Tag Archives: tools

Improving focus and productivity with GitKraken and GloBoard

Annet Soos
Senior Web Developer
City, University of London

 

 

Discovering new software development tools at DeveloperWeek 2018, New York

Web development is a constantly evolving discipline. Keeping up to date with current trends and technologies is mandatory and with the help of the UCISA bursary programme, I was able to attend the DeveloperWeek Conference in Brooklyn, New York City. This conference included an expo, a hackathon for seven different challenges, five stages, and company representatives from Silicon Valley, and Japan. I also met developers from around the world, learnt agile team management techniques from people on C-board level, and discovered the latest tools available to improve my own personal and team’s development.
Attending this two-day event has been hugely beneficial for me and I’ve so far shared my new-found knowledge with colleagues and the developer community in London. For example: there are two tools that I came across, which I found exceptionally useful: GitKraken for version control and GloBoard for collaboration. I have integrated them into my team’s workload at City, University of London and noticed the improvement in my team’s focus and productivity.

Why version control?

When multiple developers are working on the same codebase, code-conflicts can happen, bugs can be introduced, wrong files may be accidentally deleted. Version control can help teams to retrieve earlier versions of their working source code.
By using Git as your distributed version control system, you can cover the following areas:
  • Collaboration by allowing developers to work on multiple versions of the same codebase simultaneously
  • Reviewable and restorable previous versions of the same code
  • Test alternative features before production release
  • Back up your code to a remote server.
There are several platforms to make Git work with a web interface and amongst them Github is the web community’s favourite. In 2018, it has 28 million users and 56 million repositories. Github also offers you free public repository hosting, access management, editing tools, issue tracking and more.

What does GitKraken offer?

GitKraken by Axosoft is a Git-client software that has a fun look and its intuitive user interface helps developers and non-developers equally, to understand what is happening with the source code.
As Bruce Bullis, Senior Engineering Manager of Adobe Pro Video Integration, states “software with a personality, makes you want to use it”.
The Web team at City, University of London have started to use GitKraken and have noticed the positive results. Personally, this new tool has helped me to track progress of different feature branches and it saves me time by allowing me to resume back to earlier versions, without looking for abstract commit numbers. It also makes on-boarding quicker, as I have noticed with new developers, who do not know how to use the command line, can start contributing to the codebase straight away and allows them to concentrate on the important work at hand.

Improving collaboration with GloBoard

Axosoft has another product called GloBoard. It is the extension of Gitkraken and it introduces source code workflow by allowing Git-issue synchronisation with their Git-client. My team started to use GloBoard as a scrum board, where we organise our backlog cards into designated columns. It is very similar to how Trello cards work. The benefit of using one integrated system, is that it reduces time loss and there is no context change. Once you make a Git-commit and finish a task, you can move the designated card from the progress queue to a finished status instantly, without logging into a different system.

At the time of the conference this software was not fully developed, and it was very exciting to talk about the product with Axosoft’s founder, Hamid Shojaee.

What is next

CodeStream team at DevelopWeek, NYC 2018

There were lots of other great ideas, for example:
  • code chat and documentation from CodeStream;
  • developer recruitment applications from Codility.
These tools are still in the testing phase in our team but hopefully in the near future, they will make our team’s life easier. We are continuously looking to test and innovate our workflow.
Being on this conference has allowed me to talk to entrepreneurs like Hamid, who are creating these innovative tools. Giving early feedback on beta versions of products makes me feel part of the development project. It was truly a fantastic experience to be part of it.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of an international view of humanities digital content

Sarah Ames
Library Learning Services Support Officer
University of Edinburgh

DHC2018 part 1: some key themes

I was fortunate to receive bursary funding this year from UCISA to attend DHC2018 (Digital Humanities Congress – not to be mistaken with the 16th International Symposium on District Heating and Cooling, which tops the Google results). DHC is a biennial conference organised by The Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield, exploring digital humanities research, as well as its implications for the cultural heritage sector and IT support services.
In this first blog post, I’m going to list the key themes raised at the conference and in my next post, I’ll summarise some of the papers that I found particularly interesting.

Digitisation

This one isn’t new: without digitised content (and digitised content at scale), libraries’ DH offerings begin to fall short. While, in some academic libraries, DH tools and skills will become a key focus, ultimately, without making available collections, content, or data to interest researchers, partnerships with digital projects becomes problematic.

Data

One paper (Bob Shoemaker’s ‘Lessons from the Digital Panopticon’) discussed a project bringing together 50 datasets to trace the lives of individuals convicted at the Old Bailey; another drew together 4 different library datasets, to investigate the provenance of manuscripts; many others reflected on similar experiences. As libraries look to release collections as data, considering the most appropriate and accessible formats for these will be important. The need to bring together a mix of data types, formats and models, and often ‘bespoke’ formats, complying with no particular standard, is a barrier to research, requiring technical skills that most don’t have.

Global DH

A number of papers raised the issue of the ease of slipping into a Western-focused digital humanities, to the detriment of the field itself. With web and programming languages written largely in English, the focus of research, and particularly of text analysis, has been predominantly English-language. With papers focusing on Asia and Australasia, the global view of DH produces plenty to learn from – with much for libraries to consider, particularly in the relationship between libraries and DH in other cultures and countries.

Sustainability

A repeated issue raised in talks was the sustainability of DH projects going forwards – particularly in relation to web platforms. How are these projects to be maintained post-project completion, and who is responsible for this? What kind of documentation, languages and platforms can be used to assist with, and standardise, this? Is a website an output or a transient resource? How can library and IT services support this?

Funding

Of course, a major part of sustainability is funding: funding models need to meet the cost of web resources over time; not maintain their current short-term focus. The possibilities of crowdfunding to enable ongoing access to tools were raised, but ultimately this remains too fragile a source to rely on.

Digital preservation

With these exciting new platforms and tools becoming part of research outputs, the challenge of how to preserve them becomes ever more pertinent. Unusual data formats; new, innovative research using AR; and the function, importance and relevance of the front end of a website, in comparison to the data it surfaces, are all issues and challenges that need to be considered by libraries.

Publishers

Gale launched their new DH tool, sitting on top of their platforms, enabling researchers to analyse their content at scale without the use or in-depth knowledge of manual computational methods. Although raising issues of ease of use – while this is important to increase accessibility, an understanding of what the tools are doing under the surface remains important, particularly in relation to built-in biases – the platform looked good, and is currently in its early stages. However, this emphasises just how much work libraries have on their hands. With both the content and the tools increasingly in the domain of publishers, there’s a lot of catching up to do.
This blog first appeared in the University of Edinburgh’s Library & University Collections blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Seeking user experience design inspiration

Kat Husbands
Digital Content Officer
University of Glasgow

UX Week 2018, San Francisco

Thanks to the UCISA bursary scheme, I’ve come from Glasgow to San Francisco for UX Week 2018. It’s awfy pretty here, though I have been accused of bringing the Scottish ‘summer’ with me. 
UX Week is a ‘premier’ annual conference, now in its 16th year, with a fantastic reputation for delivering ‘new tools you can put to use immediately’. As a self-taught user experience researcher, and leader of a grassroots project to build a UX Framework for my University, I like the sound of that very much. 
In my work on internally-facing websites and digital systems at the University of Glasgow, I try to employ the UX mindset and methods at all times. This helps me defeat my assumptions and produce data-driven content that solves our users’ actual problems in ways that are intuitive to them.

Levelling up and sharing the love

Over the next four days, I aim to level-up my UX skills and toolkit, and pick up lots of tips on how to communicate the benefits of UX, especially to senior management.
I will channel my new knowledge into my University’s drive towards user-centred services, and share it with other universities through the Scottish Web Folk group, the HE-Digital Slack channel, and here on the UCISA blog.

Learning from the best

The range of speakers looks amazing: as well as UX researchers and designers we’ll be hearing from academics, authors, project managers, CEOs, founders and futurists. Content themes include accessibility and inclusivity, the ethics and social power of design, and how we might imagine the future into being.
As well as two full days of talks, I’ll also be attending four half-day workshops. These promise to be practical, hands-on and pretty intense:
• Maps & Markers: Enacting a Strategy to Transform Your Design Team
• Paying Better Attention to the Problem
• We’ve Done All This Research, Now What?
• Just Show the Data! How to Design Better Data Visualizations.

Community of practice

As much as all the scheduled stuff, I can’t wait to be surrounded by user experience professionals from loads of different backgrounds and industries; in my experience so far, UXers are utterly lovely people.
And of course the organisers of a conference about human-centred experience design, have designed in plenty of fun, human experiences: amongst other things, the social programme includes trips to a street food festival and SF’s Exploratorium…I think it’s going to be a good week.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme. 

The professional advantages of a UCISA bursary

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

SITS, June 2018

The bursary I received from UCISA to attend the Service Desk and IT Support show (SITS18) has been a brilliant experience! Providing me with great insight into other IT support services colleagues outside of my own institution from both the UK and worldwide. In addition, it has shown me what changes and improvements companies can provide through their services to our sector.

New developments

We have in fact recently taken on board one of the services that was at SITS18 as we have been going through a new tool transition from LANDesk to Ivanti. For my own personal adjustment to the change, and that of my colleagues, a lot has been learned from feedback from SITS and from analysing what was presented at this event. Insights into how other institutes have customised their tool/workspace, which I learnt about at SITS, have been useful to know about. This information can help shape our new tool, which is being customised to our needs.

Sharing with colleagues

As soon as I returned to the office, I discussed many elements of my findings with colleagues, which was great and I believe insightful to them. As well as talking about lectures and people that I came across during the event, I also talked about the companies I saw too, and the research I carried out at SITS, and the information that they had provided me with. In addition to this, we are actually putting a couple of these systems in place which we are testing to see if they are suitable for our institute. From the knowledge I provided to colleagues, it has given a great insight to those who may be using the systems in the future.
Due to this bursary having an application process from individuals in institutes across the country and the announcement being made on the UCISA website, many people were aware of the scheme and that I had successfully been awarded a bursary. People such as my colleagues would ask me about it and the event, which was an interesting way to stimulate new conversions with others.

Organisational benefits

I had a few interactions with companies that have got in touch with our institute before and had some nice discussions about practices. I took note of what they were also saying about comparing benefits to the methods mentioned. This was great! From one another we both received updates and further awareness of each other, which may aid us both in the future. It was a good way to make the companies who provide assistance and solutions, aware of needs and ideas that they could implement in their company/products.

Blogging with confidence

The blogs I wrote have been a great way to share my findings with anyone who wishes to seek insight into this event. The event provides great knowledge from providers, lectures giving assistance with institutional development, which I discussed in my blogs, and of course, I also mention information on visiting a conference/event from the perspective of an employee in the IT sector and how to make the most of it. In my case, I also gained more additional content by attending the InfoSec event, next door to SITS. The blog is great form of communication – basically an article that those who do not know me personally can still gain from by reading my findings at their convenience.

Early career benefits

Overall, I am very thankful that my bursary application was accepted giving me a chance to attend this conference as it has not only provided some great insight for others in this sector and my colleagues, but it has also greatly benefited me personally and my early career start in IT. Hopefully, this has opened more doors for my future as the insight provided by the event has also given me more knowledge for my role and enhanced my understanding of the sector from both sides; front facing and behind the scenes.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme. 

Logic Apps and BizTalk Integration

Bryony Lloyd
Information Services Developer
University of Lincoln

Integrate 2018

I was lucky to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend Integrate 2018 in London, without which I wouldn’t have the opportunity to go. Integrate is the conference to attend for anyone working in Microsoft Integration and is a two day event.
I turned up early to register, collect my name badge and to talk to other attendees from other organisations. They also had an amazing pre-conference breakfast available! Being able to talk to other people outside of your own experiences with integration and BizTalk, was useful in order to be able to gain different perspectives on integration, practices, and design used within the industry. Lunch times again were another opportunity to be able to talk to the experts of the different companies that were exhibiting. This included talking to current suppliers and getting clarification on configuring and using their product in our environment.

Pre-conference preparation

It is always helpful to establish a few things before going to the conference:
  • Check out the conference website for the agenda
  • Do some research on the speakers attending, look at their work and blogs, this will give you some preparation on their listed talk. Plus, if there is any speaker you are unsure about e.g. who they are, you will not be going in completely unprepared.
  • Make sure you have the hotel and the conference addresses as well as any travel information so you know where you are going
  • If possible, go down the day before and visit the venue so you know where you are going
  • Lastly, be prepared by taking a notebook and pen.

Logic Apps and BizTalk integration

After the welcome talk we went straight into the conference about integration using Microsoft Azure,  Logic Apps and BizTalk.
The sessions were led by integration experts, and experts within their own fields, and from different companies who are using Biztalk and Logic Apps within their environments.  They also covered how Azure is helping companies achieve strategic goals. Within these sessions there were also announcements about new features within Azure and BizTalk 2016. It was really good to be able to hear about these, and have the opportunity to talk to experts on how these can be utilised effectively. Having this information, also means I am able to bring back and relay that information to the integration team at the University of Lincoln.  This will help increase the understanding, effective implementation and upgrade to these new features.
It was interesting and helpful, to hear about the real world solutions, and the pros and cons that have been encountered from the experts who have implemented these, as well as the lessons learnt in the process. We also heard about the pros of having a serverless environment achieved through Azure, and of improved costs, and easier and quicker development. Although we will always learn our own lessons in any development process, being able gain knowledge on throttling and access rights was very helpful.  However, I think the biggest lessons learnt from the conference were always use the best tools for the job and don’t try to fit the tools with the solution!

New technologies and practices (to us)

There were a few technologies and tools which we don’t currently use. Getting a basic understanding, and being able to talk to the experts about these technologies and tools, is useful for future development and deployment within our environment. This was helped by seeing these technologies in use first-hand by other businesses and developers in the conference sessions. Development tools I saw included, API Management, and monitoring tools for the environment such as ServiceBus360.  I also learnt about the integration possibilities with an upgraded environment and best practices from industry experts.
Recaps of both days can be found here: Day One and Day Two. This conference was hugely beneficial for me, mainly to be able to find information on other practices, environments, and experiences outside of the university integration team. Going forward this information will benefit the way we carry out integration as a team.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme. 

What’s the reality with Virtual Reality?

David Vince
Senior Product Development Manager, Learning and Teaching Innovation
The Open University

Realities 360

As a senior product development manager in the Learning Innovation team at the Open University, my role is to work with colleagues to enhance teaching and learning through developing new products (i.e. tools and platforms) and supporting processes.
Earlier this year, I received a UCISA bursary enabling me to attend Realities 360. It bills itself as a hands-on event for early adopters and learning technologists to investigate first-hand Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and other simulations for learning which fall under the umbrella term of Extended Reality (XR).

What’s the reality with Virtual Reality?

Here are my reflections from Realities 360:
  1. What’s the problem VR can solve?
VR technology is still emergent. So, how do we use this new technology to do something existing tools, tech and media, don’t already enable without risk of being accused of ‘technology drive’ (as opposed to ‘pedagogy driven’) solutions? My personal take is that neither are desirable and, in fact, they need to be mutually supportive which leads nicely on to the following…
  1. Human-centred design
Find your problem. Opt for a user centric approach. IDEO have a design kit to get you started developing empathy with users and gain better insights into their needs/context. If your product has value to your users, they’re more likely to adopt it.
  1. Start small, pilot, evaluate and (re)iterate
It’s easy to be critical of emergent technologies. Best practice hasn’t emerged so we’re all learning: start small, learn and then (re)iterate.
  1. ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’
This is something that has been said within our team but something Linas Mockus and Joseph Scott, Instructional Designers at Penn State World Campus, Penn State’s online campus, pointed out twice in their presentation entitled ‘Is online education ready for VR and 360 video’. Linas and Joseph are and plan to make their research findings public. In the meantime, you might want to take a look at the news pages of Penn State’s website.
Higher education has been slow to adopt VR but there seemed to be plenty of like-minded colleagues from higher education in this session. At present, AR/VR simulation conferences seem to have a bias towards the training sector but there’s an obvious need for mechanisms for educators to share practice and learn from each other.
  1. xAPI might be your new best friend
VR experiences generate a lot of data as they’re computer mediated. Some of this is structured data, such as responses to in-experience questions however, there’s also unstructured data, such as what users are looking at, determining the meaning of their responses (e.g. sentiment analysis) etc. The ‘x’ in xAPI is short for “experience,” and gives a deeper level of behavioural insight taking things that aren’t structured and giving them structure, e.g. by recording who did what, what was done, what it was done to (i.e. an object) and a host of contextual data.
xAPI is well worth considering to get a better insight into what your learners are doing and gauge that learning has taken place by designing in activities/tasks that you set out to monitor. This will improve the experience and reduce reliance on those in-experience questions which I’ve seen lots of over the past few days.
Thanks UCISA for the bursary enabling me to attend Realities 360. During my time here, I’ve met colleagues travelling from as far away as South Africa who, like me, haven’t found conferences closer to home that fit the bill.
This blog first appeared on the Open University, Learning Innovation blog
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

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.

Educating students for media literacy

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

Back to the classroom on Day Two of DigPedLab 2017 and Bonnie Stewart, Co-ordinator of Adult Teaching, University of Prince Edward Island and leader of the Digital Literacies track, warmed us up with a couple of images that generated horrified laughter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

These images illustrate all too clearly that media messages are constructed, so rather than accepting (mis)information presented as fact at face value, as media literate educators (and/or students), we need to be asking the following key questions:

  1. Who created this message?
  2. What creative techniques are being used to attract my attention?
  3. Who is the audience?
  4. What values and points of view are represented and omitted?
  5. Who gains profit or power if I accept this message?

These prompted a brief sidebar about snopes.com an on-line fact checking site – a site that, I confess, I only became aware of en route to Canada when various people I follow tweeted about it. (UK readers, is it more of a North American resource? I don’t recall ever hearing about it over here.)

Two more important questions to ask about the ‘news’ we’re served up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

What’s interesting to me about this is the language: any news report that includes the phrase ‘hulking brute’ immediately sets off my credibility-questioning alarm! It takes me back to one of my favourite undergraduate English modules on stylistics, an area that I don’t hear mentioned much these days, but one that I think has a lot to offer media literacies

The aesthetic fallacy

Next Kris Shaffer talked to us about the aesthetic fallacy. My notes on this are a bit thin, so I just Googled the term and found this:

Put simply, the aesthetic fallacy is the belief that if it looks convincing, it is convincing; or, to refine it slightly, if it looks scholarly, then, agree or disagree with it, it is scholarly and must be taken seriously and allowed a place at the scholarly table.

(Source: Trueman, Carl R. (2010) Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, Illinois, Crossway)

I’m not sure if this is how Kris would describe it, but certainly looking beyond plausible surfaces, using the questions noted above, seems like a key aspect of media literacies. Or, as Bonnie put it: ‘what does this do to our democracy if we don’t educate students to recognise and deal with the crap?’.

Another new-to-me angle was that of ’empire literacies’ – empires are constructed from money, territory and information. Consider…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

… and then ask yourself, who owns them? Follow the money! In relation to that, Penny Andrews talked us through a slide that showed how the neutral-seeming information provider you rely on for your work could actually be funded by rather less benevolent backers…

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

(I’m pretty sure that in the midst of that Penny explained why Ashton Kutcher may be evil – hopefully I’ve expressed that vaguely enough to avoid either of us being sued – but I was too busy laughing to note the detail, so you’ll have to ask Penny if you want to know more!)

 

 

 

 

 

The point is, some messages have way more power and money behind them, and way more reach than may initially be apparent (e.g. you and Trump both have twitter accounts, but…). However, there is a degree of democracy on some media platforms, e.g. Twitter may be the only space where you can directly speak back to Rupert Murdoch.


(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Contribution literacies – e.g. how to use Twitter for activist public speaking

 

 

 

(Screenshot courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Catastrophe literacies – e.g. the ‘breaking news consumer’s handbook’

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this might be my favourite…

Crap detection literacies

Another participant, Sajni Lacey Learning and Curriculum Support Librarian, University British Columbia, Okanagan, talked us through an activity she runs in her first and second year classes when she is asked to come in and teach ‘the library stuff’. Rather than giving a traditional point-and-click session on accessing Library resources, she likes to try to get students thinking about the information that they consume in their own lives, and how that relates to what they are being asked to do for academic research.  She kindly shared this activity on the DigPedLab Slack channel, so these are her words.

Activity

“I start by having students get into small group, anywhere from 2 to 5 depending on the size of the class and come to consensus in their groups of the top 3–5 places they go in their personal lives to get information. I stress to them that I would like to see where they actually go for information not where they think I want them to tell me they go (i.e. the library website, books etc.). I ask them to rank these places from the most frequented places to the least. I then, when possible, ask the students elect one person to go to the board and write out the list. You could easily do this in a Google Doc, or Padlet if you have a large group or want to start keeping a record.

I then ask the entire class to tell me what stands out for them on these lists. Usually this is that Google and Wikipedia are at the top, followed by YouTube and various social media sites; currently the most frequent is Instagram.

I then ask them (depending on time) what it is they like about getting information on these platforms. Sometimes I do this in groups, and sometimes I just have a class discussion about it. I use their responses to get an idea of what, how, and why they like to consume information in this way. I use this to start the conversation on thinking about how they smell the crap in the information they are getting. Here I ask them to get back into small groups and list 3–5 criteria they look for in ‘good’ information on the sites they had previously listed and how they ‘smell the crap’ of bad information. Of course, this is very subjective as to what is ‘good’.

I bring the groups back, and through a class discussion start constructing a list of what they identified in their groups as good and bad information. These lists are usually pretty good, and I can use this to start a conversation about why we need to be critical of the information we consume, any authority structures that appear here (depending on what pops up in the list), and how this applies to academic research as well as their own lives.”

One point Sajni made in our class that stuck with me was that, as a librarian, she can’t professionally recommend Wikipedia, but actually it’s a really good resource for gaining broad context on an unfamiliar subject.

Incidentally, some of the things that Sajni’s students question are:

  • Breadcrumb trails
  • Location/domain
  • Media bias
  • Adverts
  • Visual literacy – aesthetic fallacy.

Deepening media literacy practices

The session ended with Bonnie asking us which media/digital literacies we could deepen in our own practices or classes.

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Within our table I said I was struggling to link a lot of this stuff to the Open University context. David White from The University of the Arts London, challenged that and I said it felt like we were often ‘hiding the vegetables’, when I wanted us to more explicitly acknowledge that students should be ‘eating their 5 a day’, and to find engaging ways to support them in that. Is that a challenge at your institution?

Après ski

In the evening I sampled the delights of Seto Sushi. If you ever find yourself in Richmond, I highly recommend it: wild salmon for the price of the farmed stuff in the UK, yum!

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.