words, words, words…

Two supervisions in 72 hours. How did I manage that? Not enough to be finishing a degree and a Phd at the same time, I booked meetings with both supervisors in the same week. Supervisions are not dates you mess with. Like the sun, everything revolves around them. Appointments are sacrosanct. I’ll be fine, I said, there’s a day in-between, it could be worse.

There’s also the full-time job. A team of four is currently two. I call us 50%. To say we’re stretched is an understatement. Fortunately  we like what we do. Also (again) we’re under review and have a rare opportunity to influence the future direction of our work.  We’re going to be ghostbusters but shh….. we haven’t told anyone yet. It’s a secret. Watch this space. Or choose the Learning Design and Learning Analytics session, 11.15, Day Two at Jisc Digifest next week. Back to the supervisions.

ghostbusters logo

One

For some time I’ve been working on the doctoral questions. Explaining has always been an issue; the elevator pitch escaped me. I wanted to bridge transitions between face-to-face and digital pedagogies and practice but an early supervisor told me my research was not about helping staff  use the VLE, it was about academic labour. I disagreed so it all became confused for some time. However, the TELEDA courses remained the core of the data collection and now, having transferred to the University of Northampton with Prof Ale Armellini, it’s fallen beautifully into place. It was about learning design all along.

This week we examined the questions in fine detail, down to the level of individual words. An interesting experience which hit the heart of previous TEL people blogs and how TEL language can pose issues with interpretation. When it comes to influencing attitudes and behaviours, search language for potential barriers and change agents.

magnitic words for making poetry

Two

It’s the sixth year of my p/t degree in creative writing. For the past five years I’ve managed to hang on in there. It supports my lasting love for words, in particular the art and craft of poetry. To be picked up for incorrect use of words in my research questions, and actively re-think the possibilities of meaning, was the point where both supervisions collided. Both involved stepping back to analyse potential impact of text.

Bourdieu’s concept of social capital can be partially understood as embodied beliefs and biases which we don’t recognise. Seemingly inherent advantages and barriers can generally be deconstructed to show social roots of imperatives and influences. Language is where these come together, how we make sense of the world and our place in it. Research questions have to avoid potential misunderstandings. Poetry has to strip language down to the essentials yet still create resonance and impact. Both need to avoid disappointment.

sad looking puppy

We don’t consider language as much as we should. This week I also swapped sides for a supervision meeting (research module of the pg cert academic practice) with a colleague looking at developing visual literacy in students. Again, this involves social capital and opening up often unchallenged beliefs. For me, this is integral to the heart of the HE experience. As well as the ‘what’ of learning it should be the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ alongside lifelong skills of critical and reflective thinking. Image is a great place to start but at some point we have to turn to text.

Some blog posts percolate for weeks. This one arrived ready made. During the first supervision I was told to get back to the thesis, produce some extended writing rather than ‘blog’ style posts, but I don’t see why they can’t coexist. The blog serves multiple ends. Friday posts are generally about some aspect of life as a digital academic, recording events and exploring ideas. The log pages are a record of my research progress since it all began. Blogging is a useful form of CPD as well as a writing discipline. Producing 600-800 words a week about some aspect of my work shouldn’t be too hard to do.

It’s all about words. Things as disparate as dreams, American Art and T. S. Eliot are still understood via language yet how often do we stop to consider it. I’ve had a week of words and ahead of me a Friday To Do list which includes producing even more of them. I still love words and rarely admit to word-overload but there are times – and I think this may be one of them – when I just want to close my eyes and listen to some music instead!

head phones and sheet music


All images from pixabay except ghostbuster logo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghostbusters_(franchise)#/media/File:Ghostbusters_logo.svg

Start the day with a TEL Breakfast

finger pointing to the word blog
image from https://pixabay.com/en/blog-blogging-touch-hand-fingers-769737/

There’s no better way to start the day than breakfast with the TEL Team and invited speakers. This week the bacon and sausage butties were accompanied by Dr Helga Bartels-Hardege from the School of Biological, Biomedical and Environmental Sciences who talked about student blogs.

Blogging is being used to encourage students on school placements to reflect on their experiences. The expectation is one blog per week over 20 weeks and to comment on the postings of their peers. The first thing most students do is turn off the commenting function. Helga’s question was how to encourage science students to engage in reflection. It’s an interesting question.

While most (but not all) students were making posts, they were more descriptive than reflective, as in ‘this is what happened’ rather than a ‘what I did, why I did it and what I might do differently next time’ approach. Science students are used to dealing with facts but should this preclude the self-directed process of analysing and evaluating understanding of individual learning processes.

What always works well are opportunities to get together and share practice and points of view. Suggestions from the TEL Breakfast included putting students into smaller groups, mixing school ages within the groups (primary, secondary, 6th form) and using model comparisons of stronger and weaker examples of reflection. If changing from summative to formative assessment mighty encourage students to share their posts was discussed and if changing from a flat text-based environment to a more multimedia supported blog might create an increased sense of value and ownership.

Reflection seems to be a bit like technology enhanced learning. Promise and expectation don’t quite match the reality. It’s one thing to theorise about the strengths of TEL or reflective practice from an academic or learning development perspective, but another thing to transfer the potential value where the prerequisite digital capabilities are absent or students are unused to the processes of personal review. Mindset is a powerful predictor of behaviour and perceptions of higher education can be firmly fixed. These are the real challenges to be faced.