The photo above is my floor at home. Is it familiar? Does anyone else have a floor like this? I seem to have forgotten the slip/trip lesson resulting in a broken ankle and cancelled New Zealand trip two years ago.
The photo below is my allotment, taken last night. The wildness of the chives and limnanthes is lovely but the couch grass has taken hold since my last broken ankle (another one – last year) Some of the beds are covered in an attempt at weed control, essential at this time.
I love my allotment. It’s sunshine, exercise, food, therapy, catharsis and sheer delight – most of the time.
It is also hard work and when everything is growing like crazy, falling behind gets stressful.
A blog post is many things; record of an event, reflection, observation, memory jogger, research diary etc. This blog is all of these and – today – is also statement of intent.
A part-time doctorate alongside full-time work is almost an impossible challenge. The months pass. The amount of available time decreases as the amount to be achieved (research wise) increases. I have my data – far more than I need. In terms of the research quadrants model I built ages ago and now sits on an inaccessible server rather than in the cloud (lesson learned!) I’ve moved into the third area of data analysis. Transferring to Northampton has led to a slight shift in emphasis – for the better – which requires a re-review of the literature. Much of the taken-out initial reading around learning design is coming back in – hence the floor. It might be a digital age but there’s no substitute paper papers and annotation by hand. It’s how I work best and at the moment I need all the help can get!
It’s a bank holiday weekend. For the next three days this is my plan:
plant tomatoes and get early morning reading onto Mendeley
weed pond area and write up notes from said papers (currently Bart Rientes on learning design)
sow barlotti and purple beans (it’s late – I know!) and revisit the recommended adjustments to an accepted ALT paper submitted with colleague Patrick Lynch (who you gonna call? )
tidy raspberry canes hidden by weeds and mark PCAP assignments (PhD deviation but deadline is Tuesday)
clear and replant pots from respite area and write/submit proposal to Research Student Conference (deadline Monday)
Allocate time they say.
Rule off blocks of hours for working they say.
Give up all semblance of a social life or R&R.
They’re not joking!!
Research is like an allotment. It needs time. You have to fit it into your life – or build your life around it.
Without attention is gets a mess – like this…
With attention it looks better, you feel better, and progress forward is achieved. What’s not to like? All it needs is time and commitment. So this is my statement of intent. Bring on the bank holiday weekend. Lets weed and write!
Alan Hurst opened the Inclusive Teaching and Learning Conference at York St John with a reference to Michael Oliver. Great call! Oliver’s influence with regard to the construction and promotion of the social model of disability in HE was a transformational threshold. This transferred the cause of inaccessibility from the individual to the environment where barriers to participation could be physical and/or cultural; a huge step from a deficit model whereby the ‘problem’ was perceived to be caused by individual impairment. Adoption of the social model led to major changes to the built environment; ramps into public buildings, installation of lifts, accessible facilities and (marking the early days of the internet, when Tim Berners Lee led on digital democracy) the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
Inclusive teaching needs building in (like the production of transcripts or other textual equivalents) to the learning design, not added at the end. Bolt-on methods can be better than nothing but are never seamless and prone to dropping off.
Inclusive teaching means stop making assumptions. We are all different. Individual needs may be invisible. Where they are public (assistance dog, wheelchair, amputation) associated needs might not be what you think. Start a conversation about preferences for learning.
Prof Ann-Marie Houlton used the analogy of a kaleidoscope in her keynote. It worked well. Turn the tube. Click. Different pattern. Effective learning design is a kaleidoscope. It offers with diversity but all the pieces you need are already there.
The institution of higher education (HE) is a beast; large, old, traditional, eclectic and so on…. Changing the culture of HE presents complex challenges and no where is this more true than inclusion. I worry about society taking backwards steps rather than forward ones. Ideally, inclusion is holistic. The reality is inclusion being seen as something someone over there (not in my place) does for disabled students. Another blog post I think.
Inclusive teaching deserves a scholarly approach. Who is writing about inclusion these days?
Inclusive teaching involves understanding how language matters. Disabled students or students with disabilities? Inclusion as a disability issue or inclusion as universal design, an improved experience for all. The focus of the workshop Fostering inclusive language and behavior in the classroom was gender and sexuality; excellent places to start rethinking the roots of exclusive attitudes and practices (presenters Liesl King and Helen Sauntson used non-inclusive rather than exclusive – is this another linguistic shift? Should I stop referring to a an inclusion/exclusion binary?)
Language is the biggest building block in the world! It constructs self and reality. Perpetuates social stereotypes. Discourse analysis and visual literacies are valuable tools but who still uses them? Science is fighting back. Rationality rules. The further we move from the postmodern turn, the more single sources of truth take centre stage. We need to challenge this. We need to talk.
As always with conferences the best conversations took place around workshop tables and over lunch. I picked up some useful links including the Jisc InStep project looking at curriculum design and graduate attributes. From 2009, it’s judt as relevant today.
So what happens next – after the conference, still in the zone, feeling the buzz. What happens when we’ve thought about inclusion, reviewed programmes and practices, ticked the boxes – when do we stop?
The answer of course is never. Inclusive teaching should be agile, permanently in beta, continually under development. Each year every class and cohort is different. You wouldn’t have a fixed approach to your teaching (would you?) and it’s the same with inclusion.
HE is a rite of passage but the path can be tricky. Sometimes blockages happen or barriers inadvertently reinforced. It would be good to see more inclusive T&L conferences, including opportunities to talk to students about their own experiences. Inclusive teaching is about listening.
Finally, inclusive teaching is about what we do. Let’s have more conferences around learning designs – so long as one of its pillars is inclusive practice. Either way, did I mention this? – we really do need to talk.
Chairs on wheels meet solid floor. Blessing or nightmare?
Easy to move, don’t need lifting, don’t scrape or grate when dragged
…can be difficult to sit on, too easy to slide backwards before you’ve made contact or can fail to provide support if you reach out for them. Chairs on wheels might be good for some but not others.
The conundrum lies at the heart of inclusive practice.
One-size-fits-all models are rare.
Take bobbled surfaces known as textured paving. It warns those with visual impairment of a road crossing but bouncing over them can be uncomfortable for wheelchair users. Shared surfaces where pavements blend seamlessly into roads make crossing easier for those with wheels but can be confusing (even dangerous) – in particular for assistance dogs trained to stop at raised kerbs. The risk is absence of an inclusive solution becomes an excuse for not changing practice in the first place.
Yesterday I attended the Inclusive Teaching and Learning Conference at York St John University with colleague Patrick Lynch. The opening Keynote by Prof Ann-Marie Houghton set the scene; universal design means changes for some which create an improved experience for all. Accessible design is not an activity targeting disability. It’s a state of mind and a practice which can benefit everyone.
Digital exclusion was largely missing from the conference. There was reference to commuter students in rural areas not having high speed internet (true for some areas in towns and cities) but I missed references to inclusive design of documents (headings and styles please) or standard attention to font, text size, colour, contrast etc.
This isn’t because we’ve reached some magic tipping point where all resources are accessible. Any VLE offers a range of poorly designed lecture slides which don’t print well in b/w, have too many words on top of images or my pet hate of grey font on white (I can’t see it!!) or audio and video without text equivalents.
In one session we were told it wasn’t possible to provide transcripts for captured lectures because the technology isn’t there yet. This implies a gap while waiting for the technology to catch up yet Windows ‘speech to text’ is not bad and there’s a range of free apps which will give a workable document for editing. Yes, it’s a digital capabilities issue which is all the more reason for institutional support to develop digital ways of working but any lack shouldn’t be an excuse. Where lecturers create and upload notes and/or slides before their presentation, this is the basis for a textual version of recorded content.
It seems students need to disclose and have their ‘disability’ accepted in order to have a text alternative provided for recordings which in itself feels like an exclusive practice. Audio/video alongside notes and/or images offers a holistic learning experience. Why wouldn’t we want to support students in this way? How many lecturers have tried extracting core information from a 50 minute podcast dealing with an unfamiliar topic!
The exception was Prof Houghton who gave the first keynote with clear, well spaced slides and ‘There’s alt-text on the images.’ Not a phrase you hear every day. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it. Maybe I don’t go to the right conferences. Most of them are about learning and teaching in particular where it’s online….
Inclusion is about so much more than making reasonable adjustments for some. It’s about the freedom to move independently within the built environment and getting on and off public transport, it’s about dropped kerbs and street art springing unannounced from pavements. It’s about the language we use, consciously and unconsciously. It’s about the social construction of attitude and bias.
Exclusion is created by culture and society and preventing it begins with adopting inclusive design practices.
This pedestrian crossing over a dual carriageway appears to have no textured surface to indicate the road (taken recently in Hull)
Changing the culture of HE is complex and challenging. Nowhere is this more evident than learning and teaching where responsibility for inclusive practice is too often seen as being somewhere else, anywhere else, except with us. TEL-People say it’s within Student Services who say they’re not techies and on it goes. We need to work together on this. The aim is a tipping point where inclusive design and teaching becomes the norm. We’re going round in circles. Conversations at the conference were similar to those from two decades ago. If anything, the issues have become more convoluted.
Knowledge makes so much difference. Simulation has been frowned upon for failing to authentically replicate lived experience, but a day in a wheelchair or wearing glasses which mimic glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration can offer transformative insight. We need to remember not everyone with an impairment is registered as disabled and take care not to confuse the issues. Hundreds of thousands of people live with invisible conditions such as colour blindness, dyslexia or some form of sensory difference. While careers and consultancies are constructed from the impact of diversity, most of us want to do what others take for granted, for example use the internet and read what’s on the screen (did I say no grey text on a white background please?!)
I’m stopping now before I get really ranty but will end on a plea – if you were to make one single change, please do think about how you present content, in particular online. Plain font, decent size and good contrast are all essential. For those of you who believe Browser customisation is the answer – it can’t work unless content has been designed to adjust.
Everyone is different. It should be what makes us special rather than a problematic.
Also, if you agree please retweet, repost and reply – let’s continue the conversation.
image from the presentation of Prof Ann-Marie Houghton.
Photos all my own or from the conference presentations.
How much is too much? Or not enough? Overload warning – drowning not waving – data data everywhere. Explode. Head. Ready.
Weekends and bank holidays are for research. Any part-time researcher saying otherwise is lying!
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a set of Nvivo workshops alongside an introduction to Refworks and Endnote. Been there before but you know how it is – use it or lose it. Guess which happened?
I’ve decided to work with Mendelay.
My relationship with referencing tools one of start but not finish. As a result my most comprehensive list of references is hand constructed. Not the way to do it. This time – I promised – once and for all – I’d face my bibliographic fears.
I like Mendelay.
With so many research processes being online, the management of research data and literature has become a digital capabilities issue. You could say the same about learning and teaching but as TEL-People know, the link is more tenuous. Workshops are where TEL-People come face-to-face with the reality of digital adoption. This is often far removed from TEL-World – as you might expect – but the distances involved can still be a surprise. Coming face-to-face with low levels of digital knowledge is essential for designing support where it’s needed.
The Jisc digital capabilities profiles include one for researchers. For me, it demonstrates how research processes cut cross the elements. Apart from data literacies and working with multiple formats, there’s the grey identity area (as both staff and student), dissemination through publication and conference plus involvement in a range of online networks. Social media and research are natural partners but not everyone is a natural online communicator while the most powerful research tools can also be the most challenging. SPSS and Nvivo are not for faint digital hearts.
I like working with Nvivo. It fascinates me how interpersonal communications like interviews can be digitised, themed and linked, highlighting connections you didn’t see before. I’m self taught from the days of Nvivo 9 so the workshops were a useful opportunity to update to 11 and see what tricks I’ve missed. Nvivo Word Clouds are amazing!
Research software encapsulates all the issues around developing digital skills and one of these is the shift from customised, institutional help to generic, online resources. This goes alongside a move to DIY where you’re expected to RTFM (find things out for yourself); a policy which could only be imagined by the digitally confident or non-tech user, either a refusenik or with someone else doing it for them.
I know my way around the internet but still waste a lot of time trying to find things out for myself.
Well made generic videos can show you where to click but are less successful with the why and the wherefore. Even the brilliantly made Nvivo Water project – custom designed to demonstrate all the options – can’t cater for every potential scenario. Ultimately there’s no off-the-shelf substitute for the experience and expertise of other people.
Back to data.
Back to Mendeley.
If you don’t use a digital referencing tool you should bite the digital bullet and give one a try. I settled for Mendeley because it’s more than a referencing tool. It offers social bookmarking (like Delicious or Diigo) and my bibliographies are not tied to an institution. It has all the features you’d expect i.e. cloud and desktop versions, citation options for Word etc. I can access it anywhere and get to take it with me when I leave.
My research data is already in digital formats; interviews transcribed and supplementary materials online. The next task is getting it all into Nvivo and start coding. It’s been over a year since I spent time with Nodes. It will be a massive task but hopefully a rewarding one. My research explores how staff concceptualise teaching and learning in a digital age and I’m looking forward to seeing what Nvivo does with millions of words from three years of data collection.
Me and Mendelay plus Nvivo are going to be best mates this year or at least – that’s the plan!
The Flying not Flapping workshop flapped a bit. Refreshments arrived – 10 cups, 20 bottles of water, no biscuits – for 30 people. Water is good for you but coffee’s essential on a Monday morning. The technology was dodgy too. Occasionally one of the five screens flashed into life but all five together wasn’t happening. Discovered the Support Desk phone discretely under the desk. Yes, right under the desk. It did get better.
TEL-People do tend to preach to the converted and can rely on the same faces turning up to events. It’s a fact universally acknowledged that labelling an initiative with ‘digital’ or ‘technology’ can be an instant turn-off. Rather than TEL first, it’s helpful to adopt learning design first. Not as snappy but design for learning should be something we all have in common – how can learning be enhanced without it?!
A full CAIeRO usually takes two days so a mini one has to be prescriptive. It goes like this – choose a blended six week course from a given selection, create a mission statement and two key learning outcomes (revisiting ye olde Bloom in the process), decide the topics to cover, the activities the students will take part in (examples on Monday included critically assess, reflect, peer review, evaluate), build in assessment points, formative as well as summative (bearing in mind they don’t need to be all bunched up at the end) and… breathe.
When it came to choosing activities most included different TEL-Tools like blogs, portfolios and discussions. Just because CAIeRO isn’t technology-first doesn’t mean it gets missed out – it’s just a different way to bring it in.
There’s an emphasis on shifting culture. CAIeRO critiques content-delivery and asks students to take part in activities. You often hear staff say ‘students won’t do that‘ but if they’re arriving expecting to be lectured and given content then maybe this expectation needs to be challenged.
Adopting a LD approach is also fresh opportunity to join up the different elements of HE; to embed learning development, employability, Internationalisation, even TEL. The aim is to offer an inclusive as well as holistic experience through the programme rather than as disparate bits and pieces where students risk missing out by not realising skills support is in the library, or employability awards are in the building at the back of the campus. When you know your way around it’s easy to forget how mysterious and intimidating a university can be. LD is about linking subject expertise with opportunities to become creative, critical and reflective while also encouraging staff to be scholarly i.e. research informed and engaged, look for evidence of impact, evaluate their teaching practice and be reassured they are doing a good job.
Like it or not we’ve moved into the arena of teaching excellence. Agree or not with the measurement criteria, the TEF offers a rationale for revisiting and reviewing the learning design of programmes. The T in TEF isn’t Technology.
We have to be brave to be different and TEL-People can lead the way. We can start to reach the hard to reach by leaving tech behind and talking about design instead. Find new ways to share practice. Move away from determinist approaches where technology is seen as the answer. Forget force feeding content; it isn’t going anywhere so we can focus on what students can to do with it instead. Introduce activities which involve searching, selecting, sharing and summarising content rather than being handed it on a plate like a roast dinner. Knowing what’s coming can get boring. Learning should be exciting and – dare I say – value for money. As soon as we start to see students as customers buying a degree rather than investing in a learning experience then all is lost.
Ale worked with Gilly Salmon (of emoderating and etivities fame) at the University of Leicester where the idea for CAIeRO was originally conceived as Carpe Diem. To find out more about CAIeRO at Northampton visit this blog post by Julie Usher Demystifying CAIeRO. At Hull we’re planning to put something similar in our Toolbox for Leaning Enhancement.
It feels like LD has taken a back seat in recent years, or at least gone under cover, but if you scratch the surface there’s the 7 C’s model of learning design, the D4 Appreciative Inquiry approach and Learning Design at the OU for starters. They all involve technology – it should be hard to find learning which doesn’t in 2017 – yet you don’t often see LD on the ALT Jisc mail list or TEL on the SEDA list suggesting there’s still a divide between the worlds of education development and TEL-People.
TEF may be the opportunity to narrow the gap between them, prioritise scholarship and highlight the importance of evidencing impact. A LD approach to TEL could tick the TEF boxes as well as enhance the learning experience for students. Watch this space. We’re developing some exciting new ways of working and will be sharing them here.
Stumbled onto a video of Gardener Campbell talking about educating the whole person. Sidetracked through the serendipity which characterises the internet. Start at A and find yourself at Q and R without being too sure how.
On the way I bumped into teaching scholarship – as you do – and an interesting analogy from the late 1990’s by Randy Bass in The Scholarship of Teaching: What’s the Problem? Citing Boyer, Bass claims problems in research are welcomed while problems in teaching are seen as failures of practice. Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered (1990) is remains a seminal work on SoTL (less than Scholarship Reassessed (1997) by Glassick, Huber, Maeroff) and its principles of scholarly approaches to teaching still hold i.e. ‘It should be public, susceptible to critical review and evaluation, and accessible for exchange and use by other members of one’s scholarlycommunity.’ (Bass, 1999:2)
The HEA report Defining and supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) a sector wide study suggests SoTL themes hve expanded. They may now involve peer review, CoP and more interdisciplinary approaches. It also involves student engagement through redesign of curricula which encourage undergraduates to be research informed and engaged. The HEA report claims continued confusion around the definition and practice of SoTL. It recommends linking SoTL to the TEF, adding CPD to workload models, making SoTL more explicit in the UKPSF and greater recognition of SoTL across all REF units of measurement.
The value of SoTL is in the L. How students Learn. Few benefit from lecture style transmission of content unless it’s recorded so they can revisit and review. I’m unlikely to meet Gardener Campbell but have watched and listened, paused to revisit, shared (seen it reshared) and stored the link for future reference.
Any HEI with a policy for recording timetabled teaching sessions supports their students learning. They can catch up on what they’ve missed through illness or unforeseen circumstances and have meaningful discussions; the benefit of so called flipped learning i.e. access to transmitted content at a time and place which suits then get together – face to face or online – for discussion with the benefit of time to reflect and craft comments. A deeper approach which – if linked to a collaborative document – presents opportunities to extend learning by searching and sharing associated links, commenting on the contributions of others and summarising the whole learning experience. What’s not to like?
Using audio and video is a no-brainer. So much content is freely available (eg British Film Institute, Film Education, Vimeo,YouTube, Teacher Tube, Ted Talks, Khan Academy, MIT) or licenced for use within UK HE like the excellent Box of Broadcasts (BoB). You can make your own audio/video with webcams and mobile devices although this raises the DC (digital capabilities) issue. Not problem. Lets link it to scholarly practice and persuade institutions to invest in the digital skills of their staff as professional development. It also raises issues of IP which can be complex and opening the copyright box will be the topic of a follow-on blog (brave, stupid or what?!) 😉
Back to Gardener Campbell and Educating the Whole Person. Gardener says granular analytics does not represent the whole person yet the current push towards big data claims it can be used to design personalised learning. How? Footfalls and logins give little meaningful information about learning. Counting the number of VLE sites is irrelevant compared to what goes on there. Ditto forum posts. The data tells us nothing about content quality. We need more critical thinking around the types of data collected and why.
It all comes back to scholarship. Inquiry into what you do and why you do it. How do you know it works? Where is the evidence of impact? SoTL provides a framework for taking this forward.
Lets be more joined up about linking CPD with Academic Practice. Encourage action research, action learning sets, appreciative inquiry, critical reflection and loops of experiential learning.
Let’s make opportunities to get people around a table to talk about teaching, underpinned with research into how students learn, and how best to design learning experiences which can be personalised to encourage motivation, enthusiasm and ownership.
Lets start investing as much into learning and teaching as we do research and technologies.
Let’s bring in the student voice and build mechanisms for recognising and rewarding evaluated learning design.
Let’s do all this. Now! We’re all here to support the student experience so let’s have some exciting thoughts about how to go forward into the future.
We all know determinists. Excited about the new. Putting tech in place. Waiting for transformation. Any failure is blamed on it being the wrong time, place or connections, but there’s much more than this to digital education. We have to go deeper.
I didn’t go to Digifest17 but followed as much as I could online. For me the star of the show was Amber Thomas from the University of Warwick. In conversation with Neil Morris from the University of Leeds, Amber dared to refer to digital technology as pixie dust and snake oil, suggesting what matters more are the non-digital aspects of education, namely the design of learning experiences.
There’s more than a little synchronicity here. My ex Lincoln colleague Andy Hagyard is now Academic Development Consultant at Leeds while Kerry Pinny is Academic Technologist at Warwick. Spot the similarities. We should form our own SIG. In the meantime, we’re under review at Hull and top running for our new job titles is learning enhancement rather than TEL. Amber was spot on. The future is less with the technology and more for the people.
Predictions of tech-adoption are rarely realised in the way we expect. We look in the wrong places. It’s not the tech innovators or early adopters (who can be pedagogically astute but remain a minority), it’s those who self-exclude from technology events and opportunities. Who – dare I say – care more for the EL in TEL than the T itself. The solution to learning enhancement is not rocket science. It’s as simple as this. We need to talk more across our different sides of the fence.
Make the conversations less driven by technology and more about evidence of success. How do we know what works and why? Where is the scholarship of learning technology? The research informed practice? I’ve referred to existing literature critiques before in TEL-ing Tales, Evidence of Impact and Learning Design+TEL=the Future. These critiques can be powerful drivers and all the more reason for change. The brave new world of TEF and learning analytics is an optimum time to review the design of learning and how to evaluate its impact. Not just at the end, when students are moving on and it’s too late to change their experience, but by building iterative loops of feedback throughout modules and courses which tell everyone how they are doing when it most matters.
Digifest17 was bold. …we’ll be celebrating the power of digital, its potential to transform and its capacity to revolutionise learning and teaching.
We’re still talking transformation and revolution, yet as Diana Laurillard said nearly ten years ago – ‘Education is on the brink of being transformed through learning technologies; however, it has been on that brink for some decades now.’ (2008: 1)
Slowly but surely places are emerging where education technology is aligning with academic practice. It seems a promising way forward. Why wouldn’t we want to introduce scholarship and pedagogy, build learning design around experiential loops of action research and appreciative inquiry? Lets shift the emphasis and make the future for higher education one which is more shaped by people rather than by machines.
Images from Learning Analytics & Learning Design Digifest17 presentation by Patrick Lynch (email@example.com) and pixabay.com. Jisc image from Jisc