Where my research is concerned, I have trouble with boundaries
I’ve said this before (Know Your Limits) and am likely to again. It’s nowhere more prevalent than this blog. I start new posts all the time but don’t finish them. Too many ideas and not enough boundaries.
There it is again!
It’s getting worse as the research progresses. The more I reduce the data for analysis, the more I need to give contextual background. I save in one place but increase elsewhere. On reflection, this might show digital shifts are linked to all aspects of higher education. Show me what isn’t digital and , I’ll eat my blog.
This week I’ve taken leave. Allocated PhD time with at least one research-related (and completed) post. The boundary issue is critical. This blog was about Digital Impostor Syndrome (DIS). It’s not core to my research but is related (I rest my case!) in that I’ve a partially-generated theory which suggests DIS might underpin digital shyness and resistance.
afternote: 6 weeks later I return to imposter syndrome, realise it’s populat pyschology rather than hard science, or self-efficacy by another name and abandon the idea of using it.
Reluctance to engage in online activity is well documented. Colleague Patrick Lynch and I facilitate Module Two of the PG Cert in Academic Practice (PCAP). We introduced it as a blended module because the group only meets 5 times in 10 weeks but our online activities were – I think it’s fair to say – not widely adopted. We want to explore why.
We’re told there’s too many competing pressures but a 200 hour Level 7 module with only 15 hours contact time? Why not develop an online PCAP community. My previous TELEDA courses (Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age) were experiential (offering staff a student view of the VLE) and although successful, it feel a similar approach may not work this time.
Again – why not?
At this stage, I’m not suggesting the answer is Digital Impostor Syndrome (DIS) although the idea is hovering. PCAP Evaluation may well reveal we set about it wrong or made errors we’re not yet aware of. But generically, it seems something prevents staff and students from contributing to online forums, blogs, wikis or other places set up to enhance or extend face-to-face education. Why? When the discourse is digital technology transforms – even revolutionises – higher education.
Houston – we have a mismatch.
Is it nerves about negative responses?
A recent seminar on student’s being asked to blog revealed blog URLs being deliberately obscured to prevent them being found by google, and read by strangers. Tthe rationale being to reduce potential trolling or flaming. Someone else went through their student posts, editing out typos to prevent the department being associated with poor writing.
Where is the digital literacy here? The critical reflection on teaching and learning in a digital age? But, aeast the students are blogging, they have an output and will have learned some digital skills.
Digital attitudes and practices tend to be unique to individuals. To become ‘digital’ is to change behaviours in a hundred different ways. For my research I gather these up into the phrase ‘digital shifts’.
Collecting themes for my data analysis hierarchy, I thought about Digital Impostor Syndrome. Of all the reasons for keeping a blog (another post!) reducing large to small can be a challengem one which forces critical reflection on how to ensure it becomes a useful reference.
So I began a post on DIS. Firstly, it needed an explanation of what Impostor Syndrome was, then ‘digital’ in that context. This involved ‘literaries’ as socially-situated practice. Situated learning segued into communities of practice (I’d been wanting analyse Lave and Wenger in the original rather than through third party accounts). Before you could say Tweet, 500 words were written but I found myself with the Browne Review of HE and the subject of teaching accreditation, which led to the teaching/research nexus and ‘professionalisation’ debate – definitely a post for the future, if only I could stay on topic!
The HEA are now ‘Advance HE‘ (Why? Who decided to choose that?) and have a new Academic Professional Practice Apprenticeship Standard (outlined here). Having done some work around Degree Apprenticeships (which are effectively Work Based Learning), and the use of VLE (they’re also blended learning) I found this video which includes an outline of Epigeum’s new resource University Teaching: Core Skills: a new online training programme.
I have a thing about the word ‘training’. Definately another blog post! Put ‘Skills’ and ‘Training’ into T&L in UK HE and I spontaneously combust. 500 words later my thoughts on marketisation, neo-liberalism, metrics and competency checklists are splattered across the page.
With a deep breath, I return to the concept of professional academic development. Comparing the Epigeum content and our Design 4 Active Learning (D4AL) reminds me the rationale blog for D4AL is long overdue (draft outline here).
By now I’ve Tweeted , uploaded photos to Facebook, watched the grandcat playing a board game (a few times) and am so far from the starting point I have to go through my notes to see what it was.
I think the boundary problem is self- evident.
I also think it can be explained.
My work has always been eclectic. Senior Lecturer in Education Development was to be in a third space for professionals, I’ve had a variety of responsibilities; been teacher, student and researcher, often at the same time, while also writing for publication and generating external income. If I had to identify areas of expertise I’d suggest transition, open education, blended and distance learning, digital literacies and inclusive practice, the other DED of digital education development – digital divides, exclusions and diversity. i bought this together in the TELEDA courses, which in turn became the primary instrument for data collection on my PhD, which I titled Digital Shifts and is – surprise surprise –
the subject of another post unpicking what ‘digital shifts’ might cover. Here’s the one I began earlier Digital Shifts
So – my problem with boundaries…
Work responsibilities and interests overlap and blur. Colleagues say you can’t talk about T&L in 21st century without the ‘digital dimensions’ but does ‘digital’ mean in different contexts? We have to stop assuming or taking for granted ‘digital’ is what everyone does. I’s not and positivist, non-critical approaches will miss the mark every time.
The complexity of digital shifts are partially to do with language, where the same phrases mean different things to different people and there’s no central guidance or structures.
I’ve been exploring how much this is generated and reinforced by those working in technology enhanced learning areas. Can academic tribes and territories (going their own subject-specialist ways) be contributing to the confusions by creating TEL-worlds which are mutually exclusive, see The Invisible Tribes and Territories of the TEL People and TEL People, Poetry and Language for first thoughts on this.
We have to get a better understadning of the relationship staff who teach and support learning have with digital technologies and literacies. It’s complex. Have I mentioned digital identity? Did I tell you I don’t know where I belong?
Is it a school of education because of my res?
Is it a technology enhanced learning team through my CMALT accreditation
Or a CPD/academic practice unit via my Senior Fellow status with the HEA (Advance-HE) or Module Two Lead for PCAP?
I’m Pedagogy-first with D4AL which is how technology can be used rather than how it works or what to do when it breaks. At least I know I’m not in ICT!
Lack of confidence in my identity brings me back to Digital Impostor Syndrome – which takes me back to the themes for my data analysis – and hey presto – my research.
Did I tell you – I have a problem with boundaries…
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.
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.
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.
See the new Jisc Technology for Employability Report (2016) http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6249/3/Technology_for_employability_-_full_report.PDF
Apple image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/131260238@N08/16793198472
Digital image from https://pixabay.com/en/binary-null-digital-silhouette-1023866/