Another vibrant and absorbing podcast again this evening, with a range of views and opinions from Mike, J, Ben, Tina, John and myself. The theme tonight was the UN Sustainable Development Goals, that is being promoted by the National Union of Students across the UK, and what we might do to incorporate the sustainability objectives into our courses and learning opportunities.
Tonight is the first DIY-DMU podcast, in which Dave, Mike, John and myself met up to talk about the different approaches we have to learning, and the kind of things we do to make our learning easier. We recorded the podcast in the concourse of the DMU Queens building. We will be running this podcast session each week, if you are a DMU student or member of staff, you can get involved via DMU Talk. Each week we’ll try and bring a guest so we can broaden the conversation and discuss whatever is on our minds at the time.
Yesterday I organised and ran a training session with colleagues in the Media, Design and Production subject group, in the Leicester Media School. The aim of the session was to introduce and familiarise colleagues with the social media platforms that we have available, and that I’ve been developing over the last few years.
At DMU we use a WordPress blogging system that is part of the DMU Commons, which is a suit of open source and open access media platforms that students and staff can use as part of their studies, their personal development and their social interaction with one another.
The blogs that learners and staff create and share can be aggregated on a site I’ve set-up called DIY-DMU. It’s a standard WordPress site, but it has been loaded up with RSS feeds taken from the individual blogs. So every time someone wants to share blog post, if they use the DIY-DMU category feed, then it will be updated on the DIY-DMU site as well.
The idea is that in order to find out about what people are working on, what they have been up to, and how they are getting on with their learning or professional development, you only have to go to one place to see these posts. It needs a bit of work to make it more attractive and to manage the feeds to make them more accessible, so it’s under development and should improve as more people get involved.
The next platform that we looked at is the DMU Commons Wiki, which I’ve been using for a couple of years as well. This is an open resource for learners and staff to post information about themselves, their activities, their interests and their projects.
I use the wiki extensively in my modules, as it’s a great way to enhance collaboration, to provide a single and central point of information that can be easily shared, and in the process, promotes a collaborative working culture based on communities of practice and interest.
The last platform that we looked at is new – Talk. Working with Owen Williams in the ITMS development team, we’ve installed a version of Discourse, which is a chat forum platform that supports the development of online communities and collaborative discussions. The system is new, so it will be interesting to see how we can use it effectively, both as a resource for learners, and as a resource for colleagues.
The objective of developing these platforms is to support learners, researchers and colleagues to more easily interact, which has become a relevant question on the National Student Survey, which asks if learners feel they are part of a learning community. How we promote this sense of community, and what people bring to it is going to be interesting to learn about.
I’ve never set a piece of coursework like the project that my first year social media students are presently working on. Learners have been asked to set-up a social group that meets to do something as a shared social activity. Something that they can’t do online. Like playing cards, making bread, designing button badges, using Go-Pro cameras, and so on.
The aim is to use social media to bring a wider group together who have a hobby or who are interested in doing something they enjoy. In the process they teach other people who might want to join the group what it is about. Social media is used to share interest in things like makeup, cars, sport, and to show examples of what the group gets up to. So there’s lots of using Instagram and Twitter, lots of YouTube videos, and plenty of Snapchatting.
The reaction has been great, with loads of spontaneous meetings, lots of images and social media posts being shared, and blogs being written. We have developed an expression when working out how to explain the use of social media. We are ‘lowering the bar of expectation!’ This is because we’ve learnt that social media has to be accessible, playful and inclusive. The daftest and cheesiest images seem to be the ones that get shared and reposted the most.
The amazing thing is that this doesn’t feel like hard work, it’s just something that each of the groups get on with. They connect with one another, and the ideas and exchanges seem to flow. Each group has to put together a wiki page on the DMU Commons Wiki, that they work on collaboratively, and which acts as a central point for information about the group and the activities that they undertake.
Learners are demonstrating a wide range of media production skills in the process, such as the Extreme Ironing group’s video. The Snooker Club’s video, The Friends group and the blog promoted by the Sweet Style blogs. It’s the best piece of coursework I’ve set in ages. I’m looking forward to marking the blogs that are being written about the experience over Easter. If you want to read more head over to DIY-DMU.