Janus head

image showing a roman scupture with two faces, eah looking different ways
image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janus#/media/File:Janus1.JPG

Christmas is coming.

Under review, my post excluded from the suggested new structure, I don’t know what lies ahead. The process has paused for the seasonal break and uncertainty creates the Janus effect of looking back, looking forwards.

Where have I come from?

Where am I going?

This is the second time I’ve witnessed digital practice being sidelined. In the past couple of years, both institutions I’ve worked in have been through reviews which appear to equate education technology with ICT Departments, rather than an integral component of academic practice.

I admit I’m on the inside looking out, so maybe I’m missing the wood for too many trees.

imge of trees from pixabay
image from https://pixabay.com/en/forest-trees-rays-sun-light-690075/

What seems clear, is my approach to digital education is at odds with wider institutional views.

So in this final post of 2018, I’m reflecting on my own beliefs and looking back over the Digital Academic blog posts of the past years for clues.

It starts with ‘like attracting like’.

In the same ways different disciplines have unique signature pedagogies, those working in the areas of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) are unique tribes occupying their own territories.  This can result in digital divides between the early adopters and those late making digital shifts in practice. Universities are made up of more than Visitors and Residents, they also include a third option, the NAYs, the Not Arrived Yets and reaching them has been a primary driver of my work. A number of blog posts address these divides specifically.

selection of digital tools and devices
https://pixabay.com/en/laptop-technology-computer-business-3244483/

TEL people put on digitally themed events where the majority of faces are those you know. The Friends of TEL. occasionally you see someone new, full of enthusiasm for the topic, and actively engaged in finding ways to apply new approaches to their teaching practice. A few months later you pass in the corridor and ask how it went. They study the wall behind you and mutter something about not having had time before moving on.

Time for digital development needs to be recognised and adequately workloaded. This isn’t happening. As a consequence, staff who are already overloaded and under pressure to achieve ever-changing targets are unable to prioritise new working practices.

image from https://pixabay.com/en/paper-messy-notes-abstract-3033204/

My response to this was to apply lateral thinking. Rather than find new ways to attract people to use technology, I put the tech aside and focused instead on learning design. Staff might say they don’t do technology, and I’ve heard this said on numerous occasions, but they can’t say they’re not interested in student learning. So during the past year, my colleague Patrick Lynch and I developed a Design for Active Learning (D4AL) approach to enhancement. We promoted D4AL as being with or without technology and discovered in 2018, it was always in there somewhere. It just needed a pedagogy-first rather than than a technology-first approach to reach it.

Digital divides take many forms. One of these is made explicit by the practice of lurking. Traditionally understood as a negative behaviour, lurking was the topic of a number of blog posts back in 2016.

letter tiles spelling the words sounds of silence

During 2018, there’s been renewed interest in rethinking lurking as valid learning, a form of legitimate peripheral participation. It received wider interest via the Digital Researcher course and a number of online forums including #lthechat plus Twitter responses to these blog posts.

Lacking digital confidence is the path less travelled. Their absence is reinforced when TEL people are genuinely unaware of the parameters of digital exclusion, or how low literacies are contributory factors. Inclusive digital practice is not talked about enough but this might change in 2019.

closed padlock on a shut dor
image from https://pixabay.com/en/castle-chain-completed-shut-off-to-3788999/

The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 calls for websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies to meet accessibility requirements. However, realistically I wonder how much real difference will it make. Already we are seeing interpretation  through a technology lens with VLE suppliers offering ‘checking’ systems focused on table headings, alt text etc. This is not addressing individual changes in practice. The Design for Diversity project set up with colleague Lee Fallin tackles these with poster guidelines for all staff creating and uploading digital resources. The poster can be downloaded from here – Keep the Diversity Flag FLying here

Digital inclusion is like critical digital literacies – both are needed in theory and digital scholarship but are less often evidenced in practice. Yet ignoring the issues only results in widening the divides between those with easy unproblematic access and means of use compared to those without

Finally looking back pedagogically these blog posts offer new ways of reinterpreting Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Blooms Taxonomy for a digital age. I’m convinced pedagogy-first is the way forward.

MAslow Hierarchy of Needs pyramid
repurposed image original from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs.svg

Some posts have been a bit political this year but only with regard to highlighting those issues which matter if society is to become a more equal and inclusive place, something I believe a ‘higher’ education should have as an underpinning philosophy and is integral to digital scholarship.

There’s been positive responses from conferences I’ve presented at this year, which included these issues, for example

presnting at the UCISA conference

And there’s the Lego with feedback showing real value in building, sharing and asking questions.

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

Plus, in relation to innovative approaches to learning and teaching, there was the work on using labyrinths as aids for reflection as detailed in Walking the Labyrinth and my Classical Allsorts Radio Show for Siren FM which explored the Mozart Effect while promoting music for studying to.

So – looking back – I should be ending 2018, and maybe my career, on a high but I don’t know what 2019 has in store and the ‘not-knowing’ casts a shadow over what’s usually a happy time of year. However, I’m a huge believer in closing doors leading to new ones opening and I like the idea of fresh and different opportunities ahead.

Also, the allotment has been much neglected this year.

Closing down for 2018…

image from https://pixabay.com/en/christmas-star-background-backdrop-2894952/

 

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