Looking Back, Facing Forward – 2018 New Year Blog

[:en]Here in SALT, we thought we’d take a leaf out of PVC Stringer’s book and work on some New Year’s resolutions ourselves.  Kicking off the blog posts is one of our newer team members, Rhian Ellis with her reflections on 2017 and what she’s hoping to achieve in 2018.

What have I achieved?

Rhian Ellis
Rhian Ellis, Academic Developer, CPD Team

In September 2017, I was appointed to Swansea University’s Academy of Learning and Teaching as an Academic Developer, specialising in continued professional development. Getting to know my SALT colleagues and members of the wider University community has been a privilege, while settling into my new role. 2018 is going to be an exciting year! So, what have I learned since being here?

My career development in 2017 has encouraged me to reflect on my identity as a ‘learning teacher’ over a twenty-five year period of great change in education. Not only upon WHAT I have learned, but HOW I learned.  I find Jane Hart’s curated list of current ‘Top Tools for Learning’ most interesting for this. It can be seen here in the video of her keynote speech on ‘Modern Workplace Learning’ at the SALT conference in 2017.

Jane Hart image of tools
Image of tools taken from Jane Hart’s Conference Keynote 2017

I was surprised by how many tools I used daily (and encouraged my learners to use) for many years as a teacher, some of which were introduced in formal CPD sessions e.g. Prezi. I’m now discovering lots of new and useful ones on a weekly basis, often through my everyday interactions with colleagues and academic staff – another key characteristic of the ‘Modern Professional Learner’ celebrated by Jane Hart.  Learning in this more casual way illustrates how CPD is often informal in nature. For example, the tips we get from others and then pass on.

Jane Hart suggests we count how many tools we use regularly in our professional and/or personal life.

When I did this, I realised that I developed my use of digital tools for learning far more than I imagined – even ‘google’ counts!  Since September, I’m now using many more.

This reflection has encouraged me to be open-minded about trying out versatile tools such as ‘Padlet’, introduced to me by my SALT colleagues Debbie Baff and Mandy Jack in their September ‘TEL Month’ workshop. Here is a padlet I recently put together on ‘Feedback and Feedforward’ support.  Look out for workshops on this theme with myself and Suzie Pugh from SALT in 2018, by the way! You can even contribute to the padlet if you wish.

Twitter is another tool I’ve used more for professional reasons in 2017. It featured as the top learning tool in Jane Hart’s research for ten years, only recently being over taken by You Tube.  Twitter was created in 2006 by American founders Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, and now features a lot more than people’s dinner photos… thankfully! Twitter has become a useful platform for endless CPD opportunities, and I’m now a regular Twitter user.

So what are the benefits?

Twitter alone has enabled me to build a ‘trusted professional network’ at, through and for work.  I now have a wealth of information at my fingertips. I have connected with world-leading experts who share current developments in higher education, including newly published research papers, topical issues, shared experience and thought provoking debate.

Using Tweetdeck allows me to coordinate and manage both my personal and SALT twitter accounts with ease.  I took part in my first monthly Tweet chat on it recently, a ‘Peer Coaching’ forum, hosted by SDF.ac.uk. I contributed my experience of ‘peer triads’, and in turn learned about other coaching practices in the UK. @rhianellis3      @susaltteam

Screenshot from Peer Coaching tweetchat
screenshot from Peer Coaching Tweetchat


A big thank you to my very own peer coaches, Louise Rees and Debbie Baff! Louise and Debbie introduced me to SDF.ac.uk, a helpful community of practice (we form a great example of a ‘peer triad’ in action, by the way!). The tweet chat generated useful ideas for future CPD possibilities here at Swansea University.  I’m looking forward to the next chat on ‘Team Coaching’, January 26th 12-1pm.

I’ve also gained many new Twitter followers over recent months, mainly as a result of my retweets and comments. As a result I am developing my ‘on-line identity’, as well as contributing to a wider community of academic development.




Lots of academic staff at Swansea University share my enthusiasm for Twitter and its potential benefits. Connecting with you in this way has enabled me to get to know people’s specialisms, passions and questions. In turn, this can help inform CPD planning from SALT.

Now what…?

My intentions for further use of twitter include:-

  • Sharing expertise through more tweets
  • Refining the use of hashtags # to maximise engagement
  • Continuing to build my professional network
  • Applying my learning to CPD opportunities for academic staff at Swansea University
  • Promoting excellence in teaching and learning in 2018 and beyond

I also intend to devote a controlled amount of time to Twitter/Tweetdeck each week, flexing it around my priorities. One of the disadvantages of twitter is the risk of overspent time. As your profile increases in popularity, people may wish to interact with you more. Mobile devices also tempt frequent checking, so I have set myself strict boundaries.

My work in academic development in 2017 has definitely moved me even further along the ‘visitor-resident’ mode of engagement with digital learning tools, with lots of benefits.

My advice to anyone who may remain ‘on the fence’ about Twitter for CPD (as well digital teaching and learning tools) is to keep an open mind! There’s no obligation to ‘move in’, simply ‘visit’ whenever you choose and see if you find benefits too.

Happy tweeting in 2018 everyone! @rhianellis3 @susaltteam #CPD


Blog created using Rolfe et al’s (2001) Reflective Model.

Rolfe, G. Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Other useful references:



Beginners guide to using twitter for educational professional development on You Tube[:]

How can I improve my skills in digital learning?

Next month, Monday January 15 – Friday January 19 2018 sees the launch of the annual BYOD4L CPD activities aimed at enhancing your own skills in using digital media and devices to support your own learning and that of your students.

This is a great bitesize CPD opportunity, supporting more flexible professional learning in the modern workplace – a  clear message of SALT’s 2017 conference Keynote speaker Jane Hart.

In its 6th year of running, this online “course” will cover the 5Cs framework of

  • Connecting
  • Communicating
  • Curation
  • Collaboration and
  • Creating

(Explained on https://byod4learning.wordpress.com/topics/) with some extra Cs!  Check out their website for those extra Cs.

You don’t have to participate each day, but you can gain recognition of your efforts though Open Digital badges.

For more details about BYOD4L, see its webpage: https://byod4learning.wordpress.com/

You will need to have a Twitter account to participate in this CPD.

Follow @BYOD4L to keep up to date regarding the course and follow the hashtag #BYOD4L.

If you don’t already have  a Twitter account, perhaps make it a New Year’s Resolution to register and have a go at using Twitter for your professional development.  I was initially suspicious and a bit scared before I started my Twitter account, and now find it invaluable to keep up to date in my subject and also for professional development.

[:en]What’s on this week as part of SALT’s IT Month?[:]



Jo Berry and Steve BealePebble+ start the month-long activities on Thursday September 8th showing how they’ve used Pebble+ as part of their teaching and student support.

On Friday Sep 9th, learn from Philippabird_twitter_new_single Price about how to use Twitter to engage with your students and for your own development.

Don’t forgetReflection to record and reflect what you’ve learned and how you could/could not apply it.  Why is that so? [:]

Anti-social behaviour ?

No petting !!
Anti social activities from the 70s and 80s

Learning technologists (the ones you read the blogs of) are an odd little group.  In some ways many of them provide a valuable service to all of us working with technology and learning but in other ways some of them only really serve as an emetic.

There seem to be two things that learning technologists like writing about.

First of all, obviously, they like to write about themselves.  I’m not being snarky when I say that (plenty of time for snark elsewhere) … that is what they have to write about.  They have built their careers around sharing their thoughts and opinions and informing us about what they have seen and experienced.  That is why we read what they write.

Secondly, and more specifically, they like to write about whatever app / device / widget / social software / gadget that is flavour of the month / week / day.  Again this is what they do and again is why we read them.  We can’t all read and trial everything, so we rely on blogging learning technologists to filter and digest it for us first.

In doing this, these learning technologists can start to be indicators of trends.  They can show what is up and what is down in the world of learning tech and other such stuff.  Some of them have even become slightly influential, in certain respects to some people !

It is not all good though … quite a few of them I have deleted cheerfully from my news reader (see how up to date I am ?) as I cannot bear to have my brain sullied by their inane chatter and endless, nauseating self-aggrandisement any more.

Two who still have my attention however, are:

They both talk sense (mostly) and Alan finds and uses some great images.

They have both written posts recently (co-incidently, or is this a trend forming ?) on social media and how the shine is wearing off a bit for them.

Alan writes rather critically of Facebook (as he is not a fan of walled gardens and feels that Facebook is quick enough to accept goodies from other sources and extremely reluctant to let them out again) but the main thrust of his post is that clicking the like button on something is easy enough, and posting the minutiae of your daily existence is great if that is what floats your boat, but if that is the limit of your on-line self expression and creativity … and you have no space for reflection or producing something less transitory and more substantial … then that is rather sad.

George considers yet another social network being produced (Google+) and how it might just be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  He equates social media with emotion … and blogging, writing and transparent scholarship with intellect.  He says that Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are secondary media.  He even draws an analogy with reality TV and Fox News.  Fighting talk.  He declares his (at least partial) withdrawal from them.

What do you think ?  Is the shine still there ?  Has the shiny toy matured into a much deeper and more meaningful tool ?  How do you use social media now ?  Do you use it for the flow ?  Do you make a virtue of the transitory nature of it and just accept it ?  To you, is it neither good nor bad … merely a tool ?  Let us know …

Twitter in a learning context – the downside observed at ALT-C 2010.

Today I attended one the invited paper sessions at the ALT-C 2010 conference, that is on at Nottingham at the moment, as a “virtual” delegate. While not there, I observed something that I think is worth reporting and reflecting on.

I attended an invited session, which was being broadcast, via Elluminate, to the wider community. The first speaker was Dave White, of the Oxford University TALL project. He wowed the audience with his talk on distance learning and by giving away Pringles as rewards for audience participation. He was such a success in fact, that the audience (who for the most part where actually in the room*) twittered away continually right through the second speaker’s presentation.

This was interesting because there are parallels to be made with (the lack of) student engagement in lectures. If this had been my lecture and my students had been tweeting (or more likely Facebooking) about last night rather than my lesson, I’d be shocked. Yet this audience of learning technologists and educational professionals, where quite happy to totally ignore Hans-Peter Baumeister’s important concerns about the widening gap between how we think we should use technology with students and how students are using technology.

Now, admittedly, Hans-Peter could do with watching Chris Hall’s “Is Powerpoint evil?” video, but even so, this seemed a bit out or order. After all, this was an invited speaker deemed by the ALT community (or at least their representatives on the conference organizing committee) to be worth listening to and learning from.

There were other issues as well. The slides for Dave’s talk weren’t being displayed for much of the talk. If you watch the recording (when it is made available) … I assume that you’ll see the same as I saw. Which is very little. Also, in general, the slides shown in Elluminate seem to lag behind the speaker.

Then there is the question of the suitability of Twitter as a back channel. It works well for those watching and engaged in the conversation at the time that it is happening. It is almost useless as a context-dependent archive. For example, Elluminate records the chat contributions when they happen: viewers of the recording will at least get to see the conversation as it happened and in context of what the speaker was saying and the visuals being shown. It will be almost impossible to marry the Twitter back channel to the recorded session.

I must return to the conference now as Sugata Mitra is about to give his keynote.

*I assume this because the external audience had to watch the talks in Elluminate and would need to switch context from chat to twitter to contribute.

Practical Advice for Teaching with Twitter

This interesting post from the Prof Hacker blog in the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses how you might use Twitter in your teaching. The assumption is that students will be expected to contribute to an ongoing class discussion, which might not be how you’d want to do things, but for all that it contains useful advice. For example it compares the use of lists versus hashtags, frequency of tweeting, archiving the discussion, and displaying the results.

One idea from the US that I’ve seen in a couple of times now is the award of a part of the grade, say 10-20%, for class participation. Adoption of this idea might be a good way to encourage engagement with you modules. An alternative to using Twitter is the use of FriendFeed as a discussion channel. Alan Cann at Leicester uses this in a first-year course he gives on Personal Learning Environments. He calls it FriendFolios and sells it as a Facebook for uni.

I have created a short collection of related articles on the use of Twitter in HE from ProfHacker and other sources. It’s in my delicious collection tagged edutwitter. You can also use a new delicious feature to browse these bookmarks.

Twitter Community List

If you visit the Swansea Learning Lab blog regularly, you may have noticed the Learning Lab on Twitter feature at the right (if you are reading this in a Feed reader, please visit the live blog page now!). At the moment this shows the top 4 “tweets” posted by @swanlearninglab and it is generated from the RSS feed provided by Twitter.com.

Yesterday, a group of us (myself @cpjobling, Helen @HelenMD, and Julia @juliadesigns, where speculating about how to make this Twitter feed a bit more interesting. The basic problem is that only the person logged in as @swanlearninglab can post items to this feed, and although there is more than one of us with the privilege, there aren’t enough to keep the feed active. What would be better, we thought, would be if we were tracking the people in the learning lab rather than the learning lab virtual person.

We looked into Tweetizen and considered setting up a group there, but it would have been limited to 10 users. We thought about using a hashtag #swanlearninglab, but that might require community training. So then, at Julia’s suggestion, we looked into Twitter lists. And this looked like a possible way forward.

A Twitter list is a group of twitter users whose public tweets are followed as if they were a single person. We have set up a community list, called @swanlearninglab/community and added a few selected people to it. Having done this you can access the list directly at http://twitter.com/swanlearninglab/community and send messages to it by including @swanlearninglab/community in a tweet. Twitter also, helpfully, provides a widget that can be used to show the dynamic list:

Now all we need to do is replace the RSS feed by the widget and bob’s your mother’s brother. Instant community. Great if you tweet anyway but don’t want to post a blog posting here.

If you want to be added to the list, just send a direct message to @swanlearninglab or add your twitter handle to the comments.

Swansea Learning Lab is now on Twitter!

In order to try and make Swansea Learning Lab a bit more dynamic, we have set up an account for the Learning Lab on Twitter.

If any of you are fellow twitterers, then please follow us @swanlearninglab or send messages to @swanlearninglab. We hope to tweet new tools, updates etc and will be focusing on a tool a day.

If you’ve never used twitter before, then go to http://twitter.com and sign up for an account. If you’re not sure what twitter is and are too afraid to ask then why not check out the Twitter in Plain English video