Crossing boundaries with #byod4l – some thoughts on sustaining and extending open: design, resources and practice

( Nerantzi, 2017)

This post is an attempt to try and sort our a stream of thoughts currently running around my brain after last week’s #BYOD4L event; after hearing Chrissi talking about open practice at this event also last week;  and some quick chats with my fellow #BYOD4L facilitators.  I’m also following Laura Pasquani’s current work in networked, digital academic life in HE.

I’m trying to make sense of what it is about #BYOD4l that motivates me, my fellow facilitators and the wider community to continue to participate.  There are many unique things about #BYOD4L, but at its heart is an open and flexible design based on open educational practice – the 5 C framework.

This year we extend the model slightly to add 5 more Cs to the mix to reflect some changes in practice and to extend the conversations particularly in the nightly tweet chats.  Every year we have a quick review meeting to see what we should update, but we haven’t (so far) felt the need to update the original content and resources. That might be down to lack of time, perhaps a bit of laziness? But also the fact that it all seems OK. That might change next year. However I think we are probably less concerned with the content as we know it is the community interaction that is at the heart of the week. So we tend to focus our attention on making sure that the synchronous bits are fully supported.

As #BYOD4L has evolved, it seems to me that the nightly tweet chats have become increasingly important. In fact, based on no real evidence whatsoever apart from my observed interaction, I think that for many this is their main contact with the event.

The community engagement is (perhaps) more important than the content/design of the day. Also the chats aren’t really so much about BYOD anymore, they seem to me (again without any empirical evidence) to be about practice and how we are all dealing with the many boundaries we have to deal with in (higher) education between personal/professional everyday practice, personal/institutional technology provision,  formal and informal academic development.  Hence the link with Laura’s work.

  • How does being part of a digital learning network support learning and development for higher ed professionals?
  • How are faculty and staff shaping their online identity and presence to share professional values, work, etc.?
  • How can does a networked community expand knowledge to enhance our roles on campus and the work we do?
  • Why might others higher ed professionals want to network with peers to scaffold their own career goals?

I really hope that I can participate in at least one of the slow tweetchats she has planned over the coming months. Not least to compare that experience with the somewhat frenetic hour long #BYOD4L ones.

We have 5 years worth of archived tweets now and  it would be fascinating and probably quite illuminating to do some proper SNA, textual analysis of the tweet chats – another one day job . . .

However back to motivation.  There is definitely something about the open, collaborative element of the event that provides my motivation to continue to be involved in the facilitation team. It also provides really accessible  routes in and out of my daily professional development and the support I provide from others within and outwith my institution. This is first year I haven’t actually organised some kind of CPD event in my institution around  #BYOD4L. That was largely  down to other work  commitments  during the week, and tbh lack of headspace for me to do that.

That said, despite it being a really busy week for me, participating and facilitating the week has really provided me with a much needed networked, community boost – another key motivation factor for continuing to be involved. The community interaction makes me think about “stuff” – particularly my own CPD and in turn the wider CPD provision I am involved in my institution,  in a different way. It’s also giving my blog a bit of an injection which is always good. (Well for me anyway, hopefully it is for you too, dear reader). #BYOD4l  allows me to cross many boundaries,  which links to Chrissi’s PhD research which specially investigated the:

benefits of crossing boundaries (i.e. open learning) in an academic development contextand proposes an alternative model to traditional academic Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It engages academic staff in experiencing novel approaches to learning and teaching and developing as practitioners through engagement in academic CPD that stretches beyond institutionalboundaries, characterised by diversity and based on collaboration and openness.”
 I’m really hoping that with the rest of my facilitation team we can explore this more and write up our experiences of not just open learning but the motivations, benefits and challenges of open facilitation using Chriss’s PhD (which I am really enjoying reading just now) as our theoretical underpinning.

Embracing Technology Enhanced Learning and the Future of Technology in HE

Earlier this week I gave at keynote a the Embracing Technology Enhanced Learning Forum  in London. The event was organised by Inside Government who brought together a wider range of speakers from across the sector to talk about a range of ways technology is not only being embraced by HE, but is well and truly embedded into practice.

I was there in my capacity as Chair of ALT and it was lovely to share “the stage” with fellow Trustee Peter Bryant and also to hear from our current Learning Technologist of the Year, Chrissi Nerantzi. Maren Deepwell our CEO was also in attendance and she has written a very useful overview of the day with her reflections.

I was asked to speak about the future of technology in HE, with particularly in light of the TEF.  Events in the recent UK Government cabinet reshuffle gave me a really nice in, around the dangers of predictions and the transient nature of seemingly important metrics.  The new Minister for Education may not be as concerned with the TEF as his predecessor, and a review of HE might be of more importance in his future to do list.

So in my talk, I took a leaf out of Audrey Watter’s book, and asked the audience to think about the the hype and reality of predictions particularly around technology and the stories we tell and get told to us about educational technology.   I also took the opportunity to highlight the results of the ALT annual member survey, which is a really useful source of data about the concerns of the learning technology community. All the date from the surveys are also openly available.

In terms of our future now, and immediate future present, VLEs, electronic assessment and feedback, and collaborative tools are key priorities and have been for the last three years.  Now, whilst many may shake their heads in despair, wondering why the prediction of “the VLE is dead” hasn’t come to pass. I have to take more pragmatic and practical stance. VLEs have been embraced by the sector, they provide a key platform to engage and manage interactions, groups and assessment and feedback.   What I think we need to be celebrating is the importance of collaborative tools. They are want allow great flexibility for both staff and students within and outwith the University and the VLE.  We need to creating and sharing more stories around that.

The other key thing I wanted to highlight in terms of embracing technology and being able to increase staff and students digital confidence and capabilities is the need for staff development. Again and again in the ALT survey the most important enabler for technology adoption and use is people. Staff development is key,  and initiatives such as CMALT  are a fantastic way to reflect and share use of technology.

So the only prediction I was, and still am, willing to make as part of my presentation is that the future of technology in HE is about people. What we do with it, how we share how we use it and how we create and share our narratives. We shouldn’t have to sit and listen to vendors telling us what our future is;  why myths such as learning styles will make any kind of technology more useful and engaging for students and ergo their profit margins.  We need to embrace the future on our terms, with our priorities, our data and our knowledge and expertise.



Coming together with all the C’s: a short reflection on #BYOD4L


So another week of connecting, communicating, curating, collaborating and creating with #BYOD4L has just come to an end.  As ever I find the week just flies by in a whirl of persicopes, tweet chats, googl+-ing and general community sharing and fun.

This year we add a few more C’s into the mix to  extend the conversations a bit and also to reflect evolving practice and use of mobile devices, web services and apps.   So we had connecting and confidence, communication and (digital) capabilities, curation and and copyright, collaboration and community,  creating and celebrating.   I think that these additions really did help.   And once again our community came together in a whirl of sharing based on shared values. It’s really hard so soon after the event to pull anything coherent however a couple of the C’s stood out for me. The first of them being community.

One of the reason I continue to be involved with #BYOD4L is the community spirit it engenders. Over the past three years Neil Withnell, Alex Spiers  and I have evolved into our own wee team/community organising things behind the scenes. We very rarely get the chance to meet in person but we just seem to naturally be able to divide up what needs to be done and support each other in a really collegiate way. There’s no rivalry, no one-man-upship, we just get on with things.

This year we were joined by Debbie Baff – an stalwart of the #BYOD4L community and Suzanne Faulkner a complete newbie to the whole thing. What a joy it was to work with them both.  Debbie is just one of those lovely really open educational practitioners people who always shares and cares.  Suzanne, well what can I say. Talk about embracing all the C’s! She was periscoping every day, often with her students, tweeting and she even wrote that blog post she had been thinking about for such a long time.  We managed to meet up briefly on Friday afternoon and what a joy that was. Although we had never met, it was like meeting a long lost friend.

I think for those of us who have been working and networking online for the last decade and are part of established networks, it’s all  to easy to forget that others aren’t.  Events like #BYOD4l are a great way to jump start that on line networking within a safe. supportive environment and community.

So whilst I know many of us are finding Twitter not quite the same place as it used to be, it still can be a great space to connect. It saddens me that others may not have the same experiences that I have had in terms of connecting, collaborating and community building that I have been so lucky to experience.

During the week I was speaking at an event in London where I met many of my extended online community, including Chrissi Nerantzi (one of the inventors of BYOD4L).  I took the opportunity to do a very unplanned, slightly chaotic persicope from the event with Chrissi and a few others.  It still quite amazes me that just with my phone I can broadcast from anywhere with a decent 3/4G or wifi connection.

The other C that I really need to think about more is curation. On Wednesday night we joined with with #LTHEchat community  to discuss curation and copyright. So many threads to that discussion! The recent-ish news about Storify now moving to a paid for service has certainly help to focus minds in some aspects of curation. I think it’s fair to say many people used storify primarily as a twitter curation tool. I know that’s how it was/is used by #BYOD4L. We do also back up using Tags Explorer too. But the storify interface is/was simple to set up and use. A salutary tale in terms of becoming reliant on free at point of use, and apparently open services.

Personally I am in a slight quandary about my own curation. I have “stuff” all over the place, mainly in the cloud. Maybe I have an over simple faith that I will be able to find said “stuff” whenever I need it. In reality, when I am looking for that link/paper/ref and can’t find it in 5 minutes, I usually just resort to an internet search . . .  Part of me feels that I should try to have a less  chaotic approach to curation, but that doesn’t seem to last very long. My laziness and faith in asking the “lazy web” just keeps getting in the way.

Anyway lots more to think about after the week and hopefully a few more blog posts once my thoughts are a bit more in order.



#BYOD4L is back – this time with added C’s

It’s January, it’s cold and dark outside but bringing a little ray of collaborative sunshine and social media goodness back into our lives is BYOD4L.

BYOD4L is really all about community.  I have been part of that community first iteration of the event, and I’m delighted once again to be be part of the organising team with Alex Spiers, Neil Withnell. Joining us this year are Debbie Baff and Suzanne Faulkner.

This year we will be following our familiar model. Each day will have a theme which you can explore and share your experiences in our Google+ community, twitter or where ever you want to really.  Each night between 8-9 pm (BST) in a tweet chat. This year we have extended the C’s. So with connecting we have confidence; with communication we have (digital) capabilities, copyright is added to curation, with collaborating we have community; and for our final day we have added celebrating to creating.

I hope to see many of you online next week and would love to hear your stories about how you use BYOD4L as part of your personal and professional development.

Saving (probably) the best storify in the world thanks to the marvellous storify link extractor

Ooh, this is good. Thanks to the genius of Alan Levine (aka @cogdog) there is now a really simple way to save stories from storify before they all go behind the another paywall.  Just follow these instructions – and save away.

Of my 5O storify stories, this has to be my favourite – betweenness centrality explained with a helpful zombie analogy.

Which prompted me to ask

Which led to this explanation

And so it starts to make sense and if this has caught your attention the links below are useful starting points for more  information.

OK, that last one isn’t really much use to anyone:-)

A little while later, via another twitter conversation about Cloud Atlas, genetically modified fabricants and zombies (well it was a Bank Holiday Monday!) Wilbert came up with the perfect example of betweenness centrality.