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Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant
SHEEN Sharing Review
By Sarah Currier, Project Consultant 0. Executive Summary: Tips, Tricks, and Pitfalls to Avoid .................................................................. 3 0.1 Know your community ............................................................................................................ 3 0.2 Engage and support your community ..................................................................................... 3 0.3 Technical issues ....................................................................................................................... 4 0.4 Potential pitfalls ...................................................................................................................... 4 0.5 Employability and Web 2.0 ..................................................................................................... 4 1. Introduction .................................................................................................................................. 5 2. Methods ........................................................................................................................................ 5 3. Web 2.0 in Higher Education ........................................................................................................ 7 3.1 Web 2.0 in UK HE: 2007 to 2009 ............................................................................................. 7 3.2 Web 2.0 in Higher Education Today ........................................................................................ 8 3.2.1 Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants? ................................................................................. 9 3.2.2 Employability and Web 2.0 ............................................................................................ 10 4. Web 2.0 for Communities of Practice and Resource Sharing ...................................................... 11 4.3.1 Models of Communities ................................................................................................. 11 18.104.22.168 PROWE and Information Ecologies ......................................................................... 11 22.214.171.124 CD-LOR and Communities ....................................................................................... 13 4.3.2 Personal Resource Management Strategies ................................................................... 15 4.3.3 Successful Web 2.0 Communities .................................................................................. 15 5. Some Specific Technologies ........................................................................................................ 16 5.1 Newsfeeds............................................................................................................................. 17 5.2 Blogging ................................................................................................................................ 17 5.3 Social bookmarking ............................................................................................................... 17 5.4 Creating a dissemination point for resources ....................................................................... 17 5.5 Microblogging: Twitter .......................................................................................................... 18 5.6 What about wikis and e-portfolios? ...................................................................................... 18 References ...................................................................................................................................... 19 Appendices ..................................................................................................................................... 21 Appendix 1: Interview with Richard Hall, De Montfort University Learning Exchanges .............. 21
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant Appendix 2: Interview with George Roberts, JISC Emerge Project .............................................. 22 Appendix 3: Interview with Sheila MacNeill (Assistant Director, JISC CETIS) .............................. 24
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant
0. Executive Summary: Tips, Tricks, and Pitfalls to Avoid
Drawn from the various reports, and more crucially from the interviews recorded in the Appendices, these tips and tricks are the key purpose of this review: 0.1 Know your community Their makeup, professional background, how diverse they are; Their technical expertise and confidence levels; Their enthusiasm for the project’s remit; Look at their personal resource management strategies (so you can fit in with these); What their local drivers, barriers, pressures and policies are that affect the project’s remit. 0.2 Engage and support your community Be aware of individual visibility and ensure equitable opportunities for participation; You need champions and mentors who are embedded in the community; Champions / mentors need to model good practice; Engage the most keen to mentor and teach those who have less time but are interested: that’s how communities of practice work; Use the kind of tools you’re going to be encouraging for project management functions; Offer lunch for meetings – gets folk along; People engage best when they are told stories by their peers (not talked at by experts); Focus on what will make their lives easier, enhance their work, save time and be fun; Find out what their problems are and go down the route of solutions; Look for common tasks that they want to carry out and build activities on those; Use a team-based approach to embed tools, give support (engage line managers); Engage with strategic planning, academic quality, data management needs (these can be management drivers for support); Use champions to mentor on a particular task using a particular tool; Enable them to see from each other one thing that might work or transform practice; Get student volunteers to help with mentoring, ideas- can involve elected student reps with experience in this; Agree collaboratively for everyone to do something every day or once a week etc.; Hold regular Webinar/Web conferencing meetings: o These are Web 2.0- good “gee whiz” factor, but easy to use, non-threatening; o Allow people to communicate and take part from geographical distance, from home, etc. at convenient times; o They can *see* each other: important for establishing relationships; o Choose a tool where they can begin to establish a profile online (good introduction to issues around this); o Record meeting outcomes for others to refer back to, play back, later; o Relatively low access costs, choose a tool that just works out of the can; o Have a regular schedule planned ahead of time so they can drop in and out. Abbitt (2009) found people use social bookmarking tool around the time of deadline for course requirements – may be an idea to initially provide structure and deadlines.
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant 0.3 Technical issues Need to sell sustainability of Web 2.0; Usability for front-end users; When you have 100s of resources, take a mixed approach (mix of tools and technologies); Be ‘agile’ in your methodology- evaluate as you go and be willing to change course, change tools, add new tools to meet emergent needs; Support people who are finding it hard: they can get scared off at first attempt; Support people with workarounds to institutional barriers like firewalls or blocking of Web 2.0 applications. 0.4 Potential pitfalls It’s easy enough to set everything up for people, but they’ve got to be motivated to use it; they won’t use it just because you’ve set it up for them; Minimise or completely remove any artificial barriers to Web 2.0 tools; Local university technical departments can cause barriers by blocking certain tools and technologies; Project participants ultimately focus on whatever the official project outcome is. If it’s a formal report, they will work towards a formal report that ticks the boxes. 0.5 Employability and Web 2.0 “*...+ the dispositions developed through engagement with Web 2.0 technologies – to communicate, participate, network, share etc – overlap with what are viewed both as significant 21st century learning skills and 21st century employability skills.” (Hughes, 2009); This fact could become a significant driver for encouraging employability co-ordinators in developing their own Web 2.0 skills, the better to engage in a useful way, and understand, their stakeholders; SHEEN Sharing can enable the ECN to become champions for all that Web 2.0 represents, of crucial importance at a time when, as George Roberts notes in his introduction to the JISC Emerge final report (2009): “information literacy is being dynamically redefined”.
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant
The SHEEN Sharing Project aims to support the Employability Co-ordinators’ Network as a community of practice, with a particular focus on utilizing online tools to communicate about, share, and recommend resources of relevance to their employability work. The project will also support discovery and dissemination of relevant employability resources for stakeholders outwith the ECN, e.g. academics, staff developers, student support departments, funding bodies, national services, etc. Outputs and findings will benefit the wider education community, and the FE and HE funding bodies across the UK, by contributing to sector knowledge and understanding of resource sharing and community support using current Web technologies. In preparing for the major work of the project, Workpackage 4: Trials of Web 2.0 Tools1, the project consultant reviewed literature about, and current practice with, the use of Web 2.0 for the purposes of resource sharing and community of practice support in higher education. The intention of this review was to inform the SHEEN Sharing project as to the best way to proceed with helping the ECN. The short timeframe and small project team precluded an exhaustive literature review, and it was not intended to be overly formal or theoretical, but rather to offer the project an overview of the current landscape, and key tips, tricks, and pitfalls to avoid. This work, Workpackage 2: Web 2.0 Review, was carried out in the first three months of the project from January to March 2009, in parallel with Workpackage 3: Requirements Gathering; both fed into each other during this period. This document represents the results of the review; see also the document SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements2.
The use of Web 2.0 technologies for resource sharing and community of practice development in higher education is a relatively recent phenomenon, and much of the data and experience to be gleaned is available only in non-traditional, Web 2.0 formats such as blog postings. Abbit (2009) noted in a recent paper on the use of social bookmarking in education that “the majority of published material simply describes ideas on how to use these tools and does little to investigate the possible benefits of these activities on teaching and learning.” It would therefore be somewhat misleading to refer to this workpackage as a literature review, although some formal project reports were looked at. The following methods were used for gathering and assimilating knowledge for this project: Investigating and following leads based on the Project Consultant’s existing network and knowledge in this area, including: o Identifying contacts for known projects and resources; o Following any leads and links in their documentation, and; o Requesting references and links from experts in the field via personal communications and micro-blogging requests (via Twitter);
See SHEEN Sharing Project Plan: http://www.scribd.com/doc/15722654/SHEEN-Sharing-Project-Plan-v1p0 See SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report: [insert URL when this is complete and disseminated]
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant Attending key conferences face-to-face, and via following them through live-blogging sites and Twitter feeds; Interviewing three key players who worked with key recent projects in this area (see the Appendices to this report for interview notes): o Richard Hall, Project Manager of the successful HEFCE/HEA/JISC e-Learning Pathfinder3 Project ‘DMU Learning Exchanges’, and now e-Learning Manager in charge of the resulting fully embedded services at De Montfort University 4; o George Roberts, Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at Oxford Brookes University and Director of the JISC ‘Emerge’ project 5, which spent two years supporting the JISC Users & Innovation Programme6 by enabling a UK-wide community of practice using Web 2.0 technologies; o Sheila MacNeill, Assistant Director of JISC CETIS7, who has supported a number of projects within JISC e-learning programmes which have experimented with the use of Web 2.0 for supporting teaching & learning, communities of practice and curriculum design (e.g. the Design for Learning Programme8, Curriculum Design Programme9). Investigating new Web 2.0 tools and technologies in response to ideas and inspiration from all of the above, and in response to requests and requirements emerging simultaneously from the project requirements-gathering and benchmarking workpackage (Workpackage 3: Requirements Gathering10).
Web-based resources found were disseminated as the review progressed via bookmarking and annotation using Delicious11. They were tagged sheensharing_web2 and a feed from this tag was used to disseminate the resources dynamically on the SHEEN Sharing blog12. The focus of this review covers the following key areas: (1) Web 2.0 in Higher Education: a. The past two to three years of Web 2.0 developments; b. Potential affordances of Web 2.0 for the ECN; (2) Research into the use of the Web to support communities of practice and resource sharing; a. Earlier projects with lessons to learn from, particularly early JISC Repositories Programme13 e-learning projects PROWE, CD-LOR, SPIRE and REPOMMAN; b. Recent projects in this area, particularly DMU Learning Exchanges and JISC Emerge; c. JISC CETIS experiences with supporting Web 2.0 focussed projects.
See report on Pathfinder Programme: http://elearning.heacademy.ac.uk/weblogs/pathfinder/ SEE DMU Learning Exchanges Website: http://www.learnex.dmu.ac.uk/ 5 See Emerge Website: http://elgg.jiscemerge.org.uk/ 6 http://www.jisc.ac.uk/usersinnovation 7 See Sheila’s JISC CETIS blog: http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/sheilamacneill/ 8 http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearningpedagogy/designlearn 9 http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearningcapital/curriculumdesign/ 10 See SHEEN Sharing Project Plan and SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Review documents [insert URLS once these are disseminated via the blog]. 11 Delicious is a Web-based social bookmarking service: http://delicious.com/ . Feed URL for sheensharing_web2 is http://feeds.delicious.com/v2/rss/tag/sheensharing_web2?countx3d15 12 http://sheensharing.wordpress.com/ 13 http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/digitalrepositories2005.aspx
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant
3. Web 2.0 in Higher Education
It is clear from the literature that higher education in the UK has moved in the past two years from questioning and investigating the potential future value of Web 2.0 (Anderson, 2007; Hewling, 2007; Franklin and Van Harmelen, 2007; Phipps, 2007; White, 2007), to acceptance that it is already here, and that educators, policy-makers, funders and managers need to move quickly to take advantage of the potential affordances on offer, as well as to minimise any possible risks (Hero Ltd., 2008a and 2008b; Hughes, 2009; JISC Emerge, 2009; McIntosh, 2009; interviews in Appendices 1-3 (Hall, Roberts, MacNeill, all 2009)). 3.1 Web 2.0 in UK HE: 2007 to 2009 Two major JISC reports came out in 2007, advising the HE community on Web 2.0 (Anderson, 2007; Franklin and Ven Harmelon, 2007). Both made statements that hint at the excitement and unease prevalent during 2006/2007, when it became clear that Web 2.0 was hurtling over the horizon: In 2007, Anderson summarised the underlying ethos for and disruptive potential of Web 2.0 thus: “Collaboration, contribution and community are the order of the day and there is a sense in which some think that a new 'social fabric' is being constructed before our eyes.” That same year, Franklin and Van Harmelon recommended, given the early stage of Web 2.0 use in education, the potential it offered for transformation, and the tendency of higher education institutions to work in a top-down manner inimical to Web 2.0 style working, that: “*...+ institutions take a light-weight approach [to] use of regulations that might constrain experimentation with the technologies and allied pedagogies.” Meanwhile, in 2007 the first JISC Digital Repositories Programme14 was winding up after two years, and the e-learning projects within that programme were reporting back on some innovative work, which was starting to touch on the use of Web 2.0 for sharing, collaborating on and managing learning resources. The SPIRE15 and PROWE16 projects were focussed particularly on the potential for specific Web 2.0 technologies to become new kinds of personalised repositories: SPIRE started out investigating the idea of peer-to-peer resource sharing in the mode of Napster, which proved to be highly problematic, crashing up against all kinds of institutional and cultural barriers in HE. They also conducted an investigation into the use of all Web 2.0 technologies by students, which gave support to their impression that: “[d]uring the project, the popularity and diversity of Web 2.0 type services on the web began to increase. Many of these services involve informal collaboration and sharing so, in the light of this, the SPIRE project shifted its focus from specifically looking at P2P towards a more general investigation of the use of informal participatory services.” (White, 2007)
JISC Digital Repositories Programme 2005-2007: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/digitalrepositories2005.aspx 15 SPIRE: Secure Personal Institutional and Inter-Institutional Repository Environment: http://spire.conted.ox.ac.uk/ 16 PROWE: Personal Repositories Online Wiki Environment: http://www.prowe.ac.uk/
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant PROWE looked at the possibility of blogs and wikis to provide informal personal repository and community spaces supporting staff development for distance learning tutors. They also found barriers based in institutional cultures and individual participants’ circumstances and attitudes that were difficult to overcome.
So, both SPIRE and PROWE proved to be somewhat ahead of the curve. However, this was by no means a failure as both projects discovered much that has been of use in successful work since. Meanwhile, the CD-LOR17 project focussed specifically on the development and support of communities around learning object repositories (LORs). As a result of this research, one of the project’s recommendations noted that: “LORs have a key role to play in promoting sharing and reuse of e-learning content, especially during development where collaboration is important. This role could be strengthened through the development of web2.0 capability within LO Repositories.” (Milligan, 2007). SHEEN Sharing’s intention to use Web 2.0 to collect, discuss and disseminate resources, including those within formal repositories, will be supported by the realisation of this recommendation in the past two years: a number of repositories do in fact now support Web 2.0 functionality such as newsfeeds, tagging and external search and deposit mechanisms such as OpenSearch 18, SRU19 and SWORD20. All three projects mentioned here, along with the RepoMMan21 project, also looked more deeply at individual educators’ personal resource management strategies. The focus on both socio-cultural aspects of resource sharing and individual practices again provided much rich data for future projects and initiatives to draw upon. See below in Section 4 for findings from the above-mentioned projects of use to SHEEN Sharing. 3.2 Web 2.0 in Higher Education Today Most of the available information about current use of Web 2.0 in UK higher education focuses on direct support of teaching and learning, or on its influence on the culture and attitudes of the current generation of students, touching upon the digital natives / digital immigrants debate. The first type of data is useful in the sense that it can give generalisable help when thinking about supporting educational communities of practice like the ECN. However, both types of data relate to the issues that directly impact upon the work of those supporting employability in education, especially around 21st century skills such as collaborative working and information literacy. While it was not originally part of the project’s original remit, it emerged at the introductory SHEEN Sharing meetings that learning more about using Web 2.0 could help the ECN in understanding and supporting students and teachers with this emergent culture and technological environment.
CD-LOR: Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories: http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/cd-lor/ http://www.opensearch.org/ 19 http://www.loc.gov/standards/sru/ 20 http://www.swordapp.org/ 21 RepoMMan: Repository Metadata and Management: http://www.hull.ac.uk/esig/repomman/
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant The recent report of the “independent Committee of Inquiry into the impact on higher education of students’ widespread use of Web 2.0 technologies” entitled ‘Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World’ (Hughes, 2009), covered both the use of Web 2.0 in educational support activities, and the employability agenda. The report noted that: “Web 2.0 technologies are being deployed across a broad spectrum of university activities and in similar ways in the UK and overseas. Deployment is in no way systematic and the drive is principally bottom up, coming from the professional interest and enthusiasm of individual members of staff. In learning and teaching, usage is patchy but a considerable working base exists, as it does in other areas of university business, including administration, student support and advertising and marketing. [...] Advice and guidance is available to institutions, but there is no blueprint for implementation of Web 2.0 technologies, and each is currently deciding its own path.”
One of the report’s recommendations was that: “HEA and JISC establish and maintain forums to provide for the sharing and development of ideas and practice in Web 2.0 technology in all spheres of university business.” SHEEN Sharing fits this recommendation well, and the recent Pathfinder ‘DMU Learning Exchanges’ and JISC ‘Emerge’ projects, which started exactly these kinds of forums, provide ample high quality data about how to embed Web 2.0 technology within educational communities of practice. 3.2.1 Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants? The idea that there is a generation currently studying in higher and further education that is comfortable living and learning in the Web 2.0 environment is one with considerable currency, but it is not without controversy. It is helpful in some ways to investigate and understand generational differences in approach to technologies, and more broadly, cultural attitudes; for instance, there was considerable interest within the ECN in the Enhancement Themes Conference keynote on this topic (Redmond, 2009). However, other experts advise against making too much of this; see for instance Ewan McIntosh’s keynote at the JISC Conference 2009 (McIntosh, 2009). His point was that there are students who, either because of the digital divide affording them less access to technology, or because of personal choice or aptitude, aren’t as au fait with Web 2.0 as might be expected. Equally, as noted in Hughes (2009): “Older age groups, adaptable and pragmatic in their approach to new technology in general, use it where they can see it makes their lives easier and are fast catching up with the early adopters.” It is important to remember that, with encouragement and support anyone can learn to use Web 2.0 technologies. Of course, those who do will only take it up if it is of use to them in their work or personal life. Drivers and barriers specific to the individuals and community in question are the important factors to consider. Lessons learned from the success of DMU Learning Exchanges in institutional embedding, and of the JISC Emerge project’s deep and broad-ranging investigations over 28 months and across some 40 projects, are the most helpful resources SHEEN Sharing could have hoped for in supporting this. 9 © Higher Education Academy 2009
SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant 3.2.2 Employability and Web 2.0 One possible driver for the ECN is learning to use Web 2.0 skills to support their employability work, whether through direct work with teachers and students, broader work in embedding in the curriculum, or working at a policy level within institutions. The HE funding bodies are well aware of this link, as evidenced in this HERO interview with JISC’s Rebecca O’Brien: “One of the greatest benefits to new technology use in higher education is the long-term effects it has outside of the education system, as students graduate with skills and knowledge they take with them into the workplace. “Universities and higher education institutions are in a position to educate the next generation of academics, researchers and global workforce," explains O'Brien. "Being at the forefront of new technologies means that graduates and learners can benefit from a widerange of techniques which will not only be used in their academic life but also in their professional one too." (HERO Ltd., 2008b) SHEEN Sharing is already enabling this potential to be explored at individual institutions through their involvement in the project. The more recent Committee of Inquiry report also devotes a section to employability factors afforded by working with Web 2.0: “We have noted the development of skills as a policy imperative for government, central and devolved. We have also noted that the dispositions developed through engagement with Web 2.0 technologies – to communicate, participate, network, share etc – overlap with what are viewed both as significant 21st century learning skills and 21st century employability skills. Development of the latter are already high on HE’s agenda, and they are also being pursued vigorously through the changes now underway in the 14 to 19 curriculum in all parts of the UK. Research undertaken by the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) suggests that employers place the basic skills of literacy, numeracy and communication at the head of their list of requirements of employees. Next come ‘soft’ employability skills such as motivation, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving, and lastly, since they may be acquired on the job, specific vocational skills. Employer perceptions of the relative importance of particular types of skills change over time but it is clear that ‘soft’ employability skills are highly valued at the present time. Web 2.0 approaches would therefore seem to be a sound foundation on which to base the development of such skills, which, along with basic skills, are the bedrock of a learning society.” (Hughes, 2009) This could represent a considerable driver for Scotland’s employability co-ordinators to develop their own understanding of and skills with Web 2.0, which will help them with their work beyond simply increasing their own effectiveness with resource sharing and communications. It will enable them to become champions for all that Web 2.0 represents, of crucial importance at a time when, as George Roberts notes in his introduction to the JISC Emerge final report (2009): “information literacy is being dynamically redefined”.
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4. Web 2.0 for Communities of Practice and Resource Sharing
The use of Web technologies to support the development and activities of communities of practice within higher education has received some attention in the last few years. It is worth revisiting earlier projects that investigated these issues at the cusp of Web 2.0’s emergence. These include the afore-mentioned PROWE22 and CD-LOR23 projects, both funded under the first JISC Repositories Programme24, which laid some of the groundwork for thinking about Web 2.0 and resource sharing across diverse and distributed HE communities. More recently, the JISC Emerge project, and the De Montfort University project Learning Exchanges, both of which have resulted in embedded practice for their participants, have produced some valuable insight into the best way to encourage cultural change and to support practitioners in their use of the Web. The Open University has also been at the forefront of exploration 25, as have the JISC’s various e-learning programmes. The overarching theme that emerges from this review, and that supports SHEEN Sharing’s exploratory, iterative approach, can be summed up by JISC Emerge (2009): “It has been possible to identify a range of benefits to deploying social networking and social media tools to scaffold community emergence. However, the form and patterns of interaction that develop across a community over time cannot be predetermined. The stories and voices of participants provided evidence that the community developed into an effective support system for projects. The benefits for individuals and projects included opportunities for professional development, collaboration with others, improved project planning and management, and awareness of the relevance of projects in a wider context.” 4.3.1 Models of Communities JISC Emerge (2009) found that “*t+he effective use of Web2.0 applications depends essentially on human networks. This raises questions of inclusion, exclusion and identity”. Understanding the issues emergent from these factors is crucial to the success of any project like SHEEN Sharing. PROWE and CD-LOR looked at theoretical models of communities to under-pin their research into, and conclusions about, developing repositories (formal and informal) for teaching and learning. Both produced helpful and practical guidelines based on these models, designed to assist projects like SHEEN Sharing with finding incentives and drivers in their user communities, and tackling barriers to uptake. 126.96.36.199 PROWE and Information Ecologies PROWE was one of the earliest projects to look at the use of wikis and blogs as potential environments for sharing and discussing resources. The specific domain covered was staff development amongst distance learning tutors. PROWE’s work is of particular interest to SHEEN Sharing because, as with the diverse ECN community, PROWE found “no 'typical' profile for a parttime tutor”. In addition, the different allegiances found amongst part-time distance tutors are
PROWE: Personal Repositories Online Wiki Environment. http://www.prowe.ac.uk/ CD-LOR: Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories. http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/cd-lor/ 24 JISC Digital Repositories Programme, 2005-2007. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/digitalrepositories2005.aspx 25 See, for example, the OU SocialLearn blog: http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/sociallearn/
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant somewhat reflected in the pressures inherent in the roles of part-time employability co-ordinators. Finally, there was a warning from PROWE that “old habits die hard” and “[y]ou can take a horse to water *...+ but you can’t make it drink” (Hewling, 2006), even when the habits in question are seemingly irrational or counterproductive. Perceived barriers to adoption of the tools being promoted were summarised thus: “a) individual perceptions (real or false) of the time commitment involved in learning and using new technologies; b) the presence of ingrained habits and established practices that could inhibit the sharing or enhancing of resources using new social technologies; c) the currency and relevance, and thus utility, of repository resources contributed by others; d) policy and operational pressures, for example, the funding of new initiatives and changed/changing workloads; and e) the time and effort involved, the perceived rewards and the individual cost-benefit judgments that would be made.” (Dence and Mobbs, 2007). In the course of the project, PROWE moved from an initial emphasis on communities and networks toward adopting an information ecology model, noting that: “[...] the most fluid conceptual framework available to adequately describe and theorise the PROWE system and its environment is actually provided by the work of Nardi and O'Day 26 (1999) on Information Ecologies. They suggest that far from thinking about "the biggest picture possible" (p. 57) technological information systems are best looked at from a local perspective in order to understand and shape what they do and how they evolve.” (Hewling, 2007). The ecology model rather than a community model as their theoretical under-pinning allowed the ability to see diversity for what it is, to look at key “species”, and to appreciate visible and invisible factors. The characteristics of ecologies include (Hewling, 2007): “An ecology is a system 'marked by strong interrelationships and dependencies amongst its different parts', the parts will be very different but they are closely interconnected and 'change in an ecology is endemic' (p.51).” “An ecology exhibits diversity – of and within species, each taking advantage of different 'niches' to develop somewhat differently. Ideally these will work together in a complementary way (p.51).” The group’s aims “will be maximised by the effects of coevolution, 'people's activities and tools adjust and are adjusted in relation to each other, always attempting and never quite
Nardi, B. A., & O’Day, V. L. (1999). Information Ecologies – using technology with heart, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant achieving a perfect fit. This is part of the dynamic balance achieved in healthy ecologies – a balance found in motion, not stillness' (p.53).” “Amongst the different species in an ecology will be keystone species, those 'whose presence is crucial to the survival of the ecology itself' (p.53). In the case of PROWE this is the most complicated part of the ecology metaphor to unravel and to understand.” The key points of relevance to the ECN are that: it is a system with inter-relationships to other systems; if change is endemic then flexibility and constant evaluation (as in the JISC Emerge project’s process of “appreciative inquiry”) must be engaged; the diversity within the ECN may be expected to produce diversity of engagement styles, tools preferences and so on: it’s OK for different members to find their own niche; the dynamic balance of coevolution (of tools and people) may be uncomfortable but must be expected, as the balance is found in constant motion, not stillness; the issue of keystone species may need to be investigated more deeply, particularly with regard to the survival of the ecosystem. PROWE certainly found that some things were closer to being “keystone” than they originally expected, and that the different purposes deriving from people’s roles and positions could cause unforeseen complexity and problems. “Simply put, the interaction of species and the consequent conflict of interest between their different positions as they intersect and /or try to co-exist may disrupt the working of the whole system and the survival chances of the overall environment.”
It is important to note that this model emerged as PROWE struggled with supporting engagement within a very new landscape. Their thinking around the problems they encountered helped other projects in the programme, and later projects. CD-LOR, a sister e-learning repositories project, worked on developing guidelines that would help such initiatives before they even got started. 188.8.131.52 CD-LOR and Communities CD-LOR was funded to investigate why communities within higher education were not using learning object repositories (LORs) to the extent that had been hoped for. It should be noted that the term “learning object repository” was “intended only as useful shorthand for organised collections of digital teaching and learning materials” (Margaryan, 2006). This includes informal, but still organised (via tagging and so forth) collections of the type envisaged by SHEEN Sharing. The project noted that: “[...] the pedagogical, social, and organisational aspects of these communities have not been at the forefront in the design and development of LORs. Research has consistently demonstrated that the most substantial barriers in uptake of technology are rooted in these factors” (Margaryan, Milligan and Douglas, 2007). CD-LOR developed a set of community dimensions that any proposed activity in resource sharing or collection could be mapped against: (1) Purpose, the shared goal/interest of the community; the reason why the community was formed in the first place;
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant (2) Composition, the number and types of (sub-)communities to be supported; (3) Dialogue, modes of participation and communication (online, face-to-face, or mixed) adopted by the community; (4) Roles and responsibilities; (5) Coherence, whether the community is close-knit or loosely confederated / transient; (6) Context, the broader ecology within which the community exists (for example, professional bodies; governments; implicit and explicit rules that govern the functioning of community; ground rules of conduct; rewards and incentives mechanisms; etc.) ; (7) Pedagogy, teaching and learning approaches used in the community (for example, problem-based learning, collaborative learning, etc.). Within these dimensions, questions to be asked, potential barriers to uptake, and possible solutions were identified. From this CD-LOR produced a set of structured guidelines to assist with setting up a learning object repository for a particular community. The SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report27 essentially summarises the project’s answers to the relevant questions within these Guidelines. One key part of the structured guidelines of great potential benefit to thinking about individual members of the ECN and where they are during training and support for the trials period of the project is the table laying out ‘Strategies to Enable Acceptance of Innovations’, taken from Dormant, (1997, p. 144):
If the person is in the stage of… Awareness Passive regarding the change Little/no information about change Little/no opinion about change Curiosity More active regarding change Expresses personal job concerns Asks questions about own work and change Envisioning Active regarding change Expresses work-related job concerns Asks questions about how change works Tryout Active regarding change Has opinions about change Interested in learning how-to Use Active regarding change Uses change on the job Asks detailed questions about use Then the strategy to use is to… Advertise Be an ad agent Be credible and positive Appeal to his or her needs and wants Inform Identify specific concerns Provide clear info about concerns Emphasize pluses, acknowledge minuses Demonstrate Give success images Provide demonstrations Connect with peer users Train Provide effective training Provide job aids, check lists Promise technical follow-up Support Provide necessary technical help Provide reinforcement Provide recognition
See SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Report: [url]
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant 4.3.2 Personal Resource Management Strategies As well as looking at communities and ecologies, individual drivers and barriers to uptake of resource sharing tools were investigated in 2005-2007. A number of the e-learning projects within the JISC Digital Repositories Programme surveyed personal resource management strategies of potential repository users. The intention of this work was to understand how people stored, managed, and shared teaching and learning resources currently. Ensuring that new tools fitted in as seamlessly as possibly with these personal strategies, or helped eliminate some of the barriers inherent in them, was a high priority. While the end result of these surveys and interviews may be slightly off-topic for SHEEN Sharing, and are somewhat dated now, their methods are worth noting. SHEEN Sharing carried out a simple version of investigating the PRMSs of the ECN based on this: see the SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Gathering Report. 4.3.3 Successful Web 2.0 Communities The DMU Learning Exchanges project, funded as part of the HEFCE/HEA/JISC Pathfinder Programme, developed into a currently successful embedded programme at De Montfort University. They continue to not only support internal communities of practice, but also to disseminate their knowledge about the use of Web 2.0 in HE with the wider community. The JISC Emerge project was a large, long-term, and richly reflected-upon project, delivering not only overlapping Web 2.0 communities of practice across UK HE and FE, but also extremely useful project reports on their experience and recommendations. In fact, their final report document, consisting of a number of research papers on the different strands of the project, was the single richest source of supportive information found by SHEEN Sharing (JISC Emerge, 2009). The project leaders for both of these projects were interviewed at an early stage in SHEEN Sharing, alongside an interview with Sheila MacNeill of JISC CETIS, who has a unique perspective across a number of years and a wide range of JISC e-learning programmes where communities of practice have foundered or grown according to a variety of factors. The full notes from these interviews are recorded in the Appendices. One beneficial finding of JISC Emerge was their summary of seven key stages of activity during their community of practice’s lifecycle, each requiring different support mechanisms and approaches: “Phase 1: Community building and visibility Phase 2: Networking and clustering around emerging themes Phase 3: Shared activity in the form of bid-writing Phase 4: Community coalescence around the newly funded projects Phase 5: Cross-project engagement Phase 6: Widening community participation Phase 7: Sustainability and hand-over”
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant Of course, this was a different landscape to that the ECN is working within, but the issues of community building and visibility (already achieved by the time SHEEN Sharing started); networking and clustering around emerging themes (again a process already begun, and harnessed by SHEEN Sharing); shared activity (not around bid writing but around other topics and projects of interest); followed by, SHEEN Sharing hopes, community coalescence. This is the point at which SHEEN Sharing may be able to support and empower the ECN to work through the final three phases. However, it should be noted that JISC Emerge was a large, well-funded project supporting 40 small teams from 28 UK HE and FE institutions over 28 months; getting to the end within the nine months allocated to SHEEN Sharing may be somewhat ambitious. A further quote from JISC Emerge: “Ultimately it is the sharing of artefacts and outcomes in practice which determines community ownership and sustainability. “Lessons learned: There is a need to be aware of individual visibility and to identify those that may remain invisible so as to ensure equitable opportunities for participation. This may mean addressing the digital literacy skills of those within the community; Agile and flexible approaches are required to support a community as community requirements change over time in unanticipated ways; Designing for ‘purpose’ requires transparency in the technologies deployed; Benefits for both individuals and organisations must be focused; Resourcing is one of the key driving forces behind community development, participation and governance.”
5. Some Specific Technologies
Throughout the course of the review, benchmarking and requirements gathering phase of SHEEN Sharing, a number of Web 2.0 tools and applications were investigated. Interviewees mentioned a few tools that they had used, and recommended others. JISC Emerge in particular found that virtually all Web 2.0 tools, free or otherwise, require some degree of support from a dedicated person, and all have hidden gaps and bugs in their functionality that can annoy people once they emerge. There is also the issue of sustainability of free, web-based tools: “*...+ the issue that the ‘cheap, quick and dirty’ approach (taken by many disruptive innovations) was a problem for universities.” (lauradee, 2009). JISC Emerge chose (and had the resourcing) to utilise tools like Elgg and Moodle that they could host and maintain locally. However, they did not particularly recommend the functionality of these tools over Web-based ones. A brief summary is given below of the major tools that came up and how they linked into SHEEN Sharing:
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant 5.1 Newsfeeds The Open University’s Web 2.0 guru Tony Hirst gave an inspirational presentation at the 2008 JISC CETIS Conference28, which demonstrated that newsfeeds (RSS, Atom, OPML or otherwise) are the lynchpins of Web 2.0. Every tool that may be considered ‘Web 2.0’ supports at least pushing newsfeeds out to keep users informed of resources and activity, and many also ingest feeds from elsewhere to disseminate and display external content. Feeds are also one of the key technologies (although only one of them) used within mash-ups and widgets to pull together and make visible content, tools and discussions throughout the Web. Therefore, it was a top priority to familiarise the ECN with very basic newsfeeds, and to look at the newsfeed capabilities of any tools to be trialled. 5.2 Blogging A WordPress29 project blog was started and individual project groups that will be trialling tools are to be encouraged to also set up blogs. Subscribing to the blog feed was the simplest way to make the ECN familiar with both feeds and blogs. In addition, WordPress allows feed widgets to pull content in from elsewhere, so experimenting with feeds of employability resources on social bookmarking sites, and from resource sharing sites, was trialled. George Roberts also recommended Posterous 30 as the most user-friendly blog tool ever; trials with this showed it might be useful for total Web beginners involved. 5.3 Social bookmarking The project started looking at the most popular social bookmarking tool out there, Delicious31, and began putting specified tags on resources and pulling feeds from there into the blog. However, George Roberts suggested we look at Diigo32, which proved to be a very exciting “next generation” bookmarking tool, and the one that the project will go ahead with for resource sharing. 5.4 Creating a dissemination point for resources It became clear early on that a blog would not support enough complexity or volume to share a lot of resources in a way that made it easy for others to find them. The JISC Emerge project used Elgg33 and Moodle34, but these applications require a lot of technical support and a server to host them. George Roberts suggested looking at Netvibes35 and Pageflakes36, both of which allow free and easy creation of a multi-tabbed site, populated with widgets and feeds from other sources. Coupled with using Diigo social bookmarking and social networking, Netvibes is to be trialled as an employability resource site, which will also bring in resources from YouTube, the HEA and other sources.
Tony’s slides from the Conference are here, but you really had to be there: http://ouseful.wordpress.com/2008/11/27/my-cetis-2008-presentations/ 29 http://wordpress.org/ 30 http://posterous.com/ 31 http://delicious.com/ 32 http://www.diigo.com/ 33 http://elgg.org/ 34 http://moodle.org/ 35 http://www.netvibes.com/ 36 http://www.pageflakes.com/
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant 5.5 Microblogging: Twitter During the course of the first half of the project, requirements emerged that suggested a quick way to communicate online would be welcome, so Twitter 37 was added to the tools discussed. It also became clear that a number of university departments in the UK are using Twitter to disseminate resources and news, and communicate with students. Twitter feeds can also keep blogs up-to-date on a frequent basis and disseminate into and out of social bookmarking and Netvibes sites. 5.6 What about wikis and e-portfolios? The SHEEN Sharing Benchmarking and Requirements Gathering Report indicated that some members of the ECN had experience with the use of wikis and e-portfolios in their work. However, use of wikis requires a slightly higher learning curve, involving using a new language, so was deprioritised over the use of blogs, social bookmarking and Netvibes. A project sub-group with an interest in looking at e-portfolios is being supported by SHEEN Sharing.
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Abbitt, J. (2009) Evaluating the Implementation of a Social Bookmarking Activity for an Undergraduate Course in Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Vol. 8, no. 1 (Spring 2009). Available: http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/PDF/8.1.5.pdf Anderson, Paul (2007) What is Web 2.0?: Ideas, Technologies and Implications for Education. JISC. Available: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/techwatch/tsw0701.pdf Dence, R. and Mobbs, R. (2007) Perspectives on the nature of communities and their needs: conceptualising and researching potential wiki use at UoL. Beyond Distance Research Alliance Working Paper 2007/01. University of Leicester. Available: http://www.prowe.ac.uk/documents/BDRAWP200701.pdf Dormant, D. (1997) Planning change: past, present, future in R. Kaufman, S. Thiagarajan, and P. MacGillis (eds.), The guidebook for performance improvement: working with individuals and organizations. San Francisco: Pfeiffer. Franklin, T. and Van Harmelen, Mark (2007) Web 2.0 for Content for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. JISC. Available: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/digitalrepositories/web2-content-learningand-teaching.pdf HERO Ltd. (2008a) Facebook in the Classroom in HERO – Online Evolves Special (Dec. 2008). Previously available: http://www.hero.ac.uk/uk/inside_he/archives/2008/facebook_in_the_classroom_Dec.cfm (website now taken down). HERO Ltd. (2008b) JISC and Web 2.0 in HERO – Online Evolves Special (Dec. 2008). Previously available: http://www.hero.ac.uk/uk/inside_he/archives/2008/jisc_and_web_2_0_Dec.cfm (website now taken down). Hewling, A. (2006) PROWE (Personal Repositories Online Wiki Environment) - understanding the OU user perspective. Available: http://www.prowe.ac.uk/documents/UnderstandingUserPerspectivePROWE.pdf Hewling, A. (2007) PROWE (Personal Repositories Online Wiki Environment) and "how to do it" putting theory into practice. Available: http://www.prowe.ac.uk/documents/finalPROWE-howto.doc Hughes, A. (2009) Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World: Report of an independent Committee of Inquiry into the impact on higher education of students’ widespread use of Web 2.0 technologies. JISC. Available: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/documents/heweb2.aspx JISC Emerge (2009) JISC Emerge: A User-Centred Social Learning Media Hub: Supporting the Users and Innovation R&D Community Network. JISC. Available: http://reports.jiscemerge.org.uk/Publications/ lauradee (2009) Richard Katz: Digital Age, Real Disruption in SocialLearn Blog, Open University, June 4 2009. Available: http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/sociallearn/2009/06/04/richard-katz-digital-agereal-disruption/ 19 © Higher Education Academy 2009
SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant Margaryan, A., et al (2006) CD-LOR Deliverable 1: Report on Learning Communities and Repositories. Available: http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/cd-lor/learningcommunitiesreport.pdf Margaryan, A., Milligan, C. And Douglas, P. (2007) CD-LOR Deliverable 9: Structured Guidelines for Setting up Learning Object Repositories. Available: http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/cdlor/documents/CD-LOR_Structured_Guidelines_v1p0_000.pdf McIntosh, E. (2009) Closing keynote. MP3 audio file from JISC Conference 2009. Available: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/avfiles/events/2009/03/25.mp3 Milligan, C. (2007) CD-LOR Final Report. Available: http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/cdlor/documents/CD-LOR_Final_Report_v1p0_000.pdf Phipps, L. (2007) Web 2.0 and Social Software: An Introduction. JISC Briefing Paper (3 September 2007). Available: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/documents/web2socialsoftwarev1.aspx Redmond, P. (2009) Generation Y: Maximising the Value of Generations in the 21 st Century Workplace. PowerPoint presentation keynote from Enhancement Themes Conference 2009. Available: http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/Conference/Documents/PaulRedmond2009.ppt White, D. (2007) Results and analysis of the Web 2.0 services survey undertaken by the SPIRE project. Available: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/digitalrepositories/spiresurvey.pdf
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Appendix 1: Interview with Richard Hall, De Montfort University Learning Exchanges De Montfort University’s Learning Exchanges 38 started life as an HEA Pathfinder project and continues to this day as an embedded series of initiatives. Richard Hall, a social media enthusiast and expert, and DMU’s e-Learning Co-ordinator, is a key player and blogger in this landscape with a wealth of experience to date. Sarah Currier interviewed him by Skype on 20 March 2009. After Sarah explained briefly the remit of SHEEN Sharing, Richard gave her an overview of what DMU Learning Exchanges is doing: Two main strands: Academic Staff and Support Staff This means they have two networks of champions who interact with each other and who convince others by sharing stories Some use wikis for project management, some use social networks like Ning or Facebook groups Differ from SHEEN Sharing – one institution of 5 heavily devolved faculties (perhaps mimics some of the cultural and physical distances in cross-insitutional CoP); Have formal repositories: research repositories
Some observations by Richard on success factors for this type of work: Offer lunch! Gets people along and gives them happy vibes and energy; People engage best when they are told stories by their peers (as with Cherie sharing with coordinators at 3 of the 5 meetings SHEEN Sharing held); Focus on what will make their lives easier, enhance their work, save time and be fun- fun is very important! Find out what their problems are and go down the route of solutions At DMU they spoke to line managers of people regarding a team-based approach- to embed tools, give support: important to engage with strategic planning, academic quality, data management needs (these can be management drivers for support) Have champions who mentor: mentor on a particular task using a particular tool Can give them the ability to see from each other one thing that might work or transform practice Get student union involved – student volunteers to help with mentoring, ideas; involve elected student reps? Need to sell sustainability of Web 2.0, usability for front-end users; when you have 100s of resources, take a mixed approach (mix of tools and technologies).
Sarah asked Richard specifically about use of wikis which he’d mentioned earlier: Two approaches present at DMU: very simple wiki within Blackboard; two other teams use Wetpaint (externally hosted) wiki as an eportfolio tool Wikis can be used for defined or distinct projects; need to take a lead internally to get them going.
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant Appendix 2: Interview with George Roberts, JISC Emerge Project George Roberts is a Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at Oxford Brookes University, and has many years’ experience in e-learning innovation. He was a key person in the JISC Emerge project39. Sarah Currier interviewed him by telephone on 20 March 2009. The JISC EMERGE project, which finished after 28 months in January 2009, took an innovative approach, with a large number of participants from various subject areas and backgrounds taking part. Its primary aim was to support the creation of a sustainable CoP that would develop and exploit emergent technologies for use in educational settings. An experiential, developmental project without any focus on box-ticking, and some amazing results and experience gained, George was ready with some really good practical advice. George started by asking whether the ECN are practitioners themselves (by which I think he meant teachers); explained their close links with teachers and curriculum development in HE, but their role also at strategic level. Also explained the variety of departments that house them and their disparate professional experience and backgrounds: some careers advisers, some policy implementation experts, some curriculum and learning design folks, some academics, some with only an employability role, some with employability as part of a wider remit, etc. George then made the following observations: If you’re looking at supporting a CoP: o You need to look for common tasks that they want to carry out. Build activities on those. o CoP also needs champions and mentoring within it: for me to be teaching Cherie and her mentoring them; both of us modelling good practice; engaging the most keen to mentor and teach those with less time but interested: that’s how CoPs work; o Suggested agreeing collaboratively for everyone to do something every day; or individuals agree: some keen ones post a single link or comment every day; some less keen agree to do something once a week, etc.; remind them via JISCmail list as well. Emerge found the use of audio-graphic, Webinar or Webconferencing tools to hold regular meetings invaluable. E.g. Skype conferencing, Flashmeeting, Elluminate. o These are Web 2.0- good “gee whiz” factor but easy to use, non-threatening; o Allow people to communicate and take part from geographical distance, from home, etc. at convenient times; o They can *see* each other: important for establishing relationships; o Choose a tool where they can begin to establish a profile online (good introduction to issues around this); o Record meeting outcomes for others to refer back to, play back, later; o Relatively low access costs, choose a tool that just works out of the can; o Have a regular schedule planned ahead of time so they can drop in and out. Sarah asked specifically about how to pull things together and present in a sustainable way: SHEEN Sharing blog already getting overloaded; Emerge used Elgg which is a more complete
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant social networking / Web 2.0 tool than a simple blog or wiki: can pull many things together. What did George think? Observations: o Elgg requires some technical support; it needs to be hosted on a server and managed locally (although NB they are soon to offer Web-hosted service, but this will be by subscription); o It’s not particularly easy to use in terms of setting everything up; o Frustrating: like a lot of Web 2.0 tools, it doesn’t quite do everything you want it to without a bit of work and sometimes goes a bit buggy; if not carefully managed can cause frustration for project participants; o They selected it because they wanted a complete social networking environment, located and managed by the project rather than on someone else’s service; o Suggested looking at setting up a group Netvibes page instead: free and easy to use. Other tools mentioned by George: He suggested using Diigo40 – an improvement on Delicious for social bookmarking? Sarah investigated: o As well as social bookmarking / tagging sites, you can highlight text and annotate web pages and Diigo makes your annotations available to you and others in your group; o Allows you to create and share lists of linked resources; you can play this list of resources as a slideshow! o Group facilities flexible: you can have friends, you can have groups, you can join wider networks of people interested in certain sites or tags; you can message and email people in your friends / groups; o Diigo will recommend content and users of interest to you based on what you’ve shared; o Have “educator accounts” – free – which allow you to set up entire classes linked together to share resources and do projects; o Works with Delicious – you can set it up so when you tag in Diigo, it simultaneously tags in Delcious so you don’t use any of the affordances of Delcisious such as RSS feeds and widgets set up from Delicious into blog. Posterous41: let’s you post directly to a blog by email, and attach all kinds of media to your email and have them embedded directly into your blog posting.
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SHEEN Sharing Review. Final Public Draft (17 June 2009) By Sarah Currier, SHEEN Sharing Project Consultant Appendix 3: Interview with Sheila MacNeill (Assistant Director, JISC CETIS) Sheila MacNeill has been responsible for some years for supporting a number of projects within JISC e-Learning programmes which have experimented with the use of Web 2.0 for supporting teaching & learning, communities of practice and curriculum design (e.g. the Design for Learning Programme42, Curriculum Design Programme43). Sarah Currier interviewed her at the JISC Conference 2009, in Edinburgh, on 24 March 2009. Sarah explained the basic remit of the SHEEN Sharing project, and asked for advice on how Sheila would approach supporting a CoP like the ECN (i.e. a non-techie audience, widely distributed, very busy, disparate professional backgrounds, department types and stakeholders). Sheila started by saying that people don’t HAVE to use Web 2.0: maybe the ECN JISCmail list is enough. When Sarah said that the project remit had come directly from the ECN itself and its dissatisfaction with just using the JISCmail list, Sheila made the following observations: It’s easy enough to set everything up for people, but they’ve got to be motivated to use it; they won’t use it just because you’ve set it up for them. In her experience, it’s important to minimise or completely remove any artificial barriers to Web 2.0 tools. For instance, if you’re going to get them to use Delicious to share bookmarked resources, just show them how to use Delicious, don’t have them go through any kind of intermediary step like a project Web page or form. Most Web 2.0 tools these days do not represent a huge learning curve. One project she was involved in tried to set up agreed vocabularies with their users (teachers), but no one used it. Project participants ultimately focus on whatever the official project outcome is. If it’s a formal report, they will work towards a formal report that ticks the boxes. Try to make the project outcome something that will actually motivate them to change practice, learn, communicate, use new tools, etc. They have to be able to see the point in what you’re asking them to do in order to be motivated. Some people can be reticent or scared to use the tools at first. Giving them some element of control over what you are planning and what they are doing is very important. Involvement and shared ownership is key to success and sustainability of your approach.
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