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Complete summary of @UWSInteractive Festival 2012: So what’s next?

Last week was a blast. It has taken me 4 days to archive the social media content that was produced during the first @UWSInteractive Festival, and 4 days to come to terms with the sheer amount of energy behind the event that lasted 4 days across 4 locations in the South West of Scotland.

This was the first time since UWS was formed has their been a series of connected events to occur across all areas of the university’s catchment area and now having driven the entire distance between them in one week, you can really see and feel the size of the area that UWS covers as a ‘local’ university.

Below is the round up of each day of the festival, based on the tweets, images and videos from participants and partners and hosted using Storify.

Day 1: Social Media for Community Engagement, The Cat Strand (New Galloway)

We started the week in Dumfries and Galloway, where we have a campus based in Dumfries. The first day was formed from a previous public engagement project that was funded by the South of Scotland Business Solutions and aims to support local independent businesses in the South of Scotland.

Working with an existing community network that we has encountered during the first part of the SoSBS project in November (social media surgeries for small businesses), we met with the Glenkens Community and Arts Trust and hosted a community news cafe, workshops on community engagement and an afternoon of idea generating for the final section of the project, towards community education programs provided by UWS.

The archive from day 1 is here.

Day 2: Launch of #citizenrelay -from 2012 to 2014 in media and mega events. (Hamilton)

Tuesday brought us to Hamilton Campus, that specialises in events and journalism and to the launch of the #citizenrelay project, part of #media2012 network and aims to follow the torch relay across Scotland, covering the alternative stories of the event. There was plenty of free workshops and stands set up with our visiting partners and UWS students covered the event as part of their coursework.

The archive from the launch is here.

Day 3: Social Media Surgeries, Film Making and Screen Acting @UWSAyr

The new Ayr campus was officially opened just before Christmas and hosts some excellent film making and screen facilities, as well as having an amazing central atrium that is acts as a meeting space for both UWS and Scottish Agricultural College students. There were workshops from citizen’s eye, somewhereto_ and the library, careers and student support – as well as contemporary screen acting students producing a play in under 6 hours. The event concluded with a teachmeet and a dogwoof documentary pop up cinema screening of Blood in the Mobile.

The archive from day 3 is available here.

Day 4: Launching @UWSInteractive Social Media Alliance, @UWSPaisley

The week concluded with a social media roadshow in the library learning space on the Paisley campus. This formed the basis of the next steps for UWS Interactive, moving it from a one-off week long festival to a longer, more relentless project centred around social media for learning and teaching, support, research and external activities – beginning with those who took part this week, with the aim to grow support and training over the next few months.

The final archive is available here.

Next Steps:

I’ve converted the UWSInteractive festival website from a schedule to a wider resource, where over the next few weeks I am going to profile UWS staff and students who are using social media in their day to day work practice – as well as connecting to our external partners who can offer mentoring and support in this area. It is hoped that @UWSInteractive, the event, will have given people enough energy and confidence to take forward a more coherent and connected support network or as I’ve started calling it, the UWS Social Media Alliance. Stay tuned.

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Podcast: A case study of a university’s ‘grassroots’ digital strategy #uwsltas

As well as being interviewed by Mark Carrigan on the distinctions on the use of social media in the university for learning and teaching, I was also asked to give my thoughts on what a digital strategy for university might look like. This also fits into the on-going discussions around UWS’s current learning and teaching strategy on the hashtag #uwsltas. You can listen to this podcast on Mark’s website here.

(In terms of accessibility, I would like to transcribe the interview at a later date.) 

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Podcast: Training, teaching or empowering people with social media? #uwsltas

I was recently interviewed by Mark Carrigan on the distinctions on the use of social media in the university for learning and teaching for a research project he is conducting on behalf of the University of Warwick. This fits into the on-going discussions around UWS’s current learning and teaching strategy on the hashtag #uwsltas. You can listen to the podcast on Mark’s website here.

(In terms of accessibility, I would like to transcribe the interview at a later date.) 

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Project: Championing Social Media Practice through Student/Academic Partnerships at @UWSInteractive

I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to announced several opportunities through two different, but very connected projects that I am part of at the University of the West of Scotland.

The first is the opportunity to recruit current UWS students as social media student champions to work alongside academics and support staff to deliver social media surgeries during the UWS Interactive Festival that I am curating in May.

Details of this are available on the UWS Interactive website. The deadline is this friday (24th Feb)

The second is part of a bigger project called #citizenrelay, that is part of #media2012, the citizen news wire for the London 2012 Olympic Games, that Dr David McGillivray is leading on. I developed the website, the host platform for citizen media content and the accompanying literature around #citizenrelay (including the branding) so for me, it is exciting to promote opportunities to recruit eight interns across the entirety of Scotland, in collaboration with colleges and HEIs, to work alongside both of us (and the wider #media2012 network) to cover the alternative stories of the torch.

There will be a second call for #citizenrelay reporters in the coming months, who will be supported by the interns, to follow the torch for two days in their designated area. It is hoped that through the relay process, we will be able to gather a more in-depth picture of Scotland during 2012 than the accredited media outlets, and who knows, be able to break a story or two!

For details of the intern role and the citizen relay in general click here. There will be a #citizenrelay launch event during UWS Interactive Festival on the 6th of March, all welcome.

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Social Media for the School of the Midwifery Workshop #uwsltas

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of running a session about social media for the school of midwifery at the University of the West of Scotland, something, based on my experiences when trying out new contexts, that I thought would be an unusual request and a challenging topic to deliver. It turns out that it was actually one of the most engaging sessions that I had done in a long time, and so far removed from the backlash that I am used to hearing from at least within my own discipline.

Although I had prepared some materials, I decided that it was better to focusing on the whys and the hows, rather than acting as if I was pitching a various range of platforms (that many of these sessions end up being, a sales pitch for the latest web technology platform) – where the common role was to establish a dynamic presence that allows for the particular subject area to create a site that can promote department events, share interesting information, encourage reflective discussion online and as a service for students who are out on placement. Something that can be managed across a number of people, rather than relying on an ‘official’ top down process that currently exist.

We’ve been doing this for a while now on the likes of @UWSCreative, our school’s blog which is literally ran on the free and hosted version of wordpress.com and has been in use for the last 4-5 years as a portal for just sharing the things we are up to in the same place. Much of these things, although important, aren’t really press release material but still deserves recognition on an internal and external level – that is, communities of practice, student work, research outputs, presentations, events, stuff we life and so on. Although it’s not perfect, and will probably benefit from a redesign soon and a review of strategy, it has been the start of something that has led to other wordpress-hosted projects such as the creative futures research centre that I’m part of, the skillset media academy and the uwsdigital consultancy site.

The freedom to establish coherent identities in the same way that the ideas have been constructed in the first place – fluid, organic, creative – is one of the reasons why it is important that as a university that we allow/encourage people to build their own sites for groups, projects, courses, schools and any other circumstances that could benefit from a working-space online, rather than simply an official website and a VLE. This is not a space that should be corporate and controlled (there is a purpose for them with regards to making sure information about institution is uniformed and a window to the world), this is a creative, autonomous, conversational space – similar to the environment you get when you hang around a university canteen or local coffee shop – a space to generate ideas and work through them with the community that benefits from them. Equally important as the ‘official’ top-down strategies, which may mean well but require much more than simply projecting/enforcing policy in a hope that it might stick.

 So…

Rather than it being a technical workshop (as I promised myself I would never do one of those again, despite getting a bit of a confidence knock when I gave a session before xmas where the participants were resistant to changes to format and delivery, expecting a straight forward lecture and chalk and talk.), the session worked more as a brainstorming/myth busting session, focussing on what they might do after when they leave the room, rather than bombarding with the possibilities on different levels. The point of this should be that it is easier to do than to get somebody else to manage it or to outsource it to a commercial company and can be picked up through the practice of doing it, rather than the ticking of a box to say that a social media training session has been attended. It is a collaborative process, which works when people use it and have a purpose to – rather than the assumption that building it that people will find it and use it.

From the two hour discussion, we prepared a set of objectives and processes that would lead to the potential development of a website that acted as a hub for the particular program. The elements that it would contain would be discussed and planned out, as well as brain storming ideas that potential content could be. We also looked at the possibility of working on ongoing social media surgeries, a discussion that myself, David McGillivray, Gordon Hunt and others -such as the Skillset Media Academy – have already been having in terms of ongoing support and development, that would feed into the general maintenance of the site, that would also allow for the process to be reviewed organically and new ideas tested and tried out across faculties. Encouragingly, one participant Linda, went away that evening any set up her own wordpress blog just to experiment about how quick and easy it was to do, and tested the possibilities as a space for sharing discussions and content. All very positive and encouraging in terms of outcomes of a session.

As promised, a list of links to the websites that were discussed that you can have a go with using:

WordPress.com: Free blogging/website building platform. Dead versatile, can be used for personal projects, group projects and can be customised to suit purpose. It’s also transferable if you ever want to leave or import existing content into it. There are a bunch of simple tutorials available here – but you can also use google to search for more specific problems.

Slideshare.net: For sharing and hosting slides, documents and .pdfs so that you can ‘embed’ them in places such as a VLE, a website or even facebook. Good for getting more people to see your work, but also a really useful resource for getting ideas for slides or inspiration for presentations.

Flickr.com: A photo-sharing website where you can host your own photos and can feed into a website easily. It’s also a good place for finding photographs for your own posts (if you don’t own a suitable one) – you can use them freely if available on a creative commons license. Same goes for open access journals and exploring alternatives to copyrighted materials.

AudioBoo and ipadio: Quick, easy audio-sharing sites. Great for making podcasts using a smartphone – or with ipadio, from a bog standard landline.

There are also the usual suspects such as facebook (for groups and student related discussion, an additional space to share content), twitter (an official department account would be a good start, but also encouraged to set up your own account to stay in touch with others in the university and in your field) and youtube (for tutorials, but also really easy to upload video of your own from events or discussions).

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Why Social Media Surgeries Work… @UWSDigital #uwsltas

Social Media Surgeries in Melrose on Flickr

Last week we completed the final set of social media surgeries, the first half of the project that I’ve been part of  in the south of Scotland. So far I’ve made 6 round trips (and about to make the 7th) to Scotland in 6 weeks (a new record even for me), equating to over 4000 miles on the project alone (not including the ad-hoc trips to London and Manchester in between). Of course, part of this is my doing, living in Loughborough and working in Birmingham one day a week – it could be easier if I just stayed in Ayr for duration – but then I could get to do what I do, Ayr’s too far away from everywhere else, including the rest of Scotland (believe me, I spent 21 years finding that out.) Which is ironic really, when I’ve been working on a project that very much concerns the local and the face-to-face and how the internet can help small organisations in part of Scotland that lack the same resources that I’ve been accustomed to over the past 5 years.

The project was spread across 3 areas, Dumfries, New Galloway and Melrose – all in very different locations and venues, all with a very different set of local businesses and organisations, different networks, who had their own needs, expectations and requirements around the use of social media. I’ve spoken to people who have a business without a website, to award-winning young entrepreneurs who are addicted to their iphone and what facebook has allowed them to do with their business. I’ve reassured people that they personally don’t need to use social media *at all* – but to respect that others that they work with might need their support and understanding in company meetings – and I’ve met many who have been locked into awful contracts with web development companies who have charged thousands, to have blocked access to administration rights to their own website.

In 4 weeks, I’ve personally spoken to 30 independent businesses – and I’ve learnt a great deal about each of the regions, the united force of those who already use social media to not only promote their businesses, but also the areas as a whole. I could not have done this if I was expected to deliver the support as a 30 spaces collective workshop. I would have not have been able to prepare a session that could help a golf course in the same way as a jewellery maker or a creative copywriter that was beyond simply talking about technicalities of tools. Each session that I did do was vastly different from the next, and there wasn’t a single moment where I felt as if I was repeating myself. I can’t say it solved all the problems of the world, but it was tailored and it was personalised. I had to think on my feet lots, which I prefer to rattling from a script, but overall it just worked and we left each time with an amazing buzz from spending time with a range of different and passionate people.

Now I wish to see how this can be taken further, or used in a different context. For instance, UWS are currently implementing a new learning, teaching and assessment strategy (#uwsltas on twitter) across the university – something where social media platforms have cropped up on several occasions, from using posterous as a tool for consultation, to having our library live-tweet the proceedings of ltas dialogues happening across campuses. I see social media as a bit of a trojan horse in a way, it is now at the stage where those who may have not looked at it previously are now asking for the crash course in adoption – and I think the notion of social media surgeries/drop-ins could work nicely in a higher education context. Having already ranting about social media workshops in previous posts, where sometimes attendance is shifty and expectations are varied, and the importance of research/teaching practice is lost in the shine of uncritical technology, drop in sessions would be a much better use of time both in terms of resolving specific issues and widening networks across faculties and services within the university. I could also see it happening in the classroom, as I write between student 1-2-1s in my own classroom, where I didn’t provide an opportunity to sign up for specific slots, I just be somewhere for a couple of hours and be online at the same time. I’ve had higher numbers than previous years – and I’ve still got another hour and a half to go.

Now the first part of the @UWSDigital project is over, we will be spending some time evaluating formally and presenting the finding back at the university as a model to take forward in future projects. The next part of the project is to work with two existing networks in the south of scotland to help build a long term term strategy through a series of workshops and hack-days in the region – it will move from one to one to many to many – allowing for each network to take ownership of their own web presence. More details are on the UWSDigital website.

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