political and critical; a personal reflection #ALTC #femedtech

green nd white ALT logo

ALT and motherhood on the same page?

I didn’t see that coming!.

Last week Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell presented A personal, feminist and critical retrospective of Learning (and) Technology, 1994-2018 describing themselves as IT professionals, lecturers, community educators, postgraduate students, researchers, feminists, social activists, and mothers.

Since watching the live stream, I’ve been reflecting on political and critical perspectives and, following my last post Start the Week Backwards have written this response to the zeitgeist mood of the 25th ALTc.

My career’s been shaped by motherhood, divorcehood and resulting single-parenthood.  Built round term-times, it was one long juggling act, never stopping, never resting, life full on until the nest was empty and I woke up one day with the whole weekend ahead and no idea of what to do.

image showing the word start on a road

It’s been liberating to acknowledge a gendered perspective to my decades working with education technology. Last week in Start the Week Backwards I returned to 1989, to my first degree as a mature ‘widening participation’ student, my early encounter with DOS computers running Wordstar and Lotus. I cried during an ‘IT Test’ when I accidentally pressed the Insert key.  I didn’t know it existed, never mind why all my text was being overtyped.

I hope I never forget how that felt.

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

My first degree was transformative in so many ways. It cost me my marriage.

Apparently, no one likes a clever git.

I moved from country to inner city. It was February 1991. The coldest winter with the heaviest snow. My student loan fixed the boiler and bought a cooker. The second-hand electric shop wanted £5 for delivery. I borrowed a sack barrow and delivered it myself.

The greatest life lesson I learned was this.

Regardless of gender, the parent with the least earning potential takes on most of the childcare. A salutary lesson.  A universal rule like Jane Austen on men and wives (note the primary identity!)

Before the start of the conversation started by Catherine and Frances, the last time I ‘outed’ myself as a parent was five years ago in Who will clean the toilets after the revolution This was my problem with feminism. The personal is political but it has to be practical too.

blue plasticine person leaning over a white toilet

Today I’m comfortable in my empty nest and appreciate my freedom of choice. I admire colleagues who juggle full-time work alongside small children, especially those with babies. Feminism and equality campaigns have made flexible working possible, although I suspect it’s an ongoing struggle, financially, emotionally and physically. The women who make it are stars!

gold stars

A personal and feminist lens shows gender affected me. Being a female of a certain age when I entered HE has influenced opportunities and choices.  During Catherine and Frances’s presentation, I looked for a photo of myself with the children, realising for the first time how few there are.  Lots of babies, with and without their father, but not with me. This was before the days of mobile phones and selfies – not that long ago – all I could find were two.

This is what happens to women in the home. They become invisible. It’s the public work versus the private ‘hearth and home’ binary all made real.

cut out images of domestic tools and tasks

I wouldn’t have it any different, but I do sometimes wonder how different it might have been.

My career in adult, community and higher education has been eclectic, like so many others. An  eclecticness shared so creatively in a timeline by Amber thomas, who gave a keynote at #ALTc. Throughout my working life, I’ve been a mother, step-mother, carer.  Constant but rarely discussed. Why? Is it because I’ve worked mostly alongside men?  I’ve never thought of this before. It shows the power of Catherine and Frances using the motherhood word in conjunction with technology, research, social activism. Been there. Done that. But it’s not often I’ve reclaimed gender in public.

Thank you women of ALTc, for giving us permission to do the same.

We need more stars!

gold starsgold starsgold stars

Like so many women, I’ve done life backwards. Much of my knowledge is experiential. This means I often feel I’m swimming against the tide.

Practice can disempower in the way assumptions discriminate.

Being a female of a certain age, I feel othered in ways I imagine are not shared by men. I write about the digital but have analogue roots The ‘O’ word is banned. I refuse to accept life as linear. For me, it’s circular and spiral, like a a labyrinth. Remember the labyrinths? This is another area of work I’d love to resurrect, but people move on and the early momentum of a movement looking at walking meditative practice for learning development and reflection feels faded. At least the blog and the photos remain Walking the Labyrinth

Women who do too much!

Why are we so driven?

Julian's Bower Turf Labyrinth at Alkeborough, North Lincolnshire
Julian’s Bower Turf Labyrinth at Alkeborough, North Lincolnshire

Age is discriminatory.

Socially, culturally, politically….

Take the phrase Early Career Researcher. It ‘Others’ me. I feel excluded. My PhD is the biggest independent piece of research I’ve done but in terms of time it’s late rather than early. I have two degrees and two Masters. I hold CMALT plus SFHEA. If I’m not an Early Career Researcher, what am I?

Identity has been an issue for some time.

I was Senior Lecturer in Education Development. Now I’m a Teaching Enhancement Advisor in Professional Services.

a white building with the word university in silver

Take the word ‘academic’ off your employment contract and what does it mean?

Who am I within university tradition and practice?  Where do I fit?

Amber’s keynote was inspirational.  It spoke to all women with eclectic careers built round the public face of ed tech alongside the private space of hearth and home. Amber’s timeline reinforced how the industry continually transforms itself, creating new identities to solve the same old issues.

We know.

Our voices may have been silenced but we know what’s going on.

It’s not about the technology.

This is why the promised transformation hasn’t happened.

Like attracts like and technology determinist approaches won’t reach the non-digital whose doors are closed and habits fixed. This is not to belittle either but we need to talk. To everyone across borders and boundaries; to everyone involved in creating opportunities for students to learn.

We need to learn too.

I like an Appreciative Inquiry approach. This assumes the answers are in the room. Rather than investing in expensive external consultancy and the input of perceived ‘experts’,  we should invest in exploring ways of sharing what we already know.

I like Jung’s theory of collective unconscious. I believe in the possibility of univerisal memories, that shared expereinces create energy. It explains the attraction of an open fire and the awe of layng on a hill top below a night sky full of stars.

Memories are strange phenomena. They disappear when you want them then reappear for no apparent reason. Proust’s Madeleine has happened to us all. Sarsaparilla on your tongue. Electric shivers from a full moon.

full moon at night shining on dark waer

Pedagogic practice hasn’t really changed. My first experience of higher education was during A levels. I signed up for an evening class at the Universty of Hull. In the Wilberforce Building. Now I work there. The building has had a facelift but the rooms are fundamentally the same – small with no windows and rows of desks facing the front.

Last year I finished a part-time degree at Hull. Six years of attendance. Twelve modules taught in the same Wilberforce Building in rooms with rows of desks facing the front. No technology was used during the making of this degree. The only time the PC was switched on was student presentations where I used Powerpoint.

lassroom with rows of empty desks and chairs all facing the board at teh front

When is comes to teaching and leaning, technology is not the solution. There’s no magic tool to solve the problems but plenty of technology-based solutions which have added to them.

Learning and teaching is where we need to begin. The design of opportunities for learning with or without the tech. It’s 2018. It’s going to be in there somewhere, in the same way it’s at home and in the workplace.

So what are the problems?

Well, the status of being digitally literate for starters. This is a requirement which needs to be elevated alongside english and maths, but even so, technology is not the answer. Not on its own.

There are bigger issues.

Like widening participation; the opening up of university courses ‘… for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.”  (Robbins Report, 1963)

The NSS arrived with promises it would not lead to league tables when it was clear this was exactly what would happen.  Today, the NSS combined with student fees, pose a potential (and predictable) perfect storm.

Despite it all, I still believe in the concept of higher education for the public good. The often quoted analogy of public good with lighthouses is – I think – apt. Shining light into darkness, warning of danger.

Danger?

light house on Isle of Skye at teh end f a long rocky prootary looking out to sea

Education can hurt and be uncomfortable. It should be full of liminal spaces and troublesome knowledge. Unfortunately, it can break relationships and create division – but also open hearts and minds, shine light on exclusion and discrimination, be a beacon for socially democratic thinking and provide opportunities for individuals to be transformed and thrive.

Why shouldnt it be for the public good?

person standing in front of the siplay boards in an airport

Across the country, thousands are preparing for arrival on campus. Diverse cohorts are packing bags and preparing to leave home. Others are sitting late at night juggling the school run on paper with nursery pickups and contingency plans for when the grandparents are ill. Those who’ve had unexpected life changes are looking to university with no idea of what lies ahead. To those who are unsure, I’d say feel the fear and do it.

image showing a erson leaping across a chasm at suset

In all of this, the women working in higher education, in partcular in ed tech and digital practice, have their own unique contribution to make. Accustomed to suppressing the maternal and personal, they can add hugely to the collaborative processes of teaching and learning.

We need a platform and a voice.

I hope the conversations started at ALTc are enabled to continue.

table discussion with an open laptop

images from ALT and pixabay

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.

Designing for Diverse Learners

Image showng the University of Hull Venn Building with students in the forefront

The LTE Summer Programme (June 2018) included two days of LTE workshops where colleague Lee Fallin and myself took the opportunity to ‘launch’ an Introduction to Inclusive Approaches to Teaching and Learning, with specific reference to digital resources. This post offers an introduction to inclusivity with online content for anyone unable to be there.* 

The Home Office has an excellent poster series to highlight practices for developing content for users falling into one of the following six categories:

  • low vision,
  • Deaf and hard of hearing
  • Dyslexia,
  • motor disabilities,
  • users on the autistic spectrum,
  • users of screen readers (visual issues/blindness).

We we really impressed by these posters, but also overwhelmed with how we can support educators to use them in practice. For this reason, we developed our Designing for Diverse Learners poster, combining the essential practices for all of the above. The aim of this document was not to target any one group of learners, but to develop an outline of practices that follow the principles of universal design where changes for some benefit the vast majority of learners.

Why ‘diverse learners’?

The idea of ‘diverse learners’ is really important to the both of us. The practices outlined in our poster will benefit every learner, not just those who many require specific adjustments. The reason we are able to do this is that in applying the principles from the above posters to the educational context, we are able to look at them for the specific purpose of designing digital learning materials and opportunities.

One of the reasons for our initial focus on digital resources is our institutional context at the University of Hull where the majority of resources will be access via the institutional VLE, Canvas. The University of Hull has a set of ‘expected use of Canvas’ criteria which include the following:

Staff should ensure that all digital content supporting learning and teaching e.g. text, images and multimedia, follows inclusive practice guidelines.

Our poster does not claim to support every single learner or requirement an educator may come across, but we are certain that resources developed along these principles will meet the vast majority of needs. We are also keen to frame this as a working document. We are keen to get as much feedback as we can to help us make this resource event better. We’ve already had some feedback about including some text line spacing and would welcome any further ideas you all have.

Future developments

As a community, we can continue to develop this resource and make it even better. We welcome input from both educators and learners as to how we can make this any better. We have set-up a Tricider to help collect feedback on the poster and to enable to community to vote on individual ideas. If you have not used Tricider before, it is very easy to contribute. Simple visit our Tricider and either ‘add an idea’ or vote on the ideas of others. You can also place comments on Tricider or use the comment area on this blog post if your prefer.

The poster

We have made this poster available in two formats, the image below and a printable PDF. For best results, print your poster on A3 paper (portrait orientation) and trim the white paper to the sides.  


* See https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/ltesummer/conference for Workshop Abstract


 

Introducing Design for Active Learning (D4AL)

Image showng the University of Hull Venn Building with students in the forefront

The LTE Summer Programme (June 2018) included two days of LTE workshops where  we took the opportunity to ‘launch’ Design for Active Learning (D4AL). This post reflects on the session as well as proving an introduction to D4AL for anyone unable to be there.*

Design for Active Learning is an approach to learning and teaching enhancement, with or without technology but its 2018 – the technology is going to be in there somewhere! Ideally, a session would be blended with some prerequisite preparation followed by hands on time to develop a piece of learning, be it a module, programme or short course.

In the meantime, we’ve squeezed the fundamentals into this blog post…

One of our favourite approaches to discovery is the key questions underpinning any process of inquiry; Who, What, Where, When, Why and How so we’ve structured this post around these.

Who developed Design for Active Learning 

Sue Watling and Patrick Lynch, Teaching Enhancement Advisors in the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Directorate

Presenting at a LTE Summer programme session 

sue watling with a parrot

What is Design for Active Learning? 

D4AL is all of the following:

  • pedagogically informed approach to learning and teaching enhancement
  • evidence/data informed design and evaluation of student learning activities
  • philosophy as well as practice
  • Toolbox (activity templates) and Evidence Hub (resources, videos, literature etc)

D4AL is not about

  • auditing or quality control
  • telling teachers how to teach
  • supporting passive, didactic teaching methodologies

Where can Design for Active Learning happen? 

Anywhere where people can be together physically or virtually; technology is not required.

When can Design for Active Learning take place? 

Any time which suits staff who teach and support learning.

Why develop Design for Active Learning? 

‘Curriculum design in higher education is not a formal activity and there is little support, formal or informal, provided in most higher education institutions to help academics become better at designing learning activities, modules and courses (Nicol, 2012:4)

Nicol, D. (2012) Transformational Change in Teaching and Learning Recasting the Educational Discourse Evaluation of the Viewpoints Project, Jisc. https://www.reap.ac.uk/Portals/101/Documents/PEERToolkit/VIEWPOINTS%20EVALUATION_Final_dn.pdf

Alongside an absence of formal approaches to the learning design, LTE had observed a reluctance to engage with ‘Technology-First’ approaches to enhancement, in particular from staff who were digitally shy and resistant to making digital shifts, both in attitude and practice. We believed all staff who teach or support learning would have a vested interest in the design of learning activities for their students, and wanted to test if brokering discussions via Learning Design or ‘Pedagogy-First’ might take us where TEL-First had been less successful. Our conversations with staff this year plus experience co-leading Module Two of the PCAP ‘Effective Learning, Teaching and Assessment Design’, suggested this was indeed the case.

How does Design for Active Learning happen? (Part One) 

D4AL has three distinct processes.

  • Perspective: the philosophy of higher education e.g. its purpose in 21st century society (this might include widening participation policy, inclusive practice, being for the public good, social justice and sustainability etc) and pedagogic allegiance (this might include a social constructivist approach with an emphasis on active learning, reflective practice and critical thinking).
  • Planning: time to talk and to investigate the D4AL Toolbox and Evidence Hub for the most suitable approach to use. Questions to ask during the Planning might include the following:
    • What do you want your students to do?
    • What would success look like?
    • How will you know when you’ve achieved this?
  • Practice: Carrying out the plan and evaluating its effectiveness. Questions might include:
    • What went well and less well?
    • What would you do again?
    • What would you do differently?

We’ve tried several times to visualise Design for Active but been unsuccessful. Following the session last week, we drew these triple rings within a square.

 Also, we realised the toolbox and evidence hub needed to be defined more clearly.  The D4AL Toolbox is a collection of activity design templates while the D4AL Evidence Hub contains the supporting literature and resources.

How does Design for Active Learning happen? (Part Two) 

An initial teaching enhancement conversation might be brokered in a number of different ways. Institutionally it could be driven by red flags on a data report relating to any aspect of AMREP for examples NSS, MEQ, SEERS, or from a discussion by the water cooler, over coffee or a corridor chat. We would then meet with the programme, module or subject team to discuss requirements and plan the way forward.

Planning begins with Perspective. We’re finding asking staff to think about their rationale for teaching, alongside identification of their pedagogic beliefs, is useful CPD as well as a team building activity. After this, the team would be introduced to the Toolbox and Evidence Hub and discuss which of the activities and resources are the most appropriate.

The Practice stage will be dependent on each iteration. The idea of the Design for Active Learning Approach is it’s flexible enough to adapt to different situations. Whatever is needed, there should be an activity on the Toolbox or a resource in the Evidence Hub which fits.

Not every discussion will lead to a D4AL intervention while not every time the D4AL process is followed, will there be an automatic success. Teaching and learning are complex human endeavors and open to multiple environmental influences. What D4AL can offer, is a way forward, based on combined knowledge and experience. The processes are iterative and cumulative. The more we do with D4AL, the more we can collect evidence of what works well, less well, and what we would do differently next time.

So… this has been an introduction to Design for Active Learning.  The next post will take a look inside the D4AL Toolbox and Evidence Hub and share some of the resources to be found there.


*  See https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/ltesummer/conference for Workshop Abstract


Blended and distance learning

Image showng the University of Hull Venn Building with students in the forefront

The LTE Summer Programme (June 2018) included two days of LTE workshops. I took the opportunity to present an introduction to blended and distance learning. This post offers an introduction to the topic for anyone unable to be there.* 

Making the digital shift from traditional face-to-face, on-campus courses to blended or fully distance modes may feel like a challenge but when done well, it can offer exciting and motivational student experiences. Tearning and teaching in 21st century offers potential 24/7 access at a time, place and device of student choice. However, in many cases this transformative potential remains untapped. The lecture continues to be the primary form of content delivery. A consequence of this is similar didactic pedagogic models being transferred to virtual envrionments, and presented as online learning. VLE resembling repositories of files, frequently fail to become the centres of interactivity they have the potential to be. Successful bended and distance eduation requires digital shifts in teaching and learning practice. The tips on these pages cover some of the key changes in attitudes and pratice which need to be made.

Quotes have been taken from an online teacher education course where particpants were encouraged to keep a reflective journal. Here they wrote about the transfer of new learning to their own practice. Journal entries have been used with permission.

Tip 1: busting myths of digital confidence

Remember: When it comes to digital technologies colleagues/students might be less confident than you think but disguise it well. This quote shows blended learning

requires more than technical competence, there are social and emotional challenges too. Avoid making assumptions, the majority of students are NOT Digital Natives and nearly all need to develop critical as well as effective digital literacies.

Recommend: build in time for an online course induction with activities for sharing aims and feelings. It’s helpful for e-learners and e-teachers too know others might share similar hopes and fears.

Tip 2: be aware of the risks text mis-communication

Remember: the absence of face-to-face clues makes it easy to misinterpret messages. These quotes remind us online communication can be challenging. Prepare for silence! Reluctance to engage and mixed messages can affect retention.

Recommends: discuss the advantages of digital text e.g. pre-practice, reflect, edit, spellcheck then paste into the Text Editor when ready. Provide practice spaces. Have a ‘good manners’ guide, either prep-prepared or constructed during induction. Include CAPITAL LETTERS are like SHOUTING, use emoticons to help avoid misunderstanding   , don’t be rude or offensive – if you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, don’t say it online.

Tip 3: expect identity blur

Remember: e-teachers are tutors, moderators, facilitators, instructors but called rarely e-lecturers. Teaching online requires digital communication skills while e-teachers have to shift identities from ‘Sage on the Stage’ to the less visible and more silent ‘Guide on the Side’, a loss of visible status which can take some adjusting to.

Recommends: e-teaching can be complex and challenging but gets easier the more you do and when done well, it’s a powerful tool for widening participation and enhancing the student experience. Whether the course is fully online or blended the affordances of 24/7 access at a time, place and device of student choice means it’s well worth it!

Tip 4: adopt activity based content (ABC) designs

Remember: Online resources have guide, motivate and enthuse as well as retain students to the end of the course. Blended learning design follows socio-constructivist principles for example interaction, communication and collaboration

Recommends: create online groups with their own forums and a choice of activities based on key texts or themes. Agree tutor response times.  Ask students to share understanding of core ideas through posters, mindmaps, presentations, audio or video. Set up peer review with feedback summaries.  Avoid 50 minutes of talking heads with audience coughs and sneezes. Chunk lecture content into smaller pieces interspersed with formative assessment opportunities. Be inclusive and provide multimedia transcripts or text equivalents to suit diverse students cohorts.

Tip 5: effective signposting

Remember: online is a different experience to f2f seminars and lectures. Learners are often isolated and VLE look strange to new users. Without physical support, it’s easy to misread instructions or get lost so effective signposting is essential.

Recommends: ask critical friends to review your resources and give constructive feedback. Be clear about learning outcomes and their assessment. Be sure students know what is expected and  if interaction is assessed. Arrange synchronous meet-ups or activities. Give reasons for accessing links and directions for reading. Keep everything within two clicks from the Home page. Check links aren’t broken. Post weekly summaries looking back and forward.

Tip 6: do a MOOC

 

Remember: Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) offer free opportunities to get ideas designing content and enabling communication as well as experience learning Tip 7: Pedagogy of Uncertainty online. Open Educational Resources (OER) offer free resources through a Creative Commons licence support reuse and repurposing.

Recommends: in the UK FutureLearn, a consortium of UK universities, and the OU Open Learn offer free online courses. Visit Coursera, Khan Academy or Udacity. Look up Creative Commons licences https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ for more information about copyright free materials.

Tip 7: Pedagogy of Uncertainty

Remember: sometimes e-teaching can feel like communication with a big black hole. A major challenge is not knowing what to expect. You don’t know who your learners are or if they’re going to engage in your activities. Silence may be a sign students have got lost or lost interest through miscommunication or misunderstanding. Following these tips will help avoid common errors.

Recommends: online teaching and learning is not an easy option but done well, the advantages outweigh the negatives. VLE offer inclusive opportunities to widen participation in higher education. They can enhance on-campus experiences through encouraging independent learning.  The future of higher education will be increasingly digital and e-teaching/e-learning an essential craft.

For further information please get in touch Sue Watling


* See https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/ltesummer/conference for Workshop Abstract


 

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!