Author Archives: Jimmy Leach

Education

The timesaving guide to bringing technology into schools

Consider this your straightforward digital guide that will get any school on the path to effective technology integration.

Getting Started

Any educational organisation is looking to see how digital media will disrupt its organisational model. And it will quickly come to the conclusion that it needs, in part at least, in order to be able to offer education across digital media and, in doing so, create different models for education delivery beyond the classroom. It needs to transform the way it looks at delivering education, not just to offer a digital alternative to the traditional model, but also to give students exposure to mechanisms of learning they will use throughout their adult working lives.

There are a number of models of blended learning, but it’s more a matter of the mindset – to allow different schools to adopt different approaches – than it is about being prescriptive. But there are useful approaches to share:

There will be no one-size model for every school to adopt wholesale – the schools will be on a spectrum of digitisation – from fairly basic adoption to a full-scale blended model. To succeed, digital must be a part of the way you do things, and not a separate team or workstream which is all too easy for the rest of the organisation to ignore. This is, therefore, about embedding digital across the whole school, so that, within, say, five years, your school is an organisation which is digital by default.

 

Photo by Marta Markes on Unsplash

The Ingredients

To create a digital organisation, there must be a number of key ingredients:

Platform: A digital platform that allows for your school to adapt it to your own needs, which is intuitive for the user while containing the functional needs of parents, student and teachers

Content: Content on that platform that meets and anticipates those needs. This content will come from the curation of quality content on the web, the signing of school-wide licencing deals and the creation of bespoke school content (which may have re-sale value)

Format: A policy on formatting which understand the digital habits of pupils, teachers and parents

Digital PD: A program of digital professional development for teachers which encourages them to adopt digital methodologies and encourages them to do so.

IT needs: A program of needs analysis with your IT team to enable them to equip schools with the capacity to deliver digital education and the creation of digital delivery programs for each school.

Digital curriculum: A program to develop a digital curriculum for pupils to set accepted standards across the network (with the provision for different standards for different schools models) on devices, formats, storage, behaviour and so on.

Data: The long-term adoption of better data gathering on attendance, performance, achievement etc to create data profiles of pupils to better personalise and incentivise their education.

– Digital culture: The creation of a culture of innovation and experimentation to allow the digitally savvy to develop their own digital work, with a network to share that best practice

– Partnerships: Your school is new to the market – to fast-track understanding, you could make partnerships with companies large and small to facilitate speedier delivery of projects

– Profitability: Digital content is unlikely to make huge profits, and that may not be the driving force for your school, but there will be instances where you can re-format content and take it to markets outside of the school network to make some money (to be reinvested) and build a reputation for digital delivery and innovation

– Reputation: A newly digitised school needs to change its external reputation to one of a digitally aware company. Much of this comes from delivering rather than talking about it, but you must look to change the way you present ourselves. This starts with the websites, but also includes your presence at conferences, your range of contacts, your external messaging.

See also: 5 digital tools (and tips) that will help new school leaders

Photo: Unsplash


 
 
 
 
 

Fundamentals To Consider

As with any digital media project, there are certain fundamentals which have to be thought through:

1) Audience – user-centred learning

Both students and teachers will better engage with digital curriculum resources that explicitly address the target audience profile and the intended objectives and that are aligned with curriculum and assessment standards.

To ensure your resource is focused on the target learner:

  • Describe who the target user is (eg background, age, language)
  • Take into account their prior knowledge of the subject
  • Define the learning objectives of the resource, aligning them with the relevant curriculum content descriptions and achievement standards
  • Be aware of the need to be inclusive (eg by taking into account l earning styles, cultures, disabilities, genders)
  • Consider how the resource is likely to be used (eg alone, as part of a group, with or without teacher support)
  • Plan the context, content and behaviour around engaging the target user (eg visuals, interactivity, humour, media types).

2) Interactivity

Effective digital learning design uses interactivity to engage the user in a meaningful activity with a purpose.

Digital curriculum resources offer opportunities for varied interactive experiences, enabling learners to:

  • Make choices and decisions
  • Inquire, investigate and problem solve
  • Gain feedback on progression and achievement
  • Interpret information and apply new knowledge in a range of contexts
  • Develop and present final products
  • Communicate and collaborate.

3) Engagement

Engagement and motivation are achieved through a mix of aesthetic, technical and educational design.

Things to consider that are central to engaging learning design:

  • How to achieve a high level of interaction (for individual learners, between groups of learners and between learners and the teacher)
  • What sort of innovation and creativity will stimulate highly technology-literate learners
  • The needs of teachers or facilitators at all levels and stages of schooling and in different learning areas, including those new to the online environment
  • The requirements of the learning environment itself (online or classroom-based)
  • How the resource is likely to be used (eg alone, as part of a group, with or without teacher support)
  • The type of content likely to engage the target user (eg visuals, interactivity, humour, media types).

4) Structured Learning

In digital curriculum resources, a structured learning approach can help consolidate the process of learning by:

  • Scaffolding student learning
  • Engaging the learner at various levels of complexity
  • Assessing learning as it proceeds
  • Supporting communication and collaboration
  • Using authentic situations.

  5) Education Value

If a digital curriculum resource is not relevant to the content and achievement outcomes identified in the curriculum, teachers and students will not use it, no matter how interactive and engaging it may be.

Where applicable, the resource should be based on an acknowledged pedagogical framework.

Things to consider when planning the value of the digital curriculum resource:

  • What learners will achieve by using the resource
  • Whether the objectives are relevant to a specific curriculum or pedagogical framework
  • How assessment can be embedded in the learning design.

6) Pedagogy

Formalise and share the digital pedagogy with teachers. Don’t restrict it to blended learning schools or the highly digitised, this must (a) come from the top and (b) be shared throughout the organisation. This would also include the systematic delivery of research findings (both ‘for’ digital learning and against

7) Building Skills

Create a series of ICT/digital training modules within the school’s existing PD framework to build skills and confidence in the use and creation of digital materials. This would nee d:

  • A skills audit to assess the general level of understanding of digital and to pick out exemplars amongst the current professionals to use as leaders and examples to the others.
  • Training resources and materials (digital of course), to be used in PD programs. These may even be distributed/sold outside of the the school network, to create revenue streams and show your school as a leader in the field. These may also be created in partnership with other organisations
  • Develop materials especially for non-ICT and non-science teaching to drive digital learning away from the ‘easy wins’
  • ‘Buy in’ digital professional development materials from third party organisations
  • A series of workshops and seminars to create and discuss best practice
  • A series of guest speakers to present and discuss broader digital issues and practices
  • Strong assessment tools to show whether teachers are progressing

8) Sharing Best Practices

Develop ‘lighthouse’ schools that show off the best in breed in digital provision. This could include partnerships with corporations (Apple for example) to deliver such excellence and to do so publicly.

Establish ‘digital champions’ – a teacher (or two) in each school (ideally not the ICT guy) who will be the evangelist and supporter for digital teaching. Allow other teachers to sit in on their lessons to pick up tips to apply within their own lessons.

Establish a communication network across the school to facilitate cross-school professional relationships aimed at building digital capacity.

Embed the best digital work in public facing websites – both the open (marketing) sites and the VLE environment

9) Embedding Skills

You should think about appointing a specialist digital learning coach in your school – training up existing staff but freeing them up to work on the wider brief, and ensuring their skills and knowledge are embedded with the wider school body.

10) Innovation

The key to the success of the digital element of a School of the Future is constant iteration and innovation. The platform that waits for the next version every two years; the formatting protocols which don’t change and the awareness of the possibilities of the innovations brought about by others.

You have to encourage your school – teachers, but also parents and pupils, to use digital to innovate. Innovation is not top-down and is not (always) controlled. You need to give teachers the opportunity to create content, create products and deliver them in new ways. Some will fail, but you need to be more relaxed about that.

11) Embedding a digital culture

You need to set out how you do this in three ways:

i) Encouragement

The best licence to do something is to go ahead and do it. You need to encourage the development of new approaches. You could bring in a series of guest speakers to speak to both the teaching and student bodies; set up ‘hack days’ with local developers to build new teaching tools; contribute and even host conferences on digital learning – become part of an educational digital learning community. This kind of collaboration is also a licence to individual teachers.

ii) Tools & Technical Help

You can’t do a hack day if the wifi doesn’t work, if there’s no in-house APIs or content to work with or if there’s no support. Teachers are there to teach and while some will innovate, you will also need a small enclave of professional and amateur coders and developers to help develop the platform, create or re-format content and so on. These would best be pulled together by a semi-formal group of ICT digital teachers. It already exists and can be put to good use.

iii) Boundaries

Teachers will need to know when they’ve crossed a line – exposing too much pupil data to public view, perhaps, or crossing boundaries on social media. The boundaries are exactly the same on digital as off-line, but a working document about what you expect (including social media policy especially) would be a useful way of making sure that problems encountered are ones of implementation not privacy law…

And finally you need luck, patience, persistence and a little nerve. Good luck…

Read More
Education Work

The answer to the UK's looming digital skills crisis might be more obvious than you think

For every looming economic crisis, there’s a reinvention, and these days it’s always the same one.  Each time fiscal armageddon looms there’s a minister suggesting that the economy will simply restructure itself (somehow), and these days the answer is always (always) that the tech economy will set the country afloat again. That the UK will be a tech-hub driving the globe’s innovation.
But that reflotation may well be heading for an iceberg. A set of problems both self-inflicted and structural.
Coadec, the self-styled ‘policy voice’ of the UK’s start-ups is warning this week, convincingly, it has to be said, that there is a ‘triple whammy’ ahead, creating a huge skills crisis in the UK’s tech industry, which will mean 2.8 million unfilled vacancies for digitally skilled workers, over a quarter of them software developers.

  • A critical fall-off in the STEM skills of the population, due to lack of funding (the structural)
  • Visa restrictions, which will emerge from the withdrawal from the Single Market, meaning fewer skilled specialists from overseas.
  • Those same overseas specialists affected by the uncertainty of Brexit and liable to move to tech-literate countries which feel more stable.

Coadec is assuming the latter two issues (the self-inflicted) are too big for it to take or (or, at least, need to be left to Mr Blair), and the issue of STEM education is largely one of funding. So good luck with that.
So what next? Well, the chances are that at least part of the answer could be sitting right by you. They’re called ‘women’. You may have heard of them. And it’s time they were a much bigger part of the UK’s tech sector.
As it stands, 4% of gaming programmers are women. As are seven of the of the world’s top 100 tech billionaires. In 2015, women held 57% of all professional occupations, but only 25% of all computing occupations. The only place where women get involved in coding on anything like an equitable basis is in teaching it.

The culture remains one of ‘coding is for boys’, and ‘too difficult’ – and that’s a problem. It means the existing tools for coding education are actually putting most girls off wanting to learn more about coding and creating on the web. Instead, we want to build tools to give girls both the skills and the confidence to code.
There’s plenty of places they can learn coding (really, plenty) and plenty of ways they can be empowered to do so. But so many of them start after to most formative years, at primary level. And while that might address the immediate post-Brexit skills issues, it won’t do so quickly, nor will it do anything for the long term.
Tool like the coding game Erase All Kittens can be especially useful – aimed at girls, aged 8+ and teaching HTML, CSS and Javascript – the real languages of technology, it already has 50,000 players across the world, effectively pre-launch, 47% of them girls (it is estimated that less than 20% of girls participate in code education outside of school).
That’s where the difference will come – equality in coding education will, eventually, lead to equality in the gender balance in the tech industry. And it’s no coincidence that there is greater gender equality in the education industry – the role models are there, we just need the tools.
In the meantime, we’re heading for a skills chasm. And there was an answer there all along.

Read More
Education Work

The answer to the UK’s looming digital skills crisis might be more obvious than you think

For every looming economic crisis, there’s a reinvention, and these days it’s always the same one.  Each time fiscal armageddon looms there’s a minister suggesting that the economy will simply restructure itself (somehow), and these days the answer is always (always) that the tech economy will set the country afloat again. That the UK will be a tech-hub driving the globe’s innovation.

But that reflotation may well be heading for an iceberg. A set of problems both self-inflicted and structural.

Coadec, the self-styled ‘policy voice’ of the UK’s start-ups is warning this week, convincingly, it has to be said, that there is a ‘triple whammy’ ahead, creating a huge skills crisis in the UK’s tech industry, which will mean 2.8 million unfilled vacancies for digitally skilled workers, over a quarter of them software developers.

  • A critical fall-off in the STEM skills of the population, due to lack of funding (the structural)
  • Visa restrictions, which will emerge from the withdrawal from the Single Market, meaning fewer skilled specialists from overseas.
  • Those same overseas specialists affected by the uncertainty of Brexit and liable to move to tech-literate countries which feel more stable.

Coadec is assuming the latter two issues (the self-inflicted) are too big for it to take or (or, at least, need to be left to Mr Blair), and the issue of STEM education is largely one of funding. So good luck with that.

So what next? Well, the chances are that at least part of the answer could be sitting right by you. They’re called ‘women’. You may have heard of them. And it’s time they were a much bigger part of the UK’s tech sector.

As it stands, 4% of gaming programmers are women. As are seven of the of the world’s top 100 tech billionaires. In 2015, women held 57% of all professional occupations, but only 25% of all computing occupations. The only place where women get involved in coding on anything like an equitable basis is in teaching it.

The culture remains one of ‘coding is for boys’, and ‘too difficult’ – and that’s a problem. It means the existing tools for coding education are actually putting most girls off wanting to learn more about coding and creating on the web. Instead, we want to build tools to give girls both the skills and the confidence to code.

There’s plenty of places they can learn coding (really, plenty) and plenty of ways they can be empowered to do so. But so many of them start after to most formative years, at primary level. And while that might address the immediate post-Brexit skills issues, it won’t do so quickly, nor will it do anything for the long term.

Tool like the coding game Erase All Kittens can be especially useful – aimed at girls, aged 8+ and teaching HTML, CSS and Javascript – the real languages of technology, it already has 50,000 players across the world, effectively pre-launch, 47% of them girls (it is estimated that less than 20% of girls participate in code education outside of school).

That’s where the difference will come – equality in coding education will, eventually, lead to equality in the gender balance in the tech industry. And it’s no coincidence that there is greater gender equality in the education industry – the role models are there, we just need the tools.

In the meantime, we’re heading for a skills chasm. And there was an answer there all along.

Read More
Education Work

Schools need to use code to empower not pigeonhole

It’s a simple divide, embedded in the culture and materials of teaching and learning computer sciences and code: there are geeks and there are creatives, and the two simply do not mix.

That pigeonholing is not the overt intention of the revamp of the UK computing curriculum, updated in 2014 to give greater emphasis on how to teach children how to problem solve, and empower them to become creators of digital media rather than consumers. But ‘geek or freak’ is the outcome.

That’s not to say the newer curriculum isn’t progress, and it does create a skillset which are a better fit for the 21st Century workplace. But it doesn’t change perceptions – learning to code is still ‘difficult and dull’, and for those who are good at maths and science. Creative subjects, languages and the arts, are for a different kind of person altogether.

And that, of course, misunderstands code and coding completely – the truth is, there’s not much point in learning to code if you can’t think creatively. Coding is a language, or a tool, it’s not the end in itself, and the failure to make this clear in even offering the course (never mind in the teaching of it), is putting young students off.

All pupils struggle to see the relevance of their learning to their own perception of their later life (‘why do I need to know algebra?’), yet few subjects have the resonance for future work skills as coding, technology and computer skills – creating a maturity with tech that allows pupils to think, collaborate, and be lifelong learners. Ultimately, teaching coding with Personal Learning and Thinking Skills is what will give children a real advantage in our hyper competitive, increasingly digital world.

It’s also important to treat coding less like a subject and more like a literacy that spans the entire curriculum – much like reading and writing. Embedding the skills across the academic silos is a more creative and practical approach to code education that will engage more students, and prepare them for their future in our increasingly digital world.

Changing the culture of teaching digital skills takes time. Changing the tools can be much quicker.

Code and coding

Currently, most coding tools use Blockly – a visual based programming language made specifically for kids. It uses visual blocks that students drag and drop to write programs, which is a great way to introduce coding to young children. But it is limiting: there’s a huge difference between learning visual based programming languages, designed for newbies, and learning real, text based programming languages – which allow people to create on the web. With text based programming languages you have to remember what the instructions are called and be very precise in what you type, like where to put a semi-colon or remembering to include an exclamation point. Visual based programming isn’t like this at all – it’s extremely simple by comparison.

However, children learn languages quickly and easily when they are very young – so why not try introducing the real languages of technology in a way that would be challenging and engaging?

How could that work? Well, a friend of mine has one answer, so forgive the push. Erase All Kittens is a web-based platform game that teaches students aged 8-14 to code, whilst leveraging their creativity and critical thinking skills, allowing them to edit the source code that governs the game environment, enabling them to build and fix real levels as they play, using HTML and CSS. The tool aims to inspire and equip students to build their own simple creations on the web, and to give teachers the opportunity to become the facilitators of independent, autonomous learning.

See also: Why should kids learn to code?

Its one answer, and only one, to the dual problem of perceived relevance, which affects all, and the self-selection that comes with a course which has a severe problem with pigeon-holing. Computing as a subject has great potential to give children the understanding and confidence to think of changing the world around them, from their earliest years. But this means that programming has to be meaningful – which is impossible if too great a focus is put on learning the procedural building blocks.

Without a significant change in approach, we will never inspire children to become creators rather than consumers of technology.

Read More
Education

Six reasons to revisit Microsoft Office

We’ve all signed up to the GroupThink. Google is all that is good and modern and is enthused over by the digital people who use words like ‘agile’ and ‘pivot’. Microsoft Office is beloved of the guys in IT. Its big and its heavy and nowhere near as cool.

So when you’re creating documents, it’s Google Docs you go to, right? Well, yes… it’s a good choice, but there’s a few reasons to forget that damn paperclip and head back to Microsoft Office 2016.
They replaced that Paperclip with something useful
That Clippy fellow was annoying, no doubt on that score. But the idea of having a tool that could help you find the things you want in a huge array menus is quite appealing. Rationalising the menus is one thing, but, in the end, we all go back to search. That’s part of Google’s legacy.

So Microsoft have gone back to the Paperclip principle and made it simpler: In the main menu bar at the top in the likes of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you can click on “Tell me what you want to do” and add in the name of the feature you’re hoping for. You’ll then have that tool displayed, along with the menu. Simple, but very effective.
Built-in Skype
Having bought Skype (for $8.5bn), they’ve gone about embedding in (or at least (Skype for Business) in Word, Powerpoint and Excel. Each of those has a Share menu, which shows everyone who has access to that file, hover over it and the Skype technology will deliver a pop-up menu with links to send a message of start a call, without opening Skype up separately. Of course, you need Skype for Business installed, but that’s what your IT people are for.
Microsoft Office
Built-in research
It’s increasingly widely held that Bing is a better search engine than Google, but we’re all too used to Google to change. But in Office 16, there’s Smart Lookup, which allows you to click on a word and run a Bing search without popping away from the tool you’re using, and getting search, Wikpedia and web results back. And the search also runs on the context of the words around it, so you get the meaning of the word you’re after rather than multiple meanings.
Document bookmarks
When you return to a document, Office 16 will show you where you were last working and you can jump straight to that bit. Very useful if you’re working on one of those interminable projects that runs to hundreds of pages and take you months.
The things you’re used to
Whatever you’ve done before, you’ve used Word, Excel and Powerpoint and you’ve had the benefit of good chart tools, mail merge, animated slides. And when you’ve sent your presentation to the conference or organisation you’re presenting to, you know they’ll be expecting PowerPoint too. And your finance people will expect Excel. It’s what everyone’s used to. It’s just that little bit less hassle.
You can use it on Chromebook
But that’s explained better over here.
Don’t let any of this stop you grumbling about Microsoft, or grumbling about anything in fact. Their products might be a little passé, but that doesn’t mean you should stop using them. Because, in fact, they’re pretty good….

Read More
Education

The 35 questions to ask about your blended learning platform

So you want to use blended learning in your school? There’s plenty of advice as to how to get started – this is not a bad place to begin.
All blended learning is is the delivery of education both in and outside of the classroom, with the latter – the self-directed learning taking place digitally. What you’ve got to decide is the balance between the two, and that will change, dependent on the age group you’re teaching.
But first, you need to ask yourself all sorts of questions about how you’re going to create the environment in which any form of blended learning can work. And that is dependent on the learning platform (or platforms) you choose. The chances are, you’ll be at the mercy of your IT department when they are creating that space, so you need to be able to make sure they are asking the right questions of themselves and their suppliers. The success of your blended processes are dependent are answering these (and more) correctly.
The user
1 – The user isn’t just the pupil, so how does the ‘audience’ break down: Teachers, pupils, parents, admins and who else?
2 – What is the identifier for the user? A school ID system? Social media sign-in?
3- Will there be an enforced BYOD policy?
4 – Where will users be expected to use the platform? At home or in a shared space?
5 – What support will be given to users during their use of the platform?
6 – If users can access this platform free from timetables, what 24/7 educational support will there be and how will that be accessed?
7 – What social media integration, if any, do you need?
 
Function
8 – What levels of protection and access are needed?
9 – What functions does the platform need?
10 – How will students be tracked and monitored and what are we looking for? Assessment? Attendance? Understanding?
11 – What provisions need to be made for different speeds of learning?
12 – What are the particular functions required by each different audience
13 – How will this interoperate with other management systems?
14 – What kinds of content creation do you want to encourage and do you need to use the same platforms to create it? Eg, do you need to embed blogging, picture, video, audio software in there and would you want pupils using the same platforms to do so?
15 – If you use third party platforms, do they have to be free?
Content
16 – Who will pay for the content?
17 – If the user pays, do you assume a single payment system no matter the provider?
187 – What are the preferred formats for content: video, text, audio etc?
19 – What different kinds of content lend themselves to different audiences?
20 – Who selects that content and what is the quality assurance process?
21 – How will content be reviewed by users?
22 – What will be the prompts to drive users to content?
23 – What anti-plagiarism methods do you want?
24 – Would you want to share pupil content? Would we want to share it?
Data
25 – What data will you track of pupils?
26 – Will you need to track every action from every user? Including parents, admins, teachers and others?
27 – What are the access rights to different forms of data?
28 – What analysis will be applied to the data and how much would be automated and how much would be in the hands of teachers?
29 – What level of security needs to be applied?
30 – How do you measure consumption as well as understanding?
Format
31 – What is the likely hardware that will be used to access this?
32 – Will this be browser or application driven?
33 – Will this generate reports and, if so, what format would they be in?
34 – How much user-led customisation would we want?
And finally
35 – How much?
Those will not be all the questions you will need to ask of any school learning platform, but they should give you the ammunition to begin the serious conversations with your IT team and suppliers. They should, at least, be treating you seriously by now…

Read More
Education

How to use the best audience mapping tools in your industry

You’re a thought leader in your industry. You have insights that no-one else has. You should be a leading light – but no-one knows you’re there. Your audience is out there, on social media, just waiting to be enlightened. But how do you find them?

It’s not always that obvious. In industries which don’t centre around big cities especially, and have no natural centre (like, say, education), it can be difficult to find the audiences and the influencers (in who’s company you belong). Fortunately, there are a few tools out there that will significantly help with this and will allow you to communicate and interact with like-minded people.

Just use the right keywords – it always starts with keywords.

The first place to start searching are the analytic sites such as TweetDeck and Followerwonk which can be a huge help with where your audience is online and allows you to engage with them.

TweetDeck: probably the easiest way to search for an audience. Simply search a hashtag (#) and add it as a column and anyone mentioning that word will pop up on your twitter. From here you can follow them, begin conversations with them, and see who is talking to and following them. The fundamental aspect to this is keywords. What words are likely to be used in relation to your topic in #’s?

Followerwonk: used for Twitter. It helps you ‘find and connect with new influences in your niche.’ Simply search bios for a keyword you are interested in and it will list everyone who uses that word in their profile. You can then order them in various ways — how active they are, social authority (this tells you how influential those people are on Twitter) or by how many followers they have. It also sets out when your followers are tweeting so that you can post at a time your message is most likely to be seen. A basic version is available for free and a full version is available for $99 a month. Although the free version is more than sufficient for finding a good number of like-minded people.

Using Followerwonk is a good first step as there are often links to websites and blogs on Twitter profiles, which can lead you to more audiences.

Twilert: This helps you monitor who is talking about you so you can engage and respond to them efficiently. You can track keywords and hashtags and therefore find people who have similar interests to you. It helps you find people who are relevant to your location, language and keyword searches.

Another form of social media that can be incredibly helpful is blogs. These can be unbelievably hard to find if you don’t know the right way to go about it. But there are a couple of Google search tips that come up trumps a lot of the time.

1. keyword intitle:blog — type your keyword followed by intitle:blog and you will find any blogs entitled with your keyword.

2. keyword inurl:blog — this is a broader search than 1.

These searches, while only successful depending on the keyword used, can lead you to useful blogs, sites and ways into communities you otherwise probably wouldn’t have heard of or been able to access.

This can all be time consuming but it doesn’t have to be hard. Find the right keywords and you have the potential to hit gold.

Read More
Education

Two ways to make your friends more interesting on Facebook

Going to Facebook can be a demoralising experience. Who are these people? Why are they posting such nonsense?
The sad fact is, they are your friends and they put that stuff there because they think people, including you, will like it.
But while it may be too late to change your friends, you can at least filter them on Facebook and make your newsfeed seem like the Alonquin round table. Possibly.
Don’t unfriend, just unfollow
Unfriending someone on Facebook is a deliberate act. So many people see it as an aggressive act.
But if those people are annoying you, clogging up your timeline with unlikely friendships between goats and kitten, and the seventeen things you didn’t know about Arkansas, then they have to go. But at least you can do it without causing offence.
Simply unfollow them instead of unfriending them. This stops all of their twaddle from appearing on your wall, while still offering you the opportunity to peek into their lives as and when you want.
All you do is hit the ‘Following’ button on the pages of your Facebook squad. You’ll see options to unfollow them as well as ‘See First’. Reserve ‘See First’ for people who you want to hear from as often as possible, not the people who are making you despair – for them, simply tap unfollow option. Done.
Start to rank your friends
When all those ‘uplifting’ quotes and You need to add some editorial rigour to your newsfeed.
One way is to to give Facebook’s feed algorithms a jolt, by labelling your contacts as ‘close friends’ and ‘acquaintances’ –  just look at the ‘Friends’ tab and you’ll see a drop-down box next to each of your followers’ entries, and right there you can label them with one of those two key tags. The updates from your close friends will appear on your news feed, diluting the lamentable drivel from your ‘acquaintances’. So, assuming your friends’ updates are of a higher quality, then so is your newsfeed.
Get those two done, and you’ve changed nothing, but, on Facebook at least, your world seems a whole lot brighter.

Read More
Education

How to deactivate or delete your Facebook account – or just hide its irritations

Facebook can get pretty tedious, very quickly. The ‘enthusiasts’ sharing the same viral videos, the same ‘inspiring’ quotes and the same fake outrage at some political pronouncement or other. It can drive the most patient of social surfers to the brink.
If that’s you, you have three choices – moderate your own feeds, deactivate or, ultimately, delete – and go and do something else with your time instead.
Try moderating first. Take out the irritating content and people, before pressing the Big Button.
Look at your friends list. How many of them do you actually know or even want to hear from? Give yourself a basic principle – ‘unfriend’ people you never speak to and wouldn’t recognise if you saw them in the street. Take out the ones you added in the day when you thought having a lot of friends was important, and fed your ego.
Remember too that you can block people (and applications) you’re not so keen on. You might also want to use the sort of utility that edits your newsfeed for you. Social Fixer, for example, lets you hide other people’s posts by keyword, author, or application/provider and can hide viral content, if you’re keen on having different conversational prompts than the rest of the world.
It may still be getting too much for you, but before you press the Big Button, consider first, the slightly safer option of deactivation. This isn’t quite so drastic – more of a flounce than a deletion.  To get it done, just log on,  go to the Settings menu and click Security in the menu on the left. This will bring up the Security Settings page. Click on the text at the bottom, where it says “Deactivate your account”.  You’ll absent yourself from Facebook, but you can still change your mind…
That may not be enough. The time may come when you want to erase your Facebook life.
Facebook will help, there’s a page for that: How do I permanently delete my account?, where they also advise you to download a copy of your Facebook data (since it’ll be lost when you delete, and you just never know…). You can do that by logging into Facebook, clicking the down arrow, and selecting Settings. Click the bottom entry that says “Download a copy of your Facebook data”.
If you’re ready to take the plunge and do the Big Delete, then log on and go to Delete my account page and, as you’d expect, choose the button that says “Delete my account”.
Once that’s done, no-one can see your Facebook information (although it may linger on Facebook servers for a while), but any messages you’ve sent to other people will remain in their accounts. Your ghost will linger.
But you will be free.

Read More
Education

Want a successful crowdfunding campaign? You need these 5 things.

You’ll have noticed that crowdfunding is quite the thing for people and businesses looking to raise money. It’s not quite the guaranteed route to success people would have you believe, but for projects or businesses which struggle to raise cash via the ‘normal’ route, it’s a very worthwhile option.
Don’t kid yourself, though, that this is simple – load up the project onto Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Unbound or wherever, tweet out a few times and watch the cash roll in, while you (belatedly) wonder about how to source those T-shirts you’ve promised. It is, to be frank, a slog – a long haul of planning, hustling and selling to chivvy lots of people into giving relatively small amounts to reach your target.
So, if you’re considering a crowdfunding campaign, then prepare well with these tips:

Get your pitch right:

You are going to need a simple and compelling proposition for your project which will make people sit up and pay attention. Explain what your project or business is going to be about; why it’s important that it happens, and why you are just the person to deliver it. This is all about trust – trust that you’re telling the truth about your ideas and trust that you you are the person to deliver them.

A video which succinctly brings that proposition to life:

The video is a key asset – it needs to repeat the message of the pitch copy and tell who you are and why people should trust you to produce something brilliant. The video is the piece of content which ‘travels’, which can be embedded in blogs and websites the length and breadth of the internet. It needs to be a standalone piece of content which will make people reach for their wallet.

An enticing set of pledge levels:

People who pledge do so because they want to be supportive, but they also want something exclusive, something which rewards their faith. So while the odd T-shirt is nice, they want something which confirms them as the early-stage faithful. Pledge levels which give them access to your products or to your wisdom, or get them involved in creative ways will make people dig that bit deeper – and you’re chasing dollars, after all…

An up-to-date contact list:

Social media can drive high-profile crowdfunding projects, but old-fashioned emails tend to work best. So you’ll need to make sure you have an up-to-date list of email addresses, and make sure that you’ve oh-so-casually been in touch with these people in the recent past. Don’t reawaken your contacts just to ask for money, keep them ‘live’ way before you start, and keep your contacts with them as personal as possible, not a bunch of round-robins. And maintain (and polish) your social media presence too – active Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn presences will all help hugely too.

Willingness and stamina:

You may find that this doesn’t get funded in three days flat. That this takes months. To manage that process, you need first of all to calm down on your own expectations, but also to maintain the work ethic to maintain a constant stream of communication about the project – to keep people involved and excited and willing to help you find the audience, and the pledges, to make your dream a reality.

Read More
1 2 3 31