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21 December 2010

Bex Lewis - Social Media Guru

Bex Lewis - Social Media Guru

Multi-talented Bex Lewis has several roles: “Blended Learning Fellow”, Media Studies & History Lecturer, and leader on assorted projects at the University of Winchester. She also works for CODEC (St John’s College, Durham) on The BigBible Project. Her PhD was entitled: “The planning, design and reception of British Home Front Propaganda Posters of the Second World War”, and she is currently completing a PGC in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

Bex has a reputation for "throttling the marrow out of life" and a passion for learning, sharing, empowering, and adrenalin sports.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I changed my mind every five minutes, there was always something exciting to get involved in, but one consistent theme throughout was the desire to teach in some form. As I got older, the age group that I have wanted to teach has got older, as it's a profession in which I can keep learning myself (one friend described me as a sponge for knowledge), and despite the challenges, seeing someone's eyes light up as they "get it" is just immeasurably joyful.

You lecture in 'philosophy in journalism'. What about it?

The module is designed to provide a history and context for modern day journalism. Students consider the big thinkers who have influenced modern day journalistic thinking such as John Locke and Joseph Addison.

What has virtue got to do with the media?

Many would say that virtue has nothing to do with media, and that all news is bad news. As Christians we have a duty to be salt and light in the (digital) world and, as in all things, a responsibility to do things well. If we're talking social media, who you are offline tends to be reflected online, so we need plenty of 'average joes' online demonstrating that there is good news out there to be seized!

What are the best and the worst things about social media?

I think the words "24/7" come under both headings, and having so much information "on tap". I love being able to talk to people around the world, and have made several friends whom I have never met, and others for whom meeting up has been made easier by the fact that we've been able to have conversations before or between meetings. There's a real opportunity to share and build, rather than re-inventing the wheel. We do all, however, need to learn how to switch off, and that is a part of digital literacy. Within teaching, there's a real challenge, as so much information is now online, that education is no longer about "imparting knowledge".

Who or what inspires you?

Those reaching for their dreams, living the life that they believe that God created them for. We all have unique skills and talents, but we've been culturally encoded to try and fit "in the box".

What's the point of life coaching?

I had always worked "within that box", and done what was expected of me. In my first job, I knew I was in the wrong job, but couldn't work out how to get out without "ruining" my CV. Reading Cloud & Townsend's "Boundaries", which is written from a coaching perspective, opened my eyes, and I looked into coaching, eventually training as a coach. It helped me to understand more about what I was driven by and focus on strengths (when as a society we focus so much on our weaknesses). We learn to focus our time on those things of value, celebrate who we are, and take responsibility for living our lives as God intended them. I use a lot of the techniques with students.

What is your dream for society?

I would love to see people coming out of the silos they've put themselves in, and us all making the most of what we've already got. I'd love to see true community, where we build upon each other's strengths, stop re-inventing the wheel, and combine our wisdom to make the world a better place.

If you were invited to give a TED Lecture, what would be the topic?

"Be Yourself: Being Authentically Online", drawing on my passion for getting people to have a go at being online, and for being yourself online. There are many who think it's far easier to "hide" online, but the nature of the online world means that it's much harder to hide, as users can cross-reference data, there's a certain permanence, and it's difficult to sustain long-term deception online. If you're one way offline, that style is likely to come through… eventually.

What makes you angry?

A lack of respect for others, especially from those who think that they know it all. I am inspired by Socrates' quote: "The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know."

You are a 'Blended Learning Fellow' - give us the gist.

The term 'blended learning' commonly refers to using a mix of technology and face-to-face teaching methods, but essentially it refers to identifying the appropriate mix of tools for learning (rather than teaching!), and that definition is more helpful as the notion of "technology" puts so many off. Etienne Wenger defined the idea of "Communities of Practice", which are "formed by people [engaging in] collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour", and this is what I aspire to help create, both at the University of Winchester, and across the nation with The BigBible Project.

How can the media and the arts bring wellbeing in society in this next decade?

In a hyper-local world (hyper-connected globally, but strengthening local links through hyper-connection) digital media is bringing us together, building stronger relationships, and we can move towards sharing what we are involved in, our life stories, and encouraging us. The arts can challenge us to think differently. The world has been driven by an economic model for so long, we need to regain a sense of perspective, and the arts can help us do that.