Edutechie - the adventures of a learning technologist

Eli Appleby-Donald's views of educational technology

Category: Digital academia Page 1 of 2

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Example of something really interesting

Down tools, everybody out!

I’m 45 and yesterday, for the first time in my life I stood on a picket line as part of the strike action by university staff happening at the moment.

I have to be honest, it doesn’t sit easily with me, I feel very uncomfortable not being available to my colleagues as I know the impact on front line staff when things aren’t running smoothly, but that is exactly why I felt I had to join the strike. And those same frontline staff are the ones bringing tea and coffee to those on the picket line. That’s how awesome they are.

Now I am not a lecturer, and I wanted to write this blog post to make the non-lecturer staff involved in this dispute more visible because I think for anyone wondering what’s going on and why, having a proper, rounded view university life will actually be beneficial.

Firstly, what is the strike about

Well, the two big issues you will hear mentioned are, changes to the pension scheme, and pay and working conditions. Now, this is a simplistic view, obviously, individual people will have other issues they feel have led to their actions, but essentially this is what the campaign is about.

I’m not going to go heavily into the politics here but you can find out more from the University and Colleges Union site: https://www.ucu.org.uk/heaction

So why am I writing this blog then, if I’m not going to explain the reason staff are striking? Well mostly, I wanted to talk about my experience and feelings as a non-lecturer and how I see the issues affecting my colleagues and because I think information in context is always a powerful thing. And in this context, actually, all staff are affected by these concerns.

The very visible part of education is obviously that students sit in the classroom (physical or virtual) and learn. Hence why most of the attention around this strike has been on lost lessons and students either supporting or being angry at lost teaching time. However, the university is a massive machine, full of intricate working, gears, cogs etc (my lack of mechanical knowledge is showing here). So before, during and after the moment that student sits in a class and learn, there are any number of staff working to make that happen. From administration professionals, cleaning crews, facilities, IT, learning technology, technicians. I could keep going on for quite a while, but you get my point. There are so many cogs that are involved in keeping higher education running and ensuring the end product of teaching and research happens.

So as you can see, the skills and knowledge of all these different members of staff is essential. To get the best from them, to properly use those skills and access that knowledge requires a workforce who are happy, feel secure, feel that what they do is worthwhile, and most importantly, want to be there.

So when I stand on the picket line this week and part of next, its because I want my colleagues to feel safe, secure, worthwhile, appreciated, all of those things we all want. And unfortunately, watching an endless stream of temporary staff who have no job security, a constant turnover of staff needing trained and supported only to start again almost immediately as they are replaced by the next batch, seeing colleagues working 4 and 5 hours overtime a day unpaid and obviously seeing colleagues decide if they can actually afford to pay into a pension, something essential, is absolutely demoralising.

Unfortunately, this is the reality behind the friendly, ever-smiling faces staff wear in order to create a safe, clean, supported learning environment.

I haven’t even touched on the personal impact I see as a learning technologist. The fact that my role is to support, encourage and train staff to use the digital teaching tools available, including online learning. If you’ve read my about me page, you know how passionate I am about digital teaching tools and the huge impact they made on my life. So you can imagine how heartbreaking it is for me to experience staff who are scared that these tools will actually make their jobs harder, worse, meaningless, or even replace them completely. This week, staff are worried that lecture recording technology will be used to circumnavigate the strike, so essentially drain them of any worth.

This is all comes down to staff feeling secure, happy and worthwhile. All staff.

I hate to say it, but I know this is getting thrown around so let me put it into my perspective. If higher education is genuinely being commodified, then that goes both ways. If you want the skills the staff have, you have to pay a fair price for them.

Oh, on a side note… I am also a part-time student, my supervisor is on strike, meaning I’m going to be a few weeks behind in my work to get my dissertation submitted. Yes, it’s frustrating, but you know what? My supervisor has been absolutely invaluable to me, so I want to make sure they are still there, offering the same level of support to the next student after me, and the one after that.

Thank you to my awesome colleagues yesterday who were good sports, posing for pictures.

Photo by: Paul Dodds 2016 https://www.pauldodds.com/

Variety, apparently it’s the spice of life

For all the folk out there in the blogosphere who also work in higher education, let me just say, we made it! It’s Friday of week 1 and all that work over the summer months and the craziness of welcome week / freshers week has passed and we can now get back to what we do best, as educators.

For me, this has meant the slightly more frivolous items (like personal development and my blog posts) have had to take a back seat while I concentrated on the real nuts and bolts of getting everyone I work with ready for the new semester and implementing the constant change of learning technology. It didn’t mean that I stopped thinking about my blog or the various posts I had intended to write, just that they were thoughts and not actions. But here’s the thing, some thinking time is a good thing and because I had thinking time, my thoughts and plans have come together and actually instead of the handful of posts I had intended, those experiences over the summer have brought that together into this one post.

In response to task 5 & 6 from 23things.ed.ac.uk

Diversity

OK hands up, who read that header and sighed and rolled your eyes? It’s ok, you are in a safe space, you can admit it here.

I know exactly where you are coming from. The word diversity sparks memories of those three-hour workshops your boss makes you go to, usually with a tutor who has been brought in from some external company to help the company on its mission to meet legal obligations. Right? Oh don’t worry, I know… in fact… I used to be that very tutor. So you know, it’s ok, I know where you are coming from.

Thing is, I could go into trainer spiel about compliance, triple-A, disability law, the equality act etc but I know you’d glaze over. So instead let me just talk about this summer and how my experiments with emojis and bitmojis fed into the classes I was running over the summer.

I found the specific topic of bitmojis quite difficult to write about, well actually I struggled to think about what I could write about. It just felt like yeah, yeah we all know this stuff, there’s nothing new to say here and nothing we write will be without some controversy. It’s a hard topic, you just can’t put yourself into somebody else’s shoes, because those shoes only fit one person. For example, reading about the dilemma caused by having emojis representing ethnic groups and if you should use the emoji which represents your ethnic group or not. That was actually quite a shock to me. I could understand why having an emoji you felt represented you, at last, would be a celebration and why you might decide you want to use it, but genuinely it hadn’t occurred to me that using one that didn’t represent your ethnic group might cause offence. I was also aware that I could go around and ask people what their experience was and everything one would have a different experience or view. So it wasn’t a one size fits all experience. So I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, which I will admit took me on a bit meandrous route. But it led me to an interesting thought… visibility.

In my role, I come across so many students and staff on a daily basis. I don’t always know all of them, and I usually don’t have a very personal relationship with most of them, but the idea of that celebration of finally having something to digitally represent you when you haven’t for so long made me think back to when I was student age. For me, back in the 80s and 90s, I was desperate for any signs of other gay people. Any adult in my life, who had a proper job, was respected and who might possibly be gay, sent me into a frenzy of hope. OMG, maybe it’s ok for me to think about being a teacher. Maybe I won’t be excluded because I’m gay. etc etc

Now we may seem miles away from the topic of accessibility or emojis and especially where is the learning technology in this? Well, let me put it this way.

This summer, I stood at the front of a classroom 21 times. On almost all of those occasions I was leading a class of new staff, usually much younger than me and almost all of them were very new to education. When I stand in front of that class, I am a very visual representation of an older woman in a technology-driven role. I am a very visual and audible representation of a working-class woman in academia. I am a visual representation of a lesbian in academia and I am usually the first person they have been able to speak to and ask questions of who has the kind of disabilities that we ask them to be aware of when they are using technologies in the university.

This is where my reading of the emoji articles got me thinking. Is that enough? Is it enough that we all exist in all our gorgeous diversity? Because lets face it, the majority of interactions with me will not be face to face, so most people won’t know what I look like, what my background is, usually they won’t even hear my accent and mostly they won’t be aware that that interaction with me has probably been more draining for me than it has been for them. So can we add another level to this in our digital interactions? And should we?

I gave this a bit of thought and a wee bit of application over the summer and this is what I have done.

Most of my interactions with colleagues are over our email/communications system. So I have added my photo to this. It means when I am in an email conversation, my image pops up so they know who they are dealing with. It also adds my image when they search for me on our internal systems.

Different versions of me people will now see around the university

I’ve added an image to our VLE as well, in my profile, so now when I add content to courses, message students, put out announcements, bang, they can see my face smiling back at them. I think this one for me is particularly important as I want students, who are mostly young people to be able to see that there are opportunities for them in all sorts of fields and we don’t all have to look a certain way, be a certain age or be a specific gender.

Now the biggest change, I have added a voice mail to my phone. Doesn’t seem like a big deal huh? Well for me this is, I still, even as a proper grown-up (although that’s debatable) I still worry about my accent. I have a strong Glasgow accent, quite noticeably working class and I have had comments. However, if I was surrounded by people with a variety of accents, some of which were clearly accents I felt were relatable, maybe I’d feel different about my own.

Now that was a very roundabout and quite a wordy blog post to talk about the opportunity to be visible on our digital systems and why we should be. But I think it is very interesting how a thought on emojis has led me down a very interesting path about the importance of there being visual representation of difference and normalising the diversity in our lives in order to reduce some of the crippling societal bonds. Maybe this might just be a way to tackle things like imposter syndrome in academia. Understandings of each other and maybe, you never know, but maybe it might even have an impact on artificial intelligence, algorithms and things like facial recognition and the experiences of people who don’t look like the software programmer.

Ok so maybe I am reaching here, but let me ask you, how many of you have a picture on your staff profile? I know of at least three people who have put pictures of their dogs as their staff profile picture. Maybe… it’s time to be brave and get out there to the front line.

Be visible in all your diverse glory.

Some interesting reading

Brown, N. and Leigh, J. (2018), “Ableism in academia: where are the disabled and ill academics?”, Disability & Society, Routledge, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 985–989.

Byrne, G. (2019), “Individual weakness to collective strength: (Re)creating the self as a ‘working-class academic’”, Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, Vol. 12 No. 1-2, pp. 131–150

Dar, S. and Salmon, U. (2019), “Inside the Ivory Tower: Narratives of Women of Colour Surviving and Thriving in British Academia edited by Deborah Gabriel and Shirley Ann Tate. London, UK: Trentham Books/IOE Press, 2017, 164 pp.,£ 24.36, ISBN 10-185856848X, ISBN 13-978-185856848”, Gender, Work, and Organization, academia.edu, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 64–67.

National Center for Institutional Diversity. (2018), “The Power of Academic Role Models ‘Like Me’”, Medium, Spark: Elevating Scholarship on Social Issues, 23 March, available at: https://medium.com/national-center-for-institutional-diversity/the-power-of-academic-role-models-like-me-7f4f2c59279d (accessed 20 September 2019).

“Role model being yourself: sexual orientation and the workplace”. (n.d.). Https://www.stonewall.org.uk/, available at: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/role_models.pdf.

Today’s “thing”: I’m reflecting on information security and my smartphone

I’ve been spending a while between these last few blog posts for my digital capabilities adventure because I wanted to take some proper time to reflect on things. A lot of what’s involved in this project are things I interact with and discuss every day, so it’s easy for me to just bring out the everyday chat without actually thinking a new. So I thought I might approach this post a little differently, form the perspective of someone who is in the position of feeling overwhelmed and under educated on the subject of device security. I say device because really this affects a lot more than my smart phone.

In general, I consider myself to be “ok with tech”. I absolutely do not consider myself to be a techie or in anyway an IT whizz. In fact I am constantly telling folk at work that I am not an IT Bod, I don’t work in IT because I don’t want to set unreasonable expectations of my capabilities. I would describe myself as an “end user” who likes gadgets. A few years ago I would have said I was pretty confident about looking after security, permission etc on my devices but a change happened and now, I feel that I have no control or knowledge of my devices in that regard.

What happened?

I switched operating systems. I moved into a new job and that job required me to move from windows to apple operating systems and I felt completely lost. That was three years ago and I still feel completely lost.

I switched from windows computers and android phone and tablet to apple computer and apple phone and now apple tablet. It was a mountain to climb, I don’t mind admitting. However, what it did, was force me to stop and think, rather than run on autopilot. I had to do a lot of internet searching and reading to work out what on earth was going on.

So hence why I said I was approaching this blog post from the perspective of someone who was completely overwhelmed by tech.

It started with….

It all started with my phone. Having to learn to use an iPhone was one thing, but when it came to working out why my battery was dying so quickly that internet searching made me realise how much of the phone was giving access to apps etc that I knew nothing about. Sending data and using location software which was all draining the battery but that I hadn’t realised were running in the background.

I have since gone through and limited this to things I want to access stuff but it made me realised how much of our privacy and security is taken for granted by these big companies. My iphone, straight from the box was automatically sending:

  • Analytics info to apple. I had to switch this off rather than switch it on.
  • Analytics from iCloud was automatically being sent to apple, again I had to switch this off rather than agree to it up front.
  • Location settings were allowing me to be tracked, again something you need to go in and switch off.

To be realistic, this probably sounds like a really big deal when in fact you can go in and turn these off but it’s something you need to be aware of before you will know to turn them off and it isn’t just an apple thing, all the big companies are doing this.

So, go have a check at what is being shared, given access, recorded etc. It’s always good to expand your knowledge, right? 🙂

Digital footprint – what info of yours is public

I do a lot of work with students about creating their online presence, especially senior year students who are about to go off into the world and begin life as freelance artists and practitioners. One of the first things I do, before we get onto the fun tasks of building websites and social media feeds is to take a look at their digital footprint or a I call it, their online brand.

I was inspired to write a blog post about this as part of my digital capabilities adventure with 23 things so feel free to go off and take a look at that and see if it inspires you.

Digital footprint – what on earth is that?

So let’s start at the beginning of class, what the heck is a digital footprint? You’ll kick yourself cause it really is a simple and obvious one when you know – your digital footprint is basically all the traces of you which you leave behind online. So all those old social media accounts you no longer use but didn’t deactivate and delete? The forums where you once went to comment on poor customer service. Or how about the work photo of you that you hate but your boss insists on having on the company website?

All of this and more are the digital traces of you online and it’s easy to find info that people will use to find out about you and possibly make judgements on you.

About me

So here is a simple and relatively quick way you can find out what your digital footprint looks like. Google yourself.

Yeah I know, but seriously, no egos here, go google yourself and see what comes up, not just the first page either, keep going.

So here is what comes up when I google me.

Now I’ve been through this process a few times so there’s nothing that shocks me, but a few things to be aware of. My hobby blog comes up on the same page as my work profiles and blog. So something to consider, do you want these things linked in your digital footprint? If not, you might want to consider not using the same names etc for both.

Also, images… I bet you didn’t think of that did you? Do you want the same image of you for both types of things? It means at least visibly they are linked. Also, what images come up, are you happy with them?

For me, there are a lot of images of me and by me which appear in a search, probably due to the fact that I am a blogger, youtuber and a photographer, but this is something I like to make the students aware of, do you want that drunken night out photo of you appearing when someone googles you for a job? Now here is a wee interesting twist on this same task. Do the same thing again, have a search but use a different search engine. See what comes up then? You will probably be surprised to find that the different search engines pick things up in different ways.

This is a really basic and easy way to begin making students aware of their digital footprint and how important it is to think about the image you are creating of yourself online. For my students, their online presence is their online brand so it’s really important to them that they are showing the professional side that they want to be seen (professional is in context).

You might be thinking yeah but I don’t need an online presence, this isn’t important to me and you might be right, but it doesn’t do any harm for you to be aware of this. Sometimes something appears online you weren’t expecting. One example I have is of a student who found his full name and address appear online because of something someone else posted. Just be aware.

So there is something else to consider, it may not be as clean cut about the image of yourself you portray, but what about info you maybe don’t want out there on the web. Does your facebook page show up in a search? In which case, can you click on it and see all the posts you’ve shared, liked etc? Are you happy that these are public?

What about you Eli, are you happy with your online presence?

Ah ha! Sneaky way for me to raise another thing to think about. My online presence is carefully created. It may not look like it, but I have made deliberate decisions about the directions people travel in when lost in my digital footprint. Let me explain.

My hobby blog is full of people who are interested in cooking or gardening etc. I also have a twitter account that I use for it. However, I didn’t have a separate twitter account for work or study things so gradually, my personal / blog twitter account became full of people who wanted to connect with me for digital education reasons. Not what my blog followers were interested in so it became a bit of a muddy puddle.

I chose then to make a very obvious distinction between my hobby twitter feed and my work life one. I created a separate account for digital education Eli and named in a very obvious way (LearningTechEli).

Now I mentioned different directions? Sometimes people who know me as LearningTechEli might also be interested in gardening etc so I have left breadcrumbs so they can, if they choose, go over to the twitter feed or blog for my hobbies and vice versa. I’ve made it so the option is there to “co-mingle” but I’ve made it so that it has to be a deliberate choice for that person to do rather than they get lost in a mass of nonsense that they didn’t come to see. That way people get a choice of the types of waffle by Eli that they read and the version of Eli online that they are interested in.

This is all how I work with my digital footprint, it is by no means the only or correct way to do things. After all, I know plenty of people who keep everything together as one, because to them, you take all of them or none of them and they don’t want to separate their work online fun with their general “things that are important to them” online fun. 🙂 And you know what, that’s ok cause they have made that conscious decision.

So have a google and a think about what you find. Are you happy or is it time to make some changes?

My digital capabilities adventure continues – thing 1 & 2: social media

So it’s a rainy Sunday afternoon, my mocha has somehow mysteriously evaporated and my wife is ignoring me for an afternoon with Assasin’s Creed. I think that means it’s the perfect time for me to write my first official blog post on my digital capabilities adventure with 23 things.

The task at hand for week 1 and 2 is to write a short blog post about my aspirations for this journey and to think about the social media guidelines for my company.

Personal objectives

I’ve been watching the various cycles of the 23 things events for the past few years and always thought it sounded like something fun to do, but never quite managed to feel like I could justify the time work wise for something which was clearly just a bit of fun and not proper work. Sound familiar to anyone? However, I’m at that stage now where I’ve realized that I can’t just be serious and straight laced all the time, it eats away at your smile. So lets break out the fun!

OK I’m being a bit silly but there is a serious message there, I watch gamification and learning through play etc etc being discussed and events being run at work all the time, but it’s not something I could claim I “get”. By that I mean, I’m not sure I understand what constitutes play in a higher education, learning environment and more so I don’t understand 100% how it works. I always use the lego example cause I haven’t yet managed to grasp how building stuff with lego can help you to learn (in certain subjects, topics etc).

So there is my first thing, I want to treat something academic related in a playful manner in the hope that it will help me conceptualists the playful learning thing a bit better.

My second aspiration is a bit simpler, I already know I have a knowledge gap around attribution, licensing and digital content so I’m using this experience as scaffolding to help me develop better habits around this area. So just now it’s about making sure I tag photos etc when I do these posts, I plan to move that further into a bit of a tidy up and correction of these glaring mistakes in previous posts and then take that out into my personal blog, which would be a huge task so not one for straight away.

I know this list of aspirations will grow as I progress, because the more you learn, the more you understand that the gaps are bigger than you realized.

Social media guidelines

The task asked if I was aware of the guidelines and my opinions. So here we have a conundrum. Yes I was aware of the company social media guidelines as I have worked and still work with social media for my role. Part of those guidelines are all about being aware of how your social media use reflects on the company, which I understand and to a degree I agree with especially if you are using social media for a purpose as part of your job.

Where I don’t agree with is …. no wait. Am I allowed to say that on social media? Big brother might be watching. *chuckle*

I think then that the best social media guidelines might be as simple as Wheaton’s law.

Sage advice in a blogging chat – and it didn’t come from the garden blogger

I am very happy to say the crisis is over. Although lets be honest, the shape of the world right now means I have no right to use the word crisis when I talk about something as trivial as not writing a blog post. Sheesh! Perspective, right? Let’s instead refer to this as a momentary lack of fun! Which has been fixed!

But hey ho, all I mean is that the fact that I am now putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) means I am once again enjoying the experience of sharing my thoughts and feelings with the world at large through this blog. Let me catch you up. If you are just joining us…. I had writers’ block, well let’s be more correct about this, I thought I had writers’ block. I thought there was a huge drama happening because I couldn’t think of anything to write about. But some very sensible and useful advice from other bloggers yesterday reminded me that actually, I don’t have to write at all.

The advice went something like this…

write if you have something to say

Sometimes things are only obvious when they slap you upside the head 🙂

See, this all came about cause I had a seriously fun morning yesterday chatting with James Lamb, Lorna Campbell and Karen Howie about blogging and the how’s and why of our blogging lives. A fantastic morning where the pastries were actually the least exciting part (oh but that was a lovely almond croissant).

I don’t want to give too much away and ruin things just yet, so I’ll eave it there with only this. Keep an eye on the teaching matters podcasts for some fun with blogging and I’ll chat more when it’s live. If I have something to say about it, of course.

https://www.ed.ac.uk/staff/teaching-matters

Why do I blog? Time for some reflection.

I have been asked to take part in a podcast about blogging and normally I’d be very up for this and could, to be honest, chat the legs of a donkey. However, I’m being asked to chat about my professional blogging practice, namely this blog. This puts me in a bit of a pickle as to be honest, this isn’t “my blog”, and don’t get me wrong, obviously this is my blog, it’s me who writes it, but I actually have a lifestyle blog which is quite successful and I have built a community around that over the past ten years. I consider that “my blog”.   I consider this one, something I do for work.

So I am now trying to think about my blog (for work), why I blog, what I am trying to achieve and it’s quite daunting. I don’t think I have EVER actually thought about it.

So, a wee cup of earl grey and a treat to get the brain working and time for some reflection.

Photo by: Eli Appleby-Donald 2019

How did this blog start?

Apparently (some famous nun said) the beginning is a very good place to start, so let’s go back to the beginning.

Well, a while back, I started a blog which became this one. I started a site called The New College Technologist, as at that time this was my professional identity.  I looked after all academic tech related things for New College and I wanted a platform to put my thoughts and ideas out on so that people could find out about things I was interested in, implementing at the school or that I was championing. I wanted a way for people to choose to find out more, rather than me invading their email inboxes. So the New College Technologist blog was born and I was quite a regular blogger, but then I changed jobs and more importantly schools and I stopped being the New College Technologist. My new boss was quite keen that I keep the digital footprint I’d built so Edutechie was born.

photo by: Paul Dodds 2015 https://www.pauldodds.com/

But why keep it going?

See this is where reflection is awesome, just telling you about the origins of this blog has opened the flood gates to thought.

My purpose, why then, if I was no longer trying to give my colleagues at New College news and info, did I keep going with blogging? Different audience, different purpose?

I guess it comes down to digital footprint. Although the purpose of this blog changed from delivering info, to me having a space to talk about educational technology, it was still about me having a place to think, to talk, to share my thoughts and opinions. It was about my existence in a much bigger pond. I now feel that I’m being a complete ego maniac, but it’s the truth, I wanted other people to know about the things I thought were important without the need to spend months on a paper for a journal. I wanted people to have alternative opinions of educational technology available to them so that they could make informed choices. After all not all learning tech types think the same things, do the same stuff, even those of us who work for the same organisation have differing opinions. So it’s good for all that to be visible and for me, the digital medium just feels right. Not for any clever reason tied into my role, but just because the internet and technology gave me a voice when I didn’t have one. I find social media and digital media in general comfortable. I would happily do so much more in the way of digital media for communication if I had the time. I happily create video and manage a twitter feed, so blogging is just another natural element of that to me.

Photo by Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

I also wanted a much more relaxed approach to being part of my academic community and this fit. Again I like that it’s something people can choose to read and be part of, no-one is being pressured which for me is important. I feel all too often that my job as an educational technologist is to “encourage” people to use certain tools or do things a certain way and I’m not always comfortable with that. I prefer to give people info and chat to them and be a part in their personal decision making process. This is much more me, a support and guide in the wings who is happy to say “ok this isn’t for you, so how can I help you make a success of the thing that is?”

Am I happy with the result?

Ha ha ha, oh this is a goodie, see my “other blog” has a huge community who contacted me on a daily basis. It even spawned a youtube channel which is growing steadily. I am very aware of stats for both.  I regularly check and I have rules about how I engage with the community. Which sounds crazy to me now when I say it out loud (or type it online) because this was never its purpose in the beginning. This blog, however, my work one doesn’t have a community, it has readers, I know because I see the stats, but I haven’t actually engaged with promoting it or encouraging feedback. Should I? I’m not sure. Is that what I want? Again, I’m not sure. I guess I won’t know unless I allow things to happen organically and judge from there.

I feel very much that this blog is in its infancy. I’m not sure yet what my voice here is, should I be reflecting? Explaining? Discussing? I just don’t know and I guess time will help me to find that meaning here. At the moment, it’s an outlet for me, a way for me to write, to communicate in something longer than a tweet.

So as results go, I’m not sure there is anything I can measure yet. I’m not even sure if I should, if I measure will it become something I feel is a chore, something I have to do? Or will I continue to just find solace in speaking to the void knowing that somewhere there is another soul who is happy to passively be part of an invisible community of two?


My other blog: http://www.eliapplebydonald.co.uk/blog/

My professional twitter identity: @LearningTechEli

Other places on the web you may see the Edutechie:

Not sure if blogging is your thing? Here’s why it should be…

Blogging seems to have reared its head at work again, with a new centrally supported platform being launched, but it’s one of those weird things that I take for granted and yet I’m amazed at how many folk who surround me can’t imagine why they would or even how they would, start blogging.

I guess it’s because we connect a couple of things in our heads:

  1.  academics need to write a certain way and publish in a certain place otherwise it’s not “real” or respected.
  2. blogging is not respectable, it’s something people do to talk about cooking and make up, not research.

Well, both of these are kind of right, if you want to be published in an academic journal you have to write to and meet certain standards, but that doesn’t mean you may not also benefit from writing in a different way and publishing somewhere else, like blogging.  Afterall, you don’t spend your career only being published on one journal?

Put it this way, not every inspirational thought you have will end up in a journal, you could still share them as blog posts though, rather than let them drop off the face of the earth 🙂

Also, lots of people read blogs, and yes lots of those people work in academia too, so it can also help you reach a wider audience and build stronger networks. You can even blog to talk about journal articles you’ve written, it’s all impact.

How to get started blogging in academia (regardless of your role in academia)

Blogging versus academic writing

Most academic writing involves time, blood, sweat and tears. Blogging is the opposite of that, not that you still shouldn’t take this seriously, after all it’s still your name out there, but, aim to create a more relaxed writing style that’s interesting to both other academics and the general public at large.  Use first person, it’s personal and easy to connect to and makes your readers feel like you are speaking directly to them. Letting your personality shine through is a good thing.

I should also point out, another key thing is word count. With a blog post, you should be aiming to keep it short and sweet, about 800 – 1000 words. That can be a real challenge, ask the students currently trying to write 1000 word position pieces,  but if you remember this is a conversation between you and your readers about something you find interesting, it might seem more managable.

5 tips to help you write that first blog post

1. How big: the average blog post should be roughly 500-1000 words.

2. First paragraph: the first paragraph is what hooks your readers, make it interesting but also use it to say what that post is about. Often when you share blogs, it’s that first paragraph that people see as a “teaser”.

3. Titles: this is your headline, treat it as such. Keep it short but make it interesting and avoid anything generic.  So “Not sure if blogging is your thing? Here’s why it should be…”  not “Blogging for academics”.

4. Visual: blogs are a visual medium so include appropriate videos, graphics and photos to help get your point across, but remember you will be responsible for abiding by copyright law on these images.

5. Keep your blog active. You don’t have to produce a post every week, but don’t let your blog sit unloved for months at a time either and if you allow your readers to comment, respond in a timely manner. Remember I said it was a conversation?

My last tip is that if you are struggling to shake off the cloak of academic writing and get into your blogging flow… try writing it on your mobile phone. It’s much harder to write an academic piece with autocorrect ruining things, and it might just switch your brain from work mode into communication guru mode. Try it.


Photo: Eli Appleby-Donald 2018

Thank you for taking the time to say thank you: EUSA Teaching Award

It has been a very, very long time since I blogged here and I am royally ashamed of this. I just let things get in the way and stopped taking time to sit down and actively share. Today, however, something happened which gave me a bit of a jolt and reminded me that a small gesture can make a big difference and I just want to take the chance to say thank you to that person.

Today I received a badge in the university’s internal mail. It doesn’t sound like much, but this little badge to me, is the equivalent of a Blue Peter badge, but for work. Today I found out that a student had taken the time to email into the student’s union and nominate me for a teaching award. It is a small thing, and to most folk, students and staff alike, it probably feels too small and like it won’t make much difference. I want to just take a moment to correct that thought and tell you that it does. It makes a HUGE difference.

The fact that someone thought the work I do is important enough that it made a difference to them. That I somehow helped them in their studies the way people have helped me, feels amazing and is exactly why I do this job.

I am proudly wearing my badge and showing it to everyone I can stop for 20 seconds. So to whoever that student is, thank you. I really appreciate the time and effort you made to write in and explain why you think I deserved recognition.

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