We used lots of sticky notes during the hack!

Future Happens Hack: Social Media – A report

‘We are here to make the most of social media in teaching, learning and assessment. We recognise social media is a complex, emotive, powerful, fast changing and sometimes controversial aggregation of practices, attitudes, technologies and learning.’

So began our day at the Future Happens Hack and I strongly encourage you to have a look at the webpage for the hack, which includes a lot of useful information and background – and I have quoted some of the key points from the organisers’ thinking in this post.

Use of social media in all its forms is becoming an ever bigger interest for the professional Learning Technology community and this event provided a great opportunity for me to engage with and think about some of the big issues that we are facing.

‘For the purposes of this hack, we define social media as being digital platforms that allow the creating and sharing of information, ideas, and other forms of expression related to identity informs visible to others. These platforms provide the potential for connections, dialogue and discourse through online communities and networks.’

It was nice to see quite a few individuals who are active in ALT as Members and, like for me, this was the first hack for some of them. I found the rules that were set out really helpful:

Hack rules:


  1. We are teaching and learning focused *and* institutionally committed
  2. What we talk about here is institutionally/nationally agnostic
  3. You are the teachers, the students and the decision-makers. What we set out here will make  teaching and learning better
  4. Digital technology, devices and social media are not the innovation, nor are they the solution
  5. We are here to build not smash. Play positive and proactive
  6. You moan (rehearse systemic reasons why you can’t effect change – see Rule 3), you get no beer (wine, juice, love, peace, etc.)

The day itself was broken down into individual sessions around specific questions and it was helpful to have these in advance. With so much engagement and conversation everyone got something useful from the hack – here are my highlights:

First, an intervention by @bonstewart (Bonnie Stewart from Prince Edward Island University). Great contribution and a thought- provoking beginning that explored ideas around how we interact with our online communities and express our identity. Bonnie joined using Skype for Business.

Then we started getting into discussions and working on the individual challenges in small groups, which promoted a lot of lively discussions (and post-it note action), ranging from what constitutes informed consent when posting pictures of your children on social networks, use of social media checks in recruitment, to learners and teachers using different tools in an education context.

One of the discussions I was part of focused on how developing positive principles for creating and sharing identity through the use of social media in learning and teaching. Another, which was close to my interests in professional practice was around supporting and building citizenship of a discipline or a society.

That topic, in particular, is close to what I do for Learning Technology professionals. The group I was part of discussed for example the responsibility you take and the way you can participate. It reminded me of the online conversation that has been happening following the OER17 conference and the blog posts and list of resources being curated following the event. We reflected on the impact social media has on citizenship and interaction with professional networks.

We used openly accessible Google docs to do a lot of our thinking throughout the Hack and you can access these to have a look at http://www.futurehappens.org/fh2/ and read some of the ideas for yourself.

Personally, I found this approach to thinking together really useful. There was a lot of reflection and critical discussion of social media use and practice. It was really fascinating to hear about the broad spectrum of views and experiences from institutions across the UK.

Here are some reflections and tweets from the end of the day – we all like to thank the organisers for an inspiring and thought-provoking hack!



Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), @marendeepwell

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

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