The Man from JISC, he say …

Recently I had the opportunity to work closely with Dr Jamie Wood; giving some advice on the technical aspects of using social bookmarking software in a series of first year History seminars. Jamie has an interest in experimenting with innovative technology to enhance the learning experience, and possesses the technical ability to see it through. Part of my role was to act as what’s know academically as a ‘critical friend’, giving him tips on how he could best use the technology for his and the students’ needs. I believe this model of technical advisor and academic working in partnership is a good one, and certainly worked well in this instance.

Difficulties can arise when faculty don’t readily want to relinquish any control of the course or it’s content and may lack the skills to effectively integrate social learning activities and collaborative, dynamic content generation into the teaching environment. Social Bookmarking can provide a bridge for this gap by allowing an easy to use, engaging tool for managing web resources on course topics, with minimal implementation cost or barriers. An added bonus is that it can overlap with faculty [academic] research areas thus appealing to faculty’s [academic’s] desire to include their own scholarly activities in their teaching.


  1. an instructor can use it as a framework for students to explore the web,
  2. push out resources specific to a course of discipline,
  3. use it as an assignment to get students to find relevant resources to share with the entire class.

Students need to be able to critically evaluate what they are reading. They have to be able to justify their choices for selecting those resources. Social Bookmarking is great for teaching Information Literacy with an instructor led discussion about a set of resources and then what is a quality resource. Students learn more when they are actively engaged and have a sense of ownership of these materials in their own learning processes.

(Extract from ‘Pedagogic Implications of Social Bookmarking‘, accessed 6 Nov 2008)

Jamie wrote about what he did in ‘Social bookmarking software helps students to generate resource lists‘ on the University’s Good Practice wiki (accessed 6 Nov 2008).

Working with academic colleagues on implementing technology into their teaching practices is rewarding in itself. But this isn’t the end of this story. JISC currently has a project running looking at innovative uses of technology in learning and teaching. They found out about how Jamie was using Social Bookmarking and were interested in developing a Case Study for the JISC website, which necessitated them sending a representative to interview separately me and Jamie. The interviews took place the first week of November.

The guy they sent had worked in supporting computing services and lecturing computing for a good many years, now working for the Open University, but had a degree background in Physics. Also he knew Sheffield quite well, talking about the first head of Computing Services who he knew, and the fact that one of his sons studied Architecture here. So we had a lot to talk about over lunch.

After signing the appropriate release forms, the actual recorded interview lasted just over an hour. I was asked to explain in some detail how technology had been used in the History seminar programme, what I’d expected would be achieved, how I’d supported the process, what I would suggest doing differently, and how I saw things going forward. All quotes will be attributed to The University of Sheffield rather than any individual. I look forward to seeing the actual Case Study when it is published, and am proud to have been involved with the whole activity.


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