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Posts Tagged ‘Higher Education’

Can you use Twitter for Academic teaching? Yes, here are some examples

17 Feb

I have read, and contributed to, an awful lot of writing online about Twitter in HE. Social networks in general and Twitter in particular are increasingly accepted as a valuable part of the academic world. If you want to know about how to use Twitter for communication, for building reputation, for research, then Google will provide you with endless hours of reading.

However, using Twitter in teaching seems to be far more tricky and ambiguous. There are a lot more people asking ‘Can we use Twitter in academic teaching, and if so, how?’ then answering that question. Interestingly, there’s a lot more info out there in using it in the school classroom than on using it in the University seminar room, lab, or lecture theatre.

With that in mind, and to make the most of a real edtech zietgeist happening at the University of York at the moment, I put together a 1.5 hour workshop for academics, as part of a series I’m doing for the Learning & Teaching Forum. I really enjoyed putting this together because I learnt a lot, and spoke to a lot of academics doing really interesting things with tweets.

The biggest issue in this area seems to be that you can’t make students sign up for the platform, so how do you make sure no one is excluded if you’re providing key info via Twitter (without you having to duplicate everything)? The first answer is embedding a Twitter stream in the VLE – there is a full guide on how to do that (with BlackBoard) in the handout which accompanied the session (embedded below). The second answer is projecting a hashtag onto the walls during teaching. Chemistry at York is, for some reason, always at the front of the curve with social media, and one of the things Simon Lancaster does is have a back-channel running on big screens during lab-sessions, using Tweetbeam, so that students who don’t wish to sign up for Twitter can still get the benefit of seeing other students’ tweets (and also pictures shared by Simon). I really liked this idea – I liked the ceding of control, the high risk of it, and I like the fact that the students don’t abuse the trust, and take the opportunity instead to contribute enthusiastically and productively.

Anyhow, here are the slides from the workshop – I hope if you’re reading this you find them useful. If you’re an academic and want to chip in via the comments with how you utilise Twitter, that would be great; if you’re an information professional and you also run these sorts of workshops, I’d love to hear from you too.

 

 

Using Twitter in Academic Teaching by University of York Information

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Becoming a Networked Researcher: a suite useful of presentations

10 Jul

Web 2.0 tools have finally moved firmly beyond the ‘potential fad’ stage, to gaining widespread acceptance as valuable weapons in the Researcher’s arsenal. Statistics about social media are almost meaningless because a: there’s so many of them and b: the information becomes outdated quickly, but at the time of writing it’s thought that around 70% of academics use social media for personal use, and in my view we’ve most definitely reached the tipping point where social media’s utility for professional use is properly understood.

This is directly linked to the ‘impact agenda’ – the research shows that blogging about and tweeting about research results in more citations for that research, and pretty much everyone wants more citations. But becoming a networked researcher is about more than the REF-related bottom line, it’s about being part of a mutually beneficial, supportive, and intellectually engaging community.

With all that in mind, I ran a suite of hands-on workshops at my institution, the University of York, on behalf of the Researcher Development Team. The suite was entitled ‘Becoming a Networked Researcher’ and it covered firstly blogs and blogging, then collaboration and dissemination, and finally Twitter. Rather than divide these up into three blog posts I thought the most useful thing to do would be to have them all here – so below you’ll find various links to, or embedded versions of, presentations and handouts for the course. I’ve tried to make it so they work without me there to talk over the top of them…

The workshops themselves were really enjoyable and the researchers themselves very enthusiastic and engaged – a whole bunch of blogs and twitter accounts have already sprang up since they ran!  But I’d like to improve them for next time around (we’ll be running them twice a year from now on); whether you’re a Masters / PhD researcher, an academic, or an information professional reading this, I’d be interested in your views on how useful these materials are, and any advice or tips or, particularly, examples, I should be referring to in future sessions.

The workshop materials

The three parts of the suite were designed to work together and separately – if you’re only interested in one aspect of becoming a networked researcher, you don’t need to look at the materials from the other sessions.

Part 1: Blogs and Blogging

Blogs and Blogging was the most successful session. The advice here is slightly York-centric in that we all have Google accounts, so we all automatically have Blogger blogs; if you’re reading this at another insitution it’s definitely worth considering WordPress.com as your blogging platform. Better still, WordPress.org, although that requires some technical knowledge.

Here’s the Prezi presentation:

And here’s the handout which goes with it:

Blogs for researchers: workshop handout by University of York Information

 

Part 2: Dissemination and Collaboration

I’ve decided against embedding the materials for this one – there was a lot more group and collaborative work and the session was slightly shorter, so my presentation doesn’t cover as much ground. But you can view the Dissemination and Collaboration Prezi here (the handout doesn’t really add anything); it covers LinkedIn, Academia.edu, Prezi itself, and Slideshare.

Interestingly, I really struggled to convince people as to the value of LinkedIn. I’m suspect of the value of LinkedIn myself, but I’ve heard countless researchers talk about how important it is, so I flagged it up as a key resource anyway…

 

Part 3: Twitter for Researchers

I really enjoyed this as I think Twitter is such a vital tool for modern scholarship and communication – you can see the Slides from the session here:

 

And the handout is here:

Twitter for academics: workshop handout by University of York Information

Any questions, comments or queries, leave them below.

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#EdTech: 9 useful online tools to share with the academic community

10 Jun

A while back I blogged about a session I’d run for academics on the academic skills and digital literacy we teach at York. The point of blogging was to say that what the academics were really interested in was not what we taught the students, but how they themselves could become digitally literate.

With that in mind I decided to put on a session for academics on exactly that. It was to be a taster menu on 9 different EdTech tools that they might find useful in the Higher Education environment, for engaging students, boosting reputation, and their own research.

Importantly it wasn’t to be a library session – I wanted people to actually show up, after all… I asked the central Learning & Teaching Forum if I could deliver it as part of their workshop schedule – it just happened to be delivered by a librarian. Recent experiences suggested York was completely ready for this sort of thing (and indeed we had to move the room to a bigger venue as nearly 60 academics signed up for the session) – if you don’t read any more of this post my message would be, if you think you could run a Web 2.0 type session for lecturers and / or researchers, do it! They’re really enthusiastic about it – it’s no longer seen as a fad or a waste of time.

Anyhow, here’s the presentation I used:

For anyone really enthusiastic, the full hour and a half session was recorded too;
here’s where you can watch the presentation and hear my talk at the same time.

So, how did it go? The answer is really well – the group were very enthusiastic, and the feedback forms were extremely positive with only one exception. One lecturer I really like actually left the room almost in a daze, backing away saying ‘Ned, I think you’ve solved something I’ve been trying to sort for ages, one of these tools is what we need…’ and ran off to investigate there and then! :)

What worked

  • The focus was on tools that helped solve existing problems – some Web 2.0 stuff seems to create its own problems which it then solves… This was based on tools that already fitted into the fabric of academic life
  • It wasn’t a hands-on session but I encouraged as much discussion as possible, questions and sharing of experiences, so that it wasn’t just me banging on about stuff at the front
  • The What, Why, How, Tips type format I use in a lot of my training also worked well here – it’s really important to tell people why they’d find a tool useful BEFORE you tell them how to use it
  • It was the right thing at the right time – lots of the feedback comments were things like ‘This is exactly what I wanted!’ – had I tried to do this when I first got to York 2 years ago, for example, I’m not sure that would have been the case
  • It was matter of fact and practical. One academic said they’d been attracted by the lack of ‘platitudes and concepts’ which he said dominated most courses and workshops they were offered… The whole point of the session was to give people things they could DO right away which helped them in their actual real lives
    .

What didn’t

  • I think 9 was probably too many tools for the time. I should have done 7 perhaps – I felt like I was really galloping through everything. It was meant to be a taster-menu, but still
  • As with every training session ever, a couple of people found some of it too simplistic and a couple of other people found some of it too complicated – I’m not sure there’s a silver bullet for this issue, really, I’d love to know if anyone’s cracked it
  • A couple of people commented that they found Part 2 more useful than Part 1, but Part 1 was the more substantial section. If I run it again (and I probably will) I’ll try and put greater emphasis on the teaching tools rather than the social media side of things
  • I should have used more academic examples. (I told myself I’d be using loads of examples in the Becoming a Networked Researcher hands-on workshops I’m running at the moment – but much of the audience is different for these, so it’s really not relevant to tell myself that!)
    .

Incidentally, there was a really interesting conversation (which I didn’t feel qualified to contribute much to) about the nonsense female academics have to put up with online; or indeed any prominent females have to endure. It seems that as soon as your level of exposure reaches a certain point – my unscientific guess is, when you’ve been on TV just once – there will be some idiots who will take advantage of the net’s relative anonymity to say unpleasant or creepy things. If this is a subject you’re interested in, I’d highly recommend reading about Sara Perry’s Gender and Digital Culture project, which is looking to tackle the issue.

So as you can probably guess by now, I’m really pleased that we’ve reached a tipping point and there’s enthusiasm in the academic community for the potential applications of Web 2.0 tools. This is an area lots of librarians are interested in, so I really think it’s a great time to offer up your knowledge and expertise to a grateful audience in HE. There are a few institutions doing this, and it seems to be working for all of us.

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Updated: Guardian web chat on the evolving role of the academic librarian

02 Feb

UPDATED (22nd March 2012): the Guardian have now published a summary of the discussion which you can read here. It takes some key points from each panelist. For an explanation of what this is, and links to the original debate itself, see the original post below.

Overall the experience was enjoyable but exhausting! 2 hours of really intense reading and writing, but I think we all got a lot out of it…

__________

Just a short post to say, come and join me for a live-chat on Friday lunchtime!

I’m excited to be a panelist for the Guardian newspaper’s Higher Education Network, along with Jo Webb, Andy Priestner and Simon Bains. We’re discussing ‘the evolving role of HE librarians’, in real-time, on the Guardian’s website.

A screen-grab of the article

Click this to be taken to it properly

Full details of the chat are here.

The chat takes place in the comments section beneath the article – so you can either follow it along (don’t forget to hit refresh regularly…) or actively take part by logging in to the Guardian’s website. There’ll be a summary of the best bits posted online at a later date, you can follow @GdnHigherEd to get updates during the process too, and the hashtag to search is #HELiveChat.

Hope to see you there!

- thewikiman

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