Thursday, September 17, 2015

Not another website

The next evolution of the Department's public website is being considered. But much has changed, and significantly changed, over the three years since the last build.
The content management platform is now complemented by a range of online services that make up the Department's managed online presence and identity. Social media has grown nearly 1,000%. Mobile access now dominates public access. Global cloud services provide new agility.

My hope is that this next evolution will not result in another website.

We need to integrate these complementary services so that the user experiences a seamless Department presence and identity that delivers useful information and services.

We need to maximise the benefits that participative media brings to communication and community.

While there will undoubtedly be some traditional web pages I'm interested in exploring what a vibrant online presence and identity might look like, feel like and be like.

Have we challenged our assumptions and asked the necessary questions?

How do we strategically plan an agile sustainable system that is useful and engaging?

Some drivers of this strategic planning may be...

  • Learners first - the Department's core business is learning. Learning services for anyone, anywhere, anytime.
  • Users first - the Department's Strategic Plan focuses on meeting client needs and expectations, saving users time
  • Mobile first - mobile access now dominates public access to online information and services. Many users have mobile-only Internet access.
  • Google search first - most users try Google search first to locate Department information, locations and services (Google Services)
  • 90% of users access 10% of content - the majority of users access a small proportion of the Department's content
  • Social media - access to department's social media channels has increased nearly 1,000% over the last two and a half years (Social media services)
  • Effective searching - users expect to quickly find the most relevant search results
  • Story telling - the power of stories, narration and video
  • Compliance - there are new higher standards for web accessibility and design, Creative Commons and open data

Recent developments in technology offer new possibilities...

  • HTML5 - offers responsiveness across most devices
  • Tags - increase search usefulness
  • News feeds - choose your own device and reader
  • Interactive video - choose your own learning adventure
  • User customisation - saved settings for different audiences and interests
  • Mobile apps - add your own content
  • GPS - location aware features
  • NBN - Tasmania is becoming well connected
  • Augmented reality - access layered information, Web 3.0 - an intelligent web of things
This is a wicked problem  :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tools for spontaneous video capture

Video capture of celebratory or learning events is increasing with greater access to mobile devices.

These are some tips I've picked up.

Lavalier wearable microphone

Mobile phones and tablets

Audio: Mobiles generally have good microphones for close recordings. A lapel mic can give high quality audio if required.

Tripod: Keeping the mobile phone still improves video quality and reduces the file size. Tablets can often be stood up using their covers, books or nearby walls. A number of small cheap tripods are available including the one below on the left that can grip a wide range of objects.

Readily available tripods for phones

File size: Mobiles and tablets often record in HD (1080) which can lead to very large file sizes. 10 minutes of video can be over 1GB which can quickly fill mobile storage and take a long time to transfer to other devices.

Audio quality is often more important than video quality - depending on the purpose and audience for the video. A number of apps are available to dramatically reduce the video file size on the mobile device - for example Compressor for iPhone/iPad (free).

Audio recording: Mobiles will generally allow recording with a built in app but better quality audio and transfer options are available with apps such as Voice record Pro (free).

Voice Record Pro allows easy wireless transfer to a range of popular cloud storage services.

Sharing video: For mobiles with a wireless connection (3G/4G can be expensive) it is possible to save and share video to online services such as YouTube or Vimeo.

Gmail accounts come with YouTube video storage. YouTube Capture (free) is an app that allows simple video editing and upload to YouTube. Videos can be uploaded as 'unlisted' so only those to whom the link is seen can view the video. Videos can also be set to 'private'.

Vimeo also has an app to upload videos.

Laptops and desktops

Videos can be recorded using webcams. Video and audio quality can be a challenge - good microphones are important. Videos can also be recorded directly to YouTube using My Webcam or to Vimeo

Powered microphones: A powered microphone is usually required for recording in larger spaces. Powered microphones can be mounted onto video cameras or be a stand-alone device that records audio onto an SD card.

The Zoom Handy Recorder is a stand-alone powered microphone (plug in or battery) that captures quality audio over larger distances.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Educators and photographers loving their work

Clint and Bethanie capture 2015 RBF Award Finalist Hannah Keir.

It's been a real pleasure interviewing RBF Award Finalists in schools across Tasmania this week. Seeing the passion and commitment of teachers, support staff, school business managers, principals and volunteers is inspiring and uplifting.

Not only award finalists but many others we met also clearly love their work, their students, and helping students learn and grow. We saw many examples of positive and respectful staff-student relationships such as students hi-fiving a principal on her rounds, year 10 students supporting their nervous teacher during a video interview and students bringing gifts for busy teachers.

Photographers Clint and Bethanie also love their work. They quickly relax nervous subjects in front of the lenses and are not phased by the unexpected during interviews or when visiting classrooms.

2015 RBF Award Finalist Sarah Baker

Schools are full of inspirational stories and it's been great to hear just a few that we can take to a wider audience over the next couple of months.

Photos used with permission.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Where to from here? A wicked problem

A great deal has changed in the ICT space for our schools over the last two years - the rise of social and mobile media, the use of cloud services for the effective and efficient delivery of agile infrastructure, and the interest and influence of large national and multinational companies - to name a few.

At the same time there's been a more gradual but just as profound change in society and culture as a result of the pervasive and often invisible ICTs. The trends and expectations I see in my role can be summarised as follows.

New approaches are required. This challenge has the characteristics of a ‘wicked problem’.

It is a moving target and is socially complex. It involves changing values and new behaviours.

It challenges current boundaries and policies, questions assumptions, and there may be no single ‘solution’.

To understand wicked problems I like the analogy of playing a ball game.

You are focussed on the ball and reaching the goals...
You build personal and team skills and become strategic.

Then the goals move - but you are not distracted and remain focussed on the ball...

You sense the ground shaking under your feet - but you skilfully adapt and approach the goals.

You kick a brilliant goal and raise your arms! But all is quiet...

As you look around you notice that half the players have gone...
The stadiums are largely empty.

The crowd are watching a new game being played on a different field some distance away.

The use and support of digital media for education is a wicked problem.

Photo: Creative Commons - Wikimedia

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Social Media Use Snowballing

In my current digital media role it has become apparent that existing support models for our digital media channels are no longer sustainable – or even desirable in some cases.

The uptake of social media for example has been dramatic - a 1,000% increase in official Facebook use in a little over two years. And that's just Facebook.
Key changes over the last couple of years include:
  • Decreased access to public websites
  • Increased use of and dependency on, school intranets
  • Dramatic increase in the use of social and mobile media
  • Increased public expectation that Google search should provide basic contact information
  • Increased disatisfaction with PDF newsletter access on mobiles


Website access is moving from desktop to mobile and public access to websites has dwindled.
This pie chart from last year gives a graphic view of the public access to different online department information channels. School satisfaction with traditional public websites has dropped to 45% while satisfaction with public Facebook pages is 90%.

During school closures earlier this month more than 80% of public access to updates was via mobile devices. There were nearly half a million views across school Facebook pages and the official school closure blog in 3 days.

Average monthly views of official public Facebook posts across the department are approaching 1,000,000. YouTube video views have more than tripled over the last two years.

In what ways do we need to change support models to accommodate these rapid shifts?
How much time and effort should we spend on traditional websites?

Website analytics indicate only a small percentage of our information is regularly accessed.
What are the new purposes and audiences for traditional websites?

Do we need to revisit our social media risk management processes and resourcing?

Do we need to question some of our fundamental assumptions about how we resource online digital media?

What new opportunities are there with a communication channel that has one million views a month?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Spreading my social media wings

I've decided to learn about some new social media services. Across the department Facebook has become well established while Twitter and LinkedIn are catching up fast. YouTube and FlickR are well used but for the distribution of content rather than participative engagement.

However in general, the proportion of students using these services to engage with the department is low. It's not that they aren't using Facebook it's just that "Facebook is for connecting with mum, dad and other older people."

So a few months ago I signed up to SnapChat, Instagram, Seene and a few other services to experience their diverse digital media, rich sub-cultures and Terms of Service.

Instagram appears to have the greatest unrealised potential as far as the department is concerned particularly with the use of 15 sec video.

Whe social experience for these services is almost entirely based in the mobile app it's possible to embed  objects in pages such as this blog. (However your browser may not agree - I've had the most success loading this page with Chrome.)
A video posted by Roger Stack (@regor2013) on
Seene is a service that provides the beginnings of a very engaging 3D photo environment that may have particular application in education. (Move you mouse over the picture.)

A key element with the new social media services that I've been playing with is that media is quick to capture, display and comment on. Another is that they are very creative and engaging visual experiences.

The positive supportive communities that I have joined have encouraged me to improve my creations, inspired me to try new things and celebrated my progress.