As a university we are committed to becoming the Connected University, and are making great strides in changing our approach to learning and teaching, to our campus transformation and to the way in which we run the business, all enabled by digital tools and technologies.
On an individual level, we can reasonably expect colleagues to embrace aspects of digital technology to enhance their work, to change the way in which they communicate with each other, with our students and with other stakeholders.
When we look at the amount of content being created, and the amount of communication taking place in just one minute, we can’t avoid being engaged with social media:
At last year’s Learning and Teaching Conference, we asked attendees to make a pledge of what they might do differenlty, based on what they were taking away from the conference. On reviewing these, it was clear that lots of colleagues wanted to dip their toe into the world of social media, or if they were already using such tools, explore and expand further their use.
This short article is a reflection of how I use social media. I’m not suggesting this is the only way, and I’m sure I can identify gaps in my own practice.
As a starting point, it’s worth looking at the work of David White, who proposes that the term “digital native” has had its day, and that we shouldn’t decide on a person’s digital literacy based solely on age, but in terns of how comfortable they are in using technology. White’s model of looking at digital residents vs visitors is a useful starting point for assessing our own digital skills (in addition to the various diagnostic tests we can use).
Through this approach I can map my own own digital profile, which in itself raises a number of questions: where do I live in the digital world? Can I be found? Can I be found in multiple channels? How do I manage a level of authenticity? How do I moderate my voice between different channels and different audiences?
My social media profile then is primarily found in:
Twitter is my most work-related tool, although not everything posted here is work-related. As part of building an authentic voice, it’s important to reveal enough of yourself as a person, your other and commitments, to allow followers to gain a greater insight into you. For example, following a recent accident, the message on Twitter from a nationally known HE commentator was simply “How’s the bike?”.
Through Twitter, I’ve developed a really useful network outside the University, often with people who are influential in the sector, but who I wouldn’t meet otherwise. It means that attending meeting across the country, more often than not, you already know a lot about the people you will be meeting. And last year’s keynote speakers for our L&T conference as well as this year’s came from people I’d got to know through Twitter.
We all know of the danger of social media becoming an echo chamber – it’s good to follow people who you don’t agree with on all things, otherwise we are missing the benefits of academic debate.
Facebook for me is purely social. I do follow feeds from the University and from various schools an departments. My posts here are almost never work related and hopefully the privacy settings are such that I can maintain a more private profile here, which focuses on family, friends and hobbies.
Strava i is totally social – only look at this is you want to know how far and how slowly I ride a bike.
Flickr is for serious photography – quick snaps may appear on Facebook or Strava, anything that require any amount of editing will end up on Flickr.
WordPress is the software that powers many of the world’s blogs. This blog itself is a WordPress installation on the university system. I have a second site as a backup, and where I can experiment with some additional WordPress tools and integrations. I’ve written before about why I write a blog – it provides a means to communicate in longer form than Twitter, and to provide my personal analysis of changes in the HE sector, both for internal and external consumption
There are a whole load of tools I don’t use – Snapchat and Instagram come to mind immediately. If nothing else, I’m not a great fan of the #artificialhashtag. However, institutionally we do need to be on top of these – these are the tools our students are using.
Finally I’ve mapped a number of other tools – WhatsApp, Skype for Business, FaceTime, FB Messenger – these are my comms channels in addition to my 2 email accounts.
There’s a lot to keep on top of!