be the change

laptop with the countries of the world

The end of 2017 has been marked by a two incidents. First was the laptop. A complaint was made about me using one in a meeting – ergo I was not paying attention. A week later the issue of devices in meetings came up again. Different context but same person who clearly feels strongly about the subject. I have some sympathy. Over the years presenting/lecturing has changed. These days we look over a sea of bent heads rather than people’s faces but I believe banning devices is not the answer. We need to find ways to work with them rather than deny their presence and affordances.

pink and green direction arrows

This time I spoke up. Explained a laptop need not signify Facebook or catching up with email – for me it was like a reasonable adjustment – when my eyes are bad it’s easier to make notes in a strong, bold font than to write by hand.

Hold that thought…

The second incident was a conversation with a lecturer who said it isn’t the job of academics to show students how to use the VLE or develop digital literacy.  This explained a lot. Here I was face-to-face with the on-campus digital divide.

Again, I have sympathy. Academics have seen big changes in HE.  The spectre of  the internet lurks in dark corners. There’s no avoiding digitisation and not everyone lives comfortably in the digital world.

digital divide with a page and an ipad

There are those who blog, tweet, join #lthechat, network online, and generally support the use of education technologies in a variety of ways and means.

There are those who object to the use of mobile devices and don’t see developing digital graduate attributes as part of their remit.

book, phone and keyboard

This takes us back to the tribes and territories of the TEL People. How like attracts like and if your role is about technology, the chances are you  tend to work with staff who use it willingly. The more digitally shy won’t come to your lands or speak your language and on those rare occasions we venture into their worlds, we’re often viewed with suspicion. We’re the techies, geeks, magicians of code with esoteric skills. We are Othered.

This digital divide – cue lightbulb – means embedding digital graduate attributes into modules, or using VLE tools which support collaborative online working, is not going to happen without structural change.

Right?

It’s not going to happen if things stay the way they are.

image of keyboard and social media icons from pixabay

This is where we are:

  • 30 years of computers in education.
  • 20 years of VLE at universities.
  • 10 years of Web 2.0 style social media supporting user-generated content and file sharing.

In the second decade of 21st century, I get a complaint about using a laptop in a meeting.

Christmas is coming and mobile devices are high on present lists. The age at which children get connected drops every year.  For all its critique, the phrase ‘digital native’ actually fits because they’ve never known an analogue world.

Typical ‘fresh-from-school’ students arrive with a set of digital social practices, honed through their teenage years, replicated and reinforced by family and friends, taken advantage of by media advertisers. In short, their internet experience mirrors the society they live in.

a borken mirror with the text Black Mirror in white capital letters

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is either prescient or stating the bleedin’ obvious. Of course this is what lies ahead. If you haven’t watched the series you should. Be scared, very scared – but at least be prepared for the future and understand the value of critique.

In the same way car engines have become more mysterious, people engage in digital life with no understanding of how it works. It just does. In the way the ignition fires the engine, our devices connect and our personalised digital landscape unfolds. But not for everyone.

Many working in HE don’t have digital footprints and rarely use the internet for anything other than email or access to university systems.

mobil phon with a landscape of trees and a castle emerging from the screen

They’re not alone. A recent Lloyds Bank report states “More than 11 million people in the UK do not have basic digital skills. One out of every 11 completely avoids the internet.”  while the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee reports a digital skills crisis. There’s more research about people not being online than how to encourage the critical skills and capabilities of those already there.

What can we do?

As learning technologists, as enhancers of learning and teaching – with or without technology (but in 2018 it’s likely to be there) – we have a responsibility to bridge on-campus digital divides. Its not just reaching the digitally shy and resistant, it’s promoting critical digital skills as being integral to other HE literacies and specialisms.

laptop wth screen showing the words Fake News

We have to find ways to start conversations about digital graduate attributes and digital CPD for staff. We need to leave our Territories of TEL and get into the heart of the university. Align our work with that of the learning development and academic practice teams, with those talking about learning gain, employability awards, TEF work and not forgetting the importance of the student voice in all of this.

Remember the thought from the top of the page – the one about reasonable adjustments?

TEL people need to talk about inclusive practice, how digital technologies can widen and support access but at the same create barriers. The sector is moving towards inclusion as the norm, reasonable adjustments as universal design. Watch this space. In January the Digital Academic soapbox will be out.

image showing a drawing of a bar of soap and a box representing a digital soapbox

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.

Rethink the relationships between institutions, staff and students.

Revisit our digital lenses. They need a clean and polish every now and then and sometimes a shift in their focus.

The time has come.

Seasons greetings to one and all.

a merry christmas message

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James Clay started something

blue twitter bird

#followfriday is a hashtag which passed me by. Like #fossilfriday. Seemed like a great idea but life’s busy, the web vast, you can procrastinate all day and still find stuff to amaze you. I know. I’ve been there.

Why #followfriday? Isn’t every day a follow day on Twitter?

Come to that, what it is about the tweeting bug which bites some and not others?

It’s an odd idea. Imagine pitching it. You want to do what?  Limit posts. Well, maybe a thousand words isn’t such a bad idea. What? 140 characters! That’s like a single sentence dude. It’ll never catch on.

Twitter was unique. It lost some magic when the character count increased. Now there’s talk of stringing tweets together.

Are the Twitter-leaders losing it?

It seems Twitter is following the path of other good ideas which lacked faith to hang on to the one quality which made them different. In this case – 140 characters or less.

What a brilliant challenge it was. Condensing your message, contracting your thinking, being concise and precise with words. Twitter made you re-examine your use of language. Learn the art of attention grabbing headlines. Appreciate meaningful puns. Appropriation of idioms. Clever metaphors with a twist. For logophiles and other lovers of text the world was our twitterverse and we liked it. Just the way it was.

Soon there will be nothing to distinguish Twitter from other social media platforms where users post a status, like, repost, link, share, add graphics.

The world is moving towards conformity.

Don’t do it Twitter. Stay unique.

In the meantime, James Clay started something on Twitter this week.

Amy Pearlman @AmyPearlman posted a request:-

I know it’s not Friday but who are your best follows for Women IT, Higher Ed issues, Tech, Just plain cool stuff.

James replied with a list of 21. It was good to see ex-colleague Kerry Pinny there – I would have expected to see Chrissi Nerantzi and Sue Becks while thumbs up for Audrey, Bonnie and Donna – education needs their criticality. Then there’s Jane Secker copyright queen and Theresa Mackinnon, cunningly disguised as @WarwickLanguage along with Maren Deepwell from ALT and Sheila McNeill… Hey, I know nearly all these names. What great company to keep. These are the people who understand it’s not the technology, it’s what you do with it that counts.

Tweet list of people to follow

After this, my Twitter feed went a little crazy.  I haven’t counted the subsequent suggestions for Amy to follow. James should have put a hashtag on it!

The buzz is fading. Soon something else will burst into Twitter-life before it also passes by. This is the nature of social media. Transient. Temporary. Of the moment.  But for a short while it was good to think the words you drop into the void of hyperspace might sometimes have an impact. So thanks James for including me. It means a lot.

In the meantime, Christmas is coming. The only time when email stops and professional use of Twitter goes quiet.  Its another year end. Those working in HE have two year ends – academic and seasonal. This is our second round of closures and new beginnings. One more blog post before January and I think I know what it’s going to be…

Have a good week.

digital behind design, reflections on #LD-CIN event

fishtank full of knitted fish

Loved the quirky knitted fish!

In the post Anyone for T I asked if T for Technology and T for Teaching have merged?  The question came about following a restructure. My role changed from Academic Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor to Teaching Enhancement Advisor. What’s the difference?

In both roles I’m working towards putting the digital behind the design. Learning and teaching enhancement for me is about learning activities, with or without technology but – in 2017 – most probably with.

For many staff, technology is not the driving force. TEL people are too often seen as techies, fixers of computers and data analysts. This fixed identify is hard to break especially as many of us can fix a PC (or at least check the wires and plugs!) and know something about data from a dashboard, spreadsheet or research perspective. Truth is, many of us are education developers with a range of skills and experience around curriculum and programme design. We might not have all the answers but we know where to get them and when it comes to technology – it goes wrong for us too. Well, for me at least as colleagues will testify!

cartoon of single person facing a wall of technology

Last week Patrick Lynch and I attended the Learning Design Cross Institutional Network event at the University of Oxford. It was the networks 7th meetup, our first and hopefully not the last. The next is at Leeds, literally down the road. We might take a team. Reinvent the awayday. Back to the times when it meant being off campus –  not in a room in a building you don’t often go to.

Learning design is the enhancement of learning and teaching in the way I understand it. Not technology first but pedagogy first and foremost all the way home.

model showing Learning Design components

These are my key takeaways from the event. If you’re a learning technologist who finds them familiar you might also be a learning designer too.

  • LD focuses on the activity the learner does rather than the delivery of content
  • LD is about optimising the environment for learning to take place
  • LD is about changing thinking more than changing tools
  • LD requirements vary across disciplines so there’s no one-size-fits-all model
  • LD builds in feedback loops to assess effectiveness during rather than the end
  • LD is scholarly i.e. research informs practice and practice informs research
  • LD visualisations have been shown to influence teaching practice (see Toetenel and Rientes (2016) below*)

We all arrive at learning design from different directions (the topic of a future blogpost). Neither Patrick nor I have worked in content development teams but we’ve both  have had roles working directly with staff to support and scaffold their own pedagogic practice.

Gill Ferrell from Jisc presented an overview of their work in this area. All familiar. A reminder we’ve worked in the sector for some time and there are great and free resources here Jisc Design Studio

Gill reinforced how the resurgence of interest in learning design demonstrates a shift of emphasis in a number of ways:

  • shift away from learning design as the delivery of content and what teachers do, to the designing of learning activities and focus on what students do.
  • shift away from seeing assessment of learning to assessment for learning as a future driver with greater emphasis on the role of feedback and timely dialogue with students.
  • learning analytics used to map assessment to prevent bunching and identify places where feedback loops take place.
  • Appreciative Inquiry as a methodology to focus less on problems and more on what works well and how to build on it.

HE is changing. My last blog post Perfect Academic Storm was about Degree Apprenticeships. Aimed at those in full-time employment and paid for by employees, these ‘new for some – less new for others’ programmes are 2017 equivalent of work based distance learning. More importantly – they have the potential to put learning design in the spotlight. To be relevant to the work place activities will need to apply theory to practice which is both experiential and problem based. Students will need to become independent learners not only managing their time effectively but also co-constructing negotiated modules and assessments. Learning design practitioners can make this happen. With or without technology but most probably with,

lego bricks from pixabay
image from https://pixabay.com/en/lego-colors-toys-build-up-disorder-688154/

Learning gain is another new layer of HE and also has implications for learning design. Helen King from HEFCE defined learning gain as the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education.  There are a number of current projects exploring what this means and how to measure it. Outputs will drive an exploration of how learning design can embed learning gain in the student experience.  Definitely a space to watch.

Range of Learning Design projects at the Open University

The sense of learning design déjà vu was reinforced with Katharine Reedy’s overview of learning design at the OU. Their taxonomy describes learning design as ‘a methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing learning activities and interventions, which is pedagogically informed and makes effective use of appropriate resources and technologies’. (Conole, 2012: 121) Sounds obvious yet still a new concept for many. Katharine bought some  Activity Planners and a reminder of the Word Wheel Again, so many great free resources available online. You almost never need to make anything ever again!

Open University Activity Planner

The heart of our session was a call to bring together learning analytics and learning design. To reimagine data as feedback and create designs with feedback points throughout rather than a single evaluation at the end. To be agile enough to respond to data which suggests students are doing well or less well than expected. One of Patricks favourite images is one saying the next big thing will be lots of small things.

image showing a sign sayong the next big thing will be a lot of small things

This is right – we have all the pieces of the jigsaw but need a different way to put them together.  The approach to enhancement PAtrick and I are developing is called Design for Active Learning (D4AL). It’s like a baseline jigsaw which can then be adapted to make a range of different activity images. More about this in the next blog post next week.

Thanks to everyone at LD-CIN for a great day and we’re looking forward to meeting up again next year.

LDCIN meeting #8 is 16th February 2018 at the NHS Leadership Academy, 3 Sovereign Street, Leeds, LS1 4GP.

Jiscmail list LEARNINGDESIGN@JISCMAIL.AC.UK

LD-CIN website  https://sites.google.com/site/learningdesignsig/home 


*OU research on connecting big data sets to learning design

  • Toetenel, L. and Rientes, B. (2016) Learning Design – creative design to visualise learning activities. Open Learning. The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 31:3, 233-244.
  • Toetenel, L. and Rientes, B. (2016) Analysing 157 Learning Designs using Learning Analytic approaches as a means to evaluate the impact of pedagogical decision-making. British Journal of Educational Technology 47(5) pp. 981–992.