#ukfechat – regular chat for those interested in Further Education

Recently, I found myself reading a few posts in my Twitter stream at the same time #ukfechat was getting started. The conversation takes place every Thursday from 9PM.

I’ve not really participated in an organised Twitter chat before. Once or twice I’ve posted the odd item with the #edchat or #ukedchat tags if I’ve thought it relevant to those who regularly do participate in these conversational threads. The #ukfechat session is hosted by William Jenkins (@edtech_stories) and friends. Being one of many who contributed to his recent reports I felt a little more inclined to join in.

What was the experience like for me? Mixed is perhaps the best answer.

The start of the session is easy enough – one question to get things started. #ukfechat is fairly new to the Twitter chat arena, so conversation is lighter than others for the moment. Ultimately, the relevance of the subject for any given session determines whether you are going to participate fully. Having a support role (rather than curriculum), participating is highly dependent upon how relevant the subject is to my experience.

As the session continues, the timeline becomes a little more challenging to follow. You see, despite the theme being set out beforehand, conversation flows from the starting point to encompass the points of others. For me, at least, here’s where confusion can creep in. When the conversation includes more than one view expressed in quick succession, too many posts can quickly overwhelm the feed. I’m not yet certain of the best approach in these instances, but perhaps the best idea is simply to slow down and allow the conversation to settle, then offering your reply to specific individuals along with the hashtag – assuming this leaves you enough free characters to actually make a point.

Despite my stumbling, #ukfechat is a great opportunity for anyone working in FE to get involved in a largely positive and constructive conversation directly related to the sector – and I would encourage any reader to at least check out the conversation, even if you don’t want to participate right away.

Want to get involved? You can join the #ukfechat every Thursday from 9PM. Archives of each session are available via the #ukfechat website.

If you haven’t read any of William’s reports, why not start with Twitter in FE which examines the success and failure of Twitter as a tool for educators, or Tech Stories that uses Toy Story as a window to explore the unique characteristics of technology in an educational context.

Choose what updates you see from your Facebook friends

Facebook is great for connecting people, but let’s be honest, quite a lot of what you end up seeing every day is just junk. It probably begins with the advertising, which in my case at least, is for the most part for products that I’m not interested in. Then there’s the ‘you should post this on your wall because my friend says so and you will help a really good cause (honest)’, equivalent to the old school chain letters that caused much fuss and paranoia in the days before the web. You can ‘Like’ countless pictures of kids doing amusing or cute things – kids that you probably haven’t met and never will. Finally, let’s not forget the guilt you will feel if you fail to like or share the picture of the poor animal(s) in desperate need of your help. Facebook is all about making you feel better and those questionable posts asking for my sympathy unfortunately don’t do anything but rub me the wrong way.

So I went on a little mission to try and cleanse my timeline. This is what I did. Repeatedly, since you can’t (to my knowledge) do this in bulk. My Facebook stream is much more bearable now.

Login to Facebook on a desktop (or laptop) – this won’t work on a mobile device, to my knowledge.

Select your name and avatar at the top right of the page, right next to where it says ‘Find Friends’ and ‘Home’.

Select ‘Friends’, where the little collage of friend avatars is shown.

Hover the mouse over any one of the ‘Friend’ buttons and wait for the menu to pop up.

If you turn off the ‘Show in News Feed’ option, the Friend will disappear all together. We don’t necessarily want to go that far, so leave that enabled for now. Instead, choose the option below ‘Settings…’

Now we see a menu of two parts. This one allows us to choose the content types that we see from this Friend.
In the ‘How many updates?’ section, choose from the following, as described by Facebook:

  • All updates (everything)
  • Most updates (what Facebook normally shows you. Not everything, just the significant posts.)
  • Only important (Facebook quote this as ‘important things like getting a new job)


Once you have decided what frequency of updates you would like to see from this Friend, select from the following choices to filter everything this Friend is posting in the ‘What types of updates?’ section:

  • Life Events (birthdays etc.)
  • Status Updates (written status updates, check-ins)
  • Photos (pictures posted to wall or albums)
  • Games (posts from games the Friend is playing)
  • Comments and Likes (when the Friend responds to an existing post)
  • Music and Video (sharing music and video)
  • Other Activities (everything else)

There’s another way to do this by hovering the mouse over the ‘Friends’ button on their Facebook page, or the small arrow at the top right of any post, and repeat the same steps.

I found a really useful article at HongKiat that explains this and a few more tips quite nicely: 7 Ways To Manage Your Facebook Wall Feeds Better.


When technology fails

Each year e JISC runs a very successful online confence with a good number of delegates – more than one hundred at peak times, I believe. For two years running now I have joined this confence and found the experience a rewarding one, though very different from attending a conference in person. Participating in an online conference demands that you plan your time and manage your presence carefully to get the best from such an event. For the most part, the technoogy has been almost flawless in the sessions in which I have participated.

Fast forward to the social media event I attended today. Three sites, all with good quality technology facilities, and experienced facilitators. In each location we have presenters and audiences from the FE and HE sectors. I was about to write ‘…but when the technology goes wrong’, however I think that would be unfair. It’s more the case that the technology failed to perform to the level expected, and for the audience, the impact can be significant. For a given class of learners who regularly meet on an educators campus, the impact may be limited; there is probably opportunity to revisit the agenda in a subsequent session. In the scenario I found myself in today, when several groups of professionals gather to cover what is potentially a very valuable agenda, the chances of repeating the exercise at an alternative later time might be slim. The point I’m making is that if we are unable to demonstrate among a group of professionals that the technologies we evangelise every day will work reliably and predictably on demand, the momentum we hope to achieve in embedding their use in the curriculum will never reach critical mass. I know there were delegates in the room with me today who need some convincing that social media tools can not only be valuable and beneficial to learners, but will also work more reliably than those systems that we already deliver to users in-house. There is massive potential in online conferencing, but if you can neither see what is being presented, nor comprehend what is being said, you can only describe the outcome as a failure. Let’s just be very clear: this is no fault of the presenters, and no fault of the facilitators – there is no blame here.

However, whatever the cause, I think there are some key things that should be accounted for in ensuring the successful delivery of content using technology.

Have a backup plan

As much as you can laugh off the first failure of the day, repeat failures, either in a single session, or over a series, will quickly result in frustration. You will lose your audience; similar to a presenter going off topic or using slides that are over complicated.

Take control

If the technology has failed, or is underperforming, you need to know when to step in and stop. Don’t keep trying, particularly if you have an audience. Take a deep breath. Organise a short break. Start a related conversation or activity. You expect students to behave appropriately when in your class, and intervene when things go too far. You need to apply the similar classroom management principles where technology is concerned in order to maintain focus, control and engagement.

Learn from failure

Failure is okay; it happens to all of us in our personal and professional lives. The important part of failure is taking time to reflect. Reflection as part of the learning process is the opportunity for us to review the aspects that worked well, and those that didn’t perform as expected. Perhaps it is obviuos for me to say so, but having an improved plan of action and revising the technology provision is likely to generate an improved result in future.

Don’t stop trying

Leading the way is all about pushing the boundaries, and there will always be ups and downs – I’ve experienced these myself in the classroom. The important thing is to keep innovating.