Some reflections from#socMedHE18 –

Early this week I attended the #socMedHE conference at Nottingham Trent University. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay until the end of the event and so couldn’t give my plenary round up in person. So, in the spirit of social media, I recorded a little video the day after and then shared that.

This was a bit of a ramble. I probably should have written down some key points, maybe even have written a draft script, but you know #time #work. If nothing else, I hope it captured some of the #joy of the event.

However I think I need to add a few things that I forgot missed out. The themes of the day were #Openness #Digital_Identity #Creativity #Wild Card, which our keynote, Maren Deepwell really got to the heart of in her opening keynote. (You can watch the recording of it here – and it really is worth it).

The sense of community is something that really resonated with me during the day. All the organising committee were very keen that this should be as inclusive an event as possible. Inclusion is difficult, and that was brought up in a session I chaired. There are always barriers to participation be that #geography #time #money – but we did do our best to reduce some of those barriers. Andrew Middleton has written an excellent post about (not) being there.

The use of social media can go some way to extend inclusion – not the whole way I appreciate but some way. This was an event organised by a group of UK based academics, so had a very UK centric focus. However we do hope that this event will act as a taster for the bigger socMedHE19 conference later this year where we will hopefully be able to get more international input.

But back to community. The level of openness I experienced from all the sessions, and throughout the day, was so inspiring. I really got the sense that people felt they were in a safe space where meaningful critical conversations could take place.

Conversations are complex things and so many of the issues around teaching complexity that Bonnie Stewart and Amy Collier had brought up at their connected teaching online webinar the day before the conference were ringing round my head too.

(Critically) engaged conversations require active participation, and respect for others. The latter is all too often lost through the broadcast aspect of social media, particularly Twitter (hello, President Trump). This is something that Frances Bell picked up on Twitter

“we can be kind to those nearer to us and farther from us in subtly different ways (and combinations) that leave them space to be.”

Again subtly can get lost on social media, but that it is where education has a key role to play in adding nuance. As Frances highlights, we all need space to be, well wherever or whatever we need to be. By extending our communities through social media can help to foster meaningful, active conversations at appropriate times and places.

You can find out more about #socMedHE here.

Lurker – reclaim, accept or keep resisting? some thoughts for #SocMedHE18

Photo of silhoutte of a person

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

I’m really delighted to be part of the organising committee for #SocMedHE18 ( there’s still time to make a submission).  We’ve had some really interesting and very fun conversations about the theme of the event. We also had the brilliant Bryan Mathers lead a visual thinkery session which was so helpful and again fun.

Perhaps not surprisingly during our conversations, the word lurker has come up again and again.  Andrew Middleton has written a brilliant post summarising some of key points around “that word”, the need for active learning and positive peripheral participation. This post isn’t disagreeing with any of that, and I’m really looking forward to the discussions during the day relating to that theme. But . . .

Here’s the thing. I have a real problem using that work in an educational context. For me it always conjures negative associations of disturbing behaviour.  I spent most of my student life being quiet in a classroom, listening reflecting and I confess at times daydreaming.  Equally, a lot of my professional life has been spent being quiet in a conference room. As I’ve got older, I’ve got braver about asking questions but it is still a scary thing to do, particularly at a conference keynote.  No-one ever described that behaviour as lurking and I don’t think I’ve ever said, “oh I just lurk when I am at conference”.

I know, I know,  times change and even the OED has a more positive, online chat room related definition.  So I am conflicted. It seems that is acceptable, even quite amusing to refer to one’s self as an online lurker.  Looking on side of positive peripheral participation does, as Andrew’s post explains so well,  bring up key questions around active learning. That is a good thing.  But, if we forget the roots of the word and don’t address its negative connotations are we inadvertently missing a key educational role in addressing head on the more harmful side of online lurking behaviour such as trolling?

As with everything there must be a balance, around the need for silent reflection and (positive) active engagement. However I just can’t see myself ever being comfortable with trying to put a positive spin on a very negative word.