Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Communicating with stakeholders

February 25th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Some time in the mid 1990s I can remember writing my first project web site – for a project called DETOP, I think. It was pretty crude – I got myself a teach yourself HTML book and away I went. Now of course very project has its own web site – and many have more than one. Content management Systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla have made the technical process pretty easy.

But that hasn’t done much for the quality of the content. In particular, most research projects are pretty dull stuff. The aims and objectives, a list of partners with their logos, various reports downloadable in Word or PDF format, a news page usually showing a picture of project partners at their last meeting and sometimes (but too rarely a blog).

These sites are basically a formality – to fulfil funding conditions rather than to involve users. We have been thinking about how to change this for the EU funded Learning Layers project. The project is researching and developing the use of technology for informal learning in Small and Medium Enterprises. And one of our targets is to engage with significant numbers of users – initially in two ‘industrial clusters’, a health cluster in north east England and a construction industry cluster in north Germany.

To help in this task we are developing a User Engagement Model. And of course, we have to develop a dissemination plan. I have been doing some literature searches around user engagement models. Surprisingly, not much came up. Most of it is either promotional materials offering (for a price) to help you gain users or ideas social software providers can fi9nd out more about their users. Changing the search string to Stakeholder Engagement, though, provides much richer results. Although many of the ideas have been written by NGOs or charities written from the viewpoint of engaging with stakeholders in their various projects or from local authorities and other organisations wishing to consult with service users, their is much which is relevant and well though through.

One research paper which particularly interests me is ‘An Organizational Stakeholder Model of Change Implementation Communication‘ by Laurie K. Lewis.

Implementation is seen as ‘‘the translation of any tool or technique, process, or method of doing, from knowledge to practice’’ (Tornatzky and Johnson, 1982 p. 193) and the authors quote Real and Poole (2005) who argue that ‘‘without implementation, the most brilliant and potentially far-reaching innovation remains just that—potential’’ (p. 64).

The paper argues that change models and processes need to be linked to communication strategies towards different stakeholders. They advance four dimensions of communication strategy choices:

Positive versus balanced message

In considering the positivity or the balanced nature of the communication messages, implementers decide whether positive aspects of the change should be emphasized or whether emphasis of positives should be balanced with acknowledgment of negative aspects of the change or the change process……

Dissemination focus versus input focus

In considering the focus of the communication campaign, implementers decide whether to orient their communication resources toward sharing information about change or toward soliciting input from stakeholders. This is essentially a question about whether to engage in a participatory approach to implementation wherein stakeholders at various locations around the organization are invited to be heard and/or are empowered to make decisions. The alternative approach emphasizes information or instruction about the change in top-down messages that attempt to influence compliance……

Targeted message versus blanket message

This dimension of the communication campaign deals with the degree to which messages created about the change will be customized, targeted to specific stakeholders or stakeholder groups, or whether the campaign will have a more blanket strategy wherein the same basic messages are repeated across all stakeholder groups…..

Discrepancy focus versus efficacy focus

This dimension of the communication campaign concerns the degree to which the message is focused on creating an urgency that motivates the need for the change (discrepancy) or on creating a belief that the organization and the individuals in it have the resources necessary to close the discrepancy gap (efficacy)…..

And whilst the research and model is intended as a scholarly contribution, it seems to me to provide some very real ideas and choices for how we might want to deign a communication strategy for different stakeholders, of which our project web site will provide a key element (more on these issues to follow).

Was Google Wave just ahead of its time?

February 20th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Remember Google wave? As Wiikipedia explains Google Wave is a web-based computing platform and communications protocol designed to merge key features of communications media such as email, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking.Communications using the system can be synchronous or asynchronous. Software extensions provide contextual spelling and grammar checking, automated language translation,[3] and other features.

Initially released only to developers, a preview release of Google Wave was extended to 100,000 users in September 2009, each allowed to invite additional users. Google accepted most requests submitted starting November 29, 2009, soon after the September extended release of the technical preview. On May 19, 2010, Google Wave was released to the general public.

However Wave proved to be short lived. On August 4, 2010, Google announced the suspension of stand-alone Wave development and development was handed over to the Apache Software Foundation which started to develop a server-based product called Wave in a Box.

What went wrong? Certainly Wave felt clunky to use and was not always particularly reliable. The interface felt crowded and sometimes confusing. But I think the main problem was that we just didn’t get the idea. Now only three years on, it might have been so different. Just within one project I am working on, Learning Layers, we are using Flash Meeting and skype for regular synchronous communication, Doodle polls to set up meetings, dropbox to share files, Diigo to share bookmarks, Google docs for collaborative writing, to say nothing of the project internal media wiki site and the public wordpress based web site. And of course a list serve which bombards us with ever more email. We all complain that communication is not good enough and simultaneously that we have too much communication.

In reality communication has moved from being episodic, where email replaced snailmail and online meetings replaced face to face – to a stream. Managing that stream is problematic. And that, I think, was what Wave was designed to do. Sadly it was ahead of its time. Come back Wave, all is forgiven.

Announcing Serennu ar sgeip

January 24th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I seem to have spent the last two weeks in meetings. Breakfast meetings, slype meetings, FlashMeeting, pub meetings (my favourite). Anyway one of the best of the meetings was with a team of students at HsKa – the technical university of Karlsruhe in Germany. The students have been working with us over the last five months on a project to develop a new platform called Serennu ar sgeip for school teachers to manage virtual presentations form people in different occupations to students in their class.

Today we had the final review presentation with the students and their teachers. And it was awesomely good – both the presentation and the platform. This is a teaser post. Both the teachers and members of the team have promised ot right up their experiences of the project to post on this blog. We will also talk about our perceptions of the project in a mini series which we will be running here. And of course we will tell you more about the platform based on wordpress and available under an open source license.

Congratulations to the HsKa team. We are looking forward to your reflections.

Using web 2.0 and social media in European projects

December 20th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, UK from Web2LLP on Vimeo.

There is growing interest in how to use social media in European research and development projects. The Web2LLP project aims to improve web strategies and maximise the social media presence of lifelong learning projects. Their web site explains they provide “personalised support and training (a week-long face-to-face course and free webinars), and shares best-practices and resources.”

One of those resources is a video gallery including interviews with project managers who have used social media in European Commision sponsored Lifelong Learning Programme projects.

And when Maria Perifanou asked me for an interview how could I refuse. I talked to Maria about how we used social media in the G8WAY project. The G8WAY project was based on the idea that the growing availability of web 2.0 allows for bridging the present gap between the structures developed to support students in mastering today’s educational transition and their formulation in an institutional perspective through learner centered and connective approaches, with a chance to more effectively manage educational transition.  “G8WAY  developed web 2.0 enhanced learning environments, to enable learners to reflect and develop their creativity potentials and transitional skills in the light of their own and others’ learning experience, made visible through a variety of media sets and PLE tools, each of them designed to meet the requirements of transition envisaged, and all of which are mapped into one single pedagogy framework.”

Work based Personal Learning Environments

July 10th, 2012 by Graham Attwell
View more presentations from GrahamAttwell
The Personal Learning Envrinments conference is a flipped conference. Traditional paper sessions are frowned on and presenters are invited to put forward their idea of how to engage participants in teh different sessions. Sessionc hairs are asked to negotiate with presenters. Thus it was that this afternoon I received an email from Linda Castenda who is chairing the session with my paper about Developing work Based Personal Learning Environments.
“Dear authors”, she said, “As you may already now, I’ll be the chair of your session in the PLE Conference in Aveiro. …
We will be together in the A3 session, on the Thursday 11th at 011 O’clock in the room Number 2.

I’m really happy of sharing with you this moment and I hope to have the possibility of trying a different kind of session that help us to find new ways for enriching or work and for find new ways of collaborating together.

I’ve thought on the possibility of organizing a different session, I’m absolutely open to all of your suggestions, but I would like to propose you the following organizing, if you like it:

11:10 to 11:15 Presentation and explanation of the session dynamic  (me).
For it I would love to have a picture of you for including on the presentation.

from 11:15 to 11:45 an “Speed dating” session:
Each paper will be localized in three different “spaces” in the same classroom. The audience will be divided into three groups that will be passing by each paper and  each one of you will have to explain your work in 9 minutes to three different groups of people. After 9 minutes I’ll ring an alarm to change the group.
I know you have to repeat the explanation 3 times, but It would help them to be more close to you and to be more “active” during the explanations. You could use for your presentation a slideshow (in your computer or tablet, a pamphlet, a paper, a trip tic, or whatever you want… BUT taking into account that you are presenting for few people only.
Attendees will have some papers to include questions and comments of the presentations that we will recover after the round of presenting.
If you don’t mind (if you do, please, let it me know)  I will love to record each presentation in video for uploading to the web after the session.

11:50 to 12:05 Panel for answering:
We will try to make a panel with you three and try to answer to questions. I will have also some question for you, only in case you have not any Q from the public

12:05 to 12:30 Conclusions and PLN
After the questions I will ask you for doing a deliverable by paper WITH the attendees… maybe you can think in something to do around your paper (questions, short activity, or whatever) , or maybe we can do something generic… what about a kind of map of relationships between the research presented by you and the attendees research area (including contact details)?

I’m sure it seems a bit complicated, but it would be very active and challenging in order to take advantage of the papers and the groups that are going to be there…”

I am very happy with the idea. But then the problem – I had brought no slides for this session. So in record time I have hacked together a quick presentation and thanks to the speed of teh network here in Aveiro, have got it up on slideshare already.

The importance of understanding participatory media

November 13th, 2011 by Cristina Costa
For the past 3 1/2 years I have been looking at the impact the web has had on the practices of Academics who are highly engaged in virtual environments. This inevitably takes me to explore the social side of their … Continue reading

Personal Branding, Digital Scholarship, and that thing called PhD

March 27th, 2011 by Cristina Costa
I have been meaning to blog. I actually feel the need, but in the end it’s a bit like sport. The more you do it, the more energy you find to keep doing it. Once you start ‘tricking’ the routine, … Continue reading

the big BUT

December 12th, 2010 by Cristina Costa
There is a question that has been populating my mind lately. It is the one Cameron Neylon posed to the audience in his talk at the Research Information  Network event a month or so ago. It was something like: What … Continue reading

A week of events

October 30th, 2010 by Cristina Costa
It started on Monday and it only stopped on Friday. It was literally a week full of events worth writing home about! And I just wish the days were longer or I could cope without sleeping! Yes, I do sleep, … Continue reading

How to live stream events

September 5th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I talked in previous posts about our work with the European Conference on Educational Research to ‘amplify’ the conference, recently held in Vienna. This involved setting up various social media channels including a Twitter stream and a iTunesU page, producing a series of video interviews with conveners of the different networks which organise ECER and b9radcasting three live radio shows from the conference.

We also undertook to stream four keynote speeches, run in two parallel sessions as well as the opening. Easy, I thought. Like many of you I have live streamed from different events, pointing a camera or even a MacBook at the speaker and linking in to  uStream or Justin.tv or one of the other social video platforms. It turned out not to be so simple.

We were working with a community not generally used to social media. And quite simply, the idea of pointing them to a platform advertising poker, acne treatments didn’t seem a good idea. Plus we had an issue with the reliability and quality of the free services. Livestream looked a better idea especially though their premium accounts. This allows you to have your own channel and remove the adverts.but a single channel on Livestream costs 350 dollars a month, with twelve months billing in advance. And we needed two channels. Back to the drawing board. We discovered that Ustream has set up another service called Watershed and indeed for a time were tempted by this. Watershed offers per view payments, but the prices are relatively high. And the terms and conditions of service for the monthly or annual contracts was impenetrable. No problem, we thought, we will ring them and clarify the conditions. Then we discovered there was no telephone number on their site. All you cold do was ask questions on a bulletin board, largely filled with complaints about the service and the total lack of technical support.

OK – so that didn’t seem such a good idea. Last resort – ask a friend. I twittered out for anyone with ideas of a service we could use. And somewhat to my surprise, no-one could come up with a solution, other than the services we had already looked at.

Back to searching on the Internet. Of course there are many companies offering professional streaming services but they all seem geared towards corporate or media organisations, not towards education or for relatively low numbers of live viewers.

I finally stumbled on a web site from a Canadian company called NetroMedia. Their prices were not clear but they said that for one off events you could fill in a query form. So I did, not with any great hope. To my surprise about half an hour later, I had an email reply asking for more details about the event I wished to stream. And to my even greater surprise, some forty minutes after returning this a person rang me. Yes, a real live person!!!

She calculated how much bandwidth we would need and offered us a service for 100 Canadian dollars, plus 20 dollars for unlimited technical support. (Note that if you buy into this or a similar service, it is important to buy sufficient bandwidth in advance, extra bandwidth per view is relatively expensive). Woo, away we go. Even better some twenty minutes after paying them, Darren, the technical support man rung us. This was very helpful, because although the set up is relatively simple, we required two video streams going out simultaneously, and that required a little fiddling.

NetroMedia do not offer a portal for streams. Instead they provide a streaming service and you embed a Flash video player in your own web site. This suited us just fine. The up stream was encoded through the free Adobe Flash Media Encoder, which worked well on both a PC and a Mac. The only thing I would like is to have more direction control over what we were streaming – e.g to be able to switch between a feed from the data projector and the video but I am sure we can work out how to do that. I am very happy with the quality of the streaming (you can view the recordings by clicking on read more on each of the channels on the ECER video streaming web page) although we were helped in this regard by the kind loan from Helsinki University of two very good video cameras.

Of course, if you are working in a University or large organisation, you may be able to run your own streaming server.But such an investment is beyond Pontydysgu, or I guess many small organisations. Yet video streaming is going to be an important part of Amplifying future events. And we need a reliable and reasonable quality of service.  I would certainly go to Netromedia again. But I also wonder if there is some way we could collectively organise resources for streaming in the educational technology community to both share know-how and expertise and infrastructure.

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    Learning about technology

    According to the University Technical Colleges web site, new research released of 11 to 17-year-olds, commissioned by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the charity which promotes and supports University Technical Colleges (UTCs), reveals that over a third (36%) have no opportunity to learn about the latest technology in the classroom and over two thirds (67%) admit that they have not had the opportunity even to discuss a new tech or app idea with a teacher.

    When asked about the tech skills they would like to learn the top five were:

    Building apps (45%)
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    MOOC providers in 2016

    According to Class Central a quarter of the new MOOC users  in 2016 came from regional MOOC providers such as  XuetangX (China) and Miríada X (Latin America).

    They list the top five MOOC providers by registered users:

    1. Coursera – 23 million
    2. edX – 10 million
    3. XuetangX – 6 million
    4. FutureLearn – 5.3 million
    5. Udacity – 4 million

    XuetangX burst onto this list making it the only non-English MOOC platform in top five.

    In 2016, 2,600+ new courses (vs. 1800 last year) were announced, taking the total number of courses to 6,850 from over 700 universities.


    Jobs in cyber security

    In a new fact sheet the Tech Partnership reveals that UK cyber workforce has grown by 160% in the five years to 2016. 58,000 people now work in cyber security, up from 22,000 in 2011, and they command an average salary of over £57,000 a year – 15% higher than tech specialists as a whole, and up 7% on last year. Just under half of the cyber workforce is employed in the digital industries, while banking accounts for one in five, and the public sector for 12%.


    Number students outside EU falls in UK

    Times Higher Education reports the number of first-year students from outside the European Union enrolling at UK universities fell by 1 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

    Data from the past five years show which countries are sending fewer students to study in the UK.

    Despite a large increase in the number of students enrolling from China, a cohort that has grown by 12,500 since 2011-12, enrolments by students from India fell by 13,150 over the same period.

    Other notable changes include an increase in students from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and a fall in students from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.


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