Like attracts like and for some time the education technology community has been talking to an audience which mirrors itself. The focus has been on innovation while the experience of non-adoption was largely ignored. At the UCISA Spotlight conference, it was good to see low TEL take-up being highlighted. Possibilities for lack of interest included fear of change (metathesiophobia), not setting baseline capabilities low enough and the number of digitally shy and reluctant staff being greater than realised. While highlighting problems doesn’t solve them, it’s a step in the right direction.
One question raised was if the word ‘training’ had reached the end of its useful lifespan. I used to think the T word was part of the problem but trying to define the difference between training and teaching, the lines soon began to blur.
Training is about skills and functionality so tends to be instructional. It’s a read the manual, follow the checklist approach whereas teaching covers a broader knowledge base including the why, where and when as well as the how. You could say training is the practice and teaching is the theory. While training often follows behaviorist principles of didactic, passive pedagogies, teaching today is supposed to be more constructivist, collaborative and active. Maybe the teaching continues where the training stops. So far so good. But we’ve all experienced training as doing and teaching as listening. Once you begin to dig down it can be less easy to tell them apart.
When it comes to TEL, training is the more dominant approach but where it focuses on specific tools like a VLE, any personal context can be missing. When this happens, it’s easy to leave the workshop, go back to the office and carry on as before. So what can we do to encourage meaningful take up of TEL? I took away the following ideas.
Make it relevant: TEL needs to fit within the context of each individual subject discipline so make time for one-to-one and teaching-team conversations. We need to talk. Not just to each other but to the digitally shy and reluctant. We need new ways to reach out and find those wedded to more traditional, analogue modes of teaching. Make it different: explore more creative approaches to supporting staff and students to use digital technologies their practice. I was awarded a UCISA Bursary to attend the Playful Learning Conference in July where I’ll be looking for new ways to promote TEL in the future. The Dig Cap Play Track usefully opened up ideas around gamification, personae and different approaches to the use of case studies and problem based learning. We not only need to talk to digitally resistant staff but also to focus on new ways of learning with each other. Make it experiential: look at review and revision of CPD, staff development and teacher education to explore scope for providing some, more or all of it online. Enrol staff as students on the VLE to give them the student viewpoint and opportunities to reflect on aligning this with their own teaching practice. The internet is not going away and it’s no longer possible to ignore its influence on knowledge acquisition and employability. Students need to develop digital graduate attributes while TEL can offer broader and inclusive access to learning opportunities. Make it rewarding: where possible allocate small amounts of funding for incentivisation and recognition of creative digital work. Develop institutional digital rewards and on a local level make use of chocolate and biscuits. Try Jane Secker’s great idea of using of fortune cookies containing digital hints and tips. Look at what other institutions are doing with regard to creative approaches to digital education. If the old isn’t working it’s time to focus on the new.
This week was #Digifest16. It looked good but my view was remote. Following online just isn’t the same as being there. We learn more from absence than presence. Like my OU experience. Two years and four virtual modules for the MA in Open and Distance Learning, then a final year with modules from Psychology and Social Science. Taught through traditional OU methods. A courier arrived with a box of books, papers and a CD. That was it! You had to book a telephone call with a tutor while peer contact was non-existent. It was a pivotal year. I learned more about the affordances of online learning by not having digital collaboration than I did with it!
Next week (7-11 March) is #openeducationweek. #creativeHE are taking part and this is an invitation to a digital digits dance.
The course is open to anyone involved in teaching or supporting learning in higher education. Using games, models and stories, #creativeHE represents a unique CPD journey, one which fosters curiosity and discovery modes of learning, alongside critical reflection on the value of imaginative approaches to teaching practice.
If open education or the concept of play feels strange, this in itself is a useful reason for taking part. Putting ourselves into the unknown is a reminder of how students feel when asked to face unfamiliar teaching methods or concepts. Comfortable in our spaces, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be confronted with something different. Strange situations offer useful learning curves. If you’ve always wanted to try an open educational course but haven’t been sure where to begin, take a look at #creativeHE. The friendly atmosphere offers a great starting point and engaging in a range of different online environments can intrinsically enhance your digital ways of working.
Drop by, dip in and out, try something new, tweet using #creativeHE and let us know your thoughts on creativity in learning and teaching.
The course is supported by CREATIVE ACADEMIC @academiccreator a social enterprise aimed at encouraging creativity in higher education teaching and learning. Additional resources can be found on this website http://www.creativeacademic.uk/
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has the words Don’t Panic on its cover. Douglas Adams described the text as being in ‘large friendly letters’. This juxtaposition of panic and friendliness suggests being scared is nothing to be afraid of. Last week I was introduced to Senninger’s Learning Zone model. The bright red ring labelled Panic Zone caught my attention. I’ve been in transition between institutions and been asked to write about the impact of this on learning development, in particular from an ecological perspective and with reference to Senninger.
Ecology is the scientific twin of sociology. They both study the diverse, complex relationships between both people and their environments. With regard to my own areas of work, applying the principles of ecology to digital learning environments is an underused approach. How people interact with technology is critical to effective design yet the gaps between the experience of designer and that of the end user are often ignored. I’d looked at ecology in relation to e-teaching and thought writing the piece might be a useful on a number of levels. Not only as a CPD reflection but also an opportunity to disturb some PhD dust and blow away the words Don’t Panic which constantly reappear on the draft thesis chapters.
The core of Senninger’s model is the Comfort Zone. Disrupting this shifts you into the Central Stretch Zone. The analogy is a good one. Change stretches you in all directions but like an aerobic workout, what’s tough at the time aims to make you feel better afterwards. Leaving Comfort Zones can have impact. There’s no going back. It’s like trying to recreate a fabulous holiday by returning the following year. People and places might appear the same but the moment has passed. As Heraclitus tells us, you can’t step in the same river twice.
Surrounding the comfort and the stretch circles is the Panic Zone. This gives the model a dystopian feel but I found the concept reassuring. However familiar you are with the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome, or have taken time out for meaningful self-reflection, it’s easy to take it personally if something doesn’t go quite as planned. Senninger gives us permission to feel a range of negative emotions and – more importantly – to contextualise them within the bigger picture of change.
Fear of change can keep us stuck in situations which are past their use-by date so we trade familiarity for comfortable security. It’s easy to see why. An essential element of dismantling an old world and accepting a new one is to invite temporary fear into your life. For a while you are the outsider, a stranger in the familiarity of others. Change can stretch you to the edges of what you know and this is a challenge. It’s good to remember being in transition is a process with stages. For me, the travel aspect is missing from the Learning Zone model. Norman Jackson’s Learning Ecology Model gives a better sense of the journey and a combination of the two would best represent the change-route travelled.