Global #Twalkday

Twalkday logoGlobal #Twalkday

Wednesday 3rd October 2018

Theme: Doing, being, becoming, belonging and connecting

Time: 3pm GMT (but options for other time zones to be decided)

What is Twalkday?

The Twalk will be co-ordinated globally and is planned to coincide with the start of a new academic year. It provides teachers with an opportunity to think about and engage their new and returning students in ideas about their course. The #twalk will last an hour and will be structured around five ideas:

  • Doing – what we do on our course and how we learn
  • Being – our culture, philosophy and identity
  • Becoming – our personal and social aspirations as our learning identities grow into professional identities
  • Belonging – how we foster a sense of home
  • Connecting – how the D3Bs work together and how we relate to the world beyond our course

About #Twalks

A twalk is a structured learning walk in which social media is used to connect us and our ideas with individuals and groups located elsewhere by following a common conversational structure. It epitomises a hybrid learning space in which the experience of the local is amplified and enhanced by the shared connected experience. It epitomises a generative learning space in that participants are networked co-producers of knowledge: as you walk and talk you find ways of representing your thinking through tweets and images using a common hashtag (in our case #twalkday).

The practicalities

#Twalkday coincides with the beginning of the new academic year and is intended to be experienced primarily as a local exploration of what it means to be on a course. The addition of Connecting to the D3Bs, however, situates that sense of local identity in ideas of identity beyond the local experience of the course itself. Course leaders, student leaders and other academic leaders at colleges and universities around the world are encouraged to run a #twalk involving their own students and staff. The outline plans, routes, and discussion structure will be common and this means that local #twalk leaders only need to think about,

  • How to establish your walking group
  • How to map the discussion structure to local places and practices at your college or on your course
  • How to introduce, embed, then follow-up the outcomes of the twalk activity.

More details about the #twalkday itinerary will be posted using that hashtag. You are strongly encouraged to use it as you adopt the idea and to double hashtag posts with a local variant so that your local #Twalk group has a common space.

Social media space

While a learning walk involves walking a physical route in structured conversation, this is augmented by the use of social media space. Typically this has involved using a Twitter tweetchat as the method has a lot in common with a structured walk. However, other social media can be used. Instagram, for example, emphasises the visual and allows walkers to quickly capture significant moments and conversations. Using the hashtag in Google+ situates the activity within the context of an existing community, project or network. Similarly, where Facebook is familiar and established as an informal student space, Facebook Groups can work well.

Further information

Further information, guidance and outline maps will follow – watch this space!In the meantime, to find out more about #twalks, what they involve and how they are run look at our MELSIG Twalk toolkit.

Posted in belonging, Digital Placemaking, learning space, Media-enhanced learning, MELSIG, social media for learning, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Missed opportunities – where are the alternatives to Storify?


It’s easy to store, but making sense of it all is an art. photo by Kevin Utting Creative Commons attribution licence is shutting up shop and this has been troubling me since the news was announced several months ago. The main problem, as I see it, is that Storify is a one-of-a-kind service. For educational users, it signalled the potential of social media for learning as an act of curation and construction. I have a couple of case studies in my forthcoming book that reference Storify as a useful space for users-generated digital narrative content, but by and large, I have felt that Storify was under-used in higher education and that curation as an act of learning is not widely appreciated.

If you are not familiar with Storify, it is/was a web-based platform for curating social media by hashtag, using search, aggregation, and drag and drop functionality. Notoriously, tweets from tweetchats could be easily scraped into a Storify archive of the event creating a rich ordered collection and record of discussion incorporating any media and links as tweeted.

This ease-of-use was attractive, but at the same time this led to the development of uncritical habits that could be deemed digital illiteracy. That may be a bit harsh, but evidence of creative narrative making in Storify has been thin on the ground. The scarping of social media is deceptive (and I do it all the time with Evernote): it feels worthy and productive, and there is always the potential to share your scraps, but ultimately your scraps end up in the big web cupboard which you persist in continuously filling from the front until your juicy morsels are out of site and out of mind. You know the scraps are there should you ever need them, but when you do you use Google to find more current information anyway. This poor idea of ‘curation’ is what I think of as social media ‘cupboarding’ or hoarding behaviour: grab it, save it, forget it. This has been a perennial challenge associated with the idea of social media curation since the earliest Web 2.0 platforms such as appeared in 2003 with powerful tagging tools. By the way, died after a long, slow death in June 2017 – I invested much of my time in that particular cupboard 😦

The use of Storify as an archiving tool has obscured its real potential as a creative educational space for working with digital narratives. It may be hard work (learning was never meant to be easy), but editing in narrative text, re-sequencing tweets, and incorporating digital media from other sources including related and unrelated hashtags are curatorial actions that begin to suggest how Storify might have been used to live up to its name – to make stories and documentaries with purpose.

I’ve begun to look for alternatives to Storify and a quick Google (of course) turns up very little of any use (surprisingly and ironically Google can’t always save us!). George Williams in the ProfHacker blog column in The Chronicle of Higher Education explores the Alternatives to Storify and points to a Google Doc his students have created together to evaluate possibilities. The best bet is Pearltrees, but it would really make very hard work of a task that would have been second nature to Storify.

It feels like we missed our chance – let me know if you know otherwise. Please!


Posted in Media-enhanced learning, Possibilities, social media for learning | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Where are you taking me? Thinking about the politics of network


The transcript of ‘Learning Networks, Not Teaching Machines’, a keynote delivered at EDEN 2015 in Barcelona by Audrey Watters in 2015, is a good read for anyone interested in networked learning, media-enhanced learning, and the use of social media for learning. I’d not read it before, but it exists to be discovered!

It’s timely for me as I am convincing myself that learning communities have relatively little value compared co-operative learning networks. While recognising that the idea of community membership still has value (as collaborative learning still has value) ideas to do with co-operative learning networks explain my own thinking about pedagogy in higher education.

Watters asks us to think critically about the politics of networked infrastructure. I recognise that my own interest in networks as educational and sociological phenomena cannot be seen as being politically neutral, even if we leave the agenda that drive higher education to one side.

Watters charts how valiant attempts among educators to create or adopt new media have methodically been thwarted by commercial interest. She says, “Education has not historically fared well when it comes to competing with commercial providers – not on the radio, not on the television, nor I’d argue on new computer-based technologies. These networks have triumphed commercially, politically. In turn, they frame what we mean by network – what we expect them to do, who gets to participate in them and how.”
She says we need to ask, “Who owns the “pipes” and “the wire”? Who owns the means by which content is transmitted? Who owns the satellites? Who owns the spectrum? Who owns the cables? Who owns the network? What networks – what infrastructure – have we inherited?”

I would add, “Who owns context?” – that sense that gives each one of us our rationale for the things we think and do.

I aspire to a higher education environment enacted as networked space in which our role is to develop learner agency and promote self-direction and challenge students to become self-determined. The networked space in my mind is a fluid idea of social learning network. Nevertheless, such space is dependent on infrastructures and infrastructure, is an essentially political concept for the student and the graduate that requires navigation and negotiation. Watters acknowledges this space,
“The Internet – and the Web in particular – enable a readable and a writable platform, where a multitude of voices can express themselves as creators not just consumers and not just through text but through a multitude of media – audio, video, still images, code. These new wires have powerful implications for self-organized learning, some argue – a new participatory culture of learning that need not be managed or monitored by formal educational institutions or by traditional sources of information. The new networks, like the Web itself, ostensibly act as this very postmodern sort of technical infrastructure whereby power is decentralized, distributed.”
So, as we continue to develop learner agency and ideas like co-production, and even digital literacies, we need to develop the critical acuity of our learners to use such space well.


Watters, A. (2015, 10 June). ‘Learning Networks, Not Teaching Machines’. Hack Education: The History of the Future of Education Technology. [Blog] Online at:

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Researching academic innovation to foster belonging



 separate ideas or single big idea? Photo by moren hsu on Unsplash

I am working with an innovative subject group at the moment who have done much to foster student belonging. They have a long list of small recent and current initiatives intended to develop a cohesive disciplinary identity. Previously, they have engaged student researchers from their area to evaluate initiatives such as establishing an irregular informal games zone. Looking at their plans for the next year, their pool of student researchers are fully occupied on other projects. I wonder at the possible conflict of interests in students from the discipline researching a belonging project anyway. Ideally, of course, this means they are looking for methods that are easy to run. It seems analysis of qualitative data will inevitably be arduous.


Further, the methods they have used previously are fairly rudimentary and standard qualitative fare: questionnaires and focus groups. However, it does feel as though qualitative methodology is what is needed here as they want to get to the bottom of the problem and understand its nuances. One challenge, still to be clarified, is whether to look at the picture as a whole or to attempt to look at the impact of the various small initiatives that make up their work individually. The latter is problematic as the concept of belonging is psychological and most easily understood as an outcome of experiencing place holistically.

I was wondering about a token-based system like the ones you get in some supermarkets where, as you pay for your shopping, you are given a token o place in one of three or four buckets depending on what charity you would like the supermarket to support this week. If we introduced a new belonging question each week (perhaps picking out key initiatives) I think people who leave the floor could be asked to deposit a token in a Likert scale-type bucket system with tokens weighed/counted at the end of each day? We could also think about using beacon technology to make it easy for users of the space to learn more about the initiatives and leave feedback on their own experience.

So, I’m looking for ideas. If you have any experience to share, or simply ideas, and please do comment on my thoughts above.

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The writing is on the wall – poetry and place

There has been an interesting little discussion on Twitter today following a post from @viviennestern.

First, I walk past this wall-poem by Andrew Motion so many times a week. I think he was Poet Laureate at the time he wrote it (2007). Second, I was passionate about public art about 20 years ago going as far as to write a PhD proposal. Third, as readers of this blog know well, I am currently intrigued by place and placemaking. Yet I am ashamed to note I have never connected any of these interests to this poem until I read this post and the many replies from people who shared Vivienne’s sentiments!

There is a point to this!

Despite the physical dominance of the poem, or of any landmark or public art, they can become invisible – ‘part of the wallpaper’. That can be a good thing: the landscape is familiar and accepted in the same way that home and family can be taken for granted but are much loved and needed. Or this invisibility can be regarded as a bad thing: we are too preoccupied or ignorant to notice and value art or artefacts in the landscape.

Who makes place?

I am interested in place, learning and belonging. It’s a constant theme here! The idea of Third Place is particularly intriguing and useful for the consideration of fostering student belonging. At the moment I am exploring how Third Place is agnostic when it comes to the physical or digital context and is found in boundary crossing experience such as polycontextual bridging as much in specific static situations (I’ve been writing an article for months on this!). So this question of invisibility or backgrounding of homely symbols is quite important to me as I consider how the conditions of homeliness can be fostered.

Defining ‘we’ as ‘the University’, ‘the lecturer’, ‘the developer’, ‘the member of staff”, ‘people other than students’, etc, there are some questions that are preoccupying me. For example, to what extent do ‘we’ make homely learning spaces for students? To what extent do ‘we’ allow students to ‘take over’ space and make it their own? To what extent do ‘we’ have anything to do with ‘making learning homes’ on campus at all? In answer to the last question here, the learner’s agency as placemaker is as likely to be at least as psychological as it is material – the sense of ownership and belonging that comes from the memories they make compared to, say, the pictures or poems they put up seems to be at least as significant if we are thinking about the learner’s agency as placemaker.

If so, this may explain my ambivalence to the poem on the wall. The following may all be true: its sentiments are good and even inspirational; it is art paid for by the University to say something about the University – the value of the sentiment can be understood as secondary or even minimal; it is important that the University describes itself as such because it is important it introduces itself as welcoming to newcomers and passers-by.

However ambivalent or cynical I may feel about the writing on the wall, my conclusion is that a University is all about creating the conditions for learning and for me this includes it overtly designing-in and signalling that time spent on campus or time spent connected is ultimately a personal experience and one which should be reassuring, challenging and inspiring. Therefore, a university must do whatever it can to create rich ‘other’ spaces that may lead rich experience, strong memories, and students having a sense of place.


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#minitwalk demonstrates the flexibility of the #twalk model at #socmedhe17


The #minitwalk

Mini-twalking – an ideal pre-Xmas learning activity!


Since our first successful use of the #twalk model in May 2017, a number of #twalks have used the model in different situations. Our experience and understanding of the #twalk is growing. A number of us involved in trialing this in May 2017 at a MELSIG event, which focused on the topic of digital placemaking, decided to submit a workshop proposal to the #SocMedHE17 conference. Within the proposal, we promised to run a #twalk within the conference.

Running any Twalk is ambitious albeit laudable, but running one within a conference workshop is audacious. We decided to be audacious! From audacity comes innovation. When you have five other dispersed co-presenters, one of whom was never added to the twitter planning group and one who set it up but was not currently monitoring twitter, the chances of real innovation increase significantly 😉 . Ooh yes, one presenter can’t make it. And that other one… well, they’re not making it either, are they?! (And then you walk into the conference and she is there anyway! The joy of it!

What happens, of course, is you have one or two people who do the prep the others are named because without their contributions earlier on none of this would have happened anyway. This is one of the reasons I like collaborating because in your own way you make your contribution whenever you have the skills, ideas, or energy. Voila! An excellent and apparently carefully crafted plan is devised and everything ready to run like clockwork!

In fact, we were over-prepared, turning up with two sets of team badges! Right, back to the #minitwalk – how did we reinvent the #twalk and demonstrate its versatility?

The versatility of the #twalk model

Normally a #twalk is linear: 5 destinations in one hour covered by one team in each locale connected via a twitter hashtag.

We changed things around a little for our conference #minitwalk.

We had 10 destinations, with two each covered by four teams in our locale and teams elsewhere managed their twalk to suit their numbers. There were just 20 minutes available for the twalk, but this worked perfectly for our topic on informal learning spaces. Yes, it was rushed with 10 minutes for each space, but I think it was ideal for engaging people with key ideas in an experiential setting.

For me, one of the key questions with active learning is what do you do with what you have created and learnt? The four groups made it back within the 20 minutes allotted. Almost perfect synchronisation. However, our next task in the workshop was for each team to apply their experience of the Twalk to generating ideas in one of four different discussion groups. We had set up Google Docs to do this. So at this point, our four teams were assigned a document each, and teams located elsewhere were (potentially) allocated the same four Docs (this didn’t happen in reality as we had not firmly established the approach with enough time to communicate this before the workshop began).

The first group back got first choice of conversation topic and so on. On reflection, that worked beautifully. The discussion topics and GD URL were on screen as they sat down and each group made a great contribution right on the back of their invigorating Twalk.

My burning question partially answered

#twalks so far have mostly focused on learning spaces as a topic and I have worried that we won’t explore the wider possibilities and implications. My interest has always been about the #twalk as a learning space. Yes, it is ideal for engaging staff in the topic of learning spaces, but my interest is in how any academic can apply it in their own practice.

For me, this remodeled version works even better as a 20 or 30-minute activity in which students are engaged as walkers. But we’ll see. There are many permutations.

You can read, add to or raise questions about the discussion topics here:

  • Discussion 1 – Benefits of the #Twalk as a learning space – Add to the discussion: There are many benefits to using a #Twalk as a learning space, for example…
  • Discussion 2 – Emerging issues – Before rolling out #Twalks at scale here are some of the things we should think about (and how we might address them)
  • Discussion 3 – Incorporating other social media – Learning, walking and using tweetchats works great, but here are some other social media we could think about using…
  • Discussion 4 – Ideas for using #Twalks in any discipline – We have used #Twalks to think about learning spaces, but they could be used in any discipline. For example,…

Note: This post has been delayed! The conference took place right before Xmas and then I totally ran out of steam! It is good to return to this and reflect on it. I am currently organising further walks at Sheffield Hallam, supporting a subject group to develop a walking CPD model, and I and Alex Spiers have submitted a draft chapter on the Twalk model to a forthcoming book being edited by Chris Rowell, both co-presenters in this workshop.

Posted in active learning, Digital Placemaking, Possibilities, social media for learning, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Polycontextual bridging – how to be in two places at once


Polycontextual bridging (Elstad, 2016) is a useful term that allows us to explore literacies around engaging with hybridity, blended learning spaces and learning literacies. Simply, it refers to the experience of being in two or more places at once. Before associating this immediately with social media let’s note that the phenomenon is not essentially new. Though I am not a psychologist it seems that our attention wanders by nature, we become distracted, we attempt to multi-task, we use multimedia that may create dissonance, we experience split attention, and so forth. More particularly, as individuals how we appear to others (a form of being) may not be how we see ourselves. Clearly, there is so much behind each of these ideas, and others, but before we attempt to manage the literacies associated witth polycontextual bridging we should appreciate that in education the concept may be useful even if it is fundamentally complex.


I am attracted to the concept because of my interest in learning spaces and, at the moment, my exploration of learning walks, twalks, social media augmented space, smart learning, and my commitment to developing understanding around ‘studio for all’. Each of these interests seems to coalesce around the richness of boundary crossing as a basis for understanding learning. In other words, polycontextual bridging appears to be useful for thinking about experiential networked learning in the digital-social age.

Significance – the nature of disrupted space

The implications of polycontextual bridging for education are diverse. Much of this has been discussed in texts on boundary crossing and liminality and I have tried to express the ideas in conference papers, publications, and blog posts here over recent years. If it doesn’t already exist, it would be useful to devise a framework to understand the implications. My initial thoughts are that this relates to notions of disrupted space, but there may be better ways of looking at it.

Here is a first stab at presenting ideas for how space is experienced polycontextually:

  • Augmented space – in which polycontextual experience adds to or complements first space experience, e.g. if first space experience is the classroom social media may provide timely access to resources (people, artefacts) that can immediately enrich the primary experience;
  • Conflicting space – in which polycontextaulity is experienced as dissonance, e.g. the individual appears to be equally present in one or more spaces (home, school, work, third place) but their attention is divided. This may be perceived as multi-tasking, but the polycontextuality experienced by the individual affects the quality of their engagement to one or more of the spaces in which they are present;
  • Multi-polycontextual space – in which multiple participants in any related space are committed to multiple activities concurrently, e.g. three family members sitting on a sofa watching television, each holding a smart device, and each engaged with one or social media channels or sources of web-based information. One of may be a student with a deadline, another may be a worker winding down, the other may be a child playing games.

Immediately it is evident that polycontextual bridging describes a complexity that can be experienced positively or negatively. It suggests opportunities and challenges. From an educational perspective, it is evident that such behaviours require us to develop our ideas about learning spaces, how people experience learning, and the relationship of learning context to life context to work context.


Elstad, E. (2016). Educational technology and polycontextual bridging. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Posted in BYOD, learning space, polycontextuality, social media for learning, studio-based learning, walking | Tagged , , | 1 Comment