Tag Archives: Collaboration

Supporting student learning in a digital world – opportunities and obstacles

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
Open University

 

 

 

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day Two

Beccy Dresden was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

For the first half of the afternoon on Day Two of DigPedLab 2017, we had a choice between one of five workshops delivered by the DigPedLab Fellows:

or a lightning talks session.

Three of the five workshops appealed to me, but Leonardo was happy to share the resources used in his, and Penny and Kris were both in my track, so I figured I could pick their brains another time (especially Penny, who is based in the UK), so I went for the lightning talks. These are detailed at the link above, but to save you clicking, I have included the summaries here in italics.

Interdisciplinary Solutions

Michelle Clement, Associate Faculty in the School of Business at Royal Roads University, will offer a talk and case study about how tackling homelessness isn’t a one disciplinary approach. The case study will show how sociology, marketing, mental health and nursing students worked together across disciplines and cultures to better understand homelessness in their community.

I noted the following:

  • Working in multidisciplinary teams, students felt that sharing different perspectives deepened their understanding of the problems.
  • Michelle is now living their experience by participating in the Writing track here!
  • Organising this kind of thing is administratively complicated, but focusing on making it a meaningful experience for students is key.

New Media and Pedagogy

Hannah McGregor, Assistant Professor in Publishing at Simon Fraser University will offer a lightning talk as a provocation: to explore how new media forms (podcasts, social media feeds, etc.) allow pedagogy to take place beyond the university. What would happen if we thought of our role, as academics, to be pedagogy (not research) first? How do forms like the podcast allow us to enact a public-pedagogy-first praxis? How the heck will we convince universities to get on board?

I noted the following:

  • Hannah loves podcasts, but hates the male-dominated maker culture, coding-boot-camps stuff.
  • Maker culture can be too focused on the production of a thing, as opposed to processes, community building, pedagogy, etc. (Is this a male vs female thing?)
  • Where are the women in podcasting? (Hannah referred to an article in Forbes that seems to claim people hate the sound of women’s voices.)

Open Pop Ups

Verena Roberts, Learning Specialist at Rocky View Schools, will discuss open learning networks. From September 2017 to June 2018 she will be connecting learning communities with open learning networks by facilitating serendipitous and planned ‘Open Pop Up’ learning activities with a K-12 contextual lens. She will be completing a pilot version of the ‘Open Pop-ups’ at her school district in the hopes of using the pilot to inform her doctorate research the following year.

I noted the following:

  • Um, what is K-12?! (I Googled it for you: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K–12)
  • We need to keep talking about the differences between OERs and open(ing) learning
  • Stick metaphor – what children see (same with cardboard boxes?) [sorry, I have no idea what I meant by this!]
  • ePortfolios for high school students – not résumé building, but creating relationships and apprenticeships
  • Verena gave a couple of examples of her open pop-ups:

– Kindness ninjas – promoting sharing behaviours among children in underprivileged area

– Assembling diverse groups of students.

Daagu

Carolyn Steele, Career Development Coordinator at York University, Toronto, will discuss Daagu. Daagu is an online platform that offers holistic and collaborative eLearning opportunities to students. Developed at York University in Toronto, Daagu is designed to promote student choice and engagement, community dialogue and meaningful application of conceptual content. It’s very much a self-directed way of learning. This session will introduce Daagu and provide information on how to learn more.

I noted the following:

  • Carolyn has been working in blended classes for the last 5 years, and teaches 7–10pm – she tries to end at 8.30/9pm so the rest – the reflection part of the learning, mainly – can be done online. [This interested me because some Open University (OU) students complain about the timing of synchronous online teaching events.]
  • Daagu was developed for the nursing programme at York.
  • To me, students’ posts look like a combo of Pinterest and OpenStudio [an OU collaboration tool]
  • Students could provide emotional feedback, but they’re very resistant to doing that.
  • Quality vs quantity of posts? Assessing/grading that? How do you create a rubric for that?

Overcoming Digital Obstacles

Christina Chavez-Reyes, Professor in the College of Education and Integrative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona) will discuss digital obstacles to learning and teaching. In her teaching, she has discovered college students’ fear of the digital domain (distraction and breach of privacy) impedes their use of and ability at digital media, particularly social media, to become 21st-century college-educated citizens and professionals. This circumstance undermines the concept of students as ‘digital natives’ and begs the question how colleges can better prepare students with the necessary digital skills and knowledge of the digital domain. An added element is college faculty’s resistance to develop their digital skills to incorporate tech appropriately in classrooms. These converging factors create an equity crisis for first gen college and low-income students (perhaps all students) who likely do not readily have available social and cultural capital in their homes and communities to supplement the lack of learning in college. Many will earn a degree without a model of professional and civic engagement for the digital age.

I noted the following:

  • Christina is a Faculty member plus department chair. She feels working class at heart and, being in a new leadership position, has to play two different roles/apply two different lenses.
  • Social mobility for its students is a key achievement of her institution.
  • The focus is on educating students to undo inequalities and inequities when they become educators.
  • Use of social media: 30% like it, 60% fear it as a distraction, and 10% have privacy concerns
  • Risks are real – going online involves a third party, and creates a ‘non-rival, non-excludable good’
  • To sustain democracy, there needs to be a clear and protected boundaries between civil society and markets
  • Empowerment—intention—confidence is a key continuum.

How Christina described her students really chimed with the challenges I know many OU students faced – demographically they are quite similar, I think, which was interesting, as my impression was that many of the other participants work with students who more closely resemble the UK stereotype of undergraduates than OU students do.

Net Neutrality

Brian Weston, Director of Distance and Accelerated Learning at College of the Canyons will discuss strategies for keeping information accessible for online education.

The main thing I noted from Brian’s presentation was his question ‘What happens if students don’t have top-tier internet access?’. This is a problem that many OU students in rural/remote parts of the UK still face – contrary to government claims of widespread high-speed broadband availability!

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The five social media literacies

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
Open University

 

 

 

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day Two

Beccy Dresden was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Following on from a busy Day One of DigPedLab Vancouver, by Day 2 my jetlag had subsided, and I’d got my bearings in Richmond, so I was ready for some serious learning!

Morning session: media literacies

Our main focus for the Day Two morning Digital Literacies session was reviewing and responding to some of the suggested readings that had been provided.  Bonnie Stewart, Co-ordinator of Adult Teaching University of Prince Edward Island, who was leading the Digital Literacies track, asked us to think about how our chosen article(s) shaped our perspective on what it is to ‘be’ in digital culture. We broke into small groups to do this, and my group spent most of the session analysing the Rheingold (2010) article.

Rheingold focuses on what he calls five social media literacies:

  • attention
  • participation
  • collaboration
  • network awareness
  • critical consumption.

We took one of those each, and I noted the following…

Attention

Rheingold’s starting point is that people in class should be paying him attention! This led us to briefly discuss differences between acceptable behaviour in face-to-face (F2F) educational environments and ‘remote’ behaviours; the latter was of particular interest to me, as Open University students have relatively little F2F contact with their educators, and it’s quite normal for them to have multiple demands on their attention while they are studying.

Participation

The digital literacy aspects of this section were about:

  • how to participate with value
  • being active citizens rather than passive consumers
  • creating vs consuming
  • assumptions about education of citizens, and ‘proper behaviour’
  • moving from the literacy of participation to a literacy of collaboration.

Collaboration

This was the section I looked at, so I didn’t take many notes! The one thing I did write down was ‘negotiating goals – positive or negative’: make of that what you will!

Network awareness

This section tied in quite nicely with Bonnie’s literacy timeline from Day 1. Rheingold’s key points were that:

  • networks essentially amplify and extend our abilities and capacities – for better or worse, and that
  • basically technology itself is an amplifier – going all the way back to the printing press.

We briefly discussed differences between networks and communities (with reference to a recent online debate between Kate Bowles and Stephen Downes), speculating that perhaps communities change, as well as amplify? One member of the group suggested that shared values and beliefs are required for true collaboration – that it’s easy to be communal but harder to be collaborative. Do you agree?

Critical consumption

This section seemed to buy into the cliché that print (offline) resources are innately trustworthy, and online resources innately dubious: as a group we vehemently disagreed with this.

We had a bit of time left, so we also looked briefly at the Tressie McMillan Cottom (2017) article, focusing on one of her six takeaways, ‘master platforms’, and the concept of micro-celebrity.

Master platforms

The article states that ‘social media platforms are designed to facilitate certain kinds of behaviors. Twitter amplifies. Facebook brands. Tumblr remixes. Instagram illustrates’. We agreed that what was important for digital literacy was to think about strategies for dealing with the negative aspects of each platform.

Academic microcelebrity

We identified a tension between the desire to take academia into the public, and achieving effective communication, when ‘lots of academia is deliberately pointless and esoteric’.

We also talked about:

  • gaining currency through identity
  • achieving impact vs social change, and
  • claimed values vs demonstrated behaviours.

After the session, participants shared related resources via our teaching in digital Slack channel – you might like to take a look at the following:

 Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Conference objectives for a Lean international event

Marion Malcolm
Business Improvement Team Lead
University of Aberdeen

Australasian Lean HE Conference 2017, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Marion Malcolm was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

As a result of a successful UCISA bursary application, I was able to attend the Australasian Lean HE Conference in 2017. I also presented at the event on ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’.

My conference objectives were to:

  • Network with practitioners from across the globe who have developed Lean initiatives
  • Share knowledge and form collaborative partnerships
  • Find out how universities and colleges are engaging employees and achieving measureable and cultural changes
  • Understand how Lean has been implemented, what buy in, senior leadership and support was required for implementation, and what lessons were learned
  • Understand how to measure, demonstrate, and report benefits following implementation of new process improvements, to ensure continuous improvement
  • Learn how Lean is used by industry and how these practices can be adapted to HE
  • Engage in interactive workshops, panels and sessions to find answers to questions and challenges.

150 delegates attended the event from Australia, Asia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.  Some of the keynote speakers with inspirational messages at the event were:

I will be blogging further about the event including areas of key learning, key next steps, and further information on my presentation on ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’.

 Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Interview: Deakin University’s support of hearing impaired users in teaching and learning spaces

Ben Sleeman
Service Development Assistant
University of Greenwich

 

 

AETM Conference 2017 and university visits, Melbourne, Australia

Ben Sleeman was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

I attended the Audiovisual and Education Technology Management (AETM) Conference in Australia in November as part of the UCISA bursary scheme. During my trip I also visited a number of Melbourne universities including Deakin University.

At Deakin University, I met with Jeremy West, Senior Audio Visual Engineer and Tech Lead in the eSolution Team, and we discussed the university’s AV solutions for hearing impaired users.

Deakin are considering a range of new technologies and in collaboration with the digital futures team, they are looking at audio over IP solutions to give users access to audio streams via their mobile devices.

I have blogged about my conversations with Jeremy on a range of AV developments at Deakin University.

 Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Consequences for an IT Department of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University
 

EUNIS 2017

Ed Stout was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During his EUNIS 2017 keynote ‘General Data Protection Regulation – Consequences for an IT Department’, Rainer W. Gerling, CISO of the Max Planck Society & Honorary professor for IT Security in the department of Computer Science and Mathematics at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, took us on a journey to better understand the soon to be fully in force General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) within the European Union. In 2012, the European Commission tabled an initial proposal to regulate data protection within the EU and by the end of 2015, the European Commission, European Council and European Parliament had come to an agreement to take it forward. At this point in 2017, we are currently residing within the grace period before it formally comes into full force on 25th May 2018… this leaves all of us with not a lot of time to get our houses in order!


 

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft within the development of their Windows 10 operating system now offer more than 50 native data protection settings within the ‘Privacy Settings’ however, Rainer stressed that it is highly important that we in HE review these settings to adjust from defaults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Given the serious nature of the proposed fines, which can be as much as €20 million if found in breach of the regulations, it is certainly worth taking the new legislation very, very seriously. Encryption is paramount in accordance with GDPR Article 32 and what needs to be encrypted? Well, pretty much everything!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technically, standards which are considered ‘state of the art’ only remain so for a limited lifespan as new and improved solutions are developed, as is demonstrated in the below in relation to cryptographic protocols. It is therefore, important that we continually review to ensure that we are meeting legislative requirements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what should we be doing now? We should be:

  • Contacting our relevant data protection officers to discuss the implications of the legislation in line with our own institutions technical configuration.
  • Acknowledging that it is not simply the IT departments’ responsibility to ensure that we meet the relevant legislative needs but that the University as a whole is responsible.
  • Documenting our technical measures in line with ISO27000.
  • Collaborating with other HE institutions.

And we should be…

  • Improving our technical measures and accepting that state of the art is a moving target.

Rainer suggests that the current technical recommendations are:

(Click on photo to expand)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Microsoft Teams and Collaboration

Tristian O’Brien
SharePoint Technical Specialist
University of Brighton

Day 2 of Microsoft IGNITE 2017 in Orlando

Tristian O’Brien was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Day One of Microsoft IGNITE 2017 was all about orientation both personally and within the strategy of Microsoft. Yesterday, we saw some keynotes around AI, machine learning, augmented reality and the importance of social graphs.

More related to my specialism is collaboration in the Office, so I attended a keynote around the Microsoft Teams product. During the keynote, some announcements were made and use cases shown.  An interesting interview on its rollout at Accenture and another large organisation.  The demo of Microsoft Teams showed a compelling product enabling collaboration in the workplace for staff including external folk.  A controversial statement around its design rationale was that it was aimed at millennials who work in a different way – I would have stayed away from such a statement.

One of the challenges of a conference of this size is that it is difficult to co-ordinate going from session to session as there might be a long walk.  I have decided not to necessarily stick to sessions around my specialisms, but to broaden.  I am about to go into a deeper dive session around teams “Collaborate in a chat based workplace using Microsoft Teams“.

Later yesterday in an evening session, Benjamin Niaulin discussed the various classification of collaboration products and we saw that Microsoft Teams is a different use case from “classic” SharePoint (your bread and butter team sites etc.) and Modern SharePoint.  It’s more like a workplace Facebook messenger, an evolution of Skype for business.  I took a picture of a compelling slide, but due to the sheer busyness of the event, some of is content is hidden.

In the photograph, we see five classes of Microsoft collaboration products classified by Benjamin Niaulin of ShareGate: Conversations, where Teams sits, Meetings, Site & File, where SharePoint sits, Task Management and Others such as OneNote and Power BI.  A useful diagram in my opinion.

Click on photo to expand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This blog post first appeared on http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/tristianobrien/

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Preparation for Microsoft IGNITE

Tristian O’Brien
SharePoint Technical Specialist
University of Brighton

Tristian O’Brien was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

I have been lucky enough to be awarded a bursary for travel and costs for travel and costs for Microsoft IGNITE courtesy of UCISA.  Moreover, I have been invited to sessions to contribute to the roadmap of SharePoint and OneDrive.

I have asked colleagues at the University of Brighton on their views and thoughts.  A couple of significant questions we’d like some insight on are:

  • anecdotally, we have heard that there is 16GB upload limit per Office365 tenancy.  Is that right? How does that work with “business as usual” traffic?
  • there are some great new “templates” in SharePoint Online, such as Planner, Groups and Teams.  Unlike common or garden site collections, we cannot see these as site collections in the usual way in the SharePoint admin area.  How can an organisation manage and govern such sites?  Additionally, it would be great if we could set the default to be private during creation.  Yet we understand that these templates have been conceived to please the majority.

Another thought: through observation of users OneDrive and the rationale of setting these so that only the user can see files?  In a script that I wrote to migrate SharePoint MySites to OneDrive, I had to explicitly and the SharePoint Admin as a secondary admin.  This is so that we can access their files in order that we can provide governance and support of the content.  Out of curiosity, why can’t an admin do that by default?

Planner screenshot

 

 

 

 

 

This blog first appeared on http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/tristianobrien/

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Benefits of receiving a UCISA bursary

Vicky Wilkie DSC_0007

 

 

Victoria Wilkie
IT Support Specialist
University of York

 

 

 

 

 

Six months ago I was awarded funding from UCISA to attend the CILIP conference in Liverpool. At the time I was on secondment to the IT support office at the University of York, but my previous (and now current) position was as a senior library assistant at the University Library. I was particularly interested in finding out how the two teams could work more closely together, and also how I could support colleagues in doing this. One key area I looked at when I returned from the conference was ways of merging best practice from both teams and integrating these systems to assist staff with the changes. Lending Services already had a wiki where they stored and updated information for staff. I worked with colleagues in the IT support office to develop an ITSO wiki that could be used by library and IT staff in the day to day running of the merged desk.

Social media

One of the main things I took away from the conference was how useful a resource social media can be. This usefulness took place on two levels; the first was with our interactions with users. At York we are fortunate enough to already have a communications team that look after our social media accounts. They take the time to interact with our users, but also with other universities and related services. They make sure that enquiries are answered, but they also keep the interactions fresh, funny, and relevant, which has resulted in some very positive feedback. In order to complement and promote the work our comms team are already doing, I took inspiration from one of the conference talks to focus on informing our users about the different methods of social media we use to interact with them, and how this might assist them with their studies.

The second level focused on how useful social media can be to professionals wanting to share and research new ideas in the field. During the conference, I used Twitter to disseminate my ideas and engage in debates around the subjects that were raised. I started following a range of different people in the sector, and saw the issues that were impacting on them and their users. One real benefit of social media was that it allowed me to follow themes and ideas at conferences that I was not able to attend, and find out issues that were impacting service desks from different counties as well as from a range of different sectors, from Twitter users around the world.

Collaboration

Andy Horton and Chris Rowell’s talk ‘The Twelve Apps of Christmas’ was especially interesting to me, given that I knew one of my tasks upon returning to the library would be helping with the integration of basic IT support at the library helpdesk. Their enthusiasm really inspired me, and made me assess the different training we could give to staff to help them integrate the new processes. Although we have only just started with this, the overall feedback from staff has been very positive, and we are keen to take this on board to find more ways of updating and improving training, and ensuring that it is as efficient as possible to help staff develop their skills. Collaboration was something I was very interested in, and I was surprised to see how much collaboration was already taking place, especially between library and IT departments. What I took away from the conference was that collaboration is the way forward for service desks; we strengthen each department by working together, and it was wonderful to see how many other places are already doing this.

The final major point that I took from the conference, and that has really impacted on my approach to work, was the idea that we need to celebrate our successes more. As a service desk sector, we have a tendency to focus on what we could have done better and how we can constantly improve. Whilst it is very important to ensure that we continue to progress services, it is also important to focus on what we have done well and where we are really standing out. Since returning to the library, I have worked hard to highlight times when I think that staff have been doing an exceptional, job as this motivates and encourages the whole team.

To sum up, going to the conference allowed me to look at my colleagues and really appreciate the successes we have. Looking at it from an organisational point of view, it made me assess the ways in which our different teams could work more closely together to ensure that our users get what they really need. In terms of the sector, it made me more aware of what my colleagues around the world are doing. It allowed me to share ideas with other people who are working in libraries and IT. It also made me look at the different types of service desks in education. Before  the conference, I had a tendency to focus on HE desks, but since then I have been in contact with colleagues who work in public libraries and FE colleges, looking at what they are doing and how we can work more closely together to improve the sector.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme 2018.

Using Twitter at conferences and a motivational presentation

Vicky Wilkie DSC_0007

 

Victoria Wilkie
IT Support Specialist
University of York

 

CILIP 2015: connect, debate and innovate – day one

I’m lucky enough to have experience in two roles which are all about interacting with users on a daily basis, helping them connect to the information they need, and working within a close knit team to support the wider university’s needs. These two roles are as a Library Supervisor at the University of York, and my current secondment position as an IT Support Specialist. On the face of it these jobs might seem to not have much in common, however, in my experience, there are a lot of similarities between the working practices and tasks involved. After all, what librarian these days doesn’t use technology for almost every task they do?

Temple When, six months into my IT role, I was given the opportunity to attend the CILIP conference in Liverpool, I was eager to attend and particularly keen to focus on sessions on collaboration between library and IT services and how they could work to support the wider university community. Having never attended before I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, but I was amazed by the variety of backgrounds of the people I met there, the sessions on offer and the broad range of specialisms all making up the information sector. My fears that as an IT Support Specialist I would be in a minority were quickly dispelled.

 

 

Using Twitter to record conference highlights and take part in discussions
As a regular user of Twitter I have been impressed by how easily it allows me to follow topics and discussion points and engage with the information community. While I have used it at previous conferences to follow tweets rather than participate, for this conference I decided to embrace it completely and see if it could be an effective method of capturing the information and my thoughts at the sessions I attended. I decided that instead of taking notes or using a voice recorder to capture events I would instead tweet my own views and actively engage with other people tweeting about similar subjects.

This did mean quite a dramatic change in my note-taking form. I was definitely of the pen and paper camp before this conference and I would take pages of notes most of which would make little sense at a later date. Twitter allowed me to cut out most of the irrelevant parts as the restrictions on characters meant I had to make my points concise. Sometimes because I was busy writing my comments I did miss a few of the speaker’s points, but I quickly picked up on these because I was following others at the conference in the same session and seeing what they tweeted. Twitter also helped to remember these points after the conference ended, as in addition to my own thoughts I also ‘favourited’ other people’s tweets and retweeted any I thought were particularly good.

Being able to instantly see what other people’s thoughts were of the sessions I was in was extremely useful, as it made me feel more involved in the whole conference and allowed me to express my thoughts and feelings on the topics, and get instantly stuck into some lively debates. I really like that Twitter allows me to get an insight into other attendees’ views. There was so much information and so many ideas being bandied around in all the sessions that at times it was easy to miss a really interesting point, but by reading other tweets and seeing what other people were retweeting I was able to examine these points in more detail. I even got an insight into what was happening in the breakout sessions I didn’t get a chance to attend. While Twitter was no replacement for being in the session itself it did give me an interesting insight into the points that others found interesting and relevant, and provided yet more people and topics to engage with and discuss.

Overall, using Twitter to capture my thoughts on the conference felt like a completely different experience to more traditional note taking, and one I found enjoyable. It helped to keep me on point and really allowed me to focus on what I found relevant and interesting. Although there may have been times when I missed some points I feel overall I gained more than I lost. It meant continued and better interactions with others in the community; I was starting conversations and debates that would continue long after the sessions had finished.

Conference themes: connect, debate and innovate
ConferenceThe conference theme was “connect, debate and innovate” and I really felt it delivered on these three aspects. I went away feeling inspired and eager to put the ideas I’d heard about into practice. Several of the speakers focused on topics about collaboration and the power of the community as well as celebrating success and a central message from many of the presentations I attended was that if we work with others we can achieve great things.

I didn’t agree with every point every speaker made, and I do wish that some libraries embraced the similarities they have with IT staff and the brilliant impact that technology can have if they work together more. However, I’m not going to pick flaws in presentations or focus on the negatives as I felt a key message from the conference was the need to focus on the positives within the profession, and that instead of focusing on our own narrow specialisms or points of view, we need to encourage each other and be positive in focusing on the many similarities between information professionals and our shared goal of helping the end user.

From the very first presentation I attended I felt filled with confidence that this was a conference that would focus on collaboration and celebration. R. David Lankes’ keynote ‘An action plan for world domination through librarianship’ was funny, moving and full of optimism. It is hard to express the feelings of the people in the room when he was speaking but he captivated the audience and made everyone look at their roles in different ways.

A strong theme throughout his presentation was collaboration, with other information professionals, with our users and people in other sectors. Rather than looking inwards information professionals should share and celebrate their diversity. Together we are strong and we can and should do great things for our community. This was a theme that would be picked up many of the breakout sessions and I will explore this theme in more depth in my second blog post.

He continued with this upbeat theme by emphasising that what we do matters, we are a power for change and we need to seize that power and use it. The information sector is changing at such a fast pace and sometimes we need to take a step back and celebrate our successes. The services we offer can spark knowledge but they are not knowledge, it is the information professional that helps turn that spark into something more.

At the end of the presentation I left the hall feeling ready to conquer the world. I later tweeted @rdlankes to ask if he would Skype me and give me a motivational speech each day before work. I still haven’t had a tweet back but his inspirational presentation can be heard here.

Summary
This was a brilliant conference with great key messages that I feel are really relevant to the profession today. We are all having to do more with less and by working with colleagues in other areas we can show how important our services are. We also need to be able to embrace new technologies and find ways to get feedback from our users without constantly sending them surveys.  In my next blog post I’ll focus in more detail on two of the sessions that really show how collaboration and gathering our users views can be done simply, but effectively and in a way that embraces the diverse range of talents available in the sector.

CILIP 2016 is on 12-13 July in Brighton.

ESNet, The Energy Sciences Network

matt_c

 

Matt Cook
Head of Infrastructure and Middleware
Loughborough University
Chair of UCISA-NG

 


2014 Technology Exchange – Day 3

One of the features of conferences outside of the UK and especially prevalent in the USA is early morning sessions. It was time on day three to hit the 07:15 morning working group/camp/BoF sessions.

Unfortunately the ‘Campus Cloud Architects BoF’ was cancelled, which was really disappointing and not a good start, as I was hopeful to explore in person some of the latest concerns, trends and experiences in this area.

Industry groups have been reporting more and more interest in Cloud brokerage solutions and some companies are now recruiting for cloud broker and cloud architect roles. As cloud technology gets more mature, there is an opportunity to start brokering for the best possible service and cost for your organisation. In the sector we have seen an excellent start in this area by Janet with their agreements with Microsoft and Google for their email/applications suite.

There is a lot of development scope in this area with Microsoft Azure, AWS etc and I’m interested to explore the strategy required to position infrastructure, automation and standards to take best advantage of the emerging competition.

Perhaps this area is something that colleagues in the UCISA IG may be interested in picking up in the future?

I took advantage of the programme changes to share more details about the current UCISA activity in the ad-hoc groups using a short five-slide presentation covering these pieces of work:

• A guide to the implementation of an Information Security Management System (ISMS), launching in early 2015

• An update to the popular  ‘Exploiting and Protecting the Network’ document, launching in early 2015

• The Major Project Governance Assessment Toolkit

• UCISA Report 2013 – Strategic Challenges for IT Services.

There was a lot of interest in these areas and I had a couple of questions about integrating the planning, effort and joint working of UCISA and EDUCAUSE where there are clear overlaps and topics of interest.

The Energy Sciences Network ESnet are also interested in contributing to the Network Performance and QoS ‘community of practice workshop’  which the UCISA Networking Group are planning in January 2015 (more details coming to the UCISA NG mailing list soon).

Data Intensive Science

As an area where I have little experience, I was interested in listening to what William Johnston from ESnet had to say about large-scale data intensive science. He started by explained his view that high energy physics is seen as a prototype platform for distributed collaboration in other science fields.

He explained that as instruments get bigger, they get more expensive (in a not-quite-as-dramatic Moore’s Law relationship); therefore there are less of them which results in an increase in collaboration, globally. This shows the potential future growth of research networking bandwidth requirements.

One of the things I didn’t realise was that ESnet have extended their 100Gb full network backbone across the Atlantic into Europe, including connections in London. Their first circuit is being tested today. What does this mean for science and research in the UK?

Further details are available at:
http://es.net/news-and-publications/esnet-news/2014/esnet-extends-100g-connectivity-across-atlantic
http://www.geant.net/MediaCentreEvents/news/Pages/three-high-speed-links.aspx

William went on to talk about monitoring the network, explaining the criticality of this area. With many Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings, researchers are requesting Network as a Service; and with that the same levels of assurance and guarantees that have only previously been available with point to point links; is this going to change?

As one would expect, ESnet use perfSONAR for their assurance measurements. As I mentioned earlier, we will hopefully have representatives from ESnet and eduPERT at our Network Performance and QoS ‘community of practice workshop’ in January 2015.

Would something like perfSONAR deployed across Janet be of benefit for the community, perhaps let us know your thoughts in the blog feedback section below? I would assume it requires volunteer sites; however Janet are already looking at the possibility of network based probes for eduroam, so perhaps there is scope for a next generation of Netsight with added assurance?

ESnet also use the weathermap tool, which is also loved by colleagues at Loughborough University. It was one of the best take away messages from a Janet Networkshop Lightning talk several years ago.

The remainder of the talk was about data transfer speeds and integrity. I was surprised to hear the comment “SCP is your enemy”. Surely not? However I was approaching the problem from the wrong angle, thinking about security and not data transfer speeds and parallelisation. Look at some of the figures in the photograph below.

2014TechExDay3

 

William discussed a number of tools including GridFTP and a development from CALTECH, which stripes data across discs as part of the FTP process as well as providing up to three times CRC checking.

Interestingly the last point was about data integrity, which is critical for the field of data intensive science. William referenced the paper Stone and Partridge, 2000 “When The CRC and TCP Checksum Disagree”.

During the break, I had a bit of a Google to find any UK user or interest groups for Research Computing and HPC. I found the HPC SIG, if you know of any others, please pop them in the blog comments to share.

Connecting 40Gb Hosts

Whilst in the ‘big data’ mindset, there was an interesting session where colleagues from Fermi Labs, ESnet and CALTECH shared best practice infrastructure configuration to support high-speed data transfer.

There was some very interesting visual modelling, which demonstrated the affinity the network card has with a particular processor socket and core. The difference between optimising for data transfer is significant 37Gbps vs 26Gbps max on a 40Gbps link.

It was a packed session with many colleagues standing at the back; there is certainly an art to tweaking infrastructure to perform in the best possible manner. It was also interesting to hear there are three 100Gb network cards in development and testing.

Pushing the Boundaries of the Traditional Classroom

There was a bit of a clash in the programme, so I didn’t get to spend a lot of time in this session, but it was interesting to see what Indiana University had done with their ‘Collaboration Café’.

It led me to wonder what the key limitation of adopting more of these learner centric classroom designs is? Is it financial or is it resistance from academic colleagues in the same way as there was/is resistance to lecture capture and VLE environments?

UCISA are working along with SCHOMS and AUDE on an update to Learning Space design principals. This document should be really useful, especially as the final point from the presentation was all about the removal of wires.

At Loughborough we are trialling the Epson projector series that use the Epson EasyMP software and iProjection App. What wireless projectors and/or screens are you using? Let us know in the blog feedback section below?

Other Thoughts

The other talks I attended through the day continued on the research and big data theme. It included hearing about the PetaBytes (PB) of data required by some of the medical research being undertaken as part of the ICTBioMed platform. One of the speakers commented that biology is becoming more like computer science by the day; confirming again that multidisciplinary research is a firm requirement for a lot of modern applied research.

Some examples of digital biology given were: DNA Sequencing, Gene Expression Analysis, Protein Profiling and Protein to Protein interactions.

A number of the speakers came in via videoconference; it was interesting to see the mix of success and failure of this bold move. It seems strange that we still struggle to co-ordinate a remote video connection with the technology we have at our disposal in 2014.

Another speaker also made reference to the worldwide nature of large research groups and collaborations and said this collaboration technology was essential.

Video Collaboration

For the final session of the day, I was interested to see what the future held for video based collaboration in a session with speakers from: Internet2, Pexip, Evogh, Blue Jeans and Vidyo. I didn’t manage to ask Robb from Blue Jeans more about the removal of the Skype interface API that was so disappointing, however during the panel he mentioned that they had a Google Hangouts bridge to standards based systems available.

There were some interesting remarks from Hakon Dahle who is CTO at Pexip based in Oslo (but was previously CTO at Tandberg and Cisco).

Hakon described their distributed architecture, where it is possible to start small and grow appropriately with options to add capacity on demand in an agile manner.

Latency was still an issue with global video conferencing and there was a panel debate about the pros/cons of transcoding increasing latency vs accessibility and interoperability.

“Transcoding is a necessary evil”; especially with new protocols like WebRTC etc!

There were very positive comments about WebRTC and how it will make video more accessible and will make face to face communications easier; however there is already a divide with Google VP9 protocols being favoured by some players in the market especially when delivering very high resolution 4K streams.

Hakon explained that WebRTC seemed the most promising technology to allow direct person to person video calls and will bring about a lot of new use cases and that the new use case element is the most exciting in terms of innovation.

Learning Points

• How do we best position our infrastructure to take advantage of emerging Cloud competition?
• How do we collaborate more with colleagues from Internet2, ESnet and EDUCAUSE? Is this something UCISA and Janet/Jisc can facilitate?
• Future growth potential of research data transfer requirements
• Are we best serving our research communities, what more can we do?
• Global nature of research and therefore the communication requirements.

Matt Cook