Blogging & Social Networking – Some thoughts about the social and educational potential for distance learning students


Embedded is the presentation that I gave today to a group of distance learning teachers at the Univeristy. It tries to give a brief overview of some of the lit related to this area and to start some discussion about how these technologies can be used in their learning designs.

It will be interesting to hear their stories as (or if?) these these technologies gain traction. Thanks to the participants with whom I enjoyed a great discussion about these issues.

Any comments or suggestions from today’s audience (or eleswhere) greatly appreciated :)

Some links from todays session

Social Bookmarks
(my account here is
(my account )

Micro Blogging is a great place to search for “tweets” of interest. is me…

Research Connect

Social networking around slides (sounds whacky but it is where I posted today’s presentation)

Social networking around academic papers

Blog hosts (google’s version) (a good alternative)

Blog search engines

"Why do you blog and how does blogging help with your research?" Response from Science bloggers


Part of our strategy for promoting ResearchConnect and Science blogging in general, was to ask PhD and academic bloggers about why they blog. have an “Ask a science blogger” section so a little while ago I sent in the following question.

“There are many many academic bloggers out there feverishly blogging about their areas of interest. Still there are many many more academics who don’t. So Why do you blog and how does blogging help with your research?”

Luckily ScienceBlogs posted the question so I’ve put up the links to the responses below:
Dr Martin Rundkvist
Drug Monkey (a biomedical research blog)
Janet D. Stemwedel
Brian Switek
Uncertain Principles (physics blog)
Science Women (blogging on the “intersection of science and real life”)

I’ll pick out more general themes in a later post (start of year madness means I’ve little time to spend blogging about blogging)

If you are a science/ academic/ PhD research student who blogs and you would like to share your ideas about why you blog you can add your thoughts here.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons by Oberazzi – source of which is here

A network is born – First intake sessions on ResearchConnect – Social Networking platform for Researchers at the University of Manchester


Well what can I say? After a summer of installing ELGG, tweaking and theming and generally crafting (beating) the software into a usable, corporately recognisable application, today we threw open the virtual doors to ResearchConnect. The scope of the project has expanded somewhat from it’s initial inception as a platform for PhD students from two faculties at the University into a platform available to the entire research community at the university.

ResearchConnect is a trial project that has come from a small bid from our Roberts money allocation.

So what are my hopes for ResearchConnect?

Well firstly I would like to gauge the appetite for such applications amongst our research community. Will members actively engage with the site and if so what types of things will they use it for? Will members find it useful to have this kind of facility and what are their views on the need (or otherwise) for social applications in academia? My hope is that we can find ways of using web2 and user generated material to provide opportunities for learning, networking and reflecting.

I am interested in communities of practice and networked and user directed learning. Will communities of practice emerge on ResearchConnect; perhaps within research groups or broader groups based on common research interests such as methodologies? Will members be able to find out useful information from the community and will it supplement the more formal VLE based learning opportunities that we currently offer?

What makes online communities tick and really inspire meaningful contributions? We will be looking at ways to foster successful researcher communities and to document the types of activity (online and face to face) that work/ don’t work.

With my web developer hat on is I am interested to find out which features of the application really matter. Is ELGG the right piece of software? What is good and/ or bad about it and how does it compare with other applications such as Drupal?

I’d also be interested to hear from similar projects of people using social tech in HE/ research environments.

Training – "Using the web to raise your professional profile"


I’ll be co-delivering a training workshop as part of the ‘Pathways – Career Options for PhD’s and Research Staff’ event at Manchester University.

The workshop is intended to explore ways of using the web to raise your professional profile and is intended to last about an hour.

Myself and Jen (my co-trainer) met in Fact last Friday, and fueled by Capucino and a Danish came up with the following training plan.

1) Intro – Brief round robbin of introductions
2) Group/Pair exercise – “What have you seen or used on the internet to promote yourself on the web”
3) Group discussion re: the above
4) Intro to Bloggin – “Common Craft’s ‘Blogging in Plain English”
5) Brief talk making the link between Academia and Niche news publishing/ consuming.
6) “What’s in it for me?” -

The “why do you blog” questionnaire.

7) “How?” -

8) “So where do I find the Academic Community?”

Please see this blog post for a more detailed description

9) Plenary, questions and some further reading

10) Please take some time to go through the links and resources that relate to this session.Please feel free to add your own comments or to ask any questions on this blog.

Using student-owned technologies in educational ict


This article by Scott Wilson of CETIS succintly analyses the concept of PLE’s in terms of ‘what they could be’ and ‘why they should be’.

In my role I think that it would be interesting to try and deliver elearning through various non institutional applications inlcuding social networking, blogs, instant messaging, RSS (inlcuding communal RSS such as affeda), VOIP, social bookmarking and other softwares.

I am however in no doubt as to the challenges that this would create not least in terms of managing users and their communication preferences.

Electronic Collaboration – A guide to educators


I have been doing a lot of reading lately about how educators use electronic resources in schools and universities etc. This large report gives an in depth analysis of, what is for me, the current paradigm in the use electronic tools in online education.

As a guide for educators I feel that it ignores the emerging tools already out there, that people use to network and or socialise electronically (blogs, Facebook type sites etc). I reckon that if electronic educators can design courses that tap into social software that people already use, rather than give them a login to a course held on say WebCT then learners:
1) will be more motivated to access the course
2) in some cases create their own materials that live on outside of the course/ institution – e.g. archived blog entries etc.
3) will be empowered to make use of the many social web applications that facilitate knowledge sharing and networking. These skills will transfer into other situations both educational and outside of education (e.g. the workplace)
4) will organically make connections with people outside of a particular course that aid their construction of knowledge.

I am really interested to develop courses that:
- don’t use proprietary learning environments (e.g. web CT, Moodle etc)
- utilise a range of social web2.0 like applications (blogs, bookmark sites, discussion forums etc) to create personal learning materials and persistent learning ecosystems for the learner.

I’d be really interested to hear from people who are trying this approach to online teaching and learning.