Last Monday we held our first researchers’ day which was intended to bring new researchers and phd students together and help create a strong research community. The day was a mix of plenary discussions/presentations and breakout workshops. Ajmal and I had volunteered or been volunteered (can’t remember which!) to run a session on the digital researcher.
The cunning plan…
As is inevitable with these kind of things (or perhaps that is just my way) we did the planning in a rather crazy, 3 part interrupted meeting but came up with the idea of doing a “social presentation” – this means that the audience define the direction that they wish the presentation to go. Given that we were discussing social media we thought that this was quite a neat way of representing the subject matter not with standing that us giving demos and talking through which social media tools we use for our research would be as dull as dishwater.
So the idea was that we got together a list of around 9 or 10 social media tools that we use in our academic activities, but particularly for research. Our list was (in no particular order):
- Google docs
- Zotero (in the session one of the participants suggested Mendeley as superior to this for ease of use)
There were others but we wanted to give a broad mix across the categories and also focus on those that tools that could truly be called illustrative of social media.
We then subdivided this list into those tools that could be used as a research tool for collection and creation; those that could be used primarily for collaboration and those that could be used for profile raising and networking. Then the audience chose (via PRS handsets) under each category which tool they would like to know more about and we would give them a brief low down. Then we would run an exercise in pairs where they indicated if they used any of these tools followed by a group discussion where people shared other tools that they used. Sorted!
The presentation is on slideshare – see below. Sadly the slides have gone a bit weird I think that is due to our rather lovely pink template (thanks Ajmal!)
Things sort of went to plan, well best laid plans etc. Firstly – the negatives – we were in a computer room which was a bit annoying and not really the kind of layout we wanted – too much temptation for people to start fiddling with computers, despite our engaging style 😉 then we couldn’t get the PRS to work so we had to get people to do a show of hands, which was fine but not the kind of anonymous response we had wanted. However, on the positive side it really was a social presentation as people chose the tools to look at that we thought were least likely – no-one wanted to find out about twitter in research but wanted to know more about academic.edu – so that caught us by surprise. And people started to contribute their own tools and ideas as we were going through the presentation. Great! The pair activity worked really well as people got talking a lot about tools they were using and got some ideas on things to develop. We then had a good general discussion which brought up issues of privacy, personal and professional online personas, how to give time to this and how to start, and thinking about appropriate application and use. Ajmal and I also had a side discussion about social media often being used for good news and would you use it to deliver bad or sad news – and if not, why not?
The happy ending?
Definitely and we would do it again – hopefully with working PRS this time and with some tweaks in the content. But was fun to go into a presentation and not really know how it would turn out or what you would talk about – and also took a lot more preparation than the usual presentation but was much more rewarding in the session.
And ever after…
We’d like to analyse why people chose the tools they did as well as know what people are using so if you would like to post on this topic via twitter use the tag #dratcity (digital researcher at City)