#lthechat to hybridity, a journey of 800 words

LTHEChat cartoon by Simon Rae, two people discussing CPD

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?

image showing LTHEchat question one, 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?

LTHE chat question 2 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’?

LTHEchat blog banner

OR

…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

LTHEchat qiuestion 4 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.

image of a twitter message asking Could it be Glyn Hughes ‘A Year in the Bull Box’. Not sheep but cattle.

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.

pencil and paper from pixabay

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.

image of tweet saying get 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.

keyboard with a sign saying Under Construction

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 

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Panic buttons and transitional states of being

Don;t Panic text
Don’t Panic image from http://www.deviantart.com/art/The-Hitchhiker-s-Guide-To-The-Galaxy-3-447884334

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.

red, yellow and blue rings of Sennnger's Learning Zone Model
Senninger’s Learning Zone Model from http://www.thempra.org.uk/social-pedagogy/key-concepts-in-social-pedagogy/the-learning-zone-model/

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.

Cartoon strip about writers block
Cartoon strip from http://www.nextscientist.com/writers-block-phd-students/

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.

graphic showing imposter syndrome thought bubbles
Imposter Syndrome Image from https://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/events/impostersyndrome.html

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.

Learning Ecology Model from http://www.normanjackson.co.uk/learning-ecology.html
Learning Ecology Model by Norman Jackson from http://www.normanjackson.co.uk/learning-ecology.html