Lego moments

lego bricks

Do you speak Lego?

Probably yes.

Lego is language without words. We can all do it.

The more I experience Lego the more I’m discovering its value as a creative approach to problem solving and change.

Lego is reminiscent of childhood and concepts of ‘play’. Academia still has snobby roots. For everyone willing to put preconceptions aside and engage in something a bit different, there’s those looking down their noses at what they see as a trivial, time wasting activity.

Last week Chrissi Nerantzi from CELT, MMU, came to Hull to run a Lego based workshop.  I’ve been exploring Lego for a while but but this session was different. Excuse the pun, but something clicked and it wasn’t just bricks fitting together. It was my snail.

two different snails made from lego bricks

It didn’t look like a snail. Lego does straight lines better curves but I knew it had snailness. My colleague next to me also built a snail. We didn’t consider the weirdness that of all the animals in all the world we’d chosen snails. Instead I was stuck by the difference. You couldn’t have had two snails less alike!

Up to that point I thought I’d understood. The build was the focus of attention (not the builder). I got the principles of connectivism, i.e. think with your hands. At my first workshop I’d sat next to Paul w

ho built a snail (a theme here). We talked about workload then I noticed the brick with a smile on the inner side of the snails leg (I know, snails and legs but it’s about the imagination!). Something was fundamentally reassuring about the hidden smile. I’d think about it in the months ahead. Like a mantra. Smile on the inside. It’s going to be ok.

yellow lego snail with smile on bricks

So what can Lego teach you?

Well, its cumulative. No doubt, next time I’ll learn something different but for now, here’s my list

  • Lego is about creativity and imagination but without needing artistic skills like music or drawing; just the dexterity to click bricks together. This means it can be exclusive, Facilitators need to consider the experience for anyone with physical or sensory impairment.
  • A Lego workshop is structured; it uses a defined and facilitated process which involves a developmental set of activities where Lego models represent metaphors (literal and conceptual) as the basis for narrative.
  • Participants are encouraged to express themselves through the different bricks (colour, shape, size etc) Lego has been described as 3D printing your thoughts.
  • The focus of discussion is the bricks, not the person. Tell me what the pink brick represents. Why are those three bricks on the top. What does the wheel represent.

Models can be literal (a snail which looks like a snail) or conceptual. My model was about snailness.  It wasn’t till then I realised I’d worried too much about making my models literal rather than expressive.  You need to let go of some inhibitions if Lego is to work its magic. Go with the flow. Trust your hands and click bricks together without a preconceived end point in mind. Your models will evolve as will your interpretations.

The model below shows three teaching styles. Each has a lecturer and students. Can you tell the difference?  It would be interesting to see how other people interpret them and now I’m thinking how can the principles of a Lego workshop be adapted for online distance students! Has anyone tried this?

three lego models representing teaching styles

So what is it about Lego?

80% of our brain cells are supposedly connected to our hands and with an allegedly hundred million ways (102,981,500!) to combine just 6×8-stud bricks, the possibilities are extensive.

In a group its often the few who do the talking. With Lego everyone gets turn. The focus is on the bricks not the person and this can feel liberating. The models also reinforce diversity; everyone starts with similar brick-sets yet models are wildly dissimilar.

lego people standing in rows

However, Lego is not for everyone.

It’s a step into the unknown. Lego works on different levels from day-to-day custom and practice and facilitators need to anticipate emotional responses if the experience goes below the surface, triggering unexpected thoughts or reactions. Most of us have complexity in our lives and frequently cope by shutting down that particular part of the mind or memories. Lego is like a key, reaching the parts other methods don’t. I’ve seen tears and resistance but also how it’s been a revelation for the initially reluctant.

lego bricks from pixabay

It’s clear Lego has powerful potential but where does it fit in these difficult days where teaching excellence rules but no one is really sure what it means and the dominant discourse equates measurement with value. Does the current obsession with data signal the end for innovative approaches to teaching and learning?  Is there risk where those working with data lack pedagogic knowledge so are measuring what they don’t understand. The sector is shifting back to didactic transmission (e.g lecture recording) with assessment re-branded as digital exams. Those from the student-as-producer/student as partner days, when interactive, research-engaged teaching and learning was first explored, are now being swept along in a data tsunami which tells us more about our socially constructed systems than our students.

hundreds of lego people

What we shouldn’t do with Lego is dismiss it as a pile of childishness with no place in a university. The contrary. A university is where the new and the different can safely be explored using alternative approaches to problem solving.

In this increasingly digital age, Lego offers time to put devices aside and do something as old as humanity itself;  building with our hands. This has the potential to tap into what Jung called the collective unconscious, the shared memory which stirs whenever we look up at the stars or sit around a fire at night. Even more, Lego offer structured opportunities to stop and think and these are rare. We live in increasingly frenetic times with fundamental challenges to truth and knowledge. I’d suggest moments with Lego are needed more than ever before.

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Lego images from pixabay or my own

 

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Troubling boundaries (and cats)

Where my research is concerned, I have trouble with boundaries

I’ve said this before (Know Your Limits) and am likely to do so again. It’s nowhere more prevalent than this blog. I start new posts all the time but finish them less often. Too many ideas in my head and not enough boundaries.

There it is again!

It’s getting worse as the research progresses. The more I reduce the data for analysis, the more I feel the need to give contextual background. I save in one place I but increase elsewhere. On reflection, this might show how digital shifts themselves are inextricably linked to all aspects of higher education. Show me what doesn’t involve a digital agenda and I’ll eat my blog.

baby wearing a large hat
image from pixabay – no attribution required

This week I’ve taken leave and allocated it PhD time. the intention was at least one research-related (and completed) post. The boundary issue is becoming critical. This blog was about Digital Impostor Syndrome (DIS). It’s not core to my research but is related (I rest my case!) in that I’ve a partially-generated theory which suggests DIS might underpin digital shyness and resistance.

Reluctance to engage in online activity is well documented, for staff as well as students. Colleague Patrick Lynch and I facilitate Module Two of the PG Cert in Academic Practice (PCAP). We introduced it as a blended module because the group only meets 5 times in 10 weeks but our online activities were – I think it’s fair to say – not widely or enthusiastically adopted. We want to explore why not.

We’re told there’s too many competing pressures but in a  200 hour Level 7 module with only 15 hours contact time, we didn’t think it unreasonable to allocate a similar time to developing an online PCAP community. My previous TELEDA courses (Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age) were experiential (offering staff a student view of the VLE etc) and although successful then, it seems a similar approach may not work this time around.

Again – why not?

cartoon of single person facing a wall of technology

At this stage, I’m not suggesting the answer is Digital Impostor Syndrome (DIS). Evaluation may well reveal we set about it all wrong or made mistakes we’re not yet aware of. However, from an overall perspective, something prevents staff and students from contributing to online forums, blogs, wikis or other interactive google logo under a magnifying glassplaces (when the same people often communicate through social media). This is against a discourse of education technology transforming – even revolutionising – higher education.

Houston – we have a mismatch.

Is it nerves about negative responses? A recent event on student blogging revealed individual URLs being deliberately obscured to prevent the blogs being found by google, the rational being to reduce potential trolling or flaming. Another person went through their student posts editing out typos to prevent the department being associated with poor writing. Digital attitudes and practices vary, tend to be unique to individuals as well as vast in nature. To become ‘digital’ is to change behaviours in hundreds of different ways and I found it useful for my research to have a catch-all phrase like ‘digital shifts’ to refer to any or all of the component parts.

I’m gathering the themes for my data analysis and was wondering if iI should add Digital Impostor Syndrome to my list. Of all the reasons for keeping a blog (and there are many – which is another post!) the opportunity to condense something large into a smaller space can be a meaningful challenge. It not only forces critical reflection but the ensuing post becomes a useful reference.

So I began a post on DIS. Firstly, it needed an explanation of what Impostor Syndrome was, then an explanation of ‘digital’ in that context. This involved a detour into ‘literaries’ as socially-situated practice with situated learning inevitably segueing into communities of practice (I’d been wanting explore misconceptions around Wenger’s work for some ing time) and before you could say Tweet, another 500 words were written. I drew a line, but not before the Browne Review of HE and teaching accreditation for academics -which was no surprise – much of my work revolves around the teaching/research nexus and the professionalisation debate – definitely another blog post for the future!

blue twitter bird

This deviation was highlighted the recent HEA change to ‘Advance HE‘ and the new Academic Professional Practice Apprenticeship Standard (outlined here). Having done some work around Degree Apprenticeships (inevitably blended therefore requiring attention to online design and delivery) I watched this video which included an outline of Epigeum’s new resource University Teaching: Core Skills: a new online training programme.

The language of ‘Skills’ and ‘Training’ in association with T&L in UK HE are like spontaneous combustion. 500 words later my thoughts on marketisation, neo-liberalism, metrics and competency checklists have hit the page, Taking a deep breath, I return to the concept of professional academic development. Comparing the Epigeum content and our Design 4 Active Learning (D4AL) approach reminds me the rationale blog for D4AL is long overdue (draft outline here).

By now I’ve Tweeted , uploaded photos to Facebook, re-watched the grandcat playing a board game and am so far from the starting point I have to go through my notes to see what it was.

I think the boundary problem is self- evident.

I also think it can be explained.

My work has always been eclectic. As Senior Lecturer in Education Development, I didn’t have a single subject specialism and now, like others working across institutions and disciplines in what’s been called third space for professionals, I’ve acquired a variety of responsibilities and skills. I’ve been teacher, student and researcher, often at the same time, while also writing for publication and generating external income. If I had to identify areas of expertise I’d suggest transition to HE, open education, blended and online distance learning and inclusive practice. Oh – and my PhD on digital shifts.

Which – surprise! – is the subject of another post unpicking what ‘digital shifts’ might cover. Here’s a link to the draft I began earlier Digital Shifts

So – my problem with boundaries…

The edges of work responsibilities and interests overlap and blur. Colleagues say you can’t talk about T&L in 21st century without assuming it has a digital dimension but I find digital engagement is unique to individuals. There’s always a need to dissect what being ‘digital’ actually means in different contexts. It differs hugely and positivist, non-critical approaches miss the mark every time.

letter tiles spelling digital shifts

The complexity of digital contexts are partially to do with language, where the same phrases mean different things to different people, and also connected to the independence of HEI against a lack of central guidance or conformity (observation not a critique!). The tradition of academic tribes and territories going their own subject-specialist ways contributes while I’ve written elsewhere about education technologists creating their own TEL-world which is mutually exclusive. See The Invisible Tribes and Territories of the TEL People and TEL People, Poetry and Language 

The boundary issue is also about personal identity.

I don’t know where I belong.

jigsaw peices in the shape of a brain with some missing

Is it a school of education because of my research, a technology enhanced learning team through my CMALT accreditation or a CPD/academic practice unit via my Pedagogy-first approach with D4AL. There will always be a digital dimension and I’m about how technology can be used rather than how it works or what to do when it breaks – so at least I know I’m not in ICT!

This lack of confidence in my identity takes me back to Digital Impostor Syndrome – which takes me back to the themes for my data analysis – and hey presto – I’m back with my research.

Did I tell you – I have a problem with boundaries…

barbed and wire fencing

Design for Active Learning (D4AL)

What is Design for Active Learning?

Design for Active Learning (D4AL) is about developing activities which encourage students to become actively involved in their learning experiences. D4AL offers a scholarly approach to learning and teaching which is evidence based and demonstrates the impact of intervention through an iterative cycle of evaluation and design.

How does Design for Active Learning connect to Learning and Teaching Enhancement?

D4AL encourages the adoption of iterative loops of evaluation and reflection, for example Schon’s ‘reflective practitioner‘ and Brookfield’s ‘critically reflective teacher‘ alongside continual dialogue with the student voice and reference to collected data on student learning.

How will staff benefit from a Design for Active Learning approach?

D4AL is about supporting staff to ‘teach less to teach more’, to support student centred activity and enhance their own teaching practice through a scholarly approach to curriculum development [1]

Design for Active Learning cycle

When is a Design for Active Learning approach required?

Areas where D4AL will be most useful may include

  • ‘Sharing Practice’ across disciplines and faculties for joining up pockets of excellence and student satisfaction
  • Disseminating online best learning and teaching practices both online and face-to-face
  • Developing appropriate learning and teaching interventions in reponse to data informed drivers (e.g. external NSS and TEF and internal SEERs and AMRP)

Where does Design for Active Learning begin?

An intial meeting with Teaching Enhancement Advisors from the Directorate of LTE often begins with questions like these;

  • What works well with your students?
  • What are the causes for concern?
  • What does success look like?
  • How can we help you achieve this?

Why does Design for Active Learning matter?

D4AL supports the implementation of the Education Strategy and the university’s strategic themes of Employability, Internationalisation and Inclusivity.  D4AL lies at the heart of the university’s commitment to an ‘excellence agenda’ across all its activities, including learning and teaching[2] while also supporting the continuous development of curricula and co-curricular learning[3]

Front Cover of University of Hull Strategic Plan

Who facilitates the Design for Active Learning process?

Teaching Enhancement Advisors have developed D4AL as a consistent approach to supporting the enhancement of learning and teaching across the university; this enhancement might or might not include technology.

How do I find out more?

Visit the D4AL page on the LTE Sharepoint site which is currently under development or contact lte@hull.ac.uk


[1] Approach to Quality, Standards and Enhancement http://preview.tinyurl.com/y87b77up

[2] University of Hull Strategic Plan http://preview.tinyurl.com/yaf6y9d9

[3] University of Hull Education Strategy http://preview.tinyurl.com/ybgaymnc 

‘Digital Shifts’ definitions

letter tiles spelling digital shifts

Work in progress…

The aim of this page to is provide definitions of the phrase ‘digital shifts’ in layers.

At the present time this is the elevator pitch.

Digital shifts is a phrase used to describe the transfer of teaching, learning and research practice from traditional face-to-face to online practice in UK HE. It involves the essential shifts in attitudes and behaviors necessary for the development of successful learning, teaching and research environments in 21st century. It also covers wider social and cultural elements such as the development of a professional digital identity, online safety, data protection and digital inclusion. I see these as being  some of the constituent parts of digital literacies, which in turn I understand as socially situated practices, all the while acknowledging this is a contested field which contains a variety of alternative interpretations. All staff and students in UK HE need to negotiate individual digital shifts both generically and specifically in relation to their subject specialism. The lack of consensus over naming (eg digital literacies, skills, competencies, capabilities etc) and what these might consist of, has led to a diversity of approaches across the sector. My research uses the phrase digital shifts to present a single framework, currently called Design for Active Learning, which takes a pedagogy-first rather than a technology-first stance and seeks to find common ground for all staff in UK HE from which to take the digital agenda forward.

the naughty no of image theft

warning exclamation sign
https://pixabay.com/en/warning-shield-risk-attention-838655/

So yesterday, I attended a presentation about student blogging in a module for summative assessment. It was a brilliant example of teaching and learning in a digital age with opportunities for picking up masses of new digital skills and literacies (for staff as well as students!)

Much of it was not new for example students unsure about putting words into the public domain, and being less digitally confident than the ‘digital natives’ literature would have us believe – initially at least.

(Its amazing how staff still refer to students as being digitally savvy when practice suggests otherwise, in particular with critical digital literacies and the use of online resources)

social media icons on a tree
https://pixabay.com/en/tree-structure-networks-internet-200795/

What did get me thinking was the attitudes expressed towards the use of online images because basically if staff are stealing from the internet then students will think its ok to do it too.

I get it!

I really do get how much easier it is when time poor, in a rush and the perfect image is sitting there – waiting for you to right click and pop it into the presentation or upload to the VLE. I try to cite images sources on my blog but have been known to make a collage style picture and not include references for each component

and even

(confession is good for you)

I sometimes take a picture which isn’t mine to use simply because its so good and my presentation will be so much poorer without it.

We all do it and to a certain extent we’re protected in higher education by the principles of Fair Dealing. Fair Deal is flexible. There’s no legal definition but each case is assessed individually.

Having said that, the process of interpretation of Fair Deal can be as complex as copyright law itself but what is worth knowing is even if you use the image for teaching (or illustration purposes as the law calls it) acknowledgement of the source must still be given. It’s not quite the clear cut permission to take what you want as many people believe.

image of a padlok against computer code
https://pixabay.com/en/hacker-hacking-cyber-security-hack-1944688/

So why is image theft a problem?

Copyright – the right to claim ownership of an artifact – is a legal issue. Copyright theft is a criminal act.  We owe it to students to have the copyright conversation and point them towards sources of copyright free images – which are getting better every year.

Copyright is also an employability issue. We shouldn’t be sending students into the workplace believing if its online then it’s in the public domain and free to use. Graduates need to be digitally literate and the what, why and wherefore of image theft is an integral part of this.

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

The best thing is it’s never been easier to find copyright free images. One of the questions asked in the session was about where to find images which can be used. Apart from taking them yourself – which can be an excellent solution – there are a number of reliable sources but take care – many sites advertise as being free but a few clicks in and you realise only the paid for premium version fulfils the promises made in the marketing blurb and don’t forget – in 99% of the time you still need to cite the author/owner of the work.

Getting Started

Google Advanced Search

  • In Returned Search page go to Settings > Advanced Search > usage rights
  • In Images go to Tools > usage rights

Usage rights explanations
(for further details go to https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/29508?hl=en)

google image rights
screen shot from Google Advanced Search page

The usage rights are related to Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org   licenses

  • Not Filtered by license means everything regardless of copyright status
  • Free to use or share – can be taken but (see above) in nst cases requires attributions
  • Free to use of share – even commercially
  • Free to use share or modify – this is known as repurposing and generally requires the repurposed item to then be licensed in the same way – check the small print!
  • Free to use share or modify, even commercially – ditto

Alternatively, you can check the status of individual images to see if they’ve been made available through a creative commons license.  There are six CC https://creativecommons.org licences with lots of different ways to represent them visually, ranging from the original

Creative Commons Licenses
from https://pixabay.com/en/creative-commons-licenses-icons-by-783531/

to the more contemporary…

Creative Commons Licenses
https://foter.com/blog/how-to-attribute-creative-commons-photos/

Key points to remember are attribution is nearly always required and if you reuse/repurpose you should apply the same lincense which gave you the freedom to do so in the first place

As well as google and direct image searching, there are a growing number of repositories of copyright free images but like everything on the internet – look out for the good, the bad and the ugly – in particular sites which claim to be free financially as well as by copyright but in reality ask you to sign up to a premium paid for version to access the images you want.

Many of these sites should also come with a health warning.

Red Triangle warnng sigh with falling rocks

WARNING! you are about to lose huge amounts of time

   are you sure you want to continue…

For me, it’s procrastination heaven, in particular when I should be doing my research instead!  I love the scanned photograph collection from the British Library   As where as you might expect, there’s a wealth of history from 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Click onto their Albums section to get started. Several years ago the BL launched Turning the Pages – a fabulous collection of manuscripts ranging from cultural icons like the Book of Kells, Baybar’s Qur’an and the Golden Haggadah Prayer Book – all alongside original work by Jane Austen, Louis Carroll, Mozart, Da’Vinci and more – much, much more.

You may be gone for some time.

logo for wikimedia commons
Wikimedia Foundation [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons also offer free images, although most are in .svg format which is not without issues but Wikimedia gives you all the relevant authorship information to copy and paste into your resource.

No excuse for non-attribution!

Finally, some image sites which I’ve used and can vouch for

If you want to add your favourites, please use the comment box below or tweet @suewatling

When using images don’t forget to fill in the Alt text box with an alternative description of the images and why it’s there. This is for screen readers or other text-to-speech software to ensure those who can’t see the image can still know what its purpose is.

For additional information on copyright one of the best sources is https://copyrightliteracy.org/ by Chris Morrison and Jane Secker. They even have  copyright games:-

Who says copyright can’t be fun!

Here’s to happy and successful searching 🙂

 

Warning! higher education is bad for your health  #UniMentalHealthDay 

Words Mental Heath made from scrabble tiles

March 1st was an awareness day. University Mental Health Day to be precise. This is the national campaign for promoting the mental health of people who live, work and study in Higher Education. Beginning in 2012, it’s run by Student Minds and  UMHAN  the University Mental Health Advisers Network and a flurry of postings highlighted the range of issues this might involve.

The THES posted University Mental Health Day: the weight of expectations addressing how pressure to perform, alongside a lack of institutional support, can have severe effects on mental health.

HEPI offered Who supports academics? ‘No one. No one. Literally no one.’ a guest blog written by Poppy Brown who also authored the 2016 HEPI report into The invisible problem? Improving students’ mental health

Whether you’re learning, teaching or researching, it seems higher education is bad for you.

Student Minds logo

None of this is new. There’s been growing media coverage over the past year. The Guardian’s contributions included It’s time for universities to put student mental health first while Anonymous Academic covered bullying in the work place, trolling on social media, and declaring a disability.  In January WONKHE published Academics under pressure: the invisible frontline in student mental health which highlights the problems of the next step – once someone has admitted to needing support where should they be advised to go and who has responsibility for getting this right. The WonkHE piece links to the Research and Publications page of StudentMinds  where there’s the findings of a report titled Student Mental Health: The Role and Experiences of Academics

Well worth a read.

recommendations from the Role of an academic report available http://www.studentminds.org.uk/theroleofanacademic.html
Image from https://tinyurl.com/yctth4cg Full report from  http://www.studentminds.org.uk/theroleofanacademic.html

Anyone thinking of going to university o study or work would do well to take note. Higher education in the 21st century might not be what you think.

It wasn’t so many years a go I met someone who declared envy of my work in higher education. It must be wonderful, she said, to be surrounded by so much knowledge, to work alongside people who think for a living, to be in a place where books matter.

It’s only when you try to tell the truth you realise how difficult the truth can be.

collection of blue question marks

This is my 18th year in HE and to say I’ve seen changes is a massive understatement. The biggest has to be the introduction of the NSS,  REF and TEF bringing with them an audit and impact culture, but there’s also been the increasing diversity of student cohorts, stress on employability, on internationalism and throughout it all the relentless cutting back of resources. Oh, and the digitisation of university systems with an increase in administrative function. It isn’t only the rhetorical promise of the VLE to reduce costs and increase efficiency which is lies, all lies.

Staff in HE today struggle with increasing cuts and reductions alongside a relentless rise in bureaucratic expectations and – this is where I have to hold up my hand and admit I’m guilty –  the expectations they will all seamlessly adopt Technology Enhanced Learning into their pedagogy and practice.

Pedagogy and practice can be anomalous. I don’t like generic statements but it’s true that many academics are employed for their subject expertise and research specialisms rather than knowledge of pedagogic design and digital capabilities – but we ask – expect – assume this of them.

digital technolowies and an open book

Over the past two decades there’s been a shift in emphasis towards the student experience but what does this phrase mean? Does anyone know?

Have students – in their own eyes at least – become customers paying for a service?

Is fear of the NSS really preventing innovation and experimentation?

It’s no wonder stress levels are rising.

Then there’s data – which has become the new VLE.

Read the Dearing Report into the Future of Higher Education and substitute data for every mention of VLE or C&IT (always liked how Communication came before Information – so interesting how the I became privileged). If you read data or learning analytics instead the promise remains – be it improvement, enhancement, transformation or revolution, the rhetoric continues.

As do conflicting views on the value of higher education. In 1959 C. P. Snow gave the Rede Lecture entitled The Two Cultures where he claimed “the intellectual life of the whole of western society” was split between the sciences and the humanities. Over the years this argument has been challenged and supported in different ways, not least by Snow himself but two weeks ago the UK Government spectacularly re-lit the fire, suggesting tuition fees for humanities and the arts should be cheaper than those for STEM subjects.

Urgghhhhh!!!

yellow soft toy with open mouth to scream

I started this blog because I wanted to highlight the issues of mental health in higher education. Whether you are learning, teaching or researching you’re at risk and once you begin to tell truths you realise, with increasing anxiety for the future, just how large and difficult these truths are.

I wanted to point out how research into the mental health of PhD students suggests they are the most stressed of all.  So far, the research I’ve read is based on f/t study yet nearly everyone I know taking a PhD is doing it p/t alongside f/t work. I want to suggest this often isolated and forgotten about group may be at even more risk of developing symptoms of stress and fatigue.

SuCCEED@8 support group details

At the University of Northampton where my PhD is registered, we’ve set up SuCCEED@  (Supporting the PhD Community to Collaborate and Emotionally Engage in Digital Shifts at Level 8) The group aims include supporting the mental health of PhD students, in particular those studying p/t and at a distance. Were also on Twitter @Succeedat8 

I wanted to blog about coping mechanisms like these are dependent on digital literacies and confidence and how the rhetorical promise of TEL does not address diversity of use and digital shyness or resistance. In the same was stress on the educational experience of students does not address any absence of pedagogic or digital confidence of staff who teach and support learning.

My worry is the current highlighting of mental health issues of staff and students will not address realistic and manageable solutions. All the issues named here need more than what we’ve done so far, they need more than application of training techniques or coping mechanisms. It will take fundamental structural change to make change happen. There are not enough workshops or yoga positions in the world to make this happen.


images from pixabay or my own


 

 

 

 

 

 

Imposter Syndrome or Instagram Symptom

LEgo scene showing an armed police arrest

I have a new colleague whose PhD examines Imposter Syndrome in teachers.  My twitter feed has been linking me to Imposter Syndrome resources. 2018 seems to have begun on a wave of Imposter Syndrome awareness raising.

So what is it?

Imposter Syndrome is the constant feeling that wherever you are and whatever you do – you’re inadequate. Not good enough, not clever enough, you don’t deserve to be there and sooner or later someone’s going to expose you as the fundamental fake you really are.

Imposter Syndrome is a voice in your head constantly putting you down.

It’s particularly prevalent in higher education research where expectations of expertise don’t always match how you’re feeling inside.

Too easy to feel you’re a fraud and it’s only a matter of time before others find out too. Sound familiar?

blue and red signs showing right way and wrong way

Imposter Syndrome is a mentally destructive condition. If instances are increasing, what’s triggering this explosion of self-doubt and hatred. Why have we fallen out of love with ourselves?

The web is full of suggestions and tools for coping. The affordances of a self-help Internet is one of its benefits but sometimes it feels there’s more bad than good and it’s Internet fuelled social media which is making IS worse.

image of broken heart and hands holding mobile phones

The social in social media has become all about the image. The social user creates online presence which shows how they want to be seen rather than the reality.  Photographs are no longer about the person. Instead, crafted images have become representations of desire, used to project something socially constructed as perfection.

It’s a simulation where the ‘like-ing’ game of hearts and arrows takes on a significance far beyond their red lines and circles. They, like the images they’re attached to, have become what Baudrillard would have recognised as empty signs. The meaning has shifted from the appearance of the sign to what the sign has come to represent.

cartoon characters from an opera

The idea of presenting ourselves as how we want to be seen is not new. Over 50 years ago Goffman wrote about people as performers. In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life he likened us to actors on the stage, dressing up in whatever costumes are appropriate for the different roles we play. Althusser claimed we all have a set of identities which feel comfortable. When we find them it’s like someone hailing us in a busy street; a familiar face and voice, which stands out from the crowd and is comfortable because we know them.

Social media has become the perfect psychological storm.

storm clouds

There are too many stories about young people bullied and suicidal over online behaviour. Living in a heightened state of awareness, mobile devices have become carriers of extreme joy when digital popularity soars or the depths of despair when they’re unliked, arrowed down, or subject to unpleasant status  text which spreads like wildfire so it seems the whole world of people you know and those you’ve never met are all against you.

Or the image of you.

Who are you anyway?

Which brings us back to Imposter Syndrome and the feeling you’re not good enough. instagram logo

In a world of digital image and false representation, we should rename imposter syndrome as Instagram Symptom.

Social media creates loops where signs are no longer symbolic of the real. Instead, they are exchanged for other signs which are empty and self-referential. The social media image shows an untruth, a falsity. It’s a simulation which has moved from being a copy to being a replacement. When Baudrillard wrote about representation in a postmodern world, he claimed simulations are dangerous.

The danger lies here. An obvious falsity such as a famous face dressing up or acting a role still contains a truth. We know it’s pretend. The intention to deceive is apparent. A simulacrum, as Baudrillard described the postmodern world of media simulations, was more than a deception, it signified the destruction of the original which it replaced. The risk we face with digital images is when they become more real than the person arranging, adapting and adjusting them.

imag showing a blue bird in a twitter egg

Baudrillard died in 2007. Facebook was new (2004) and Twitter still a baby (2006). Many of his ideas were controversial (Gulf War, Twin Towers etc) but his conception of hyper-reality, where fiction is indistinguishable from fact, is scarily true for the phone-talking-while-walking millions for whom social media is the first thing in the morning, the last thing at night and most of the hours in between. Hyper has become the reality of choice.

 

Social media tree

Just as education doesn’t teach critical digital literacies in the way it teaches text and numbers, we don’t teach visual digital literacy – but we should.  Either Imposter Syndrome is increasing or more people are talking about it. Either way, it seems symptomatic of 21st century desires for digital perfection.

We need to remind ourselves we are real people and the real matters more than the fantasy. No matter how beguiling it might appear – it’s a lie!


If you’re suffering from Imposter Syndrome these links might help.

Sakulku1, J. and Alexander, J. (2011) The Impostor Phenomenon International Journal of Behavioral Science 2011, Vol. 6, No.1, 73-92  http://bsris.swu.ac.th/journal/i6/6-6_Jaruwan_73-92.pdf 


images from pixbay.com
CC0 Creative Commons

Baby Tweet from http://365icon.com/icon-styles/social/blue-bird-twitter-icon/