Thursday, 19 April 2012

Event report: Using Social Media for Training, UCISA

Inside MediaCityUK
Image from Martin Hamilton,
used with permission

Yesterday, I attended the 'Social Media for Training' event from UCISA which, unsurprisingly looked at the use of social media in training!  However, attending these events is never about the obvious stuff.  It's always the little bits, the ideas that meeting and talking with other people can spark which is where the real value is.  On some level, it's good to see that what we're doing with social media at the university is not behind the curve - but I get the impression from many attendees that they feel they're trying to catch up.  However, I think we're at a stage where we're never going to 'catch up'.  There is no catching up.  There's no point where things will stop changing.  No moment to catch your breath.  There is only being flexible and responsive to ever present change.  If you can pull that trick off, then you're onto a winner.

That said, here are a few of the highlights of things that made me stop and think, tools I saw demonstrated which I liked and any other bits along the way...

Stop and think points
  • Enthusiasm to attended face-to-face training events outweighs the likelihood of attendance so we need other modes of delivery to fit people's circumstances - this was a point that was made by Sue Beckingham (Sheffield Hallam University) in the opening plenary.  It is clear that the traditional boundaries of training sessions need expanding and social media can help do that
  • 'Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But since no-one was listening, everything must be said again' - Sue also used this quote from AndrĂ© Gide to illustrate a point she was making about the information overload people suffer from.  The point is not that people should just deal with it, simply that the volume of sharing and 'stuff' out there is such that if you missed it the first time, it'll be around again soon later.  You don't have to remain plugged in; dipping in and out of the information flow is okay.
  • From the 'Legal Aspects of Social Media' session presented by Matt Stephenson (University of Salford) there was plenty of food for thought.  I hadn't realised, for example, that tagging someone on a photo on Facebook - when it wasn't actually them, you just wanted to draw the photo to their attention was illegal and constituted computer misuse.  There were also lots of things to think about in terms of defamation and libel, as well as risks to reputation etc.  It was rather daunting in many respects, but the main laws to bear in mind were summarised as copyright, privacy, data protection, defamation and libel as well as court decisions.  And though there are plenty of grey areas and a very blurry boundary between work and home life these days, knowing which areas of law to be particularly aware of was helpful (and I would suspect that most learning technologists would have a rudimentary grasp of these areas too).
  • I liked the point that Joe Nicholls (Cardiff University) made in his session on 'Developing Digital Literacy through Training' that essentially people don't see the network when they first look at social media.  It's all just a big jumble of stuff.  And that's true.  And very off-putting!  You have to help people to make connections and find their own way in, but attitude is also important when it comes to being social and using social medial.  He made that point, however, that you can't train people into being social!  That's about culture and embedding - and education.  And it's the difficult stuff.

Tools and links
  • Yammer - useful as a closed micro blogging (think Twitter, but behind a wall) tool
  • Bottlenose - a 'smart social dashboard' - bit like HootSuite but showing visual connections - at present only by invite or if you have a Klout score of over 30
  • Newspaper Clipping Generator - could be a good little tool for students to make up their own newspaper clipped stories
  • 'Social Media for Trainers', by Jane Bozarth was recommended
  • 'Digidol' - JISC-funded Developing Digital Literacy project at Cardiff University was mentioned. Worth bookmarking
  • Dabbleboard - free online collaborative whiteboard - good for diagramming

Tweet snippets (or, the stuff I tweeted from the event but which doesn't fit anywhere else!)
  • 'People don't always know how to write for social media, so they need to be introduced to it by an existing user'
  • 'Knowledge workers seem to spend an inordinate amount of time doing 'productivity tasks' rather than being productive'
  • 'Playing with social media is as important as finding that you can actually use it for something'
  • 'Sharing tools are important - you have to make it easy for the content you create and share to escape your grasp'
  • 'Filter failure' puts people off engaging in social media'
  • 'Mavens connect you to other connections who will be useful to you'

So, main tools which were being discussed - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+... main approaches?  Try things.  See what works.  See what doesn't.  It doesn't seem that there's any one recipe for success.  But, perhaps the overall lesson is simply that we need to remain flexible in how we slot different tools into our practice.  Keep focused on the needs of the people / projects / places we're working in and for... and build from there.

The final thing I learned from yesterday's event?  That the very glamorous new campus for the University of Salford at MediaCityUK can remain looking glamorous even in the pouring rain!  


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