Jisc Digifest 2017 Day One – LiveBlog

Liam Earney is introducing us to the day, with the hope that we all take some away from the event – some inspiration, an idea, the potential to do new things. Over the past three Digifest events we’ve taken a broad view. This year we focus on technology expanding, enabling learning and teaching.

LE: So we will be talking about questions we asked through Twitter and through our conference app with our panel:

  • Sarah Davies, head of change implementation support – education/student, Jisc
  • Liam Earney, director of Jisc Collections
  • Andy McGregor, deputy chief innovation officer, Jisc
  • Paul McKean, head of further education and skills, Jisc

Q1: Do you think that greater use of data and analytics will improve teaching, learning and the student experience?

  • Yes 72%
  • No 10%
  • Don’t Know 18%

AM: I’m relieved at that result as we think it will be important too. But that is backed up by evidence emerging in the US and Australia around data analytics use in retention and attainment. There is a much bigger debate around AI and robots, and around Learning Analytics there is that debate about human and data, and human and machine can work together. We have several sessions in that space.

SD: Learning Analytics has already been around it’s own hype cycle already… We had huge headlines about the potential about a year ago, but now we are seeing much more in-depth discussion, discussion around making sure that our decisions are data informed.. There is concern around the role of the human here but the tutors, the staff, are the people who access this data and work with students so it is about human and data together, and that’s why adoption is taking a while as they work out how best to do that.

Q2: How important is organisational culture in the successful adoption of education technology?

  • Total make or break 55%
  • Can significantly speed it up or slow it down 45%
  • It can help but not essential 0%
  • Not important 0%

PM: Where we see education technology adopted we do often see that organisational culture can drive technology adoption. An open culture – for instance Reading College’s open door policy around technology – can really produce innovation and creative adoption, as people share experience and ideas.

SD: It can also be about what is recognised and rewarded. About making sure that technology is more than what the innovators do – it’s something for the whole organisation. It’s not something that you can do in small pockets. It’s often about small actions – sharing across disciplines, across role groups, about how technology can make a real difference for staff and for students.

Q3: How important is good quality content in delivering an effective blended learning experience?

  • Very important 75%
  • It matters 24%
  • Neither 1%
  • It doesn’t really matter 0%
  • It is not an issue at all 0%

LE: That’s reassuring, but I guess we have to talk about what good quality content is…

SD: I think materials – good quality primary materials – make a huge difference, there are so many materials we simply wouldn’t have had (any) access to 20 years ago. But also about good online texts and how they can change things.

LE: My colleague Karen Colbon and I have been doing some work on making more effective use of technologies… Paul you have been involved in FELTAG…

PM: With FELTAG I was pleased when that came out 3 years ago, but I think only now we’ve moved from the myth of 10% online being blended learning… And moving towards a proper debate about what blended learning is, what is relevant not just what is described. And the need for good quality support to enable that.

LE: What’s the role for Jisc there?

PM: I think it’s about bringing the community together, about focusing on the learner and their experience, rather than the content, to ensure that overall the learner gets what they need.

SD: It’s also about supporting people to design effective curricula too. There are sessions here, talking through interesting things people are doing.

AM: There is a lot of room for innovation around the content. If you are walking around the stands there is a group of students from UCL who are finding innovative ways to visualise research, and we’ll be hearing pitches later with some fantastic ideas.

Q4: Billions of dollars are being invested in edtech startups. What impact do you think this will have on teaching and learning in universities and colleges?

  • No impact at all 1%
  • It may result in a few tools we can use 69%
  • We will come to rely on these companies in our learning and teaching 21%
  • It will completely transform learning and teaching 9%

AM: I am towards the 9% here, there are risks but there is huge reason for optimism here. There are some great companies coming out and working with them increases the chance that this investment will benefit the sector. Startups are keen to work with universities, to collaborate. They are really keen to work with us.

LE: It is difficult for universities to take that punt, to take that risk on new ideas. Procurement, governance, are all essential to facilitating that engagement.

AM: I think so. But I think if we don’t engage then we do risk these companies coming in and building businesses that don’t take account of our needs.

LE: Now that’s a big spend taking place for that small potential change that many who answered this question perceive…

PM: I think there are saving that will come out of those changes potentially…

AM: And in fact that potentially means saving money on tools we currently use by adopting new, and investing that into staff..

Q5: Where do you think the biggest benefits of technology are felt in education?

  • Enabling or enhancing learning and teaching activities 55%
  • In the broader student experience 30%
  • In administrative efficiencies 9%
  • It’s hard to identify clear benefits 6%

SD: I think many of the big benefits we’ve seen over the last 8 years has been around things like online timetables – wider student experience and administrative spaces. But we are also seeing that, when used effectively, technology can really enhance the learning experience. We have a few sessions here around that. Key here is digital capabilities of staff and students. Whether awareness, confidence, understanding fit with disciplinary practice. Lots here at Digifest around digital skills. [sidenote: see also our new Digital Footprint MOOC which is now live for registrations]

I’m quite surprised that 6% thought it was hard to identify clear benefits… There are still lots of questions there, and we have a session on evidence based practice tomorrow, and how evidence feeds into institutional decision making.

PM: There is something here around the Apprentice Levy which is about to come into place. A surprisingly high percentage of employers aren’t aware that they will be paying that actually! Technology has a really important role here for teaching, learning and assessment, but also tracking and monitoring around apprenticeships.

LE: So, with that, I encourage you to look around, chat to our exhibitors, craft the programme that is right for you. And to kick that off here is some of the brilliant work you have been up to. [we are watching a video – this should be shared on today’s hashtag #digifest17]

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TEDxYouth@Manchester video live: What do your digital footprints say about you?

This is a very wee blog post/aside to share the video of my TEDxYouth@Manchester talk, “What do your digital footprints say about you?”:

You can read more on the whole experience of being part of this event in my blog post from late November.

It would appear that my first TEDx, much like my first Bright Club, was rather short and sweet (safely within my potential 14 minutes). I hope you enjoy it and I would recommend catching up with my fellow speakers’ talks:

Kat Arney

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ben Smith

Click here to view the embedded video.

VV Brown

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ben Garrod

Click here to view the embedded video.

I gather that the videos of the incredible teenage speakers and performers will follow soon.

 

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What is it like to work with comic book writers and artists to turn research into comics?

Last weekend (Sunday 27th November) I gave a talk at the Edinburgh Comic Art Festival 2016 on what it’s like to turn research into a comic book.  We made a (low tech) recording of the talk (watch it here, see also the prezi here) but I also wanted to write about this project as I wanted to share and reflect on the process of creating a comic book to communicate research.

So, how did our comic, “Crowd Power: the COBWEB Guide to Citizen Science” come to happen in the first place?

Meet COBWEB

As some of you will be aware, over the last four years I have been working on an ambitious EU-FP7-funded citizen science project called COBWEB: Citizen Observatory Web. We have, of course, been communicating our work throughout the project (in fact you can read our communications plan here) but as all the final deliverables and achievements have been falling into place over the last few months, we wanted to find some new ways to share what we have done, what we have accomplished, and what the next steps will look like.

Whilst we are bringing COBWEB to a close, we are also now taking our resultant citizen science software, Fieldtrip Open, through an open source process and building new projects and sustainability plans (which also means considering suitable business models) around that. Open sourcing software isn’t just about making the software available, or giving it the right license, it is also about ensuring it has a real prospect of adoption and maintenance by a community, which means we are particularly keen to support and develop the community around FieldTrip Open. And we want to bring new people in as users and contributors to the software. So, for both dissemination and open sourcing projects we really need to inspire people to find out more about the approaches we’ve taken, the software we’ve built, and to explain where it all came from. But how could we best do that?

During the project we had developed a lot of good resources and assets, with a lot of formal reporting and public deliverables already available, and accompanying engagement with wider audiences (particularly co-design process participants) through social media and regular project newsletters. Those materials are great but we wanted something concise, focused, and tangible, and we also wanted something more immediately engaging than formal reports and technical papers. So, this summer we did some thinking and plotting…  My colleague Tom Armitage joined COBWEB partners in the Netherlands to revisit our geospatial software open sourcing options with the OSGeo community; Tom and I met with the fantastic folk from the Software Sustainability Institute for some advice on going (properly and sustainably) Open Source and building the software community; and my colleague Pete O’Hare looked at the videos, demos, and footage archive we’d accumulated and suggested we make a documentary on the project. After all of that we not only had some solid ideas, but we’d also really started to think about storytelling and doing something more creative for our current target audiences.

Across all of our conversations what became clear was that real need to inspire and engage people. The project is complicated but when have shared our own enthusiasm about the work and its potential, people really take an interest and that open us longer and (sometimes) more technical or practical conversations. But we can’t get everywhere in person so we needed some cost effective ways to do that excitement-building: to explain the project quickly, clearly and entertainingly, as a starting point to trigger follow up enquiries and those crucial next step conversations. So, In August we did follow up on Pete’s suggestion, commissioning a documentary short (that’s a whole other story but click on that link to view the finished film, and huge thanks to our wonderful filmmaker Erin Maguire) to give an overview of the COBWEB project, but we also decided we’d try something we had never done before. We were going to try making a comic…

Why a comic? 

Well, first lets talk terminology… And I should note that if this blog post were a graphic novel, this would be a little side note or separate frame, or me explaining a pro tip to the reader – so imagine that as our format!:

Is it a comic, or is it a graphic novel? I think a lot of people will think about “comics” as being The Dandy, The Beano, Manga titles, or one of the long running mass market series’ like The Avengers or Archie. Or maybe you’d think of a comic strip like Peanuts or Calvin & Hobbes. Similarly “graphic novel” seems to be tied to the idea of long form books which look more like literary fiction/non-fiction, with well regarded titles like Fun Home or Kiki de Montparnasse or Persepolis. The difference is hard to explain partly because when you make that sort of distinction, clearly there are a lot of boundary cases… Is it about audience (e.g. teens vs adults), or aesthetic, or page format or critical response or some other criteria? Calvin & Hobbes deals wittily with matters of philosophy, but is widely read by children who engage with its (deceptive) simplicity, charming aesthetic and warm tone and deceptively simple story telling. By contrast, the new The Story of Sex: From Apes to Robots has a lively and pretty course – even for the subject matter – aesthetic (it’s authors are French and I would put the drawing mid-way along the AsterixCharlie Hebdo tastefulness continuum) and it is aimed at a wide audience, but it is co-written by an academic, has been well received by critics, and you’ll find it shelved in the graphic novel section. Comparing these works on any kinds of comic vs. graphic novel grounds won’t tell you anything very useful about style or quality, although it might reveal the personal preference of the reader or reviewer you are talking to…

So, Before I began this project I was pretty sure that what I read are graphic novels – yes, snobbery – but, when you actually talk to people who make these wonderful things, the term – especially for shorter works – is “comics” and that’s accepted as covering the whole continuum, with all the styles, genres, print formats, etc. that you might expect (yes, even graphic novels) included. So, taking my lead from those that write and draw them, I will be using “comic” here – and next time you are discussing, say, female self-realisation in Wonder Woman and the Nao of Brown, you can go ahead and call both of them comics too!

Definition of a comic from the OED online.

Right, back to the topic at hand…

One of the reasons that a COBWEB comic seemed like it might be a good idea is that I really enjoy reading comics, and I particularly love non-fiction comics as a form because they can be so powerful and immediate, bringing complex ideas to life in unexpected ways, but which also leaves you the space to think and reflect. Comics are primarily a visual form and that enables you to explain specialist technologies or sophisticated concepts, or take people on flights of fancy offering creative metaphors that allow you to explain but also re-explain and re-interpret an idea lightly and engagingly. Your audience still need to think and imagine but in a great comic the combination of text and visuals brings something special to the experience. Comics can be more playful, colourful and bright than a formal report, and also much less constrained by physical reality, budget and location than a video or an event. And whether in digital or print form comics feel really pleasingly tangible and polished; they are designed, story-boarded, they feel like a special and finished product. From the non-fiction comics I’d read I could see that comics would work well for talking about technology and research, so they could be a good fit for our project if we could be confident that our target audience and our type of research would be a good fit for the possibilities and restrictions of the form.

For the COBWEB project we wanted to reach out to researchers, developers, and future project partners which are likely to include software and digital companies, NGOs, SMEs, as well as non-professional researchers (community groups etc), and others interested in working with – and hopefully interested (in some cases) in contributing to our codebase – for our open source software. This is defined set of audiences but each audience (and individual) holds highly varied interests and expertise: COBWEB is a complex project, with lots of different components, which means our audiences might be new to all of the concepts we are presenting or they may, say, know a great deal about coding but not environmental projects, or all about the environment but not about using mobile technologies… But we do know these audiences – we already work with developers and researchers, we’ve been working with potential users and contributors throughout the project so we have some idea of interests, aesthetics, etc. We felt pretty confident that many of those we want to reach do read and engage with comics of various types, from web comics like xkcd to beautifully published books like The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. That overlap and interest helped us feel confident that a comic would be a good fit for our audience, and a really great fit for telling our story.

Finding a comic artist to work with

We now had the bare bones of the idea, and we had a solid idea of our target audience. But we weren’t totally sure about which aspects of our story to draw out, what parts of the COBWEB story we wanted to tell, although we knew it had to inspire, entertain, and be accessible. We also really didn’t know what we wanted our comic to look like. As I started to think about possible collaborators (we knew we needed others to work with/commission) I remembered that very many years ago I’d seen a flyer – in the form of a comic book – for Glasgow Comic Con in a hotel. I did some searching around and found BHP (Black Hearted Press) Comics, an independent comics publisher based in Glasgow that creates their own comic books, but had also recently completed a project with the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum. Looking around their site I also found The Mighty Women of Science, another book where the subject and aesthetic suggested a good fit with COBWEB (and it was. Spoiler: Mighty Women author Clare Forrest illustrated Chapter 2 of our book). I had no idea what to expect in response but there wasn’t a way to find out if this idea was viable without getting some advice, so I fired off a quick email to BHP Comics…

Screenshot of the BHP website featuring Mighty Women of Science

Screenshot of the BHP website featuring Mighty Women of Science

I had a really swift reply from Sha Nazir from BHP. Sha was interested to talk more about the idea so we set up a meeting and, ahead of that, I trawled through my favourite comics to find some examples of the kind of idea I had in mind. On the day I brought in a few books that I thought did this sort of storytelling well, including: The Influencing Machine, Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld’s overview of the (US) media ecology and culture; The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage – a fictionalised steam punk re-telling of the lives of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, with great technology descriptions and lots of (factual and referenced) footnotes; Filmish – the book of Edward Ross’ critiques and explorations of cinema and film making (in the mould of Scott McCloud’s classic Understanding Comics). I also brought in a copy of Taylor & Francis’ Cartoon Abstracts – scientific papers which have been turned into 1 page cartoons – which is one of the very few examples I have seen of scientific and technological research being adapted into comics.

That initial conversation with Sha was a long and honest chat about the kind of idea we had in mind. Sha had brought his own selection of books – copies of The Mighty Women of Science, Comic Invention, an issue of Rok of the Reds, and Plagued: The Miranda Chronicles – to give me a sense of what BHP work on, the kind of writers and illustrators they work with, the sorts of formats, sizes and print styles we might want to consider. We talked about timelines: ours were really tight. Sha and I met in August and we needed to have a digital copy available and all work invoiced by the end of October (the print copy could follow). The comics could then be used to extend our dissemination and sustainability work, helping us share what we’d accomplished and support keeping that work and code a going concern. That timeline we requested was ridiculous and I am eternally grateful that Sha even considered taking it on (he was optimistic in our meeting but very wisely went away to think about it before we finalised anything). However, to make that timeline work he was clear from the outset that someone (me) would need to be available to check in regularly, to feed into and look over the script, the storyboards, the draft versions – Sha and his colleagues at BHP would take on the work but we also really had to commit to it to. I was up for that although I had a three and a half week holiday to the US scheduled for September so, with the caveat that we’d have to work around time zones, it all looked doable and we started scheduling some check ins.

So, what else did we need to discuss to get this started? Well, I needed to actually describe and give some background to COBWEB. I told Sha about the project in our meeting – and followed up by sending him some of the key project technical documents and reports that summarised our work. Sha was entirely new to the project – like many of those we want the comic to reach – so asked lots of really useful questions that really did highlight the complexity of describing COBWEB. To give you a sense of that: COBWEB has been a 4-year, €8.5 million project with 13 partners in 5 countries; we’ve had 9 workpackages and many more deliverables, we’ve worked with over 1000 volunteers and 7 co-design projects as we developed our software – for which there are 6 separate GitHub libraries. There is a lot there. And there are important unique aspects to the work: the compliance with EU and international standards, including INSPIRE compliant metadata; our focus on UNESCO Biosphere areas; the access management controls in our software; the involvement of policy makers as project partners; the contribution to empowering of citizens in Europe. At the same time our comic didn’t need to be encyclopedia, it just needed to have enough focus on what was important to give a broad picture and to excite people!

On which note… We talked about the audience, who they were, and what messages they should take from the comic. We were very clear from the outset that we were using comics as an engaging medium, but that we expected our audience to have some fairly serious interest in the project, which meant that although nothing should be inappropriate for children, our target audiences were adults and mainly quite technically literate adults. We wanted to explain the work of the project and assumed not prior knowledge of COBWEB, but some (useful) complexity and detail was going to ok where it felt appropriate. And we felt we could assume that readers of the comic may follow up by reading one of the more traditional publications if they then had a specific technical or policy interest to follow up.

At that initial meeting we also talked a bit about artists and art work. With our (crazy) timeline Sha recommended we break the the comic into a small number of chapters and that, once a script was written, these would be illustrated by different artists meaning that we’d get a really lovely variance of styles across the comic (something you’ll see in a growing number of comics, including Kiki de Montparnasse where drawing styles change when “Kiki” works with different artists). Using several different artists was also practical, as it meant that those chapters could be illustrated in parallel by different people – shortening those restrictive publication times.

Initial art work for the COBWEB comic by Kirsty Hunter

Initial art work for the COBWEB comic by Kirsty Hunter

We also talked about formats. The weekly comic book style of Rok of the Reds was going to be cheap to print and it would be easy to hand out – it could almost fit in a pocket – but it didn’t look quite as polished as we wanted. But The Mighty Women of Science had a great format – substantial and beautifully finished thick/card cover and binding, with matt finish pages, in A4 format (useful since all of our display stands, envelopes, etc. are designed for A4 reports/promotional items). It looked like a book, a thin but high quality finish book and, better yet, it was a budget-friendly format for a small print run.

And, as the ideas took shape, Sha and I discussed cost, and an initial estimate of the work to do the digital comic, plus a price for a print run of 1000 A4 copies. A quick sketch of costs came out of that meeting, which allowed me to  talk to my COBWEB colleagues and to check that our budget could accommodate the project. I don’t think it is appropriate to share that price here but it was very reasonable for this much work and, particularly given the timelines we were working with, was enormously good value. Why tell you this? Well, if you are thinking of doing your own comic then I highly recommend talking to some comic artists or publishers before you (potentially) rule it out over costs, since (for us at least) those costs were very fair but were also dependent on things like number of pages and chapters, print formats, etc. so were also (somewhat) within our control.

So, we now had some solid ideas and a plan. We exchanged emails to work out the details, check costs (and check budgets), and get both informal and informal agreements to proceed (which we did quickly because, again, timelines were really tight). A standard contract was prepared and work began immediately at BHP, with me sending over information, background documents and diagrams etc. so that Sha and his colleague Kirsty Hunter could begin to get a script worked out – and could ask any questions as they arose. And, at this point I am going to embed my Prezi from my ECAF16 talk, which covers the production process stage by stage:


Throughout September Sha and Kirsty worked on the script, sending me drafts to comment on, tweak, correct, etc. We arranged several calls from a range of unusually exotic locations – a check in from Seattle, from Davis (California), and then – as I headed off to AoIR – from Berlin. We agreed focal areas early on, with the script starting as a skeleton in four sections:

  1. An introduction to COBWEB and the core concept of citizen science – ensuring all readers share some background knowledge but also making the comic a useful resource to those curious about crowd sourcing and citizen science in general.
  2. Highlights from the co-design work including several real world examples of people and projects who have shaped and been part of the COBWEB community. Much of this came from our co-design project reports, highlighting real challenges and feedback (good and bad) from our volunteer community.
  3. Our “under the bonnet” chapter, on the more chewy technical aspects of the project and including a very cleverly conceived double page spread on quality assurance processes.
  4. What happens next with COBWEB and our software now that the project is over and the open sourcing takes shape, but also where technology is going and how citizen science may fit in to e.g. smart cities.

Those sections were broken into pages and the script rapidly took shape. As the sections and pages were agreed, text for each page was drafted and tweaked. And storyboarding began in earnest…

, but also with the citizen science in a European context

Draft layout sketch for the COBWEB comic (by permission of Sha Nazir/Kirsty Hunter/BHP Comics).

By mid September I had started to receive initial visual ideas and sketches (a delightful treat in a Monday morning inbox!), and, in parallel, the wording and detail of the script was getting finalised. By the end of the month the script and initial drawings were ready enough to share with COBWEB colleagues for their checking and feedback – they did a brilliant job helping me ensure we were using the right types of terminology, not missing anything important, and also catching the less exciting but very important spelling issues, corrections etc. (having many eyes to check a script at several stages was very useful indeed and definitely recommended).

Once the wording was (pretty much) finalised and the storyboards ready, the comic went into the illustration process – seeing those storyboards turn from sketches to fully fledged characters (including a few fun references/”Easter eggs”), then those characters started to gain colour, backgrounds. Drafts were shared and commented on, and finally the final started to take shape. This part of the process followed a different sort of process: it required less input from me at first – a few checks of the pages and visuals – as the work went out to different illustrators for completion. However, once lettering was done there were a few crucial tasks to do: checking all of the text for content, spelling, etc. (which is surprisingly tricky when you’ve been seeing drafts for weeks, you have to adopt a whole different proof-reading level of engagement); building a glossary page for some of the technical terminology (in retrospect this is something I should have done right after that first meeting when the unknown words and acronyms were most obvious); and, because somehow we just hadn’t gotten to it yet, we actually had to think of a title…

A page from Crowd Power: the COBWEB Guide to Citizen Science, featuring real feedback from real co-design project volunteers.

A finished page from Crowd Power: the COBWEB guide to citizen science, featuring real comments from real co-design project volunteers.

What the heck do we call this thing?

In late October, several weeks after beginning work on the comic, we still didn’t have a title. Sha asked me to think about some ideas, and I sketched a few out but also started asking colleagues… We played with variants on the key aspects of citizen science, crowd sourcing, empowerment, etc… We wanted to get COBWEB mentioned, to give a sense of the content, but also to have a title that had a more catchy ring to it. After lots of chats and several lists of possibilities pitching back and forth, “Crowd Power: the COBWEB Guide to Citizen Science” emerged as a winner.

We then had to think about covers. Sha sent through several ideas but one of the most appealing – bringing together an image of a protest march with an image inspired by the Shepard Fairey “Hope” poster for Barack Obama – started to look less than ideal in a post-Brexit context, and with Trump newly elected president. Protests as a shorthand for people power are great, but at a time of genuine political complexity, polarisation, and a high likelihood of real protest movements, we decided that this was an image for the book and promotion, but not for the cover. Some other ideas looked good, but didn’t seem to bring forward the idea of real people, and environmental research as successfully. In the end we settled on an image that is, essentially, a cut scene from the comic, featuring a group of friends using COBWEB out in the wilds, as seen by our (nameless but brilliant) narrator:

Crowd Power: the COBWEB Guide to Citizen Science cover image

Another opportunity to look at our cover art. Eagle eyed cartoon fans may note a certain similarity between our curious walkers and the Scooby Doo gang…

One of the things I was asked early in the process had been “do you want the narrator or main characters to be human? Or can they be animals? Or giant floaty heads?”… I said that anything was fine, as long as it made sense – so a duck or a seal or some sort of animal that would appear in our actual co-design projects were fine, but not a penguin or dragon (or anything that wouldn’t make sense in that context). One of the things I loved about Sha, Kirsty and Clare’s illustrations was that they responded to that flexibility by building in diversity, quirkiness, and little in-jokes (indeed there are several “Easter eggs” in Crowd Power).You’ll notice from the cover that our narrator (throughout) is female. Sha and I had talked about women being well represented in the comic but I was also delighted, when the more finished version of the illustrations came through, to see a range of racial and ethnic diversity quietly represented in our book. The project was diverse in many ways, and we also want to be entirely welcoming to anyone who would like to be part of the COBWEB and FieldTrip Open community. The range of people in the comic subtly reflects that desire to include and engage and is, I think, one of the reasons that comics can be so powerful for messaging values, beliefs, and intentions as part of and alongside the core narrative.

With the title and cover art completed, and a further final proof read. Make that two. Make that three… And a few very last minute corrections… the COBWEB comic went off to the printers and the digital copy immediately went live on the COBWEB project website.  Now, to get the comic out to our audience…

Finding our audience

As soon as the digital copy of the Comic went live we tweeted and shared it with project partners and those interested in the project.

The feedback within the project team was excellent, with some of the team keen to use pages from the comic in their own presentations as an introduction or overview of their work. For the team I think the comic – and the documentary that went live shortly afterwards – provided some sense of stepping back and reflecting on what had been done. At the end of a four year project it can be much easier to know what wasn’t completed, or didn’t go to plan, or didn’t develop as you’d expect. Looking over the story of the project, what had been achieved, how much work had taken place is very rewarding and reminds you of all the excitement and accomplishments of that project.

Feedback from our wider contacts and social media communities was excited and interested. We have shared the comic openly on the website and explicitly state that it can be downloaded, circulated, kept, used elsewhere… We are keen that it is seen and read and used by whoever wants to do that. If I have one regret it is that in all of our conversations we didn’t agree to make the book available under a Creative Commons license – more by omission than because of any particular issue with doing that. Sha has been great about us using images of work in progress – you’ll see a series of sketches, etc. in that Prezi – and shares our keenness that the book is seen and accessible. We commissioned it to be free to access – whether download or print – but it would have been wise to agree licensing terms more directly to avoid any possible doubts.

Then, the week of the Edinburgh Comic Art Festival 13 boxes of comics appeared at the EDINA offices in Argyle House and they looked absolutely glorious! The print copies triggered a ripple of excitement through the office and also generated lots of interest at ECAF – which seemed like a great place to see how our comic fared with a mixed but interested audience.

As the year comes to a close we will be circulating copies to our COBWEB project partners but also that core target audience as we go out and about developing the FieldTrip Open community, sharing copies with developers, researchers, etc.

So, what do you think? 

If you would like a (print or digital) copy, and/or would like to talk to us about how we can support your citizen science project, please do get in touch. I would also love to hear your feedback on the comic and any suggestions you may have about communities that may like to work with us in turning FieldTrip Open into a really vibrant open source project in the future. Do leave a comment here or email me.

Some important acknowledgements

Enormous thanks to Sha Nazir and Kirsty Hunter, who created the fantastic Crowd Power comic with Clare Forrest, Jack Lothian and Kirk Kristofferson. Sha and Kirsty explicitly gave me their permission to share images of works in progress for this post and my ECAF talk this weekend, which I hugely appreciated. It has been an absolute delight to work with all at BHP Comics and I would recommend contacting them if you are considering embarking upon/commissioning a similar piece of work.

Further resources

Some useful links are provided here so that you can quickly access our materials, the comic, or any of the COBWEB project website or code:

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Jisc Digifest 2016 – Day One LiveBlog

Today and tomorrow I am in Birmingham for Jisc Digifest 2016 which I’ll be liveblogging here. I’m particularly hear wearing my Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media hat, helping to share the event with the wider sector who aren’t able to be at the ICC.

There is also an online programme so, if you aren’t here in person, you can not only follow the tweets on #digifest16 and the various blogs, you can also view special online content here.

As usual, this is a liveblog so all corrections, additions, comments, etc. are very welcome. 

At the moment my expected schedule for day one (this may change) is:

09:30 – 10:45 Plenaries: the power of digital for change – Dr Paul Feldman, chief executive, Jisc; Professor David Maguire, chair, Jisc; Professor Andrew Harrison, professor of practice at University of Wales Trinity St David and director, Spaces That Work Ltd; Andrew’s talk is entitled creating great digital spaces for learning; Professor Donna Lanclos, associate professor for anthropological research,UNC Charlotte

11:15 – 12:00 Improving digital technology skills in FE: the CPD service – Sarah Dunne, senior co-design manager, Jisc; Clare Killen, consultant; Peter Chatterton, consultant; Georgia Hemings, co-design support officer, Jisc

12:30 – 13:15 Build your own university app in under an hour (sponsor session from Guidebook) – Justin Lamb, product specialist, Guidebook

14:15 – 15:45 Jisc’s investment in digital content for humanities: understanding the impact on research outcomes – Paola Marchionni, head of digital resources for teaching, learning and research, Jisc; Peter Findlay, digital portfolio manager, Jisc; Professor Eric T Meyer, senior research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute; Dr Kathryn Eccles, research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute.

Or:

14:15 – 15:45 Why educators can’t live without social media – Eric Stoller, higher education thought-leader, consultant, writer, and speaker

15:30 – 16:15 Working with students to make the most of digital – Sarah Knight, senior co-design manager, Jisc;  Dr Kerry Gough, senior lecturer in learning and teaching, Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT), Birmingham City University; Jamie Morris, associate lecturer in student engagement, Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT), Birmingham City University; Charlotte Creagh, manager of innovation and digital, Harlow College; Dave Monk, e-learning co-ordinator, Harlow College; Dani Campion, student, Birmingham City University; Charlotte Gough, student, Birmingham City University

16:45 – 17:45 The case for learning analytics – Phil Richards, chief innovation officer, Jisc; Michael Webb, director of technology and analytics, Jisc; Niall Sclater, learning analytics consultant

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Upcoming Events in Innovative Learning Week 2016

For the last few years the University of Edinburgh have run an “Innovative Learning Week” in which no traditional lectures or tutorials take place, instead students (and staff) are encouraged to experiment, to engage in new ways, to participate in events and teaching activities beyond their usual discipline or subject areas. It is a really lovely concept and I am always amazed at the range of events and collaborations that take place in that very busy week.

This year Innovative Learning Week runs from Monday 15th to Friday 19th February and I am involved in a few events that I thought I would share here for those based at Edinburgh (do sign up!) and for the interest of others who may be curious about what an ILW event looks like…

History of Medicine Wikipedia Editathon

This event, a follow up last year’s very successful editathon, is something I have been involved in the planning of (and will be baking for) although I’ll only be able to be there on the Thursday. However, a fantastic group of information services, academic and Wikipedian in Residence folks are making this event happen and it should be both fun and really interesting. Great for those wanting to brush up their Wikipedia skills too. 

Join the Innovative Learning Week History of Medicine Wikipedia Editathon (open to students, staff, and all others who are interested), where you will have an opportunity to edit Wikipedia and meet our new Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew. Join us in re-writing the Wikipedia pages of Edinburgh’s infamous medical figures including body-snatcher William Burke, the intriguing Dr. James Miranda Barry, or choose to enhance and create content for notable University of Edinburgh alumni (see the list under the How do I prepare section http://bit.ly/ILWEditathonEventPage).

Wikipedia training provides staff valuable digital skills to support CPD as well as hands on experience using an open access educational repository. No experience necessary as each session will offer Wikipedia editing and publishing training and the opportunity to observe online collaboration, public engagement, knowledge exchange, and scholarly communication in action.

Join in for one session, a full day, or for all three (sessions run in David Hume Tower, Teaching Studio LG.07):

  • TUESDAY 16                       Session1: 2pm-5pm
  • WEDNESDAY 17                S2: 10am-1pm; S3: 2-5pm
  • THURSDAY 18                    S4: 10am-1pm; S5: 2-5pm

Sign up: http://bit.ly/ILWEditathon2016 and/or follow us and share on Twitter: #ILWEditathon @LTW_UOE. If you are attending please bring your own personal laptop or tablet if you are able.

Creating an Effective Presence (Engineering)

I will be leading a section in this workshop on managing your digital footprint, developing and effective online presence, managing social media settings and options, as part of a wider session that looks at what it means to present yourself as a professional engineer and to evidence your skills and experience. 

This workshop on Tuesday 16th February (2-5pm), jointly hosted by the School of Engineering, the Careers Service and EDINA, will focus on Digital Footprint Awareness and creating an effective online presence to support summer internship and placement applications.

The session will include:

  • advice on using LinkedIn effectively;
  • an introduction to PebblePad for online portfolios;
  • guidance on managing your digital footprint.

Before attending, make sure you’ve registered for an account on LinkedIn. This is a BYOD session (bring your own device e.g. laptop or tablet).

Sign up (students in the School of Engineering only): http://www.innovativelearning.ed.ac.uk/creating-effective-online-presence-engineering

Communicating science to non-academic audiences ? who, what, why and how.

I have been involved in the planning of this session which I am contributing some social media, copyright/licensing and science communication expertise and resources to.

This science communication workshop explores how critical it is to identify your target audience and tailor your Open Educational Resource accordingly. The group will identify audiences and explore what their specific needs are before creating an interactive, web based, Open Educational Resource.

Sign up:

Other events worth noting include… 

The ILW newspaper (below) includes some highlights or you can search the programme in full here: http://www.innovativelearning.ed.ac.uk/ilw-calendar


And I’ll be sharing some of the resources from the sessions I’m involved with here on my blog (likely on the Publications and Presentations page).

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EdinburghApps Event LiveBlog

This afternoon I’ve popped in to see the presentations from this weekend’s EdinburghApps event, being held at the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum. As usual for my liveblogs, all comments and edits are very much welcomed. 

EdinburghApps, which also ran in 2014, is a programme of events organised by Edinburgh City Council (with various partners) and generating ideas and technology projects to address key social challenges. This year’s events are themed around health and social care (which have recently been brought together in Scotland under the Public Bodies Joint Working Bill for Health and Social Care Integration).

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be part of the full weekend but this presentation session will involve participants presenting the projects they have been coming up with, addressing health and social care challenges around five themes (click to see a poster outlining the challenge):

And so, over to the various teams (whose names I don’t have but who I’m quite sure the EdinburghApps team will be highlighting on their blog in the coming weeks!)…

Meet Up and Eat Up

This is Ella, an International Student at UoE. Meets people at events but wants to grow her network. She sees a poster for a “Meet Up and Eat Up” event, advertising food and drinks events for students to get together. She creates a profile, including allergies/preferences. She chooses whether to attend or host a meal. She picks a meal to attend, selects a course to bring, and shares what she will bring. She hits select and books a place at the meal…

So on the night of the meal everyone brings a course… (cue some adorable demonstration). And there is discussion, sharing of recipes (facilitated by the app), sharing of images, hashtags etc… Ratings within the app (also adorably demonstrated).

So, Ella shares her meal, she shares the recipe in the app…

The Meet Up and Eat Up team demonstrate their app idea.

The Meet Up and Eat Up team demonstrate their app idea.

Q&A

Q) Just marketed to students or other lonely people?

A) Mainly at students, and international students in particular as we think they are particularly looking for those connections, especially around holidays. But we’d want more mixing there, might put it into freshers week packs, introductory stuff…We might need to also arrange some initial meals to make this less intimidating… maybe even a Freshers week(s) event – there are five universities in town so opportunity to have mixing across those groups of students.

Game of Walks

Our challenge was to encourage walking to school so our audience was children, parents but also schools. We have turned our challenge into Game of Walks…

So, we’d find some maps of good walks to schools, routes that are longer but also safe… And along the route there would be sensors and, as you walk past, an image – appropriate to a theme in the curriculum – would appear on the pavement… So the kid will be a team and looks for an image appropriate for their team (e.g. sharks vs jellyfish).

Now, when we tested this out we discovered that kids cheat! And may try to rescan/gather the same thing. So it will randomly change to avoid that. And each week the theme will change…

So, there is also a tech angle here… We would have a wide field sensor – to trigger the device – and a narrow field sensor would enable the capturing of the thing on the walk… So that’s arduino operated. And you’d have 3D printed templates for the shape you need – which kids could print at school – so you’d just need a wee garden ornament type thing to trigger it. And once a week the kids would gather that data and see who won…

 

The Game of Walks team demo their idea for gamified school walks.

The Game of Walks team demo their idea for gamified school walks.

 

Q&A

Q1) How expensive will these be?

A1) Tried to pick sensors and devices that are cheap and cheerful. Arduino nanos are very inexpensive. LEDs probably more expensive… But keep it cheap, so if vandalised or stolen you can either repair or deal with loss.

Q2) How would you select the locations for the sensors… ?

A2) We thought we’d get parents and schools to select those… Encourage longer routes… The device will have that badge until collected… If lots of kids in the same place there’ll be a constant procession which could be tricky… Want, in a zone around the school, where you’d have smaller groups this would trigger.

Q3) Who programmes the Arduino

A3) Lots of schools teach Arduino, so could get the kids involved in this too, also the shapes, the data collection and users. And you will have footfall data as part of that capture which would also be interesting… Maybe get kids involved in potentially moving the sensors to new places because of lots/not enough footfall…

Comment) I think that’s exciting, getting the kids involved in that way…

Team Big Data

Note: this is almost certainly not their name, but they didn’t share their team name in their presentation.

So, I’m a user for our system… My mum has just recovered from cancer and I’m quite concerned about my own risk… So my friend suggested a new app to find out more… So I enter my data… And, based on a bigger data set my risks are calculated. And as a user I’m presented with an option for more information and tips on how to change… The database/system offers a suggestion of how to improve his practice… And maybe you reject some suggestions, so receive alternative ideas… And the app reminds you… In case you forget to cut back on your sausages… And based on those triggers and reminders you might update your personal data and risk… And the user is asked for feedback – and hopefully improves what they do…

Team Big Data demo their idea for an app nudging good health and personal care through an app and big data risk/suggestion database.

Team Big Data demo their idea for an app nudging good health and personal care through an app and big data risk/suggestion database.

Q&A

Q1) What stuff is going to be worked on… What would be held?

A1) We did a demonstration with a computer sharing all of your data in one place… It’s currently in lots of different places… We did a few simple designs that holds all the data of the users… Not trying to be the big brothers… We presented the user experience… But not so much the behind the scenes stuff…

Q2) How does the app know about the beer count? (part of the demo)

A2) We demonstrated this as an app but it could be a website, or something else… You can perhaps get that data based on purchase history etc. The user doesn’t have to do anything extra here, its using existing data in different places. Also people often share this stuff on Facebook.

Comment) You have tackled a really difficult problem… You’ve made a good start on this… It’s such a massive behavioural change to do…

Comment) Many people are happy to volunteer data already…

Q3) How do you convince Tesco to share data with this app?

A3) I think you’d need to have an agreement between NHS and Tesco… For a new form of membership where you opt into that sharing of data.

Comment) Might be a way to encourage people to sign up for a ClubCard, if there was a benefit for accuracy and advice in the app.

A3) Maybe also there are discounts that

Comment) Maybe bank cards is a better way to do that. So there may be a way to join up with those organisations looking at being able to link up with some of these…

A3) This idea isn’t any kind of competition… Might give you ideas about data access…

Comment) I was just wanting to raise the issue that if you were working with, e.g. Tesco, you’d need to also get data from other large and small companies and working with one company may put others off working for you – incentivising users to, e.g. get a ClubCard, isn’t going to incentivise, say, Sainsbury’s to work with you with the data they hold. There are also data protection issues here that are too complex/big to get into.

Simply SMS

Note: this is a charming father/son team including our youngest participant, a boy named Archie who seems to be around 9 or 10 years old (and is clearly a bit of a star).

So this is an app to help people with cognitive impairments to engage and communicate with the younger generation. Maybe a teen, Billy Boy, wants to help out his Grandad, who has had a stroke… So Grandad has an app, and Billy Boy has a reciprocal App. They have slightly different versions.. And they can exchange pictograms… Billy Boy can prompt Grandad to brush their teeth, or do other things to keep in touch and check in… Grandad can ask Billy Boy how he’s doing…

The Simply SMS team demo their idea for an app connecting lonely people across generations through pictogram messages.

The Simply SMS team demo their idea for an app connecting lonely people across generations through pictogram messages.

Q&A

Q1) How do you get this working over SMS?

A1) Would actually be messaging system, which could use words as well as pictures… Perhaps as time goes on you could change it so different people with different cognitive impairments could use it – e.g. number of stars so you could indicate how well you were eating. Also there would be some messaging between, say, carer, homehelp, relatives etc. So that all of those engaged in care can share updates, e.g. that Grandad has been taken to hospital…

Q2) What do you want to do next?

A2) We were looking at Meteor that lets you chain server, iPhone and Android apps together and they have a really nice chat room style system, for public or private chat rooms. So we would look to create plugins for that for pictograms and the right sort of mix of public and private messages. And bring together people involved based on the care package that person has.

Q3) Can this be done so that Billy Boyd can use his existing messaging apps could tie into that?

A3) It may be that there are ways to do that. Often there are things to integrate things together… Tools to post to multiple sites at once, so could maybe use that…

Q4) Could you compare our big data approach to yours?

A4) This isn’t really big data. The intelligence isn’t really in the application, it’s in the people who are involved in the care and using the apps who have the intelligence.

Q5) Do you think people would be able to learn these sorts of pictograms?

A5) We’d have to see… But there are some simple things you can do – like the stars. But people retiring now include those used to working with technology… So pensioners are getting more adept at these things. People will adopt new technology.

Q5) Have you heard of a thing called Talking Mats. It’s a communication tool for people with dementia using pictures. Would be good to look into that, and how that could fit together.

A5) There are lots of things out there… Doing parts of this. And part of this idea is about getting teenagers involved too.

Q6) How about animated gifs?

A6) Lots of the development would be about what people actually need to know… Have a friend who calls to check her ageing relative has had a shave, or what they did today.

Comment) One nice next step might be to test out that pictogram language, see if they find that works, including teenagers and older people…

A) Debating what a bank or a school or shop might look like, for instance…

Closing Comments – Keira (We Are Snook) and Sally Kerr (Edinburgh City Council)

Keira: We have so many new ideas, and we started yesterday with our challenges but nothing else. Obviously a two day hack has its limitations… It’s not the way to get things perfect. But we have the opportunity now to come together again in a few weeks time (27th Feb)

Sally: So our next event is here (University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum) as well, on Saturday 27th February. Then after that midway event there will be pitch session on Sunday 13th March. We’ll contact you all, share information on the blog, get challenge owners on the blog… And get you to the next stage.

Keira (We Are Snook): So I’m going to hand out a wee plan for the next few weeks so that you can get your ideas ready, the milestones for your journey, who the key actors are, who will do what. You should have left team outlines to me, and forms that will help us share your ideas with others too. And we’d welcome your feedback on the event as well. And finally I have one of our Snook plywood phones for Archie (our very youngest participant at around 10) for prototyping lots of app ideas!

And with that, the day was done – although conversations continued over coffee and KitKats. A really interesting set of ideas though, and I’m told there is another team who will be along at the next sessions but weren’t able to make the show and tell today. I would recommend keeping an eye on the EdinburghApps website or @EdinburghApps on Twitter for more updates. I’ll certainly be eager to find out if we (my colleagues at EDINA and I) can offer any technical help as some of these ideas progress further. 

Related links

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Upcoming Events: Citizen Science & Media; PTAS Managing Your Digital Footprints Seminar

I am involved in organising, and very much looking forward to, two events this week which I think will be of interest to Edinburgh-based readers of this blog. Both are taking place on Thursday and I’ll try to either liveblog or summarise them here.

If you are are based at Edinburgh University do consider booking these events or sharing the details with your colleagues or contacts at the University. If you are based further afield you might still be interested in taking a look at these and following up some of the links etc.

Firstly we have the fourth seminar of the new(ish) University of Edinburgh Crowd Sourcing and Citizen Science network:

Citizen Science and the Mass Media

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 12 – 1.30 pm, Paterson’s Land 1.21, Old Moray House, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.

“This session will be an opportunity to look at how media and communications can be used to promote a CSCS project and to engage and develop the community around a project.

The kinds of issues that we hope will be covered will include aspects such as understanding the purpose and audience for your project; gaining exposure from a project; communicating these types of projects effectively; engaging the press; expectation management;  practical issues such as timing, use of interviewees and quotes, etc.

We will have two guest presenters, Dave Kilbey from Natural Apptitude Ltd, and Ally Tibbitt from STV, followed by plenty of time for questions and discussion. The session will be chaired by Nicola Osborne (EDINA), drawing on her experience working on the COBWEB project.”

I am really excited about this session as both Dave and Ally have really interesting backgrounds: Dave runs his own app company and has worked on a range of high profile projects so has some great insights into what makes a project appealing to the media, what makes the difference to that project’s success, etc; Ally works as STV and has a background in journalism but also in community engagement, particularly around social and environmental projects. I think the combination will make for an excellent lunchtime session. UoE staff and students can register for the event via Eventbright, here.

On the same day we have our Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme seminar for the Managing Your Digital Footprints project:

Social media, students and digital footprints (PTAS research findings)

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 2 – 3.30pm, IAD Resources Room, 7 Bristo Square, George Square, Edinburgh.

“This short information and interactive session will present findings from the PTAS Digital Footprint research http://edin.ac/1d1qY4K

In order to understand how students are curating their digital presence, key findings from two student surveys (1457 responses) as well as data from 16 in-depth interviews with six students will be presented. This unique dataset provides an opportunity for us to critically reflect on the changing internet landscape and take stock of how students are currently using social media; how they are presenting themselves online; and what challenges they face, such as cyberbullying, viewing inappropriate content or whether they have the digital skills to successfully navigate in online spaces.

The session will also introduce the next phase of the Digital Footprint research: social media in a learning & teaching context.  There will be an opportunity to discuss e-professionalism and social media guidelines for inclusion in handbooks/VLEs, as well as other areas.”

I am also really excited about this event, at which Louise Connelly, Sian Bayne, and I will be talking about the early findings from our Managing Your Digital Footprints project, and some of the outputs from the research and campaign (find these at: www.ed.ac.uk/iad/digitalfootprint).

Although this event is open to University staff and students only (register via the Online Bookings system, here), we are disseminating this work at a variety of events, publications etc. Our recent ECSM 2015 paper is the best overview of the work to date but expect to see more here in the near future about how we are taking forward this work. Do also get in touch with Louise or I if you have any questions about the project or would be interested in hearing more about the project, some of the associated training, or the research findings as they emerge.

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Jisc’s 50 most influential HE professionals using social media (#jisc50social) and a #codi15 update

Today I am delighted to share the news that I have been included in Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media! I am also very pleased to see others on this list whose work I follow and admire, including Jennifer Jones and Sue Beckingham.

The list of 50 influencers forms a really useful array of snapshots of practice and mini case studies of how social media is being used across UK Higher Education and I’d recommend taking a look for inspiration and ideas. It would be lovely to also get more great people and social media best practice shared, so I would recommend sharing your own additions and tips to the hashtag, #jisc50social, as there is such a rich variety of use that a list of 50 people cannot, of course, capture that is taking place in the sector.

My write up in the Jisc list of influencers particularly talks about the Managing Your Digital Footprint work, which is progressing well. If you missed my posts from the European Conference on Social Media you can get a good sense of how the project is developing from my paper with project lead Louise Connelly, “Managing your digital footprint: possible implications for teaching and learning“. We are in an exciting phase of the project so do look out for new resources appearing on the project website very soon, and further research publications in the months to follow.

Finally, as the individuals who nominated me for this list did let me know that they would be putting me forward I would like to share my thanks to them for their support and enthusiasm. I feel honoured to have been regarded so highly by colleagues from the University of Edinburgh who are engaged in their own wonderful, creative, critical and playful use of social media in their day to day practice.

#codi15 update

Finally, and on a somewhat unrelated note, you may remember that I blogged earlier this summer about writing our Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas show, Back to the Statistical Future. The show took place on 26th August and I’m delighted to say that both a follow up blog post and a video recording of the full show are now available so, if you have an hour spare, do have a watch and let us know what you thought of it!

 

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University Business magazine mention for EDINA and UoE

Last month I had a request through for an interview on social media for University Business magazine, which focuses on (as the title suggests), the business and administration side of universities. That request proved to be a really good opportunity to look back and reflect on what has been happening with social media across the last 5-10 years, including some awesome innovative activities at the University of Edinburgh, many of which – such as social media guidance and advise – EDINA have been part of.

Front cover image of University Business Magazine.

The front cover of the latest issue (81) of University Business magazine.

I’m really pleased to see that some of my comments on the use of social media at Edinburgh and in the wider HE sector have made it into the latest issue (Issue 81, pp 65-8). And I’m particularly glad to see that the Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign is part of those comments as it is a really ambitious project that will hopefully have findings of use for the much wider sector.

You can read the full article – which looks at social media at a number of institutions – online here (pages 65-68).

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New project: Managing Your Digital Footprint

This Monday (29th September 2014) the Managing Your Digital Footprint project launched across the University of Edinburgh.  I’m hugely excited about this project as it is a truly cross-University initiative that has been organised by a combination of academic departments, support services and the student association all working together, indeed huge thanks and respect are due to Louise Connelly at IAD for bringing this ambitious project together.

I am representing EDINA across both of the project’s strands: a digital footprint awareness-raising campaign for all students (UG, PGT, ODL, PhD) which is led by the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) in collaboration with EDINA, the Careers Service, EUSA, Information Services, and other University departments; and a research project, a collaboration between IAD, the School of Education, EDINA and EUSA, which will examine how students are managing their digital footprints, where such management is lacking, and what this might mean for future institutional planning to build student competence in this area.

Before saying more about the project it is useful to define what a “digital footprint” might be. The best way to start that is with this brilliant wee video made specially for the campaign:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Digital footprints, or the tracks and traces you leave across the internet, are a topic that frequently comes up in my day to day role as social media officer, and is also the focus of a guest week I provide for the MSc in Digital Education’s IDEL (Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning) module. Understanding how your privacy and personal data (including images, tags, geo locations) are used is central to making the most appropriate, effective, and safe use of social media, or any other professional or personal presences online. Indeed if you look to danah boyd’s work on teens on Facebook, or Violet Blue’s writings on real name policies on Google+ you begin to get a sense of the importance of understanding the rules of engagement, and the complexities that can arise from a failure to engage, or from misunderstanding and/or a desire to subvert the rules and expectations of these spaces. What you put online, no matter how casually, can have a long-term impact on the traces, the “footprints” that you leave behind long after you have moved on from the site/update/image/etc.

When I give talks or training sessions on social media I always try to emphasize the importance of doing fewer things well, and of providing accurate and up to date bios, ensuring your privacy settings are as you expect them to be, and (though it can be a painful process) properly understanding the terms and conditions to sites that you are signing up for, particularly for professional presences. Sometimes I need to help those afraid to share information to understand how to do so more knowledgeably and safely, sometimes it is about helping very enthusiastic web/social media users to reflect on how best to manage and review their presences. These are all elements of understanding your own digital footprints – though there are many non-social media related examples as well. And it is clear that, whilst this particular project is centered on the University of Edinburgh, there is huge potential here for the guidance, resources, reflections and research findings from the Managing Your Digital Footprint project to inform best practice in teaching, support and advice, and policy making across the HE sectors.

So, look out for more on my contributions to the Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign – there should be something specifically looking at issues around settings very soon. In the meantime  anyone reading this who teaches/supports or who is a student at the University of Edinburgh should note that there will also be various competitions, activities, workshops, resources and advice throughout 2014-2015, which will focus on how to create and manage a positive online presence (digital footprint), and which should support students in their: professional networking; finding the right job; collaborating with others; keeping safe online; managing your privacy and the privacy of others; how to set up effective social media profiles; using social media for research and impact.

Digital Footprint campaign logo

The Digital Footprint project logo – anyone based at the University of Edinburgh will be seeing a lot of this over the coming months!

The research strand of the project is also underway but don’t expect anything more about that for a wee while – there will be a lot of data collection, analysis and writing up to do before we are ready to share findings. I’ll make sure to share appropriate updates and links here as appropriate. And, of course, questions and comments are welcome – just add yours to this post.

Find out more

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