He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone

At IWMW last week I ran a BarCamp session titled “Slate My Website… and Your Website?”.

As I explained on the IWMW blog, the format of the session is based on Nick DeNardis’ EDU Checkup and consists of three parts:

  • 10 second test: show then hide the homepage then try to remember as much as possible.
  • ~5 minute review: surf around the site looking for things of interest – as Roy Walker would say, “say what you see”.
  • Ratings: scores out of 100 for design, content and code.

In the 30 minute slot we had time to slate review three websites:

University of Reading

University of Reading


  • design: 68
  • content: 63
  • code: 79

University of Nottingham

University of Nottingham


  • design: 71
  • content: 65
  • code: 62

Edge Hill University

Edge Hill University

Part of the “deal” for this session was that someone else would review our website so with me sat in the corner with my eyes closed and fingers in ears, Dan Wiggle from the University of York did the business.  Lynda Bewley summarised the atmosphere well:

@lyndabewley: vengeance being meted out on http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/ 🙂 #slatemywebsite #iwmw10


  • design: 74
  • content: 74
  • code: 70

Many thanks to Jeremy Speller for acting as scorekeeper and Reading and Nottingham for being such good sports and not lynching me!

If you want me to Slate Your Website in person, I’m looking for someone to act as our “external expert” so get in touch!

125 by 125

Do you ever have really great ideas that on second thoughts are incredibly stupid?  Yeah, I have them all the time but usually I’m sensible enough not to tell anyone about them.  A month ago I was caught out by an email from Corporate Marketing Communications and Student Recruitment asking what people are doing for the anniversary celebrations.  I had a flash of inspiration and fired off a reply:

I’ll do something with Twitter or a blog for 125, maybe similar to the 365 projects that people do – one photo per day for 125 days.

It was that quick.  Fast forward 30 days and I’m starting to think that was a really, really stupid suggestion.  Writing 25 posts across the whole team has been difficult enough so what am I playing at committing to posting every day for four months?!

If I’m going to have any chance of making this work I’m going to a) need help and b) make it simple, so give me your ideas, people!  My initial thought was to raid the archives, take a load of photos and just post them rather than having to write lots for each day – that way I could spend an hour or two every couple of weeks and schedule ahead.  I could also broaden it out and persuade other people to blog or highlights from some of the 125 events happening on campus.

Picking things that might be of interest is also important – I’m not doing this for myself – so what would you like to see?  Post your comments below!

Granite, seagulls and a surprisingly warm Aberdeen

IWMWIt’s a week since myself, Andy, Sam and Steve Daniels were up in Aberdeen for IWMW 2008. I’ve already blogged about my parallel workshop session, the BarCamp-style sessions and my thoughts about the lack of blogging web teams while Andy has posted his top five lists (#4 worst thing: listening to Alison’s talk).

Everything I’ve written so far is – how can I put this – all about Edge Hill, so I figured it was time to post something that people might actually be interested in!

IMG_3271Unleashing the Tribe

The last plenary talk of the conference was by Ewan McIntosh, a former teacher who now advises on social media in the public and eduction sectors. A video of the talk is available online and a here’s a slidecast for a similar presentation delivered a couple of months ago:

If you’ve got time, go watch one of the presentations, and keep an eye out for the quote from our very own Tanya Byron:

The technology itself is not transformative. It’s school, the pedagogy that is transformative.

Sorry, I’ve brought it back to talking about Edge Hill again!

Ewan’s insight into how students use social networks is really interesting. He says this of how universities attempting to get into Bebo/MySpace/Facebook:

it’s like a creepy treehouse […] one where adults try to get youngsters to come in […] learn with my on my Bebo page.

He questioned the need to a Phd when you can demonstrate your experience so easily, citing a video by Johnny Lee demonstrating a really cool way of creating 3D images on a TV using a Wii remote.

Bath Web Services have run a session on managing your professional identity in the past – Ewan referred to persistence on the web – showing someone’s public Facebook profile which is critical of their employer and reminding us that students are probably saying the same sort of thing about universities, lecturers, tutors, even web services! I think we have a role to play in raising the profile of these issues with staff and students and I’d hope we can look into offering something similar to Bath in the not-to-distant future.

Mobile phones are popular. Really popular. Are we doing enough to cater for users accessing our sites in this way? Probably not yet, but we’ll have to offer something to mobile users (and I’ve got some thoughts about what we should be doing… we just need to find some time to do it!). Another cool video clip, this time showing a flashmob in Grand Central Station.

There’s a few other nuggets of information along the way, but I’ll let you find them yourself. Ewan’s talk was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me and well worth watching.

IMG_3250Look Who’s Talking Now…

It would be amiss of me not to mention Alison Wildish’s plenary session. Once again, the video is online so you can see the presentation in full if you wish. At last year’s IWMW, Alison’s talk developed quite a lot of buzz around the work we’d done at Edge Hill (sorry, all about us again!) so the pressure was on to deliver again.

Instead of following up with more about her views on web services (personalisation, web 2.0, user generated content, blah, blah!), Alison spoke about the move to Bath and the differences to Edge Hill. There seemed to be some feedback last year that Edge Hill had it “easy” and that big/old/research universities have a whole different set of challenges that we simply didn’t have to face. Would she be eating her words now?

It was very interesting to see the comparisons and in many ways we do have it easy! The links between IT Services and Marketing, the focus on the student, and the freedom that we have to develop across web services is great! In other institutions where web services are far more decentralised it can be difficult to ensure high quality and consistency across the site.

The overall impression I got was more positive than you might otherwise assume. Once the commitment is there to manage web services more effectively it becomes possible to start developing all the cool stuff that the web has been promising for the last couple of years. We, I believe, are in that position so the task it to keep delivering!

EeePC one; Michael nil

My attempt yesterday to semi-live blog was scuppered by an obscure problem with my laptop so you’ll have to survive with my four-day-old memories of the conference!

Picking up from where I left off – after welcomes from Mark Flinn and Alison Mackenzie and an introduction from Mark Schofield we went into the first keynote talk.

Les Watson from the Glasgow Caledonian University began:

There is, as yet, no paradigm for the 21st Century University

Saltire Centre - Norma Desmond - Creative Commons LicenceThe talk built up to what they’re doing at the Saltire Centre, an impressive learning space by the look of the photos and a million miles away from what I had at my University.

I’m not going to go over everything in the talk – you can find a copy of the slides from a very similar presentation online – but I’ll do my brain dump here:

  • Be unhappy (with the way things are)
  • The truly successful businessman is essentially a dissenter
  • Michael Wesch’s “If these walls could talk” (in case you’ve not seen it already)
  • Decreasing creativity with age. 2% at 25
  • Barcodes

My first breakout session was “How can we make our online content interesting?” by Edge Hill’s Lindsey Martin and Mark Roche, now at MMU talking about how they structured an online module to make the content as engaging as possible. The challenges are similar to those we have when designing for public facing websites – how to put across a lot of information in a way that people can understand and absorb when reading online. A lot of effort is spent editing text, choosing photos and coming up with innovative ways of navigating content for the web, and we’re not there yet. We can probably learn from the way teaching resources are provided and maybe some of the techniques we try to promote to staff with a responsibility for supplying content for the corporate site can also be applied to course content.

After the break was the chaired session – three presentations with a linked topic, in my case “embedding eLearning”

Helen Bell and Rachel Bury (of this Parish) presented the steps being taken here towards a baseline entitlement for the VLE. The exact baseline varies slightly between faculties but by September every first year undergraduate starting at Edge Hill will have access to some core information through Blackboard.

Ryan Bird from the University of Reading gave details of their Pathfnder project.

Third session was Peter Reed (Edge Hill University) and Richard Hall (De Montfort University) talking about their Pathfinder projects. Both gave an interesting insight into the work they’re doing. Lawrie Phipps asked a question about whether the work being done at DMU could be seen as an exit strategy for their VLE. DMU’s approach seems to be more about upskilling staff to allow them to make better use of all technologies whether they be part of an institutional VLE or third party web applications.

Final part of the day for me (before sneaking back to the office) was the second keynote from Eric Hamilton. I attended his workshop last year and some of the same issues were raised then but it was good to see some of the ideas expressed in a new way. The concept of sightlines in a teaching setting always interests me, as does the baseball model of statistics – give everything to the user and let them figure out what they want.

I’m going to leave it at that for now – if you’ve got any questions or want me to expand on anything please leave a comment. The conference overall was very useful and has given me much to think about over the coming months.

My experiment with live blogging however leaves much to be desired. I’m not going to give up though – I shall try again at IWMW 2008!

SOLSTICE Conference 2008

Today I’m at SOLSTICE’s third annual conference, subtitled eLearning and Learning Environments for the Future. Mark Schofield introduced the conference:

The key aim today is to collectively contribute to the rowing agenda and generation of knowledge at this University and in the international community.

I’m going to attempt some semi-live blogging so check back for more over the day.