Feb 052014

Collaborative media skills are used extensively by learners on TECH1002 Social Media & Technology, TECH2002 Social Media Production, TECH3022 Advanced Social Media Production, with the potential to be used in many other modules within the Leicester Media School. These modules focus primarily on the use and critical development of digital literacies, promoting active participation in social media production communities. Underpinning the pedagogic practice of the modules is a recognition that “In an information age… it becomes essential to prepare students for… new literacies because they are central to the use of information and the acquisition of knowledge. Traditional definitions of literacy and literacy instruction will be insufficient if we seek to provide students with the futures they deserve” (Donald J. Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004).

In supporting this learners are encouraged to avoid the ‘banking’ model of learning, and instead approach their use of online or digital media as a participant in a community of practice. As Jones & Hafner suggest “the five main changes that we see as most relevant to the kinds of literacy practices that will be required in the ‘new work order’. They are: 1) a shift away from manufacturing work to ‘knowledge work’, 2) the distribution of work across large geographic distances, 3) a de-emphasis on the ‘workplace’ as a place where people work, 4) a flattening of hierarchies within organisation, and 5) a weakening of the relationships between employers and employees” (Jones & Hafner, 2012, p. 175). In emphasising collaborative knowledge and production techniques and relationships there is a need for learners, therefore, to reflexively analyse their own status as a participant in a network of co-learners and collaborators.

In embracing these techniques, as Rheingold argues, it is important to not that with the “proliferation of literacies and divides that accompany them are a real problem. It isn’t easy to maintain a high level of basic reading and writing literacy, and the percentage of the population that can afford the time and money to learn additional multiple literacies is undoubtedly going to remain small, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an elite. The multiliterate can be a public – a networked public” (Rheingold, 2012, p. 253). None of which can be done, however, without testing the framing within which digital and social media literacies are enabled. Incorporated in these forms of practice and reflection, therefore, is an emphasis on critical questions and responses to the dominant and mainstream use of media. Using Belshaw’s elements of digital literacy learners are asked to self-evaluate their own practices and review each of the critical elements that are closest to their experience of  ‘media literacy’. According to Belshaw “Questions relevant here include: who is the audience? who is included? who is excluded? what are the assumptions behind this text? and so on’” (Belshaw, 2013, p. 53).

The use and practice of the DMU Commons is structured around the following themes:

  • Principles of Collaboration – how media production is increasingly co-developed and co-produced.
  • Critical Encounters with Media – encourage learners to reflect on how they define, access, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate using digital and social media.
  • Strategic Analysis: learners are expected to show awareness of the cultural, cognitive, constructive,  and communicative practices that the undertake, so that they can reflect on their effectiveness in and confidence in producing creative work that has a civic usefulness founded in critical reflection.
  • Employability Skills: many production companies now use collaborative and social media tools to support production, encourage innovation and to open the process of intellectual practice and knowledge work as a collaborative practice. This recognises the shift away from block audiences, linear production management techniques, and the enhanced status of networks and non-linear knowledge management skills.
  • Practice and Experience: These skills are most effectively taught through forms of practice that make use of shared resources, collective knowledge development, real-time information management, decentralised moderation, peer and network interactions.

DMU Commons Blogs:


wpid-Future-Media-001-2014-02-5-14-191.jpgExperiential Learning: allows learners to showcase their work, build an online persona, collaborate in a web-document, integrate and embed other social media tools, reflexively evaluate their social media use, face outwards into wider media production and social media communities.

Literacies Acquired: blog development, reflexive writing, still and moving image appreciation and use, persona development through reflexive practice, social media networking skills networking, WordPress shortcodes,


Blackboard Wiki:

wpid-Blackboard-Wiki-001-2014-02-5-14-191.jpgThis is a limited tool that does not reflect general practice in the real-world. Learners produce content only for themselves and their tutors, limiting their expectations that the wiki entries that they make have the potential to be found, linked-to, quoted and challenged on the World Wide Web. Ring-fenced media practice opportunities delay learning as they give learners a false sense of security, a limited expectation and ambition to innovate and experiment, and a limited desire to ‘bank’ their knowledge with their tutor, rather than exchange it in a wider knowledge economy of which they are legitimate and responsible practitioners.

Media Wiki:


wpid-Media-Wiki-001-2014-02-5-14-191.jpgAccording to Schneider, Beneto & Ruchat “Mediawiki, the technology developed for Wikipedia, has interesting affordances for supporting a range of teaching and other scholarly activities” (Schneider, Benetos, & Ruchat, 2013). They argue that Mediawikis facilitate the integration of diverse academic activities, the combination of learning management with knowledge management, and do so at a reasonable cost. Media Wiki is a standard format for wikis, as the platform that supports Wikipedia, the worlds largest and most accessed wiki, it has a strong founding in open-source development, not-for-profit knowledge exchange, reliability, cost-effective resource use, collaborative moderation of content and usability (with some simple instruction). It is not ‘coding’ or ‘programming’ heavy to use, it has a very robust discussion and moderation capability, and it offers increased integration with many content management systems and social media applications.


Host a DMU Commons Wiki that can be used as a shared network resource by students and staff at De Montfort University based on the Media Wiki platform. Promote the wiki as a knowledge-exchange community that brings learners, researchers and collaborators together to share information, ideas and academic best-practice. Media Wiki can be linked to the LDAP server so only enrolled students, researchers and staff at DMU will be able to access the wiki for editing and moderation purposes. Integrating Media Wiki skills in the taught module provision of the social media production modules, and encouraging other colleagues and learners to take-up the facility will generate usage and on-going monitoring of the system by a group of core users, with other moderators and users encouraged to participate through CELT.


Belshaw, D. (2013). Essential Elements of Digital Literacies   Retrieved from http://dougbelshaw.com/ebooks/digilit/

Donald J. Leu, J., Kinzer, C. K., Coiro, J. L., & Cammack, D. W. (2004). Toward a Theory of New Literacies Emerging From the Internet and Other Information and Communication Technologies. In R. B. Ruddell & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart – How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Schneider, D. K., Benetos, K., & Ruchat, M. (2013). Mediawikis for Research, Teaching and Learning   Retrieved from http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Mediawikis_for_research,_teaching_and_learning


Nov 202013

How easy is it to start blogging? What’s it like to make the move from being a personal consumer of media to a personal producer of media? I’ve just sent feedback to my first year social media production students covering their first steps in the world of blogging.

There’s been a good mix of work, with some excellent examples of blogs beginning to filter into the Future Media blog site. There are a good number of bloggers studying on the module, who are making interesting comments about the media that they are passionate about.

The point it to try to develop the skills for this from the ground up, rather than imposing a rigid hierarchy of expectations from the top down. It’s about trying to find the small ideas that will give these budding bloggers a sense of validation about their posts, and to encourage them to keep blogging, and include lots of different types of media.

I’m hoping to see and share some useful experiments in media production, with self-produced videos, podcasts and photographs being shared on the blogs. We each have our own unique point of view on the world and what is happening in it. Blogs are a great way of sharing that view and encouraging other people to have empathy and sensitivity to those points of view.

I’m also keen to explore how this content becomes spreadable and generates a sense of social impact. Does a blog have to have impact? Not really. It might just be written as an amusement of the writer and for the amusement of the reader? Though if it gets to the heart of a more contentious and wider-reaching issue then it stands a greater chance of being spread and picked-up by other people.

At the heart of this style of blogging is the active sense of participation and community that bloggers develop, even if they are separated by thousands of miles and by some pretty steep cultural distances. We all aspire to have fun and to capture a sense of play through which creativity is born. This isn’t about getting things right or wrong, or meeting other people’s expectations. It’s about doing something valuable that we as individuals find meaning in, and which other people might also find valuable and useful, even if only for a moment.

Oct 232013

Since the start of the term I’ve been introducing first year BSc Media Production students to bloging as part of their module TECH1002 Social Media & Technology. The aim is to get each student to share and post content on their own individual DMU Commons blog and then to share posts that are relevant to the Future Media site.

We started off in week one by setting up a basic account on the DMU Commons. First of all we changed things such as how the user names are displayed, what the domain for the site is called, and how to set up categories. This went well, and each of the students is now up and running with their own individual blog that they are free to post to whenever and however they want.

wpid-dscf1262-2013-10-23-11-341.jpgI asked everyone to add a ‘category’ to their blog called Future Media, so that when a post is created, and the learner feels that it is relevant to the work we are doing in the module, they can select that category and it will be pulled into the Future Media site from an RSS feed and shared with all the other learners on the module – and beyond. This means that all the learners on the module are listed as contributors to the Future Media site, which is acting as an online aggregation point, or even magazine, of their posts.

The links to each of the posts points back to the original blog site, so each learner gets the chance to build more followers for their own site, who can read and interact with any other blog posts that the learner is posting. We’ve covered a lot of ground quite quickly since week one. Some learners have integrated their Twitter feeds into the sidebars. Some have started to embed YouTube videos, and everyone is starting to use hyperlinks to connect to other sites, articles and feeds of interest. I’ll be encouraging all the bloggers to experiment with different forms of media. They are all keen on producing video, audio and images, so why not showcase this work in a portfolio of blogs!

wpid-dscf1266-2013-10-23-11-341.jpgThe challenge now is to enhance the Future Media site with a better sense of graphic design, and a gallery of images that can be shared publicly. We also need to develop a moderation policy, so that any issues that might push the boundaries are dealt with sympathetically and appropriately. I’m hoping we can do this by self-management and peer-working, rather than trying to impose a centralised and hierarchical policy on everyone. This is going to be crucial to the ongoing success of the work we are doing, and I’ll be reflecting on it quite regularly.

Underpinning this is a focus on building individual and group capabilities in collaborative and social media. I’m asking learners to think about what capabilities they need to develop as producers of social media content, what kinds of sociability they will need to practice and perform in order to make their posts engaging and attention worthy? In trying to make this as ‘playful’ as possible at this stage, and working in reflection and analysis later, I’m hoping that we can cover the initial ground more quickly, before we really start to reflect on the processes and the affordance of social media production.

I’m very grateful to Andrew Clay for passing on such a well-developed and organised module. The clarity of the rational, the focus on critical and technical practice is clear. The challenge in moving away from a linear mind-set of media production, with a sense of externalised authority, to one that is interactive and sociable can’t be underestimated. This module is proving a great learning experience for myself, never mind the enrolled learners. I’m looking forward to expanding my thoughts on the process and the tools of social collaboration. It’s something I’ve been working on for years in other work I’ve been doing, trying to develop a more collegiate and social form of working. So this module is taking up many of the themes that have been in the back of my mind, from a more practical and experiential perspective. The key difference here is the extent to which this module affords me and my fellow learners with the ability to reflect and analyse this process as we go along.

Oct 222013

Here’s a collection of photos from the TECH1002 labs.