Friday, 14 October 2016

Misdirection, redirection, moving on

Taking time to reflect is sometimes the hardest part of life, although it shouldn't be. Every time a fresh cohort of H8** start twittering, I am reminded how much I got into using my blog as a way to reflect and steer my mind. I am also reminded of how I let life and work get in the way! So, no more feeling sorry for myself, its time to start blogging again. I am now a freelance trainer and consultant and every week I am seeing new things and thinking about stuff. I definitely have lots to share.
Of course, one of the things I need to decide, is whether to set up a new blog, or to keep using this one? By using this one (of which I like my title), I can continue my journey and be more broad in my subjects. But should I have a separate one which focuses more on safeguarding? 
I am about to go on holiday, so I will ponder this over the next two weeks, but do let me know your thoughts. Do I branch out on separate lines, or return to my Antics here. 
And if you have just started H8** - good luck! Soak it up. Get involved. Its one of the best things I have ever done.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The project approach: networked practice and learning from peers

Open and networked practice

The final project artefact is intended to be an open educational resource, so developing the project in an open environment was a meaningful way to explore and role model online participation. Online networks and open practices are an integral part of my personal (as a student) and professional (as a practitioner) world. Four main platforms were used to inform and develop the project: the Open University, Twitter, a personal blog and open journals. As the project was situated in my professional context, using established networks outside of the Open University was important. Other practitioners and Scouting volunteers presented different viewpoints, and diversity of opinion was helpful in critically reviewing the project development.

This personal blog was used as the central point with which to share the development of the project. I hope the blog has afforded participation in digital ‘creation’, alongside the development my digital identity. It does have a limited audience, but sharing posts through Twitter has increased this and also helped to extend the discussions (thanks all). New and existing contacts have aided reflection and signposted to further research and resources. Twitter was also beneficial when looking at the macro-environmental factors. Using the hashtag facility as a search tool highlighted current debates, projects and interested people. Furthermore, it afforded research on the move as posts could be read or bookmarked for future review from a mobile device. The main impact in being more open was that practitioners outside of the Open University engaged in the debates. This gave assurance, credibility and confidence in the project’s relevance for the wider world. 

Creating posters and peer review

The creation of a conference poster presented a chance to explore new, online, multimedia tools and consider alternative forms of digital creativity.

Multimedia methods

In face-to-face practice a variety of methods and media are used to deliver educational material and I wanted to mirror this within the project. I wanted to tell a story, but to keep the messages simple and reflective of core values, in order to engage and motivate the intended audience. Mayer’s (2005) cognitive theory of multi-media learning however, reminds us that we have separate, limited, channels for processing auditory and visual information and we need to get the mix of media right in order to actively process information and create coherent mental representations. 

As Scouting is about ‘learning by doing’, I adopted this approach. By experimenting with different media formats and presenting them early for review, I was able to determine the most appropriate approach. Animations provoked more emotional responses and recognition of their story-telling potential. The final decision to use a slideshow based animation was a result of asking Scouting volunteers to feedback on two different kinds of animation, in order to get a different perspective. They viewed the slideshow animations as more interactive and engaging, with greater potential for re-purposing.

The role of feedback

The process of engaging in feedback, on our own as well as others work, aided poster development. Feedback developed from simple comments to more detailed and constructive guidance as we engaged with other student’s material and reflected back on our own. A good example of this is how later feedback often asked about the theme and the artefact, as more students realised this was not explicit within their own posters. The first poster version created provoked attention-grabbing, motivational responses and recognised the impact of the visuals and logical approach it afforded. However feedback also helped develop the poster so that it became more explicit in the concepts it was exploring and included clearer links to the project questions and outcomes. Once again, feedback from outside of the Open University was also sought, to ensure that the approach and messages maintained a wider relevance, but also kept the wider network updated with the project progress. The process of feedback also helped in determining potential accessible alternatives. Following feedback and discussion with fellow students in OULive, an audio text version was created, which responded to comments and a simple slideshow version, with embedded alternative text for screen readers, for those who needed time to navigate the slides or visual descriptions of the content. The process of giving and receiving feedback has therefore been invaluable in critically evaluating the development of project resources.

So thanks all for being part of the project too!

The project topics: Digital identity and digital inclusion

Digital Inclusion

Defining digital inclusion is challenging as research and debates are often embedded in specific contexts. Most definitions converge around the idea that all members of society are able to access the affordances that technology offers (Seale, 2009, Selwyn and Facer, 2007).

Political and economic influences

There are strong political and economic influences throughout many of the debates on digital inclusion. The UK Government defines digital inclusion as ‘having the right access, skills, motivation and trust to confidently go online’ (Cabinet Office, 2014). However, the government’s motivations appear to be focused on creating economic opportunities, with commissioned work addressing access, through infrastructure projects with telecommunications companies, and skills, for example, the projects commissioned by Go ON UK ( ). Projects addressing the motivation and trust barriers appear more limited. The government view of motivation supports the premise that going online makes it easier to find a job, improve household income, and get more benefits from public services. These motivations are predominantly economical and financial, rather than social and cultural.

Meaningfulness and digital choice

Further debates about the motivational barriers emerge mainly from the educational field, where educators are looking at how to utilise ‘technology-enhanced’ learning. Seale (2009) notes that a lack of skills is not the only influence on technology use. It must have some meaningful use in people’s lives and afford contextual uses; in other words, it needs to have ‘life-fit’. Online initiatives often forget that a person’s motivation and attitude towards the use of technology, may be as important as the access quality and location. Individuals develop positive and negative attitudes about technology, which, alongside other cultural barriers, need to be tackled. Understanding the ‘digital choices’ (Helsper, 2008) people make is a necessary factor when considering inclusion.

Scouting values and digital inclusion

Inclusion is therefore about opportunities and practices and not just the deficits and barriers. An individual’s values will be influential in determining the meaningfulness of using technology. Seale (2009) reminds us that people bring their own set of motivations, skills and resourcefulness to the online world. So could the existing motivations and skills of volunteers, founded upon shared values, motivate and encourage meaningfulness in digital participation?


The ‘identity’ topic emerged from research about the trust barriers to inclusion and the relevance of identity in the digital landscape. From a practitioner perspective, digital identity is at the forefront of discussions about online safety. A conscious comprehensive understanding of the nature of digital identity and how to manage it however, has yet to be developed (de Kerckhove and Almedia, 2013; Ollier-Malaterre and Rothbard, 2013).

Understanding identity

‘Identity’, put simply, is the perception and expression we have of ourselves. Influenced by cultural contexts and social interactions (Suke, 2009), it is generally agreed that identity is perceived differently in different contexts (Besley, 2011; Cullen, 2009). Accordingly, online identity is about how we present ourselves to others online, and how we perceive ourselves through our online interactions (Gradinaru, 2013).

Digital identity

Early debates about digital identity concentrated on anonymity and the multitude of opportunities the internet afforded. Technology has developed and is now embedded in everyday lives, a process Gradinaru (2013) called ‘technological domestication’. The internet is no longer a playground with which to construct different identities (although we still use the internet to explore different facets of identity), but has become a way of ‘customising’ our identities, more clearly linking back to the ‘real’. This means that individuals participating online need have an understanding of the structure of digital spaces, and how they influence and shape identity (Kimmons, 2014). For example, less face to face contact encourages more self-disclosure, which is the main affordance of social networking (Belk, 2013).

The challenges

Online spaces offer opportunities and challenges. The challenges converge around mis-understanding information. Digital identity is easier to misinterpret because the original context and meaning of digital presentations can be lost, as they are not necessarily linked to specific contexts, particular relationships or situations. Self-disclosure can lead to boundary dilemmas (Lannin and Scott, 2013), which is why most advice talks about the benefits of developing separate personal and professional digital identities. However, as Lannin and Scott (2013) note in their paper about how psychologists navigate the online world, it would be naïve to think that our private lives will never intersect with the professional.

Scouting values and managing identity

Individuals have to make their own decisions about digital identity, but educators can help empower them. They need a heightened awareness of the risks and rewards afforded by online participation in order to take responsibility and make choices about their own digital identity. By integrating Scouting values with messages about digital identity, could volunteers consider how to participate in ways that are meaningful and truthful for them, within a framework they already observe? 

Belk, R. W. (2013). Extended self in a digital world. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(3), 477-500. [online] Available at: (Accessed 2 January 2015)
Besley, T. (2011). Digitized Youth: Constructing identities in the creative knowledge economy. Annals Of Spiru Haret University, Journalism Studies, 12(1), 9-22.
 de Kerckhove, D., & de Almeida, C. M. (2013). What is a digital persona?. Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research, 11(3), 277-287 
Cabinet Office (2014) Government Digital Inclusion Strategy, 13 April 2014 [online] Available at: (Accessed 2 January 2015) 
Cullen (2009) Culture, identity and information privacy in the age of digital government.  Online Information Review, 33(3), 405-421. 
Gradinaru, C. (2013). From Multitude to Convergence: Contemporary Trends in the Study of Online Identity. Argumentum: Journal the Seminar Of Discursive Logic, Argumentation Theory & Rhetoric, 11(2), 95-108. 
Helsper, Ellen (2008) Digital inclusion: an analysis of social disadvantage and the information society. Department for Communities and Local Government, London, UK. [online] Available at: (Accessed 2 January 2015)
Kimmons, R. (2014). Social Networking Sites, Literacy, and the Authentic Identity Problem. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 58(2), 93-98.
Lannin, D. G., & Scott, N. A. (2013). Social networking ethics: Developing best practices for the new small world. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 44(3), 135-141.
Ollier - Malaterre, A., Rothbard, N. P., & BERG, J. M. (2013). When worlds collide in cyberspace:How Boundary work in online social networks impacts professional relationships. Academy Of Management Review, 38(4), 645-669. 
Seale, J. (2009). Digital Inclusion. A research briefing by the technology enhanced learning phase of the teaching and learning research programme. [online] Available at: (Accessed 2 January 2015)
 Selwyn, N., & Facer, K. (2007). Beyond the digital divide. Opening Education Reports. Bristol: Futurelab. [online]. Available at: (Accessed 2 January 2015) 
Suke, C. (2009). College Male Students' Cultural Value Identity in the New Media World. China Media Research, 5(4), 41-46.

The project drivers

Project overview

A bit of background into the three main areas areas of the project. Firstly the value-based approach, and why for me it is important to use this as a core in work. Then the importance of digital inclusion and identity (we will explore this more in the next blog post). and finally how I am trying to be a role-model, learning by doing and participating online.

A values-based context

As a practitioner working in the field of children’s safeguarding, educational work is grounded in the values of the organisation. This involves explicitly linking Scouting values (integrity, respect, care, belief, co-operation) to key messages and using the Scouting method (learning by doing, taking part in activities, taking responsibility and making choices, undertaking new and challenging activities and having fun) when designing learning activities. This values-based approach was adopted in order to make safeguarding more accessible for volunteers and simplify the core messages. The approach concentrates on enabling people rather than restricting them. This approach has resulted in volunteers being more readily engage in discussions; with a better understanding, acceptance and recognition of the key messages given to them. I believe this remains a powerful and productive way to approach work and educational messages.

Exploring digital inclusion and identity

Existing research and advice about going ‘online’ often centres on the practicalities of ‘how to’ go online rather than addressing the ‘why’ go online or the ‘how to be’ online.  While the practical aspects are important, addressing the social and psychological barriers that adults may have to overcome is an essential and less commonplace discussion. Consequently, the project wanted to explore whether the adoption of a value-based approach to inclusion and identity, could offer a simple, but effective framework to help engage volunteers in discussions about digital participation.

Participation and networked practice

After identifying that education and development involves participation, and because the project was a result of an Open University module focused on networked practice, it was important that the project reflected this in its design and approach. For this reason, the underpinning objective of the project was to ‘learn by doing’ in order to develop knowledge and skills as a ‘networked’ practitioner. This included undertaking new activities online and adopting a participatory approach in achieving the project’s aims.

In the run up to the conference...

The Open University conference is here and yesterday the first students presented their projects. It was an amazing array of different projects, topics and professions. That's the great thing about the Open University, fellow students are so diverse, so you get a richness of learning about different contexts and through different eyes. Although the conference was for Open University students and alumni, you can see some of the content here in Cloudworks.

I feel like I cheated a bit, but by exploring a topic that I am already passionate about and that I work on in 'real-life' (let's face it, I am a boundary defying practitioner), I have managed to create something that may be useful in the future. 

I am going to share my last assignment with you through the next few bog posts, so you can understand a little more about the 'stuff' that I have been thinking about. I will also post a recorded version of my presentation, once the 'real' one is done!

Conference Abstract
Volunteers in Scouting do amazing things with young people every day, and whether they are climbing a mountain or using social media they should use the values and methods of scouting to guide them. 
For The Scout Association, education is about helping young people build confidence and life-long skills. This participatory approach to education means the ‘digital-inclusion’ of adult volunteers is less about accessibility of content and more about participation in online practices and engaging with young people in the online world. Consequently, the ‘Being Prepared’ project wanted to explore whether the adoption of a ‘values-based approach’ to digital inclusion, could offer a simple, but effective framework to help engage volunteers in discussions about digital participation. 
Digital inclusion is a multi-faceted concept, and the barriers to inclusion are embedded in social, cultural, economic and technological contexts. Existing research and advice often centres on the practicalities of ‘how to’ go online. While this is important, addressing the social and psychological barriers that adults may have to overcome are essential and less commonplace conversations. Therefore digital inclusion should also examine the ‘why’ go online and the ‘how to be’ online.
The ‘why’ go online looks at how motivation and attitudes towards technology use will affect the choices made. Individuals may think the technical aspects too challenging or feel participation is irrelevant. For this reason discussions about digital inclusion should consider the ‘meaningfulness’ of digital participation in people’s lives. Digital identity, the ‘how to be’ online, is about the presentation of self to others online, and the perception of self, developed through online interactions. From a practitioner perspective, digital identity is at the forefront of discussions about online safety, as individuals learn to navigate the online world. Exploring identity highlights the risks, fears and feelings connected to the sense of self and exposes individual vulnerabilities in an unknown environment. Digital inclusion needs to help individuals to take responsibility and make informed choices about their own digital identity, so they can take advantage of the opportunities as well as understanding the risks afforded by digital participation.
This presentation tells the story of the ‘Being Prepared’ project. In order to understand the context, it introduces Scouting and outlines the debates about digital inclusion and digital identity in more detail. The project takes a socio-cultural view of inclusion and identity, and proposes that digital inclusion, like education and development is constructed and defined through our interactions with others and the world around us. Therefore the existing motivations and skills of Scouting volunteers, established upon shared values, can encourage meaningful and truthful digital participation, within a framework already observed. 
The presentation will conclude by presenting the project artefact; an open educational resource, which takes the form of a website. The purpose of the artefact is not to provide volunteers with the answers, but to engage them in the conversation, and to help them to take responsibility for making their own choices. Choices that are founded upon Scouting values and methods. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Belonging - Believing - Behaving

I am moving house next week. In the process of packing and finding documents to change address I came across something that I wrote when I was 19 (that's 19 years ago).  
At that time I had been involved in a Youth group/movement that sprang up in Gloucestershire called 'Holy Disorder'. Our purpose? To help churches understand how to reach and and engage with young people. Not only did we run regular week night 'services', we also traverse the country in a minibus and took our messages to others. That was while I was 16 - 18 years old. Then, one of the churches we visited asked if I would be a youth worker there for a year. I was about to go to Durham to study Theology. But I took a year out and got paid bed and board and £100 a month to help youth work in the community.

At the end of that time, I wrote a reflection on my time. I did not realise I still had this, or that I was so reflective back then as a teenager. However, I wanted to share some of the things I wrote, as the messages mirror those I am currently promoting/reflecting on. My spirituality may have changed along the way, but the message about belonging and relationships is at the core of our humanity.

" The heart of the message is love. The heart of youth work is love in action. We must be messengers of compassion and channels of love and peace. The most important thing will always be relationships. The interaction of people will always teach more than words.
Belonging. Believing. Behaving. I believe these are the three important stages of discipleship, especially with young people. A person will find it very difficult to believe, if they do not belong, and until they believe, it will be difficult to get them to behave. Once again the initial emphasis is on belonging - relationships.

Children want to copy and become like adults. Therefore the greatest lesson we can teach is behaviour and attitude. If we project behaviour which is not attempting to be a model of our values, then what are we teaching our children? 

So maybe my work has at times eemed 'unstructured' or not largely 'teaching' based. This is because I believe that if you have the relationship right, then the teaching bit follows"

That 19 year old my have been young, but I think those core values have developed over the next 19 years, and is probably why I believe that values in action make a difference. For me faith was never about words and the message I took from Sunday school wasn't about believing dogma or the bible. The message I have carried with me is that people will judge you on how you behave. Therefore if you want to make a difference, you do that through action and not through words alone. 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Social networking, ethics and exploring boundary management

Developing best practice for the small world. (Lannin and Scott, 2013)

The Lannin and Scott (2013) paper is focused on the psychology community and how to navigate social media by interpreting the APA Ethical Guide in a different context. This paper is a brilliant read and spoke to me about the personal professional context. In particular it reflecting on the opportunities and challenges that are presenting in social media, as similar to those that small rural communities face. Close contact, small worlds, means that it is very difficult to separate out personal and professional completely. The paper sees this a ‘small world ethics’, and situated the dilemmas created where younger members don’t realise there are dilemmas, but older members can’t help as they have no experience of the technology. By drawing upon experiences of navigating in small rural communities, then they could draw lessons in how to navigate in the social networking world.This resonated with Scouting communities for me. Often part of the communities becoming extended families. How do we maintain boundaries when boundaries collide? They say it is naïve of us to think that our ‘private’ lives will never intersect with our professional lives.

Social networking, like rural communities, increase the incidental contact, self-disclosure (remember we said that social media by its nature is a self-disclosure environment) and multiple relationships. Small world ethical thinking means we need to have a heightened awareness that the environment may produce some ethical dilemmas and boundary violations.  So we need to assess the risks and rewards that online activity might have, but we (talking about psychologists) may also need to be upfront and honest about the potential roles, set expectations from the start.

The paper ends by discussing the potential for good practice. This includes boundary management, technical competence and professional/personal liability. It’s a good idea to have formal social networking policies in place, so that both parties know the terms of use, expectations and what they will and won’t do, bearing in mind informed consent (e.g. – the psychologist will not search for the client online). They consider potentially avoiding multiple online relationships with clients and maybe having professional and personal profiles. They also say that psychologists should develop technical competence before engaging with social media, just as they would understand the cultural content in any work they undertake.

So this paper was interesting for many reasons but there are two takeaways for me. The guidance and advise advocated is very similar to that that I give to volunteers. Understand, develop skills, and recognise the risks. More importantly, there is a lesson here about the fact that in life, sometimes there will be boundary violations – how we manage and deal with these is important. So maybe some of the messages that need to be added in, are about what happens if you think you have crossed a line. How to you deal with that.

What is a digital persona (de Kerckhove and Almedia, 2013)

The paper identifies the core identity, the person, and then persona, which are the roles, relationships, attributes and identifiers of our person. And these aspects are persona;, social, institutional, legal, scientific and technological.    

“..society, experts, institutions and groups are still in a fragile unconscious, or pre-conscious phase, regarding the nature of the digital persona; ethical and mature management of its features and the need to develop more comprehensive, ethical and friendly self-management tools."

Once again we see that digital communication changes private individuality into networked and connected community.

When worlds collide in Cyberspace (Ollier-Malaterre and Rothbard, 2013)

The final paper I looked at picks up on the idea of boundary management, and looked at the different ways that we manage social media from the other side. How does personal information effect others professional views of us. More can be found at . Another fascinating read and it starts to get ‘under the bonnet’ of how interactions online can effect others perceptions of us, and our identities. The paper points out that we haven’t yet figured out how to manage our digital persona and there are no comprehensive frameworks to draw on. This is good news in some ways, as it means all those discussions I have been having at work, are still very much in their infancy.

The paper recognising that there can be a collision between professional and personal lives and social media use require boundary management and identity negotiation through the opportunities and challenges present, especially because of self-disclosure. This is about the consequences of the personal on the professional and it was good to read some of the positive effects rather than focusing on the negative!. The paper identifies four types of management behaviours: Open, audience, content, hybrid.

Boundary theory in social networking is driven by preferences for segmentation (how we divide up different aspects of our persona) versus the integration of personal and professional identities and our motives for self-enhancement or self-verification. Basically, when you come down to it, social media is all about ego, and so it focuses on what we want to tell people about us, or the identity we want to create – consciously or unconsciously). The paper also explained how the notion of boundary management came about in the 1960s where there was a clear idea that professional and personal were separate. Once again this adds some understanding in to why some of our older adults find social media so strange, as the concept of sharing personally information is not one that they grew up with. However social networking has become a key forum for developing and maintaining relationships, especially if as me, you are a relatively isolated practitioner in your context.

The danger is, that our self-disclosures online are an archive of information that is not tailored to a specific context or a particular relationship or situation, and so it’s original context and meaning can be lost. Here’s the outcome of their research:

de Kerckhove, D., & de Almeida, C. M. (2013). What is a digital persona?. Technoetic Arts: A Journal Of Speculative Research, 11(3), 277-287.

Lannin, D. G., & Scott, N. A. (2013). Social networking ethics: Developing best practices for the new small world. Professional Psychology: Research And Practice, 44(3), 135-141.

Ollier - Malaterre, A., Rothbard, N. P., & BERG, J. M. (2013). When worlds collide in cyberspace:How Boundary work in online social networks impacts professional relationships. Academy Of Management Review, 38(4), 645-669.