Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Category: Apps

Is your team ‘slack’ing when it comes to communication?

Alana Aldred

So we all know that good communication is a pretty important element of any productive team – why, then, is it so hard to get it right?

One of the most frustrating points about communication at work can either be the lack of it … or, possibly, too much of it in the form of hundreds of back-and-forth emails with threads as long as your arm, all talking about the same topic!

Well, the TEL team were definitely feeling this pain! So we came up with a plan to investigate a new method of communication. As a team it was very important that whatever form this took it wouldn’t be invasive to our workflow – it had to fit in with us as a team and as an individual.

So, after a little window shopping we found the Slack app!

So what is it? In very simple terms Slack is a messaging app for teams. It is available to view on iOS and Android mobile devices, and from your Mac & Windows Desktop. The platform allows you to create Channels (groups) which you and other team members can join and contribute to.

Slack interface

Slack, as with most packages, offers a free service. However, it is limited compared to the paid fee package. The TEL team is a fairly small team and we find that the free service is enough for us. The free package is also unlimited unlike so many others where you only get to trial for a short period of time and then have to buy in!

So how do we use Slack? Just to give you an example, we have a news and announcement channel which is used by the whole team; it’s here that we can all view and share information that is important across the team. Then we have project channels which are used by those working on a specific projects – the really useful thing about this is that if you come in late to work on a project you can view all previous dialogue and associated documentation from when the channel was created – Instantly (pretty much) in the loop! It’s also worth mentioning that if you are working on something confidential than it is possible to set up a private channel. My advice would to avoid using private channels unless really necessary as it can create barriers to collaboration and the sharing of ideas and knowledge.

However, Slack isn’t just about messaging! You can upload and share files and it also has some fantastic integrations both practical and fun!

Add media options

Lastly, no one wants to be distracted at work. There are a couple of ways to overcome this issue. First, get your notifications set up! There are loads of options on how and when to get notified! Second, set up a social channel for general chit-chat (and the overuse of /giphy!) … this should prevent work-related channels drifting off topic!

I’m not afraid to say I’m a big fan of Slack. In fact I love it, as it’s so easy and simple to setup and use! Personally I think it’s enhanced our ability to collaborate more freely and its facilitated us in being able to support team members because we are now much more aware of what is happening within the team.

If this sounds like something your team could benefit from using then why not check it out – See https://slack.com/

 

SoloLearn – Learning where you want, when you want

Becky Holman

 

We all learn in different ways and personally I’m a hands on learner. I need to be learning and doing at the same time, otherwise it’s not going to stick.

Currently I have dipped my toe into the world of coding. This is something I’ve tried my hand at over the years but each time I pick it up, without practise I lose what I’ve learnt. So I started to search for apps that could help me learn and practise basic HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) throughout my typical day.

So what did you find?

After a few clicks and swipes I came across SoloLearn – a free mobile social platform that offers coding courses which can be completed via the Web on iOS, Android or Windows.

The aim of the game with SoloLearn is to learn through playing. The courses consist of bite-size guides and quizzes to keep you engaged and your progress is saved each time you reach a ‘checkpoint’. To practise and play with what you have learned, there is the ‘Code Playground’ where learners can experiment with what they have learned so far and save for future reference. This is excellent for when life gets in the way and you need to put the app to one side for a while, making for a easy return when you pick it back up. Another benefit is regardless of what platform you happen to be using, Sololearn will sync up, so you can access your course in a range of situations via your mobile device and the app will know where you left off from.

A very important part of SoloLearn is that although their name suggests otherwise, you are in by no means ‘solo’ in your learning. On each course there is a space for comments at the bottom of each page from the global SoloLearn community to ask questions or find handy tips from other learners taking part in their course. Many learners also share code they have written to be used by others for practise.

This is all well and good, but why should I learn to code at all?

Many people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at being told by a friend that they might be learning a spoken language such as French, but telling them you’re learning a digital language? That can get you a few funny looks. Although a genuine interest in the first place doesn’t hurt, there’s no harm in learning a new skill and adding another string to your bow. There’s no escaping that we live in a digital age and learning to code can only benefit you in the long run. Having a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS can help your career, such as being able to improve your employer’s website, or quickly publish your own content on your own website or digital platform.

You can find out more and join up by visiting SoloLearn here.