FE Digital Student consultation events underway

Last week I attended the second in a series of events taking place throughout the UK as part of the FE Digital Student Project and was delighted to see plenty of stimulating discussions and thought-provoking presentations centred around the theme of learners’ expectations and experiences of using technology in further education.

The day included a range of practical and participatory workshops designed not only to tease out what the challenges are facing colleges in meeting the needs of different digital learners, but also, critically, what actions colleges can take forward to meet these challenges head on. One of the key findings from the focus groups was that it can often be all too easy to make assumptions on behalf of the digital needs of our learners, but a more appropriate and enriching approach is to ensure that an open dialogue between staff and learners is established from the start, which empowers learners to take an active role in the planning and provisioning of support. Continue reading

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Making the Most of LinkedIn

When the topic of presenting yourself online in the best possible light and your digital footprint arises, it’s difficult not to mention LinkedIn at some point.  However, invariably the most common response from academics tends to be: “LinkedIn? Meh!”  It’s as if there’s an almost universal acknowledgement that in today’s competitive job market there’s definitely a need to give yourself every edge, but when it comes to actually doing something about it an overwhelming sense of apathy descends.

Image taken from http://linkedintobusiness.com/linkedin-help-forum-giving-us-new-answers/ [accessed 5 Feb 2014].

(Image taken from LinkedIn to Business, accessed 5th February 2014).


According to a survey carried out by Lab 42 there are plenty of encouraging statistics about LinkedIn usage, but to be perfectly honest these findings don’t tally with my anecdotal experiences of LinkedIn use in the academic arena. Perhaps the sample 500 LinkedIn users in this survey didn’t come from the academic community? Maybe they were all high-flying business people? And that’s partly the problem with social media and take up generally – all sorts of statistics are bandied around purporting the alleged benefits, but the real benefits that come from social media use are very serendipitous and often quite personal to the individual.  Perhaps the intangible nature of these benefits goes some way into explaining why people, especially in academic circles, don’t make the most out of sites like LinkedIn – even when they know they should…

So how do you make the most out of LinkedIn? There are some really great blogs and presentations out there providing invaluable guidance and advice. What follows is a review of the sites I’ve found useful that will help you to overcome the social media apathy and see some positive returns for your efforts.

Let’s assume you’re still starting out with LinkedIn – you’ve created a profile, but it’s skeletal at best and you’re not really sure what to do with it.  LinkedIn is awash with profiles of this type – sound familiar? These kinds of profile say very little about you and if anything only succeed in announcing to potential employers and contacts: “I’m not very good at this online networking thing and I really can’t be bothered to invest much effort into it either.”

Wrong message, I’m sure you’ll agree.

How comprehensive you want your profile to be is largely down to you and how comfortable you feel with sharing information about yourself, but it’s worth considering what the implications for not sharing are. With recent estimates of over 242 million business professionals on LinkedIn looking to network, most people will be looking to LinkedIn as a channel to improve their chances of getting a job, so what message are you sending out about your ability to network by not having many connections? Or your expertise in your chosen field by not having any Skill Endorsements or Recommendations? Also, consider how dehumanising a profile can be, that doesn’t even have the basic things, like a profile photo or bio?

According to a survey carried out by the social media monitoring service Reppler as many as 68% of employers had hired a candidate on the basis of what they had seen about them on a social networking site, so this is clearly an area that is increasingly coming under the microscope for employers. To get you started, there’s a very quick test (it takes about three minutes to do) on the LinkedIn Man’s site posing ten questions that you might like to consider about your profile to get you thinking about how it can be improved. Of course, it doesn’t cover absolutely everything, but it’s a good starting point to get you thinking about the kinds of content, such as presentations, video, images, blogs, groups, files and more that can be included, all for free.

Alison Doyle provides pointers on choosing an appropriate profile photo and as we all tend to suffer from information fatigue in the digital age a fairly succinct bio is recommended. There is some introductory guidance on the LinkedIn site itself and as with the Skills section, keep in mind your potential audience and job market by including keywords that are relevant. There’s an interesting article on Kim Garst’s site about writing “sticky” profile summaries that capture the imagination of the reader more than the uninspiring summaries ubiquitous to LinkedIn that’s also worth a read.

Further guidance in targeting specific companies/employers by tailoring your profile to match keywords and prerequisite job skills for specific roles is also available in Sue Beckingham’s presentation Developing a professional online presence as a graduate, which is well worth taking a look for some pointers. This brings us conveniently on to the subject of discoverability and the steps you can take to ensure that your profile is likely to be found by the right people. Customising your LinkedIn profile URL is also worth considering here, in order to improve not only your personal brand but also your visibility and the Help Center section of the LinkedIn site talks you through how to do this.

We’ve already mentioned receiving recommendations and endorsements – there are two schools of thought on this: Some people, such as the LinkedIn Personal Trainer, are nonplussed by the mutual ego-massaging nature of this feature (“Joe Bloggs endorsed you for the following Skills. Would you like to endorse Joe Bloggs?”) and others, like the Social Media Examiner, like the simplified nature of getting your Skills endorsed. Personally, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, as long as you treat it with a healthy dose of scepticism, like with anything else you see on social media. Also, if a large part of your current job is meant to involve networking and/or marketing, what does it say about you to potential contacts if you’ve not demonstrated you can market yourself effectively?

On one final note, like with any social media site, it’s worth revisiting your profile regularly to ensure that the content is current and up to date. Keeping an active profile not only says you are accessible through the site, but it also keeps you in touch with your contacts and what’s going on. There’s no golden rule here and you have to find the right balance for you, but if your profile looks like it hasn’t been touched since you first created it (and there’s a lot that do) then I think it’s safe to say you’re not doing the necessary legwork.

Without doubt, LinkedIn is business-oriented and mainly for professional networking and an inherent part of professionalism for me is being dedicated in what you do – so why not treat your LinkedIn profile with that same dedication as you would anything else?

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Ten Session Plan Ideas for Teaching Digital Footprint

I’ll keep this one brief, as the title’s pretty self-explanatory and it’s all covered in the introduction anyway so there’s no need to repeat everything here. Continue reading

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Observations on Moderating a Facebook Group

Facebook often provokes mixed opinions from teachers when exploring its educational applications and, as a fellow sceptic myself, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my own experiences of moderating a Facebook group. Continue reading

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Reflections on #LearnPod13

So, #LearnPod13 is finally done and dusted for yet another year, and now I’ve slept on it and my brain has finally started to stop buzzing with all the myriad ideas and thoughts that the event provoked, I ask myself ‘what did people get out of it?’ – other than the cake! Continue reading

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Putting the pieces of your digital identity together

I’m not a lover of jigsaws, it has to be said.  Mainly because I’m not very good at them, but the jigsaw analogy for your digital identity is an apt one.  In a previous post, Behind the Mask of Digital Identity, we explored the fragmented nature of a digital identity (or identities) and how publishing vignettes of ourselves online, often for a variety of different audiences, on a variety of different social media sites and for a variety of different reasons, can make managing our online identities challenging to say the least. Continue reading

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Ten Great Ways to Use Pinterest to Support Learning

I recently started baking gingerbread men. It was my first real attempt at baking, I have to admit, and was spurred into it by a bizarre Christmas present of some cut-outs for making gingerbread men in the shape of ninja (thus, transforming a normal everyday “gingerbread” man into a lethal “ninjabread” man). A little childish, perhaps, but the act of creating something so visually striking (and tasty!) that others could enjoy was thoroughly satisfying. Continue reading

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39 Steps (to embedding digital literacy into teaching and learning)

It was at the (fairly) recent Discovering New Horizons in the Digital Landscape conference in Manchester that my friend and colleague, Anthony Beal, introduced me to 23 Things – a self-directed course aimed at introducing a range of tools that could facilitate personal and professional development for librarians. Which got me thinking – why stop at librarians? There are plenty of tools out there that anyone involved with teaching and learning (whether they’re teachers, learning technologists, librarians or something else) would benefit from, so why not create a self-directed course for a broader audience? Continue reading

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Behind the Mask of Digital Identity

“Everyone presents himself to the others and to himself, and sees himself in the mirrors of their judgements.  The masks he then and thereafter presents to the world and its citizens are fashioned upon his anticipations of their judgements.”

Anselm Strauss“Mirrors and Masks: the search for identity.” (1969) Continue reading

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Wii are all active learners!

For those of you who attended my workshop, Wii Are All Active Learners, at the JISC Regional Support Centre (Yorkshire & Humber) summer conference last week, you’ll remember I promised to write up the details of the five case studies I covered on the day. Continue reading

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