Digital innovation at the seaside

Kind of Digital have a team (made up of me, Fraser Henderson and Tim Wilson) working with Lincolnshire County Council on an ERDF funded scheme to bring the latest digital technology to small businesses in rural and coastal locations. This has taken two main forms: firstly the provision of digital business support through conferences and workshops – the latest is on 12 July in Boston, on cloud computing – and secondly the establishment of the Technology Hubs.

These are physical locations, where we have budget to invest in hardware and software to make technology available to businesses, communities and individuals that they might not otherwise know existed, and probably couldn’t afford. Our first hub opened a couple of weeks ago, in the Coastal Centre – a community multi-use building in Mablethorpe, by the seaside. It’s a town that has suffered a certain amount of decline, understandable when you think that it used to be a major tourist destination for the miners from Nottinghamshire and elsewhere.

We have kitted the Coastal Centre out with  a 3D printer, a 3D hand held scanner, and a laser cutter and engraver:

Already we have had people coming into to find out more about the technology. We were taken aback by one visitor, who turned up, USB stick in hand, from which he downloaded a 3D model of a part for his bicycle, printed it out on the 3D printer and then left as abruptly as he had come!

It’s clear that while some of the technology is new to many, there will be people in pretty much every community who will be itching to get their hands on the kit – and often have the zeal and desire to teach and support others. What’s more, it’s fascinating how quickly people can pick up on the potential applications of these tools.

We’re really excited about what we are doing in Mablethorpe, and will be opening new hubs soon in Boston, Louth, Lincoln and Horncastle – each with a slightly different focus. If you’d like to know more about how we made this happen, just get in touch!

New online course – blogging bootcamp

Ever wanted to start blogging but just didn’t have the confidence in the technology or your ability to write lots of juicy content? Our new online course is here to help!

Blogging bootcamp runs over the summer and is a six week course that you can dip in and out of, so no worries if you’re going on holiday in the middle of it!

Click here to find out more and book your place. I’ve pasted the course description in below for your convenience 🙂

This is an in depth course delivered online. It is based on the latest best practice for online learning, which is providing social, asynchronous learning where the learner can access materials and get involved at a time that suits them, within the framework of a weekly lesson format. We do as little synchronised activity as possible, to make things as flexible as we can.

The course consists of six lessons, which last for a week each. Total learner time per lesson is around an hour, which they can do in one chunk or spread throughout the week – it is entirely up to them.

Support is provided both to the group as a whole, with discussion and sharing of experience and knowledge encouraged; and privately through email or telephone discussion between the course facilitator and learners.

Each lesson will include some or all of the following elements:

  • An introductory video introducing the topic and explaining some details
  • Downloadable templates, resources, guides and case studies
  • Links to further reading and case studies
  • Interviews with practitioners
  • Screencast demos of how to perform certain actions
  • Learner discussion areas
  • One to one private email support
  • Additional content in response to queries and requests
  • Assignments to practice learning

The six lessons in this course are:

  1. Introduction to the course and blogging
    1. How does the course work?
    2. What is a blog?
    3. How could blogging help you?
    4. Different types of blogs
  2. Setting up your blog
    1. Choosing a platform
    2. Naming your blog
    3. Design considerations
    4. Choosing a domain
  3. Planning blog content
    1. How often to post
    2. How long should a post be?
    3. Different types of blog posts
  4. Promoting your blog
    1. Using Twitter and Facebook
    2. Joining online communities
    3. Encouraging debate
    4. Other ways of promoting your content
  5. Taking the next steps
    1. Using video and audio
    2. Guest bloggers and guest blogging
  6. Finishing up, answering final questions, time for reflective practice

Course content is fluid and will react to the needs of the learners – so the list above is for information purposes only and the exact content in the course will be more detailed than this.

The course is suitable for people already fairly happy using a computer and the internet, but who have been put off starting a blog in the past, whether because of worries about technology, or what to write about. It is suitable for public servants, community and voluntary workers, artists and creatives and those running small businesses.

The course facilitator is Dave Briggs, Director at Kind of Digital, who has experience of running successful digital engagement campaigns for a number of public sector organisations, including the Prime Minister’s Office at 10 Downing Street.

He has managed digital engagement projects for organisations at all levels of government and is an experienced and well regarded trainer in the tools and techniques used. He has blogged since 2004 and has also worked on developing social media e-learning with Learning Pool.

To find out more about Dave and his experience, check out his LinkedIn profile.

The course costs £100 + VAT per delegate.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Getting online by sharing memories in Lincolnshire

I’m delighted to be helping out Community Lincs, the rural community development charity where I serve as a trustee, with their Summer of Surfing activity during the first week of July.

It’s a neat idea, to encourage people to have a go using the web by contributing a memory to a shared website, where a collection of Lincolnshire memories will be able to build up. As the project describes:

These sessions will show you how to get online and create an entry on our Collecting Memories web site. If you have amusing, profound or even slightly bizarre memories of life in your community then we will help you post them online and it might even start an online conversation with others

Our goal is to show how easy it is to become involved with the Internet and how easy it is to communicate online. Hopefully we will effectively create an online “time capsule” of Lincolnshire memories.

As I said, I’m volunteering some time, and will be at Spalding library from 10am-12pm on Tuesday 2nd July; and from 2pm to 4pm on Thursday 4th July.

The project website – still in development, I believe, is here. This work is part of Community Lincs’ Community Broadband Champions project.

Am looking forward to helping some people take their first steps online!

A bit more on #networkedcllr

This morning’s round table, held by EELGA with the support of Public-i, was an enjoyable couple of hours, hearing about how councillors and others involved in local democracy see the future of the role and the impact the internet and social media will have on it.

One of the best things about the beta Public-i report is that it takes the view of ‘networked’ councillors in the widest possible sense. In other words, not just online networks, but all networks.

So we want our councillors to be available, open, accessible, transparent, collaborative and so on – whatever medium they may use is up to them, as long as it meets the needs of the community they serve.

Go read the report – it’s good stuff.

Following on from the session this morning and in addition to my previous notes, here are a couple of thoughts.

Firstly, there is still a clear need for training for councillors in using the internet and social media. This needs to incorporate hands-on stuff, showing people how to log in, which buttons to press and so on; but also cultural stuff, including the netsmarts that Howard Rheingold talks about. How to write, how to know when to respond, identifying trolls, that sort of thing.

Second, we need to put some thought into what the councillor role should be. I think much of what success looks like for councillors will depend on their original motivation for doing it in the first place. For me, as a parish councillor, I see the role making certain tools – processes and structures and procedures – available to me that wouldn’t be otherwise. So it’s a means to an end to get stuff done for the community.

However, it’s fair to say that the role has barely changed in the last decade or so, despite the radical changes to society, the economy, and how people live their lives. If we were starting from scratch, now, to design how our local elected representatives would perform their role, what would it look like? Nothing like it does now, I’d have thought.

I don’t think it’s possible to make existing councillors change their culture or their worldview. If they haven’t been open and collaborative before now, I don’t see how they can be encouraged to change. The effort should be going into designing a role that will appeal to new councillors, who are net-savvy, time limited, mistrustful of bureaucracy, and so on.

So I am looking forward to where the conversation goes next, and hope to get to play a part!

Recent writing elsewhere

I’ve been publishing a few bits of writing in places other than this blog lately.

Here’s an article I wrote for our local newspaper – the first of what will hopefully be a regular series:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

I’ve also written a couple of articles for the Business Lincolnshire website, which is run by the County Council. One is on avoiding social media pratfalls and the other is on some of the benefits of software as a service. You can read them both via this link.

The cloud article is one of a series I’m writing to promote the conference we are running in Boston on 12 July – more details here.

What makes for a 21st century or networked councillor?

This week we ran a webchat on the What Next for Localism site in partnership with NALC, on the topic of 21st century councillors. You can read the archive via the CoverItLive widget on that site.

On Monday next week, I’ll be popping down to Cambridge to take part in a morning’s round table discussion based on Public-i’s Networked Councillor report, which in a way is an answer to the question posed by NALC but also another question in itself. What should a 21st century councillor be? Networked! So what’s a networked councillor?

The report states the following things that should be part of a networked councillor’s DNA:

  • Open by default: This is open not just in terms of information but also in terms of thinking and decision making
  • Digitally native: Networked Councillors will be native in or comfortable with the online space, not in terms of age but in terms of the individual adopting the behaviours and social norms of the digital culture
  • Co–productive: Co-production is a way of describing the relationship between Citizen and State which brings with it an expectation that everyone in the conversation has power to act and the potential to be active in the outcome as well as the decision-making process
  • Networked: A Networked Councillor will be able to be effective via networked as well as hierarchical power as a leader

It’s hard to argue with much of that.

So, I’m a councillor myself these days, in a small way – I’m a parish councillor in my village in Lincolnshire, and have been since the start of this year. Due to some changes on the council, I’m now vice-chairman and taking on more tasks and more responsibility.

It’s fair to say that up to this point I’ve taken a bit of a watching brief, taking in what the council does, who the personalities are, what some of the history is. Now I’ve got my feed under the table, I’m hoping to start making a few things happen.

For me, and this is just a personal view and other councillors’ mileage may well vary, I want to use the role of councillor within our parish to be a community organiser. To use some of the processes and systems at my disposal to improve things for the community around me.

Right now our council has very little engagement with those not directly involved. This is unsurprising as we don’t really do a lot that’s worth engaging with – for various good reasons, the council has been a rather reactive one. However, I’m hoping we are now entering a stage where we can start to proactively do some stuff.

So first step for me is to remind the village that we exist! Start some small activities to demonstrate that the council is there to help them – perhaps an organised litter pick and similar activities to those. Things for people to get involved in, somewhere down near the bottom of the ladder of participation.

Then hopefully people will see the council as a group that does stuff and doesn’t just talk about it – and of course with actual activity we can start to communicate – it’s hard to talk to people about nothing! We can at that point start to think about local planning, surveying residents about their views and that sort of thing.

So I do agree with Public-i’s list of needs for a modern councillor. I think my personal list would be:

  • passionate – about the local area and improving it for everyone
  • open – to communication, engagement, criticism
  • community focused – working to do what’s right for the whole community, organising and motivating the community to action if necessary
  • accessible – whether down the pub, on the phone or via the internet
  • positive – always be constructive, always take on suggestions and feedback, always smile

As I said earlier, this is a personal view and one that is shaped by my limited experience of being a parish councillor – it may well differ for others, especially if they are working at a district, county or unitary level.

Death of the filesystem

From Jan Senderek, the founder of Loom, a photo management startup:

Kids today who start out with iPads and iPhones will never or rarely be in touch with a file or a folder. They won’t care about the type of data created or consumed on their devices. Apps are used to generate and consume content such as photos, emails, and news. They are the new ‘folders’. To try to find a file extension on an app or mobile device is hard. The interface and experience deliberately takes away the need to know whether an image is a .jpg or .png because you don’t need to know. Even if the next generation still uses a desktop at home or at school, the iPad will shape their behavior. The next wave of consumers are using cloud-based services to consume content that isn’t file-based like Facebook, Spotify or Netflix. Content provided by these services no longer sits on a computer taking up valuable hard drive space or requires conscious awareness of the makeup of the file.

The way computers work are changing. More convenience, less control.

My PTLLS micro teach lesson plan and materials

I’ve almost completed a course on Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector, or PTLLS. It’s partly to help me improve the work I do in training and running workshops, but also as the first step in the journey to becoming a qualified teacher.

I’m increasingly interested in the way that learning and education can be used in community development and social action and having some teaching qualifications will really help me to explore this area and actually get stuck in.

Part of the PTLLS assessment is a micro-teach. For us this was a 30 minutes teaching session on a topic of our choice. My topic was the experimental author, BS Johnson.

Just in case it is of interest to anyone, I’ve shared what I prepared for the session – which I am pleased to say I passed! Below there is an embed of the slides, or you can download a PDF copy.

You can also download:

Hope it’s useful!