Sep 072017
 

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.

May 122016
 

This week I’ve been watching vlogs made by the learners on TECH1502 Introduction to Community Media. I’ve really enjoyed listening to the thoughts and ideas about what has been learnt over the year, and how learners have gained a different perspective on what community media is and why it is different from mainstream and commercial media. I need to do some of this vlogging stuff, everyone is so much better at it than me – I’ve got a lot to learn!

Nov 072015
 

I’ve escaped from Leicester for a couple of days to take a break over the weekend and recharge my batteries. Rather like Superman when he stands in the suns glare, I will head towards the River Mersey and stand at the Pier Head and take in the spray of salt water, the cold wind whipping off the Irish Sea, and contemplate the slate grey sky that forms the backdrop to the Liverpool seafront.

I’ve been enjoying running my modules this year, and have settled into the themes with more confidence, as I’ve been able to develop them and add content that is more to my liking and my tastes. It’s a challenge to run three modules simultaneously, and to refresh the content as I go along. ‘It’s doing the working and the thinking that tires a fellow out!’ Now where did I hear that?

One of the things I’ve introduced to my first year social media module is getting the students to play cards for the first twenty minutes. It’s been useful for a couple of reasons. Firstly it means that the learners are able to sit and chat and get to know one another more easily, as the groups vary each week, and they often teach each other different games. Some students have played cards with their families and friends for years, while others are new to them. What I hope they are gaining from having a couple of short hands of either Pontoon, Rummy, Blackjack or Bullshit, is a sense of sociability and a sense of collaboration while engaging in something that is playful and distracting.

I always introduce a topic of suggested conversation related to the lectures I’ve delivered, and as we’ve been finding our way into thinking about media and the process of mediation through bands like The Velvet Underground, Talking Heads, Roxy Music and The Art of Noise, then we’ve been discussing how art has often been closely associated with pop culture. So we’ve mentioned Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton, and Italian Futurists – anything that connects the world of popular music with the world of ideas, alternative ways of viewing the world. I’m hoping that by looking back on some music movements of the past, these students might be inspired to create something for themselves. I wonder if any of them will form a band, or write a manifesto?

Likewise, I’m developing an introductory module to Community Media, which is something that has emerged from the ongoing PhD work. It’s a bit like building the railway line as the train is moving down the tracks. There’s a lot of trying things out and looking for live wires that can be used as a contrasting example between mainstream media, and community media’s more DIY and alternative approach. The students have hit on the idea quite quickly that community media is about giving a platform and a space for people who would otherwise not have a voice to speak and be heard.

We are experimenting with a story about people cycling on the pavement, and looking at how mainstream media in Leicester have covered it, and how alternative and independent media might look at this as a story. We’ll write blogs about it, perhaps put a news article together based on what we find out, and record a podcast based on the ideas and responses that can be collected and found when we talk with our friends and neighbours.

I’ve also been developing the final year social media module, that has taken the excessive use of sugar in our diets as a campaign issue, and is looking at ways that social media might be used to change peoples attitudes to the processed foods that we over-consume as a society. Our efforts where given a good kick this week when Keith Vaz MP told Coca Cola that their Christmas lorry wasn’t welcome in Leicester. This is a story that has stirred up a lot of controversy and has generated loads of comments on social media, and is a great example of how embedded attitudes to a consumer product and brand can be difficult to shift and change.

We are only at the end of week five, and there is some considerable way to go with these modules, with lots of marking and assignments to come in. So I’m going to use the week six reading week as an opportunity to get some reading done myself, start some marking, and maybe get ahead in preparing some classes, while also seeing if I can work through some of my PhD chapters that need writing. So no rest then, but at least I’m not on the hamster wheel for a couple of days.

Apr 012015
 

The past year has been one of curriculum development, in which I have primarily focused on the leadership and delivery of the modules TECH1002 and TECH3022, supervising project students, and supervising the delivery of TECH3026. This involved:

  • TECH1002 Social Media & Technology – this year I have further developed lectures, workshops and assessment activities to support learners understanding of digital mediation, network culture, digital identity and collaborative media. This year I introduced the DMU Commons Wiki as part of the module activities in order to promote and test collaborative learning practices and skills. I have further developed the use of blogs as part of the role of a social media practitioner that learners are modelling. I have strengthened the approach to the examination and the expected requirements for associated reading.
  • TECH3022 Advanced Social Media Production – this year I have introduced and developed a focus on digital capabilities, digital activism, digital literacies, and digital sociology (netnogtaphy). Engagement with social media has centred on a campaign to raise awareness about processed food, sugar and carbohydrate rich diets. Learners participated in a social media project to support a campaign directed through the www.noquartergiven.co.uk site. Learners worked collaboratively using the DMU Commons Wiki http://wiki.our.dmu.ac.uk and other social media tools.
  • TECH3026 Creative Media Entrepreneurship – while I failed to win support for the continuation of Seed Creativity Ltd running this module, I am satisfied that the operation and standard of delivery of this module will produce satisfactory learner engagement and progression.
  • TECH3010 Project Supervision – there has been a low turn-out from learners at the regular supervision sessions I held.

In addition to the above teaching duties I have contributed to the validation of the BA Communication Arts course, by writing three templates for modules based on Community Media. I have continued to build my external academic profile, both in terms of research, teaching & learning and support for external community media. I am an active blogger and social media user. I am an external examiner at Liverpool John Mores University. I am a council member of the Community Media Association. I have asked for an extension to my PhD registration so I can continue to collate and write material. My submission deadline is now expected to be the end of September 2015. Following advice from the (now former) Deputy Dean I have continued to refraining from engaging in administrative initiatives and management activities in order to focus on academic work and the completion of my PhD, and to maintain a satisfactory and work-life balance.

Three priorities have emerged that I wish to take forward in both my learning and teaching activities, and in the support I can offer to colleagues in the Leicester Media School. All are associated with the idea of Social Learning.

Firstly, I wish to reinforce the practice of verbal instruction and note taking with undergraduate learners. There is a low sense of expectation demonstrated by new learners on TECH1002 that they are required to take notes in lectures and workshops. Many learners seem to have only a limited sense that they are expected to attend lectures and workshop sessions, and that when they do they are required to make notes. Subsequently, learners who do not attend, and who do not make note, are often the ones who struggle to perform at the required level, and often find it difficult to complete assignments independently. While this can be expected as part of the process of orientation and enculturation to different learning styles at Level Four, the speed at which learners make this change can be uneven, and for some, problematic. I will therefore trial the Social Learning approach, and test through the use of small-group discussions and ‘talk-aoke’ sessions, if learners can be encouraged to engage with informal discussion of the reading material associated with the weekly taught sessions. I will be looking for them to use appropriate academic language and concepts in these discussions, and to exhibit some fluency for the concepts that are considered. Learners will be given clear expectations that evidence of reading and discussion ought to be reflected in their blog and wiki posts. In addition, and as a fundamental principle of delivery, I will primarily engage in face-to-face interaction with learners. This face-to-face interaction will be clearly signposted as an alternative to email, Blackboard and other forms of electronic communication, and will stress the benefits of learning how to interact with tutors directly. The lab arrangements for the delivery of the social media modules are at present far from satisfactory, with no regular activity-base to work from that is dedicated to the development of a social-learning approach (i.e. café style seating, comfortable sofas, round table displays). It is a common occurrence for many learners from other courses to use the same rooms (often being the only place that the can access bespoke software), which puts additional stress on the learning sessions being developed here, and provides an inappropriate justification for a significant number of learners to consider being absent – i.e., that the room is full and they won’t be missed.

My second priority is to support colleagues in the Leicester Media School to develop the capability and use of social learning tools, and collaborative development/production tools. Often the general approach to communication within the Faculty of Technology is to cascade emails. This is a failing approach that doesn’t build knowledge communities based on collegiality, mutual engagement or transparency. Email and hierarchical management practices don’t allow for the shared and de-centred approach to learning, curriculum development and professional practice. By identifying and testing different models of social collaboration, learning and peer-based project work, it should be possible to iron-out many of the communication issues that are prevalent in a large organisation such as the LMS. With the aim to reduce operational log-jams, improve two-way communication, facilitate longer-term planning, allow for a more inclusive set of decision-making practices, and to build an identity around the core practices of the community of learners that make up the LMS. These peer-based learning and professional practice approaches are difficult to integrate within standard daily routines, but when established they will help to foster a ‘community of practice’ type approach and support a shared and collective intelligence ethos among colleagues that might otherwise go unrecognised, unreported and unsupported.

The third priority I wish to continue to support, is the work I have started in TECH3022, looking at social media as an advocacy tool for digital activists, ethnographic researchers and campaigners. Working with issues associated with the Obesity and Diabetes epidemic gives learners an opportunity to develop social media skills related to a platform of action and awareness raising that satisfies a clear social need; questions established social values, and, allows learners to practice creative forms of social media production. By questioning the prevailing culture of processed food and carbohydrate-rich food-like-substances, and by advocating the Low Carb ethos, learners have to demonstrate their ability to research, comprehend and situate a complex and controversial set of issues. Learners also have to be able to reflect on their own experience of food consumption, and generate insights that are relevant to the wider social discussion about obesity and diabetes, particularly as issues of weight carry a significant social stigma. As well as practicing creative approaches to producing engaging content that resonates with an audience of engaged participants, the social learning approach adopted here also allows for the clear demonstration of the impact of practical literacies, skills and know how (in this case food but with a reference to digital media), and how media/digital literacies might similarly be adopted and sustained on a grassroots and participant-led basis. There is considerable scope to develop a research platform within this topic area and subject, that can be linked with credible public services and advocacy bodies, as well as the LMS being seen to take a lead on a debate of significant public interest. [Prof Richard Hall has cited this as an example of good practice on his blog posted on The DMU Centre for Pedagogic Research http://cpr.our.dmu.ac.uk/2015/03/18/on-assessment-and-feedback-some-notes-on-student-as-producer/]

I am aiming to submit my PhD thesis for September 2015, and hope to continue to be associated with the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility afterwards. I will be submitting a separate IRP outlining this. Upon completion of my PhD I want to aim for Readership so that I can develop my research and publication paper output in issues around collaborative and community media. This will involve developing research projects that support community-based organisations who seek to build and sustain capabilities, skills, resources and awareness in the use of digital tools for social media production, social learning and social network development, either as communities of interest, identity, practice or locality. I aim to do this within the CCSR’s remit as a learning community that accounts for the use and deployment of computer mediated communication practices and their ethical and social consequences. I believe that this will support the aims of the Media, Design & Production Subject Group, as a community of practice itself, and the wider Leicester Media School, by fostering collaboration and engagement with partners in other academic communities.

Nov 022013
 

If community media is to be given proper credit and support it needs to be embedded within courses that allow for the examination of practice and principles. What are the key issues that need to be considered when developing courses and learning opportunities associated with community media?

I’m working with John Coster of Citizens Eye [http://citizenseye.org] as part of my research work, and we’ve been discussing and testing an idea to develop formal training opportunities in community media, both within formal education settings, and as part of informal social networks and communities.

I’m looking to float and test some of the ideas a little further, and specifically the development of a pair of undergraduate modules to be offered by the Leicester Media wpid-wpid-rwm_0068-2013-06-12-11-54-2013-06-12-11-54.jpgSchool, focussing on Community Media as a set of participant-led production practices and as a vehicle for personal, civic and community development.

I’ve attached a document that gives a thumbnail outline of two modules that I hope could be offered across the LMS, one at level five for 2014 and one at level six for 2015.

I would appreciate any feedback and thoughts about the scope of the proposals, the level that they are pitched, and what forms of collaborative development within DMU – and with external partners – we might pursue?

There’s a discussion thread on The Community Media Forum. Apply to join, and any comments can be shared with other community media activists.

If you want to get a sense of the community media projects I’ve been working with, my blog has some posts and podcasts that outline some of the activities I’ve been engaged with.

http://robwatsonmedia.net/category/communitymedia/

Level 5 Community Media Production – Principles & Practices [2014/15 Delivery]

Rationale: Community and collaborative media aim to promote and develop the voices, social presence and skills of ordinary people in grassroots and marginalised communities. As a third-tier of media, outside and distinct from commercial and public sector media, community media faces a number of challenges that would otherwise limit its measurable social impact, and which make sustainability in the sector hard to achieve. This module aims to account for and critically examine the principles and regimes of community media ideas and concepts, while giving learners the opportunity to experience and develop skills as practitioners of community and collaborative media through engagement with active community media organisations.

Outcomes: At the end of this module learners will be able to demonstrate:

• An ability to use and evaluate key terms and concepts associated with community and collaborative media, and to use these terms and concepts to undertake critical assessments and interventions in debates associated with of community media practices, organisation and policy.

• An ability to develop, produce and share – responsibly and ethically – content and media products within a community media group or network.

Prerequisite: It is essential to be able to demonstrate skills in media production, collaborative and social media and critical and contextual analysis at level four.

Theme 1: Community Media Principles
Participation; community representation; civic activism, representation; grassroots organisation; alternative media; co-operative and membership association; collaborative networks; alternative voices; history of community media activism; legislative agendas; funding regimes & economic models.

Theme 2: Community Media Practices
Citizen media; sourcing stories;, hyperlocalism; communities of interest; ethical practice; staying safe; open source & free media; creative commons media; staying on the right side of the law, NCTJ diploma.

Theme 3: Community Media Case Studies
Local Media – Citizens Eye, Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery, EavaFM, Takeover Radio…
National Media – ResonanceFM, Community Media Association, Radio Regen…

Theme 4: Community Media Social Impact
Alternative voices; civic empowerment; working with marginalised people; social gain; local political activism; community regeneration.

Delivery: A combination of lectures, practical workshops and project work, utilising e-learning, collaborative media and network tools.

Level 6 Community Media Production – Development & Impact [2015/16 Delivery]

Rationale: Community and collaborative media have a global significance, being championed and promoted in many parts of the world as development platforms for the enhancement and building of personal, social and civic literacies and skills within grassroots and marginalised communities. As a third-tier of media, outside and distinct from commercial and public sector media, community media organisations can be non-governmental, ad-hoc and anti-corporate, and therefore face a number of challenges in achieving long-term sustainability. This module aims to critically examine the national and transnational policy discourse of international community media development, and will give learners the opportunity to explore how the management and organisational structures and interactions of community media can be used to promote the social gain objectives of collaborative, grassroots and networked volunteers and participants.

Outcome: At the end of this module learners will be able to demonstrate:
• An ability to use and evaluate key terms and concepts associated with international community and collaborative media development and to use these terms and concepts to undertake critical assessments and interventions in debates associated with of international community media practices, organisation and policy.

• An ability to develop, produce and share – responsibly and ethically – content and media products within an international community media group or network.

Prerequisite: It is essential to have undertaken the previous level five community media production module, unless significant acquired prior learning or experience can be demonstrated.

Theme 1: Community Media Partnerships
Working with the third-sector, local authorities, education providers, professional bodies, regulators and trusts. Networking with activist, faith & community interest groups. Challenging stereotypes & barriers between organisations, communities & people(s).

Theme 2: Community Media Volunteering & Participation
Hearing all voices; communication for volunteering; project management for voluntary groups; recognising and rewarding volunteers; hosting & moderating discussion; managing realistic expectations; building capabilities and literacies.

Theme 3: Community Media Funding & Development
Making partnerships work; forms of organisation – cooperatives and members associations; sources of mainstream & alternative income; applying for awards; ITC infrastructure development; financial management & accountability; community regeneration.

Theme 4: Community Media Global Perspectives
International networks of community media practice, research & public policy; international development goals & bodies; development challenges – building capabilities & literacies; intra- & extra-community communication; case-studies of supporting organisations – i.e. Media Trust, Unesco, European Community, BBC World Service Trust, etc.

Delivery: A combination of lectures, practical workshops and project work, utilising e-learning, collaborative media and network tools.