Let’s get digital or not?

wine and cake pixabay

The Friday blog-habit is proving hard to break! If only I could be as strict with the Friday evening wine or Saturday cake. As in not having them.  The blog is almost a reverse addiction. Usually we go for instant gratification rather than delayed and blogging is definitely in the second category. It’s rewarding when posts get liked or quoted but that often comes days and sometimes weeks after the event!

On reflection, maybe the idea of pausing over the summer wasn’t so good after all. If the habit is established why stop? Exactly my approach to the Friday evening wine and Saturday cake. Why break something which works so well!

panopto logo

The days when August was the time for catching up and preparing for the new academic year are well and truly gone. Not only are we launching a new VLE in September, I’m also working on the policy document for Panopto and preparing staff development activities to introduce teaching with video (thanks Gemma Witton @gemmawitton from the University of Wolverhampton for the inspiring Panopto conversation this week)

The digital capabilities framework. continues to underpin everything I do. So far this year we’ve piloted the Jisc Discovery Tool and run the Digital Storytelling workshops. The TEL Team and the Library are now having regular catch-ups to discuss all things digital and I’m curating a ‘Sharing Practice’ resource center to demonstrate interesting and effective use of technology to support the student experience.

black and white cartoon, one dog tells anthother on the internet no one knows you're a dog

In LEAP there are Academic Practice Advisers and TEL Advisers. Unfortunately we’re divided by geography which reinforces the lack of opportunities to get together and discuss how maybe we should all be one and the same?  The minute you say the ‘technology’ word  those who see themselves as non-techie self-exclude yet we are all involved with learning and teaching. I want to ‘rebrand’ digital capabilities. I’m concerned the word ‘digital’ is getting like ‘technology‘ and the phrase ‘digital capabilities framework‘ is almost doomed before it begins. So what are my options?

pixabay education

I like ‘digital scholarship‘.  The HEA have reviewed the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and last year I attended a Colloquium event discussing the importance of being research informed and engaged in teaching practice. There are tensions over the meaning and evaluation of ‘teaching excellence’ but the TEF remains an opportunity to revisit institutional support for pedagogical research. Anyone supporting a VLE will be familiar with the persistence of transmissive approaches with emphasis on knowledge consumption rather than construction. We need to talk.

Time, space and rationale (as well as reward and recognition) are all essential prerequisites to change. Maybe the TEL Team could have a monthly ‘digital scholarship’ meetings over coffee – cake – or lunch – to discuss key papers and pedagogies relating to TEL – as well as ideas to publish and promote our work so yes, scholarship is a possibility.

There’s just one problem – I’m still using ‘digital’.

Should my new approach be with or without the D word?

Any suggestions?

 

We need to talk Pokemon Go and alcohol

aw snap

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.

pokemon_go

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?

winds of change

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.

emial inbox menu showing 99999 items

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.

tablet

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.

have fun    sad emoticon

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?

Excuses-2

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Cracking the digital nut Jisc #connectmore16

cracking the digital nut

Tuesday, Liverpool and my first Jisc Connect event. What I like best about the Jisc advisors, apart from their digital expertise, is how they help you feel less alone. Developing digital capabilities is never easy. The innovators and early adopters don’t need me while the digitally resistant don’t need me either -because changing practice is not high on their agenda. This can be for valid reasons. I have sympathy for workloads as well as reluctance. Ask me to create a pivot table in excel and see the fear in my eyes. But sometimes it isn’t lack of skills or confidence, it’s lack of interest. Indifference can be  less to do with technology and more about adherence to traditional delivery modes like lectures .

What can we do about lectures?

Staff new to higher education expect to give them. New students expect to receive them. At Hull we’ve just acquired Panopto and the TEL-Team have banned the words lecture capture. We’re operating a fine system. One pound for each word. The problem is the connotations. We want to avoid the idea of passive replication of a didactic mode of delivery but it may be too late.

image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_university#/media/File:Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001.jpg
image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_university#/media/File:Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001.jpg

Thanks Phil Vincent @philvincent from YSJ for this quote “The uninspired label ‘lecture capture’ fails to convey the disruptive potential of this tool” (Russell, 2012). All technology has the potential to disrupt traditional ways of working but it can mimic them too.  When contact time with students is squeezed, digital environments can offer ways to extend and enhance learning. Collaboration and interaction beyond the time table might initially involve a learning curve but TEL-Teams can help make small yet incremental changes. But sometimes even a small change is a step to far. So lectures are replicated with little consideration if this is making the most of the opportunities offered by technologies which are tools and not enemies.

image from https://pixabay.com/en/army-blade-compact-cut-equipment-2186/
image from https://pixabay.com/en/army-blade-compact-cut-equipment-2186/ 

The gap between the possibility and the practice of technology is deep and wide beneath me. I spend my working days balanced between theory and reality.  It’s a tightrope above a chasm where learning technologists and digital educational developers fear to tread. Full of late adopters and those with no intention of changing, the walls echo with cries of  ‘but the students love my lectures’, ‘I don’t have time for digital stuff’ and ‘what’s a VLE anyway?’

What are we to do?

We need to talk about reluctance and resistance.  For too long the focus has been on innovation and pushing the boundaries. The divide between the metathesiophobic and the pioneer wearing an occulus or programming NAO robots is increasingly invisible. It’s a clever defense. The best form of protection is to hide.

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Jisc are comforting. They reassure it’s not just me but a similar story in other institutions. Events like Jisc Connect are full of participants who smile with recognition, heads nodding knowingly. It helps temporarily but if the issue is endemic then eradication becomes more difficult and TEL Teams can find themselves in the thick of it.

metathesiophobia paradigmshift

What are the wider issues? What are staff afraid of? Are these fears evidence based?  What works well and why? Some institutions have digital leads at school and programme level, strategic direction, reward and recognition schemes, digital portfolios for CPD and staff development, others have put teacher education online, changed validation processes, resorted to bribery with coffee, cake and chocolate. TEL Teams need more opportunities to talk about sharing practice and the different possibilities for action. I keep my faith in the power of the internet to support student learning and educational opportunities but the digital nut is a long way from being cracked.

Cracking the nut image from presentation by Saf Arfam, VC Development and Innovation Salford City College