Digital Pedagogy Lab

Province House, Grafton St, Charlottetown (471342)

Over on a domain of his own, Lawrie has been posting about his attendance at the Digital Pedagogy Lab on Prince Edward Island and has written a series of blog posts about the event and what he learnt and experienced and the relevance to digital capability.

Red Roads and Connectivism

Digital Pedagogy Lab: Prince Edward Island, a conference for 60 delegates working across schools, further and higher education. A highly interactive event that generated over 6000 tweets in over three days, and involved remote delegates across 4 continents. This initial post from Lawrie frames the event, discussing nature of connectivism and rhizomatic approaches in education.

Connectivism and the tyranny of print

How much does our notion of content drive our learning environments. Dave Cormier wrote: Content is a print concept. It requires replication in the form of the printing press. It requires authority/power in the form of a government/agency/publisher deciding what is ‘required’ to learn. It is a standardization engine for learning, both to allow for spreading of authorized messaging and to allow for ‘uninstructed teachers to teach almost as well as an experienced one.’ Education, learning, should be a process– it sounds obvious, but when we look critically at the learning environments we have developed thus far, there is strong element of students engaging with content, not people. This is especially true in digital contexts. This post as already generated debate on both twitter and “the comments on the blog!”

Open Analytics?

The water cooler discussions are a key part of any conference, at #DigPed they were built in and reported upon. This was one of those discussions, led by a leading proponent of Open, Robin DeRosa. Underpinning the question was the issue of the data being open to each of the individual students, and the transparency of the algorithms associated with the analytics being used. If we make data open to each student, can we give the students the tools and the space to develop the capabilities to understand the data they are presented with? Could this be a way of framing a conversation with institutional staff about their learning processes?

Vulnerability in the Curriculum: No one cares about your soup!

Developing a digital identity is arguably a key element of working in the modern world. In this piece Lawrie links vulnerability and authenticity as being a part of developing that identity and asks the question how can we model vulnerability for students and integrate it into the curriculum.

Image Credit: Province House, Grafton St, Charlottetown by Robert Lindsdell CC BY 2.0

Effective digital leadership


There is an opportunity to take part in our new four-day Jisc digital leaders programme.

Become a digitally-informed and empowered leader and learn how to help your organisation respond more effectively to technology-driven change.

4 – 5 October and 17 – 18 October 2016
Burleigh Court Conference Centre, Loughborough
Booking now open

Over two residential workshops, we will equip you with the tools, knowledge and skills to:

  • Become a more effective digital leader through your own personal and professional development
  • Explore how organisations can engage more effectively with the digital technology at their disposal – at both strategic and operational levels
  • Discover and reflect on how digital technology is changing the way your organisation operates – creating new leadership challenges and strategic opportunities
  • Learn to lead, manage and influence digitally-driven change across organisations, departments, services and teams.

Aimed at current and aspiring leaders and managers working in higher and further education, our programme is suitable for both individuals or organisational teams.

Further information about the Jisc digital leaders programme and booking information can be found on our web site.

I hope you can join us and look forward to welcoming you in October

Leveraging change through digital capability

At the recent Jisc Connect more… event in London I facilitated a session on digital capability and introduced the topic by exploring the work we have done in this area. The session was filmed and can be watched on YouTube.

We also had contributions from Kingston University and Lambeth College.

Talking about digital capability

Presenting at the SDF

I recently delivered a short presentation to the Staff Development Forum London Regional Group meeting on the Jisc work that is taking place around building digital capabilities.

I first started discussing what we understand by digital capability and how important it is to have a shared understanding. I find it interesting how different individuals and groups have different ideas what digital capability is. Within the project team, we call it the capability to live, work and learn in a digital world.

I like to bring up some examples of what are digital capability issues, such as how using the Twitter gives me a range of skills that are transferable to other communication tools and functions within other platforms such as VLEs. I also talk about the HIV clinic e-mail “mistake” which I have discussed before on the blog.

I then came round to the service we are building at Jisc and discussed the four key areas, the framework which we have already published, the discovery tool and online offer, we are planning to make a beta version available this summer, and the digital leaders programme which is running this October.

There was some interesting discussion about what we are building, and the role of staff development in using and rolling out the tool in their own institutions.

One aspect that was identified as important was about motivating staff to take that next step in building their capability. It is one thing to know where you are in terms of capability, but also being motivated to start doing something about it, gaining new skills, asking for support and help, understanding what it means to be able to build capability and to go through self-directed personal development.

It was also interesting to discuss the unknown unknowns in regarding to personal development, if people don’t know they don’t know something, why would they try and then develop in that area?

We did discuss the use of styles, that’s always an interesting way of getting people to think about self-assessment of digital skills.

Chris Rowell on his blog provides his perspective on the session.

A very good session and lots to think about.

Taking Pinipa for a drive


One of the things we like to do in Futures is try new things out to see if they can make a difference to how we manage and present our projects.

We have been looking at how we can provide a better view of progress of our project to our key stakeholders, the steering group and engage the user group in the development of the final service.

One service that we recently tried was Pinipa. This is an engagement tool for projects, which aims to make collaborating with stakeholders easy.

Before we trialled Pinipa we had three main channels for the project:

  • We had regular steering group meetings and reports.
  • For the user group we used a mailing list, this was mainly for announcements, there was some discussion, but not much.
  • We also had the project blog, which we have used mainly for event reports and articles, such as reporting on ALT- C or the importance of data literacy when it comes to working with personal data.

In addition to those main channels externally we used Twitter quite extensively to engage with users and share news. Internally we have been using Yammer to share internal project updates and news. This was aimed both at the staff within the directorate of Digital Futures and the Jisc Account Managers.

What we wanted to do with Pinipa was to provide one site for all our key stakeholders to find out more about the project and to engage the user group in discussions.

We wanted to show the different workstreams of the project we were working on, not so much the detail, but high level workstreams. We did feel that Pinipa was able to give an overview of the project, however as with any kind of new tool or service there was a learning curve in how to use the tool from an user perspective and we didn’t feel that we were showing clearly the progress of the project and how it was broken down into the different workstreams. We do know that Jisc members want to have an insight into the project, so we are reflecting on how we can embed this into existing channels.

One feature of Pinipa was the ability to ask stakeholders to make key decisions about the project, what we struggled with this was what would be a meaningful key decision about the project that we would expect the stakeholders to make. Most of those key decisions had been made much earlier in the project lifecycle. So we liked that feature, but didn’t use it. For projects in an earlier stage, with more options open, that key decision feature might be really useful.

One aspect that did work well, was demonstrating all the different events and conferences where the project team were presenting on the topic of digital capabilities. Although the tool didn’t offer an ideal way of presenting these events within the timeline, it was useful to be able to bring them to the attention of stakeholders. We know that the Jisc members would like to know when the project is going to be talked about, so we are going to ensure that future events can be easily found.

We also wanted to use Pinipa was to make it much easier for Jisc members to provide feedback and engage in discussion around our projects. Pinipa had a useful discussion function that we wanted to use to elicit input. Though we did attempt to engage Jisc members, the participation was very low or non-existent. While we recognise that this is always a challenge, we will redouble our efforts to use our existing channels to effectively engage with Jisc members and give them the opportunity to input into the project.

Overall Pinipa is a great tool for oversight and communication and would work really well for a range of projects, particularly if used from the outset. From the building digital capability project perspective it wasn’t the right tool for us at this stage.

Do you know how to use the Twitter?

A guest post by Ros Bell, first an introduction by James Clay.

When writing my previous post on Twitter I did ask my network on the Twitter the following question and used a Twitter poll for their responses.

So have any of you ever attended a training session on how to use the Twitter?

You can see in this unscientific survey that 75% of people who responded to my poll on Twitter (and so were using Twitter) had not attended a training session on Twitter, but a quarter had.

I was interested to see what training people were doing on using Twitter so here is a guest post from Ros Bell who is the  AV & New Technology Coordinator at The University of Manchester Library and details of the workshops she runs on using Twitter.

using the Twitter

Twitter workshops

If you asked my colleagues what my job entails, they’d probably say that I’m the ‘person who knows about apps and technology and stuff’, and I’m happy with that.

I was first asked to run a workshop for members of the Library’s Teaching and Learning team, on how to keep on top of information online. There was a feeling that people were missing out on important information in their field of interest, that they were constantly playing catch up and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available. Knowing this, I decided to split this workshop into three sections:

  1. Finding information
  2. Collating and organising information
  3. Dissemination

You can use Twitter for all three of those things, but my aim was to get people using the most effective tool for the job. With that in mind, I decided to focus on Feedly, Evernote and Twitter.

Most people attended the workshop to get a better handle on Twitter – pun very much intended. Often times they hadn’t heard of, or didn’t use Feedly or Evernote. Many would pick them up after the workshop and use them regularly, but it was Twitter that seemed to motivate people to come in the first place. When running these workshops with my colleague Kev, we would often hear phrases like, “It’s overwhelming”, “There’s too much stuff” and “Is anyone reading what I post?”.

Rather than giving a painstaking guide to what we cover in the training, I thought I’d try and answer those three questions as best I could. With added funny tweets that I love throughout. I can’t promise that they will have anything to do with the subject matter, but I can promise that they will be excellent.

“It’s overwhelming”

Yes. It is. There’s no getting away from it, so you’d better embrace it. You will never absorb all the information you want to from Twitter, so make your peace with that. The best way that you can make the most of Twitter is by following the right people. Here’s how to do it: Spend some time on Twitter. Look back over hashtags from events and conferences you’ve been to. Follow speakers or facilitators from sessions you’ve enjoyed. Follow people from your LinkedIn. Look at their timelines and if you like something they’ve retweeted, follow that person too.

If you’re not following too many people, you’re probably following the wrong people. It’s time for a cull. Do it monthly. If you’ve never spent that much time on Twitter, chances are that you’re only following the few accounts that Twitter asks you to choose when you first signed up. So unless you are genuinely interested in seeing every tweet from an account, unfollow it. Be strict when you do your Twitter culls. You don’t need to announce that you’re culling, this is not MySpace and we are not in 2001. If you don’t need to see it, or if it’s not relevant, then unfollow.

“There’s too much stuff”

This is essentially the same as the last statement, but I’ve split them up for the sake of accurately representing my experiences with novice Twitter users.

You’re right. There are 310 million active Twitter users per month. Most of it is nonsense. But even discounting 70% of it as white noise about stuff you’re not interested in, there is still way too much stuff. Especially if you follow news sites. The Guardian, for example, posts multiple times per day and of course they do, they should. But you don’t need to see that. Your Twitter timeline is a precious commodity and to get the most out of it, it has to be lean.

Enter: Lists.

Lists are a Twitter wondertool that, for some reason, the Twitter overlords have hidden away in settings (go to the profile page of the account you want to add to a list, click the cog icon and ‘Add/Remove from List’). Lists are great for catagorising and are good for those accounts that you only really want to keep an eye on, rather than fully follow. For instance, you could create a list for News sites and add all news that you’re interested in to that list. That way the constant posting isn’t disrupting the flow of your timeline, but they are all there and ready for you to read when you want them. You can make public or private lists, but be aware, if the list is public, the accounts will receive a notification letting them know that you’ve added them to a list. This becomes important if your list is entitled, “Sympathy follows” or, “Useless nonsense: The Garbage Accounts”.

The filtering possible with lists is a lot more limited than I would like, but it does the trick in the short term.

“Is anyone reading what I post?”

I don’t want to say ‘no’. But… no, probably not many to start off with. It is highly unlikely that you will get notifications blowing up your phone when you first join Twitter, but the more you get involved with conversations, the better you’ll get at Twitter, and the better you are at Twitter, the more interactions you’ll have.

Hashtags are a good way to get your tweet seen, but use them sparingly. The 90’s and 2000’s brought us death by PowerPoint. The 2010’s bring death by hashtag.

death by hashtag

Obviously this is an extreme example, but hashtag overuse make your tweets unreadable and renders them entirely pointless. Unless you’re doing it for comic effect, but that’s a different blog post entirely.

Think of hashtags as a way of categorising tweets by theme. If you’re a beginner, try searching for a hashtag before you use it. Perhaps it’s already in use for a different topic, maybe there’s another active hashtag but with different wording. Take time to use hashtags properly and you can use them to discover interesting people and conversations that you might never have seen before.

My final top Twitter tip is to know your audience. I run six accounts, for various outlets in my life. Personally, I find it easier to keep everything separate. But however you work, making sure you tweet interesting and relevant content to your followers will help you build up a strong twitter profile and hopefully help you extend your network.

Digital Capability and Human Resources

It’s not often I get to talk about digital capabilities with senior Human Resource managers. Especially not over champagne and a cream tea at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. But someone has to take on the tough assignments, and a glance at the theme of this year’s Universities HR conference (hopefully) explains what I was doing there. This year the HR community is focused on The Changing Face of Work and the Conference was invited to explore ‘How can we best equip our organisations to respond to our increasingly digital world and to meet the needs of our Generation Z employees?’

I was invited to talk about the Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework in collaboration with ECC, the organisation that manages the Higher Education Role Analysis (HERA) scheme and the similar scheme for FE, FEDRA. One of the first things I did in my talk was to shift the question away from the generational one to ask how all staff can thrive in a digital university. I argued that all universities are digital in ways that we can readily see – the devices in students’ hands, the virtual learning and research environments, the involvement of digital systems in all our activities. But they are also digital by virtue of changes in the world beyond that are not so easily seen – the global market in students, the demands of the digital economy, and the availability of alternative routes to knowledge and accreditation. The meaning and value of work inside the university is changed by these trends too.

With that thought, I looked at how work in the wider economy is changing. A report I wrote for Jisc last year – Deepening digital know-how: Building digital talent – discusses this in more detail.Future of work slide 7

I pulled out some key themes and asked whether they are features of work at the lower end of the ‘knowledge economy’ or whether they also affect the working lives of academics and education professionals. We quickly concluded that work inside the academy faces many the same changes, from casualisation to the increasing use of data and metrics. In fact I went through each of these trends and was able to trace them in university work, through a combination of statistics and quotes from my own interviews with staff.

Delegates then talked abFuture of work slide 19out the challenges and changes they were noticing as HR managers. Some of these were familiar to me, such as the chance to reframe the relationships of teaching staff to their students and subject matter (the ‘guide on the side‘). Others were less so, such as the complexities that arise when managers are facebook ‘friends’ with staff who report to them.


When it came to thinking about how best to support staff in these changing times, I introduced the Digital Capabilities Framework and talked about how it is being applied in practice. Sandra Walton, a Senior Consultant for ECC. then described how she has used the framework to update the role descriptors for three different staff roles, thinking about the different demands of the role in 2006 and 2016, and projecting ahead to 2026.

I finished with some conclusions from my report, for further discussion:

  1.  Digital practice and identity are intrinsic to professional practice and identity
  2.  Accreditation, appraisal and CPD processes should  interface better with personal technologies/digital ID
  3.  Organisations need to develop digital specialists alongside generic digital capabilities for all
  4.  Recruit, retain, reward and recognise digital talent, across all roles
  5.  Effective digital leadership means leadership in a digital landscape, not (only) leadership with digital tools
  6. Be a workplace that fosters digital wellbeing

Photos from workshop 1If you are interested to find out more about how the framework is being taken up by different professional bodies, look out for more blog posts here and join the discussion #digitalcapability.

Go do Twitter

Twitter Bird

We know that staff who use tools such as Twitter are more likely to be able to understand the nuance of a tool such as Yammer or Slack. Those who don’t will probably struggle. The solution is not go do Twitter, but to realise that when introducing new tools, if you have an understanding of the digital capabilities of your team or staff, you can ensure that any training materials or workshops address not just the technical aspects of any new tool, but also the nuance of why it is being introduced and the ways in which it can be used.

Within the Jisc Digital Capability framework one element is that of digital communication which we have described as:

The capacity to communicate effectively in a variety of digital media and digital forums; to communicate in accordance with different cultural, social and communicational norms; to design communications for different purposes and audiences; to respect others in public communications; to maintain privacy in private communications.

Within the discovery tool there are various questions and feedback that relate to the use of Twitter. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should “go do Twitter”. Being digitally capable doesn’t necessarily mean you even need to be using Twitter.

Over on my blog I have posted a couple of articles on my use of Twitter. The second is about how “we are all rubbish at Twitter” and there isn’t one way or a right way to use Twitter. However, the first is a history of how my identity on Twitter came about and how I used it initially and where I am today when using Twitter. One key aspect for me was that many of the skills I gained in other tools and services (such as Usenet) were transferable into Twitter. But those same skills and the experience in using Twitter were also useful when using other tools such as VLEs and online conference platforms.

When it comes to introducing a new VLE or online tools and services, understanding the digital capability of your staff, especially their digital communication, collaboration and participation capabilities will ensure any new system is welcomed, adopted with good utilisation of the full functionality.

Think about how you would introduce a tool such as Yammer across an organisation, part of Microsoft 365 (Google Apps has a similar tool in Google+). Often these tools are introduced with the focus of the training on the technical aspects of the tool: this is how you post, this is how you add an image, this is how you create a group, this is how you turn off e-mail notifications…

What is often missing is the nuance of the tool, why the tool should be used and what it can do, what it replaces and what is new.

Those people who are confident and familiar with other tools, such as Twitter, Google+ and even Facebook in some respects, will see Yammer for what it is and be able to use it reasonably effectively. Having said that it is sometimes useful to even provide guidance on the why the tool should be used.

What Yammer can do is replace many of the functions that we use e-mail for and for which it does badly. Using e-mail for open threaded conversations and discussions is never a good idea and fills people’s e-mail inbox with what many would regard as noise, but some would regards as essential and critical.

Really e-mail works best as a 1-2-1 asynchronous communication tool, whereas something like Yammer is a great one to many and many to many communication tool. Similar things can be said about other tools such as Slack, Basecamp and JIRA and how they differ to communication via e-mail.

The key issue for adoption and use of such tools is the capabilities of the staff who are to use them. If they have low levels of digital communication, collaboration, participation capabilities then it is possible and likely that they will not take advantage of the benefits and features of these tools.

If you ask staff directly about their digital communication skills, they will probably look at their use of e-mail and think I can do that. Assessing your own skills is a challenge and something we looked at when developing the digital capability discovery tool.

Building digital capability in the library

LILAC 16 Keynote by James F Clay CC BY-NC 2.0

LILAC 16 Keynote by James F Clay CC BY-NC 2.0

Last week I was in Dublin for the LILAC 2016 Conference. This international conference, is the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference. LILAC is organised by CILIP’s Information Literacy Group. The LILAC committee is made up of a team of information professionals from all aspects of library and information work who are dedicated to improving information literacy.

I was invited to deliver a keynote on digital capability and decided that I would talk about what we understand by digital capability and how we could build digital capability in the library and the role of library staff in doing that, as well as looking at what digital capabilities library staff should have.

An online version of my presentation is now in Slideshare.

The presentation reflected on the need for all staff across an institution to be digitally capable.

Effective use of digital technology by university and college staff is vital in providing a compelling student experience and in realising a good return on investment in digital technology.

I went through how Jisc has created a digital capability framework that has six core elements, building on existing work in this area. The framework allows staff and institutions to map the skills required by different roles. I discussed how Jisc working with stakeholders and sector bodies, aim to provide clear guidance over what digital skills are required, and equip leaders and staff with the tools and resources they need to improve digital capability at a local and institutional level.

During my keynote I explored the history and background to the building digital capability project and the importance of staff within libraries understanding their own digital capability and, as well as supporting and building the digital capabilities of others. We explored how we could provide a library lens on the digital capability framework and possible next steps for staff wanting to build their digital capability.

LILAC 16 Keynote © All Rights Reserved image by Vincent Hoban, UCD Media Services Image used with permission.

LILAC 16 Keynote © All Rights Reserved, image by Vincent Hoban, UCD Media Services, Used with permission.

I was pleased with the presentation and got some very positive feedback, both in person and across the Twitter.

After the conference people have been writing blog posts and these

Jess Haigh in her blog post remarked:

The thing I’m going to do more of, assess my digital capabilities and actually use tools such as our VLE to their full extent-which I am very guilty of not doing.

David Bedford in his blog post said:

It is important to consider the role of the library in supporting the development of non-academic members of the university community? Digital skills, including the ability to find, evaluate and use information online, are important across the university and the library may be able to help.

Nice final comment from Andrew Walsh, who enjoyed my keynote and in his blog wrote:

Finally was James Clay. His subject matter was a bit more run of the mill, talking about digital capability rather than being as free as the other two with topic (he is currently working for JISC on a project around this, hence the focus of his talk). Even so, James is an old hand at this sort of things and put on a really engaging, amusing and lively performance… just what was needed on the final day after the conference dinner!

Overall it was a great opportunity, thank you LILAC, to talk about Digital Capabilities and the work I have been doing on the project and the role and importance of Information Literacy professionals in helping to build digital capability across an organisation, as well as themselves gaining an understanding of their own digital capability.

Anonymity and identity

Following on from my post about posts across the web on identity, James Davis, Jisc’s Information Security Manager provided the following blog post which expands on the topic.

With increased awareness of state surveillance schemes, people are looking towards cryptographic technologies such as tor and bitcoin as a perceived means to regain a degree of anonymity and privacy online.

These technologies may be readily accessible, but understanding the protection they provide your identity is a little harder to grasp.

Perhaps this is because anonymity seems to be such an intuitive idea, whereas in reality the workings of cryptographic systems, peer-to-peer networks and online identity are much more complex. Different technologies provide different types of anonymity, identity and privacy.

Bitcoin is often promoted as an anonymous alternative to mainstream currencies, but the system is far from anonymous. Bitcoin addresses, from and to which the currency can be transferred actually represent identities within the system. Not only that – every single transaction is broadcast over the bitcoin network and can be viewed publicly. In some respects it’s a less anonymous system than cash based transactions. Bitcoin users are encouraged to retain some anonymity by generating new addresses for each transaction, but even then, managing and maintaining those identities is the only thing that allows you to assert that you own your bitcoins.

Tor (the onion router) provides a means for hiding the source of web traffic, by wrapping it in multiple layers of encryption and routing it through several intermediate systems. What’s often overlooked is that tor doesn’t protect you from disclosing your identity within the contents of your communications. It can take significant discipline to avoid doing this. Here’s a recent blog post that reveals how even tor hidden services can frequently be deanonymised through this type of mistake.

As well as providing different types of anonymity and identity, these privacy enhancing tools are valuable to society. This could pose some interesting questions for institutions of the future: is control of a bitcoin address sufficient to identify a student enrolled on a MOOC if all you wanted to know is that they were the same student you taught the prerequisite courses to? Would future regulation of cryptocurrencies necessitate that these types of identity be tied to a “real world” identity?