The end of 2017 has been marked by a two incidents. First was the laptop. A complaint was made about me using one in a meeting – ergo I was not paying attention. A week later the issue of devices in meetings came up again. Different context but same person who clearly feels strongly about the subject. I have some sympathy. Over the years presenting/lecturing has changed. These days we look over a sea of bent heads rather than people’s faces but I believe banning devices is not the answer. We need to find ways to work with them rather than deny their presence and affordances.
This time I spoke up. Explained a laptop need not signify Facebook or catching up with email – for me it was like a reasonable adjustment – when my eyes are bad it’s easier to make notes in a strong, bold font than to write by hand.
Hold that thought…
The second incident was a conversation with a lecturer who said it isn’t the job of academics to show students how to use the VLE or develop digital literacy. This explained a lot. Here I was face-to-face with the on-campus digital divide.
Again, I have sympathy. Academics have seen big changes in HE. The spectre of the internet lurks in dark corners. There’s no avoiding digitisation and not everyone lives comfortably in the digital world.
There are those who blog, tweet, join #lthechat, network online, and generally support the use of education technologies in a variety of ways and means.
There are those who object to the use of mobile devices and don’t see developing digital graduate attributes as part of their remit.
This takes us back to the tribes and territories of the TEL People. How like attracts like and if your role is about technology, the chances are you tend to work with staff who use it willingly. The more digitally shy won’t come to your lands or speak your language and on those rare occasions we venture into their worlds, we’re often viewed with suspicion. We’re the techies, geeks, magicians of code with esoteric skills. We are Othered.
This digital divide – cue lightbulb – means embedding digital graduate attributes into modules, or using VLE tools which support collaborative online working, is not going to happen without structural change.
It’s not going to happen if things stay the way they are.
This is where we are:
- 30 years of computers in education.
- 20 years of VLE at universities.
- 10 years of Web 2.0 style social media supporting user-generated content and file sharing.
In the second decade of 21st century, I get a complaint about using a laptop in a meeting.
Christmas is coming and mobile devices are high on present lists. The age at which children get connected drops every year. For all its critique, the phrase ‘digital native’ actually fits because they’ve never known an analogue world.
Typical ‘fresh-from-school’ students arrive with a set of digital social practices, honed through their teenage years, replicated and reinforced by family and friends, taken advantage of by media advertisers. In short, their internet experience mirrors the society they live in.
Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is either prescient or stating the bleedin’ obvious. Of course this is what lies ahead. If you haven’t watched the series you should. Be scared, very scared – but at least be prepared for the future and understand the value of critique.
In the same way car engines have become more mysterious, people engage in digital life with no understanding of how it works. It just does. In the way the ignition fires the engine, our devices connect and our personalised digital landscape unfolds. But not for everyone.
Many working in HE don’t have digital footprints and rarely use the internet for anything other than email or access to university systems.
They’re not alone. A recent Lloyds Bank report states “More than 11 million people in the UK do not have basic digital skills. One out of every 11 completely avoids the internet.” while the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee reports a digital skills crisis. There’s more research about people not being online than how to encourage the critical skills and capabilities of those already there.
What can we do?
As learning technologists, as enhancers of learning and teaching – with or without technology (but in 2018 it’s likely to be there) – we have a responsibility to bridge on-campus digital divides. Its not just reaching the digitally shy and resistant, it’s promoting critical digital skills as being integral to other HE literacies and specialisms.
We have to find ways to start conversations about digital graduate attributes and digital CPD for staff. We need to leave our Territories of TEL and get into the heart of the university. Align our work with that of the learning development and academic practice teams, with those talking about learning gain, employability awards, TEF work and not forgetting the importance of the student voice in all of this.
Remember the thought from the top of the page – the one about reasonable adjustments?
TEL people need to talk about inclusive practice, how digital technologies can widen and support access but at the same create barriers. The sector is moving towards inclusion as the norm, reasonable adjustments as universal design. Watch this space. In January the Digital Academic soapbox will be out.
Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.
Rethink the relationships between institutions, staff and students.
Revisit our digital lenses. They need a clean and polish every now and then and sometimes a shift in their focus.
The time has come.
Seasons greetings to one and all.
I’ve meant from the start to write a post about the blog title. Why Digital Academic? Why not Digital Shifts or TEL Tells or.so on… there were enough reasons but always something else to write about instead.
18 months on, it’s come to the forefront…
I was told by a colleague this week that I’m not an academic because I don’t have an academic contract. My professional services contract defines what I do. Since changing from an A to a PS contract I’ve wondered what the difference means in practice. What should I change? Stop learning? Stop researching? Look different?
We were discussing our restructure. My job description as Academic TEL Advisor always differed from the other TEL Advisors because Technology had been replaced with Pedagogy. Our recent plans for a learning design approach (which might or might not include the T word) originated from this difference. Putting pedagogy first is attracting the more digitally shy or resistant to the table – those we might not usually get to talk to.
During the restructure conversation, I said I wanted to have scholarship made explicit in our new roles as Teaching Enhancement Advisors. By this I meant:
- Scholarship as per the HEA’s 2015 research into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ScoTL).
- Scholarship as in being research informed and research engaged.
- Scholarship which includes
- having conceptual frameworks,
- being a ‘research-led form of professional development’
- having ‘the potential to inform policy and practice at institutional level, for example, in career development and in the promotion and recognition of teaching excellence’ See the HEA Summary Report
Teaching excellence is everywhere these days! HE is currently on the crest of the big data wave informed TEF (or Tsunami, depending on your POV). Like it or not, the TEF is here and affects perception which in turn effects student cohorts, curriculum design, learning spaces, public engagement etc.
The TEF might be drawing attention to T&L but shouldn’t all our teaching enhancement interventions be underpinned with scholarly approaches anyway – pedagogy first rather than technology determinism?
So what does it mean to be scholarly?
I don’t think by definition it’s only a postgraduate occupation although at institutions where you already need a doctorate to become a lecturer, it’s even more important those on professional services have the opportunity to study. Librarians do doctorates. Administrators do too. I struggle with time constraints and self-funding but think of my PhD as a privileged opportunity to get up close and personal with the processes of knowledge construction and dissemination – the heart of the HE endeavour. A professional services contract does not and should not exclude you from professional development although where it means you have to be self-funding it does becomes discriminatory and unequal.
Back to contract status.
What difference does having (or not having) the word academic in your contract mean? Isn’t ‘academic’ itself a state of mind? Shouldn’t we all be exercising our sociological imaginations and asking questions, making the familiar strange.*’ Isn’t being scholarly just a case of seeing the larger picture and using evidence to justify your position?
There’s never been a greater need for scholarly critique. The future is precarious. Climate change is happening. The bees are troubled and the internet transforming what it means to be posthuman.
There’s no escape from the social impact of the internet. Digital divides between people like myself, with physical and virtual identities, and colleagues who openly state they ‘don’t do technology’ have never been deeper. The question is what to do about it. Should institutions be insisting on digital engagement and if so – how? It all comes back to digital shifts.
I might be wrong. They may not matter – clearly they’re not relevant to some – but if you work in HE you’re connected to the student experience and I’d suggest being aware of the implications of teaching or learning in a digital age is part of what you do.
Back to the war of the words. The clinching phrase from the original conversation was ‘you may want to be on an academic contract but you’re not.‘ That’s me told then!
Am I bovered?
Having chosen to put this in the public domain it might look like I am, but tbh, so long as it isn’t detrimental, I don’t mind what I’m called. It’s more about the semantics than the status. I’ll always be a reader, thinker and writer. I’m comfortable with a ‘digital academic’ identity but also have a fundamental belief that what you do has more credibility when informed by the appropriate literature**. Just because an employment contract says PS and not A, it should never preclude a scholarly approach.
* from C Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination
** Mark Carrigan offers an interesting persepctive on ‘the literature’ https://markcarrigan.net/2016/11/25/what-is-the-literature/ a topic for another blog post in the future
This week’s #lthechat (no 87- what will 100 be?) was about CPD or, to be more precise, Professional Development Challenges in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and led by Prof Sally Brown.
Q1 What professional development challenges do you plan to set yourself in the next academic year?
Er um – I’m not sure.
As the #lthe-chatters listed plans, I sidetracked, taking note of those involving technology, out of interest….but what about the question. What were my own ‘professional challenges’? Then I remembered the PhD. Of course! So why didn’t I initially think of it as CPD? The second question held a clue.
Q2 How can you best engage with students in planning and achieving your CPD?
One chatter posted ‘Not entirely sure what you mean? CPD for me or CPD I deliver for others?’ The reply was ‘for me!’
Another posted ‘Stunning question Hadn’t thought it was something I could do … but it obviously is.’
So not only me! I wonder if there’s a wider tendency to think of CPD in terms of what we provide for others rather than what we do for ourselves?
If so, is the belief related to areas like Academic Practice or Learning Development which are about supporting others to achieve. Could it even be a gender issue. Traditional social conditioning as in being taught to look out for others, be the carer, mender, the one who keeps it all together. Does cultural construction make it more likely some will interpret CPD as ‘do unto others’ rather than ‘unto yourself’?
…do we do CPD without being aware of it. Like students not recognising feedback.
The accompanying #lthechat post listed seven CPD challenges from ‘Professionalism in practice: key directions in higher education learning, teaching and assessment’. These are about ‘translating action into transformative change’. If you saw CPD as doing a mooc or reading a book, take a look at this. CPD can involve any – or all – of the following …
- Stepping out of your comfort zone
- Making an effort
- Talking more to students
- Checking out inclusive practice
- Reviewing internationality
- Becoming more scholarly
- Taking up mentoring or coaching
As if my head wasn’t already thinking enough, question 4 arrived. Which are your key communities of practice: what do you give to them and what do you gain from them? Physical/Virtual
It woz the binary wot did it! Physical/Virtual. For some time I’ve been brooding about how my online life is isolated from my real one. The social media I use isn’t shared by most of my working colleagues (or home peeps come to that, but we’re talking CPD so family/friends is different).
My online professional network is supportive, informative and sometimes game-changing. Take the PhD. Transferring from Lincoln to Hull hadn’t gone well. I was upset at how three years of research into the attitudes and practices of academics online, and how they conceptualised teaching and learning in a digital age, had been rejected. Then a by-the-by comment on Twitter led me to the University of Northampton and Ale Armellini who is now my PhD supervisor. It couldn’t be better. Thank you internet and Chrissi Nerantzi.
We all have similar stories of digital synchronicity. Like the time I found an elusive book of poetry via Twitter in under half an hour! Also regular events like #lthechat can lead to unexpected connections and insights. Yet when I look around, it feels those of us with virtual lives are still the minority. The dominance of the 3P’s, Pen, Pencil and Paper, may be greater than we realise.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not demanding colleagues be online, or become part of my online life, but I’m aware of their absence. It’s like the ‘Did you watch….’ conversation in the kitchen. I don’t have a tv so am immediately excluded. I’m more likely to ask ‘Did you see….on Twitter’ or ‘have you read the latest post on …..blog’ but I don’t because no one has.
My tweet-answer summed it up. great support/sharing via @twitter but digitally shy colleagues excluded – feel I’m digital/analogue hybrid.
I juggle two worlds – the virtual and real – which feels like I don’t fully fit in either. Like the Roman God Janus, I look both ways. I have dual identities, maybe triple if you include my social use of the internet. Either way I’m an analogue/digital hybrid.
Hybridity is an interesting concept. It’s been around for some time, long before the digital, more complex than a binary, and seemingly well suited to an internet age.
As so often happens, a blog post on one topic is ending on another.
More on hybridity another day.
In the meantime, back to CPD, or in this case – the CPhD.
Storify of #lthechat 14/06/17 available here:https://storify.com/LTHEchat/lthechat-no-87-professional-development-challenges
blog images from #lthechat or https://pixabay.com
Stumbled onto a video of Gardener Campbell talking about educating the whole person. Sidetracked through the serendipity which characterises the internet. Start at A and find yourself at Q and R without being too sure how.
On the way I bumped into teaching scholarship – as you do – and an interesting analogy from the late 1990’s by Randy Bass in The Scholarship of Teaching: What’s the Problem? Citing Boyer, Bass claims problems in research are welcomed while problems in teaching are seen as failures of practice. Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered (1990) is remains a seminal work on SoTL (less than Scholarship Reassessed (1997) by Glassick, Huber, Maeroff) and its principles of scholarly approaches to teaching still hold i.e. ‘It should be public, susceptible to critical review and evaluation, and accessible for exchange and use by other members of one’s scholarly community.’ (Bass, 1999:2)
The HEA report Defining and supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) a sector wide study suggests SoTL themes hve expanded. They may now involve peer review, CoP and more interdisciplinary approaches. It also involves student engagement through redesign of curricula which encourage undergraduates to be research informed and engaged. The HEA report claims continued confusion around the definition and practice of SoTL. It recommends linking SoTL to the TEF, adding CPD to workload models, making SoTL more explicit in the UKPSF and greater recognition of SoTL across all REF units of measurement.
The value of SoTL is in the L. How students Learn. Few benefit from lecture style transmission of content unless it’s recorded so they can revisit and review. I’m unlikely to meet Gardener Campbell but have watched and listened, paused to revisit, shared (seen it reshared) and stored the link for future reference.
Any HEI with a policy for recording timetabled teaching sessions supports their students learning. They can catch up on what they’ve missed through illness or unforeseen circumstances and have meaningful discussions; the benefit of so called flipped learning i.e. access to transmitted content at a time and place which suits then get together – face to face or online – for discussion with the benefit of time to reflect and craft comments. A deeper approach which – if linked to a collaborative document – presents opportunities to extend learning by searching and sharing associated links, commenting on the contributions of others and summarising the whole learning experience. What’s not to like?
Using audio and video is a no-brainer. So much content is freely available (eg British Film Institute, Film Education, Vimeo, YouTube, Teacher Tube, Ted Talks, Khan Academy, MIT) or licenced for use within UK HE like the excellent Box of Broadcasts (BoB). You can make your own audio/video with webcams and mobile devices although this raises the DC (digital capabilities) issue. Not problem. Lets link it to scholarly practice and persuade institutions to invest in the digital skills of their staff as professional development. It also raises issues of IP which can be complex and opening the copyright box will be the topic of a follow-on blog (brave, stupid or what?!) 😉
Back to Gardener Campbell and Educating the Whole Person. Gardener says granular analytics does not represent the whole person yet the current push towards big data claims it can be used to design personalised learning. How? Footfalls and logins give little meaningful information about learning. Counting the number of VLE sites is irrelevant compared to what goes on there. Ditto forum posts. The data tells us nothing about content quality. We need more critical thinking around the types of data collected and why.
It all comes back to scholarship. Inquiry into what you do and why you do it. How do you know it works? Where is the evidence of impact? SoTL provides a framework for taking this forward.
Lets be more joined up about linking CPD with Academic Practice. Encourage action research, action learning sets, appreciative inquiry, critical reflection and loops of experiential learning.
Let’s make opportunities to get people around a table to talk about teaching, underpinned with research into how students learn, and how best to design learning experiences which can be personalised to encourage motivation, enthusiasm and ownership.
Lets start investing as much into learning and teaching as we do research and technologies.
Let’s bring in the student voice and build mechanisms for recognising and rewarding evaluated learning design.
Let’s do all this. Now! We’re all here to support the student experience so let’s have some exciting thoughts about how to go forward into the future.
images from pixabay except BoB from http://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/ucreate/facilities/box-of-broadcasts/introduction
[Lady Bracknell] Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.
From The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
Ignorance is an interesting word. Wikipedia (one of the best teaching tools for understanding the internet) offers ‘often (incorrectly) used to describe individuals who deliberately ignore or disregard important information or facts.‘
We can’t know what we don’t know so why is ‘ignorance’ i.e. a state of being uninformed or lack of knowledge critiqued as a negative trait? Shouldn’t it be those responsible for withholding information who are critiqued instead?
Some valuable conversations took place at work this week about digital capabilities. Four departments are now represented in our monthly DigiCaps group; the TEL-Team, Library, Careers/Employability and Staff Development. There is enthusiasm. This is an encouraging start. I have hope.
The majority of education technology projects fail to gain widespread adoption because like attracts like and ICT is sticky stuff. Early digital adopters tend to stick together while digital pedagogies require digital competencies to stick but the majority of those in positions of managing change fail to appreciate the width and depth of on-campus digital divides. They are well kept secrets and this is where the words of Lady Bracknell come to mind. Why is there so much ignorance about the true lack of meaningful digital adoption? Is this knowledge-loss accidental or deliberate?
When it comes to the users of technology I hesitate to use the word ignorant. I’ve tried reluctant and resistant to describe lack of engagement and been told these are too kind. The latest trend among digital pioneers is to say if people don’t have appropriate digital skills they are not employable which seems a little harsh. Students are told their attributes should include competence to manage in an increasingly digital society. I agree this should apply to staff as well but rather than reject staff for being not being digitally capable, institutions should put in place digital development. It isn’t happening and I wonder if this is because it would mean admitting there is a digital problem in the first place. Just who is being ignorant here and why?
The second UCISA Digital Capabilities Survey has just been launched.
To highlight the issues our digi caps group are collecting anonymised examples of how low a digital baseline needs to go to ensure everyone starts from the same place. If you work in areas like education or learning development, learning technology or ICT support, and have examples of the divide between the promise and the reality of virtual learning, please do feel free to share them using the form below. This will help us to attach more importance to digital incapability and challenge ignorance about baseline support. It’s a sensitive issue but ignoring it won’t make it go away. Lady Bracknell tells us the ‘whole theory of modern education today is unsound’ and this could easily be a reference to the world of digital education, resting as it does on assumptions of staff confidence and competence which simply don’t tally up.
21st century higher education has been aptly summarised by Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006:2) as follows: ‘Instead of characterising [student learning in HE] as a simple acquisition process based on teacher transmission, learning is now more commonly conceptualised as a process whereby students actively construct their own knowledge and skills. Students interact with subject content transforming and discussing it with others in order to internalise meaning and make connections with what is already known.’
The internet is a fabulous learning tool on so many different levels with multiple means to help students actively construct their own knowledge and skills but there remains an huge ignorance about the true state of adoption and use. I believe appropriate support can make a difference. I believe institutions have to accept technology on its own is not enough and investment needs to be in the people who use it as well
(Not sure why my details appear in the form below but just delete and add your own or anonymous ones. I couldn’t find how to make the fields non-compulsory. Digital capabilities irony!)
Share examples of how digital capabilities can best be developed and supported
*Nicol, D. J. and Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education (2006), Vol 31(2) 199-21
- The Importance of being Earnest poster http://dewsburyartsgroup.info/the-importance-of-being-earnest
- Hope https://pixabay.com/en/banner-header-butterfly-development-940636/
- Baseline https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/12/css-baseline-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/
- Active learning http://www.vteducation.org/en/laboratories/active-learning-universal-design-learning-udl-collaboration-technology
Something somewhere has gone terribly wrong. Educational technology has journals, books, professional qualifications and conferences but it’s the same names and faces appearing again and again. We need to talk but the people we need the conversations with never turn up. It sounds incredible but true – you can have a role in higher education which involves teaching and supporting learning but doesn’t comply with any baseline requirements for digital competence. Digital incompetence is more common alongside attitudes like I don’t use social media, admin manage assessment, VLE are for module handbooks, students won’t turn up if I put my lecture notes online.
The roots of digital resistance are deep.
You can divide the population with the words ‘Pokemon Go’. I’ve no interest in Pokemon but it only took a few minutes to download and get started and now I’ve a better idea what the media fuss is about. Poekman Go is less about Weedle, Pidgey, Eevee and Rattata and more about digital CPD. Lack of first hand experience creates the risk of being judgmental. Experiential learning is more successful than didactic approaches. Just as higher order thinking skills are integral to a higher education, so inquiry and evaluation are integral to becoming digitally capable. If students live in a world of augmented reality and instant mobile communication, it makes sense to look at how their existing skills might be applied to learning and teaching. Doesn’t it?
This year I sense the winds of change are blowing. There’s a shift in attitude. If you’re not digitally literate and capable then why are you here in the first place? How did you get the job if you’re unable make appropriate use of social media, build collaborative learning environments, give feedback via audio and video?
There’s an expectation students will leave university as employable adults but the digital dimensions of graduate attributes are too often neglected. Society needs critical users of the internet who can tell the difference between peer reviewed knowledge, media bias and personal opinion. Somewhere between induction and graduation, staff who teach or support learning have a responsibility to help students get there.
So how digitally capable are you? Where did it appear on your job description list of essential criteria? How was it tested at interview? What do you mean it wasn’t included? Are you telling me you work in higher education with responsibility for student learning and no one bothered to check your attitudes to social media, how mobile devices might be used in lectures, assessing e-portfolios, giving multimedia feedback, the risks of online communication, the hazards of app based learning, creative commons, open access, barriers to online participation? What do you mean you’ve never taken part in a webinar? Here’s your webcam and headset. Would you prefer a laptop or a tablet and I don’t mean paracetamol.
The phrase digital capabilities has replaced digital literacies. These were more a measurement of skills like the ECDL and today literacies are the starting not the finishing point. Yet the language of digital capabilities contains ambiguity. The elements are like alcohol adverts which ask adults to be drink aware – drink sensibly – be responsible – without actually saying what this means or how it might translate into real world behaviours. The result is confusion about what to do for the best.
The Jisc Digital Capabilities model offers a six element structure of digital ways of working to be addressed. The teacher, learner, researcher profiles provide frameworks for applying these to practice but what difference will it really make when it’s the same people talking to each other?
We need to talk. We need to find out more about digital shyness and reluctance. Tackle the excuses and find resources, rewards and recognition to make developing digital capabilities possible I think one of the problems is when people believe technology is not for them. Well, I’m no technology expert but have learned digital capabilities are attitudinal. They’re about the cultural shift from acquiring knowledge to knowing where to find it. Today it’s less about what you know and more about making use of mobile internet access to find it out (exactly the independent self-determined approach to learning we expect students to develop). Sorry, that excuse doesn’t work any more. Next one please?