Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Quick conference wordle

Just got back from an excellent Association for Learning Development in Higher Education conference. I'll write more of a report another time but just wanted to put up a wordle for the #ldhen10 conference hashtag (downloaded these using this Twitter tag downloader tool)
Hmmm, probably should have taken out the usernames using edit/replace as well as the hashtag! Still, another time...

Monday, 29 March 2010

Engaging without invading at ALDinHE

This is an update on the draft of the workshop that I'll be running with Becka Currant on 31 March at the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education conference.

Thank you to all of you who commented on my draft - it was really helpful. The comments especially prompted me to think through the difference between using existing versus new networks, which is the major difference between mine and Becka's approach in using social media to promote student engagement.

In addition to talking through the updated slides below I'm going to make sure that I explain in more detail:
We're still a little unsure of how much we're going to get participants using the tools (as per Steve's comment I'm a bit cautious about it) - it depends what they're current level of knowledge/suspicion is.

Changes to the slides (which you can see below) from last time include:
  • an opening question to find out something of the attitude of workshop participants to using social media for student engagement ('I'm already using it', 'I'd like to but don't know where to start', 'I'm very suspicious of using it')
  • the addition of Ning to encompass Becka's approach at Bradford
  • adding a column for the USA population as per Brendan's comment
  • a slide summarising the differences between existing versus new networks
  • a slide on tone of voice as per Jo's comment
  • I've added a creative commons logo and listed it as such in the slide details
Engaging Without Invading

View more presentations from Stuart Johnson.
This is going to be a much better workshop thanks to eveyone's comments - so thanks very much!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Facebook page updates

I like the new weekly emails from Facebook with page update information. Here's the one I got yesterday for our Student Development page.
Clearly we need to do more to encourage interactions (wall posts, comments, likes) but the fact that the number of fans continues to go up is encouraging.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Using existing versus new networks

Since the helpful comments I had on my Same talk different conference post I've updated my slides (see below) for the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education conference to include Becka's Develop Me! project. Our two approaches, whilst both with the same aim of engaging students, represent two quite different approaches. My approach of using Twitter and Facebook uses existing networks, whilst Becka's approach of using Ning involves creating a new network. The two approaches inevitably have advantages and disadvantages, here's a comparison.

Lots of people are already signed-upYou have to get people to sign-up
It’s a place where people are resident a lot of the timeIt’s a place people have to remember to visit
They already use if for other purposesYou can guide what it’s used it for
You have to be careful not to invadeThere’s less chance of feeling invaded
People can feel exposedIt can feel safer

Have I missed anything?

[Alan's FriendFeed experiment is an interesting alternative to the two - it's a new network but it's more open than Ning]

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Using Microsoft Word for long documents

This morning I ran the Using Microsoft word for long documents. Again. I've just searched my calendar and I can see that I've run it at least 28 times since December 2007. I wrote the original workshop for Word 2003 sometime in early 2006 when I discovered that students were creating tables of contents manually for 20,000 word documents. I'm sure I've run the session at least 50 times and trained hundreds of students in the process (there can be anywhere between 10 and 45 at a time).

The workshop, and associated workbook, has clearly been helpful, explaining to students how to:
  • use heading styles
  • use captions
  • insert tables of contents and tables of figures
  • use cross-referencing
  • use master and subdocuments (with the necessary cautionary notes with this feature)
I also let them know that Microsoft isn't the only software that enables them to do this kind of thing and that Open Office can do it too.

So I thought I'd put this post up to let others know that you can get Word to do some pretty useful things, especially when writing a long document like a dissertation or thesis. I would put the workbook on here but now I've put a Creative Commons license on my blog I'm not sure I should (so here's a sneaky link instead). Microsoft copyright all the images associated with their Office products so I can't make a Creative Commons version. Strictly speaking I'm not sure I should have created any version at all, but there you go.

So I hope this post means that more people will discover these useful features, and if you have any Creative Commons license advice on the issue I'd be really pleased to hear it.

Monday, 22 March 2010

We need a venue

By photonooner
After chatting to Alan and Jo on Friday I've decided that I might possibly try and organise an unconference/TeachMeet type of thing for those of us at UoL involved in teaching. I started to think about it last week and I'm thinking it might be a useful thing to do. If I was to organise one (with all those people who have offered to help) then these are some of the things we'd need from a venue (here come those nasty 'X' bullets again):
  • plenty of space to break out into groups
  • close to University of Leicester campus
  • good wifi coverage
  • facilities for/room to use digital projection
  • available early evening (we thought this might be worth a go)
  • refreshments - hopefully a bar
Some questions:
  1. What else do you think we'd need from a venue?
  2. Do you know of a suitable venue?
  3. Would you be interested in coming if it was to go ahead?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Tagginganna update

Mark, Alex and I had a meeting on Tuesday to try and revive our somewhat beligured tagginanna project. So far things have been a bit stalled, largely because of problems convincing Personnel that we do actually have the funding and the approval to recruit a part-time research assistant. Anyway, it finally looks as if we might be nearly there with the RA so hopefully things will start zipping along soon, which means we need to have a bit more of a plan...

On the upside the limited trials we've attempted have worked quite well (apart from trying to use Diigo with Firefox portable on a USB stick - which just kept freezing - and I'm still not sure why). has proved a little tricky to set up (and is interfered with by a Blackboard frame) but from the perspective of the students who have been using it it's been brilliant. Mark has, however, noticed a tailing off of contributions, which in many ways is no surprise, but we are trying to think of what the causes of decreased contribution are and what we should do about it. Some of the causes might be:

  • novelty wearing off
  • technical problems
  • loss of momentum as the module progresses
  • lack of participation of some leading to lack of participation of others (discussion needs a critical mass)
In terms of what we should do about these issues, other than ironing out the technical problems, some well-thought through e-tivities should help, as should having a research assistant on the case to give the project the time it deserves. When the RA does start then figuring out how the technology can help facilitate the pedagogical aims of the project will be a key task, as will a thorough evaluation of the available tools.

We will make this project work!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Can someone help me with a CSS?

I really like my new wordpress theme:
  • but the way
  • it formats bullets
  • with these silly
  • little crosses
  • is rather annoying
I think I should be able to change these for something else as the theme has an 'Edit CSS' option. I tried looking at the theme creator's website but to access the support forums you have to 'Go pro' for $48, which (however much I like the theme) I have no intention of doing. So I'm hoping that some kind and clever person can help me change it for free :)

Is is something to do with this bit of the CSS:
    background: url(images/list-item.gif) no-repeat 0 .3em;
    ...and if so what do I change it to?

    Tuesday, 16 March 2010

    Thinking about a teachmeet

    Since a rather uninspiring meeting on Friday I've been wondering whether I should organise a teachmeet (

    Wikipedia says...
    A TeachMeet is an organised (but informal) meeting (in the style of an unconference) for teachers to share good practice, practical innovations and personal insights in teaching with technology. These events are often organised to coincide with other educational events like the Scottish Learning Festival and the British Educational Technology and Training Show BETT.
    Participants volunteer (via the TeachMeet website) to demonstrate good practice they've delivered over the past year, or discuss a product that enhances classroom practice.
    TeachMeet events are open to all and do not charge an entry fee.
    Do you think a TeachMeet could work in a higher education context? Do you have any experience you could share (in addition to the Organise your own advice on the TeachMeet wiki)? And do you want to help me organise one?

    IT peer support resurrection

    I was reminded on Friday of my IT peer support project. It died a death due to lack of funding back in June last year. Well, last Friday I bumped into the person who chairs the group that said 'yes' to the project but 'no' to the funding. So I emailed them afterwards to chivvy them along.
    You mentioning SEEG and the various working groups reminded me of the IT skills working group that I chaired. As you know I was disappointed that no money was found for the peer support idea and was wondering if now would be a good time to re-submit the proposal. In particular tying it into the Leicester Award.
    I hope it works...

    Thursday, 11 March 2010

    Same talk different conference

    Well, it's not quite the same talk but a catchy title I thought!

    On 31 March I'm running a workshop at the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education conference in Nottingham with Becka Currant from the University of Bradford. The title is Engaging without invading: using social networking tools to connect with students.

    The abstract that we submitted a while back says the following.
    Use of social networking tools has exploded over the last few years with staff and students making more use of tools to stay in touch with each other. Both the University of Bradford and University of Leicester have used tools such as twitter, facebook and other social networks e.g. the Develop Me! ning site to keep students in touch with each other and also to promote University activities and support services.
    And we've said this session will:
    • provide an overview of some of these tools and how they have been used at Bradford and Leicester
    • give participants an opportunity to explore how they could use the tools to support the learning of students and staff
    • stimulate debate and discussion about whether or not these tools are useful in supporting the development of skills in staff and students
    You can see my draft slides below - they cover the overview of stuff I've been doing in Leicester. I'd really appreciate any comments you have on them because I want to make this really clear.

    However, these slides are just introductory - covering the what-we're-doing-at-Leicester bit. Becka will also give an overview of her work in developing at Bradford. But we have the workshop punters for 90 minutes in an IT lab so the big question for me is what do we with them for the rest of the time? Any suggestions? In my experience it's very difficult to introduce people to web 2.0 tools, in particular social networking tools, in a workshop environment. So what do you suggest?