The Other Side of Lurking Part Two, searching for explanations, digital imposter syndrome or digital self-efficacy?

9mage of a duck peeping over the edge of a cliff

In Part One of The Other Side of Lurking, I wrote about the #HEdigID #OEP discussion (13/07/18) on Twitter. Every day this week something new has been added to the debate. It’s good to talk.  Lurking risks being side-lined by the rhetoric of innovation and transformation. Let’s face it – digital shyness or resistance are usually less attention grabbing headlines.

Conclusions validate lurking as learning. It’s a valid strategy. So lurking’s not a problem, right?

…but if it’s your virtual environment and you’re dealing with silence, it can’t be ignored. Lurking flies in the face of everything we’re told 21st century education should be, namely active. We’re well versed in communities of practice and inquiry, zones of proximal development, social, cognitive and teaching presences, and so on – and they all require interaction.

Networks need people, don’t they?

We’re schooled to see communication and collaboration as the heart of active learning yet the data says otherwise. Whether we measure with Nielsen’s 90% or Pareto’s 80% non-participation rates – consumption without contribution is rife and suggests most of us are comfortable with digital isolation.

Are we creating a problem which doesn’t exist?

an office full of empty chairs

The scenario is familiar. I set up an online discussion, but no one used it, so I didn’t do it again.

Lurking can’t be ignored. Digital silence speaks but what is it saying?

Are the students ok or have they disappeared?

Are they managing their learning or are they struggling?

We wouldn’t run a seminar in silence.

image showing a group of sparrows

I need to know lurking better.

My research is about digital shifts. How staff who teach and support learning conceptualise their practice in a digital age. What influences individual attitudes and behaviours.  Data suggests the permanence of digital publication is frequently feared. Once words are in the public domain, they’re gone. No longer under control, let loose in an open arena, exposed to the responses of others and risking – many people believe – potential ridicule.

Damn Twitter’s lack of an Edit function. But its more than seeing carefully crafted ideas spoiled by typos. What if the ideas themselves are flawed in some way. What if you’ve used an incorrect reference, or inappropriate word or phrase. Worse, what if you’ve misunderstood the question or the reading, Suppose, just suppose, your thoughts are deemed incorrect and you’ve exposed your lack of knowledge about key concepts to the world.

image of a goldfish flying out of a glass of waer

From data collected over the years:

…what if I look foolish.

…what if I’m wrong.

…what if people think I’m stupid

The fear is once your words are out there you can’t get them back.

Sun, Rau, and Ma, (2014) categorise lurkish behaviours and under ‘personal dispositions’ they cite self-efficacy.  This is the inner turmoil which influences attitudes and behaviours. Jerome Bruner described it as ‘people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives” (1994: 2)

Self-efficacy is our individual motivation driver. High self-efficacy fires you into action, underpinned by the ability to push yourself forward, believing you can achieve whereas low self-efficacy results in fear. It will come as no surprise, those with low self-efficacy have more self-doubt, spending inordinate amounts of time imagining 101 obstacles and 1001 possibilities of error.

They feel the fear and don’t do it.

person hiding underneath cushions

A quick google search brings up connections between self-efficacy and technology. Where there’s tech there’s emotion. Liz Bennett at the University of Huddersfield has written about the emotional work involved when adopting digital practices.  Technophobia might not be a top ten phobia  but fear of public embarrassment before students is a common deterrent.

cartoon showing a person facing angry technology with the caption The Battle we all Face

I’ve heard of academics not using PowerPoint in case the computer won’t switch on, and how many times have you seen a presenter unable to open their presentation because the file’s on their desktop, 100 miles away, or they can’t find it on their data stick.

It happens. Don’t laugh. Fear is real.

Lurking may be a valid learning strategy for some, but for others it’s looking like digital shyness.

In popular psychology there’s a condition called Imposter Syndrome (IS). This is about successful people feeling they’re frauds, believing it’s luck rather than skill or ability that’s got them where they are, and it’s only a matter of time before someone finds out. People with IS live in continual dread of making mistakes which they fear will expose them.

triangle with the words Fraud Alert in the centre

Imposter Syndrome sounds like self-efficacy by another name. First identified in 1978 (Clance and Imes) there’s an Impostor Phenomenon Scale (test yourself here) and while not an officially recognised disorder (IS is absent from any psychiatric diagnostic manuals) a whole IS business has emerged based on self-help and therapeutic interventions. Imposter Syndrome appears to provide a popular conceptual understanding of the underlying psychology. The phrase is in common use and I wondered if Digital Imposter Syndrome (DIS) could exist.

I googled but nothing came up. Not even a googlewhack.  DIS returned zero.

word nothing written in chalk on a board

Woo hoo! Was this a conceptual gap? Should I push the digital imposter syndrome idea a bit further or return to Bruner?

I went back to Jerome. In the Narrative Construction of Reality (1991) Bruner writes about the situated nature of knowledge, via cultural tool kits and distributed networks.  Long ago, in a different university, I wrote about digital literacies being best understood as socially situated practices. They were personal, as individual as fingerprints, and determined how we operated online, but we all have differing amounts of digital capital, depending on socio/cultural/material locations. Maybe part of the solution to encouraging online engagement is to refocus on the development of literacies of the digital kind.

image showing the word start on a road

While competencies type training focusing on which button to click may have value, any change it effects can only ever be surface. We know learning requires deeper approaches so let’s start with building and supporting digital confidence in safe environments. Experiential digital practice can be transformative for both staff and students.

Where does this leave us with us lurking?

It’s a problem. We need to reduce the 90% and 80% consumption models.

Or do we?

If lurking is simply a reflection of ourselves, should we leave lurkers alone to do what they do best.

Assimilation in their own preferred way; to listen, watch, consume, absorb…. to learn.

Are effective online environments not about building and sustaining interaction after all? Should we rethink pedagogy and practice to support less active forms of learning? Or would that be a huge mistake?

This might need a Part Three, What do we do about lurking?


References

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press,  1998)  https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/Bandura1994EHB.pdf .

Bennett, L. (2014) Putting in more: emotional work in adopting online tools in teaching and learning practices. Teaching in Higher Education 19 (8), 919-930

Clance, P. and Imes, S. A. (1978) The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”  Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practice.

Sun, N., Rau, P. P. L., & Ma, L. (2014). Understanding lurkers in online communities: A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 38, 110-117.

digitally blooming – taxonomies for a digital age

LTE (Learning and Teaching Enhancement) are busy. Next month we launch Design for Active Learning (D4AL), our toolbox of designs and activities with a focus on building in feedback data about how students are learning and how successful/or not their learning activities are.

learning activity cards spread on on a desk
examples of different learning design activities

The process has involved colleague Patrick Lynch and myself trialing a number of different learning design activities in order to build our own core framework. Underneath them all, I think I’ve found a consistent pedagogic skeleton.  Everything else is clothes and accessories, The skeleton begins with Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

Blooming Bloom

Never has a taxonomy been so reproduced and challenged, uncritically accepted or taken apart and restructured. It’s been critiqued as linear, sequential and inappropriate for the 21st century but I don’t see it like that. In fact the opposite. For me Bloom is still relevant today. It all depends on how you view it.

Controversial as this idea might be, I want to suggest despite the different world we live in and the impact of the internet  – I’d go as far as to say Bloom could have been written for a digital higher education in 21st century.

Can I justify this?

Well, let’s try…

Bloom for beginners

Bloom had a team. There was a whole crowd involved but only himself as chairperson is remembered – a bit like Dearing being forever associated with widening participation, student fees and the implementation of virtual learning environments. Bloom et. al. were tasked with identifying the best way to construct the curriculum in the US school system. So, years and miles away in time and distance from UK HE today.  Not the best beginning I know!

What is Bloom’s Taxonomy?

It’s a classification system used to write a learning outcome. (LO). LO’s should contains a verb (an action),  an object (usually a noun identifying the subject of learning) and often the context where the learning takes place. The University of Nottingham show this example of the structure of a learning outcome in science.

worked example of a learning outcome from university of nottingham

Bloom basics

Bloom’s team identified three domains of knowledge. Learning activities today should aim to develop one or more of these domains and be capable of measuring the extent to which this has happened. When Bloom was revised (more of this below) a fourth

  • Cognitive (subject knowledge),
  • Psychomotor (dexterity/manual skills),
  • Affective (attitudes/values/emotions)

Bloom’s team addressed the cognitive domain.Critics of the taxonomy are quick to point out the difficulties of applying historical, linear systems to the complexity of real-world learning environments in 21st century but this triptych e.g VAK (Visual Aural Kinesthetic) has endured.  While research has debunked ‘the myth of learning styles’ (Coffield) it’s broadly accepted students have different learning preferences. Designing different tasks at different times which involve more than one approach can be beneficial.

The cognitive domain is most often displayed as a pyramid. This is reminiscent of the earlier hierarchy of needs by Maslow. In fact, Maslow should be incorporated into Bloom. Although the hierarchy has also been critiqued, unless students have met their basic needs, they’re unlikely to do well academically.

Learning designers should keep Maslow in mind.

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

Back to Bloom…

The original version of the cognitive domain has six dimensions. these represent what Bloom called lower and higher order thinking skills.

  • Evaluation – appraise and critique
  • Synthesis – combine and integrate
  • Analysis – compare and contrast
  • Application – apply and restructure
  • Comprehension – understand and recognise
  • Knowledge – acquire and remember

In 2001 the dimensions were revised (Anderson and Krathwohl et. al.), Synthesis and Evaluation swapped around and Creativity given the top slot.

 

triangles showing original and amended blooms taxonomy
image from Wilson, Leslie O. (2001) https://thesecondprinciple.com/teaching-essentials/beyond-bloom-cognitive-taxonomy-revised/

There are dozens of versions of the original and revised taxonomy online, many of which have suggestions for understanding each dimension such as the one below from Vanderbilt University.

Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid

The most complex one I’ve seen is the rose version below. The conception of the taxonomy as a circle represents a more realistic approach for academic practitioners to follow, one where learning happens at different times in different subjects and is generally more complex and messy than the implied linear perspective originally proposed by Bloom.

Bloom's taxonomy as a circle with layers

Another aspect of Bloom to take into consideration is the division of knowledge into different types.

  • Factual  basic knowledge and facts e.g. vocabulary, definitions and specific details.
  • Conceptual  inter-relationships, e.g. information systems, classifications and categories.
  • Procedural  methods of inquiry e.g. algorithms and techniques with criteria for using them.

The revised Bloom added Metacognitive Knowledge  (awareness and knowledge of individual cognition e.g. manipulation of thinking processes). It differentiated between “knowing what” and “knowing how”. It also added greater emphasis on the sub categories attached to the dimensions. See A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview ( Krathwohl, D. 2010) for more details.

So that’s the framework.

Bloom’s taxonomy in 21st century 

21st century learning design is described by the Microsoft Innovative Educator Programme as involving communication and collaboration, with knowledge construction requiring interpretation, analysis and synthesis.

The UCL ABC types of learning design activities is based on previous work of the OU. It’s framework is represented by six cards covering acquisition, inquiry, practice, production, discussion and collaboration. It’s not hard to align these with the understanding, application, analysis, evaluation and creation of knowledge laid out by Bloom.

ABC learning activities

Digital Bloom

More recently, the taxonomy has been overlaid with a range of digital tools for achieving the different dimensions. Another indication Bloom is far from over yet.

Chart showing a digital version of blooms taxonomy

image Credit: Ron Carranza https://teachonline.asu.edu/2016/05/integrating-technology-blooms-taxonomy/

Many of the digital models retain the triangle or stepped pyramid approach which is not helpful. Don’t think of the dimensions as sequential but think circles, continuums or quadrants. A useful adaptation is the Padagogy wheel – which is well worth an exploration.

padagogy wheel

Last thoughts

The elements of Bloom’s taxonomy shouldn’t be dismissed as no longer relevant. Who wouldn’t support the development of activities which encourage students to acquire, apply, analyse and evaluate knowledge with the aim of creating new understandings. How better to introduce digital tools and literacies than via situations which require application, analysis and critical evaluation. The heart of  higher education remains the construction of new ways of seeing and the creation of new knowledge and the core concepts of Bloom’s taxonomy can help you design opportunities for learning which support this.

The taxonomy isn’t outdated. It’s blooming useful.

It’s not what you use, it’s how you use it which counts.


Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals (1956).

Anderson, L.W. (Ed.), Krathwohl, D.R. (Ed.), Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., & Wittrock, M.C. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Complete edition). New York: Longman.


 

sounds of silence #DigiResHull

letter tiles spelling the words sounds of silence

Silence has a language of its own.

We say a lot without speaking. Bodies, faces, clothes, all give clues. Some messages are intentional like a smile or movement. Other times they’re not, like when you’ve tried to be engaged in a meeting and a colleague says afterwards how bored you looked!

I can usually tell if people are with me or not. Reading silence leads to decisions. Repeat a question in a different way or change the timing of an activity. This is data informed practice. Silence can evidence an agile, flexible approach while for participants, well…. higher education is about working with adults who have the capacity to make choices, and these might include choosing not to contribute.

Which leads to the sound of silence.

black and white microphone

Interpretation of silence depends on context. It might signal active engagement or be indicative of problems. Haven’t done the reading, distracted by troubles at home, disinterested or struggling with a concept. When this happens in physical spaces we can change the dynamics. Turn off the PowerPoint. Ask a different question. See if the silence changes. Are eyes watching you or the phone under the table? Is that the start of a smile? When we’re all together we can take steps to understand where silence comes from.

It’s different online.

In virtual places I’m dependent on text e.g. forum discussions or chat.  Online, all the variety of face-to-face verbal communication is lost when the medium is reduced to Times New Roman or Calibri except it’s true, capital letters really do come across as SHOUTING!

We use email and social media more than ever but meaning still gets lost, humour displaced or a sentence taken out of context so key messages are misunderstood.  But at least digital text is communication.

Silence online is different. Since the early days of the internet it’s been called ‘lurking’ and however you look at it, to lurk has negative connotations.

alternative definitions of the word to lurk

Lurking online has become a sticky concept, both in terms of definition and purpose but has retained its primary association with something socially and culturally sinister.

definitions of lurking from a dictionary

‘Is it ok to lurk?’

The question was asked in last weeks Digital Researcher Course, run by colleagues at the University of Hull and delivered via a closed VLE. Using #DigiResHull opened up discussion on Twitter and I tweeted to those I thought might have something to say. I wasn’t wrong.

Tweet asking the question Is it OK to Lurk?

Very quickly tweets arrived supporting the principle of lurking as a valid activity, for example Teresa MacKinnon‏ @WarwickLanguage tweeted about power dynamics.

‘it is a power thing, you have to take into account the teacher/student relationship and the imbalance of power there. Sometimes the only agency a learner may have in an online environment is to exercise their right to watch.’

My reply:  ‘am interested in the balance been lurking and non-participation in an activity based online task or project – at which point does legitimizing lurking become the rationale for non-engagement? I get nervousness and hesitancy about posting online but also struggle with silence.’

tweet about struggling to deal with silence as an online tutor

David White @daveowhite added this:

‘I also think recognition that ‘not speaking’ is not the same as ‘being passive’ is important’

tweet from David White suggesting lurking is passive

My reply: ‘It can be difficult to identify ‘not speaking’ compared to ‘being passive’ in particular when you are facilitating online blended/distance learning.’

The discussion faded at this point.

I tweeted I was still reflecting on ‘not speaking’ and ‘being passive’ in online places and thinking of the implications for learning design. For example, creating online activities which no one engages with results in… well…. silence.

final tweet on the issue of silence

I accept lurking online might be a valid activity but want to suggest that to lurk is a problem, in particular in groups with a purpose. The reason for this is simple. As an online facilitator I have no way of knowing what your silence means.

Online silence is too often undecipherable. Pedagogically, we know activity is key to successful learning. Content is no longer king or queen. It’s context which matters. 21st century education is less about knowledge acquisition because it’s no longer restricted to the individual expert. It’s more about what can be done with it. Effective learning experiences are built around concepts like searching, selecting, synthesising and sharing, using knowledge to support the development of situated literacies and transferable ’employability-skills’.

mixed up rubrik cube

Online silence is baffling, not least because there’s no faces to give any clues about what’s going on.

Where the software shows participants have accessed content, I’ve no idea if they’ve read and understood if direct questions or prompts are ignored. I don’t know if students are working hard and enjoying the resources, except those which ask them to interact with their peers, or are not even there. Dashboards which list login details are rarely useful. Who hasn’t been logged in all day or night on a different tab or browser window!  Advice to assess participation risks encouraging strategic approaches and not all online activity relates to accredited courses.

However you look at it, online silence is an issue.

#DigiResHull provided useful ideas why silence might be a choice and broadened my understanding of its potential legitimacy. Also, I’ve been reflecting on the possibility of a digital form of impostor syndrome (future blog alert!) but even if we understand the causes of silence, the question remains of how to design for non-participation in online places.  Face-to-face situations contain clues and when silence makes its own kind of noise there are always possible solutions.

In digital places, the sounds of silence are absent and I’m not sure where to take the discussion from here.

Postscript

After writing this blog I found two others which dealt with the same issues. Lurking has clearly been on my mind for some time!

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 🙂

 

perfect academic storm

coffee cup, note pad and pen

Last week I wrote about the broken part time market in higher education.  The post referred to the new Degree Apprenticeship being developed at the University of Hull. Drawing on the experience of myself and colleagues it included this:

Without support from your employer, part time study risks being an unachievable goal. The new Degree Apprenticeships have to acknowledge the challenge of full time work/part time study.

This week we met again with the Degree Apprenticeship programme and module leaders. Initially these sessions were planned as CAIeRO at Hull. We were putting into practice the CAIeRO at Northampton model, alongside our own Design for Active Learning (D4AL) approach. Learning as we go, we’re realising CAIeRO at Hull is going to be more agile, more responsive and possibly different every time we run it.

It’s clear Degree Apprenticeships are great opportunities for D4AL conversations. Where else do you get a combination of university, employers and mature students all involved with a mix of on-campus/off-campus learning and teaching.

Full time work. Part time study. Distance learning. Virtual environments. Digital literacies. Add to the mix a non-traditional student base, many out of formal education for some time with multiple commitments in the workplace and home. It has all the makings of a perfect academic storm.

storm clouds

With Degree Apprenticeships local employers are footing the bill for three years of part-time study. They’ve asked for a fast, focused, blended route. The programme includes negotiable modules where students choose what they study alongside traditional business disciplines topics which will need applying to workplace practices.

Last week we ran the first two stages of a CAIeRO; writing a mission statement and deciding the look and feel of the course. This week we were faced with a room full of different faces. Of necessity the first half of the session was  informational. It was the first time all the module leaders from Year One had come together. Ao also the first time it was possible to create an overview of the course with the people who were going to be teaching it. The most powerful tool on the room was the table they all sat around. Closely followed by the flip chart paper and pens used to outline their modules and how they fit together but before moving onto storyboarding the activities students would do it was time to step back and consider the bigger issues.

jigsaw pieces

Too often the programme validation process is like a jigsaw. Still in its box, picture in pieces. A learning design session – be it Carpe Diem, CAIeRO, D4AL – should create an opportunity to take the pieces out of the box, turn them over, find the straight edges, start to put them together. Too often we have our own pieces or a few clusters of similar shapes and colours but not the whole story. Mapping out the design of the curriculum,  and ensuring alignment along vertical as well as horizontal axes, ensures consistent and coherent  learning expectations, modules appropriately sequenced and assessments spread out rather than bunched together. Having all the module leaders for Year one together meant these conversations could happen and reinforces the value of beginning the learning design process before validation rather than afterwards.

large empty lecture theatre with rows of empty seats
Learning doesn’t just happen. Put students in a room – be it a traditional teaching room or a 21st century redesigned educational  landscape – and learning is unlikely to take place without intervention. Multiple myths abound such as ‘build it and they will come’. Well, they might arrive but what happens next? It’s like online discussion.  How often do you hear the line ‘I set up a forum but no one used it – so I didn’t bother again’. We should collect and debunk these and other myths such as:
  • All students are digital natives
  • They won’t do it if it’s not assessed
  • Face to face is best

The Degree Apprenticeship has been a great opportunity to look at a programme in its entirety. It’s put together those who don’t often meet. TEL people talk to other TEL people. Academics stay in their subject tribes and territories.  East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.* It takes something new to break down the barriers. We need to talk. We like to talk. We want to talk about learning design. It’s the foundation of the student experience.

We might rename D4AL as SATT – Sit Around the Table and Talk!

silhouette of buildingsOn Friday (24/11/17) colleague Patrick Lynch and myself will be in Oxford for a meeting of the Learning Design – Cross Institutional Network (LD-CIN). Set up in 2015, this open network shares learning design shaped information, tools and ideas, is an international community of learning design practice. Presenting on learning analytics to inform learning design, Patrick will explore the statement

“Arguably then learning design needs learning analytics in order to validate itself. However it also works the other way: learning  analytics cannot be used effectively without an understanding of the underlying learning design, including why the particular tools, activities and content were selected and how they were deployed.” Sclater (2017).

We’re demonstrating an agile responsive approach so I’ll be collecting live data in the form of feedback throughout our session as well as making notes during the day and possibly some live blogging as well. Follow the hashtag #LDCIN and check out the LD-CIN site for further information.

Next week, the story of the Degree Apprenticeship development continues with more of the big programme-wide questions. In particular how technology might enhance or increase the challenges of part-time blended learning.

  • What can be done online which can’t be done face to face?
  • Vice versa
  • Where can technology provide value?
  • Where will the on-campus experience have most value?
  • How can student community be achieved?

See you 1st December.

24 shopping days to Christmas…


Rudyard Kipling Barrack-room ballads, 1892  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrack-Room_Ballads 

Niall Sclater (2017) Learning Analytics Explained Routledge


 

hatching the golden technology egg

golden egg in a nest

I’ve been reviewed and restructured. Again. It’ happens a lot. This time I’ve been shifted from technology to academic practice. Sounds good. Our new role is teaching enhancement – which might or might not involve technology – but unlike TEL Advisor colleagues, my role at Hull was ‘Academic’ TEL Advisor so ‘pedagogy first’ from the start.

Over the years, through research as well as practice, I’ve tried to understand where the TEL promise went wrong. Because it did. It has. To this day, TEL remains the domain of the few rather than the many.

image showing a crowd of toy people

It’s 20 years since the The National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (1997). The Dearing Report presaged the influence of the internet on HE in terms of globalisation, employability and virtual learning environments. From the start VLE were for the ‘acquisition and delivery of electronic information [including] techniques to improve the management of the teaching and assessment process’ (13.16)

Which words jump out at you? Delivery? Information? Management? If you replace Techniques’ with pedagogy then it could mean active learning but the sentence still reeks of things teachers do rather than students. Language matters so much. Discourse analysis is dead. Statements are accepted at face value (think social media + elections) while the final remnants of postmodernism are smothered by a return to positivism. A rant is brewing. I digress…

signpost showing Hope and Dispair

Dearing offers pockets of hope e.g. VLE require ‘a radical change in attitudes’ (33) because ‘… many staff still see teaching primarily in terms of transmission of information, mainly through lectures’ (8.14). The shift from passive to active pedagogies is welcome, as is development of an effective strategy which involves ‘…guiding and enabling students to be effective learners, to understand their own learning styles, and to manage their own learning.’ (8.15) The concept of ‘learning styles’ has been rightfully challenged (Coffield, 2013) but the principle of autonomous, independent learning remains a keystone of higher education today. However, the problems outlined 20 years ago remain. The internet influences attitudes and practices, employers want digitally capable graduates and institutions continue to make massive investments in technology, chasing that elusive golden technology egg.

basket of coloured eggs

There is a mis-match. An on-campus digital divide. Witnessing reluctance and resistance towards digital ways of working is a common occurrence. The technophobes outweigh the technofans 100-1. When it comes to developing ‘digital capabilities’ (the latest buzz-phrase for digital competence and confidence) there is no ‘one-size-fits-all-model’.  To become ‘digital’ involves a cultural shift, a deep-rooted change in attitudes and beliefs. Filling in a survey or attending a workshop isn’t going to cut it. Neither is the practice of offering online resources to the digitally shy.

cartoon showing a person fighting a wall of technology

Last week I posted a photo of my phd-floor with the hundred plus papers at the core of my literature review. Annotated, highlighted, torn at the edges, covered in coffee stains – I have digital devices, including a Kindle, but this is my preference. The papers are the tangible, visible evidence underpinning my thesis chapter.  They help me ‘see’ the structure and content in a way a table of contents doesn’t.

piles of paper across a floor kindle like device

Yet I believe VLE have the potential for genuine HE experiences which challenge and stretch.  Section 8 of the Dearing Report Students and Learning outlines the C&IT future for higher education. Even with the benefit of hindsight, it is prescient reading. VLE can support ‘…tutorials, simulations, exercises, learning tools and educational games can be highly interactive and provide activities that students need to develop their understanding of others’ ideas and the articulation of their own.’ [8.21) From my own experience, in particular the OU’s MA in Open and Distance Learning, I agree with this and with the list in section 8.2 of the potential affordances of computer-based programmes. But I don’t like this phrase.

Digital education is about the person against the machine. So far the Turing Test remains unpassed. Education is fundamentally a social experience yet Dearing acknowledges ‘…personal contact between teacher and student, and between student and student, gives a vitality, originality and excitement that cannot be provided by machine-based learning, however excellent…individuals are likely to choose to receive information and experience in the company of others, rather than alone.’ (8.21)

computing technologies

For me, the phrase ‘machine based learning’ brings home the reality of TEL in HE being a human v technology binary. Highly rated teaching is interpersonal. Popular staff get votes because of their effective communication skills. No one ever votes up a VLE or module site as inspirational. Looking back to Dearing I wonder if the technofans expected too much from the start, influenced by the rhetorical promises of the sales pitch – or if we simply misread the evidence.

three medals bronze, silver and gold

HE has moved into an era of ‘teaching excellence’. Regardless of our frustration at the metrics, the TEF is here. It underpins our new team remit of teaching enhancement and I welcome the opportunity to revisit the designs of the student learning experience.  Pedagogy first not technology first. Maybe this is where it went wrong. HEFCE’s eLearning Strategy (2005) tried to address the technological determinism of the Dearing Report but it was too late. The digital horse had bolted.

Success depends on ‘…appropriate technology, adequate resources and staff development’ as well as ‘…the effective management of change.’ (13.10).  Maybe of necessity, the Dearing Report has a technology first focus. Today it’s different. VLE (meaning all virtual tools and platforms) are here, embedded and present. The golden tech egg is sitting in its nest and the time has come to hatch it. So let’s start shifting from the ‘how’ to use the tech to the ‘when’, the ‘where’ and the ‘why’ instead.


Coffield, F. (2013) Learning styles: time to move on. National College for School Leadership. http://www.learnersfirst.net/private/wp-content/uploads/Opinion-Piece-Learning-styles-time-to-move-on-Coffield.pdf 


images from pixabay except golden egg in a nest from http://all-free-download.com/free-photos/download/golden-egg-nest-03-hd-picture_166586.html 

#digifest17 asks if digital technology is changing learning and teaching

computing technologies

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.

Enthusiasm for education technology comes in waves. Last century it was CBA, CMC, VLE, then web 2.0 and social media, followed by oer and mooc, mobile devices, big data and dashboards. There were the go-to reports. Paul Anderson’s What is Web 2.0? (2007), or Peter Bradshaw’s Edgeless University (2009). Back further to Oleg Liber’s framework for pedagogical evaluation of vle (2004), Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design by Conole et al (004) or Death of the VLE by Mark Styles (2007). These are just a few and how many more predictions  from these times remain more promise and potential than fact?

advertising from jisc digifest17

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.

looking for evidence cartoon

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.

suggested list of criteria for learning design

Digifest17 was bold. …we’ll be celebrating the power of digital, its potential to transform and its capacity to revolutionise learning and teaching.

Transformation and revolution is the early language of BECTA  – remember the internet super highway? It’s worth revisiting HEFCE’s 2005 and revised 2009 elearning strategies, the Towards a Unified eLearning Strategy Consultation Document (2003) and the National Committee of Inquiry into the Future of Higher Education, otherwise known as the Dearing Report (1997). The text from the past is scarily similar to the text of the present.

rosie the riveteer

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)

Maybe technology isn’t the answer. The literature around Inquiry based learning stresses the need for fallibility so I have to admit I could be wrong. However, if technology is the answer then I’d suggest a more critical approach is needed. Here’s some suggestions. Andrew Feenburg’s Ten Paradoxes of Technology or Questioning Technology, Norm Friesen’s Critical Theory: Ideology Critique and the Myths of E-Learning, Neil Selwyn’s Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology or Distrusting Educational Technology for starters. Then lets have conversations. Let’s start reading groups which discuss the pros and cons from wider social and cultural perspectives. Let’s ask questions like why are we investing in technology in the first place? How useful is data counting footfall and logins? Where is the evidence of enhancement?

quote from Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011)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.

groups of students


Images from Learning Analytics & Learning Design Digifest17 presentation by Patrick Lynch (p.lynch@hull.ac.uk) and pixabay.com. Jisc image from Jisc