Talking SharePoint with the JISC RSC South East


Thursday of last week presented opportunity for me to again exercise my newly achieved presenting skills. We hosted a meeting for our JISC Regional Support Centre (RSC) covering SharePoint and Shibboleth.

As is my style, I took a conversational storytelling approach to my presentation, accompanying this with a minimal set of slides, loosely composed around to 10/20/30 principle – although I typically use font sizes far in excess of 30 point! SharePoint was the subject of the morning agenda, with Shibboleth to follow. I started the conversation with a quick show of hands from the audience; “Who already uses SharePoint?”. It was about 60/40 in SharePoint’s favor. This surprised me a little (I didn’t expect so many users). A pretty reasonable result given that our audience included work based learning and specialist providers.

I’m pretty sure the only thing I forgot after completing my storytelling was to open the floor for questions. This group weren’t about to let me get away without any questions though! The conversation that followed turned our to be the start of a great discussion.

Key in this discussion was SharePoint functionality in the uploading of files – or rather how in some combinations, the upload functionality can be your biggest limiting factor. I can describe this better with an example. We currently use SharePoint 2003. Our users have Microsoft Office 2007 (or 2010 in some cases). SharePoint 2003 hasn’t been developed to accept Open XML Document format files, and therefore users must upload in a compatible format – the old “.doc” format. This isn’t a problem for any computer connected to the domain; we simply apply an Office Group Policy package to set the default file type. However, take this outside the domain – to a home computer perhaps – and your application of a consistent environment is no more.

My view here is a challenging one, and perhaps not yet achievable. Our reliance on SharePoint is for the most part (although not quite entirely) still built around uploading files. All too quickly our SharePoint installation grew to include a multitude of sites and document libraries, each with a subtly different structure and security model, bringing with it an administrative burden. Instead, as is more commonly the case with newer web tools, our longer term objective for collating content should surely be focused upon creating content online. Flexible structures, simplified security management, little or no dependence upon sometimes proprietary content types. Don’t get me wrong; SharePoint does handle the simplistic task of collating content in an accessible location very well. At the end of the day though, it’s usually treated just like a shared drive. Sadly, there’s nothing particularly advanced about that.

Digital literacy has nothing to do with naked cycling


What an amazing day! When I set off this morning, I had no idea that the workshop that the JISC Digital Literacy team had setup would be so challenging. I’ve been to many JISC ‘workshops’ before, but I think this excelled beyond that of anything prior.

It’s been a feature of the last couple of events that we start with something analogue – in other words, a paper exercise. I’m okay with that. Granted I’m not really a fan of paper resources (particularly when so many delegates have a digital interest). The best example of this analogue start was when @ronm123 and @xlearn presented a room full of delegates with some mini whiteboards and got us writing and drawing. This morning’s exercise revolved around an image of the brain. We were asked to label this with the key attributes of digital literacy that we might a learner to possess.

As the day unfolded it was very clear that learner participation here was the key. Clear and detailed instructions were provided, but there was only limited expectation for you to adhere to these, usually during specific exercises. While e introduction to the day included a reminder about silencing your mobile, no prescription was otherwise given about what technology you may use.

What a great example of classroom practice it turned out to be. Event facilitators trusting participants in their participation. Allowing participants to respect the content, but influence or veer away from it where appropriate. Technology is permitted, but with conditions attached. Reflection is encouraged at set times, usually following a specific learning activity. Participants are expected to be just that -participating and not ‘lurking’.

The literacy aspects of this event were considerable in their depth, well supported by evidence, and everyone left with a number of useful themes to follow up in their own time. I won’t write about the details here, but rather leave you with these links to the most useful resources:

JISC slides from the workshop via Helen Beetham:

JISC Digital Literacies in The Design Studio
The CoLab project at the University of Surrey
JISC Digital Literacies Pilot Materials
What do you know about your learners?

Lunch at Goodenough College I found slightly bizarre. We sat on wooden chairs at a wooden table in an overly large and somewhat grand room. Sizeable pictures of eminent people were hung around the lower walls. Gilt covered crests adorned the higher ceiling architrave, and three huge chandeliers were suspended above our heads. Conversation included naked cycling and musical abilities (or lack of in my case). A lady I had never met before played a grand piano whilst we ate as we struggled to figure out what this ‘college’ actually teaches.

The goodness of JISC and JANET

Can’t believe I’ve been working for so long without appreciating the full scope of JISC and JANET resources available to the community. In fact, I’m fairly sure that I still don’t know about many of the services provided by both organisations.

Today I watched for the first time a JISC Legal webcast about recording lectures. Only spotted this by chance as it appeared a couple of times in my Twitter stream. The theme was ‘Recording Lectures and Screencasts‘. In our organisation, a few of us are using screencasts to document specific processes – mainly using free service from Screenr. We haven’t tried recording lectures yet, but we’ve certainly talked about it a lot! It turned out to be a fantastic session; well presented, professionally delivered (though not too formal), and best of all there was plenty of conversation going on in the parallel Twitter conversation. It never ceases to amaze me how you can connect with professionals so effortlessly through online mediums. This was no exception.

Only recently I had a similar experience at a JANET technical briefing, hearing just how useful the JANET CSIRT team can be in helping technical staff deal with the challenges faced by us in managing our networks. James Davis gave us a fascinating insight into the operations of the CSIRT team. Simple tips are offered – like the fact that relying on anti-virus software as your only ‘defense’ or alert system isn’t very sensible. James also discussed a number of areas where clearly he and his team have much more expertise than I do; I won’t embarass myself by trying to describe these more technical examples! However, there was one specific point that was reiterated several times: the team are there to provide help and advice to you, in addition to ensuring the security of JANET connected organisations. Why not follow them or take a look at their pages and find out more.

If you aren’t already making the most of the services offered by JISC and JANET, I highly recommend that you investigate. Both offer highly valuable resources to our community – some of those services you might not realise are available without a little investigation. Your Regional Support Centre will be keen to engage with you, and direct you to a wealth of information and useful contacts.