For The First Time In The Past 24 Hours

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 February 2014

Techniques for Predicting Future Trends and Their Implications

Back in October Tony Hirst and I co-facilitated a day-long workshop session on Future Technologies and Their Applications. Mechanisms for predicting future developments and being receptive to the possibilities and implications of technological and societal developments has been a long-standing area of interest to me.

Back in 2007 in a post entitled The History Of The Web Backwards I was inspired by the “History of the World Backwards” comedy series on Radio 4 programme to describe the demise of the web from the data of the blog post to its extinction on the early 1990s. The aim of that approach was to provide different insights into technological developments. Two years later in a post on Forecasting Trends Backwards I described a YouTube video entitled Romancing Your Soul Absolutely Brilliant! which provided another take on time travel: it began with a young woman’s dismal view of the implications of technological developments which concluded “And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it“. The talk was then reversed to provide an optimistic view of developments. If you’ve not seen it before I’d recommend spending 1 minute 44 seconds to watch it (there have been over 201,000 views since the video was uploaded in October 2009).

In our Future Technologies workshop Tony Hirst introduced me to a new technique for helping to spot technological developments and reflect on their implications. As Tony described in a post which asked “What did you notice for the first time today?” this question “can be important for trend spotting – it may signify that something is becoming mainstream that you hadn’t appreciated before“.

Tony went on to give some examples of how he uses this approach:

I’ve started trying to capture the first time I spot tech in the wild with a photo, such as this one of an Amazon locker in a Co-Op in Cambridge, or a noticing from the first time I saw video screens on the Underground.

In a post in which I gave my thoughts on this technique I posed the question slightly differently: What Have You Noticed Recently? and went on to comment on developments I’d observed in recent months (e.g. badges for gaming activities; evidence of use of mobile devices in bed; WiFi on buses and making payments using a mobile phone).

Providing examples of technological developments you have observed today is more challenging – especially if you noticed the developments at 8pm! This was when I was struck by something I had not come across before, so I’ll keep to the spirit of Tony’s methodology but tweak it by commenting on “What I Noticed For The First Time In The Past 24 Hours“.

What I Noticed For The First Time In The Past 24 Hours

Cinime

The Cinime app

The Cinime app allows you to interact with the cinema screen display

Last night I went to the Odeon Cinema in Bath. The advertisements included one which encouraged viewers to download the Cinime app (available on the iPhone and Android market places). I installed the app on my Galaxy Note phone and started to use it during a number of further advertisements which were shown on the screen.  Unfortunately as I had to download the app over a slow 3G network I wasn’t able to play the computer games during which you could interact with the display on the cinema screen. However I was able to hold my phone up to the screen and receive further information about a trailer which was displayed.

Wondering How It’s Done?

On my way home I speculated on how the app might work. I had stated that I was in an Odeon cinema when I launch the app so it had some contextual information about me. But did it know which cinema? If not, how would it relate my responses to the quiz displayed on the screen? Perhaps there are only a fixed number of quizzes?

However the quizzes were quite simple. I was more interested in how taking a photo of a trailer shown on the cinema screen would provide information about the film. Was there some clever pattern recognition (there didn’t appear to be any QR code or equivalent code visible on the screen)? Or perhaps, I thought, the app might be processing the audio; after all apps such as Shazam and Soundcloud are able to recognise popular music.

How Was It Done?

An article in The Next Web gives some hints as to how the app works:

Cinime uses audio watermarking and image recognition technology to enable users to unlock brand and film-related content on their phones. During the interactive quiz, cinemagoers are invited to answer a series of questions displayed on the silver screen, questions that are tailored to different audiences and movies. If they get two or more questions correct, they can redeem a PlayStation-sponsored prize after the movie or during their next visit.

So both audio watermarking and image recognition are used, but more detailed information is not provided. Interestingly as a Google search for “how does cinime” is automatically expanded to how does cinime app work” suggests I’m not the first to ask this question.

A Change in the Culture in Cinemas?

As I held my phone up to the screen and took a picture of the screen (as illustrated) I felt somewhat self-conscious. Previously adverts had asked cinema goers to switch off their mobile devices, with adverts highlighting how embarrassing it could be if a phone went off while a film was being shown. But now cinema goers are being encouraged (indeed bribed, with prizes being offered for those who complete the quizzes) to use their mobile phones.

How Could Such Approaches Be Used In Other Contexts?

However rather than wondering how the app works or the implications of the culture change, my main interest was in how such an approach could be used in an educational or cultural contexts. That won’t be an issue I’ll address in this post, although I’d welcome suggestions.

A Portfolio of Techniques

This post has been primarily about how the question “What have you noticed for the first time in the past 24 hours?” or “What have you noticed for the first time recently?” can be a useful tool in future-planning workshops.

Lat year at the CETIS 2013 conference I took part in a session on the “Future of CETIS” in which Paul Hollins made use of the Delphi process to “identify emerging trends and the future technology landscape in education and predict as a group what technologies will have most impact on the short, medium and longer term in Higher Education in order to prepare institutions for the challenging future which awaits them“.

CETIS have also been involved in the EU-funded TELMap project which looked at emerging technologies and practices in educational technology which collected perception of timeline, potential impact, feasibility and desirability in respect of developments that are not currently mainstream.

I, together with my Cetis colleagues, will continue to explore ways of engaging with our communities in seeking to predict innovative developments and plan for their implications. The resources used for the workshop on Future Technologies and Their Applications are freely available under a Creative Commons licence. I intend to make further use of the “What have you noticed for the first time recently?” technique in future workshops, alongside use of the Delphi process which Paul Hollins and I described in a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow“.

But in addition I’d welcome suggestions on other approaches which can help in providing new ways in predicting and planning for innovation. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments. I also invite comments on things you may have noticed for the first time recently – with bonus points if you noticed them today! You could even share your observations on Twitter using the #whatInoticed tag.

Posted in General | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Being Post-Digital (or BEL activities in a PLE)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 February 2014

The Research Unbound Launch Event

The Research Unbound Web siteLast Friday I was an invited speaker at IRISS’s launch event of the Research Unbound project. As described on their home page Research Unbound  is “an online journal published by IRISS as a place for sharing research whether completed or in progress” with the aim of “linking research and practice in social care“.

The approach being taken is to encourage open sharing of research activities and practices through, for example, the provision of a blog platform (based on WordPress) which can be used by those working in sector.

I had been invited to give a talk on the role social media can play in three areas:

  1. Supporting dialogue with one’s peers
  2. Developing one’s professional network
  3. Enhancing the visibility and ‘impact’ of one’s research

The third area, in particular, can be helped by adoption of open practices, such as making one’s research available with a Creative Commons licence and ensuring that it is easily found through use of appropriate open access repository platforms.

But open access, I said in my presentation, is not sufficient; there are many papers hosted in open access repositories which have very low download statistics.  There are benefits which can be gained through use of social media. My talk was based on a paper on ” Using social media to enhance your research activities” which I presented at the Social Media in Social Research 2013 conference last year. An updated version of the presentation, which I gave at the Research Unbound launch event is available on Slideshare and  embedded at the bottom of this blog post.

BEL activities in a PLE

Since I have previously published blog posts about use of social media to support research activities (see the posts on “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities“and “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities – Workshop Session at the #DAAD2013 Conference””) I won’t repeat the contents of those posts here.

What did occur to me, however, was how social media technologies are now becoming embedded in everyday activities, in a wide range of locations and throughout the day.

I illustrated this point by asking how many people in the audience had a smart phone. The answer was all but one person of the 31 people attending the event. The vast majority had accounts on social media services and also used these services for work-related purposes. In response to my final question: “Who has used a mobile device for work-related purposes in bed?” I found that I was not alone, with many of the participants admitting to tweeting, reading email or work-related documents on their mobile phones, tablet computers or e-readers in bed.

The technology, I would argue, is being invisible. Many people are no longer interested in questions such as “What OS does your tablet run?” or “My tablet runs a dual core Atom processor. What about yours?“. Similarly many people are now indifferent about the social media services themselves- when did you last hear a discussion on whether, for example, an open source competitor to Twitter should be used?

We now seem to be moving towards a post-digital environment to use the term coined by Dave White in a blog post on “Postdigital: Escaping the Kingdom of the New?” published in 2009 on the TALL blog. In the post Dave argued that:

Too much time is spent arguing about the relative merits of digital spaces such as Twitter and Facebook. The key term here being ‘relative’. We are pitting digital against digital, new against new, a form of one-upmanship which distracts from the larger picture.

A Pub Learning EnvironmentI thought about Dave’s blog post the night before I gave the presentation, when I was in the Blackfrair’s pub with Ian Watson (from IRISS who invited me to speak at the conference) and Sheila MacNeill, formerly of Cetis and now working at Glasgow Caledonia University. While we were in the pub we caught up on what we’ve been up to since we’d last met and, as those with interests in educational technologies and future-gazing activities tend to do, shared examples of developments which we felt were interesting.

As I described it the next day we took part in “BEL activities in a PLE” or “Beer-enhanced learning activities in a pub learning environment“!

Now having a drink and a gossip with friends and colleagues is not post-digital, although there are parallels with the benefits which can be gained from use of social media.

Activity Social Media Pub
Supporting dialogue with one’s peers Joining in a Twitter discussion Joining in a conversation
Developing one’s professional network Being followed by someone on Twitter, looking at their bio and following them back Being introduced to new people and swapping business cards
Enhancing the visibility and ‘impact’ of one’s research Tweeting “Here my latest blog post on xxx bit.ly/xxx I wrote  paper on that. Give me your business card and I’ll email you a copy

But whilst a legal framework and social protocols have developed over an extended period for pubs this is not the case for social media. But what would happen if we were in an environment in which pubs were new, perhaps the prohibition era in the US had lasted until recently and had been extended across the western world, in the same way that social media extends globally?

If Pubs Were A New Invention

Let’s imagine a parallel universe in which President Obama’s election was welcomed across the globe and his first presidential act was to ban prohibition. Just as with the fall of the Berlin Wall, this led to changes across the western world, with pubs, bars and nightclubs being allowed to open. No doubt the risks would be highlighted by those who do not welcome change, and a risk register would be needed to address such concerns.

Risk Responses in the Fictitious Pub Environment
They might be used for pornographic purposes. Access to pubs requires signing form stating no illegal activities will take place.
Inappropriate conversations may take place. Recordings made of conversations, which will be analysed for inappropriate keywords.
Illegal activities, such as selling pirate copies of DVDs, may take place. Visitors searched as they enter establishment

In addition to the risks as perceived by those who do not welcome their introduction, there will also be risks as pubs become established and sustainable business models are needed once they move beyond the early adopters.

Risk Responses in the Fictitious Pub Environment
Visitors “social spaces” are “appropriated” for work-related purposes. Informal human protocols become established
Pubs seek to monetise the social environment though advertising, promotions, etc. Although some argue “if you don’t pay, you’re the product not the customer” eventually the need for pubs to make money becomes accepted.

In Dave White’s blog post he concluded

Maybe it’s time for a metamorphosis in approach, away from the digital, towards the postdigital.

True. And maybe the move towards the post-digital can be helped by an appreciation of the pre-digital. What do you think?


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Social Networking | 3 Comments »

Call For Submissions for IWMW 2014

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 February 2014

IWMW Continues!

IWMW 2014 Call for SubmissionsThe Institutional Web Management Workshop series (better known as IWMW) was launch in 1997. The event aimed to develop a sustainable community of practice for those with responsibilities for providing institutional web services.

The event has been running for 17 years and has attracted participants from the web management community from across the UK’s higher and further education sectors. The growth of important of the web to support a range of institutional activities has also seen the event attract participants from beyond web teams, including those with responsibilities in teaching and learning and research, in addition to those with interests in marketing, design, user interfaces, gathering user requirements, accessibility as well as the technical aspects of providing large-scale web services.

For the past 17 years the event was provided by UKOLN with funding to support the organisation and planning for the event being provided by the JISC. In light of the cessation of JISC funding for UKOLN at the IWMW 2013 event we explored ways in which the event could be sustained without Jisc funding and backing from UKOLN.

The feedback at the event made it clear that there was strong demand for the event to be continued.

I’m pleased to announced that the IWMW event will continue! The IWMW 2014 event will be held at the University of Northumbria on 16-18 July. The event will be supported by myself, Cetis (my host institution) and Jisc Netskills.

Call For Submissions

Although the event needs such institutional support in order to maintain its unique profile, the most important aspect of the event lies in the contributions made by the speakers and workshop facilitators. The event aims to provide a forum for sharing experiences and we wish to continue that tradition.  We therefore invite members of the community who stories to share and ideas to explore to submit a proposal for the IWMW 2014 event.

We will continue to provide a mixture of plenary talks (typically lasting for 45 minutes) and workshop sessions (lasting for 90 minutes). However we will also welcome suggestions for other ways of engaging the workshop participants. In the past, for example, we have held debates, panel sessions and bar camps. if you feel you like to make use of such approaches, or perhaps even make use of a novel approach, we would love to hear from you.

And although we particularly welcome submissions from practitioners in the sector, we also welcome submissions from outside the higher and further education sectors.

Details for the call for submissions are available from the IWMW Web site. Alternatively feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions, ideas or suggestions.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Guest Post: Sheila MacNeill’s reflections on the #byod4l “mini-MOOC”

Posted by sheilmcn on 31 January 2014

The #BYOD4L event took place this week. One of the aims of the five-day long online course was to encourage collaboration. Brian Kelly and I have agreed to collaborate by writing guest posts on each others blog. Brian’s post is available on my HowSheilaseesIT blog and my post is given below.


What was the byod4l event about

The best place to get an overview of the event is from the byod4l homepage, and last Sunday in preparation for the week I wrote this blog post which explains some of my thoughts and motivations for participating.

What did I learn?

To be honest I’m not completely sure yet as I think there is another C that needs to be added to the list – contemplation. I think a need a couple of days to cogitate and reflect on the week. But a few things come to mind including time and chaos but more on that later in the post

Connecting

I’ve tried to instigate some f2f connections here and later today a few of us are having a MOOC meet-up to have a chat about our experiences. I’ve managed to join in a couple of the twitter chats at night and that has allowed me to connect with old friends and find some new ones via twitter. This has also been a great way for Brian and I to connect in a different context. My connecting blog post tho’ was about a different kind of connection.

Communicating

I’ve pretty much stuck to twitter, my blog and google+. I find the UI of the ipad google+ much nicer now and so I am more inclined to look at that more than before. I also automagically publish blog posts to various places including google+ so I’m there even when I’m not. Brian and I also experimented with a bit of video communication.

Curating

To be honest, I’m leaving curating to others, the team are doing a grand job of curating tweets, posts etc. I shared my thoughts on curating in this post.

Collaborating

I hope this post is a form of collaboration, and that the different approaches Brian and I have shared resonate with others. I also hope that focused interactions with others in my peer group online and within my institution will lead to more collaboration.

Creating

Well I have created 4 posts over the week and one or two tweets:-)  and I’ve created time for some f2f discussions with colleagues which I think is really important.

Final Thoughts

This is the hardest bit to write. As I said earlier I’m still processing the week. It’s been really useful to have some f2f chats with people and get different perspectives on things. It has reinforced the fact that I don’t mind a bit of chaos, and I that am confident enough online to “have a go” without having always having a clear goal in mind. This is probably equally a good and bad thing!

However the one thing that I keep coming back to is time. Participating this week has required time commitment. Some evenings I’ve been able to join the twitter chat, others I haven’t. Some days I’ve been able to take a bit of time during the day to watch the videos, do a quick blog post, others I haven’t. Today a few of us have blocked some time out to discuss the experience. Creating that time is really important for us as academic staff but I think we also need to find ways to give students more time to become more comfortable with using their own devices in an educational context. If we are serious about integrating byod4l approaches into education, then we need to move beyond byod policies and think about how to redesign our courses to allow some time to just try things. We all need some space and time to play (or experiment if you prefer) to develop the confidence and digital literacies needed to engage more fully with the potential that byod4l approaches to connecting, communication, curating, creating and collaboration can contribute to.


This guest blog post was written by Sheila MacNeill, Senior Lecturer, Blended Learning, Glasgow Caledonian University an assignmentexperiment for BYOD4L. Sheila normally publishes on the How Sheila Sees IT blog.

Posted in Guest-post | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Responding to “I Don’t Have Time!” Comments

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 January 2014

The #BYOD4L Event

The first day of the BYOD4L short event, which I mentioned earlier this week, included a post containing a brief video clip. As described in a post by one of the participants:

Video 2 is of a tutor showing some frustration with her mobile devices. She views technology as a hindrance to her teaching practice and that an insistence that she uses the new opportunities offered by mobile devices as a waste of time. This “I don’t have time” mantra sounds more like an excuse rather than an explanation and is covering up some apprehension about the use of mobile technologies in learning environments.

I have an interest in the potential of innovative technologies and approaches in supporting a range of academic activities. However I’m particularly interesting in understanding the barriers to sustainable innovative practices and finding ways of addressing such barriers.

Risks and Opportunities: Institutional Concerns

I first addressed such issues in a paper on “Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers” which Mike Ellis and I presented at a conference way back in 2007. That was followed by papers on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” and “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“, both of which were published in 2009. These papers tended to focus on institutional concerns regarding use of social media services (e.g. the sustainability of the services) and copyright and other legal concerns.

However the main areas of concerns now seem to be different. There now seem to be institutional acceptance of the benefits of Cloud services with Janet, for example, providing contractual support for institutional use of services such as Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365.

Risks and opportunities frameworkThe main barriers now seem to be individual: individual lecturer’s or student’s concerns over use of social media services and use of mobile devices. And this is a more difficult area to address.

My initial work led to the development of a risks and opportunities framework which was intended to ensure that institutional concerns regarding the risks of using Cloud services were being considered and addressed. It should be noted that an important aspect of the framework was that the risks of not using the services should also be addressed (i.e. the missed opportunities). In addition it was suggested that the risks associated with continued use of in-house services were also re-evaluated.

In a webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them” I revisited this work and suggested that there was a need to address these new challenges: the concerns of the individual. Note that slides used in the webinar are available on Slideshare.

Risks and Opportunities: Individual Concerns

If institutions are now taking more mature approaches to making use of Cloud service which are often accessed through one’s own mobile device to support their institutional activities, the focus is now moving towards individual attitudes towards use of such devices and use of Cloud services. It would now be timely to view the YouTube video which illustrates the concerns of a tutor who demonstrates her frustration with mobile devices.

How should one respond to such attitudes? Some approaches which occur to me are given below:

Revisiting the past: This is probably nothing new. An one stage computers were used by a minority, mainly scientific researchers, in the mainframe era. Then we saw the growth in mini-computers standalone computers, microcomputers, the standalone PC and Apple Macintosh, networked PCs and Macs, online PCs and Macs and now a flurry of mobile devices. With each new generation of technologies we saw people who were reluctant to embrace the new developments (I recall colleagues in IT Service departments in the 1980s being dismissive of PCs). But as the technologies matured, the winners became ubiquitous and the failures were forgotten (Commodore PETs, Acorns and other microcomputers). So perhaps we don’t need to be too concerned about the late adopters.

Education and training: Clearly there is a need for education (on the potential of mobile devices to enhance learning) and training (how one can make use of mobile devices in one’s specific context). It should be noted that this will need to address some of the subtler aspects of use of tools such as Twitter: treating tweets as a stream of information and conversations which one can dip into when appropriate rather than feeling the need to keep up-to-date with every tweet. This should then be followed by examples of tools and strategies for filtering the information.

Understanding and addressing specific concerns: The #BYOD4L blog posts and Twitter chats (e.g. see the Storify archives of the first and the second #BYOD4Lchat discussions) have covered both use of mobile devices and use of social networking tools. If learners and learning support staff have concerns there will be a need to understand what the specific concerns are. If, for example, the concerns are to do with the privacy implications of social networks, this should not rule out use of a mobile device for activities such as note-taking and keeping up-to-date whilst on the move.

Personal motivation: If mobile devices do enhance learning, we may see this recognised through new opportunities or promotion for those will the relevant expertise.

Mandating use of mobile devices: Rather than a softly softly approach to encouraging use of mobile devices, should they be mandated in particular circumstances? Would, for example, it be acceptable for a learning professional to state that they do not use email?

Acceptance: However rather than adopting hardline approaches it me be acceptable to acknowledge that mot everyone needs to make use of mobile devices and social tools; as long as their learning or learning support activities are not limited significantly by continuing to make use of traditional approaches, then perhaps this is fine. The danger, I would argue, would be if such decisions are made by managers or decision makers who could restrict use of mobile devices and social tools by those who do find them beneficial.

I’d welcome comments on these approaches and suggestions of how you might (or have) responded to colleagues who may be reluctant to embrace use of mobile devices to support learning activities.

Posted in Mobile, Social Networking | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Buying a New Tablet (Useful for #BYOD4L)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 January 2014

The BYOD4L Online Event

On Saturday I bought a new tablet. On the same day I read Sheila MacNeill’s blog post on Getting set for #byod4L – what Sheila will be doing this week in which she described how this week she will “getting back into the MOOC saddle again with #byod4L“.

The BYOD4L (Bring Your Own Device For Learning) web site describes how this online event invites people with an interest in the use of one’s own mobile device for learning over the next five days to “bring your own devices for learning: an open course for students & teachers (facilitated, stand-alone, for other groups/courses)“.

My New Device

Before Christmas I had decided to get a new tablet device. I read about developments in the tablet marketplace and decided to get one in the January sales, as I read suggestions that after vendors announcement on new devices at the CES show we would see a reduction in the prices of current versions.

I had no particular platform in mind. I currently have an Android phone (a Galaxy Note 2) which I am happy with (despite my misgivings over the first generation of Android devices and the operating system).  But I also have an iPod Touch, which I was also happy with until it fell out of my short pocket while gardening in the summer and the screen was smashed). In addition for the past six months or so the desktop PC I use in my home office runs Windows 8 – and so the new generation of tablets running Windows 9 was also an option.

I kept an eye on the Hot UK Deals web site and was interested in deals for Android devices such as the Galaxy Note 10.01 (similar to my mobile phone), the Nexus 7 (good reviews) and the Sony Xperia Z 10.1 (waterproof, so I could tweet from the bath!) as well as Windows 8 tablets such as the Dell Venue 8, the Toshiba Encore 8.1 and the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2.

In the process of reading the reviews and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the different models I realised that I was indifferent to the platform. The operating system functionality was similar across devices and the applications I intended to use (a web browser, a Twitter client, a note-taking app, a camera app, an app for storing content in the cloud, iPlayer, etc.) were available across all platforms; indeed my preferred apps (e.g. Chrome, Evernote and iPlayer) were also available across all platforms.

This reminded me of a tweet Mike Ellis posted a few weeks ago during a discussion about the merits of Android versus Apple mobile devices “Not sure about the “future is Android” thing. I think the future probably is “it doesn’t matter”“. I think I’ve shown that, for me, Mike was correct!

One significant decision I had to make was whether I wanted a 7/8″ or 10″ device. In the end I decided I wanted a smaller device which was easier to carry and use in bed.

In the end I bought an iPad Mini which was being sold off at PC World. Ironically I spotted this on sale on Boxing Day and took my girlfriend to PC World where she bought the 64GB model for only £300. A few days after seeing the device I decided it was the one I wanted. Unfortunately PC World had sold out, but on Saturday I found that they had one on sale, although this was the 32 GB, WiFi plus cell model. But I’m happy with the device.

Creating Content

If the tools I intend to use are similar across platforms, the differences across the platforms seem to be how I create content. It was for this reason that I looked into the Windows RT platform, and devices with built-in keyboards. However these devices were expensive and I decided that, despite my comments that I am platform-agnostic, I did not want to purchase a Windows RT device since this seems to be an evolutionary dead end, with the low volume of sales leading to a reluctance for software developers to invest effort in developing apps for the platform.

I decided to purchase a Bluetooth keyboard and case for my iPad. But I wonder what other approaches to creating content will be relevant. I decided that the quality of the tablet’s camera wasn’t a factor (my phone has a decent camera and I also have a camera that I can use as a camera :-) But I’m wondering whether to get a stylus – I’d welcome comments on how useful a stylus is, how it could be used and which one to purchase.

I also decided that voice recording wasn’t a factor in selecting a tablet as I suspect that they are all much-of-a-muchness. But what of voice control of a device, such as Siri and equivalent approaches on Android devices? Although I have tried out these technologies I haven’t used them in anger. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has found voice input to be important.

Selection of Apps

If my decision on selection of a tablet came down primarily to price, the more difficult decision is probably which apps to install on my tablet.

Facebook question on_ipad appsWhile waiting for the iPad to charge I asked for advice from my Facebook network.  I was pleased to receive 30 responses, which include the following recommended apps:

Adobe Reader, ArtRage, Blipfoto, Browzine, City Mapper, Evernote, Facebook, Feedly, Flipboard, ForeverMap, Goodreader,  Good Beer Guide,  Google Drive, Google Authenticator, Google+, Instapaper, iPlayer, iSSH, Kindle, LinkedIn,  Movie Vault, Notability, Pheed, Photosynth, Pocket, Procreate, Puffin (for Flash), Rebelmouse,  Tripit, Tuneln Radio, Simplenote, Skitch, Snapseed, Train Times, Triposo, Tweetbot, Units, WhatsApp, Wikipanion, YouTube, Zinio and Zite.

These are all free, I think, so making my tablet a useful device does not appear to mean that there are any additional costs. And it was thanks to my Facebook connections that I was able to get these suggestions.

Your Thoughts

Is my platform agnosticism, unusual, I wonder, or are Apple and Android ‘fanboys’ still in the majority? Will Windows 8 grow in popularity and am I correct in my thoughts that Windows RT will not gain significant market share? These questions may well be relevant for those involved in mobile development work, in choosing which platforms to provide apps for. What are your thoughts?

 

Posted in Gadgets | 8 Comments »

What Could ITS 2.0 Offer the Web Manager?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 January 2014

ITS 2.0 videoBack in October 2013 the W3C announced that the Internationalization Tag Set (ITS) version 2.0 had become a W3C recommendation. The announcement stated:

The MultilingualWeb-LT Working Group has published a W3C Recommendation of Internationalization Tag Set (ITS) Version 2.0. ITS 2.0 provides a foundation for integrating automated processing of human language into core Web technologies. ITS 2.0 bears many commonalities with its predecessor, ITS 1.0, but provides additional concepts that are designed to foster the automated creation and processing of multilingual Web content. Work on application scenarios for ITS 2.0 and gathering of usage and implementation experience will now take place in the ITS Interest Group. Learn more about the Internationalization Activity.

Following the delivery of this standard, on 17 January 2014 the MultilingualWeb-LT Working Group was officially closed.

But what exactly does ITS 2.0 do, and is it relevant to the interests of institutional web managers, or research, teaching or administrative departments within institutions?

The ITS 2.0 specification provides an overview which seeks to explain the purpose of the standard but, as might be expected in a standards document, this is rather dry. There are several other resources which discuss ITS 2.0 including:

But the resource I thought was particularly interesting was the ITS 2.0 video channel. This contains a handful of videos about the ITS standard. One video in particular provides a brief introduction to ITS 2.0 and the advantages it can offer businesses involved in multilingual communication. This 8-minute long video can be viewed on YouTube but it is also embedded below:

The video, an animated cartoon, is interesting because of the informal approach it takes to explaining the standard. This, in my experience, is unusual. The approach may not be appreciated by everyone but since standards are widely perceived to be dull and boring, although still acknowledged as important. For me, providing a summary of the importance of standards in this way can help to reach out to new audiences who might otherwise fail to appreciate the role which standards may have.

If you are involved in providing web sites or content which may be of interest to an international audience it may be worth spending 8 minutes to view this video. If ITS 2.0 does appear to be of interest the next question will be what tools are available to create and process ITS 2.0 metadata? A page on ITS Implementations is available on the W3C web site but again this is rather dry and the tools seem to be rather specialist. However more mainstream support for ITS 2.0 is likely to be provided only if there is demand for it. So if you do have an interest in metadata standards which can support automated translations and you feel ITS 2.0 may be of use, make sure you ask your CMS vendor if they intend to support it.

Might this be of interest to University web managers? If you are a marketing person at the University of Bath and wish to see your marketing resources publicised to the French-speaking world but have limited resources for translating your resources, you probably wouldn’t want:

The University of Bath is based in a beautiful georgian city: Bath. 

to be translated as:

L’université de bain est basé dans une belle ville géorgienne: bain.

And whilst Google translate actually does preserve the word “Bath” if it is given in capitals, this seems not to be the case in all circumstances. For example, the opening sentence on the Holburne Museum web site:

Welcome to Bath’s art museum for everyone. 

is translated as:

Bienvenue au musée d’art de salle de bain pour tout le monde.

Perhaps marketing people in many organisations who would like to ensure that automated translation tools do not make such mistakes should be pestering their CMS vendors for ITS 2.0 support!


View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy]

Posted in standards, W3C | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Beyond MOOCs: Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 January 2014

Personal Experiences of MOOCs

Cetis MOOC paperLast year I completed the Hyperlinked Library MOOC. I had previously signed up for several MOOCs but this has been the only MOOC which I have completed.

I found the experiences I gained in participating in the MOOC useful and felt they were worth sharing and so I published post on my Initial Reflections on The Hyperlinked Library MOOC and the Badges I Have Acquired and on my final Reflections On The Hyperlinked Library MOOC. In brief I felt that the Hyperlinked Library MOOC was valuable for staff development for those working in a library environment who wish to learn more about the potential of social media in a library context.

The Bigger Picture

But what of the bigger picture? How should institutions respond to the hype which has surrounded MOOCs? What impact can MOOCS have in enriching the teaching and learning activities which take place in institutions? What technological options need to be considering when considering deploying a MOOC? And what are the strategic challenges and opportunities which MOOCs can provide?

These issues are addressed in a 20 page white paper on “Beyond MOOCs: Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions” by my Cetis colleagues Li Yuan, Stephen Powell and Bill Oliver which was published yesterday.

The Executive Summary of the paper describes the opportunities which MOOCs can provide:

The key opportunity for institutions is to take the concepts developed by the MOOC experiment to date and use them to improve the quality of their face-to-face and online provision, and to open up access to higher education. Most importantly, the understanding gained should be used to inform diversification strategies including the development of new business models and pedagogic approaches that take full advantage of digital technologies.

It was interesting to note the emphasis placed on supporting diversification strategies, new business model and pedagogic approaches: although the paper mentions a number of MOOC platforms, the technological infrastructure is not felt to be the main challenge which institutions need to consider. Rather, the key themes which have emerged from uses of MOOCs to date are openness; revenue models and service disaggregation.

The technological options (the platforms and services used, the functions they provide and whether single platforms or a collection of integrated tools and services will be used) will need to be addressed, but such considerations cannot be divorced from other important areas including the pedagogic opportunities which may be provided and the learner choices which the provision of new and affordable ways for learners to access courses can provide.

The white paper is available from the Cetis Web site and is recommended reading for those involved in developing or supporting MOOCs, those with management and policy responsibilities, those who may be evaluating MOOCs or simple those with a general interest in MOOCs.

I would be interested in learning more about people’s experiences in using MOOCs. I therefore invite people to complete a brief survey (which is embedded below) and to share your experiences in the comments for this blog post.


View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] – [Tweetreach]

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Reshaping my Twitter Network

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 January 2014

Managing One’s Personal Learning Network

Pruning My Twitter Network

In the autumn I took part in the Hyperlinked Library MOOC. One of the assignments was to develop plans for use of an Online Professional Learning Network (OPLN). The specific requirements included developing a Network Maintenance Plan:

This will provide answers to questions such as: How will you maintain your online professional learning network? When will you adjust it? At what points will you actively add to it or delete from it? Is there a particular type of technology that you will employ to make the best use of your network? Will there ever be a point where you would create a new plan from scratch?

As I described in the assignment:

My new job [as Innovation Advocate at Cetis] will provide an opportunity to prune my professional network, removing Twitter accounts, blog feeds, etc. which are no longer relevant to my new role (unless, for example, I still gain value for the personal connections).

Numbers of Twitter followersIn November I began work in pruning my Twitter network, and on 13 November I reduced the number of people I follow in Twitter from 1,426 to 1,397. However it was just before Christmas, on 23 December, when I deleted a significant number of my Twitter community. As illustrated on that date the numbers of people I followed went down from 1,426 to 1,122, a drop of 324 (note the graph is taken from the Twittercounter service).

I used the Social Bro Chrome extension for my Chrome browser in order to help identify followers to remove.

Social Bro list of inactive followersAs shown, this tool helped me to identify the people I follow who appear to have stopped using Twitter. The tool was also useful in highlighting Twitter accounts which may be used by spammers.

Of course, the more difficult decision to make was when to stop following accounts which are being used in a legitimate way, but are no longer aligned with my main professional interests. The decision I made was to remove significant numbers of accounts from contacts I’ve made over the years with the museums sector (unless I had a string personal connection.

As can be seen I did not quite achieve my target of 1,000 followers (and the number has started to grow slowly since the purge). However the exercise was useful and I may chose to repeat it yearly.

Growing my Online Personal Learning Network

My Cwtis and LACE networks shown in TweetdeckThe intention in pruning my Twitter network was to enable the network to be reshaped in order to be able to more effectively engage with communities relevant to my new role as Innovation Advocate at Cetis.

As I described in the blog post in which I summarised my plans for the development of my online professional learning network I intended to follow the accounts of my Cetis colleagues. In order to make it easier to view tweets from my colleagues I set up a Twitter list.

However since the main Twitter client I use on my desktop PC is Tweetdeck I also set up a Tweetdeck column of my Cetis colleague, which enables me to easily see their tweets and areas of interests which they have retweeted. In addition to work related content which I can find on internal mailing lists or Cetis blogs, Twitter also enables me to get to know my colleagues informally

As shown in the screen shot I have also set up a Tweetdeck column for a new area of work I am involved in – the EU-funded LACE project. As described on the LACE Project Web site:

LACE will:

  • Organise a range of activities designed to actively and passively integrate communities that are conducting LA/EDM research, early practitioner adopters, and those who are building first-generation commercial or open-source software. This integration would be used to stimulate creativity and accelerate the identification of viable and effective solutions to real problems, and hence to drive both current research and technology transfer.
  • Create and curate a knowledge base of evidence. This will capture evidence for the effectiveness and the relative desirability of the outcomes resulting from use of various tools and techniques.
  • Actively participate in the exploration of plausible futures for learning analytics and EDM by combining the creation of imaginative scenarios with participatory workshops and structured methods including a Policy Delphi to assess differences of opinion about the feasibility and desirability of possible future states, thus informing future research and policy agendas.

The LACE project brings together existing key European players in the field of learning analytics & EDM who are committed to build communities of practice and share emerging best practice in order to make progress towards four objectives.

I have started to follow project partners using the #laceproject Twitter hashtag. Interestingly I have just noticed that the @TheLaceProject Twitter account is used to promote fashion and jewelry and so there will be an interesting clash of hashtags!

How Do You Manage Your Twitter Network?

My change of jobs provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my professional networks. This was helped by the Hyperlinked Library MOOC assignment which argued that one need to plan the growth of one’s network and to proactively manage it in order that the contacts reflect one’s changing areas of interests.

I used to have an annual calendar alert which reminded me it was time to check the links provided on legacy project Web sites in order to ensure that technical or others changes hadn’t resulted in problems with the structural integrity of the Web sites (see the audit trail on the UK Web Archive copy of the Cultivate Interactive Web site).

However it seems to me that it would now be more relevant to have an annual survey of one’s professional networks and to see what maintenance may be needed in order to ensure that the professional network continues to provide a useful role. Does anyone else do this?


View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy]

Posted in Social Networking | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Announcing IWMW 2014!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 January 2014

I am delighted to be able to formally announce the IWMW 2014 event will be held at Northumbria University on 16-18 July.

The IWMW event: a well-established national event for those working in university Web management teams.

The IWMW event: a well-established national event for those working in university Web management teams.

The Institutional Web Management Workshop series, better known as IWMW was launched in 1997 to enable those responsible for managing institutional Web services to share best practices, hear about new developments and discuss their relevance. The event has been held at locations across the UK in the 17 years since it was launched.

Last year’s event was slightly shadowed by the forthcoming cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN. However, a post-event survey together with comments we received during the event indicated an overwhelming appetite for continuation.

Over the past few months I have been exploring new funding options to cover planning, organising and hosting the event in 2014. I have received positive feedback from commercial vendors who would be willing to sponsor the event and my new organisation, Cetis, has agreed to provide support for the event. In addition, Jisc Netskills have agreed to act as co-organisers for the event.

The call for submissions will be announced shortly. If you have any questions or queries, feel free to get in touch. This includes those who may be interested in speaking at the event, as well as potential sponsors for the event.

The IWMW 2014 will take place over 3 days, which, based on feedback from previous events, has proved an ideal length for attendees – enabling them to enhance their skills and expertise and develop their professional networks.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

New Year Resolution: I Won’t Ditch Software on a Whim!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 January 2014

Why I’ll Still Explore New Tools and Services

In my previous role as UK Web Focus at UKOLN and my current position as Innovation Advocate at Cetis I’ve tried to be an early adopter of new technologies and services which seem to have the potential of enhancing the range of activities carried out in the higher/further education sector.  An important aspect of such evaluation is the open sharing of thoughts on the potential benefits of the innovations but also associated risks and concerns.

I will continue to evaluate new technologies. But there is a question as to what is being replaced if new technologies prove successful and become embedded in normal working practices.  Over the years this has happened with technologies such as Skype. As discussed in a post published in 2009 which reflected on Skype, Two Years After Its Nightmare Weekend, at one stage institutions, and indeed, JANET, where looking to provide standards-based VOIP services. In, back in 2006 a UKERNA report (PDF format) described how  “Uncontrolled use of Skype, and particularly its bandwidth-hungry super-node behaviour, is likely to breach one or both of these [Acceptable Use Policy]sections.” But how, I strongly suspect, use of Skype is now widely embedded across the sector (are there any institutions which still block the service?).

There are other services which at one stage were considered to have risks by IT service staff but which have similarly become widely used by the user community: Google Docs is a good example of a tool which is often suggested when you are collaborating with people outside one’s host institution. Clearly changes to one’s IT infrastructure does happen and seems likely to continue.  But what are the processes which one should take when choosing to replace an existing tool with an alternative?

Moving To New Tools – A Case Study

In a recent post Doug Belshaw, the Web Literacy Lead for the Mozilla Foundation, gave his thoughts on “Why I’m ditching Evernote for Simplenote (and Notational Velocity)”.

Since I am interested in new tools which can enhance my productivity or provide a richer working environment I was very interested in this post. As a long-standing Evernote user which I use on a range of devices I have an interest in looking for signals which hint at problems with the application and an alternative solutions.

However, on further investigation, I’m unconvinced that it would be sensible to move away from Evernote or make use of Simplenote.

Doug#s post references Jason Kincaid post on “Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant“. Jason has experienced problems with Evernote which led to data loss. I was pleased he shared his experiences and the approaches he took in identifying the problem areas. I was previously unaware of Evernote’s activity log. Jason described how the activity log contained “Thousands of lines of gibberish, dates and upload counts” although, confusingly, also complained that the file contained sensitive data. Anyway I looked at my Activity log file. It too, contains thousands of lines such as, earlier today:

10:14:36 [8840] 0% Connecting to http://www.evernote.com
10:14:36 [8840] 0% * loaded updateCount: 628
10:14:37 [8840] 0% Usage Metrics: sessionCount=0
10:14:37 [8840] 0% Client is up to date with the server, updateCount=628
10:14:37 [8840] 0% * saved updateCount: 628
10:14:37 [8840] 0% Skipping uploading shortcuts because local shortcuts are not newer than the server shortcuts.
10:14:37 [8840] 0% Session terminated normally, elapsed time: 0s

A useful debugging aid, it seems to me. Indeed the Activity log did help to identify Jason’s problem:

Turns out there’s a bug, this time compliments of Evernote for Mac’s ‘helper’ — an official mini app that’s meant for jotting down notes without having to switch to the hulking beast that is the desktop application.

Oh, so there’s a bug in the software. But it has been identified and therefore it should be able to be fixed.

But there are other problems:

They say to file another ticket.

As for the audio file: even more bad news.

It’s been nearly a month and the most substantive thing Evernote has said is that it is “seeing multiple users who have created audio notes of all sizes where they will not play on any platform.” The company has given me no information on what’s wrong with the corrupted file, and no indication that they might find a way to get it working in the future.“.

The problems seem to be confirmed on the comments list and even the CEO of Evernote “apologized, saying the post rings true and that there is a lot of work to be done both on the application and service fronts. In the short-term the company will be implementing fixes for the issues above, with plans to focus on general quality improvements in the months ahead.

So there are problems. But these have been acknowledged and Evernote have stated that they work on improving the software

But I’ve not had problems using Evernote – and as I don’t use audio notes I’m unlikely to encounter the bug mentioned above. But since Doug has suggested an alternative I felt it would be useful to investigate Simplenote further.

I read information about Simplenote. But since my data will be held in the Cloud I am more concerned about the sustainability of the company rather than whether the software is open source or not. What do I find? The Wikipedia article for Simplenote is fairly basic. On further investigation it seems that a Mac app and an Android app were launched in September 2013.

Simplenote bug reportSince software is prone to bugs, it is not surprising that we can see examples of Simplenote users complaining of bugs. What is somewhat worrying is that, as illustrated, Simplenote’s official bug reporting service contains spam which has been there for over two weeks so far. And the bug report which was submitted in September 2013 has not been acknowledged.

Out of the frying pan into the fire? Isn’t there a need to investigate the business model for important tools and not just sect a tool because it is open source? At least Evernote have acknowledged there is a problem and have said it will be addressed. Evernote also seem to have a sustainable business model. Sadly, I see no evidence that Simplenote do!

What To Do?

It seems to me that ditching an existing tool which provides a useful service but which appears to have bugs for an unproven alternative simply because it is open source would be a mistake.

The dangers of having an over-simplistic view of the merits of open sources software were described in a paper on Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access by myself, my Cetis colleague Scott Wilson (who is now manager of the OSS Watch service) and Randy Metcalfe, former manager of OSS Watch. The paper describes how:

OSS Watch therefore avoids making specific software recommendations. Instead the principal task is to help universities and colleges understand legal, social, technical and economic issues that arise when they engage with free and open source software. The goal is not the promotion of open source software for its own sake. Indeed, for OSS Watch the choice of proprietary or open source solutions is immaterial. What matters is that institutions have the resources to think through their procurement, deployment, or development IT concerns in a sensible and rational fashion. The best solution for any single institution will depend upon local conditions and individual needs.

The paper goes on to add that:

This pragmatic approach to advice and guidance is consistent with that employed by UKOLN in its work on standards. It is also a guiding principle in the JISC Policy on Open source software for JISC projects and services (JISC, 2005). This policy is based on the UK government policy in this area and should be seen as an implementation of that policy.

The paper, which was published in 2007, focussed on institutional policies on use of open standards and open source software. Over 6 years later, in light of the importance of software which is not hosted within the institution but selected by individuals, there is a need to revisit the advice provided in the paper and explore how it can be applied when an individual is considering replacing use of an existing tool or service.

In the case of replacing Evernote in the comments on Doug’s blog post it was pointed out that:

Sadly there isn’t an alternative to Evernote if you store anything other than plaintext. PDF with annotation, automatic OCR on PDFs and image files, ability to attach MS Office files, audio notes etc. Evernote needs to stop with feature push and spend some time sanitizing what is already there.

And indeed, Jason Kincaid’s post was successful in getting his concerns acknowledged by the CEO of Evernote who responded by admitting that “that there is a lot of work to be done both on the application and service fronts.” A subsequent blog post  On Software Quality and Building a Better Evernote in 2014 was published on the Evernote blog which began:

I got the wrong sort of birthday present yesterday: a sincerely-written post by Jason Kincaid lamenting a perceived decline in the quality of Evernote software over the past few months. I could quibble with the specifics, but reading Jason’s article was a painful and frustrating experience because, in the big picture, he’s right. We’re going to fix this.

The post has generated a large number of comments (96 to date) which seem to primarily be from other Evernote users who are frustrated by bugs i the software and are unhappy that the official Evernote response was written following the publication of  Jason Kincaid, a blogger with a high profile.

In this post I don’t want to go into the ins and outs of Evernote’s limitations.  Rather I’ll conclude that alternatives to existing tools may not prove to address the limitations of tools which are currently being used and, indeed, may have other disadvantages, which may get worse if the company is not able to handle increased usage. In the case of Simplenote, for example, the online support service does appear to be non-existent. Ineed looking at the Support Center home page I notice a post entitled “Is Simplenote dying? I’ll concluded by quoting this post, published on 8 January, in full:

No blog posts since October.
Unanswered questions in support center.
Spam-filled support center.
Web app that CRAWLS.
Is Simplenote going away?

When do.com announced it was closing up shop, I landed at Simplenote. I started using it for new notes right away, but I continued to look for an easy way to import my do.com notes to another cloud-based note app. Yesterday, I gave up and did a manual copy-and-paste on all of my notes to get them into Simplenote. Now I’m experiencing performance issues I wasn’t experiencing before. I’m hoping this is a temporary thing, but based on posts I’m reading here in the “support center,” it looks like this has been going on for a while now. Please don’t tell me that I am going to have to migrate all my notes to another tool.

And no, there hasn’t been a response. Caveat emptor!

 

Posted in Web2.0 | 5 Comments »

Personal Reflections on A Turbulent Year

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 December 2013

Cessation of UKOLN’s Core Funding

Just over a year ago, on 20 December 2012, the official announcement was published: “Jisc has confirmed that it will only provide core funding to the UKOLN Innovation Support Centre, up to July 2013 but not beyond.” On 24 April I reported on how My Redundancy Letter Arrived Today and, after over 16 years working for the organisation, my last day working for UKOLN took place on 31 July.

It has clearly been a turbulent year, with the enforced departure from the University of Bath after such a long period meaning enforced changes for me and for my many colleagues who were also made redundant at the same time. We had been informed of the cessation of funding since the start of October 2012 when Jisc first informed us of their decision, but no public announcement was made until the week before Christmas last year (a good time to bury bad news!).

Activities Over the Past Year

Despite the news I can look back at some personal highlights over the past year. Liz Lyon, the UKOLN Director, asked me to lead a project for archiving UKOLN’s digital content,  a significant task in light of the large amount of Web content which had been hosted on UKOLN’s Web sites since the early 1990s. However this task was completed prior to my departure, with the content across UKOLN Web sites being updated with information on the freezing of the Web site being provided on key entry points and of UKOLN Web sites being simplified to static files, with the BUCS, the University of Bath IT Services department hosting this frozen content.

IWMW 2013 meal

A highlight of the year: the 17th IWMW event, which since 1997 has provided an opportunity for community development and professional networking for Web managers. [Photo by Sharon Steeples]

In addition to managing this work, I gave a talk on When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution at the LILAC 2013 conference based on the experiences of enforced departure from my host institution, in which I pointed out that we will all leave our institution at some point, so institutions should ensure that they prepare their staff for professional live beyond services hosted within the institution, if they wish to provide their staff with life-long learning skills in managing digital content and services. I also gave a talk on “Spotting Tomorrow’s Key Technologies” at the UKSG 2013 conference.

This year I also presented papers on “Using social media to enhance your research activities” at the Social Media in Social Research 2013 Conference and “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” at the Umbrella 2013 conference.

I also had two papers accepted for the Open Repositories 2013 conference: one with William Nixon on “SEO analysis of institutional repositories: What’s the back story?” and the other with Nick Sheppard, Jill Evans and Yvonne Budden on “Developing the repository manager community“. However due to the conference travel costs, which was held in Prince Edward Island, Canada, I did not attend the conference.

The highlight of my final months at UKOLN was organising the IWMW 2013 event, which took place at the University of Bath. This event was launched in 1997 and it was fitting that the final event to be delivered under a UKOLN banner was opening by the Lord Mayor of Bath and included a party for UKOLN staff and IWMW 2013 participants who have close links with UKOLN.

Life After UKOLN

MOOC certificateAfter redundancy I had a break of about ten weeks which provided an opportunity for a holiday in Northumbria and time to recharge my batteries. I also used this time to enhance by professional development, with the successful completion of the Hyperlinked Library MOOC.

This online course was of particular relevance to me due to my interests in use of social media to support professional activities and my work in supporting the library sector.

Shortly after starting the MOOC I summarised my Initial Reflections on The Hyperlinked Library MOOC and the Badges I Have Acquired. Earlier this month I described my Reflections on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC. I was pleased to have completed the MOOC and all of the assignments and the week before Christmas I received my completion certificate.

A New Beginning at Cetis

I carried out a number of professional activities over the summer including running a one-day workshop on “Future Technologies and Their Applications” at the ILI 2013 conference. However towards the end of October I started a new job as Innovation Advocate at Cetis. As I described in a blog post about my new role:

My new role will enable me to build on our previous collaborations and my interests and expertise in areas including standards, accessibility, social media and open practices. In addition I hope that the extensive professional networks I have developed with provide useful in supporting and developing Cetis’s range of activities.

I went on to describe how:

I will be working, as home worker, for four days a week. I’ll be looking forward to renewing my contacts with Jisc as well as making new contacts at Bolton University and across the e-learning community. I will also be looking for additional partnership and funding opportunities – so please get in touch.

I’m enjoying this new role! Since I started I have facilitated a Wikipedia Editing Workshop at the SpotOn 2013 conference, given a remote presentation on Accessibility is Primarily about People and Processes, Not Digital Resources! at the OZeWAI 29013 conference, delivered a webinar on Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them and facilitated a workshop session on Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities at the DAAD 2013 conference. When I return to work I’m looking forward to building on my existing expertise and networks and exploring new opportunities for further work at Cetis.

The Future of UKOLN?

"New phase for UKOLN"Despite the announcement of the cessation of core funding and the departure of most of the staff on 31 July, an announcement concerning “A new phase for UKOLN” was made on 2 August on the UKOLN Web site with Liz Lyon, the UKOLN director stating that:

We will be continuing our work as a partner in the Digital Curation Centre, progressing the development and deployment of the Community Capability Model for Data-Intensive Science in partnership with Microsoft Research Connections, completing the Immersive Informatics pilot Research Data Management training programme with the University of Melbourne, and working with the Library and other colleagues at the University of Bath on a range of research data management and public engagement activities.

A new UKOLN Informatics Web site was announced on 1 August which has provided a handful of announcement about DCC activities. However the most significant post was published on 23 December. The post, Farewell to Liz Lyon, announced tersely:

Dr Liz Lyon, UKOLN Director, leaves us at the end of this year, for a new position as Visiting Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences. Liz has led UKOLN at the University of Bath for over ten years, and has overseen many successful partnerships such as the Digital Curation Centre and Microsoft Research.

We would like to wish Liz well in her new role and look forward to exploring new opportunities with the iSchool at Pitt.

A more comprehensive announcement had been made two months previously on the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences web site until the title Dr. Liz Lyon joins iSchool faculty as Visiting Professor.

However it is still uncertain what the future of UKOLN will be. The limited information which has been provided (with the announcement on the UKOLN blog being published two days before Christmas, a time when the University of Bath was closed) suggests a degree of uncertainty for the future of the organisation.  For an organisation which, in 2008, celebrated its 30th anniversary it is sad to see how the organisation was unable to respond to the changes in the funding environment. This is, of course, particularly unfortunate for those who were made redundant in July and the remaining 6 members of staff whose future appears uncertain. But at the end of a turbulent year for myself and my former colleagues it would be appropriate, with only 12 hours remaining of 2013, to give a toast: UKOLN may appear to be almost dead, but long live those who worked at UKOLN and made it for so many years such an exciting and stimulating place to work!

Posted in ukoln | 5 Comments »

Forecasting Long Term Future Events, Conditions and Developments in Technology

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 December 2013

The Jisc has recently announced a job vacancy for a Futurologist. The details provided on the Jisc web site are worth publishing in full:

This role will forecast long term future events, conditions, or developments in technology and analytics that will allow Jisc to plan, present and develop innovation in support of research, education and skills.

They will develop a vision and generate high-quality intelligence to inform Jisc long-range strategic planning that creates/meets the needs of our customers and their customers.

The prime purpose is to track developments across the whole field of technology, analytics and society as they come over the horizon, figuring out where it is all going next, and how that will affect our customers.

Another crucial aspect will be to carry out blue sky thinking and develop an understanding of how macro trends impact technological evolution through a demonstrated ability to data mine socioeconomic, technological, geopolitical and cultural trends for meaningful insights. It necessitates the collaboration with horizon scanning and research and development organisations that are looking to create and set trends in digital management, for example (but not limited to) commercial organisations, sector thought leaders (such as Educause and CNI), research funders including the European Commission and the US National Science Foundation, and independent organisations such as the Mellon and Wellcome Foundations.

Jisc Observatory paperThis is of interest to me as it builds on the Jisc Observatory work which was led  by Cetis and UKOLN. Although the Jisc Observatory was closed following the cessation of Jisc funding for Cetis and UKOLN, we did ensure that the methodology used by the team was documented so that the approaches could be used by others within the sector. A paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” by myself and Paul Hollins (available in MS Word and PDF formats) which described Jisc Observatory activities was presented at the Umbrella 2013 conference.

The abstract for the paper describes how:

The paper outlines how the processes can be applied in a local context to ensure that institutions are able to gather evidence in a systematic way and understand and address the limitations of evidence-gathering processes. The paper describes use of open processes for interpreting the evidence and suggests possible implications of the horizon-scanning activities for policy-making and informing operational practices.

The paper concludes by encouraging take-up of open approaches in gathering and interpretation of evidence used to inform policy-making in an institutional context. 

These open processes were used in a number of events organised by Cetis and UKOLN staff, including workshop sessions at the Cetis 2013 and IWMW 2012 events. In addition a workshop on Preparing For The Future: Helping Libraries Respond to Changing Technological, Economic and Political Change was provided at a staff development event for library staff at the University of York. More recently together with Tony Hirst I facilitated a day-long workshop on Future Technologies and Their Applications at the ILI 2013 conference.

These events sought to engage participants in exercises in identifying emerging technologies and practices of relevance, prioritising their perceived importance and identifying appropriate responses to the implications of such innovations.

Whilst the Jisc Futurologist will be working with the European Commission, the US National Science Foundation and independent organisations such as the Mellon and Wellcome Foundations, it does seem to me that there will be a need for innovation planning at institutional and departmental levels, especially for those working in library, IT services, elearning and research support departments. I’d therefore be interested to hear from people who may be interested in hosting innovation sessions within their institution. As an example of the type of workshop which could be organised, the abstract for the workshop on Future Technologies and Their Applications is given below.

Despite the uncertainties faced by librarians and information professionals, technology continues to develop at breakneck speed, offering many new opportunities for the sector. At the same time, technological developments can be distracting and may result in wasted time and effort (remember the excitement provided by Second Life?!).

This workshop session will help participants identify potentially relevant technological developments by learning about and making use of ‘Delphic’ processes. The workshop also provides insight into processes for spotting ‘weak signals’ which may indicate early use of technologies which could be important in the future.

But having identified potentially important technological developments, organisations need to decide how to respond. What will be the impact on existing technologies? What are the strategic implications and what are the implications for staff within the organisation?

The interactive workshop session will provide opportunities to address the challenges in understanding the implications of technological developments and making appropriate organisational interventions.

A report on the workshop is available. If this is of interest, please get in touch.


View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy]

Posted in jiscobs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

“Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities” – Workshop Session at the #DAAD2013 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 December 2013

Earlier today I facilitated a workshop session on “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities” at the annual conference of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), London.

From Tweet to Blog Post to Peer-Reviewed Article: How to be a Scholar NowThis is a topic I have spoken about a fair amount since the realisation that the Social Web could be used to support research activities and not just share photos and videos of cats! This year I have facilitated a hands-on workshop session on “Managing Your Research Profile” at the Information Science Pathway’s day on alt.metrics which was held at Edinburgh University in June and, in the same month, presented a paper on “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities” at the SRA’s Social Media in Social Research 2013 conference.

The DAAD 2013 conference provided an opportunity to explore the benefits of the social web with a new community: humanities researchers and, in particular, German humanities researchers who are working in universities in the UK and Ireland.

I had been informed that, unlike the scientific and library communities I am more familiar with, although the participants would probably have smart phones and use Facebook, they probably didn’t make significant use of social media to support their research or teaching activities.

In my preparation for the session I came across a paper on Re-Skilling For Research hosted on the RLUK Web site which described how (my emphasis):

They [Connaway and Dickey, 2009] found,  for example, that science researchers … are more likely to use Twitter, while mathematicians and computer scientists are more predisposed to archive their own material, and, like classicists, to disseminate their research outputs themselves. Social scientists on the other hand are more reluctant to use new technologies, for example they are less likely to Tweet or use a laptop at a conference.

This was certainly the case for the DAAD conference; for example although everyone in my session had a mobile phone, with most having an iPhone and Android smartphone, they weren’t being used to support conference activities. I therefore began the session by exploring the purposes of conferences for academics and how social media could support such purposes. The previous night I had discovered that the Cumberland Lodge, the venue for the conference, had been designed so that rooms weren’t locked and the were no TVs in the accommodation; design decisions made in order to enhance opportunities for networking, sharing ideas and discussion. I subsequently learnt that participants at the conference were expected to share their room although, as an invited speaker, I had a room to myself.

I drew parallels with such design decisions for conference venues and the typical structure for a conference programme (which also normal provide informal networking opportunities)  with the ways in which social media services can be used to share ideas; discus and refine ideas, develop one’s professional community; gain additional input from others and then subsequently share the outputs from such collaborate activities with one’s peers and the wider public.

I used the physical example of post-it notes to illustrate approaches to using Twitter: write how you might use social media to support your research on a Post-it note and share it with a colleague – that’s similar to a Direct Message. Note put the Post-it notes on a shared notice board so that everyone can see the ideas – that’s a public tweet.

The feedback from the participants was very positive and I enjoyed facilitating the session. But we didn’t really have the opportunity to explore the reasons why use of networked technologies still don’t appear to be widely used at conferences in the humanities. At one stage humanities researchers would probably not have laptops which science researchers would be more likely to possess. But these days even those who have laptops appear more willing to use the own smartphone for tweeting at events.

During the talk I cited the example of a recent blog post entitled From Tweet to Blog Post to Peer-Reviewed Article: How to be a Scholar Now published on the LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences blog which describes how:

Digital media is changing how scholars interact, collaborate, write and publish. Here, Jessie Daniels describes how to be a scholar now, when peer-reviewed articles can begin as Tweets and blog posts. In this new environment, scholars are able to create knowledge in ways that are more open, more fluid, and more easily read by wider audiences.

But this was based on experiences from the US. I’d be interested to hear examples of use of social media in amplifying events in the humanities in the UK and to hear suggestions as to why event amplification appears to be so unusual for this sector,

Note that the slides I used are available on Slideshare and are embedded below.


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Posted in Events, Social Web | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Reflections on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 December 2013

About the Hyperlinked Library MOOC

Networked personality badgeI have (finally) completed a MOOC. The MOOC in question was the Hyperlinked Library MOOC which was organised by Michael Stephens and Kyle Jones of the School of Library and Information Science at the San José State University.

As described by Michael Stephens in the initial post on the MOOC blog:

This MOOC is based on a course I’ve been teaching at San Jose State University SLIS since 2011.We’re excited to adapt it to a larger scale and gather some of the folks we admire to share their expertise as we explore the model.

The post went on to provide the background to the MOOC and the relevance of the hyperlinked organisation model in a library context:

Libraries continue to evolve. As the world has changed with emerging mechanisms for global communication and collaboration, so have some innovative, cutting edge libraries. My model for the Hyperlinked Library is born out of the ongoing evolution of libraries and library services. David Weinberger’s chapter “The Hyperlinked Organization” in The Cluetrain Manifesto was a foundational resource for defining this model as are the writings of Michael Buckland, Seth Godin, and others.

The Hyperlinked Library is an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations. The organizational chart is flatter and team-based. The collections grow and thrive via user involvement. Librarians are tapped in to user spaces and places online to interact, have presence, and point the way. The hyperlinked library is human. Communication, externally and internally, is in a human voice. The librarians speak to users via open, transparent conversation.

The model incorporates dialogues about Web 2.0 by such authors as O’Reilly, and concepts tied to participatory service, including ideas presented by Casey and Savastinuk in their book Library 2.0.

The model is broader than just online communication and collaboration. It encompasses both physical and virtual space, as well as many types of libraries. Presenting the model to assembled teacher librarians at the Australian School Library Association conference in Perth in 2009, I argued that school librarians could use the model as well to extend support for learning beyond the walls of the school library and engage with students, teachers and administrators in an open, transparent manner wherever the learning takes place.

MOOC Activities

Students on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC had been informed that they could receive a SJSU SLIS certificate of completion by completing two required assignments (regular blogging during the course and completion of a presentation at a Virtual Symposium towards the end of the course) and three other additional assignments from five on offer (Community EngagementEmerging Technology/Social Media PlanningContext BookOnline Professional Learning Network and Director’s Brief).

As I described when I began the MOOC the Hyperlinked Library MOOC arrived at a timely moment for me; following the cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN I had been made redundant shortly before the MOOC began. Participation in the MOOC therefore provided a useful opportunity to further develop my professional skills, extend my professional network and gain experiences in how MOOCS work and their strengths and weaknesses.

Towards the end of the MOOC I started work as Innovation Advocate at Cetis. In light of Cetis’s interest in e-learning developments and, as I described recently, open educational practices, the MOOC became particularly relevant for me, and so I chose to complete all of the assignments.

The MOOC’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Storify summary of final tweets about the Hyperlib MOOCAs the Hyperlinked Library MOOC came to an end I used Storify to capture the final tweets about the MOOC. The comments provided evidence of students’ high regard for the course:

  • Much interest in because it is so awesome!
  • The end of my first but not last MOOC

and the benefits they gained:

  • Not saying that was the reason I got a new job, but I did get questions on it during my interview. Great learning experience!

Using the Google Custom Search Engine I set up for the MOOC you can see further evidence which suggests that the MOOC was valued by the participants with, at the time of writing, 212 occurrences of ‘awesome‘ and 1,330 occurrences of ‘great‘ but only 98 of ‘poor‘!

Other indications of the perceived value of the MOOC can be seen from students’ creation of a Hyperlinked Library MOOC Facebook group and WordPress blog which aim to sustain the community and the culture of sharing.

I did, however, have some reservations about the MOOC. In a post in which I summarised my Initial Reflections on The Hyperlinked Library MOOC and the Badges I Have Acquired I described how I felt patronised by being awarded badges for trivial activities. These sentiments were echoed by sevarl others who commented on the post on the blog and on Facebook, including @cogdog:

I echo the cynicism of micro badging for every possible task; I would go beyond and find it revolting and demeaning. 

However @cogdog went on to suggest that:

 A more comprehensive system might aggregate a series of actions, like all you have done to get this account set up, and perhaps badge something in a large skill, like establishing and online community presence.

In reality that seems to have been the case so although I have received in total 29 badges (yes, my expertise in deleting a private message has been acknowledged!) only a handful have been submitted to my Credly account, covering the higher level activities such as blogging activities, peer reviewing, use of networking tools and active learning.

Regarding the MOOC content itself, I did feel that the course material failed to provide an adequate critique of the hyperlinked library model. There was a module on Transparency & Privacy but this provide only a superficial account of the potential dangers of more open approaches, use of third party services and recent revelations of government snooping on online services. It was also interesting to observe the pause in the YouTube video after a question 25 minutes into the video on the ramifications of government spying of online services with this issue being ignored and an example of online racism and bullying being addressed with the suggestion that “if you’re a hateful person you shouldn’t be putting it out on the web … you shouldn’t be a hateful person” and “in kindergarden do we teach people what it means to participate?

This was the most disappointing aspect of the MOOC, since these questions, together with related concerns regarding the sustainability of social media services, the ownership of user generated content, privacy issues, etc. are hardly new. If the MOOC aims to encourage librarians to embrace use of the hyperlinked library model which includes use of social media tools and more transparent approaches we might expect such legitimate concerns to be addressed.

But despite this concern I did enjoy the MOOC and found the time I invested in participating the MOOC worthwhile, In particular the assignment on planning the development of one’s online professional learning network was very relevant for my new post, and the Director’s Brief assignment, in which I addressed Library Use of Wikipedia and Other Wikimedia Projects, also proved useful in recent events on use of Wikipedia I have been involved in.

Captioning of the hyperlinked-library-mooc

I was also interested to observe how video resources used on the MOOC seemed to illustrate a risk management approach to accessibility issues.

In one of the initial video resources, which provided orientation for the MOOC, a full transcript of the talk was provided, as shown in the accompanying screen shot.

However the majority of the video lectures and additional video resources were hosted on YouTube, with no captioning being provided.

It had occurred to me that the effort in providing captioning for video resources used in the MOOC was not likely to be sustainable, especially as there doesn’t appear to be any significant income stream to cover the production of the materials and support for the MOOC participants.

In the case of the initial video I suspect that a script had been written in advance, and it did not require significant additional effort to include the script in conjunction with the video recording using, in this case, the Panopto screen capture software. However other video lectures were more free format, typically involving a conversation. In this case, although broad areas for the discussion will probably have been agreed in advance, there will be no formal script which can be used.

Such use of digital resources which do not conform with WCAG guidelines for accessibility provides an example of the difficulties in deploying online services which conform with best practices. But rather than the binary decision to either ensure that all video resources will be captioned or they will not be used, we have here an example of where a more nuanced approach must be taken and the question answered “Should we not make video resources available if we do not have the resources to caption them but we feel they would be valuable to MOOC participants?” This is likely to be a question faced by many organisations which are looking to host MOOCs. This is an issue I will revisit in the future.

Conclusions

How might I summarise my thoughts on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC? I’ll conclude by giving brief recommendations to librarians who may be considering participants of a future version of the MOO:

If you are a librarian and you wish to hear more about the value of open approaches to library work and see examples of how social media services are being used, the Hyperlinked Library MOOC will provide useful examples and will provide opportunities to hear about and discuss implementation strategies with like-minded librarians and information professionals. If, however, you are sceptical of the value of the hyperlinked library model, based on the experiences of the first version of the MOOC you will probably not find concerns that you have being addressed.

For the organisers of the MOOC I would give the following comments:

Many thanks for organising a successful MOOC. I found the MOOC assignments very helpful in focussing my attention on ways of planning the development of my online personal learning network and for writing a proposal to senior management on making use of one aspect of open practices which is particularly relevant to librarians: making use of Wikipedia. I do, however, feel that the MOOC failed to adequately address areas of concerns related to use of social media services and embracing open practices. I would suggest that the module on Transparency & Privacy would benefut from being rewritten, with the concerns being addressed more thoroughly.

But if you were to ask me if I would recommend participation on the MOOC to others, my answer would be “Yes!


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Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 December 2013

Yesterday in my role as Innovation Advocate at Cetis I gave a Webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them“.

This webinar was given in a unit on Open Educational Practices which forms part of a PGCAP (Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice) module on Flexible, Distance and Online Learning provided by the University of Salford.

The course description for the unit on Open Educational Practices describes bow:

The move towards ‘openness’ in education has accelerated in recent years with a number of high profile institutional initiatives such as the MIT OpenCourseware project and  there is now a growing body of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Open Educational Practices (OEP) offered by a number of institutions around the globe which not only give access to free educational courseware, such as images, video, audio and other assets to educators and learners worldwide, without an accompanying need to pay royalties or licence fees but also provide opportunities for open access participation and learning in course settings via for example Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) which often attract large numbers of participants. The OER and OEP have emerged as a concept with great potential to support educational transformation as well as provide extended opportunities for learning in non-formal settings. This unit explores the benefits and challenges of openness in education and learning more generally and looks at ways in which educators and learners can harness and benefit from a plethora of open opportunities to engage and re-engage in learning but also to explore how OER and OEP can be re-purposed, adapted and contextualised for specific learning and teaching situations.

In my presentation I reviewed various descriptions of open educational practices and described how there are multiple characteristics of openness and open practices.

Promoting open educational practices through social and participatory media

Slide from talk on “Promoting open educational practices through social and participatory media” given by Grainne Conole in Finland in June 2011

I illustrated this point by mentioned the keynote talk on “Promoting open educational practices through social and participatory media” given by Grainne Conole at the New dynamics of language learning: spaces and places – intentions and opportunities conference held in Finland in June 2011.

As illustrated, in her slide showing relevant social and participatory media services only WordPress and Wikipedia are based on open source software solutions; others, such as Facebook, are quite clearly closed and proprietary.

The point I made was that one should not seek to be ‘open’ for its own sake; rather one should make use of open educational practices for the benefits they can provide. And if, as in the case of Facebook, there are felt to be benefits to be gained from use of closed approaches, then one should not discount their use.

Following the discussion on the spectrum of openness and the purposes of open educational practices and some examples of benefits of open practices which I have benefitted from, I moved on to the risks and limitations.

I described the opportunities and risks framework which was orginally described n a paper on “Library 2.0: balancing the risks and benefits to maximise the dividends” and subsequently further developed to address legal risks in a paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“. 
I described how individuals may have personal preferences in engaging in open practices, which I references a post I published in 2009 on The Social Web and the Belbin Model. The issue of one’s personal comfort zone in working in an open environment was raised in the online discussion during the webinar. I mentioned a discussion which I described in a post on Should Projects Be Required To Have Blogs? and argued that although it may not always be appropriate to mandate open practices, one should not block their use if this would undermine the learning opportunities for those would would see the benefits in such approaches.

The slides are available on Slideshare and embedded below:

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Accessibility is Primarily About People and Processes, Not Digital Resources!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 November 2013

Earlier today I gave the closing talk at the OZeWAI 2013 conference, which was held in La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia. However as I was in bed in Bath at the time, I pre-recorded my presentation. I had intended to answer questions using Skype or via Twitter but as I was asleep after having arrived home after a brief holiday in Marrakesh a few hours before the talk was delivered I was unable to do this.

The title of my talk is “Accessibility is Primarily About People and Processes, Not Digital Resources!“. In the talk I review approaches developed by accessibility researchers and practitioners in the UK (with some input from Australian colleagues) since 2005 and complementary standardisation work which resulted in the BS 8878 Code of Practice for Web Accessibility.

The slides, with accompanying audio, are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

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“Interesting!” – The Value of Twitter Direct Messages for Researchers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 November 2013

Responding to a Google Alert

Twitter DM conversationEarlier today I received a Google Scholar Alert informing me that Google had found new papers which cited my research publications.

Of particular interest to me was the alert which informed me of a citation which had been published in a book. The book is entitled Computer Systems Experiences of Users with and Without Disabilities: An Evaluation Guide for Professionals and is available, in part, via Google Books. Although I was not able to see which paper had been published (page 100-268 were not shown in the preview) I explored the table of content and found two chapters which are very relevant to work I am current doing.

What I Learnt From the Alert – and the Tool I Used for the Subsequent Initial Discussion

Table of contentsNext Friday I’ll be giving a talk at the OZeWAI 2013 conference in Australia, although, unfortunately, I’ll be giving this as a remote presentation. I have produced the first draft of the talk and in the script I have written:

I particularly liked the question that was posed which suggested that we may need different perspectives in order that developers can see things differently.

I then go on to highlight a chapter entitled “Disability, Web Standards, and the Majority World” by Sarah Lewthwaite and Henny Swan which is included in a book on “Rhetorical Accessability: At the Intersection of Technical Communication and Disability Studies” published a few months ago.

Yesterday Sarah and I had a chat about our recent work and possible new opportunities to build on our interests and expertise in Web accessibility. This morning when I saw the alert and noticed the section which explained “Why we should be talking about psychotechnology for socialization, not jut websites” I was intrigued and sent Sarah a direct message via Twitter about the book drawing particular attention to the section on psychotechnology. Sarah’s response: “Interesting!” suggests that this may be of interest to both of us (although, of course. she may have just been polite!)

However since Sarah and I first became professionally acquainted using Twitter (the 30 seconds I spent reading Sarah’s Twitter biography before then following a link to her blog and discovering our mutual professional interests subsequently led to an award-winning joint paper) I have an interest in how Twitter use can provide an effective tools for collaboration and sharing for researchers.

In this case I could have used a social bookmarking tool such as Delicious for openly sharing this resource – but I have stopped using Delicious and this action would, I suspect, not have been noticed by Sarah.  What I would not have done would be to send an email message; email is not a tool I use any longer for small-scale sharing of resources which may, or may not, turn out to be of interest.

Is Twitter used significantly by researchers in this way, whether by public tweets or direct messages to one’s fellow collaborators? I’d be interested in hearing examples of such activities.

Meanwhile, what about the suggest that “we should be talking about psychotechnology for socialization, not jut websites“? A stub Wikipedia article provides the following information about psychotechnology:

Psychotechnology (sahy-koh-tek-nol-uh-jees)refers to any application of technology for psychological purposes or to any way of using psychological processes for a desired outcome

Should be talking about psychotechnology for socialization? And should I update my presentation for next week’s talk? I must admit that I haven’t a clue!

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