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Profile of Josie Fraser: Learning Technologist of the Year


Learning technologySocial and educational technologist Josie Fraser works at the cutting edge of learning technology, unleashing the potential of Web 2.0 and social networking to facilitate learning, especially among young people. Catherine Dhanjal talked to Josie about her contribution to the learning technology field, and her recent award.

Josie Fraser describes her job as "supporting people to use technology to facilitate learning, and to enable community participation and development". In practice, that means she designs and delivers training, carries out functional and technical specifications, reviews and writes strategy documents, manages projects and does a lot of online facilitation. Her clients include organisations in the government, education, not-for-profit and commercial sectors.

"Making the education process more engaging and effective is a terrific feeling."

Josie is particularly interested in Web 2.0 and social media, and their potential for helping young learners. "What makes me different from most social media consultants is probably my focus on education and policy, and my experience in working with communities that include children and young people," she says.

Although she originally planned to be an academic, Josie was 'bitten' by her interest in policy, organisational development and the internet. "It wasn’t hard to see how effectively technology could be used to support social engagement and change," she explains. "The opportunity to make a practical, positive impact across educational design and delivery was irresistible… making the education process more engaging and effective is a terrific feeling."

Combating cyberbullying

Josie recently won the individual title in the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards, run by the Association for Learning Technology and sponsored by learning and ICT solutions specialist, Tribal Group. "It’s a huge honour and opportunity to be recognised for the award, and to have my work regarded as outstanding," says Josie, who explains that four of her projects were highlighted by the award judges.

First was her work on cyberbullying guidance for the Department for Children Schools and Families. To produce the guidance, she worked with Will Gardner, deputy CEO of Childnet International, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to make the internet safer for children and young people

They worked with teachers representative associations, children’s charities and industry providers - including Google, Yahoo!, MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, O2, Vodaphone and T-Mobile - to produce advice and resources released as part of the government’s safe to learn anti-bullying guidance, she explains. "We also consulted with children and young people in schools about how they perceive cyberbullying and how they, their friends and families are affected."

The guidance has been well received in the UK and overseas, says Josie, and is being used as a key document in the development of policy and practice internationally.

Social networking and young people

In the past 12 months, Josie has also produced a report on young people and social networking services for Childnet, work that was commissioned by Becta. Several leading social networking service providers, including Facebook, Bebo, Yahoo! and Google, collaborated with her to produce an evaluation kit for teachers. "The aim was to provide support to teachers to help them to use social networking services appropriately, creatively and responsibly," she says.

"Be very clear about why you want to use social networking services. Don’t use them just because ‘everyone else is'."

For the last three years she has also been the voluntary convener of the International Edublog Awards, for people who use blogs and social media to support their educational practices. Categories include best librarian/library blog, best educational wiki, and best use of a virtual world. Finalists are nominated and voted for by educational bloggers around the world. "It creates a fantastic resource that illustrates how blogs and different kinds of social media are being effectively used by educators across age ranges and subjects," says Josie.

The fourth project highlighted by the Learning Technologist of the Year Award was Josie's work on 'JISC Emerge': an innovative 28-month project funded by JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee). The project team supports a community of practitioners from the UK university and FE sector who are developing and exploiting emergent technologies for use in education, she explains. These technologies include social software, virtual worlds and mobile technologies.

"I work as lead community architect, as well as contributing to the initial vision and spec. I work as a community engager, supporting members practically on and off line, ensuring their voices are heard and that they influence the direction the community takes," she says. "The online community as a whole is stuffed with cutting edge projects: I’m very proud to be supporting risk taking and innovation within the context of a supportive, creative community."

Social networking tips

For anyone who wants to use social media or social networking services, Josie offers the following advice: "Be very clear about why you want to use these kinds of service," she says. "Don’t use them just because ‘everyone else is'. Are you looking to meet the needs of an existing community, to get feedback and engage people in conversation, or to be visible in a particular context?

"Why you want to use the service will determine the kinds of tools and platforms you’ll need to evaluate, as well as the human resources, in terms of time and talent, you’ll need to budget for.

"Services can be used extremely effectively when the rational for using them is clear, and the cultures of the platforms themselves are understood and respected. Great examples include Orange’s work in Second Life and the use Downing Street are making of Twitter, Flickr, MySpace and blogs."

For more information about any of the organisations that Josie mentions see the following websites:

Association for Learning Technology
Childnet International
Cyberbullying guidance
International Edublog Awards
JISC Emerge
Josie Fraser's blog, SocialTech
Josie Fraser on Twitter
Tribal Group
Young People and Social Networking Services report

Catherine Dhanjal is director of PR and marketing company, TheAnswer Ltd. She is a member of the Institute of PR and a holder of dipCAM, the postgraduate level qualification in public relations. She has over a decade of experience in technology PR. For more information, go to:


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