New chapter

I've been working as a freelance consultant for 3 and a half years now. Working for myself has been a blast – I've had the bumpy patches and the insecurity of not necessarily knowing where my next job might come from – but I've also had the pleasure of meeting, working with and learning from many, many smart, passionate, funny and thoughtful people.

I'm extremely proud of what I've achieved with the support and confidence of my all employers, and grateful for the opportunities they've given me.

The Cyberbullying Guidance I produced for Childnet International on behalf of the Department for Children Schools and Families (now the Department for Education) gave me the opportunity to work and negotiate with all the major Social Network Service and Telecoms providers, children's charities and government agencies, and the countries school employee unions and associations, as well as talk to children across the country about their experiences of technology.

JISC Emerge was a truly creative process, and an exploration of digital identities and communities that I feel extremely lucky to have been a part of, from the initial bid development to my role as Lead Community Architect. The project team, participants and contributors included many of the leading lights working in educational technology in the Further and Higher Education sector in the UK today.

Most recently, my role as critical friend in the JISC Institutional Innovation Support, Synthesis and Benefits Realisation project has meant I've got to work alongside cutting edge Green ICT and Learning Spaces projects.

I've done a huge amount of trouble shooting, policy guidance, social network strategy work and been fortunate enough to be invited to chair, run workshops, speak and deliver keynotes all over and outside of the UK. Standouts for me have to be being awarded Educational Technologist of the Year by my professional body, the Association for Learning Technology, my keynotes in Plymouth, Tipperary, Porto and my trip to Aveiro. 140Conf was a ball, as was Interesting. I even got my first gig as an after dinner speaker this year & am looking forward to my midlife crisis.

So sincere thanks to everyone who has employed me over the last four years – it has been a pleasure to work for all of you. This post would be funnier if I had an hilarious tale of clients from hell but I really don't have anything bad to say about anyone.

Huge thanks have to go to everyone in my network – all the inspirational and encouraging people I've worked alongside formally and informally. There are too many of you to thank here, so I've put together the slide show of some of the amazing people (well, the ones that would let me photograph them) and highlights from the last three years.

I'm delighted to say I've accepted a post with Leicester City Council as ICT Strategy Lead, providing leadership within the Transforming Learning Environment (TLE) division for ICT planning, policy and delivery. It's an amazing opportunity to work with schools and colleges at local level and to make a concrete, positive difference to the education of children and young people in Leicester. People who know me will know about my commitment to the local – for me, meaningful transformation is fundamentally a whole community enterprise – and to a national digital literacy strategy, which I've been banging on about for so long it actually seems on the verge of entering mainstream educational discussion.

I'm really looking forward to the new challenges ahead, and to working within the Local Authority sector at this time of major change. In terms of my consultancy practice, I'll be looking to shift my previous work with schools, colleges and Local Authorities to a partnership rather than consultancy footing, and more on some ideas for that shortly. I'll still be accepting a (very) limited amount of consultancy and I'm always interested in hearing about speaking opportunities. 

Here's to the next chapter! Onwards 🙂

Should you friend your students? The short answer is no

Earlier this year I delivered a further cyberbullying guidance document on behalf of Childnet International for the UK Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families. The Guidance follows up (and designed to compliment) cyberbullying guidance, a comprehensive document  that formed part of the Safe To Learn: Embedding anti-bullying work in schools suite of advice. While the initial document was really well received both within the UK & internationally, teachers unions and associations were increasingly being asked to deal with school employee cyberbullying cases – in which the staff member was the person being victimised. I welcomed the opportunity to produce further guidance which would both support employees in term of basic digital literacy information and encourage employers to meet their statutory obligations. The document set out, ambitiously, to encourage policy and procedure be put in place for preventing and dealing with cyberbullying as a whole school community issue – which includes meeting and recognising the specific needs, rights and responsibilities of employees. In no other area of harassment would it be acceptable for an employee to be expected to deal with cases that rose within the work place on their own – yet the reports from school staff included cases where cyberbullying was not taken seriously or understood, and where they had been expected to sort out situations for themselves.

Cyberbullying: Supporting School Staff (PDF) was released in April this year (Google doc version here).  I've been talking about the document a lot recently, and I want to just explore in a little more detail the thinking behind the advice given to school employees regarding friending students in social networking services. The actual text is (with my emphasis):

‘Friending’ refers to the act of giving contacts permission to view information or contact you within web-based services. The terminology will vary from service to service – ‘Friends’ may be called contacts or connections, for example. Most social sites enable you to give different levels of access and set privacy levels on your own content and activity. These functions will vary from service to service but typically include:
•     Information that is only available to the account holder
•     Information that is accessible by contacts on the account
holder’s approved list, and
•     Information that is made publicly available, either within
the service or across the whole of the internet.

‘Friends’ does not necessarily refer in this case to people who are your actual friends, although you may choose to restrict your connections to that. ’Friends’ in this context may also be work colleagues, family members, and people that you have met online.

If you have a social networking account, do not friend pupils or add them to your contact lists. You may be giving them access to personal information and allowing them to contact you inappropriately. They may also be giving you access to their personal information and activities

So the text above outlines three basic levels of permissions granularity that can be found on most sites, gives a definition of friending, and very explicitly says don't friend pupils. This is explicitly prescriptive advice, based on the case studies reviewed during the document negotiations, and an implicit understanding that the school staff accounts referred to are either personal, or contain elements of personal activity (I previously posted on a definition of three basic online identities, characterised as personal, professional, and organisational).

The approach taken then – don't friend pupils – reflects the kind of boundaries between staff and learners that we'd expect to see in offline behavior. You wouldn't expect a teacher to give a school aged pupil their home phone number, show them pictures of their friends or regale them with the weekends social exploits. Obviously friending isn't the only issue here – managing publicly available information so that you are comfortable with what co-workers, learners and employers can access about you is also addressed in the document. The research and anecdotal evidence indicates that we operate within social network services as if we were in a closed, private world. This isn't naive – I think it's a necessary fiction which makes social networking services human spaces. The do not friend advice is there to reinforce the message that private online is typically back of a post-card private, especially if we are within environments where we're not entirely sure who has permission to see what (*cough*Facebook*cough). It also reflects the leakiness of our online identities, the way in which the personal is often hand in hand with the professional.

What the advice isn't trying to do is to put anyone off evaluating social networking services to see if they could support learning & teaching effectively. The advice goes on to state:

If you want to use web-based social networking sites for a class or for the whole school, use a service that doesn’t give contacts access to personal information and updates, or allows collaboration without requiring permissions.

Alternatively ask pupils to create new, work-focused accounts for themselves, and run them as they would an online portfolio or CV.

You can find more information and advice about Social Network Services at

Death and the Social Web


mikebutcher #svc2c #svuk Panel appears to have stumbled on fact that @ajkeen was right: if you're not on social networks you're dead


josiefraser: @ajkeen @mikebutcher Plenty of dead people on twitter, cf @Henry_Fuseli @Edgar_Allan_Poe @JDerridian & million Sigmund Freuds


josiefraser: obscurity maybe even more fatal than death within the social web

My Uncle John died this month, so I had a few more conversations than usual about death, and particularly it's relationship to the social web. Social Networking Services are developing policies and processes relating to the archiving and accessing of people's accounts after they die, and people who have significant digital presence are stating to think about bequest issues – will the sorting out of our online information, artifacts, accounts become an additional job for our relatives or friends, to be approached in the same way as clearing the physical shelves and sorting through documents? And what can explain the rise in popularity of dead celebrity fakesters, some of whom have many more followers than average users?

digital identity after death

an email i received, about death and facebook Ze Frank, September 9 2009

Identity, Memory, Death & the Internet Dave Cormier, September 18th 2009

Grieving Goes Digital NewsOK, May 25 2009

thinking ahead

What happens to your social network accounts when you die?, November 16 2009

Legacy Locker "The secure way to pass your online accounts to your loved ones"

dead celebrities on Twitter

25 Dead People of Twitter Soulellis Studio, March 1 2009

Dead People Twitter List, News

Tweeji "Follow dead people on Twitter"

Facebook, MI6 & basic digital literacy

Despite the neo-con conspiracy theory accusations, despite even the threats of Facebook The Movie (the specter of which I'm absolutely delighted about btw), Facebook continues to go from strength to strength in terms of empire building. According to recently released user & engagement stats, Facebook is currently the equivalent of the worlds fourth largest country, with around 240 million individual accounts. It's reporting a growth surge recently too – adding an incredible 700,000 to 750,000 new users per day.

The latest scandal to hit Facebook – and let's face it, one that isn't going to do their user stats any damage at all, is the tabloid and broadsheet friendly story centering on the British Secret Service, popularly known as MI6. Although MI6 has been recruiting on Facebook since September 2008, apparently their social media strategy hasn't stretched to the kind of employee guidance increasingly seen as critical in other industries. Recently recently appointed intelligence chief, John Sawers, ('C' as he will be codenamed in proper James Bond tradition), takes up his post in November. In the meantime, The Daily Mail are baying for Sawers blood (Daily Mail), following their crack investigation in to Mrs. Sawers completely unprotected Facebook pages.

Way back in October 2007, I asked the 200-ish audience members of the BIMA's Great Facebook debate – predominantly social media and related industry workers – to raise their hands if they felt 100% confident they understood who could see what on their Facebook accounts. About 4 hands went up, and mine wasn't one of them, despite the fact that I'd spent a year working on social networking service privacy settings. Since then, the third party application explosion has continued to muddy already the unfathomable waters of overly granular permissions settings. By January 2008, if came as little surprise to anyone working in the social networking service and privacy space that Facebook was being investigated by the UK's Information Commisioners Office for potential Freedom of Information Act infringements.

Currently, Facebook is rejigging it's operation model, simultaneously moving towards a more open platform and trying to make user permissions more understandable, including jettisoning it's regional networks in favor of sharing information between groups. All this is good news, and I look forward to tracking Facebook's progress. In the meantime, the best advice I can offer anyone is if you are using any service and aren't clear about who can see your content or how the permissions work, act as if the service is completely public. Don't post anything you would mind your mum, boss, colleague or local Daily Mail journo seeing.

The real story in the Sawers fiasco is, once again, is the one that research in the area has consistently pointed up. In general, people do not read terms of service or privacy statements. People like social networking services because of the warm glow of friendly, trusted association (some would say homophily) they submerge themselves in. Security and permissions settings are only as good as people can immediately or at least easily understand, leaving children, young people, vulnerable adults & MI6 potentially at risk.

Within increasingly connected societies, where the online is commonly integrated into our everyday social transactions, we need to be smarter about the implications of how we use services, and ensure that everyone has access to basic information. There was a huge fuss made when an leaked draft of the Rose Review mentioned a service – Twitter – as the kind of platform that digital literacy may support. Although there are obvious limitations in teaching platforms and applications rather than a focus on skills, competencies and understanding (and it only takes a cursory look our current Microsoft heavy curriculum to see the problems of this approach) – what the MI6 debacle demonstrates is the importance of recognising how and why people use services, and equipping them to use the social web in ways that don't compromise personal, or international, security. 

The Information & Privacy Commisioner/Onterio has a recently updated PDF on How to protect your privacy on Facebook.

You can find basic information about online identity management relevant to people in all work places in my recent work on behalf of Childnet International for the UK Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families: Cyberbullying, supporting school staff (PDF) 

If your organisation doesn't have a current employer and employee social web strategy in place, get in touch and I can help you design and implement one. I do special security service rates.

Related posts: ABC of permissions granularity

ThoughtFest 09

Last week I was fortunate to be one of the attendees at the fantastic Thought Fest 2009 conference, held at the University of Salford’s Think Lab. Organised by organized by Pontydysgu with the support of the JISC Evolve network and the European Mature-IP project, the event attracted top class learning technology researchers and practitioners from across Europe. Potential attendees pitched for place prior to the event, submitting their ideas for outline sessions – Dave White from Oxford University & I formed a digital literacy tag team and were lucky enough to snaffle two of the highly prized places.

About 30 delegates (most of whom are on Twitter) attended the two day event designed to bring together researchers in Technology Enhanced Learning in an open forum to debate the current issues surrounding educational technologies. Within a semi-structured (and pretty mobile) framework that was negotiated by delegates, we particularly focused on theory into practice: how and where research impacts on practice and where practice drives research.

The whole event was excellent, but I’ll share some of my highlights.

Our (the red) team came a respectable third in the diabolically evil ViolaQuest, which was masterminded by Nicola Whitton and Rosie Jones, a couple of the UK’s leading Alternative Reality Game (ARG) researchers and designers. The game involved unraveling mainly geographic and environmental clues. They also managed to include the Emerge bearded lady meme:

Josie beard
Photo credit: Rozberry redteam

There were some great show and discuss sessions, including Maria Perifanou on using Wikiquests in language Learning, Pat Parslow on Digital ID & Kathrin Kaufhold on the Awesome project.

I missed out on Jen Hughes’s digital cartoon workshop, taking part instead in the podcasting workshop led by Andreas Auwärter. Dave & I picked the travelogue assignment, and produced a gonzo journalism piece on The Salford Lift Experience, inspired in part by out experience of the Maxwell Building lifts. Unfortunately, half of this masterpiece was lost to the random gods of audio, so the world will never hear Dave’s very informative description of the up and down buttons, nor believe there was a student who felt the lift experience in Salford had drastically improved over the last two years, various other lift based interviews or the toilet on the stairwell incident. For those of you who can be bothered, the last part is here:

Listen to The Salford Lift Experience

There were some excellent recordings produced on the day, notably a advert for online identity management cleaning services, which I’ll link to as soon as they go up.

The award for most awesome presentation has to go however to the SAPO campus team, who will be rolling out the worlds first institution wide supported PLE this September. You can see their presentation slides here. Basically, The University of Aveiro are moving away from the managed learning system model and providing a supported Personal Learning Environment (PLE) service linking in University functionality with member selected and supported web 2.0 distributed activity. Why is this amazing? The global edtech community have been talking about how institutions can engage with learner-centered PLEs for a while now, but Aveiro and the SAPO team are putting it into practice. Campus wide. In September. You can find out more and ask questions over at the Though Fest site.

Sapo campus