Tag Archives: personal branding

Social networks at work

Sian Dart, Coordinator, Learning Repository, University Library, RMIT University
Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor, Learning & Teaching, College of Design & Social Context, RMIT University &
Howard Errey, Educational Developer, College of Design & Social Context, 
RMIT University.

yam·mer

verb (used without object)

Watercooler close-up

Are services like Yammer the water coolers of the modern workplace?

1. to whine or complain.
2. to make an outcry or clamour.
3. to talk loudly and persistently.
yammer. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged.

This week’s post is structured a little differently from most tomtom posts…

Sian had already sketched-out her thoughts on Yammer but we also posted a question (on Yammer) to our institution (‘What is Yammer good for?’) and we received over a dozen replies that shaped this post: if you’re in a rush just read the Yammer screen-grabs!

Jon: I was expecting the definition of ‘yammer’ to be much more neutral (meaningless chat?) — surprised that it has this element of complaint.

Sian: Aren’t all social networks used to whine and complain? It’s appropriate! However, I think the most accurate is probably number three, at least for RMIT’s implementation. The small quantity of posters contrasted with a larger number of ‘lurkers’ means that those of us who do post are quite loud and influential on the network, I think.

Howard: It’s not exactly a friendly origin (interesting that it’s related to the German for ‘lamentation’) although perhaps that doesn’t matter — it’s a memorable brand.
What is Yammer? 
For a few years now, Yammer’s been in use at our institution and while it’s the platform that we’ll be talking about in this post, there are many other enterprise-based social platforms that might be in use at your institution or workplace. These include SocialcastSocialtext and Corus — some of these are niche products and they’ll use different organising principles but here’s a quick definition from one of the players in this space, Igloo:
It’s like having your own secure, private version of Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox designed for your business – without the oversharing.
Yammer uses a time-stamped discussion board interface and allows you to broadcast to the entire Catherine and SimonYammer group or to sets of people. You can also follow people which results in their posts being prioritised in your feed. Let’s look at Sian’s thoughts on the platform:
Sian: Here’s my list of ‘Stuff that happens on Yammer’ in no particular order with a quick comment for each.
1. Event promotion
I’m not sure how much take-up arises from these, as opposed to the constant all-staff promotional emails, but it’s good being able to comment on these things instead of just have them broadcast.
2. Self promotion
When staff are getting involved in community events, exhibiting or performing, Yammer is a perfectly valid billboard for potentially interested audiences. The reach is different to putting up a poster in the student union/staffroom, but the intent is the same.
3. Interesting Stuff I Found On the Internet
Like all social media, Yammer is a great place to share, albeit under very obvious filters of ‘safe for work’ and ‘appropriate for work’. (More sensible people than I would point out that all social media should be aimed at that level, for the sake of job safety and future employability!) I encounter a multitude of links every day from my peer learning network, and some of the things I find aren’t necessarily relevant to my work, but I know they’ll be of interest to the RMIT community. And if I know they’re specifically interesting to one person, I can ‘tag’ them and make sure they know about it. Sure, I could just email them the link directly, but who needs more email? And that David and Mattwould stop others serendipitously encountering the article in turn.
4. Private Groups
Yammer provides for private or open groups to be created – for example, we have a Library Staff group, in which we discuss things we think will be of interest mainly to librarians (although it’s astonishing how interested in libraries some of our non-library staff seem to be!).
5. Public Groups
These include the RMIT BUG (Bicycle Users Group) which any Yammer member can join. Joining a group gives you the ability to see the posts from that group and post to it.
6. Help!
Doreen CommentThis is definitely an area where Yammer proves its value. It allows someone to reach out to a community made up of a wide range of staff, and seek expertise, opinion, or understanding of processes within the university. You may not receive an answer, but you might get 10, or you might get the name of someone to contact who could give you an answer — it’s worth a try! I think this service alone, while it does mean you have to admit to potentially all of your colleagues at the entire university that you have a problem, or don’t know something, or need assistance, justifies the staff time spent on Yammer. I love being able to promote a library service, or better yet, the service I run within the library when I have the solution to someone’s specific need. I think it’s way better marketing than a poster or email because it’s direct, targeted and responsive.
7. Networking
I don’t go to too many RMIT events, but every event I’ve been to in the last few years, someone’s introduced themselves and said “I see you on Yammer”. So I guess my name is getting out there after all, it’s a real-name social network – and hopefully it’s mostly good – but each time, I’m reminded that I’ve got more reach than I think I do. (See next: ‘Lurkers’.)
8. Lurking
Well, who knows what these guys get up to. I know they’re there. Every now and again a colleague or a manager will pull me aside and say “Hey, I like what you said there,” or ask me about something I know I’ve only Yammered, despite never seeing them interact with Yammer at all. I guess they must enjoy seeing the discussions, but either kaidaviddon’t have time to interact, don’t have strong opinions, or simply have a fear of putting themselves out there — internet shy!
9. Informal learning and sharing
A lot of useful knowledge is gained via what we learn about each other and what we do in a site like Yammer. By following someone I meet in the Bicycle Users Group I can also get to know about a new part of what happens in the organisation. It’s a bit like walking into the tea room and overhearing or joining in an important work conversation that happens to arise.  Without that informal linking, a lot of useful knowledge remains static.
10. Less email
This has got to be one of the biggest benefits of Yammer. Why send around a bunch of emails when we can all share stuff in a Yammer group? This usage would be particularly helped if line managers used the service effectively. Material is more easily shared into the most appropriate contexts and it also increases transparency.
11. Information filtering
Amy and Sian CommentEver heard the complaint that there is too much information? Yammer-like tools allow us to follow the people who are good at scanning and filtering the information that is most relevant to the organisation. I just need to find and follow some of those useful people rather than try and know everything that is going on myself. Following a few librarians on Yammer can be good for that!
Howard: Agree with the points above and here are two more before we get on to the fine print!
12. Productivity and efficiency
It’s no wonder that Microsoft bought Yammer for $1.2 billion. The primary reason that this type of tools gets adopted in organisations and institutions is the way it improves the bottom line with faster and easier work practices. It probably saves some paper too.

13. Modelling Collaborative Learning
In online learning environments we want our students to be work collaboratively — we can better help them do this if we practice what we preach. Yammer provides a powerful reminder of the way that collaboration can be harnessed to improve engagement, learning and enjoyment.

The Disadvantages 
Yammer type tools need support from above to really succeed. This includes both setting the example and leading organisational and cultural change, to adopt whichever social intranet is chosen. Yammer itself is very easy to get started in that it can organically start without any formal adoption or support. This is also problematic in that important information (either for reasons of IP or other legal sensitivities) can end up with Yammer — and it can be costly to get it back out. So collaboration on sensitive issues needs to be considered and it helps if there is a clear usage policy. Yammer can also be expensive compared with the David Ralternatives.

The Alternatives
Tools like SocialcastSocialtext and Corus can work at least as well as Yammer and have the advantage of being completely contained social intranets; they exist only on the company servers, so there is no question of locating the data. The free version we use of Yammer for instance prevents us from one of the collaboration opportunities that might be most fruitful — the use of the system with our colleagues in Vietnam and other RMIT locations around the world. 

Corus has the added advantage of being applicable for education contexts, having been designed with education in mind, and has already been used in a couple of large scale activities with RMIT students.

Jon: Picking up on couple of points from Sian and Howard, a lot of the discussion here seems to run parallel to the problems we have with students’ engagement in Learning Management Systems:
As educators we’d probably like to see students interacting on a discussion board in Blackboard rather than in a Facebook group that we’re not aware of and not invited into…we’d like students who might have accepted an offer but aren’t due to arrive on campus for another couple of months to be able to sign into a social platform and begin building those links, and even to begin learning (or teaching their peers)…we’d like the kind of mentoring opportunities that could happen between years, between programs, between campuses in a system that could hold student work in shareable portfolios…
Because we’re all split between a number of services and workflows, is Yammer (or something like it) the right match for Google’s suite of apps? I’ll continue to use Yammer to promote this blog and upcoming events but I think this is only the beginning of a different style of work that we’re in the middle of. I’ll leave it to Sian to sign off with some concluding thoughts.

Sian: A tentative conclusion…

If your institution has signed up for Yammer, you simply go to yammer.com and sign in — you’ll automatically get to the right network, because you’ll be authorised by the domain on your email address. If your institution isn’t involved yet, anyone can start it up — but getting people to use it can take a bit more work.

HowardThe Library holds internal training sessions every now and then on Yammer (What is it? Why should I use it? How do I use it?) and Yammer of course suggests we invite colleagues every time we log in to the website, so I guess it grows virally — but having said that, it’s not for everyone. Some staff remain uncomfortable with aspects of sites like Yammer, just as people have different relationships with services like Facebook and Twitter.

So it is what you make it. Some institutions have very active involvement at the Executive level; it’s a way that they can keep in touch with day to day things happening in the business. And it’s only natural that some groups and users will be more active than others. I’ve talked about the Library group because I can see it, but there’s a lot more going on than what I see.

The main thing is, everyone has a voice. It’s more accessible than the official channels (like email and RMIT Update — though these obviously have their place) and it’s for everyone, regardless of rank or role.

Thanks to Catherine, Simon, David G, David R, Matt, Doreen, Amy & Kai for allowing us to republish their comments from Yammer.

Share your thoughts about Yammer in the comments section! Or on Yammer!


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2013 RMIT Teaching Awards Reminder!

Posted by: Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

photo (1)We break radio silence on the tomtom just to mention that across the DSC, Deans and Chairs L&T are accepting and sorting through nominations for the 2013 RMIT Teaching Awards, so if you were thinking about applying for an award there’s still time to submit the mini-application to your L&T team.

Likewise, in the College of Business their own nomination process is in its final days and the College of Science, Engineering and Health has a cutoff for submissions of 15 July.

And if you’re working on an application, make sure you check out the following links!

Meredith Seaman’s: Teaching Awards – worth the paperwork?
&
Kym Fraser’s: Applying for a teaching award next year? Start collecting your evidence this semester.

These two posts form an excellent knowledge base for RMIT staff who are thinking about applying for an award.

Regards,

Jon

2013 RMIT Teaching Awards

Posted by: Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

2012 RMIT Teaching Award Winners

Professor Margaret Gardner, AO, Vice-Chancellor and President and the recipients of the RMIT Teaching and Research Awards in 2012. Click here to see a list of past winners.

It’s already March which means there’s a little over two months before nominations open for the 2013 RMIT Teaching Awards. Here at the tomtom we’ve written about the awards in the 2012 posts below:

Meredith Seaman’s: Teaching Awards – worth the paperwork?
and
Kym Fraser’s Applying for a teaching award next year? Start collecting your evidence this semester.

These two posts form an excellent knowledge base for RMIT staff who are thinking about applying for an award.

What comes out clearly in each of the above (and in my conversations with past applicants) is the value most participants felt in the process of reflecting on their practice and the importance of having a narrative to your teaching that is backed up by evidence. To bring it back to what you might be doing this month in your classes, examples of assessments that you have run with actual student outcomes displayed (de-identified and used with their permission) can make powerful examples in the evidence you supply with your application. The use of visuals and materials supplied on DVD is an option applicants are increasingly taking advantage of to display the achievements of teachers and learners.

Importantly, the awards are also open to professional and support staff. We all know those who may not teach but are crucial to the success of our students and Category P7 is especially relevant to those members of staff.

As the DSC’s coordinator for the awards, (click here for the Business and SEH coordinators) I wanted to grab some of the mental real estate that might be available at this time of year to advise staff of some of the key dates, categories and a couple of changes to the process for 2013 through a short series of FAQs:

How do I nominate?

You can nominate a colleague by contacting your college’s coordinator. You can also discuss your own application. In the DSC, these nominations will be forwarded to the Schools’ L&T Directors/Chairs. These nominations open20 May.

I’ve heard there will be peer review of teaching for Teaching Awards?

Yes, but for 2013 this will be a voluntary process. There are workshops being run for interested staff on 18 March and 10 May. As the Learning and Teaching page on the pilot states: “For 2013, review of teaching is being piloted and will be available on a voluntary basis to teachers who plan to apply for an RMIT Teaching Award. On request, two trained reviewers will review the intending applicant’s teaching and provide reports. These reports can then be used as evidence to support a teaching award application.” So you can think of peer review as another piece of evidence, just like your CES data and professional references. For more information, click here.

What are the categories for the awards?

Click on the following links to find out more about a particular category:

  • Category A – Teaching Excellence, Higher Education
    • A1 College of Science, Engineering and Health
    • A2 College of Design and Social Context
    • A3 College of Business
    • A4 Early career academic (Higher Education)
    • A5 Priority area – Teaching a diverse student body
  • Category B – Teaching Excellence, TAFE
    • Category B1 TAFE Outstanding Teacher / Trainer of the Year Award
    • Category B2 Early Career Teacher / Trainer of the Year Award
    • Category B3 Outstanding Training Initiative of the Year Award
  • Category C – Sessional Staff
    • C1 Outstanding Sessional Teaching Award (Higher Education)
    • C2 Outstanding Sessional Teaching Award (TAFE)
  • Category P – Awards for Programs that Enhance Student Learning
    • P1 Widening Participation
    • P2 Educational Partnerships and Collaborations with Other Organisations
    • P3 The First Year Experience
    • P4 Flexible Learning and Teaching
    • P5 Innovation in Curricula, Learning and Teaching
    • P6 Postgraduate Education
    • P7 Services Supporting Student Learning
    • P8 Indigenous Education

What about team applications?

As long as all members are eligible, team applications are encouraged in categories A, B, C and P. Last year in the DSC, teams from the Schools of Art, Education and GUSS won awards.

Will I have to make a full application to the College?

No, in the DSC you will only have to address one criteria in your initial application. If you are selected as the College’s nominee you will be supported in writing the full application. There are also workshops scheduled for June to assist you in writing your application.

Okay, I’m interested or I know someone who would make a good nominee. What should I do next?

I’d love to hear from you. Getting an early start on the process can make it a lot more enjoyable. We can discuss what category might be appropriate for your nomination and I can put you in touch with past winners of the awards. Contact me to discuss the best use of your time in the upcoming months!

Do you have thoughts on the process of applying for a teaching award? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!

Writing critical thinking learning outcomes

Posted by: Associate Professor Kym Fraser, L&T Group, Design and Social Context College, RMIT.

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinker, Rodin (cc) Wikimedia Commons. Photographer: Andrew Horne

Building on Helen McLean’s post Bloom ‘n’ Biggs and John Benwell’s post Course guides: Bloomin’ verbs, this post provides ideas for writing critical thinking learning outcomes. Critical thinking is one of the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) cognitive skills requirements that all programs will need to demonstrate from 2015.

Critical thinking is a complex process that requires the use of the higher level cognitive skills in Bloom’s taxonomy: analysis; synthesis; and evaluation (Bloom et al, 1956). We may expect students to demonstrate that they are thinking critically in many different ways, including: raising vital questions and formulating them clearly; gathering and assessing relevant information; using abstract ideas; and thinking open-mindedly. We also may expect our students to consider the context, justify their answers and analyse their own thinking in terms of clarity, accuracy, relevance, logic and fairness. Some theorists suggest that critical thinking is social in nature and therefore requires reflection followed by communication (Choy and Cheah, 2008: 199).

We can make our critical thinking skills development explicit for AQF requirements through the writing of our course guide learning outcomes. Through these we alert students to the focus of the course in terms of both the discipline content and the skills. We also help staff teaching courses in later semesters to see the outcomes students have achieved in our course and how they might build upon those achievements. Outcomes let students know some of the specific ways in which you expect them to develop and demonstrate their critical thinking skills in your course (how to think like a journalist/teacher/engineer). They also help students to better understand the language of the discipline and ways of thinking, which can often be quite discipline specific.

Writing critical thinking learning outcomes that are useful to students can be challenging. Table 1 provides a list of verbs that can be used in the formulation of outcomes. They should also aid you in aligning the learning experiences and assessment tasks that lead to those outcomes.

Table 1.  Useful terminology for writing critical thinking learning outcomes*

Analysis Synthesis Evaluation
Analyse Argue Assess
Apply Categorise Appraise
Break down Combine Challenge
Compare and contrast Compile Compare and contrast
Deconstruct Create Conclude
Determine Devise/develop Criticise/critique
Discuss Design Defend
Describe Explain Discriminate
Differentiate Generate Evaluate/judge
Discriminate Modify Explain
Distinguish Organize Interpret
Identify Plan Justify
Illustrate Prioritise Recognise
Infer Rearrange, reconstruct Relate
Manage Reorganise Review
Outline Relate Select
Relate Revise Summarise
Review Rewrite Support
Select Summarise
Separate

* Adapted from Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, 1956. (At our institution ‘outcomes’ rather then ‘objectives’ are used in course guides.)

Figure 1 below provides examples of critical thinking learning outcomes. As you will see, some of these incorporate all three of Bloom’s higher order cognitive skills (analysis, synthesis and evaluation) while others reflect just the one skill.  I hope that you find these useful when thinking about your course planning.

Figure 1. Critical thinking learning outcome examples

  1. select, analyse, interpret and evaluate a range of source materials.
  2. describe patterns or relationships in large amounts of written and/or visual information.
  3. evaluate available written and/or visual information, evidence and argument for reliability and authority/usefulness (e.g.; observation, testimony, measurement, experiment).
  4. look for, recognise, articulate and challenge assumptions and presuppositions, gaps/silences, suppressed/overlooked evidence in their own, peer and professional opinions.
  5. identify and manage the risks associated with making and implementing decisions.
  6. make a reasoned argument
  7. analyse and assess the strength of an argument and the implications for a course of action that follows from it.
  8. access or generate alternatives and select the most appropriate.
  9. develop a well-supported, clearly articulated argument to support a view and use it to justify one or more conclusions.
  10. prioritise tasks according to their own or other considerations.
  11. apply systematic research processes.
  12. develop industry/professional standards that may affect their decision making.
  13. develop a clearly articulated argument to support a view and use it to justify one or more conclusions.
  14. select and discuss written and/or visual information to produce a comprehensive picture for different ways of viewing a problem.
  15. determine the component parts of a problem/issue, their relationships to each other and to the issue/problem as a whole.
  16. identify and explain/rectify logical and/or other errors in an argument.
  17. assess the strength of an argument and the implications for a course of action that follows from it.
  18. develop a rationale for performing a character in a particular way.
  19. compare and contrast (eg documents, accounts, arguments, different styles of presenting a performance, the rights of individuals in different regional contexts).
  20. judge the validity of a group’s right to self determination.
  21. analyse a conflict and draw relationships with historical examples.
  22. generate critical questions about historical examples.
  23. reflect on the strength and weaknesses of yourself and your team members and suggest ways in which you and others could improve the work of the team in the future.

Resources

Griffith University Critical Evaluation Toolkit (accessed November 9, 2012 at http://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/290659/Critical-evaluation-skills.pdf)

This toolkit was developed by Griffith University and is intended for use by academics. The toolkit identifies principles of critical thinking and analysis, elaborates on employer and graduate needs with respect to critical thinking and includes information on designing learning activities and assessing critical thinking.

Oliver, B. Assuring Graduate Attributes. (accessed November 9, 2012at http://boliver.ning.com/)

This is a site to which individuals can subscribe. Once subscribed, go to the ‘Set Standards’ section and in the right hand column you will see examples of standards in different disciplines. Some of those examples include detailed standards for critical thinking.

Bibliography

Bloom, S., Engelhart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W. and Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. David McKay Company, Inc: New York.

Choy, S.  and Cheah, P. (2008). Teacher Perceptions of Critical Thinking Among Students and its Influence on Higher Education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 20 (2), 198 – 206.

Facione, P. A. (2009) Critical thinking: what it is and why it counts. Online at http://www.insightassessment.com/pdf_files/what&why2006.pdf (accessed August 18, 2009).

Fagin, B., Harper, J. Baird, L., Hadfield, S. & Sward, R., (2006). Critical thinking and computer science: implicit and explicit connections. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 21(4), 171-177.

Jones, A. (1997), Multiplicities or manna from heaven? Critical thinking and the disciplinary context. Australian Journal of Education, 51(1), 84-103

Jones, A. (2004). Teaching critical thinking: an investigation of a task in introductory macroeconomics. Higher Education Research & Development. 23 (2): 167 – 182.

Moore, T. (2004). The critical thinking debate: how general are general thinking skills? Higher Education Research & Development,23(1), 3-18.

Sharma, P. & Hannafin, M. (2004). Scaffolding critical thinking in an online course: An exploratory study, Journal of Educational Computing Research, 31(2), 181-208.

Tapper, J. (2004). Student perceptions of how critical thinking is embedded in a degree program.  Higher Education Research & Development. 23 (2): 199 – 222.

Thomas, T., Davis, T. & Kazlauskas, A. (2007) Embedding critical thinking in IS curricula. Journal of Information Technology Education, 6(1), 327-346

Share your thoughts about critical thinking learning outcomes (or critical thinking skills in general) in the comments! 

Applying for a teaching award next year? Start collecting your evidence this semester.

Apple in front of a 2013 calendar

(cc) Flickr: dscblogphotos

Posted by: Kym Fraser, L&T Group, Design and Social Context College, RMIT.

People apply for teaching awards for a range of reasons, including recognition for their teaching and academic promotions application evidence. Writing an application usually takes a bit of thought, time and effort. However, there are benefits to doing so. The process of writing an application provides an opportunity to reflect on your teaching and reassess what you are doing, the work that goes into your application also may be of use in a promotions application, and of course your teaching award application may be successful!

Successful applications for teaching awards usually tell a compelling story and are backed up with substantial and varied evidence. While you may be able to write an application in a weekend, the evidence is usually collected over several semesters or years. It’s useful to think in advance about the story that you are going to tell through your application so that you can make sure that you collect evidence that will support your story.

The story

Who you are and what you are trying to achieve with your students needs to come through in the first page of your application. You need to tell the reader a story that sets the context and scene. Keep in mind that the person assessing your application may not know anything about your discipline, your students or even your institution if the application is for a national award. You will need to provide a fair amount of contextual data within the first page (or less depending on the page limit for the application).

An individual’s story can be told in different ways. Often it is framed in terms of a problem. Below are two quite different examples from academics who have successfully applied for an ALTC (now OLT) Teaching Citation (names have been changed).

Violet teaches ‘voice’ to students at a small university. Her story was framed in terms of comparing her teaching with her peers who teach at major metropolitan universities in a conservatorium of music. Her peers teach up to six students in their classes and all of their students have completed voice exams up to level 6. Violet teaches up to 25 students in her classes, many of whom have never taken a voice class let alone completed an exam. Violet’s application shows how she chose a very different teaching approach from the one that she experienced as a student. The approach chosen was based upon the particular needs of her very different group of students.

Ben took over the teaching of a core economics subject for first-year business students. Most of his students would study economics for only the first year and then major in a different discipline (management, marketing etc). Ben found that his students didn’t attend classes and the failure rate for the subject was very high in the years leading up to when he took over the subject. Ben taught the subject as it had been taught and collected attendance and pass rate data. He then changed the curriculum, significantly improving both class attendance and the pass rate. Ben’s application tells the story of the transformation of the student experience through a complete update of the curriculum and assessment process.

You need to tell your own story and help the assessor to understand your particular context, students and what you are trying to achieve with them.

Evidence

It’s likely that you will have to include student evaluation data for which you won’t have a lot of space, so you may need to summarise it in a way that makes sense. For example, if you were making the case that you improved the curriculum incrementally over time, you could use a table showing improvement for specific questions on end of semester student evaluations (Table 1). Or if you were showing that the curriculum you developed fosters certain learning outcomes for students, you may use a table to show excellent student evaluations in the unit over time (Table 2). You may also use student comments judiciously throughout the application to good effect; but it is advisable not to use more than three or four.

Table 1. First year student evaluations in NUR107 over 3 years

Questions 2010 2011 2012
The lecturer encouraged students in this unit to reflect on their personal learning 3.27 4.39 4.7
My experience in this unit has encouraged me to accept greater responsibility for my own learning 3.54 4.24 4.6

Table 2. Third year student evaluations in ED322

Questions 2010 2011 2012
The content of this unit contributed constructively to my learning of the subject 4.89 4.78 4.92
My experience in this unit has increased my confidence in my ability to teach science 4.76 4.84 4.72

Data- necessary but not sufficient

Your student evaluation data will need to be supported by other evidence. The evidence that you collect and use in your application will depend upon your story and what achievements you are trying to show.  It is likely that you will also be asked to demonstrate peer recognition of your teaching. Your evidence might include things like:

  • student results from national competitions
  • learning and teaching grants and publications and citations of these publications
  • awards from your profession’s national or state body
  • testimonials from community groups/companies/schools/hospitals et cetera, at which your students have completed their practicum or volunteered
  • testimonials about the influence of your teaching from students who have gone on to be successful in their field
  • testimonials from colleagues from your discipline or university who have adopted some of your teaching ideas/approaches.

You might also include that you are:

  • your School’s representative on the Faculty/University teaching and learning committee
  • a teaching and learning award assessment panel member
  • a reviewer for an L&T journal
  • an editor for an L&T journal
  • a member of a state or national discipline committee.

You should also mention instances where you have:

  • reviewed another university’s program
  • run a workshop on an aspect of your teaching for your school/department/faculty/university
  • given a keynote address at a teaching and learning conference
  • examined honours/masters/Ph.D theses.

As you can see, applying for a teaching award requires you to thoughtfully collect relevant evidence over a period of time. Your teaching and learning deputy head of school or your academic development advisor will be able to help you as you begin to plan for your teaching application.

Teaching with Twitter (part one)

Dr Inger Mewburn is a Research Fellow in the School of Graduate Research, RMIT University. She co-ordinates the On Track generic research skill program at RMIT, teaches online as well as writing for and editing The Thesis Whisperer blog. The rest of the time she listens to research students who want to tell her their problems and writes on the subject of research education.
Being a Twitter enthusiast is a bit like being a cult member. Those who ‘get it’ are your instant friends, while those that don’t tend react with puzzlement – or pity. I can understand why Twitter divides people. It is absurdly easy to sign up and start tweeting, but it is quite difficult to work out how to use and enjoy it.

In this series of posts I am going to attempt to demystify Twitter and make some suggestions about how you can use it in your teaching. But I want to make you think about uses beyond the classroom too. Twitter can be used to help you build a ‘personal brand’ and connect with people who share your enthusiasm for certain subjects. If you are careful about how you work with Twitter, you can become a ‘trusted source’ and build a substantial follower base who will carry your words much further than you imagine. There is clear value, especially for sessional lecturers, in creating a recognisable brand presence in Twitter – you never know which future employers are listening!

The first step to successful tweeting is to understand how the platform works. For those of you who are yet to be acquainted with the mechanics of the platform, Twitter is a ‘micro blogging’ service where people post ‘tweets’ of up to 140 characters.  You can follow anyone (unless they block you) and arrange them into lists. You can be followed by anyone – unless you lock your account and force people to ‘knock on your door’ to enter. When you log in to Twitter your timeline shows the tweets of all the people you follow and anything they have re-tweeted (RT). The Tweets may be just plain text, or include web links and special searchable links called ‘hashtags’ (#).

I recommend you have an account that is set aside just for academic work (you can always have another, possibly locked, account to talk with your friends). Use your own name, or choose a name which will resonate with the topics you are teaching and researching. For example, I call myself @thesiswhisperer, which simultaneously publicises my blog and announces to anyone cruising by that my purpose is to help people to write a PhD or Masters thesis. Make your bio concise and signal the topics you are interested in talking about in 160 characters so that people can understand who you are. For example, this is how I describe myself:

Research Fellow @RMIT University. Does research on research ( yes – really), writes for and edits the Thesis Whisperer blog and thinks about stuff.

The main value of Twitter in teaching is the conversations it enables and the ability to harness the wisdom of the crowd to find useful information. But what puts many people off is that the more people you follow, the faster the tweets multiply in your timeline until there are literally too many to read. The first thing to do is relax – imagine Twitter as a rushing waterfall of information and noise. You can’t drink from the waterfall by sitting under it with your mouth open; you hold a cup under it.  Since you will only be able to catch a small amount of what is going by in your cup, you need to ensure you are catching more information than noise.

There are three different ways to ‘tune into’ Twitter and sort information from noise: be selective about whom you follow, use hashtags and compile lists. I’ll tackle each of these in turn.

Your students, and any other followers you attract, will look at who you follow to work out who you are and what you value. Use this opportunity to send the right signals by being careful about whom you include in your ‘waterfall’. If you are a teaching and researching politics you may follow politicians, political journalists and perhaps certain bloggers; if you are also interested in knitting you would include other knitters and perhaps supply shops and so on.

Don’t worry if you end up following lots of people; you can use lists to organise them. When you make a list you are essentially making an alternate timeline to view. The key advantage of a list is that the timeline can be viewed by others, so I like to think about myself as a curator of an art gallery here. I try to make lists of people that others will want to read.

Lists can be used to track and monitor your audience. I have over 2000 followers. If I followed everyone back I would have a really crowded timeline, but I am still interested in what they are saying, so I organise all my followers into different lists. The lists are broadly speaking organised into interests – sort of like online ‘birds of a feather’ groups. I can scan these alternative timelines when I have time and get a sense of what conversations are going on and pick out interesting links. To ease this process I feed all my lists into an aggregator (paper.li), but more on that another time.

Hashtags are a powerful way for a teacher to start to organise materials and discussion. A hastag placed before a word, or string of words with no spaces, turns the piece of text into a special sort of ‘search link’; when you click on it your timeline changes to show all the tweets containing that hashtag. Hashtags can be used to make informal, adhoc chat channels. A good example of this is #phdchat, which is used by many PhD students to find each other and share information. Every now and then the list convenor organises a real time chat with a topic.

I hope this post has given you some ideas on the way that Twitter can be used in your teaching practice. In the next post I will talk some more about the content of Tweets and how to craft more informative and compelling ones.

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