Creation: Fifth and final topic for the #BYOD4L MOOC

Before starting this week-long MOOC, suggested to me by Sheila MacNeill, a few of us at GCU thought it would be good to meet on the Friday afternoon for a brief debrief, mainly consisting of coffee and biscuits. To try and fit with the topic, would we create something? Nothing concrete came of our meeting, but we most certainly have created a small community of practice which may well have existed before, but the MOOC has brought us together with purpose, following a shared experience, and some curated content we’ve gathered along the way.


The video scenarios for the MOOC have consisted on one student voice and one staff voice. We discussed what we have learnt from the MOOC as staff members and what other teachers might learn from doing something similar, or whether we could support a larger community of practice within our institution. Also, I was curious to find out if any students had participated, particularly from an undergraduate programme.

So, most of today’s thoughts relate to creating ideas or opportunities for students to engage and learn from these five topics. My current final year dissertation students are using the Journal function on the VLE to create drafts and upload resources relating to their dissertation. It helps me stay organised as I don’t have draft chapters floating around in my inbox, but the Journal also permits comments and feedback for each entry. Students can change the settings and keep some entries private, so use the Journal as a space to create without anyone seeing it, either until it’s more developed or not at all.

Many of the examples I’ve discussed over the week have involved creating as well as collaborating, curating, communicating and connecting. This shows that none of the topics is discrete and separate from the others, but all overlap to differing degrees dependent on the person or the technology they choose to use.


Collaboration: Day 4 of the #BYOD4L MOOC


I’m going to use this blog post to reflect on some of the approaches I’ve used to promote student collaborative work, and give a couple of examples.

Firstly, I’m simply going to point back to yesterday’s post in which I blogged about curation, which also had a collaborative element, as students built a annotated bibliography together.

Less exciting (technically), but rather exciting as it has real life impact (or potential for impact) is a more recent use of a wiki tool on the institutional VLE. Yeah, yeah; wiki, wiki; seen that, been there, got the t-shirt etc. I hear you say.

Here’s the background: I had ‘some difficulty’ in fully engaging my postgraduate forensic psychology students with my law module. They did engage and I’m not making any criticism, but I found it somewhat hard to get the ‘law making process’ across with an appreciation of the role of their profession could play within this process.

Someone at a law conference inspired me to get students involved in the law making process – namely the consultation exercises undertaken by government, parliament, committees and other bodies setting out the plan or draft form of legislation. This sounded ideal, especially for non-law students to advise the law makers in respect of matters relating to their subject specialism. Cue the latest Scottish Government consultation, right on my doorstep in Scotland, on vulnerable victims of crime. Perfect for Scottish students, and well timed for a Semester-A activity. Future years required a bit of looking further afield to other English-speaking jurisdictions, but the world is quite literally your oyster for relevant live consultations.

In the first week of studying law-for-forensic-psychologists, I agree, it might seem a bit daunting that the class will write to and advise law makers. They, however, see the real life aspect and the purpose or value in professionals submitting their opinion when law makers do consult. They can help to shape the law, which makes for an interesting learning experience on many levels.

The working title of this little project is “Dear Alex…” (Salmond, if it left you wondering) and had run a few times now, always with a wiki – but the current 2013/14 cohort took me by surprise. They unilaterally disengaged with the wiki and, unbeknownst to me, set up a Facebook group/page in which to draft their thoughts and recommendations. I was pleased they had engaged with the task, but felt a little disappointed I didn’t have the data of who did what, when, and what earlier drafts looked like etc, to interrogate! Not exactly the biggest problem I suppose.

Curation: Day 3 of the #BYOD4L MOOC


Today’s live chat session was missed due to an evening degree class I was teaching from 6-9pm. I did, however use the coffee break (who needs coffee at 7:30pm?) to ask these particular students how they manage and ‘curate’ their learning resources. Being on an evening degree course, they are predominantly time restricted due to daytime commitments and need to mange their resources wisely.

Due to my own ineptitude and inability to find and curate the twitter chat, I’m going to wait until the whole thing is Storify-ed by someone else. I like and have used Storify, but will save that story for Q2.

Q1 What does curating mean to you?

Is this a newfangled term, or has it just become fashionable with new media? I find it’s one of those words like ‘currency’ and ‘residency’ that gets used a lot without much reference as to the definition or meaning of the word. To me, it follows from the museum or archive curator. Curation is the task of gathering, ordering, labelling and looking after stuff to keep it in some form or collection that gives value beyond the individual artefacts when looked at in isolation.

Q2 What mobile device(s)/tool(s) and apps do you use for curating?

Following from my definition, I suppose my email account (stuff I mail to myself amounts to a smallish online archive of things I need to act upon) and notes tool (Evernote etc) have curated content for myself.

On a personal level I also ‘curate’ my running and waking activities using an app so that I have the data on where and when I’ve been out.

Professionally, I dabbled with Delicious to a few years ago to get students to find, evaluate and share academic articles on a particular topic. More about that later.  I’ve more recently used Storify to piece together the tweets relating to events or conference streams I’ve chaired.  Here’s the first Storify of a Legal Education Conference that I tried out in 2012.

Q3 Why do you curate – motivations & purpose?

Storify gets used mainly to piece together what was discussed on twitter to help me then write a report which includes feedback or comments from participants (or online visitors). It also provides a useful resource for those who weren’t involved at the time to look over and quickly catch up. At present, I’ve no desire to rake over the #byod4lchat tweets, but would look over a curated archive for sure.

I curate because I see value in what others curate, which I rely upon or make use of because I trust their skills to select and present the relevant ‘stuff’ that I’d like to access. However, my curated materials for students are perhaps accessed for different reasons: because I’m the teacher and they see that I have that role to supply the right ‘stuff’. There are many other reasons too, but that’s enough for now.

Q4 How do get others to engage with your curated content?

Going back to Delicious, as I said I would, the students were asked to source and review an article. They were amassing and collectively curating articles relevant to their coursework question. Tags were encouraged and they developed organically with a tag cloud reshaping itself periodically. Students engaged because it related to the assessment.

Here’s some detail about an ROI social media project I undertook, which lead me to consider using Delicious and the concept of compiling an annotated bibliography as a learning activity.  We published the Social Media ROI Bibliography to SSRN for others to use.

With the student cohort, their curation of articles was done using our VLE and a blogging tool to allow them to easily compile and share within Blackboard, which they were very much used to using as a platform on a daily basis.  They were tasked with sourcing and reviewing an article each (n=51) on the topic of Discrimination in Employment Law.  The following year, the topic of assessment changed, but the curated archive is a legacy written by students for future students, and which points out, from a learners perspective, the salient parts of an academic paper.

On a wider level, publishing this annotated bibliography (super-curated by academic or research staff) on SSRN made it available to researchers, practitioners and teachers elsewhere holding a interest in the subject matter.

Now, I really do need to wade through the uncurated #byod4lchat tweets to find a tool I’ve not used for adoption and adaption purposes! Searching for tweets with A3 would be a good start!!

Communication: Day 2 of the #BYOD4L MOOC


Most of today was spent in court, not as an accused, but I was sitting in court today rather than teaching law or researching law, or doing admin for the university. Whilst the legal profession haw generally embraced new modes of communication, the court itself is still rather traditional and today provided several examples: recorded delivery, police service, executed warrants, oral evidence, productions and labels (documents and items of evidence), lots of face to face discussion and huge piles of papers. That said, communication was efficient and we dealt with a good deal of business today.

The backchannel (the emails, twitter, Facebook and all that), however, was definitely not up and running for me. The building itself seems to be lead-lined and impervious to any 3G, phone reception or newfangled ways of communications. Even the windows are high up and feature blinds so that the outside world is no distraction to the dispensation of justice. Only recently have the court services and the judiciary had to contemplate whether to allow tweeting and live-text-messaging from the court regarding whatever cases were being heard. I gave evidence to The Judicial Office for England and Wales on this topic in 2011, and I have until Friday to respond to the Scottish equivalent body regarding TV cameras, photographers and live communications in our courts (see: Judiciary Scotland for details).

I digress. The aside detailed above is the reason I grabbed a pen, piece of paper and a couple of post-it notes at lunchtime to complete my task for today’s MOOC topic – mind mapping the ways in which I communicate.


After a cursory glance, it’s not all techie, online apps and tools; but they do predominate (in quantity, not quality) in most spheres. Taking the student body first, I think I tend to focus on one main channel of communication which is through the VLE. It’s there, they expect it, it can be further disseminated by email, it can be picked up by everyone including colleagues co-teaching on the module and the stray student(s) missing the face to face announcements in class. There are no other apps or tools listed there on my map, so I don’t use twitter for communicating to students (it gets used and mentioned in class, but not as a comms tool), and the blogs, wikis etc are all built into Blackboard with various plugins etc that I’m happy to use, for now.

My departmental colleagues and co-workers in the same academic institution are generally a close-knit bunch and so face to face communication and conversations by email predominate. We are a small group and largely based on the same corridor so that works, but previously I have worked remotely for an organisation with a significant number of disparate based all around the UK. Email wasn’t enough, or things got mixed up, and so Yammer was a great tool that a colleague recommended and the organisation adopted.

Colleagues outwith the university get more of the online, techie and exciting modes of communication – but mainly because I don’t see these people that much! This is the only place where twitter features (I don’t tweet much personal stuff at all), but I do blur the lines with Facebook to a slight degree with colleagues who are also friends. I also find Fb groups such as this one for BYOD4L useful to keep up with developments and as far as I know, those in the group don’t see my friends and family tagged posts unless they are added as friends.

The telephone doesn’t feature either, at work. To be honest, it rarely rings and I rarely dial out! Colleagues might not be working in their offices, or they may be teaching, and mostly I can email or knock on the door as I pass. I do appreciate getting my voicemails from work through the email system, especially when working from home or travelling, but then the problem can be that you’re never off duty or away from your virtual desk.

I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s live #BYOD4Lchat twitter session, but I’m giving it a miss today as my communication skills are a little worn out. I also fancy the evening off!

Connectivity: thoughts from day 1 of the #BYOD4L MOOC

The first day of the Bring Your Own Device for Learning #BYOD4L MOOC looks at connectivity. A good place to start, I think, but as I’ve been marking exam scripts most of the morning, in a meeting for the most of the afternoon, I’ve only been connecting with the MOOC intermittently.

byod4lIndeed, this blog post is even being drafted offline as the train I’m commuting on isn’t wifi enabled (some are, which is great) and my iPad doesn’t have a 3G package. The iPhone is an option, but I don’t need to be online for all of this task: I can connect but don’t need to be connected all of the time.  I also think it’s just as important to know when to sign out and get some down time.

The first ‘student’ scenario is typical, and features a problem which we, as educators, should assist students in giving them some direction in how to connect academically with the world. Sure, they may be digital natives, but some subject specific guidance is surely worthwhile.

The student in the scenario wants to know more about ‘wellbeing’ but I’m going to adapt this learning object and reuse it for my own disciple and offer some response that fits better for legal education. Let’s say Internet law, and that the student instead wants to more about  ‘privacy’ or ‘data protection’. The question remains the same, how do you connect to cutting edge researchers and what’s hot in the field?

My answer would be to provide some of my own recommendations for who is good to follow on twitter, what hashtags are popular or relevant, and when relevant conferences are taking place. Because I engage with colleagues in my discipline area I already know who is worth following and that is a good starting point for the student to branch out from and locate their own sources.

I saw some #BYOD4L mentions of curation today, which is a skill that students could do with learning to help manage their ‘research’ into social media connections. Even simple ideas such as using Storify to recount and expand upon tweets  that arise from a conference are good learning activities in themselves.

I like to use our VLE to connect with current developments by embedding RSS feeds into various modules. It helps to keep the module looking fresh and new content put in (without the need for me to do it!) such as the contents of the latest relevant journal, decided cases from the appeal courts or even the BBC newsfeed on a topic such as healthcare.

So, this brings me to scenario two, the busy teacher, who hasn’t time to connect or use apps on her phone. The key point is the reluctance to take up connective technology and the old adage of ‘I haven’t got time’!

How to solve it? I think I can allude to an anonymous colleague who fits this description but who wanted to engage. The solution is to tap into the plea of the hectic, busy workload and suggest that time-savings or other efficiencies can be gotten from fairly simple or basic apps.

Alerts for new developments in her subject, having some bells and whistles that do some of the research for you and other such time savers are connectivity tools that might bring this educator into the world of apps and mobile technologies.

I’d also be suggesting to her many of the ideas I gave for the student scenario above. One I might not suggest to the reluctant embracer, is an app I only recently discovered which fits very well with the Bring Your Own Device theme: An ideal way to encourage large classroom interactions, real time questions, polls, open ended questions etc, but does require a bit of time to set up and encourage use. Although I’m not exactly rich in free time, piloting, innovating or just doing something new for the first time takes quite a bit of effort and time to get to work. However, my selling point for the academic in the video: it encourages participation and even records the feedback which you can look at later – a great source of evidence should you need it.

Something caught my eye on the twitter feed for today’s MOOC topic was the notion of always learning and doing:

@lifewider1: @lifewider life’s an ‘ing’ we’re always – working, playing, learning, developing, creating, slogging, blogging, tweeting #BYOD4L ing

I immediately thought, yes, always busy but how much is ever completed or converted from the gerund to the past participle?! I’m from the school of thought that learning, developing and creating should never end, but to the busy academic, being connected just adds more to our plates might be the retort from the lady in scenario 2.

I treat twitter as a dip in and out type connectivity tool. It’s not my inbox, but, like a hosepipe I can turn it on and dowse myself for a while with whatever I choose, turn it off and repeat as required. That way I’m connecting, learning, thinking, and making use of dead time (I checked twitter whilst waiting for/walking to/ sitting on buses/trains/meetings/colleagues (okay, not sitting on colleagues!) so far today).

So, to come full circle, I’m still marking (not finished) but have participated in my meeting, connected with the #BYOD4L community, and learned a lot today (lots of past tense you see!). None of the connectivity activities would have happened today without my iPhone or iPad – marking and meeting would have been the gist of my day. I can now add tweeting, creating, learning and MOOCing to my day!

Last thing on my list is the live twitter chat this evening, which is a bit out-of-hours for me, but it’s when I’ll finally upload this blog post written on a wifi-less train, which at least connects home with work so I’m thankful for that level of connectivity!

Update: pleased to have gained a badge for participating in day 1.