How Sheila's been seen this week – network visualisations and am I really a techie? (a touch of #lak14)

Like many of peers, my working life is a bit of a hybrid. Part of my invited speaker session at last year’s ALT-C conference involved me trying to deconstruct what I actually did.   Since then I have moved to a job with a more recognisable and commonly understood title ‘”Senior Lecturer”. However I don’t actually do much lecturing so it’s still all a bit complicated.  I’m part of the Blended Learning Team within our Learning Enhancement and Academic Development unit.  The three of us are technically literate but I don’t think any of us would identify ourselves as been technical or indeed techies. So I still find it a bit odd when the rest of our colleagues refer to us as technical. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and networks and how I am perceived both internally and externally.

Now I know I am more technically digitally literate and crucially technically confident than many of my colleagues. Working with Cetis for so long it would have been kinda hard not to be. But I always have seen myself as a fulfilling a bridge or hybrid type role between the totally IT/technically focused people and those on the user/teaching and learning side of things.  I think this is becoming increasingly common place and it needs to be so. As technology becomes easier to use and more embedded into all aspects of our lives,  we need to encourage people to have a “let’s have a go” mind set, than “let’s ask the techies” – or in my case pseudo techie. Developing that aspect of digital literacy and confidence in our staff and students is, imho, crucial in terms of any institutional ambitions we at GCU (and anywhere else for that matter)  may have of becoming a digital university.

That said I’m not above donning the technical genius hat as I amaze colleagues with my skills and knowledge when they ask “have you heard of animoto?”  The hat has been firmly removed as two minutes after I demo’d it, they had rumbled how easy it was to use and all those links I sent were actually automagically created in the cloud. 

The annual learning analytics conference, LAK14, is taking place this week, and I’ve been dipping in and out of the twitter backchannel over the past couple of days. Thanks to the live blogging genius of Doug Clow, and others I feel like I’ve almost been there in person.  One of the sessions on Thursday was looking at networks and network visualisations.  These fascinate me, but like many I’m still trying to figure out what they actually mean in terms of learning and teaching. I’ve had some thoughts in relation to my experiences as a learner in MOOCs, but there’s lots more head scratching and experimentation to be done.  One of the tools being demo’d was Netlytic, 

“a cloud-based text and social networks analyzer that can automatically summarize large volumes of text and discover social networks from online conversations on social media sites such as Twitter, Youtube, blogs, online forums and chats. “

I had a bit of a play and within minutes had an analysis and visualisation on of text from the #lak14 hashtag – thanks to twitter it was almost like I was there!


and a visualisation of my twitter network 

Now, just need to figure out if this is more useful than the Martin Hawksey’s quite brilliant TAGs Explorer  . . .

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