Digital Storytelling; not an end but a beginning

Digital Storytelling presentation slide

The first workshop introduced the craft of storytelling. We were sent away to produce a script for the second where we’d make it happen. It was bright and sunny on the outside but inside the computer lap it was turning into ‘one of those days’. Facilitator Chris Thomson must have thought it was sabotage. First there was no sound through his laptop. Despite the best efforts of an ICT technician it refused to play through the system. Meanwhile work had started on a new road. Just outside. Which more than made up for any lack of sound on the inside. We’d opened all the windows because it was so hot. Now the choice was heat up or shout out. The irony of Chris’s slides telling us audio was the most important component of a digital story and the need for a quiet location to record was not lost – that isn’t wine in Chris’s glass – honest!

IMG_0169 IMG_0170

Digital stories make great teaching tools. We all tell stories or anecdotes in one way or another. They can help explain something complex or show a different point of view. Contextualising knowledge within a story helps understanding and makes it more memorable while digital stories can be more engaging than a page of text or a report. They’re reusable and if you have the original materials they can be re-purposable as well. As you can probably tell, I’m an advocate. As well as learning and teaching aids, they’re useful development tools. To build the story you have to be critical and reflective; make decisions about what to put in and take out. Above all they’re opportunities to be digitally adventurous and creative. While the story itself can be about anything, the one rule was keep it short. Three minutes was the suggested maximum.

clock

At Hull we’re developing a digital capabilities framework for the university and I’m looking for original ways to support staff with exploring new digital ways of working. Story making offers opportunities to work with a range of artifacts and software. I often hear people say they can’t do audio or video because you need a professional studio with high end kit. My approach is DIY can be ‘good enough’. Phones and digital cameras take ‘good enough’ images and video and free software can  help you make a ‘good enough’ video. We used Audacity and Audacity Portable for recording and WeVideo for editing.

For me, digital stories tick all the boxes for learning development, digital CPD. You get something usable at the end and leave with the skills, knowledge and ideas for creating them in the future.

https://www.wevideo.com/embed/#686306411

Above it was fun. Completed stories will be showcased at the Learning and Teaching Conference in July and we plan is to repeat the workshops at School and Department level next year. Although the Jisc workshops have finished this is not the end of digital storytelling at Hull. It’s the beginning.

https://www.wevideo.com/embed/#687165951

Time to flex your hashtags

image from https://pixabay.com/en/twitter-tweet-bird-funny-cute-117595/

If you’re new to social media, Twitter is a useful starting point. Ignore the negative hype around celebrities and breakfasts. Twitter works because it’s what you make it. You choose who to follow and can block unwanted followers. On Twitter you’re in control, not only of your own Twittersphere but who you want to share it with. Hashtags make useful aggregators while additional tools like Buffer and Pocket help manage tweeting times as well as offering a handy curation service. Twitter’s 140 character limit is conducive to preciseness which is a valuable skill for all. The limit keeps tweets neat. You can also include an image to extend or emphasise the message. At the moment this takes up extra characters but maybe not for much longer ‘Twitter to stop counting photos and links in character limit’

Yet Twitter can be divisive. Not everyone likes it. An excellent blog post from @KerryPinny I am rubbish at Twitter highlights some of this ambivalence, in particular around life balance and TMI (too much information), but on reflection I wonder how much Twitter-resistance is about the wider issues associated with putting yourself online in the first place. After all, it can be a scary thing to do. While the nuances of a face-to-face conversation are soon forgotten, tweets stick and this stickiness is a justifiable worry, in particular where deleting texts is no guarantee of their demise. Yet there are definite benefits to feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Twitter networks can become valuable sources of information. Like attracts like and this can be useful for a range of educational topics. Also, just when you thought you were the only person in the world with a particular problem, Twitter leads you to those with similar issues and becomes a great source of shared comfort and advice.

When Kerry tweeted her blog post, @jamesclay responded with a list of Things people say about using twitter but really you shouldn’t Number one on the list is an wry ‘Never write a blog post telling people how they should use Twitter!’ but in reality, there’s value in offering advice for Twitter newbies who might be unsure what it’s all about. At the risk of tipping the balance between self-promotion and collective wisdom, here’s a link to my own ‘Ten Tips for Neat Tweets’ this was posted prior to my #LTHEchat session on accessibility. These weekly chats take place 8.00-9.00 p.m. on Wednesdays and are Storified afterwards. https://lthechat.com has a record of the sessions and offers valuable insight into how Twitter brings people together to share information and practice.For those new to Twitter, the hashtag #LTHEchat is a great place to begin.

Twitter also ticks all the elements of the Jisc digital capabilities model. Using Twitter requires confidence with the inner circle of ICT proficiency and the outer circle of digital identity and reputation as well as showcasing professional learning, developing a range of literacies, artefacts and practices plus demonstrating effective online communication and collaboration. It’s  a great example of technology enhanced learning too.

Phew! Let’s get Twitterate. Go forth and Tweet.

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An extended version of this post first appeared on the UCISA Training Community in relation to the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities Conference 25/26 May 2016 #udigcap.  

We need to talk

sign which reads Warning, Assumptions ahead

Assumptions are the root of digital exclusion. Functions like right click, drag, drop, swipe, long press or pinch mean nothing to some. Zipping and unzipping, minimise, maximise and working within folder structures have passed them by. Opening a new browser tab can be a step too far while trying Chrome or Firefox when IE fails to interpret a command is just not going to happen.

operating system error message

If we are serious about technology enhanced and blended learning, we need to face up to reality. The digital baseline for many staff who teach and support learning is lower than many ICT staff, learning technologists and digital education developers might expect. At a time of growing interest in DIY models like Lynda.com and the growth in online VLE support, the onus is being placed on individuals to discover answers to problems. This assumes levels of digital comfort which simply do not exist.

Did I say assumptions are the root of digital exclusion?

So what to do?

Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework image

Digital way of working have had many names. Skills, Literacies, Capabilities; each new iteration more complex than the one before. To work comfortably online not only demands a huge learning curve, it has also become a cultural shift. The internet is no longer somewhere you go for a specific task or piece of information; it’s become a vast informed network. Call it Connectivism or Rhizomatics or simply social media, it has fueled a revolution in our capacity to be continually in touch with those we see every day, only here and there or have never met. Functioning in these spaces requires attention to digital profiles, safety, data protection and skills in the vagaries of online communication where there are no fall backs like eye contact or body language to help interpret identity or meaning.

To be digitally capable has become so much more than buttons.

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

Raising awareness of the true picture of digital capabilities is essential but self-diagnostic tools and surveys rarely reach those who are less digitally active so accurate data can be difficult to source. In the meantime, every day in every way assumptions are made about the digital abilities of strangers. The only way to find out what support is needed, and where best to target it, is to spend time in their company. There’s no getting away from it. We need to talk.

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Assumptions image http://blog.ecoastmarketing.com/2014/01/23/assumptions-the-failure-to-ask-questions/ 
Error message http://atom.smasher.org/ 
Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework image from
https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/thriving-in-a-connected-age-digital-capability-and-digital-wellbeing-25-jun-2015
on the internet no one knows you’re a dog https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Internet,_nobody_knows_you%27re_a_dog 

digital resistance – a question of attitude or time?

#creativeHE week poster image shows dawing of a mountain with people climbing it

This week #creativeHE has been offering opportunities to reflect on creative approaches to learning and teaching. Before applying creativity to practice, it helps to explore what it means to be creative in the first place. Definitions include the use of imagination and challenging traditional ways of being and seeing. Be original. It reminds me of Imagist Ezra Pound’s call to ‘Make it new’. When it comes to the VLE, there’s scope for reviewing current approaches. Digital depository models show little evidence of creativity. They replicate transmissive style lectures which many staff seem welded to.  We need to ‘Make it new’ in TEL-world and rethink the promotion of blended approaches.

Make it new slogan with black and white picture of imagist poet Ezra Pound

Each #creativeHE day began with a video and questions to consider. These can be viewed on the site. They are well worth a look. One core message from the week was how creative thinking needs time; a quality always in short supply. James Clay’s has examined the excuse ‘I haven’t got the time’ concluding it’s a question of priorities. But as an excuse, it implies ‘I would if I could’. True resistance is ‘even if I could I wouldn’t because I don’t want to’. This is the reality for many TEL workers and digital education developers, caught in the middle between institutional strategy and academic resistance to change, especially of the digital kind. I’ve come to the conclusion it isn’t a question of time. It’s a question of attitude.

How can creative thinking be applied to VLE adoption? My own solution has been an experiential approach. Digital CPD where staff are enrolled on the VLE with a student view. This does two things. It highlights low levels of digital capabilities. These are the norm in most HEIs but get rendered invisible to those accustomed to working with digi-tech on a daily basis. Like attracts like. Also staff will see how a digital depository model is little more than a text dump. Students need to read but you can get them searching and synthesising for themselves rather than throwing up a wall of hyperlinks. Creating activities which adopt social media techniques of user-generated content and file sharing will build on and extend existing practices. Talk to your TEL team about online pedagogies. Talk to your students. Make it an expectation the VLE constitutes a core part of their learning experience.

open watch showing inner movement

Don’t get me wrong. Time is an issue. I struggle too. A p/t creative writing degree, p/t Phd, full time job plus an allotment keep me time-poor and stressed while I’ve been an ‘online student’ enough to know it requires motivation to succeed. But the value of digital space is choice about where and when to access while affordances for communication and collaboration provide valuable extensions to face-to-face learning. Institutional support for digitally resistant staff, unwilling to adopt the VLE as part of their teaching toolkit, is essential.  As #creativeHE has shown this week, the first requirement is always time but when faced with resistance to using VLE in the first place then I suspect it’s attitude which matters most of all. The #creativeHE site offers free examples of how online learning can be interactive, meaningful and fun. This is the digital future of education and we should all aspire to be part of it.


Make it new image from
http://blog.ezinearticles.com/2013/03/new-ezinearticles-wallpapers-to-freshen-up-your-background.html 

clock image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanical_watch 

keep digital storytelling personal

Digital storytelling is like blended learning. It fuses the traditional oral craft of story telling with 21st century technology. As TEL Teams support staff to bring VLE into their traditional f2f forms of teaching practice, so digital stories merge past and present. This week was the first digital storytelling workshop at the University of Hull. facilitated by Chris Thomson, Jisc Advisor. Details of the day can be accessed here https://sway.com/leZaeMETBElB1zVM The workshop included the following examples which show how digital media extends what was once a primary mode of communication; the telling of tales.

In My Alaska Story Julia Fuer shows you don’t have to be a video expert or use professional software. Monochrome images overlaid with a narrative offer memorable visual experiences. Click the image below to go to the WeVideo site

alaska journey

Participant/Observation is a powerful (and potentially upsetting) story from a research project in Pakistan.

Cheese sandwich from workshop facilitator Chris Thomson told a personal story which can be related to on multiple levels. Who hasn’t found themselves hungry and faced with limited options for food?

Cheese Sandwich by Chris Thomson from Curiosity Creative on Vimeo.

Rummaging around the internet I found an archived blog post by Chris. Responding to a challenge that this style of digital storytelling is too static in an internet age, Chris lists examples of more high-tech interactie style digital stories such as these:

I liked these less. The problem for me is they shift into the realm of professional digital media. I believe the craft of digital storytelling should be within everyone’s reach. Working with photographs you’ve taken, capturing video on a mobile phone, recording a narration on any personal device. As soon as you critique the common form of the digital story promoted by Chris and colleagues, saying it fails to take advantage of the affordances of the internet for interaction, then you take away the personal power we have to tell our own stories in digital ways.

Like  an open fire, storytelling taps into our collective unconscious. Stories can have multiple levels and an impact which stays with you. They can be about individual or institutional success, sharing pedagogical and other forms of practice or be a record of personal memories. The best stories will always be those about human lives and experiences. However, their greatest value is keeping the telling within the realms of our own digital capabilities and comfort.

Tweet-tips on #lthechat digital inclusion and accessibility

This post follows Wednesday’s #LTHEchat on digital inclusion and accessibility. The tweetchat rationale is here http://lthechat.com/2016/02/15/lthechat-no-46-sue-sue-watling-digital-inclusion-and-accessibility/ and there’s a list of the shared resources at the bottom of this post for those in a hurry.

If you have a little more time, then freed from the limitations of 140 characters or less, I thought it might be useful to give some background.

It was around 2010 when I first experienced vision impairment. I thought it’ll be fine. I work with technology. I know the theory. The internet is fully accessible – right? I could enlarge text, change contrasts, use text to speech and train my Dragon. It was the beginning of a new journey which included volunteering with a local organisation for people with sight loss and seeing first hand the frustrations of digital exclusion. I worked with VLE but had no real practical application of the principles of accessibility. Now it all changed. I began to write about the risks of what Ellen Helsper at the LSE had called a Digital underclass. I knew how the social impact of the internet was as potentially exclusive as inclusive. It all depended on how you used a computer and accessed the internet. I devised the MEE Model of digital exclusion. This reflected common usage. I  refers to using a Mouse for navigation, Eyes to see and Ears to listen. When all around you follow the MEE Model it becomes easy to assume everyone else does too. The MEE Model has sequential layers of barriers.

  • The high cost and narrow market of alternative navigation devices or adaptations to make the best use of existing physical, sensory and cognitive abilities. You can’t buy assistive technology (AT) at Tesco.
  • The need for specialist training and support. AT can involve a steep and unique learning curve and it can be challenging to keep AT aligned with sequential developments in operating systems and browser controls.
  • Even with the AT plus training and support in place, if online content has not been designed and delivered with inclusive access in mind, you will remain excluded. Try using iTunes with a screen reader. Try any online shopping site with text to speech. You may be able to browse, select and move to the payment section then find it’s an add-on where text fields are not labelled and drop down menus don’t work. Turn off the volume and use YouTube with automatically generated captions, or any subtitled video where the titles cover the picture rather than sitting in a separate footer. Try zooming in (Ctrl+) and watch frames overlap , fail to resize or left to right scroll bars disappear. The list goes on.

In an increasingly digital society, where public information, health, welfare, retail and leisure are moving online, to be digitally excluded is to be marginalised and disempowered. The vision of the web pioneer for a digital democracy has simply not happened.

 ‘… it is critical that the web be usable by anyone regardless of individual capabilities and disabilities.’  (Berners Lee, 1997)

‘…if we succeed making web accessibility the norm rather than the exception, this will benefit not only the disability community but the entire population.’  (Dardailler, 1997)

So when asked to facilitate an #LTHEchat it seemed natural to bring out the digital inclusion soapbox in relation to learning and teaching.

image of a bar of soap and an empty box representing a digital soapbox

Over the past year or so, I’d been feeling a bit disillusioned. I’d already shifted focus from trying to change the world to making smaller changes such as building accessibility outcomes into my online TELEDA courses e.g. Reflect upon, and demonstrate a critical awareness of inclusive practice in relation to online teaching and learning resources, communication and collaborative working with and between students.  I still accepted any opportunity to raise awareness and did visitor slots for staff and students on a range of courses. Maybe I was imagining it but it seemed audiences a little bit more disinterested every year. Last month I gave a keynote on the social impact of the internet looking through a number of critical lenses, making sure these included digital divides; the hidden millions who had never been online in the UK and those with access but not the means to make essential use of it. One of the follow-up emails said it all.

Digital inclusion/exclusion was a huge topic about 5 years ago, but seems to have been forgotten somewhat now and, yes, it’s still so important.

A consequence of legislation (Single Equality Act) is tokenism as displayed in this photograph. It shows a perfect example of the law being followed but with no apparent awareness of the impossible situation created.

disabled parking road sign next to a postbox

Digital accessibility in learning and teaching is not always the most popular of topics. The response is often raised eyebrows, dismissive comments and barely concealed sighs.  So I wasn’t sure what to expect Wednesday at 8.00 pm but the fantastic #lthechat community come through in great style and by the end of the hour I felt reinvigorated again. This is the power of social media, adding Connect to the BBC mission to Educate, Inform and Entertain.

There are only a few months until the government’s proposed changes to the DSA come into place. This will remove a layer of digital support for new students and shift the responsibility for making reasonable adjustments back onto institutions. The topic of ensuring equal access to online learning resources should be at the forefront but in a way, the DSA itself has contributed to the notion that accessibility issues belong to someone else, somewhere over there, wherever student support is managed  We’re further away than ever to the idea of individual responsibility for ensuring accessible design of digital documents.

But there is hope. At a time when low levels of digital capability among staff who teach and support learning is coming to the forefront, accessibility can be built into new digital baselines and frameworks but the first step is raising awareness of why this matters in the first place.

LTHEchat offered lots of useful reminders and advice for moving forward as captured in this Storify https://storify.com/LTHEchat/lthechat-45-with

#LTHEchat questions:

  1. Why does digital inclusion matter?
  2. Who is responsible for accessible L&T content in your institution?
  3. Audio and video need transcripts. Discuss.
  4. Where to go for help? Share an online source of advice.
  5. Share a tip for creating accessible digital documents.
  6. What does accessibility mean to you?

Shared #LTHEchat resources list 

Lastly, a timely reminder of how a simple zoom can go wrong. Trying to get to the image only succeed in making it appear further away!

black screen with large text and tiny image

Thanks to everyone who makes #LTHEchat happen. Although this week’s session is over, I hope the conversations and sparks of interest and enthusiasm will be lighting bigger fires 🙂

 

Berners Lee, T (1997)World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Launches Web Accessibility Initiative. WAI press release 7 April 1997. www.w3.org/Press/WAI-Launch.html

(Dardailler, D 1997 Telematics Applications Programme TIDE Proposal. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) http://www.w3.org

Digital Moments because digitality is no longer optional

black and white alarm clock

Traditional technology training workshops can be frozen in time. Useful for networking and gaining inspiration to try new ways of working, once participants return to their desks it’s too easy for the initial excitement to become diluted by demands of the day job. Exclusion is another problem and when it comes to workshops of the digital kind, those who most need them are often those who never attend.

The ‘digital’ can no longer be avoided. Research matters. The quality of teaching and the student experience matters. As does the expectations of prospective employers for graduates who are digitally capable*. Whether students choose pushing the knowledge boundaries in their chosen discipline, becoming teachers, engineers, health care professionals or any other career path including self-employment, their ‘digitality’ also matters. It has become a universal requirement.

drawing of blue digital people

Digital Moments is a fledgling idea which reverses the ethos of the 1, 2, 3 or more hour workshop. Digital Moments are one-off chunks of information based on FAQ. They start at one minute in length (How do I shorten a long URL? What is a QR code? Where can I get copyright free images? What’s an App?) Once the idea is established they can be extended to 5 or 10 minute blocks of learning (How can I design a collaborative online activity? What data analysis software should I use? How can social media help me network?)

Put together 50 DM’s which share a theme (communication, collaboration, audio, video, qualitative methodologies, professional profiles) and they become the basis for a workshop or drop-in session with a difference – eclectic, wide ranging and relevant, based on what you wanted to know but were unsure about asking. There’s nothing like digital shyness to stifle the confidence to admit lack of knowledge, in particular when it feels the world around you is digitally racing ahead.

DM’s will be online and promoted through social media. Like traditional workshops, this risks exclusion so a poster and leaflet campaign will bring DM’s into the physical world of corridors, cafes and other communal campus spaces. Community will be a core part of DM’s as staff and students can contribute, suggest topics and provide answers.

apple with a bite removed

Bite size sessions and short bursts of learning are not new concepts. Underpinning this Digital Moments idea is the transfer of responsibility for becoming digitally literate. Digitality is no longer optional and more DIY style approaches are required. Workshops can be invaluable but limited in their reach. Digital Moments offers a blend of learning, one which mixes the experiential with face to face and offers a proactive, practical approach to developing essential digital cultures.

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See the new Jisc Technology for Employability Report (2016) http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6249/3/Technology_for_employability_-_full_report.PDF 

Alarm clock image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alarm_clock#/media/File:2010-07-20_Black_windup_alarm_clock_face.jpg

Apple image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/131260238@N08/16793198472

Digital image from https://pixabay.com/en/binary-null-digital-silhouette-1023866/