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Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'social media' Category

The power of the crowd

Domi C Sinclair12 February 2015

A strong operating principal for the internet is faith in people power. This is not just for organising activism or anything world changing, but for doing everything from crowd-funding projects (Kickstarter, Indiegogo) to crowd-sourcing the webs best posts and news (Reddit). Now there is a new use for crowd power, Forekast, the crowd-sourced calendar.

This online calendar works on the basis of users submitting dates to the calendar and then voting for ones they think are interesting. This way you can see what big events are happening both on and offline. Forekast is broken into a number of subcategories, including technology, education and science. The technology category includes funding deadlines for Kickstarter projects, conferences and the known dates for important technology related policy decisions.  The science section includes a lot of the same things as the technology section, but with the addition of things such as dates for live-streamed talks from NASA and natural events (such as meteor shows and eclipses).

When you find an event you are interested in you can choose to up-vote it and receive an emailed reminder before it happens. You can also elect to get reminders on certain social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Google+). There is the option to localise your events to many global locations, including the United Kingdom, although this doesn’t make much of a difference as most of the events are listed as global, normally because they are taking place online or on a certain day and are not geographically sensitive.

Regardless of whether you find this specific tool useful or not, the online world certainly seems to be embracing the old adage, ‘two heads are better than one’. With the massive reach of the internet it seems that a few million heads are better than one at finding out what is hot and what is not.

List of websites mentioned in this post:

Forekast: https://forekast.com

Kickstarter: https://kickstarter.com/

Indiegogo: https://indiegogo.com

Reddit: http://reddit.com/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/

Tumblr: https://tumblr.com/

Google+: https://plus.google.com

Video competition showcasing students’ research

Natasa Perovic9 January 2015


All UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences Masters students were invited to submit a two-minute video that summarised their research. The aim of the competition was to showcase the high quality research being conducted by Masters students and to provide an opportunity for students to develop the necessary skills to make their research accessible to the public.

Students were instructed to answer the following:

What is your research question?
What have you found in relation to your question?
Why is it important?

The entries were of a  high standard and demonstrated the excellent work taking place across the faculty. Four students particularly impressed the panel of judges with their ability to communicate their message in a clear and engaging manner.

The winners of our first Masters Video Competition are:

1st place:

Tara Brah (MSc Biology of Vision, supervised by Prof Shin-ichi Ohnuma). How do we make the third eye?


2nd place:

Giulia Borghini (MSc Cognitive Neuroscience, supervised by Prof Vince Walsh and Dr Marinella Cappaletti). Alpha stimulation effects on working memory and inhibitory abilities in elderly


Highly Commended:

Nathan Hayes (MSc Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology, supervised by Dr Helena Rutherford). The Impact of Maternal Substance Use on Neural Processing of Social and Non-social Feedback


Highly Commended:

Seray Ibrahim (MRes Speech, Language and Cognition, supervised by Dr Michael Clarke and Dr Duncan Brumby).   Involving child communication aid users in the development of communication aids

More information:  Poster about the competition http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slms/education/education-domain/documents/posters/video_competition_showcasing_research.pdf by Dr Jennifer Rodd and Dr Alex Standen

Little Thought, Big Consequences

Domi C Sinclair7 January 2015

It can take very little time to write an online post, but such a post could have very big implications. Those implication can be either very good or very bad so it is always recommend that however little time it takes to type, you should always think before you tweet.

There is a story in the news today about a Bristol stockbroker who tweeted an apparent poor-taste joke that he had hit a cyclist with his car on the way to work. Later that same day he was fired from work. He has also been contacted by the local police who are now investigating whether he negated his duty to stop and if there are any witnesses. This man’s life has been turned upside down all for a ‘joke’ that might have gained a groan or chuckle from his friends but was never appropriate for a public platform. This is why I post by the mantra, if you would have to look around before you said it out loud, or would say it in a whispered voice don’t post it online. Everything else, think about it, type it, read it out loud, think about it again and then if you’re sure, post it.

As the article details there is also some scrutiny on the company who fired the man in question, and whether they acted too swiftly. If there was no hit-and-run and this was, as claimed by the man, a poor taste joke then his only offense is not thinking, is that really a sack-able behavior?

You can find out more about improving your own digital skills and read some social media success stories on the UCL ELE wiki pages. If you have any questions about social media use in education then please contact ELE, alternatively if you have any thoughts about this post you can leave a comment, we always love to hear from you.



Teaching translation through editing Wikipedia

Mira Vogel15 December 2014

UCL Centre for Translation Studies
CenTraS Wikipedia Translatathon, Nov 2014 (CenTraS) recently held an event to learn how to contribute to Wikipedia, the encyclopedia anyone can edit. These kinds of events are known as ‘editathons’ – we called ours a ‘translatathon’ because it involved 36 postgraduate translation studies students, all new to editing Wikipedia, translating English women’s health articles into several different target languages. The event was jointly organised by CenTraS’ Rocío Baños Piñero, Wikimedia Gender Gap Project Worker Roberta Wedge, and me. In this account I’ll focus on practicalities, which I hope will help anybody thinking of running one themselves.


For a translatathon the choice of subject needs to be something that is both underrepresented and that participants can relate to. Given that the people in this case were almost all women and enrolled on a programme with a technical and medical focus, women’s health was a good choice.

To arrange refreshments and estimate the number of Wikimedian volunteers needed, we invited students from across CenTraS to sign up in advance on EventBrite (our event was restricted to CenTraS students, but for open events Wikimedia has Event Pages which can handle sign-ups, reminders, &c). Eventbrite also allowed us to ask students a few extra questions, allowing us to plan for their target languages. The invitation included the schedule so that students would know what to expect.

Other preparation entailed booking a suitable computer room, arranging tea, coffee and biscuits (Wikimedia funded these), and organising logins for the Wikimedia volunteers. To learn the concepts, the editing basics, think through some edits and actually make them in the article, Wikimedia recommend a minimum of 4 hours. Our translatathon was organised around the students’ timetables between 2-7pm (5 hours went incredibly fast) divided between the basics of Wikipedia editing, choosing an article, a presentation on why translating Wikipedia matters, and a final round-up.

Students were asked to complete an hour’s self-paced training from Wikipedia on the basics of editing, but were reassured that if they couldn’t, that wouldn’t be a problem.

Learning to edit

After a discussion about encyclopedias, Roberta introduced the basics of Wikipedia editing. She contrasted Wikipedia’s article pages with their respective Talk Pages (where editors discuss the content of the article), and each user’s own User Page (personal, no need for neutrality or referencing). The first words students wrote on Wikipedia were “I am learning to edit Wikipedia” on their own User Pages. This isn’t just a random sentence – it signals to other Wikipedians who may be watching out for disruptive acts or unusual practices that the author is inexperienced and should be treated hospitably. Another helpful thing for new Wikipedians to do on their User Page is to add the text {{new user bar}} and then save – this template then presents a list of links to help and general orientation which the user can remove once they know the ropes.

There are some particular practices for translating Wikipedia. For example any Wiki user should include a brief edit summary before they save, but for translation this is the place to cite the original article. “Translated from [[:en:title of article]]” is the customary way of referencing. The Talk Page (something every article has, used by editors to inform each other about plans and discuss dilemmas) is useful for noting sources, too. By the end of that session, students knew how to get into edit mode, how to make a link, how to reference, and some Wikipedia etiquette.

Translating Wikipedia

Next students identified articles to work on from the English Women’s Health category. They checked whether the article existed in their target language Wikipedia, and whether it could helpfully be developed through translation. Then, to avoid working on the mainspace (live article), they copied  one section of the English article into their Sandbox (a sub page of a user’s personal page which can be used for for drafting and testing). It soon became clear that you need to work in the Sandbox of your target language Wikipedia so that when you make internal links in the usual way (surrounding that page’s title in double brackets) it will refer to that Wikipedia, rather than the English one (not all Wikipedias have a sandbox but it’s easy to create a bespoke one from your User Page by appending a forward slash (/) and the word Sandbox). Then, to avoid students inadvertently overwriting each others’ edits, the 30 or so students working in Chinese used a shared document to note which article and section they were working on (again, if we’d had a Wikimedia event page we’d have used that – but instead we used a Google Doc).

It’s usual for Wikimedia editathons to include a presentation from a subject expert about the topic of the day. Ours was from Fabian Tompsett who introduced the 288  Wikipedias with reference to the article on ebola. Thanks to the work of Wikiproject Medicine, the ebola article emerged as a trusted source during the 2014 outbreak, with translation continuing to play a vital role.

Discussing translating WikipediaThen we returned to editing. A number of translation-related queries were discussed, such as which were the best resources to find reliable medical terminology or how to deal with the translation of bibliographical references in across languages. There was marked trepidation when the time came to move the work from the Sandbox to the mainspace, because students were worried that their work wasn’t perfect. The Wikimedia volunteers reassured them that it’s in the nature of a wiki is for articles to start small and be refined over time, often by several different authors. Again, explaining works in progress is where the Talk Page and Edit Summary come in. Finally, Wikipedia articles each have a sidebar listing its counterparts in other languages, so the last thing we did was to make sure this included links to and from the new translated material.

What students said

I chatted with some of the students to find out what they made of the translatathon. One told me that she uses Wikipedia a lot when translating – particularly comparing the English version with the version in her target language – and that she wanted to “give something back”. She also mentioned that it was exciting to be able to publish something on such a prominent site. Being familiar with HTML, she found editing very straightforward. But as one of the students who had completed the self-paced training in advance she had found herself at a loose end during the first part of the session, and suggested providing more advanced training for people in her position.

Another student who used Wikipedia very frequently was conscious that many of the articles in her language were inadequate and was interested in making improvements. Even as a self-described non-technical user she found Wikipedia editing straightforward. The one thing she said she’d like to change about the translatathon was more clarity about exactly what students would achieve at the end (for example “at least one paragraph translated”).

A third student told me she felt very motivated to practice translation on Wikipedia in the future. As well as the realisation that some of the women’s health articles are underdeveloped on Chinese Wikipedia, she was excited about writing on such a visible site and inspired that people in China would be be able to read her work.

Thanks, Wikimedia

The Wikimedian volunteers were great. Contributing on the day with suggestions, one-to-one assistance and the occasional bit of troubleshooting were Jonathan Cardy (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums Organiser), Fabian Tompsett (Volunteer Support Organiser) from the Wikimedia UK Office, and the generous volunteer Wikimedians James Heald, Nicolas Webb, Zoe Millington and Raya Sharbain (UCL student and founder UK Wikimedia Campus Ambassador). Wikimedia evaluated the event with a feedback questionnaire – I’ll update here when I hear more.

Wikimedia are supporting a working group on teaching translation through Wikipedia editing.


MyPortfolio Upgrade 25 Nov 2014

Domi C Sinclair13 November 2014

MyPortfolio will be unavailable on 25 November 2014  from 08:00 to 10:00 whilst we carry out a routine upgrade.
On 25 November we will upgrade MyPortfolio to version 1.10. There are many benefits to this upgrade, including A new editable dashboard, social media block and Open Badges backpack integration.
New editable dashboard – The dashboard now has new icons for Create, Share and Engage, which help promote the key benefits to the system. You can also now customise your dashboard so it had the information and look you want.

MyPortfolios dashboard




Social media block – There is now a social media section of the Profile which allows you to link to your sites easily. You can then include these links on any page as a nice easy series of button thank link directly to your content.

Social media block




Open Badges backpack integration – Display your public Mozilla Open Badge collections from your backpack on your MyPortfolio page.

Open Badges in MyPortfolio






If you have any questions about the upgrade please email ele@ucl.ac.uk and we would be happy to answer your questions or address your concerns.
All times are for the UK (GMT or BST), for other locations please convert: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html

Facebook assassins?

Mira Vogel27 October 2014

Four protesters about Facebooks real name policy

There is a lot of social media use in higher education – see Rey Junco’s research, for example. One reason for this is summarised by David Wiley:

Q: What would happen if Facebook worked like Blackboard?
A: Every 15 weeks Facebook would delete all your photos and status updates and unfriend all your friends.

So here’s bit of a comparison of four social networking services Facebook, Google+ and two upstarts Ello and Tsu – far from the only alternatives, but four of a kind. As a comparison it’s pretty one-dimensional because rather than what the services allow members to do I’m focussing on the preliminary but fundamental matter of how they turn a profit, pieced together from a quick scan of articles.

All are venture capital funded and consequently they either rely on member subscriptions or they commoditise their members by putting pricetags on their biographical data, shares and relationships. In the latter case they depend on members to befriend and be befriended, follow and be followed, feed news and be fed news. Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook. Facebook probably needs no introduction, and rumours of its death may or may not be exaggerated. At any rate there is currently a disaffection with advert-saturated intrusive business models where members generate profitable content and everybody but the members seems to profit. Ello and Tsu are two such responses. So how do they compare?

Business model

Ello is set to become one of a small number of public benefit corporations in the US – this broadly relates to who owns the assets, how much profit is reinvested in the company, and constraints on the future direction of the company. Ello managed to raise more venture capital investment than usual for this type of business. Its freemium service offers members a basic service for free and charges for advanced features – Ello founders point out that this is basically the successful iPhone app business model, except there’s no need to buy anything at all. Ello don’t mine members’ data.

Tsu calls itself a “combined social network and payment platform”, and members can share from it to Facebook and Twitter. Tsu revenue comes from page views (so favours members who post lots, find lots of new members, and have lots of friends sharing their posts), but members keep a stake in their data and “therefore they own the royalties generated from advertising, sponsorship and partnership dollars wrapped around their content”. Data here includes a member’s network – a portion of the revenue goes to the person who invites a member to Tsu – this ‘parent’ is in line for a kind of finder’s fee every time the member gets a payout, as is their parent, their parent’s parent, in diminishing fractional payouts. There are questions about motivation to join in and share, and the revenue-sharing processes are said to be rather complicated for the average punter – but they are the main innovation.

Facebook uses member data to personalise and target advertising to them. It also has its members advertise to each other by default. It has a real name policy – one account per member, using their own name. For some time there have been privacy concerns about Facebook, such as Instant Personalization which shared members’ demographic data with selected commercial partners.  At the same time, for those whose networks are already established in Facebook there tends to be profound inertia about migrating elsewhere. In 2013  a Facebook user was reportedly (methods subject to debate) worth $98, and a Facebook Like, $174.

Google is an advertising company which seeks to collect user data over time in order to refine its contextual advertising algorithm. To do this, Google wants you to log into one or other of its services. Some have commented that Google+ is less a social network and more a demographic research tool – for some time you only had to be logged into, for example, Android, or gmail, or Chrome, or YouTube) to be passively using Google+, with resulting privacy concerns.  Google+ recently eased up on pressurising users into the service, abandoned its real name policy, and stopped requiring a Google+ account to use Google Hangouts. It’s currently hard to work out its business model, and this has led some to question its future.

On screen advertising

Facebook depends on its members’ profile and user data to serve demographically-targeted adverts to its members which appear throughout the site. Its terms require members to use one account in their own name and be truthful in their profile. Because members use Facebook to socialise rather than view content, it has a relatively low rate of clicks on the adverts it serves but its sheer numbers of members compensates for this. Contextual advertising is also Google’s line – although Google+ doesn’t itself currently have on-screen ads, they aren’t ruled out and in any case there are ads on Google Search and other Google services. Ello‘s charter [PDF] commits it to be free of “paid advertising on behalf of a third party” and it doesn’t mind what you put in your profile. Tsu has advertising.

What’s at stake?

There has been a recent spate of class actions against intrusive, exploitative practices by social media companies with advertising-driven business models – not least this humungous one – and these are meeting with some success. Concerns about algorithmic manipulation were popularised by Eli Pariser in his 2012 book The Filter Bubble, and are a major theme in technology commentary – see for example Zeynep Tufeksi on Twitter’s roll-out of algorithmic curation. The problem (which is particularly antithetical to academia) is that algorithms opaquely serve members things they are calculated to like, and people tend to prefer agreeable or affirming stuff over challenging or troublesome stuff (you won’t be surprised to learn there are algorithmic answers to that; there are also alternatives such as Pariser’s Upworthy which piggy backs on other algorithms, although that’s a balancing act). The question is the same one people are asking about learning analytics: is the algorithm secret and commercially sensitive or is it available for scrutiny? It’s very early days for Ello – it is currently nowhere near as lubricated as the leading social networks in terms of sharing between networks, for example, but Ello’s is the only business model where members will explicitly not be subjected to data manipulation. Some commentators urge a more dispersed form of social networking – for example the POSSE, or ‘Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere’ approach allows members to share posts from one place (here, their own) to many other places.


Are any of these things a factor in your choice of social network? Perhaps not. Feel free to poke holes. On Facebook privacy see this snappy guidance from Sally Burr at the University of Sussex. Finally, how to join. With Tsu you need to be invited – it’s very easy to get invited but given the money involved I’m not going to recommend any one or other Tsu parent, so search for somebody you’re happy to generate revenue for. At this stage with Ello you also have to be invited, but you can request an invitation from its homepage. You can join the million-plus waiting list, or look out for somebody to invite you. Google+ and Facebook are open to anyone over 13.

*Image source: Facebook forces drag queens and trans people to use “real names” – marked by Google Image Search as ‘Labeled for reuse with modification’.

HT Natasa Perovic and Niv Setru for some of the links