Tag Archives: molenet

Building a community

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It doesn’t always work, and it doesn’t always work the way you expected. Here are some of the strategies I have used in creating, building, developing and maintaining a community.

Recently I have been talking with others about community and building communities, something I have done in the past with some success (and sometimes not so much success). I don’t believe there is any one way to build a community, but in a similar way I don’t think doing one thing such as a mailing list, or an event, or a Twitter hashtag will result in a community. I have found you need to do a range of things, as some stuff works for some people and other stuff works for others.

In this blog post I will discuss some of the ways in which I have had to build communities as part of my professional practice. Though the communities were different, there were some key things that I did to build those communities. Also there are some aspects that were features of all these communities

What is a community? Why do you want to build a community? Who will be part of your community and why would they want to be part of your community?

Its also worthwhile thinking about the life of the community, is this an ad hoc pop-up community, or are you trying to establish a more permanent community.

In this context it is worthwhile to write down the vision for the community, what is it you are trying to achieve through the community. It is also useful to establish some objectives as well. Over time you can re-visit these, but having them written down does help in the process of building a community and determining if you are being successful or not.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Back in 2008 or so, when I was a MoLeNET Mentor working with people such as Lilian Soon, Dave Sugden and Ron Mitchell (and others) I was helping to build a community of FE people interested in mobile learning. We wanted to start a community as part of the MoLeNET programme, but did not expect that we would continue to support the community beyond the life of the MoLeNET programme. This doesn’t mean that the community wouldn’t or couldn’t continue, but as part of the planning, this wasn’t a key objective. The funding was planned for three years, so we expected the community to be around for that length of time.

Whereas when I was building the Jisc Intelligent Campus community, I wanted this to last as long as Jisc was working in this space, so it was important to think about both the short term objectives, but also the longer term objectives as well.

When starting to build the community, it’s useful to lay the foundations for that community. What tools are you going to use, what services will you be using and how do you expect others to use those tools.

The sort of things I did for the MoLeNET community included using tools such as Jaiku (and then the Twitter) to use micro-blogging to connect and communicate. We also did online webinars, which were interesting and fun to do. We did a lot of podcasting as well. Another thing we did was blogging. Those were in the main broadcast mechanisms, we also used e-mail to tell people in the community what was happening and what they could do.

For engagement we ran workshops and events. It wasn’t just one kind of event either, there were workshops, as well as conferences and meetings. The key I think was about connecting, communicating and sharing. What was challenging at the time (well it was 2008) was building online engagement and discussion. Today that might be easier.

I did a similar thing when I started to build the Intelligent Campus community. I started off using Twitter in the main, using a hashtag #IntelligentCampus to connect what I was saying. I posted relevant and interesting links (well I thought they were interesting) to Twitter as well. I also blogged a lot, sometimes it was about what the project was doing, but I also blogged about stuff other people were doing. These posts were shared on Twitter, but also through an embryonic mailing list, well people still like e-mail. I made a point too of posting a monthly digest to the mailing list. I also ran community events where as well as me presenting, I also got members of the community to present as well.

Another thing is to attend other events and present, something I did for both MoLeNET and the Intelligent Campus. This enables you to introduce the community to others and hopefully get them to join and engage with the community.

student on a laptop
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

There are various tools and services in any community toolbox that can be used to build, develop and maintain a community. Thinking about the different stages of building a community is also critical to successfully building a community.

When you start, you have no community, you need to bring together people who have an interest in this space. Building a community is hard, so now I use a range of tools, such as social media (well in the main Twitter), also mailing lists and for me blogging. Interesting and useful blog posts can engage people and get them to participate in the community. It also acts as a way of helping people to understand what the community is about and what they will get from the community.

Communities don’t just grow, they need to be cared for and nurtured. This means you need to plan to bring people onboard to the community. This doesn’t need to be done alone, as you start to build a community you will meet others, and using their expertise and knowledge can help. Get others to write blog posts for you, as well as using the Twitter hashtag for example.

Maintaining a community is an important task. As I mentioned sending regular digests of news and links was one thing I did for the Intelligent Campus community, but also posting questions to the mailing lists to stimulate discussion (when things were quiet on the list). When I was running the Digital Capability project at Jisc, I would write regular blog posts about digital capability, but would also present on the subject at external events.

For me the success of the communities was when I became less important and was less of a focus for the community and others started to put themselves forward. They were posting stuff on the Twitter, publishing their own blog posts and even running their own events.

Determining the success of your community enables you to decide if you should continue or let the community die. Do you want to put metrics on your activities for example? For some of my communities measuring activity was important, so I did look at data and analytics of visits to the website and the blog, but also recording who was using the community hashtag.

Starting and building a community is not an easy task, but one thing to recognise, rarely does it just happen…

So what do you do to build a community?

Netflixisation, is that even a word? – Weeknote #40 – 6th December 2019

Gringotts Dragon
Gringotts Dragon at Harry Potter Studio Tour

At the weekend we went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The first time I went to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour was in 2015, just after they had added the Hogwarts Express and Kings Cross set to the tour. We made a return visit, mainly to see how different it was dressed for Christmas and with snow. Last time we were in the foyer waiting to go in, suspended from the ceiling was the magical flying Ford Anglia. This time there was a dragon!

Fetter Lane
Fetter Lane

The week started off in London for my Jisc Senior TEL Group meeting. This is an invited meeting in which we discuss various issues and technologies relating to teaching and learning. We had an informative discussion in the morning on curriculum analytics, what it is, what it isn’t, what it could be used for and some of the serious and challenges in analysing the curriculum. In the afternoon we were discussing some of the challenges relating to Education 4.0 and what the potential issues are in relation to preparing for the future that may be Education 4.0. Continue reading Netflixisation, is that even a word? – Weeknote #40 – 6th December 2019

State of play updated

On this day nine years ago I was presenting and giving an  overview of the current state of play of mobile tech and MoLeNET for the JISC Cetis Mobile Tech Event on the 15th June 2010 in Bolton.

Here are the presentation slides I delivered.

I created the slides in Apple’s Keynote application before saving them as images which I then imported into Powerpoint.

I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what we thought then was the state of play then and what the current state of play is.

June 2010 was just two weeks after the iPad was available in the UK and people were still wondering what to do with it and what it’s potential was, I used the image of iPad boxes to show that this was going to be a “something” and I think we can say it certainly had impact. 

Not just putting the tablet as a mobile device into the heads of consumers and educators, but also the influence it had on smartphones as well. I don’t think we would have the huge large screen smartphones we have today if it wasn’t for devices such as the iPad and notably the iPad mini.

In most of my presentations I usually put a slide like this in.

There was still a culture of presenters asking people to turn off devices, give me your full attention and all that. Today I think we have more idea of if we want to use our device or not at conferences and presentations. I certainly wanted people to think about what I was saying, but also join in the conversation using new tools such as the Twitter!

In the presentation I started to look at the news headlines of the day

Apple had released their iPhone in 2007, now three years later it was having a huge impact on the market for phones.

Today the figures are somewhat different, there is no more sign of Nokia, RIM, HTC or Motorola, but look how Samsung dominates that market along with Huawei and other Chinese manufacturers.

Another headline was the success of the iPad.

What was interesting was how much the iPhone (and the iPad) were used to browse the mobile internet back in 2010.

Today most smartphones are capable of web browsing, mainly as most websites are now mobile optimised, making it a much easier experience than trying to navigate a desktop enabled site on a mobile browser. The other big change has been the growth of smartphone apps.

Back then the data limits with mobile contracts was really limiting.

Though these limits are still here today, having an unlimited data contract is no longer the realm of business accounts, consumers and students can access contracts with unlimited data more easily and quite cheaply as well. The data landscape has changed as well with 4G speeds being widespread and we are on the edge of the 5G world as well. The other factor that has changed is the widespread availability of wifi.

I really find these data usage patterns for the O2 network for 2010 incredibly low compared to today.

I have been known to use between 50GB and 100GB per month on my mobile contract.

What’s the difference?

Hello Netflix!

I then had a link to a Jisc report published in 2009, on issues in mobile learning.

Identifying Emerging Issues in Mobile Learning in Higher and Further Education: A report to JISC

This report describes the results of a series of discussion workshops where experts and experienced practitioners explored visions of how mobile technologies and devices will influence practice in Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) in the near future. The workshop series was funded by the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) as part of the Emerge Community within JISC’s own Users and Innovation research programme. This exploration focused on identifying emerging issues for the sector arising from the increasingly likely large scale use of Smartphones, PDAs and camera phones by learners in HE and FE, both on campus and in the workplace. 

One of the things that is apparent from the report is how different mobile learning was back then compared to now. The main difference is the increase in bandwidth and connectivity. Then there was quite a bit of reliance on offline mobile learning and SMS texting. Today we see the use of mobile optimised web sites and apps.

However some of the issues in the report, highlighted in my presentation are still relevant today.

Training is still an issue, and not just with the technical side of things, understanding the affordances of mobile devices and mobile learning as well isn’t something that just happens and people instinctively know.

As discussed above, the issue of connectivity. Luckily today we have much better and more reliable wifi and mobile connectivity. This allows for mobile learning without the learner having to worry about being connected. Faster speeds allow for real time video chat, as well as streaming high quality video whilst on the move.

Collaboration back then often meant asynchronous textual conversations, as poor or expensive connectivity meant that real-time chat and conversations were not a possibility. Today collaboration is so much easier and can be done with audio or even video chat.

I also mentioned the Twitter.

As well as issues I also in the presentation talked about the fears that practitioners often felt when it came to mobile learning.

The cultural shift towards the use of mobile devices and learning whilst mobile, was something that hasn’t really gone away. 

There is still resistance to change despite advances and increases in the use of mobile technology. Often though people are happy to discover and use mobile devices for their own stuff, using mobile devices for learner is still a step too far for some.

One reference I think still stands is how as learning technologists we often think we come over as Luke Skywalker, here to “save you”.

We do need to remember that others mainly see us as…

Resistance is futile.

One important aspect that is equally important today was privacy.

With the increase in data gathering, location data gathering and increase in analytics, what was a real issue in 2010 is a much bigger issue today.

Having discussed the state of play back in 2010, I then went into discuss the MoLeNET project.

It’s interesting to see what has changed and what has remained the same.

References 

Clay, J. 2010 ‘Mobile: The State of Play (featuring MoLeNET)’ [PowerPoint presentation] Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/jamesclay/state-of-play . [Accessed 14 June 2019].

e-Learning Stuff. 2010. Mobile: The State of Play (featuring MoLeNET). [ONLINE] Available at: https://elearningstuff.net/2010/06/15/mobile-the-state-of-play-featuring-molenet/. [Accessed 14 June 2019].

Wishart, J & Green, D 2009, Identifying Emerging Issues in Mobile Learning in Higher and Further Education. JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), Bristol.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #084: The Legacy of MoLeNET

MoLeNET was a three year multi-million pound programme of mobile learning projects for Further Education, funded by the LSC and managed by the LSN. Two years on what is the legacy of MoLeNET and where are we with mobile learning now in FE. Have other sectors listened and learned from the lessons of MoLeNET. Listen to the legacy of MoLeNET.

With James Clay, Lilian Soon, David Sugden and Ron Mitchell.

This is the 84th e-Learning Stuff Podcast, The Legacy of MoLeNET.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: The Legacy of MoLeNET.

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Podcasting Workshop Reflections

Today I ran our final event for our MoLeNET Academy, a podcasting workshop.

Quite a good turnout and lots of hands-on activity and discussion. We covered a fair amount of ground covering content, audience, tools, techniques and usage of podcasts in teaching and learning.

We used a range of equipment and services including Edirols, video cameras, Audioboo, iPadio and software such as Audacity and Garageband.

It made me reflect, and that people have asked, that it might be helpful to write and post a series of blog articles on podcasting. It would cover not just the technical aspects of podcasting, but also pedagogical aspects, assessment perspectives and opinion on areas such as iTunes U.

Hmmm, that could work.

MoLeNET Podcasting Workshop – 8th December 2010

I am leading a Podcasting Workshop on the 8th December 2010 between 10.00am to 4.00pm at the Gloucestershire College MoLeNET Academy at the Gloucester Campus of Gloucestershire College.

This is a hands on workshop looking at the process of:

  • Planning
  • Recording
  • Editing
  • Publication
  • Distribution
  • Marketing

of Podcasts for teaching and learning.

The workshop will look at:

  • Content of podcasts, what works and what doesn’t.
  • Recording, tools and tips, use of Skype, mp3 recorders, Audioboo, iPadio.
  • Editing podcasts using tools such as Audacity or Garageband.
  • Publishing your podcasts using blogging, FTP.
  • Distribution, looking at creating and using RSS Feeds. Will also look at iTunes, the iTunes Store and iTunes U.
  • Marketing, how you get your learners to listen to your podcast.

The day starts at 10.00am and will finish at 4.00pm, lunch will be provided.

The event will be led by James Clay and will be working with Di Dawson.

Travel

Gloucester is well served by rail networks from across the UK and the college is a 15 minute walk from the railway station.

Gloucester is on the M5 and can be accessed from Junction 12 from the South and Junction 11 from the North. Please note that there is NO PARKING available at the college, though pay and display car parks are close by.

Booking

Please book online at RSC South West.

The event is FREE to any member of the MoLeNET community, in other words your college has led or been a partner in any MoLeNET project.

Background

Gloucestershire College has a wealth of experience in the use of mobile devices to support assessment. With three successful MoLeNET projects and a MoLeNET Academy, the college is using podcasting, video and audio to support and enhance learning and assessment.

James Clay is an experienced podcaster with a well respected weekly podcast, e-Learning Stuff. James is and has been passionate about the use of learning technologies to enhance and enrich the learning experience since 1991. James has been ILT & Learning Resources Manager at Gloucestershire College since November 2006. He is responsible for the VLE, the use of learning technologies, e-learning, mobile learning, the libraries, digital and online resources and the strategic direction of the college in relation to the use of learning technologies.James has extensive experience of mobile learning and has a vision that goes beyond mobile technologies and focuses on the mobility of the learner, blurring the demarcation between formal and informal learning.

Di Dawson is an LSN MoLeNET Mentor and a gadget lover and she brings expertise to the day in the form of enthusiasm for mobile technologies and as a teacher trainer. She likes to link teaching theories to practice and explains how activities can be designed to make the learners think deeper and therefore broaden their learning. Di loves gaming technologies and she enjoys enthusing teaching staff to look ‘beyond the play’ and see the potential for learning. Di has written various books on the use of computers and handheld technology and delivers online training to education and business establishments. Technology has certainly changed since Di started as an IT tutor 20 years ago.

Photo source.

Is this the end or just the beginning?

Camera Roll-26Today was the third MoLeNET conference, a celebration of mobile learning and the MoLeNET programme.

There were a few presentations, but lots of demonstrations, discussions and workshops.

I was quite reserved this year and let others do a lot of work.

There were lots of lessons from the conference that I and others could take home and use with our institutions. The key here was that even someone like me, who is well versed in the potential of mobile learning, can learn something from a mobile learning conference.

I hope to over the next couple of weeks bring some of the highlights and thoughts from the conference. There are some really interesting thoughts and lessons about cultural change, sustainability, technical issues as well as people and training and development.

With the changes in funding recently it is looking like that we will not see anymore MoLeNET funding for projects. This doesn’t mean that this needs to be the end of MoLeNET as a community.

It’s obvious from the work of MoLeNET projects that mobile learning is here and is here to stay. Learners are using mobile devices for learning and institutions need to be ensuring that they have the infrastructure to support this.

Camera Roll-24Where MoLeNET comes into this, is by providing a community of expertise, knowledge and guidance. As I said above, we can learn from each other and there is always something new to learn.

Today should not be the end of MoLeNET, merely the beginning…

The age of mobile is now

I have been talking about using mobile devices for a long time now, well before I started working at Gloucestershire College (and all that MoLeNET stuff), well before my time at the Western Colleges Consortium (and that Mobile on a VLE presentation).

Despite protestations about screen sizes, lack of power, inferior operating systems, we are now seeing the rise of the mobile device as the next big step in computing.

The first computers were BIG and clunky and you didn’t just use them, you booked time slots to use them.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers!”
Attributed to Thomas Watson of IBM, but in fact no evidence to say he ever said it.

Computers then became the mainstay of business, something to do business on.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Ken Olson, president/founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

With the rise of the personal computer and importantly the explosion of the internet in the late 1990s, not only did we see computers in the home, we also saw a lot more personal computers in education.

Laptops at this time were expensive, but small portable ones were available, I really liked the Toshiba Libretto that I bought at that time.

In 2000 I was working at @Bristol in the centre of the Bristol Harbourside, one project we worked on was using the HP Jornada  and using JetSend technology to “squirt” URLs to the device that would then access the webpage over (what was then) a spiffy wireless network.

It was at this point that I could really see some real benefits of using mobile devices for learning, and using devices that weren’t laptops.

Over that decade we did see the emergence of the laptop over the desktop, more and more people would buy a laptop rather than a desktop for their main computer.

During that time I did a lot more work on using mobile devices for learning, focusing on multimedia content on devices such as PDAs, Media Players and mobile phones.

I remember in about 2001 driving up the M5 and getting stuck in one of those traffic jams in the early evening. My wife was watching the Matrix on my iPAQ PDA. I had converted a ripped DVD (uh oh I know) that I had converted into a MPEG1 video file, placed on an IBM Compact Flash Microdrive and played it back on the iPAQ using PocketTV. As she watched the film people in the cars looked into ours in awe and curiosity about what was that glowing light in our car. Of course today everyone can do this, but at the time it was both clever and geeky!

“I’m not convinced people want to watch movies on a tiny little screen.”
Steve Jobs of Apple in 2003.

The seminal presentation of mine, Mobile Learning on a VLE, at the JISC 2006 Online Conference really got a lot of people thinking about using mobile devices and put my name out there as a leader in mobile learning.

There were many others at that time who were also following the same journey as myself, people like Mick Mullane, Lilian Soon, David Sugden and others. We were all very passionate about using mobile devices for learning.

Despite our passion, we still heard the resistance from practitioners (and sometimes from learners, but usually practitioners) that the screens were too small, they weren’t powerful enough, battery life was too short.

We, with others, were very much involved in the MoLeNET programme and that has had a huge impact in FE in kick starting the use of mobile devices for learning.

Mobile devices in the last few years have also dramatically changed too. Mobile phones have moved on from phones that just made calls and SMS, to mobile computers. Apple have also changed the landscape, first with the iPhone, then the iPod touch and now the iPad.

“There are no plans to make a tablet, it turns out people want keyboards…. We look at the tablet, and we think it is going to fail.”
Steve Jobs of Apple in 2003.

Innovation now is in the mobile sector of the market, these are the devices that our learners are buying and using.

The age of mobile is now.

Mobile Boot Camp Reflection

On Tuesday we ran a Mobile Learning Boot Camp as part of our Open Day for the Technology Exemplar Network. Combining our skills and experience in mobile learning, we as part of our commitment to sharing through our TEN, running an informal boot camp was our way of doing this.

The plan for the day was quite simple, a semi-formal introduction, a short one hour session on possibilities, whilst the rest of the day was about letting delegates getting on sharing, networking and importantly building mobile learning content and activities.

I covered a fair few technologies and ideas during the event and feedback from delegates was very positive.

We looked at the PSP with GO!Cam camera, Sanyo MP4 video camera, Kodak Zi8 video/still camera, iPod, iPad, iPhone, Audioboo, Posterous, iPadio, iTunes, iMovie, Garageband, Turbo.264HD, Screenr, podcasting, Edirol R-09HR and many other bits and pieces.

I think though if I was going to run it again, I would ask people to show and share at the end of the event.