Relight my fire…digital learning you are my only desire

Earlier in the week I tweeted “Today has reignited my passion for digital learning! Long may it continue.”

In fact it was two brilliant days filled full of digital activities, and more importantly talking to other people who just get it. who are just as passionate about digital learning and what it has to offer.

On Tuesday my colleague Anne (check out Anne’s blog here) and I hopped on a train and went to deep snow entrenched Reading to conduct the first of the interviews for the Linksphere Project.  We held a brilliant interview with the curator of Ure Museum of Classical Archaeology, one of the participants in Linksphere, and it was fantastic to discover her passion for open access to museums, and how digital access plays an active role! The Ure museum, has a small physical space, so since 2002 they have digitised and uploaded the collection online.

Then off I popped to the ELG committee meeting, where we had some very interesting talks… more news on that forthwith, but it is very exciting! I cant wait for us to take it forward, and turn our excitement in to something substantial.

On Wednesday, was a meeting, again as part of the Linksphere project, with the British Museum.  We hope to do some collaborative research with them on some juicy things (a great meeting, with exciting possibilities and very interesting people).   Coming from a museum digital background, I found it quite hard to start with getting into the research mind set, particularly academia’s understanding of users and usability. My bosses/mentors/guru’s I don’t exactly know what I call them, but they are brilliant at usability and user studies (as well as digital humanities and electronic publishing to name a few), so it was great to sit around a table with museum webby people who are focused on users, and research webby people who are also focused on users and watch the sparks ignite!

All in all a very exciting couple of days.

But it got me thinking about digital learning, elearning, computer mediated learning, what ever you want to call it. My professional field and my research field is new to some, and not to others, but it is seen in some eyes as a marginalised field, particularly with a museum slant.  I don’t make it easy for myself do I? But I do like a good challenge.  What happens to people who don’t have the support network that I have in my research?  From my previous elearning project manager job, although I had a great team around me, and I was pretty much given free reign to do whatever i liked! (which was fab, and I got to play with all sorts of social media and set up lots of exciting stuff), but I did feel isolated at times, when people didn’t really know what I was talking about.

What is good that things are beginning to change. People are beginning to sit up and take notice.  Twitter is all over the news, celebrities doing this that and the other, facebook causing a stink with its privacy issues, even Barbie is getting in on the act – Barbie is thinking of taking a new career direction, and computer engineer is on the list, if only museum digital team member was on the list, now that really would be something. Times are certainly changing, and its really exhilarating that people are beginning to get excited about what I do!  About flipping time.

what i do in my day job…by night im a superhero

I thought it was probably about time that I explained a bit about what I do in my job…

I’m the research assistant on project LinkSphere, which is a joint research project with the University of Reading and UCL, funded by the JISC Virtual Research Environment 3 programme. The project is aiming to develop a virtual research environment (VRE) which will allow cross-repository searching across various digital collections and archives (including (just to name a few) the Silchester IADB, Film Collection, Film, Television and Theatre archive, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology collections, The Museum of English Rural Life collections and the Cole Museum of Zoology collections) producing a useful user interface to various disparate digital collections.

My role is to focus on the way that social networking technologies are used by academics and how they might be integrated into a VRE and how they work with the museum and archive collections. I am also in essence the audience advocate, making sure that the user needs are met. The UCL team are on board to ensure that the project is a fully user driven design process, and that all user requirements are fed directly into the development of the project.

Development of the VRE will be undertaken at the University of Reading, with user analysis and usability from us at UCL.

All in all it’s a pretty cool job, I’m getting into the swing of things now (I’ve been here a couple of months). I’ve been doing some fun things with Twitter backchannels as well as asking questions to repository managers about the use of digital resources within repositories and how they want this project to work for them.

so thats my day job, by night I’m a tea drinking, chocolate eating, museum geeking, amusement making superhero type thing (not much of a power compared to xray vision, or telekinesis but i like it).

NB: The views expressed on my blog are completely my own rather than those of my employer.